STORYPARK by Suki Hope Rose
StoryPark opens at daybreak and closes at sundown. Those that have found the location and have made their case to enter have just the day to live their creation. At the gates there is a gatehouse and a gatekeeper. The gatehouse is a little larger than a Black Forest cottage and contains the living quarters for the keeper and the working front room which serves as the hearing room and office for the operations.
The operations run as they have run since the beginning. Simply, at daybreak, the gatekeeper opens the Dutch door top of the office door and visitors step up to introduce themselves. The keeper hears their pitch for use of the park and approves or disapproves entrance. The keeper keeps sole control of the gate lock and keeps sole control of the approval decisions. There is no appeal process.
You might picture a long line of hopefuls and a fretful line of hand-wringing worried faces. It’s not that way, though. The line is regularly only consists of five people or fewer. The beginning of the gatekeeper’s day resolves in just under 30 minutes, and it is rare that visitors do not get admitted. The ones who have found the Park, you see, are well-prepared, having thought about how they would use their day in the Park for years. The ones who don’t queue up, who don’t find the Park, have self-selected themselves out of consideration for one reason or another. Really it is very few that allow themselves the opportunity. Those are the very few with great imaginations.
It is easy to get tied up with over-thinking about the opportunity. Because it comes just once in a lifetime, if you allow yourself the chance. Many people get stuck in wanting the moments in the Park to be perfect. They get stuck in analysis paralysis. They want too much that the time to be just right, that they let the time get misplaced. They forget to make their way to the Park. Sometimes it is best to just get on with it and appreciate the latest best ideas and run with them.
But back to the beginning of the beginning of the day at StoryPark. Let’s take today, which is Wednesday. We’ll use recount what happens today. It will probably be much like all other days at the Park, except for what happens inside of course. Today, which is the middle of the workweek for those in much of Western Civilization, five people will step up to the gatekeeper’s door and talk to the gatekeeper. They will watch her face closely, state their case in their rehearsed paragraphs, and try to judge how their hope for time in the Park will be judged by the keeper. They will unconsciously hold their breath in the moments following the end of their statement. They will remember to breathe only when the scape of the forest around the gatehouse starts to bend and sway in the moments before their fainting. They will be so intent on what’s in their head and the need for positive reaction from the gatekeeper that they forget they how to stand, swallow, speak or even blink. Their surroundings will spin as they wait for the response. They will wait in suspended time for just a few moments. For what they are asking for are moments in suspended time. This is the time they want in StoryPark. This is the visit inside that the visitors request. The visitors need inside. They believe the Park will manifest. They have heard how it makes the stories of the imagination real.
Let’s take one case, the first case, just to make the process more concrete this Wednesday. This is how day of the visit to the Park went for Michael.
Michael stood at the front of the line in front of StoryPark this morning. He traveled light, had stowed just a few power bars and a water bottle, a dry washcloth and a wet washcloth in its own plastic zip bag in his backpack. He didn’t usually use a backpack. He traveled even lighter, biking to his work in uptown every day, but today he figured he would be far afield for perhaps a long time and would need some supplies. As he arrived to camp the night prior at the front of the clearing of StoryPark he found no others there. He found he would be the first in line at daybreak.
Sunrise came, and though the east light shoved through the trees on time. Michael drew himself to wakefulness just before. Anticipation of the day. Extreme wariness of letting too much nighttime sleep invade precious day. He remembered he had won himself the place at the front of the line. Michael rolled his mat, tied it to his pack bottom, and took a sip of water. He smiled to practice smiling. He counted out his 100 jumping jacks. He felt fine, pumped, ready and able. He took his place, feet planted as in mountain pose, at the thick white line on the ground ten feet back from the gatehouse Dutch door.
Shahryar, the gatekeeper, had risen an hour prior to sunrise, as always, readying herself to greet the day. She made her bed, fed her animals. She meditated for 20 minutes to position her intents and with that she continued her day’s beginning. She prepared herself by showering, making her face and hair in attractive fashion, and stepping into uniform. Breakfast was a nutrient drink. One mug of coffee or tea was a must. She smiled as much to herself as to the visitors as she opened the top of the Dutch door. She wanted to put them at ease and see the enjoyment that was possible here. Possibilities only, yes, but possibilities also need acquiescence to become action. She could agree or disagree with them. She could allow or disallow. These were benchmarking days, she knew, for all of them. She meant to help. This was her job. She found great joy in this job. She smiled for the joy to come through. She greeted Michael this way now.
Michael answered Shahryar’s open hand wave to step forward. Up at the door, he put down his pack at his feet and looked at the woman’s face now two feet from his. He thought about speaking and then to stop that urge to speak ran his right hand through his waves of brown hair. He waited just a moment longer.
“Hello, welcome,” Shahryar says. “I see that you’ve found our StoryPark. I imagine you would like me to hear what you imagine could happen here.”
“I would. I will. I could,” said Michael, trying all, out loud, he finds, trying to answer her correctly. He tries to backfill the new consciousness of the moment, his moment here, with confidence. He straightens his spine and takes in a breath.
Shahryar smiles. Michael feels her smile blanket him in the comfort it intends. He asks, “Shall I tell you what I wish now?”
She grins in reply and replies, “Well I don’t grant wishes, though it’s interesting to think that I could. I do listen to what you imagine, and, knowing the capabilities of StoryPark, I provide entrance,” She pauses with a slow intake of air then with the breath out says, “or I ask you to reconsider your request and deny entrance. First, tell me your name.”
