Sunday, December 21, 2014

Alice Encounters of the Nameless Kind

"Alone again!" Tears trembled in Alice's lovely hazel eyes as she watched the Fawn running for cover back into the Wood Where Things Have No Name. There, they had strolled together with her arms around his neck, before they emerged from the wood into the open field, and remembered who they were.

She tried out her name.  "Alice...Alice...I wonder what it means?" This was a new idea; she'd never thought to ask that before.  After some pondering, she exclaimed, "I know! Alice...All...Is...I Am All Is...and All me!  What a clever name."

This cheered her momentarily, but in the next moment she became downcast again. "It's not quite enough comfort," she mused, "just to know my name...and even to realize it can mean 'All Is'...right after meeting that darling Fawn, and walking together as friends, before we came out of the Wood and he realized he was a Fawn and I'm a human child~someone he's supposed to be afraid of."

She remembered his soft voice and sweetly questioning face when he had asked her, back in the Wood: “What do you call yourself?” She hadn’t been able to tell him, of course, and now...”Perhaps I never will get the chance to tell him what I call myself, or to share with him what it means!

Or who knows~maybe someday we'll meet as friends again..or I'll meet another lovely...what?"  For as she spoke, she had unconsciously retraced her steps back into the Wood, and yet again the names of things were lost to her.  "Uh-oh!" she cried as she strained to remember her own name.   "I, I, I know it begins with I!" But she couldn't be sure, and after some fruitless pondering, she gave up and went on her way through the Wood.  She wasn't even sure why she didn't just turn around and make her way out again into the named world. It felt like something was pulling her back in there.

It was a hot, sleepy afternoon in the Wood, and her feet dragged for a while, until she was distracted by a tiny boy whizzing past her as fast as his very little legs could carry him,  his eyes wide with purpose and passion, his curls streaming behind him, yelling "Chocklit!" And there, close on his heels, ran a girl a little bigger then he, but with the same curly brown hair and eyes,  yelling "No! No! No!"  It flashed upon Alice that she had never seen such little people before, nor what seemed like such a desperate situation.  Determined to discover what was going on, she ran after them at full speed.  But they were too quick for her, and they soon disappeared into the distance, as Alice panted in pursuit.

When she reached a cool, shady grove of trees,  she decided to stop and rest for a while.  She settled herself in the grass, leaning her head back against a tree trunk,  feeling grateful for its solidity and shade. She was about to close her eyes for a bit, when she spied something that brought her wide awake: the limp figure of the tiny girl, curled up in the grass at her feet.  Lying absolutely still, she seemed to be in a state of exhaustion, and her shallow, barely perceptible breathing gave the only sign that she was still alive.

Alice was so overcome, all she could do was stare at this magical apparition, this girl who was no bigger than her hand.  After a while, as if feeling the intensity of Alice's gaze, the Fairy (for that is what she was) opened her eyes and gazed back in surprise.  Her lovely little face, framed by thick dark curls, was set off perfectly by a white daisy tucked behind one ear.  "Goodness gracious!"  she said.  "Who are you?"

"I'm...Someone," faltered Alice.  "That's the best I can do for now...and I expect the same is true for you."

The Fairy nodded.  "That's right. I'm Someone...and I'm looking for One.  Have you seen...?"

Alice nodded.  "Yes, a little while ago, with you running close behind him. " They gazed at each other with wonder and hope~the wonder of Alice in talking with a real live Fairy, and the hope of the Fairy for finding the One. "Would you like to sit on my shoulder?" asked Alice.  "I could help you look."

"Oh yes, thank you1" Alice reached down to lift her, but the Fairy, who had no wings, was already clambering up like a tiny monkey.  She perched on Alice's shoulder, and as they made their way through the Wood,  she kept looking around, biting her lip in her anxiety.  After a bit, she began a song with a slow cadence, in a voice like the whisper of birdsong:

I seek you here, there, everywhere,
can you doubt how much I care?
Til I find you I won't rest,
til you're back and in the nest.
Who are you?
Where are you?
Are you there?

