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BOOK IMetaxaeus and Akasha
Metaxaeus at last began to look up. To glance up from his long orison, his lengthy space of meditation while sitting down beside the old well. He looked upwards for the first time that morning and as it were directly into the sun's uplifting light, its first tilting rays. As though tranquilly meeting its gaze. He then looked away into the changing skies further off in the distance: the mighty sheets of rain just a little ways away. But for now there were only those first rays of morning sunshine, just spilling over the lips of the distant mountains, like a kind of fine wine, to flood the land. There the spreading, emergent rays of daylight tilting over the whole countryside like some bright illumination to be bestowed upon the waiting world. For Metaxaeus, this morning already felt different, different to him from other mornings in which he kept the same routine as today; for this particular morning he felt within himself a strong premonition, causing him to tremble for a moment, that the things which he had grown used to would soon be changing for him, and changing in every way. He was a youth who would swear that he had already learned much, much about the land, the village, the country, and the people whom he had walked amongst ever since the early days of his childhood. But also, and more importantly to him in his heart, he had learned much about a certain natural state of quietude within; indeed, had even heard once from a wise person a specific name given to this particular state of quietude, though he could not now think of what it had been.
So today, as every day, Metaxaeus had spent his morning there, pre-dawn, sitting down beside the well, and proceeding quietly and conscientiously with a sort of peaceful descent into himself, and thus learning from the fountain there. There drinking in his own illumination. Because for Metaxaeus, meditation had, even in the days of his early youth, already become a cultivated way of life.
So what kinds of things had he learned, then, aside from this state of quietude, and at such a young age, from this inward fountain of life?
Above all he had learned a kind of wakened dreaming, crisp in its always arising, undaunted ceaseless flow. Though also he had learned that beneath the flow lies a perfectly still center, not unlike that of a rose or a lotus: a sleeplessly unfolding and yet still-centered flow, like a river and its source, or an almighty rush that is ever irrupting from the timeless moment. And he had learned that this wakened dreaming had to it a kind of tendency towards the world, a tendency that, he thought, seemed to be to merge with the world around him, to merge in coincidence and a kind of serendipity.
From sitting daily down beside the well, Metaxaeus had learned all this. In the early hours before dawn and sitting silently and conscientiously alone with himself, he had learned at an early age whatever there was that he now realized about life.
Beginning to grow uncomfortable at the sight of the gathering clouds, the thunderheads forming along the horizon, Metaxaeus at last stood up from his morning orison and began to walk in the direction of his home in the village. Occupying his thoughts as he went was the question of how to fulfill his plan to leave from his village without disappointing his father and mother, as well as the problem of how he was going to find the work that he would need in order to gain a living.
He knew himself to be one who lived in his dreaming; a young man who spent the watch of his afternoons and his evenings, and oft even his midnights, attuned to the dreams continually roiling their way into and through his thoughts, and teeming within his psyche. The one thing he knew that he could do, though, if given the chance, the one doubtless ability that he had in his possession, was to work wonders with stone. For he could see an image, or often even a train of images, in his mind's eye, and could then take that image and realize its shape faultlessly into a piece of stone.
He knew neither how to read nor write. Nevertheless he thought that if he could find a way to use his handiwork to show to the world, or at least to those nearest and dearest to his heart, the inmost workings of his soul, that then perhaps he might even become famous for his art, the curiously bespoken truth into stone.
Again, this is what he knew how to do: he knew how to take from that fountain within and to soak up its knowledge and then how to communicate this truth through the medium of sculpting stone. But where would he go? Without having had an opportunity to prove himself, how could he convince the master stoneworkers abroad to let him demonstrate his talents to them?
He had with him a hope.
In his pocket he carried a miniature of what had long been his favorite image to sculpt, and which had long been the image that most pressed itself to the fore of his imagination, the elegant combination of two strange yet powerful symbols, each taken separately but then fashioned into one, into a kind of synthesis that for some odd reason had most endured through the fire of his dreams, and remained at the forefront of his vision.
What he held, then, was a tiny figurine no larger than that it could rest easily in the palm of one's hand, and if in its raw materials it might have an exorbitant monetary value, its real worth was in its masterful execution as a truly pristine work of art. One might even have surmised that only the most mature artist could have wrought this small miracle in stone. For Metaxaeus had somehow managed to flawlessly combine a cut of sapphire with a piece of alabaster. But the artistic feat was that he had also sculpted both, and then fastened them inextricably together: a sapphire top rising seamlessly up from an alabaster base. The other mystery of how he came to have in his possession the twin substances of both sapphire and alabaster, and each in just the precise quantity that he could have molded from them this miniature figurine, was a secret that he guarded as closely as those dreams themselves, of his, through which this was wrought.