“Good morning, Michael. I’m so glad you’re here right now. Yes, I would like to hear what you have to say. I want to know what you imagine StoryPark could do for you. You have three minutes to tell me your ideas.”
“Whew. Thank you.” Michael stops to think. He wants to accurately remember his prepared words. From what he has read and from what he has found, he understood this was the way it worked. The StoryPark entrance fee is three minutes of your ideas, coherently organized, founded in a need to find, create or re-create an imagined parallel reality. Visitors get a day inside. The time of the creation can be expanded or contracted, people inside can be living or from the pantheon of the dead. Lands can be like on Earth or imagined other lands. Time can be of the 21st century or before or to come.
Michael’s smile turns from the smile of a thank you to the inward smile of ‘I’m loving this. This is my moment. I am here.’ He looks up and into her eyes begins speaking.
I am Michael Bevel but I wonder if I have always been so. I am a Bevel of the loving Bevel family, late of Tybee Island, and my time with this family has been formative, restive, and just fine by all first world markers. I have been well loved, housed, fed, and educated. The Bevels wish me the best and support my natural and developing talents in the fine arts, but I think there is something else. There is the something else of a feeling that I was not a Bevel originally, that I’m not derived from them, that my DNA is from somewhere else. Yes, I’ve lifted and had tested their DNA and mine. I’ve found that yes, they are my parents, mine is my father’s and so on. But I can’t shake this. I know I have an extraordinary sense of smell. My eyes are clear and eagle strong, but if I squeeze them to almost closed I see through the gray line of lashes other scenes than what is in front of me. I see stunningly bright colors in shapes of what must be other beings. It’s like I’m seeing what I came from. I hear the high and low drones of what I think are other languages or signals of other places. I hear these constantly. These sounds never leave. I can also hear the pulsing of my own blood in my veins.
I don’t think I’m like other humans. I’ve asked, read, and started to explain to others until I see the fear or concern in the faces when I’m telling this to them. Then I stop. I keep this to myself because I haven’t met another one yet that has these same sensorial experiences. I know I can run for hours like a bushman of Africa. I am so crazy strong, too. I tried once when I was alone to lift two Ford trucks. I lifted one with each arm. What’s up with that? I appreciate my world, but I work around all these other pieces of myself. I suppress myself in order to just be in this world. I don’t know how much longer I can go on without knowing what all this is, what all it means. I haven’t found my place in this world is what it is. I still feel the need to belong somewhere here — or there. I have to imagine that I can at least see it or understand it here in StoryPark. Maybe if I can see it I can find it, I can go there to be with those like me. Will you help me see it? Will you help me find this place I belong?
“It is the belonging that will end the search, yes.” Shahryar agrees. Her head is still bowed. She listened with her head bowed as she does during the time of listening to all visitor requests. She looks up now pulling the smile open on her face to show him. “This is what StoryPark is meant for, yes. Michael, I will open the gates for you. Time for you to begin.” Shahryar loves in this moment all that there is to love. She loves her work, her time here, the realization on the visitor faces. What she offers, Michael takes, and Michael walks towards the gates.
Michael’s walk isn’t much of a walk; it is more of a triple jump, a leap, hop, toss of himself. He can’t decide how to get himself the 20 yards more rapidly. Looking at him from behind Shahryar thinks he looks like a rag doll learning to walk in a way. His brain is on overdrive and he is thinking about how to make the most of his day. He has gotten a once in a lifetime opportunity, he knows. How best to use it? He had a plan but now thinks about rethinking that.
The elaborately crafted wrought iron gates start a slow swing open on their tracks. As far inside as he sees, the grounds look lush, manicured, welcoming, with a temperate climate from a warming sunshine and a scene filled set of rolling greens. Like the best of the private estate gardens from around the world, the views call for investigation. Michael believes he can see how to make this work.
He walks slower now, taking a path whose end he can’t see, but he trusts he will feel his way to the right spot. He walks for a while, taking snapshots for his memory, the sweeping weeping willow there standing by the small pond, the two white oaks twinned from a storm a few decades ago now growing as one. The endless pebble paths that end out of sight somewhere over the hillocks. From his athletic training days – he was a high scorer in his high school days in many track and field events – he knows to take time to plan his approach. Of course he had been planning his approach ever since he had heard then figured how to locate StoryPark. He had his many questions to ask. He knew what he wanted answered. What he didn’t know – what had never been part of the lore he had found and read – was exactly how the Park worked. He had also forgotten to ask the gatekeeper. He had been so excited about winning entrance he plumb forgot to ask.
Now he is inside and wandering. Just feeling it. Walking around just to see it. Maybe that is the best way to figure it out, he thinks. Or maybe he should just sit down. He sits down on the path. There is no one else around, no one who might be walking, too, to trip over him or ask him to move. Certainly he didn’t feel he was imposing by sitting here because today was his day. He had been granted entrance to the Park. Was the Park all his? He wasn’t sure, but probably not wholly, he thought. His Park for a day? He looked just over his right shoulder and saw a wooden bench. Well I can make use of that bench he thought and went to use it. The smooth teak of the bench curved ever so nicely and could well hold two sitters. Michael sat on one side, using the back of the bench as the arm rest and kept his feet on the ground.