Sbe sang the song over and over as they traversed the mysterious Wood, but did not find the One.  The Fairy's song became ever more mournful, until she trailed off altogether.  They both drooped, from the heat and their disappointment.  Then they came upon a cool, gurgling brook, and they remembered enough about this 'wet stuff' as they called it, that they gratefully splashed it on their faces and quenched their thirst.  They debated about what to call it.   "It's very wet," said the Fairy, "and it helps us get wetter, inside and out. Let's call it "wetter."

"Yes, let's!" said Alice. After they had thoroughly refreshed themselves, they set out again on their search.  "What was the name we gave that stuff again?" asked the Fairy.

"I don't remember," replied Alice. But she noted that the Fairy looked even more charming with her damp ringlets.

They came to an open, grassy glade marked with a large circle, and to their amazement, twelve fairies, the same size as Alice's Fairy, leapt onto the ring from out of the trees and bushes, singing and dancing. It was as though they timed it for the moment of their arrival, and as they danced, the very air seemed to brighten around them.  "Have you ever seen a gathering like this,"  Alice asked her new friend, "of Someones so much like you?"  The Fairy, bemused, shook her head. Both were riveted as they observed the dance.  Never had they seen such grace and joyfulness, as the fairies sang, spun, and twirled to the music of the lyres, flutes and drums.  And this is what they sang:

All names are my name,
I am that I am,
infinite variety,
infinite identity,
The Ever-Possible Me

No names are my name,
I am that I am,
beyond a name, beyond a body,
beyond the mind,
I cannot be contained,
I cannot be confined

You are that you are
let go, let the flow
carry you far,
to all that waits
when you allow,
and follow what is true for you
in each eternal moment,
the ever-possible Now!

The Fairy, wide-eyed, moving as though impelled by a powerful inner force, jumped in the ring and was welcomed into the fold, singing and dancing right along with them.  She seemed born to this. "I guess that's what it means to be a fairy,"  thought Alice. "Singing and dancing isn't something you learn, it's just part of you.  Or maybe it's part of all of us, and if you're a fairy, it's easier, because you don't take up so much room in the world."  Alice felt a little envious, and part of her wished she could make herself small again, as she had when she had obeyed the instructions on the bottle labeled "Drink Me." With fondness, she recalled its mixed flavor of cherry-tart, custard, pineapple, roast turkey, toffy, and hot buttered toast.  "They ought to sell it in the stores," she mused.  "It would be a handy thing to have when you find yourself among the fairies.  They could call it 'Smaller-Size Me.’ I do wish I could join in here, but I'd be like an elephant in a ballroom!"

The Fairy was the picture of joy.  Her face flushed with excitement, her hair whirling, she moved in perfect rhythm, and Alice thought she had never seen anything so beautiful.  But then, quite abruptly, the Fairy seemed to remember the lost One. She burst into tears as she broke away from the fairy ring, and ran to Alice.

A pall fell over the rest of the fairies, who also left off dancing and gathered around them, puzzled and worried. They had never before seen anyone so upset.  "What's the matter?" they asked, in chorus.   "Please tell us, and we'll do what we can to help."

Alice comforted the sobbing Fairy as best she could, and replied, "She's crying because of the lost One."

The fairies considered this for a moment, and asked,  "What does this One look like?"

"Like...this Someone, probably,"  Alice said, indicating the Fairy, as she thought:  "Goodness, they all think and speak the same thing at the same time!"  The Fairies nodded solemnly as they realized the One looked like them, too.  They screwed up their faces, and tried to think of where he might be found.
In the silence, Alice started as a stray memory floated up into consciousness.  "Chocklit!"  she exclaimed. "That's what the One said~yelled, actually~as he ran back in here."

