Rings of smoke crowd the cloud’s path to the mountain top. The snow, a latent avalanche to trickle down the mountains to the flames below it, waits like a dreaming cat. The fire maintains below, its smoke rising in waves of ashen pixie dust.

But the snow won’t be touched, focused on the mouse behind it’s eyes, watching it twitch. It won’t be moved. It is a static barricade, like stacked tires in the street, immobile to the oncoming hordes, resilient to those trying to break its Maginot Line of cold as it guards the rock striving for the stratosphere.  

The fire screams at every direction, reliving it’s remembered dreams of danger. The snow looks down at the fire, at an intent fury, and sighs. The cloud warily sees the drama and gets pushed between the heat and freeze, wandering between peaks and valleys, not knowing what it could do.

The mountain is silent. The mountain is beyond dreaming. The mountain transcends thought. The mountain simply exists, and the fire rages and the snow is bored and the cloud watches.

There’s a moment when you realize it’s not important and you just glide off into reverie, filling in moments with random memories that come like popcorn bursting, fully fleshed. The fear that the worries brought on disappears and you think, well, the world will move on with or without me, and that is the question, whether to join the world, to go down the river and listen to the current’s syllable and meaning as the sun rises and sets again, to breathe all you know into the soul of clay you find at your doorstep, to love the dreams others give to you as your own while you look into their eyes and see yourself, to reach out naked before the universe and say, “I want this, will you help me?” That is the end of days, when the winds culminate and you feel the soft breezes remind you that tomorrow is still there.

From behind me his hands softly caress my shoulders, while he looks at the book in my hands, a thick tome opened to a diagram of the Djikstra algorithm.

“Looking to conquer the world via lines and circles?” 

“Come flatland, I’ll be in business.”

He runs his hand through my short hair. “Let’s go out dancing. Get your mind re-embodied.”
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We live and love in this world,
one that is underwhelming and noisy,
sacred and lonely – the poor stepchild of the gods.
We listen as the noble titles in the universe are recited,
and wonder where we fit into the halls of fate.

If we found the blueprint of the universe,
    we wouldn’t understand it.
If we looked into the eyes of god,
    we wouldn’t see them.
If in end, our lives are a series of moments
    lost behind the veil of time,
        is there anything of us?

“Do you remember at what time the festival started.”

“Yes. I’ll just start telling what I remember. Don’t interrupt me, if you have any questions ask them when I’m done and I’ll think about them. At dawn, there was a mass in the church. Then everyone went home for breakfast. The priest had spoken about sharing and modesty. On the way out, men joked that if they were modest as the priest meant, they wouldn’t have anything to share. An hour and a half later, we went back to the church. When it seemed enough people were there, some one opened the door to church and out drifted a small low bank of incense, followed by eight men in black robes and heavy hoods with red fringes and ropes. Each carried a large cross that leaned on their right shoulder. The men chosen were large themselves, but the crosses made them seem miniscule. They walked out of the church, followed by the priest and alter boys with incense holders. The train walked down two blocks to the main street, with everyone following. More people were there, who began to walk with the procession. Out of the upper story windows, some people rested on their elbows and hung their heads outside to see everything. As we neared the sea, the crowd became larger. The atmosphere was solemn, but there was a low murmuring of people greeting, relatives catching up on each other, children losing their parents, occasionally someone in a house would loudly whisper down to some one below, and throw down bread or cheese.

“Finally we reached the pier. The cross bearers, priest, and alter boys walked onto the pier, while the crowd stayed on the shore. Some children tried to run onto the pier, but were stopped by their parents who said, ‘no, they must go on by themselves from here.’ Of course they really did that because about 70 years before the pier broke because everyone was on it. At that time, in fact up to the year before festival I’m telling you of, the holy train would mount into two rowboats and be rowed by eight volunteers to a small island a mile offshore where there was a small church and a few trees, nothing else. They would go to the church and pray, deposit their crosses on the alter, pray again. In all they were on the island for an hour, and in transit for two hours. In that time people would become antsy for the return that would signal the beginning of the festivities. The year before, when the priest returned from the island he found next to no-one on the shore. They had all left and didn’t return until an hour later, when the band was to start. So this year, he asked someone who owned a large motorboat, to take the procession to the island, and back, so maybe if the time was shortened the crowd would stay. That year when he returned from the island, he did find people waiting for him, and he congratulated himself for cleverness, not realizing that people did start to leave, but the band showed up early and kept people around for when the procession got back and everyone became solemn again.”