In this formal garden setting, he did not want to put his feet up on the bench. His family, all well-mannered, had instilled him with the mannerly code of conduct so deeply that he stopped thinking about decorous manners. He just noticed when others breached them. But there were no others here. Did he need any others? He looked around again. The Park invited running and laughing and flying kites with the look of it. Michael created the scenes he could imagine on this landscape. All involved other people. Talking, walking, playing, picnicking, rowing or paddling on the lakes. He most always enjoyed other people. He just wondered why he had the constellation of super-sensations that he understood others didn’t. The smell, the sight, the hearing, the strength. He wished he had the power of all-knowing. Or at least knowing more than he did right now, what he was supposed to do next?
I must take hold, he thinks. I must direct my thoughts to searching answers on my search. So he sat and concentrated on his questions. Who am I? Why do I have these extraordinary sensations? What does this mean? Oh and How do I figure out how to figure this out in StoryPark?
I think I’ll just sit and breathe and take it all in for a bit, Michael thinks. He sits down and stills himself. He shuts his eyes tightly so he doesn’t see the bright abstracts he sees when he squints. When in doubt, no need to run in circles, scream and shout. Stay in the last place you were and someone will find you. All these tidbits of keeping one’s self safe wandered into his brain. Start hash marking to mark the way you came so you can find your way back. Perhaps I should look for something to mark my way with: this floated up to his consciousness. He opened his eyes, looked around and then down. What he hadn’t seen before but was there now was a pint can of paint and a 2 inch brush sitting under the bench under the left armrest, just under his left leg.
“Mighty fine times,” Michael thinks on finding this duo of tools. “Maybe StoryPark answers my thoughts.” Then, “Have to be careful what I think!” “No worries, I know what I’m here for. I’ll just think those questions. Maybe the Park will think my answers!”
Michael stood and stretched. His young, tall frame needs exercise and he figures he has just the good number of daylight hours in the Park to make headway on his purpose here. First he hashes his first tag. Discreetly. On the back of the bench leg, he paints the symbol created a few years back. The symbol contains his initials and a star and a tree. He remembers his mother, “You are no less than the trees and the stars.” Was it in a lullaby? When he created that symbol he incorporated the tree and the star as he was trying to remember the rest of the verse. I am no less than, Michael thinks as he paints, but what more am I?
What more am I? What more am I? What am I to be? What am I to me? Michael rhymes to himself as he walks along the pebbled path. The day is sunny and sweet to the taste. He knows, because he opens his mouth and lets the air hit is tongue, hung out of his mouth like a dog. He likes to take in as much as he can take in sometimes. All his senses. Even as he knows he experiences those senses not like others. His mom, his dad, he thinks. I kept telling them, this is what it is for me. I see and hear these things. His parents asked him more when he started talking. Describe it, they would say. He used all the words he could find to tell about the shapes, contours, colors, smells, the references he could reference, but most words fell short. He wanted a new language, a new set of descriptors. He tried to elaborate over the years, but they shook their heads. They felt his frustration. They thought they understood, but like with others, they hit a stopping point of understanding him. Then they told him to not mention these things to others or at school He asked them when he was alone with them sometimes: Do you smell that cat’s fear of the other cat? She needs us to rescue her right now. Can you taste the grey sea salt on that pear skin? The trucker must have used the coastal highway on his way to deliver. Can’t you see the orange and blue glow of the residual sunray sitting on the tree at the right side of the house? Why don’t you? But it’s there. I need you to see it.
Michael walks further on the pebble way. Getting back to concentrating on his questions. He doesn’t know what to expect here so he looks around with some but not an overwhelming amount of anticipation. He finds himself actually strolling. The definition of strolling was what he is doing. An easy, steady gait. The sound of the fish in the ponds, playing with each other. Those two carp, about a quarter mile away in the lily pond with, what is it? oh yes, those lilies that look like lotus flowers. They’ve a deep magnolia-like smell and the fish can smell them too. Thank you to the garden designers. What artists they are. Knowing quite well what both the fish and the flowers like to be near, what food they like and can find, counter any off balance with a rebalancing of symbiotic elements to bring the ecosystem back into line.
Michael holds the paint can in which the paint brush stands in his left hand as he walks. Any time he takes a turn or asks himself for a decision in direction, Michael paints his symbol visibly on a tree or rock. He thinks about thinking. He thinks about his thinking. Next he thinks about the thinking he has laid out for today. Sometimes, he says to himself, “I know exactly what I know,” and sometimes “I wonder what I know.”
Make sense? Sure, he says, “I know what I know when I know it, but when I wonder about things I don’t know, I don’t.” Knowing this doesn’t make him uneasy, he realizes, it is just what it is.
Maybe that is something like I am trying to know about these extra sensorial senses I have. That is the name he has given them over the years. Extra sensorial senses. Every once in a while they came in handy. Like when he knew the pie in the oven was about to burn because of the pre-burn smell he could smell. Or when the sound of the rumbling rain clouds from the next state over were about to smash into the rain clouds already in place and giving rain above the Blevin’s farm. The sudden smash would cause hail in about 20 minutes. Time enough to get the car and people under cover before it hit.
What perplexed him most, though, were the shapes he saw through his eyelashes. Those luminous geometric formations that always hovered there in the grey. He squints to see them now on his walk. Yes, they walked with him, sort of floating, sort of hovering. Wish he could scoot along like them Michael thinks. Might be like riding that Back to the Future hoverboard not quite yet invented.