"Chock...lit," they repeated, furrowing their brows even more as they strained to remember what that was. The Fairy blew her nose with a hanky someone had offered her, making a tiny honking sound. She dried her tears, and gazed at Alice with hope in her eyes.  More memories stirred in Alice: "It's brown, and sweet.  It's like a taste of...a very nice taste."

The fairies nodded again.  Alice's Fairy reached for her crimson locket that hung down her neck, stroking it in a circular motion, slowly and deliberately. After a few moments, magic happened. Exclamations and a collective gasp went up as a ray of red light shone from the locket, but it almost seemed the Fairy expected this. "It's showing us the way," she said.  And indeed, after swinging back and forth a few times, the ray settled on a direction, pulsing with a certain urgency that seemed to say, "Follow me." And so they did ~ Alice, the Fairy, and all the assemblage.

As they walked, Alice stole glances at the Fairy riding on her shoulder as before, looking more tranquil than she had all that long afternoon.  It seemed she took courage from the crimson ray and the renewed hope of finding the One.  Alice, too, was looking forward to meeting him.  "What if he's grown far bigger, from eating all that chocklit?" she mused to herself.  For she seemed to remember that eating too much of it could do that.  "Maybe he'll be as big as me, even!"  (Actually, she was about the normal size for seven and a half.)

"Oh, look!"  exclaimed the Fairy.  The crimson ray was shining on a small, black and white, furry creature munching an acorn as he hung by its tail from a tree branch.  He had a narrow face with a pointed nose, and bright brown, slanting eyes.  As they passed him by, the ray wheeled around and remained fixed on the animal, who calmly finished eating and, still hanging upside down, said: "Hello, friends.  May I ask where you are going?"

"We're going to find the lost One,” the Fairy replied, “with the help of this." She pointed to her locket and the crimson ray, which played about his face.  He blinked a bit as it shone into his eyes.  "How very interesting," the upside-down creature said.  "I do believe it likes me!"

"We're going to find Chocklit,"  piped up one of the fairies.

"Chocklit," the creature repeated dreamily.  The ray beckoned him. He jumped down from the branch, and as if in a trance, he joined in their pilgrimage.   Indeed, they all seemed to be in a peaceful, altered state as they walked on together.  Perhaps it was the magic of the crimson ray, as it guided their path. Perhaps it was their united purpose in finding the One, and chocklit. Perhaps it was the song that rose spontaneously from the Fairy's throat as he rode on Alice's shoulder,  her eyes alight with new hope and faith:

I know you're there,
I follow the ray,
I don't know where,
it shows me the way,
I'll see you,
I'll hug you,
 soon, this day!

"Soon, this day," echoed the little folk.  The ray shone through the dim light in the shade of the Wood, and almost before they knew it, they emerged into a clearing.  In the midst of it, there was a well.  "The chocklit well!" they cried as they rushed to the edge, where, looking down at the bottom, they indeed saw the One.  He was sitting in a bucket floating in the dark liquid chocklit, dipping and licking his fingers as he gazed up at them.  "He doesn't seem at all surprised to see us," thought Alice. “Or even interested!"

The Fairy, on the other hand, could hardly contain herself.   "It's you!" she cried as she knelt at the well's edge, stretching out her arms to him as he continued dipping and licking.  Alice noted that the rope attached to the bucket was broken. "I wonder how he got down there?" she mused aloud.

"I lowered him," replied a man who was a little bigger and seemed older than most of the fairies. "I owns that there well. That boy begged me to let him go down in the bucket. Said he'd help me work the well, and bring up the chocklit.  But once he was down there, he chewed the rope until it broke.  Sharp teeth, he has! When I ast him why, he says he don't ever want to come back up.  Wants to stay down there and get all the chocklit he wants for hisself!"  The One nodded at these words as he continued his tasting. Alice couldn't help marveling at his indifference to them and his absorption in chocklit, even as they all crowded around the well's edge.  "Please come up," cried the Fairy, and a chorus of fairy voices chimed in:  "Yes, please do!"