Her voice fell silent as I repeated myself. “Are you Jane Hill?”

“I usually don’t want to talk to people who ask that?”

“Do you have a moment?”

“Is this about my husband?”


“Do I really want to know what you’re going to tell me.”

“Sorry, this isn’t information for you. It’s information for the police.”

“Don’t I have some sort of privilege as a wife to not incriminate him.”

“We just want to know if you know where he is?”

“I don’t want to know.”

“We’d rather not either, but we have to.”

“What’s your name?”


“Ok Larry, if you find him, will you do a favor for me.”


“You probably can’t do what I want.”

“Probably can’t”

“Just tell him to go to hell.”

“You aren’t the only one with that message.”

I will hear the sound of their held breaths, like balloons stretching, as I stare through the chute of the cannon. It’s someone else’s job to read minds, but I like to sit in the empty bleachers and pretend to see it from their eyes. Their anticipation focused on the cloud of smoke rising from the cannon. I wonder what is it for: me flying like a bird, the realization of childhood memories to be superman, or a limp body with blood trickling out of my helmet and seeping into the dust.  

I want to believe it’s the bizarreness of it all, to imagine viewing the ground falling below you, like a dolphin jumping out of the water, a bit player for a moment defying its nature. I defy nature and have the bruises to show for it. That’s my trophy, a battered body left behind from years of looking god in the eye and winking.

Someday I’ll be old, settle down with a dog and rocking chair, feel the delta breezes drift in, and watch the cars go by. That’s the future, the silence of a life in coda. And I’ll be happy, but now I stand outside the tent in the dust, drink a cold beer until I hear my name and then jog through the aisle like a home run hitter rounding the bases without going to bat. I’ll be blinded and warmed by the spotlight as I make my way to the cannon. After pausing to staring down the worn black metal hulk, I’ll salute the crowds and then slip into the cannon like a foot on a worn slipper. I look out the hole above me, white light at the end of long darkness, a shimmering noise coming through there. That’s it. That’s my moment. To be hidden before rushing out the barrel through the cloud of smoke, with the ground falling away below me, above the small world staring up at me and into the waiting net, where I’ll bounce for a second, then dramatically stand up, weary from the effort, and wave in joy at my good fortune. 

I was talking to a friend who was at a crossroads in his life. He wanted to let the universe guide him. I think there’s truth in that idea, but people take it as an excuse to not be an active participant in their life. Here’s what I said to him:

Being open to what the universe brings is a good thing. Essentially you’re not attached to an outcome or situation. But that doesn’t mean you’re an inactive participant. The universe doesn’t happen in a vacuum, in happens in the context of your life. If you don’t put yourself out there(bring intention to the universe), then there won’t be a way for the universe to know you or tell you what to do and how to do it. In other words, you have to give the world a chance to act upon you and guide you, whether that’s going to networking events, conferences, or the coffee shop. Further, on a pragmatic level, the universe is full of opportunities and messages for you. You’re not blindly following the pied piper into your next career, there’s a lot of pied pipers out there, you’re choosing to take that opportunity.

There was a further thought that I didn’t mention to him. His line of thinking is usually associated with Eastern thinking, you know be in harmony with the universe. But I think passivity is not what, for example, Buddhism actually advocates. Buddhists believe that anyone can become enlightened through their own efforts(with or without karma). What you acheive and experience is it’s own validation, instead of someone else’s judgement in the after life. I’ve always found that a very empowering point of view. The harmony with the universe isn’t in not acting with intention on the universe, but in receiving the results of your actions graciously and without resentment. Then, as best you can, learn from the universe about yourself and act accordingly.

Where ever I go I’m here. Everything bad happens to me here. When ever I try to go away I end up right back here. Damn it I don’t want to be here, I want to be there. Buddha says: tough luck.

A question that doesn’t already have an answer is a philosophical question, one whose answer makes up the rules for the question


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