Hey, maybe in the StoryPark I can talk to them. I’ve tried before but got no response. Maybe they heard sounds differently. Another bit to figure out. At that thought, he stopped. He turned. Michael blinked then blinked again. Yes, I need to talk to them, he thought. My geometric friends, my luminous ones. Why haven’t I ever thought to talk to them before?
Slowly he lowered his eyelids watching his eyelashes touch the bottom to the top. Oh, he thought, this is what I need. He needed to situate himself so he – quick – opened wide his eyes, looked around for a place to plunk down and do what he felt the need to do. The grand pine tree over there called him, said come, touch my bark. I’m waiting for you, you see? The grassy lawn of the park broke its growth pattern nearer the roots of the pine; the short needles of acidic pH offered a new ground covering. Just as soft and sweet as the park grass but with the earthy strength of the majesty of the life of the pine. Michael headed this way, beginning his communion with the pine and the voice he heard coming from it. He reached its presence and leant down to carefully release the paint can from his hand to the stable table of the ground. The pine sighed. Michael sighed, too.
They stood together for a moment, feeling each other’s face. The living essence of the pine allowed itself to be subsumed and breathed. It neither recoiled nor impressed its nature on the man. It allowed the man to just be and feel. Time would provide, it knew. Time would provide time for growth, for knowledge, for the innate to express and impress its wishes. Michael sat down facing the trunk. He smiled inside so hard; he was so happy. Inaudibly flipping backflips and somersaults and silly great happy bits of sunshine, he felt. And sea spray and dolphins leaping in play. He could release an inhuman squeak sound through his teeth from his mouth that was pulled so wide in a joy cry but that was all. Here am I and here is this pine. I know this part of my family now! How did I never know? How is this something I’ve not seen before? Michael shuttered his lashes now to conjure the luminous ones in the netherworlds that he knew were there. How does this go together? What can they tell me? Let me hear and tell me what I want to understand!
He tried to calm himself, breathe, steady down, call the understanding. Nothing. Still crazy excited, he was, and found it hard to receive, listen. He imagined himself in the yoga studio with his favorite yogi. The one that glowed all over when he smiled and remembered how his eminence smelled like butterscotch ice cream. A favorite. This calmed Michael a bit, brought him through his known memories to the moment of this one. And he waited one, two, three beats more. Silly happy joy jumps his insides wanted to leap. He folded his legs into a cross-legged position instead. He drew in a deliberately slow breathe of air, filling his lungs. He made his lashes touch looking for the sloe eyed introspection that doing that necessarily allows to happen.
The ground left him or rather he left the ground. Michael felt himself rise along the parallel of the pine. He was lifting upwards towards the lowest of the pine branches. Feeling light and free and almost formless Michael opened his eyes slowly slowly, perhaps expecting to fall from his cross-legged seat to the pine needle ground. I am obviously levitating, he spoke silently to himself. Then he tried to clear his mind, not rock the boat, so to speak. Stop thinking so as to understand the moment without words. The pine asked him to stop and reach out. Michael stretched his arms straight. At the tips of his middle fingers, a bit away from his knees, the pine bark and endodermis and core touched him back. A vibratory shiver passed up Michael’s arms. The pine exhaled. A sensual smile crossed the man’s face. Sitting crossed legged in midair, the man felt a release and a peace in the shared space. “Know me now?” asked the pine. “Yes, thank you,” Michael gave his thoughts through his fingers to the tree. “Thank you.”
Michael breathed a few more lungfulls then wafted down to the ground blanket of pine needles at the trunk base. He slowly unfolded his legs and rose, turning back around to the view of the park. Standing to breathe in place a bit, he tried to remember in order the events of the past moments. He wanted to recreate, replay this if he could, with some of the other ones that he saw between the worlds, between his lashes.
He walked out a few yards to the sun beyond the reach of the tree branches. “Thank you,” he wishpered again to the pine behind him. My wish to understand. Through you, I think I understood something. Maybe he understood how to go about his search now. Understanding how is definitely a great part of the journey. Now to step through the steps. He just had to repeat what he had just done. What was it? Believe I can talk to the beings and they can tell me? Believe that StoryPark can be the place that I can find? What I’ve known are only the questions, without the path.
It’s a joyfully enlightening place to be when you know you’re in the right place. Right here. StoryPark.
Michael stretched his arms up, dropped his backpack from his back. Sweet sunshine and green clover lawn. He laid down on his back then rolled to his front. Then to his back. Oh the delight of the freedom of rightness of being. In the sun. He shuttered his lashes against the direct light. Dear sun. The stunning light of the overhead sun shone through his eyelids, turning the regular color of the inside of lids to a ruddy bright scrim. Against the scrim played the pulsing life of thin blood veins and anomalies of lid skin. Allowing himself the next moments firm in the foundation of his strong young back in the clover he watched a scene on the inside of his lids.
He saw the sun rise over an ocean and the racing camerawork from a boat running over the water to the shore. He saw a man’s feet step from the boat to heave it to harbor on the shore. He saw through the man’s personal head movie the climb to the grey weathered boardwalk to the house. The home. The directed mission to head home inside. The beautiful woman, the child filling her belly, the cook’s kitchen. At this point, Michael thought, he must be imagining. As he held time still for a moment to think, “Is this real, is this what I am creating to see or what is being shown to me?” the speed of the scene slowed.
