Shadow Thin - 2014 - Phillip J Rhoades
New song, old poem.
In that deep shadow
Between the covers
And the soft curve
of your hip
My desire lingers
Of the kisses I’ve left
Cooling on your thighs
Of flowers of feather
Tracing down your back
Let me pull you close
Let me break your shadows
Cover you in light
Let the only deep and dark
Be in that space between us
And let that space be shadow thin
Let there be only
you, me, the light outside
And the dark between us
In that deep shadow
Between the covers
And the soft curve
of your hip
College degrees explained:
Associate’s: Look, I got the damn thing, so just give me a job already.
Bachelor’s: Okay, I spent more time getting the damn thing. Really give me a job, now.
Master’s: I didn’t really want to get a PhD anyway.
PhD: I’ve been thinking about one thing for the past ten years. There are not enough jobs in this field. I know it with the surety of ten years of intense learning.
Sometimes, it feels as if the real me is beyond ancient, as if I’ve seen entire universes come and go, and that I am only playing at being young and new. It is as if I am a little fiction in the back of my own mind, a thought experiment I’m playing through, and that, at any moment, I might wake to having never been everything that I’m experiencing.
It is my firm belief that human beings learn, remember, and understand best through the art of the story. The purpose of this paper is to explore meditation as the journey of a hero via the art of narrative.
~~ The Story ~~
"The Journey To The Deeper Well"
A young prince was sitting near the bed of his ailing father wondering if there was anything he could do to save the old king. Tears dropped from his cheeks onto the gently rising and falling chest of the man who had once been stronger than any other in the land.
Behind him, a bright blue flash erupted near the window and pulled him from his thoughts. His head snapped around to see what had happened. Shimmering in front of the setting sun outside his window was a woman dressed in a blue silk gown.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"I am a protector of the royal family."
"I’ve never seen you," he said.
He reached for the hilt of his sword, but his fingers gripped something soft. When he looked down, a soft toy sword was hanging from his belt.
"No need for that thing," she said.
The prince heard no footsteps and could see no motion of her legs as she traveled across the room to the side of his father’s bed. She placed a hand with thin fingers as pale as winter ice upon the king’s brow and closed her eyes.
"What are you do-"
"Sh! I must concentrate." she said.
After a few moments had passed her ice-blue eyes fluttered open. The prince felt her unblinking gaze burrow further into him than anyone’s eyes had ever gone.
"Can you help him?" he asked.
"No, I cannot, but you might be able to," she said.
"Tell me what needs be done and I will do it," he said. He raised his chin and pressed his shoulders back.
"You must bring water from The Deeper Well. Only this will revive the king," she said and, as she spoke these words, three bolts of fire sprang from her fingers and traced a path on the great tapestry map which hung upon the wall.
When the young prince looked away from the map, the strange woman had already vanished. He wasted no time. He called his servants immediately, was gird in his armor, had his shield slung on his back, sword at his side, and horse galloping down the path the woman had left on the map before the sun had moved two fingers breadth across the sky.
That night, he stopped to water his horse at the well of a small town along the path leading to The Deeper Well. An old man was sitting near the well and eyed the prince and his horse with bright green eyes under a pair of constantly flexing eyebrows.
"Out for a good ride, child?" the old man asked.
"I am on a mission to save the king."
"Oh, well, that’s a mighty fine thing, that is. How d’ya plan to do that, ‘xactly?"
"I must gather water from The Deeper Well. It is the only thing that will save him."
"Well, you’re in luck. We’ve got us a nice deep well right here. There’s water in it too!"
"That won’t work. It must be from The Deeper Well."
"Suits yerself," the old man said and gave a shrug before limping off into the distance.
The prince let his horse rest for an hour and then continued on his way. By the time the sun rose the next day, he was standing before the entrance to a deep cave at the end of the path the woman had burned into the map.