The One shook his head, shaking his curls as well, and Alice marveled at how much he and the Fairy looked alike. "No!  Nebber! I'm staying right here where I am, with chocklit."  And as if for emphasis, using just his tongue, he took a big lick off the side of the well.  The Fairy literally drooped from disappointment.  "She's like a flower that needs watering," thought Alice.  "All that searching and hoping, and the One didn't even want to be found!"

Then a wondrous thing happened. Their new animal friend came forward, and tipping his head over the edge of the well, fixed his large, dark, slanting eyes on the One. The company ceased their pleadings, and the Fairy perked up a bit. The creature's eyes bored into the One, whose eyes in turn moved upward, almost in spite of himself.  Alice noted that the pupils of the One's eyes seemed to enlarge, and he even left off eating chocklit. They remained like that for some moments, and the well-keeper, sensing an advantage, shook the broken rope that still hung down beside the bucket.  The One, still staring up at the animal, tied the other end of the rope to the bucket’s handle, and was lifted up by the well-keeper.

A cheer went up from the fairies as he stepped out of the bucket.  The Fairy flew to him and broke down sobbing in his arms.  He held her gingerly, and after a while he kissed her cheek, extricated himself from her embrace,  and gazed into the creature's eyes a few moments more before shaking its paw.  "I'm berry glad to meet you," he said.  "And I you," the animal replied. "I trust we will become fast friends."  Then his friendliness gave way to a frown.  "And now, what do you say to our good man here?"  Upon which, the well-keeper drew himself up to his full height of 6 1/2 inches, his mustache quivering as he remembered the One's trickery.

"I'se sorry," he said One in a very small voice, hanging his head. "But your chocklit is so good, I just wanted to eat it forebber.  Nuttin else seemed to matter."

"Well then," replied the well-keeper, "does that mean you'll make well on your agreement to work for me, drawing up the chocklit?"

The One hesitated, and the Fairy intervened:  "Oh, I'm sorry, but we really have to be getting back.  People are waiting for us, and we can't stay here, though it's been just lovely."

The man shrugged.  "It's just as well, I'm sure. I need someone well able to handle the responsibility of working the well."

There was a chorus of volunteers from the little folk crowding around the well-keeper.  "That's all very well, and I appreciate your interest," he said.  "I'll be interviewing candidates here tomorrow, to make sure whoever I choose is well-qualified. For now, it's chocklit for well ~ I mean all!"

"I wonder if he knows how often he uses the word 'well,' " thought Alice.  "He's the well-keeper in more ways than one!"

A cheer went up, and one of the volunteers was put to work bringing up pails of chocklit, which was then passed around in cups to everyone.  Alice had several herself, and though they were very small, it was so dark, rich and sweet, she could almost understand why the One had wished to stay down there forever. It had the consistency of soft pudding, and there was a hint of toffee flavor.  The One partook of it also ("you'd think he would have had enough by now!" thought Alice), savoring it down to the last bit, with a dreamy, regretful expression.  All the while, the Fairy was eyeing him with a mixture of affection and exasperation. "What am I going to do with you?" she asked.  He wiped his mouth and said, "Whatebber you like."

The Fairy sighed.  "It's 'whatever.' You really must learn correct speech if you want to be accepted in polite society."

The One shrugged.  "Whatever."

It occurred to Alice that the Fairy's attitude toward the One had changed, and rather quickly at that. "She was so longing to find him, and now that she has, she's acting like a schoolmarm, bossing and correcting him," she thought.  "But maybe that's what this little One needs."

"And what I would like," the Fairy went on, "is for us to be on our way now, before night falls. We've made promises to important people, whose names I shall probably remember once we are out of the wood."   She turned to Alice.  "You will come with us, won't you?"  Alice readily agreed. The One tugged at his new furry friend, who said, "I'll come also.  It will be interesting to find out my name, and see what lies beyond this place, where I've lived all my life."