The whole heart feeling of the kitchen, the smile from the woman, the sun lighting through the windows, these he felt as if there himself. For a beat or two Michael considered his thoughts, caught a slight abeyance of the eyelid scene, and knew he needed to let it continue without interjecting an imposed thought. The woman reached to his face with both her hands. The cooling frame of her hands on either side of his skin and skull he felt keenly. But her eyes were the soothsayers. She smiled in love deeply into his eyes. She had missed him. He had come home. They lived a life in that core. The time. The family. The house. The kitchen. The choice to care and connect.
Michael breathed in his new knowledge from this moment while he watched the scene fade from his eyelids. The sun shifted from the peak of high noon to afternoon. The blaze of sights scene like in the flames of a campfire moved to memory. Michael shifted to lie on his side. He pushed himself to sitting then quickly upright. He jogged back to the pine tree to regain his backpack, his blaze paint. With the paint he marked the shape of indentation on the clover. He surveyed the park scene, searching for where to carry on. With the day’s light waning, he wanted to finish his quest with all the answers gathered that he could. He turned a full 360degrees then again with his eyelashes touching.
On the second round the luminous beings appeared and he slowed his turning. Speaking now to them as he thought might work did. “Wonder ones, I see you slightly, you know.” A beat. They waited. He waited. “Who are you?” he said quietly. “Who? What?” he couldn’t quite frame the question. They had no mouths but he understood them. They gave him the answers to questions in the next hour that he didn’t know he asked. They keened and swayed like an ancient Greek chorus in an outdoor amphitheater. They sang and they cried and they fretted and yelled. They soothed and hummed and rocked the stories they needed to tell and he listened. Their elongated tall wisps of figures combined and separated according to the stories being told. Their grey shimmers of their beings turned from bright rose and gold colors to hot red and bronze of metals in a forge as they sang.
Finally they settled to a calm quiet and grey shimmer again. Michael open his eyes and walked. He didn’t look for a gravel walkway this time but crossed with his long legs the trevass of park greens through the copses of trees through the piedmont to the short rise of mountains. Old mountains, worn of the millennia of waters washed and receded and built of the earth and rocks deposited from those water works. Hillocks of the park. He needed to be on top of them. He half ran, half walked. The impetus for movement as imperative as the goal. The luggage of emotions he felt bouncing in his chest were ungainly only from their messiness. His progression to the small mountain nearest to him gave moments of reflection when he could put words on his experience. Was it a conversation he had had with the luminous ones? Were the stories he felt inside him now to be time critical? He had to see what he could see from something of a summit. The act of climbing on the mountain side incline calmed him a bit, gave his time at least for right now a purpose.
He exercised the rightness of action in climbing. He had marked the first step of this climb with a paint blaze and stuck the can in an outside open pocket of his backpack. The scattershot trees and embedded rocks provided hand holds. The ascent moved quickly. Looking ahead a bit he settled on a jutting rock, an air jetty, as his aim. He angled his trajectory and continued climbing. In ten minutes he was mounting the jutting rock and fixing his feet for a firm place from which to survey. With a quick swipe of the brush he marked a paint blaze on the rock, like a stage mark. A stop on the platform from where an actor relays his speech and lets the audience in on his thoughts. To be or not. To love and be lost. To test the dream and the time against the man brought by fates and choices to this moment. To climb and survey and believe.
Michael dropped his pack and shed his shirt. He wanted the sun and the wind and the bugs and the moment on his skin. He took in the air and expelled the dioxide of his life form. He smiled and rubbed his sweat wet hair. The luminous ones he had longed to touch he had touched. They appeared. They talked. They offered. He took. He had reached their realm and understood. He had a lightness of being himself on the rock looking out. The view swirled when he moved his head side to side. At that height the magnificence of the expanse and its immensity was filling. Michael’s head cleared and he stood still with his hands on his hips.
I, Michael Bevel, am Michael Bevel, no less than the moon and stars, come from the moon and stars. I am to be the Michael Bevel there is to be. The luminous ones and me. Carried by time and connection and the touch of what can be. I am me. These simple thoughts passed over him and through him. Michael let the wind lift his arms and with them over head, he bent backwards just a little. As his chin lifted high, his chest thrusting forward, he expelled the deep low one note moan of a man. The young man growing. Michael now knowing. And with the sound of the keening moan ended, Michael released his back bend and sat down in a deep squat. The jutting rock became his planning place. He placed his fingertips together and brought his thumbs to chin. He pondered the way forward with the knowledge from today, packed in his pack, strapped in his mind now. He stayed and thought and considered scenarios outside of the park from his daily regular life. How better to align? How better to live? While he was pretty sure he had found or at least felt and heard the day’s answers from the Park, from the luminous beings, the larger looming question was how to best live. Living the aligned life, the best life, the life of knowledge, living the knowledge now seemed harder. StoryPark had been the easy part, though it had taken him years to find and months to prepare it seemed. The quest he had built with trepidation and extreme conditioning, now appeared the easy part. Living the life was going to be hard. Crazy hard because it involved others who hadn’t the luminous ones to gift and guide them. Life was going to be crazy hard. Michael stood up. The daylight was waning and he knew the time he had to get back to the gate house thinning. He took one more power stance, hands on his hips, staring out to the vista. The Park land green, lush with the blue gold vibrancy of vespers light. The Park commanding soundness of the heart coming home.