He descended into the cave, closed off from the world in darkness at first, but within a few yards, light began to fill the corridor. The walls seemed to glow with an ever shifting set of dull colors and geometric shapes. The ease of the journey alleviated his fears for a moment. He let out a sigh of relief, but pulled it back in with a gasp nearly as fast. Before him stretched a vast chasm in which dragons of many sizes flew in ever shifting circuits. He could see through their great bodies, powerful muscles, and massive wings as if they were made of steam.
He drew his sword and clutched his shield close. He stood at the very brink of the chasm, knowing that he’d have to defeat the dragons before he could cross. As one approached, he swung his sword, and though he saw it connect, it passed through. He raised his shield just in time for the body of the great beast to collide and felt his feet slide back. He stepped forward again, swung his sword, raised his shield, and was pressed back – again and again. At last he threw down his shield, sheathed his sword, and sat with his back against the wall. He ran his fingers over his cloak and a thought came to him.
He took off his cloak, ran towards the chasm, leaped into the air, and threw the cloth over the head of one of the great beasts. His knuckles were white with strain as he was carried across the chasm. He looked down into the endless dark below and waited to see his feet dangle over the ground at the other side. When he did, he let go of his cloak and fell with a clatter of armor, heart racing and mind grasping at all the falling that might have been.
After dusting himself off, he continued to travel deeper into the cave until he came to a great pit. He peered down into the distance and saw, shimmering at the base, a small pool of water. He could find no foothold nor handhold upon the steep cliff, but did find one boulder with a great cleft in the top. He pulled rope from his bag, tied it to the hilt of his sword, and drove the blade into the stone, where it held fast. Then he climbed over the edge and made his way down to the very bottom of the pit.
At the bottom, he stood at last before The Deeper Well. Its waters glistened with all the hope and love the prince had for his ailing father. He bent low with his flask, but could not reach the water, then lower, lower, until with a great splash he tipped over into the well.
His armor pulled him down into the dark and only a sudden rushing whoosh in his ears told him he was moving along in some secret current. He began to tear his armor off, slicing through bindings with his dagger, casting off everything that weighed him down as he was pulled faster and faster through the deep river. Just as his lungs were ready to burst, he felt his body rush upwards and felt cold air on his cheeks again.
Rough cut stones were all around him in a circle stretching up to the blue sky. He felt the stone, which while rough, offered no handhold, and wondered how he would escape. In exasperation, he looked up saw the bottom of a bucket hurtling towards his head. With a loud smack and a moment of stars he realized that he was at the bottom of some town well.
He grabbed hold of the rope tied to the bucket and began climbing. When he finally reached the top, a gnarled hand took hold of his and pulled him from the opening to solid ground once again.
"Well now, looks like you found yourself a deep well there," the old man said.
"Yes- I- I suppose I did," the prince said and then sat down and began to weep.
"Are you all right?" the old man asked.
"No. My father, the king, he’ll die! The water from the Deeper Well! I’ve lost it!" the prince said.
"We have water here," the old man said.
"That’s not- Wait! The Deeper Well brought me here! Do you have a flask I can borrow?"
The old man gave the prince his flask and the prince filled it from the well then ran back to his castle. There he knelt down next to the king, pressed the flask to his father’s lips, and waited. A moment later the king sprang from the bed, healed and hail as ever.
~~ The End ~~
In this story the Deeper Well represents the peace and knowledge we seek through meditation. The dragons of wind represent our thoughts that we must not fight, but rather accept, in order to move forward. The shedding of shield, sword, and armor are the shedding of defenses that we must undergo to complete the journey of meditation. The rushing wild of the current that threatened to drown the prince represents the terrifying rush of finding our deeper selves. The well in the village represents the knowledge that we already had – The Deeper Well is always with us. The old man represents the wisdom we mistake for foolishness. The magical woman represents that which pushes us to explore meditation, the initial force that sends us towards exploration of The Deeper Well of our minds.