Now, the base he had carved into the liveliest and most lifelike pattern of a lotus blossom, so that you would swear that you saw there not stone, but leaves, verily a flower that might well rustle in the breeze, while the top, emergent from the base, had been fashioned into the feathery fiery likeness of a bird that he had continually heard about in tales growing up as a boy, and which had long since come to occupy the paramount place in that flowing river of images that made up his daily mind. He had had to visualize the blue fire, and then carve perfect in its realization this sapphirine phoenix, rare and mystical bird, rising up from the lotus blossom.
Yet for some strange reason the very idea of revealing this feat of his to others caused the inside of his chest, around the region of his heart, to flutter so much that he swore to himself that he would be the one to burst into a blue, consuming fire if this treasured statuette were ever to meet with any form of disdain or chagrin. Metaxaeus simply could not bear to have his heart-center, as it were, the very core of his youthful being, stepped upon by a master only envious of his skill, so for a season he would only continue to wonder.
What could he present to the stoneworkers in the capital city, that would prove to them his skill, yet at the same time not give away the all with which he was blessed?
In a different town far away from the village of Metaxaeus, a young girl, Akasha, spins her tales. Like the most skilled weaver, she has a gift for storytelling that is as preternatural in the world as anyone's gift for doing anything, as anybody's gift for doing anything at all.
For the tales she tells cause even the most wizened of hearts to belong to her as she unfolds her breathless stories. Young and old alike smile and laugh and weep and finally joy at the spirit and romance of these on-spinning motifs of love and trials and perseverance and even the ways of God and now and then ultimately even the ways of the greatest mystery of all, that of the source of creation itself. See in her thought, then, in her speech, and in her stories, questions encircling questions, and riddles answering to riddles. Akasha is gifted like none other.
The question arises, then, in the minds of her hearers, whence always this fountain of inner peace and wisdom and joy and creativity arising from the soul of such a youngster, and one apparently virgin in the ways of the world? The almighty taleteller-girl Akasha has, in her town and its environs, gotten to be quite the spectacle. Yet what of her own mind?
In one of her most popular stories she spins the tale of a youth with gifted hands who can sculpt any image from any stone, but who cannot figure out how to leave from his home. In this story told by Akasha endings vary and at times the boy makes his fortune and lives happily, in love with a girl from a distant city, but at others it ends badly and the boy at the last finds himself both broke and heartbroken, alone and darkly arthritic, bereft of the great and wonderful gift of his holy craft.
Let us not forget, however, that Akasha, away down in her heart, knows more than we do; and perhaps that is why in her thoughts she sometimes dreams of meeting just this youth sculptor wandered away from his very distant village, and his very distant home.
Inside his heart of hearts, Metaxaeus harbors his doubts about the world, and its people. Harbors his hopes, too. Everywhere (and with the eyes of a youth) he sees potential, but everywhere, too, he sees greed and hatred and lusts: the lust for power and the lust for material gain and all of the other lusts ever for the transient things of the world. He looks on with oft sad eyes for the window through which love must come through, and also wonders to himself, Whence always this bright invisibility, this strange and sifting inner light? This still fountain that I have found within myself, with its theatre of dreams. Do others know of this? For now, however, he must ask himself over and over again, as he day by day continues to grow and to reflect and to become supple in both body and mind, the questions, What is this blue, consuming fire at the center of my dreams? What am I? And what is to be my purpose?
The Soul of the World
Akasha awakes. Rises from bed; greets the day. Finishes her morning chores, and begins listening for the music, the music within, the music generally escaping her way, at this selfsame hour of the day. Her own orison of play....
She had once been up and away into the mountains, this when she was still but just a little girl. Lost for a moment, she bumped into a strange looking elderly man who claimed to be a magician. When he smiled at her, her feeling of uneasiness vanished, and she found she could not help but smile, too. He is the one who first talked to Akasha about the mystery of spirit, but up until a certain age she had always considered it far more important the moment when he touched with his hand her forehead, for that is when she felt dizzy for a minute, and afterwards when the feeling she always carried inside of her when telling her stories, began.