Shahryar accepted Michael Bevel’s hello agains at the back door of the gate. She listened to his exclamations and thanks and said, “Michael, the Park appreciates you finding us and using your day here. We are honored to be part of your story now. ” Michael finally quieted and assented and headed out to his daily home with his new Park touchstone memories. Sharyar began her routine to close up for the night, preparing to rest before the next person and the next day at StoryPark.
Ava queued with hopefuls of the day outside the gate of StoryPark. How had these others found this when she had wandered so long in the stacks of various libraries and queried so many search engines for so long? She didn’t want to talk or make friends with the others, afraid she would lose her resolve, perhaps give her place in line away to someone she had just met. She knew she was being curt. Cutting off conversation starters with single word answers and broken eye contact. She had given away so much. Just this once she would be selfish. Just this once she wouldn’t think someone worthier than herself.
The empathetic urges she let run her life had run her down. She was exhausted, depleted, ready to chuck herself in the deep wade. Wade in the water, as the Negro spiritual sang. I have to wade in the water now to get to the other side. Deep rushing rapids ran in the streets of Manhattan where she plied her trade, designing textiles, mapping the demands of the marketplace, creating buying trends for the hoards who needed to dress themselves. Fashionably to be noticed. The world’s industries seemed to whirl around her everyday work and as the whirl turned faster, the blur got fuzzier and more suffocating. The fuzz went up her nose and snuffed her breathing.
Shallowly she gasped one day and collapsed at work. This health emergency gained her a staycation at home, though week hadn’t done it. The time she needed was island time, truly away time. She needed somewhere where the tactile sensations were nature-made, not polymer strands woven, extruded then spun onto cone cores for rapid high intensity looms beating metal soundwaves against high factory walls in cavernous rooms with people in uniform caps and aprons monitoring the relentless din for a drop in production ever pounding, thrashing, shearing, weaving, the demands the demands of the market genuine, and the market created by her own designs and demand of new work to replace last month’s work to rule the world.
Ava gave her time and her mind and her body to her work. Her training and grooming had all led her to the magnificence of her everyday steady job and work in a respectable corporation, known the world over for its quality products and good works if not also for its chemical discharge and fossil fuel industry sycophantic existence. Ava spent her Saturdays and Sunday afternoons in the public library. There she found some quiet and other strangeness in the people and thick, sound-absorbing walls. She wanted the shift of the visual input on those days from the intense work at her computer. She wanted to wander and search. What she was looking for, she wasn’t sure, of course, but she kept returning, walking the aisles, reading spines, tapping at catalog keyboards. In all this writing, arcana most, she thought, there must be someone whose found something that makes sense for me. She hoped what had been found had been documented. She hoped those that knew cared enough to pass this something along.
Because as Ava gave herself away so fully everyday she felt dissipated and depleted. She was sure that she was not the only one that could have ever come to this point. The women, the great heroines of fables and history, no word was every written about their exhaustion. The women of nervous breakdowns were the sideliners, the frail sisters without histories of their own, footnotes. Ava wanted something else for her life. The next twenty years needed to mean something, be used for the grand work for her life’s legacy, before the frailty of old age and decrepitude set in. But she couldn’t do it if her interior resources were non-existent. She had little energy let alone knowledge on how to proceed. She was looking for that information now.
Ava stepped outside to look for her favorite food cart man on the corner. With her crusty roll of pickled vegetables and thin meats and mustard she sat on the marble steps by the front statue. Two others sat near her, two steps up and she listened in on their conversation. They were friends, obviously, of some standing with each other, because their talk covered the deep subjects of shared history and friends, one husband, one child. The one without, the single friend, no husband or child to fret about talked about her planned trip to the Greek islands in a few weeks. She was preparing by reading about the places. She talked about the Aegean blue sea and the temples. The Oracle of Delphi and the questions she wanted to ask it. She probably had Kindle collected enough materials to have her reading instead of looking up the whole time she was there, Ava thought. Ava considered the experience from the other woman’s plans though. She imagined herself there with the travel companions’ forced amiability during the boat rides between islands or on sunbathing excursions.
The friends’ conversation waned and sat in shared quietude for a few moments. How sweet. Together yet quiet and separate. Ava felt a thread pull on her heart at the same time she looked around for one on her jacket sleeve. She tugged. It’s true, she thought. I do need that. The friends and time chugging along on the boat bow together feeling the slap of the waves on the hull and the racing breeze on faces. I’ve let my friends become the ones I talk to everyday by phone or email. The vendors and middlemen and colleagues that I do business with. Yes, it’s our business, their business, my business, but I don’t know them outside of that. Are those friends? Are those the ones that know me best know? My family hardly does. This sister, that sister off on divergent trajectories. So different and geo-flung that the seasonal celebrations got harder and harder and started being skipped with excuses of time and work and budgets and no, facetime didn’t cut, but that’s what it had come to with family. College friends? Those sisters of the crucible that had planned to grow old together had also wandered into the geo-straits of distant cities and womb-won progeny demanding new centric foci. My male phone friends from work is what I have now. Two decades older than me. Needing me to be efficient, not female, necessarily. Not kind, but savvy smart on the numbers and needs. The timetables of delivery carried the conversations and on the days lost for new parenthood or family deaths were annoyances rather than conciliatory costs of human endeavors in common.