They bid goodbye to the little folk, who were sorry to see them go. "Remember us,"  they said.  "Remember our song."

"We will indeed," said the Fairy, and Alice nodded.

"What song?" said the One.

"We'll tell you later," said the Fairy, as she clambered up onto Alice's shoulder, gesturing for the One to take his place on the other one  They set off with the creature strolling beside them, and the crimson ray lighting their way.

Alice was surprised to see that the One, who had been so cool and self-contained up til now, seemed upset about something.  He made a valiant attempt to hold back the tears, but his sniffles gave him away, and finally the tears flowed in earnest. In spite of her concern, Alice couldn't help being fascinated as she observed him pouting and whimpering just inches from her face. He was such a pretty sight, even in his distress, and Alice thought: “I wish I could hold him close ~ comfort and kiss him!” But she could only caress him with her gaze.

The Fairy shook her finger at him: “You mustn't cry!” But this only brought forth louder sobs. "Come, what's the matter, dear?" said Alice.

"Don't encourage him," said the Fairy.  "He's cried quite enough for today. If he keeps it up, he won't have any of that wet stuff left.  And then the next time he feels like crying, what will he do?"

"My goodness," said Alice.  "I'm sure I've never heard of such a thing!"

"Yes, indeed," went on the Fairy. "Once I knew a girl who wold cry at the drop of a hat, and since she was very clumsy and kept dropping her hat, and a number of other things besides, she ended up all cried out. Then, when a very important Someone died (here she meant the girl's mother), it was really very awkward. She was the only one who wasn't able to cry at the..."

The Fairy's remarks only seemed to upset the One even more, and through his tears, he said: "I can’t--remember--my name! Or his name (pointing at the creature plodding along with them), or her name," (pointing at the Fairy), "or yourth!"

"Yours, you mean," said the Fairy.

"I awready said that. I can't remember it!" he replied.

"Already!" she corrected him.

"Yes! I did!"

"And you never did know their names,” said the Fairy. “You never met them before.”

"That's right," said Alice. "You'll remember your own, and hers, and learn ours soon enough, when we're finally out of the woods.  And anyway, we don't need names.  All names are your name, and no names are your name."  Alice felt a little self-conscious repeating the words of the fairies' song, but at the same time, it helped her feel into their meaning.

"Those who are born and grow up here don't have names," said the Fairy, "and yet they seem very happy. They even sing of their nameless state, and celebrate it."

"Beyond a name, beyond a body, beyond a mind," sang Alice.  "I cannot be contained, I cannot be confined..."

"What's tontained and tonfined?" asked the One, through his sniffles.

"Contained and confined,"  corrected the Fairy.

"Yes," said the One. "What is it?"

Alice thought hard for a minute.  "It's can't go outside and play, because you've got to stay indoors and do lessons."

The One was clearly struck by this.  "Can’t be tontained and tonfined? No name, no school?  Play alla time?"

"Which would not be a good thing," said the Fairy. "All play and no work makes what's-his-name a stupid One!"

Alice pondered a bit before answering him. "Without a name, you wouldn't be on the list at school for roll call. If you're not on the list, you can't be a pupil, and so there would be no lessons. But it's true ~ without them, you’d become very ignorant. Unless you could study and read on your own ~  and that's hard to do if you haven't learned to read well in the first place."

The One became very quiet, and his face of a was a study in itself as he inwardly debated the advantages of freedom versus the disadvantages of ignorance.  Then he shook himself and shrugged, as if dismissing the question.  He jumped off Alice's shoulder onto the ground,  putting his arm around the furry animal as they walked together. "Just a little further on," the animal remarked, "and then we'll know our names. The second time for you, but the first for me. Almost there!"  The One was caught up in his friend's excitement and anticipation, and they fell to talking and laughing.