Now in the mornings and sitting still awaiting the music that comes floating its way into her room, into her heart, into her mind, she thinks often of that afternoon when she encountered the magician. Strange man. Strange things to say to one so young. What did he know? He spoke of the spirit as invisible, as everywhere, as continually aware of everything and everyone, including itself, and he spoke of its connection to the Maker of the World, and to each one of us. He laughed, then, and went on to say only that if you wanted to be in its presence, you would have to learn to sit very still, and to go all the way within yourself. This all he did say, and then he winked slyly and right at that moment must have handed to her a token, pressed into her open palm, although she was not aware of it at the moment that it happened. All she knew was that when she looked down at her hand she held in it a tiny figurine, and when she looked up again the old man was nowhere to be seen. As far as she could tell, the thing he had presumably pressed into the palm of her hand was nothing but the tiny statue of a boy, a boy who himself held something out in the palm of his own hand, but what it was, was far too small to make out. Since then, though, she had always kept the tiny statue in a place special to her, and that where no one else would be likely to find it. Until one day she realized that it had become precious to her, and she even imagined that when she was feeling cloudy or distressed, she could take up into her hands this trinket and begin to recover her calm or her clarity. She was beginning to get very superstitious.
Yet she continued to sit out her orison every morning, still and quiet, ever since that day of her girlhood, wondering each and every morning what the old man could have meant by those strange words about the spirit and its link to the Maker of the World. But by now she had learned to plunge deep into herself, and she saw things there, things she imagined that other people did not see. Also it was there, in that place of silence within herself, that dwelt the feeling she had when telling her stories, which she felt she had now learned, through practice, to be able to drop into whenever she willed.
At first, many people poked fun at her stories, and they were even discouraged by her older siblings and cousins and her parents, too. (Her grandparents, however, thought them to be delightful from the first.) But then, as she persisted and continued to tell her stories to others, gradually they began to grow into a marvel, and she would often include in them, unbeknownst to her, details of the lives of the people who would be listening. And this was too much; this seeming ability on behalf of a child to peer into the daily lives, as if into the stories of those lives, of her hearers. Some people would become angry, others merely distraught. Time wore on, as time always will, and still she continued spinning her stories, with more and more detail and wonder and anticipation and joy, to all those who would hear. The stories began to bring only joy, even when they would still occasionally, and always inadvertently, hit upon some small detail tucked away into the true life story, as into the past, of one or another of her hearers.
But to Akasha herself her storytelling, ever since that day of her early girlhood, only came on more and more naturally, so that while she was certainly never bored with her abilities, neither was she particularly challenged by them or herself changed. Above all, she began to value them for the kind of easy calm that the telling would always bring to her heart and to her mind. But it was much, much later, in fact as recent only as the telling of this selfsame story that Akasha began, for the first time in her life, to know (and to realize that she knew) things that other people just could not, or at least did not, know. She felt this at first in the depths of her strange orisons — 'strange' because these orisons, these daily bursts or sparks of meditation, marked her out from the other members of her family and her friends surrounding her in her mid-sized town — and then later, and perhaps even more keenly, while relating her stories themselves, and last of all throughout all the parts of her daily life, including her nightly dreams. What kinds of things did Akasha know?
She knew the kinds of things that at first made her stories peculiar, and that had always been, on her part, unconscious and therefore unintentional. But then things began to be different: now she would make certain to, quite purposefully, addend a kind of prolegomena to her stories in which she knew the details would very readily rattle the cages (but this never too much) of any or all of her, shall we say, more wayward listeners. She had, of late, become a kind of moral instructress through the bewitching, enchanting details of her lovely yarns. But this she had never wanted, and it had never even crossed her mind as a purpose for her tales, yet when she began to see things, and to see people that she knew doing things, certain things of doubtful character or intent, it got on her nerves (and dwelt on her mind, in her thoughts) to such an extent that she found she could not resist the opportunity to raise some hairs on their neck.
Excerpted from "The Sapphire Song"
Copyright © 2018 Todd Erick Pedersen.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This
"The Sapphire Song is a reclamation of the literary tradition in the name of the mythic. Its prose, reminiscent of a dreamworld, affects the reader's consciousness beyond the intellectual."--(Theodore Richards, author of Cosmosophia: Cosmology, Mysticism and the Birth of a New Myth)
"In his poem All the True Vows, David Whyte urges the reader to ‘Hold to your own truth at the center of the image you were born with.' In The Sapphire Song, Pedersen invites us to witness the destined mystery of two incandescent souls who have the innocence and courage to do just that. Every story begins. Here's your chance. --( Jamie K. Reaser, author of Note to Self: Poems for Changing the World from the Inside Out.)