Marvels of modernity not so marvelous. Ava found herself gripping a clutch of fabric in her fist in the front of her chest like she was having a heart attack like the ones you see on film. She realized her teeth were clenched and her mind was racing. She stood in the line to StoryPark breathing like a heart attack victim desperately seeking her next breath. The ones around her didn’t notice. She didn’t allow them. Her sense of social decorum demanded a personal de mininus during emergencies, especially emergencies. She screamed and cried and feared for her life inside as she gripped the front of her jersey cloth dress, creating ruching between her breasts. Ripples of internal screams. She steadied herself. Stood in yoga tree pose. Normal seeming to others. Strongly planted roots in place for herself. Her feet still, her stature stacked and still. Internally, though she was blowing the top of her head like a whale spout with shooting stream of cries for help. Help to understand what she needed to understand. What she thought StoryPark could give her.
She remembered the time on the library steps listening to the easy relationship of old friends connecting with current experiences. She wanted to ask StoryPark how to get back, how to find the easy again. How to be and do and see the way forward.
Her moment came and she stepped up to the Dutch door where Shahryar welcomed her with a broad full lips rimming full white teeth. Ava spoke of her need to see what she was sure StoryPark could show. She didn’t wait for responses from Shahryar really, once she found her groove. She rolled through her wishes and her story. She requested, no, she really needed this day inside. Shahryar agreed with a nod. Ava didn’t remember her exact words, but she thought she understood that she was granted entrance and walked towards the gates opening. She verged on crying at the sight of the gates’ motion since the emotions that had swirled for so long she had just let loose. Loose to the stranger, the crucial stranger at the door. Lovely, she had been lovely, Ava thought. Beautiful, too. She was walking through the gates now puffed with emotion and in the moment and at the true beginning of the experience of the Park, she cried. She cried and cried, the ugly kind of cry where the eyes turned bloodshot and the nasal mucus needing wiping. Ava cried like she didn’t care who saw because she didn’t see anyone else. She felt no need to be pretty; she felt free.
Ava walked forward, looking around to understand the lay of the land. She figured she’d just wander until she found a place to sit and think. Perhaps she should sit under a tree and attempt the Siddhartha type of enlightenment. That was one plan anyway. She had not asked Shahryar how StoryPark worked, really, as she thought she had understood that one was not supposed to ask. Ava thought she was just supposed to use what she had gleaned from the word of mouth and scant internet posts she had greedily gathered. Sometimes these phenomena were ruined with the deep critical detail of advance visitors. This one was certainly not the kind of entity that would hire a PR firm and align its vertical marketing plans to reach the greatest market. Odd that she could examine and breakdown this offering, this entity with such a commercial insight. Or non-commercial as it were.
There had been no entrance fee, though Ava had been ready to pull three credit cards to pay whatever price. This was something she had saved for though at the time she hadn’t known for what she was saving. She had had a vague idea of a sailing vacation around the Greek islands. She had been growing in desperation. She was saving for a desperation solution. What it was going to be was not something she had a full grasp on yet; how to define a solution to that indefinable need to drastically change something? Which part of life? How to create the working vision of the future when the present is ok and working, just not fully something like great?
Ava had been walking this whole time. As she perambulated, she thought. Her feet were providing that regular grounding reminder of steps on earth reverberating up her leg bones to hips. She felt the keen ken of connection, being to bone, human walking, the ability to wander as a sentient being.
Once she had gotten through the ugly cry and the beginning of her walk in StoryPark, Ava considered how to use her day. She directed her thinking to a few goals. She wanted to emerge from the gates to her everyday world again with a new hope, a fresh look at things. She wanted a plan for at least the next five years. She wanted a jumpstart or infusion of energy, to be energized for the plan.
The plan, she thought, needed a plan on how to make the plant. She walked as she thought towards the piedmont of the low mountains she saw in the distance. She gauged her pace to be about 4 miles an hour and the mountains about five miles away. To get there, she saw that she would be ducking into the piedmont forest soon which looked to be about half a mile in depth from her perspective. Before that lay open ground. The sun shone on the cleared field like a from a cook who had dialed in the right stove temperature for the recipe. Ava walked a bit faster now that she had a goal if not a purpose. Well, she had a purpose, she thought, which was to create a plan to create a plan. The plan she supposed had started already with her decision to get to StoryPark and the walking time now underway while she thought towards the goals of getting a plan and the energizing new hope behind it.
She let eyes wander the scape around the Park. She let her mind wander, trying not to name things, stop thinking, and clear her head. The best way to allow other thoughts to enter. She concentrated on her breathing. In two three, out two three. The easy regulation from the years of downtown yoga classes allowed the quick slip into a meditative breathing rhythm and the walking rhythm kept pace. She had crossed a good expanse of the cut green field, clipped to lawn length. This was a massive, curated land of green, some hillocks, some copses of trees, some small natural ponds. She felt warmed by the sun and the walk, though not over hot. Nevertheless she wanted to peer into one of the ponds, to see if she could see some underwater life. The pond ahead was stocked with lily pads and the flowers of different colors were in bloom. She picked up her rhythmic walking pace a bit and started counting the different colors. As she got closer she could see that the lily pad plants had been planted or stage to map the shape of a star. That’s mighty hard to do, Ava thought, with lily pads. She had read enough about them at one time to know that pots of the plants were usually submerged in groupings by gardeners and that periodic clearing or cleaning around the plants was necessary.