As Alice observed them thus, the ghost of a memory stirred in her -- a feeling-sense of loss, of closeness too abruptly cut off. For a moment, she felt overcome by this feeling, and she must have looked very sad, for the Fairy asked, "What's the matter?"  Alice was touched by the concern and caring in the Fairy's open gaze, and the mysterious mood was banished. "Oh, nothing really," she answered.  "It's been amazing meeting you, and then the others like you, the singing and dancing, the magic ray (here the ray seemed to appreciate the mention, as it danced a little jig in front of them), finding (Alice pointed to the animal),  the chocklit well, and then the One.  It's all so wonderful.  It's like I'm living in a dream!"

"Ah yes," said the Fairy.  "Life, what is it but a dream?"

"What a lovely thought!" said Alice.  "Is it your own?"

"Indeed, it's my own invention,"  replied the Fairy.  "But anyone is welcome to claim it as theirs, if they wish."

"Can thoughts ever belong to anyone,  I wonder?"  mused Alice. "It's like that song -- we can't be contained or confined ~ and our thoughts are part of all of us, you know.!"  she exclaimed. For as she spoke, they had come to an open field, and all at once, they remembered who they were. "THYLVIE! Dear sister!" cried the boy, and even as they rushed into one another's arms, the Fairy corrected him yet again:  "It's Sylvie.  BRUNO, dear brother!"

But the animal gasped, his eyes wide with fear.  "Oh, my! I'm an opossum! And, oh dear ~ two fairies, and a human child!"  But, instead of running away as the Fawn had done, he simply collapsed then and there. With his still body, unseeing eyes, and gaping mouth, it seemed death had taken him, and Alice wondered if he'd had a heart attack.  Their joy at rediscovering their names turned to grief momentarily, until a closer examination showed that he was still breathing, if ever so slightly. "He must be thick,"  declared Bruno. "We'll take him home with us, and nurth him back to health."

"That might not be such a good idea,"  said Alice, remembering the Fawn's flight when they emerged out of the wood and remembered their names. It occurred to her that the opossum was fleeing too, in a different way.

"But I wanta nurth it back to health!" repeated Bruno. "We can't juth leave him here!"

"Now, Bruno," cooed Sylvie, "how would you like it if you were sick, and you woke up and found that without your permission, strangers had taken you away from your friends and family?"

Bruno seemed very struck by this.  He shook his head. "I wouldn't like that at all!  That would be orful!"

"Awful,"  Sylvie corrected him.


"Then come along now. Let's go home. I'm tired, aren't you? It's been such a long~" But before she could finish what she was saying, Bruno had caught his friend's limp body up in his arms and went running back into the wood, crying:  "I'm taking him back to his friends and fambly!"

"Bruno, no!" cried the Fairy, as she set off in pursuit of him yet again, leaving Alice looking after them. "Oh, dear," she said. "All that trouble we took to find him and get out of the woods, and now it's starting all over again, it seems.  My goodness, look at them go!"  (They were running so fast, their feet barely touched the ground.) "It reminds me of something someone said--that here, it takes all the running one can do, just to stay in the same place. I wonder if I ought to go and help them again?"  But even as she spoke, the figures had disappeared into the distance, though the Fairy's cries of "No!" could still be heard, echoing faintly through the Wood.

"She remembers the last half of his name, at any rate," mused Alice. "I declare, it's like that song: No names are my name. And now Bruno has the "No" name...but I'm glad to have mine back.  Alice...Alice...I won't forget again. Goodness, what a day it's been! Yet I'm not tired at all.  And for some reason, I'm not lonely anymore."   And so she walked on through the field toward the new adventures that awaited her. She swung her arms with a new sense of freedom, and was refreshed by the breeze that caressed her face as she sang the song that had stayed in her heart:

Let go, let the flow
carry you far,
to all that waits when you allow
and follow what is true for you
in each eternal moment,
the Ever-Possible Now!

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