Apparently this lily pad gardening had been occurring for many years, because the pond was full yet not too full of plants and, most extraordinarily, the blooms of white as a grouping inside the rest of the bluepurple and deep pink remaining flowers stood out. Singularly, the white blooms spoke to her. They seem luminous, ethereal. The white blooms, she saw, formed a star. A full yet sharp star. Really? Ava thought. Maybe I’m just imagining this. So she walked a bit further around the edges of the pond. From each angle, though, she saw a star. The other blooms just served to boarder the white. They were arranged just to make the white star stand out. That’s something, she thought. What reason for a star here? Was it just one of those random but easy designs that gardeners made in layouts? Perhaps this was a comment on the designers’ reflection of the sky in the pond. Ha! It would have been harder to make a shape of clouds with the blooms, because every cloud shape was either highly idiosyncratic or a simple icon of two humps and a big bump. This was definitely a star with or from a purpose.
Ava stooped for a second at the edge of the pond rim. Then she squatted deeply. Years of yoga had provided her with an agile back and set of long hamstrings on both legs. What else could a star symbolized? Why take the time to make a star of white lily pad flowers in a pond in StoryPark? Ava leaned more forward at the water’s edge. She watched the darting of minnows and the nimble transverse trips of skeeters from pad to pad on the mirroring surface of the water. She let herself be mesmerized by the reflection of the sun and clouds on the horizontal pane of water. She thought of early astronomers’ representations of the sphere of heavenly bodies around the earth. She reached her hand down to the water surface to break the tension, make the surface picture move. But she moved too fast, tilted too far forward and lost her balance before she could catch herself.
What! Oh god. How silly, Ava thought as she fell in. She tried to stuff her legs under herself, catch some bottom mud with her shoes and get some footing. But as she had stumbled in her feet caught uneven footing and she went in full face. In that split second in her surprise she hit the water with her mouth fully open in an Oh. Without footing and face down, for the first moment after the surprise rapid fall, she just found herself staring down to the inside world of the pond. The minnows darted away from the ruckus. The plant stems shivered from the reverberation of the added waves around them. They looked to be waving hello. Ava found her hand free from any natural reaction of fear; in fact saw her right hand raised and herself waving hello back. Hello to this underwater world of delightful unmurkiness. Ava thought this pond should be muddy or cloudy; so many clouds reflected on the surface had masked the clear world below though. Perhaps that is the way of the surface of ponds, to hide the grand biosphere below and to keep intruders from disturbing the grand world of fishes and plants and amoebas and other beings that inhabited this space below air. She thought she should behave herself as their intruder or interloper and began to wonder how to mind her manners.
Ava closed her mouth drinking in some of the pond water, finding it delightfully semi-sweet. Like water that a honey drop had recently passed through. Delightful. Like slightly sweet ice tea on a hot day after one has been a bit too long in the sun. Ava had stopped waving at the moment, slowing all movement while she accustomed herself to these new sensations. Marvelous. I’m not afraid at all, she thought. Look at me. Breathing and drinking and being here underwater. Ahh. Ahhhhhohmynowwhat the heck but oh well and I think I’ll just enjoy this. Ava saw all these thoughts pass through her mind but not many others. She had entirely forgotten in these few minutes about her whole above water life and her gravity bound upright bipedal years upstairs. Upstairs was a good term for it she decided when she did think about it after about ten minutes of just floating downward. Upstairs. Underwater. Why was I climbing all the time, it seemed, when I was upstairs? Because it was called upstairs? Because I had to get higher? I certainly didn’t seem lighter ever after climbing, like I do here. Underwater. Where the floatingness was beingness and that’s all there needed to be. This is the life for me, Ava smiled when she found this thought. Or the thought found her. She wasn’t sure. Even the thinking is fluid here. Like my body is gracing through the water. Upstairs my feet scrape the floor and I pull myself along. I climb stairs or stumple down them. I am like the fishes with fins here. I wave to propel. And she propelled herself forward a bit with a swish of her hips. Ava had sunk further downward following a particularly attractive fish, vibrantly striped, which seemed to say he was looking for friends to play with. It was play time of course. Time to play with new friends and she followed him swishing left, swishing right.
Ava tried to push through the awkward moments of her first swishes. A baby’s first steps, but these weren’t steps, of course. And she didn’t want to lose him. Her new stripy friend circled back a few times monitoring her progress in following. Obviously she was much bigger than him, who was the size of a good lake bass, himself big enough for a family of four dinner. Oh my, I’ve got to stop thinking that way, she chastised herself. He’s certainly not going to like me much if I think about him as a dinner option. She swished and waved her hips trying out new rhythms, finding what worked best. She propelled this way and that, trying her arms forward then back alongsides. Alongsides seemed to work best for speed in clear space. Forward worked best if she approached tall strands of plankton or other bottom plants. The stems of the lily pads were quite long and the boxes they were planted in along the bottom terraces allowed for easy passage though the stems needed parting sometimes like a 1960s hippies’ bead curtain but upside down.
Ava hipped right, hipped left, following stripey. He was so much fun! Look at the smile on his face. And he’s so patient with me while I’m getting the hang of this. What a beautiful place he lives in and look what he’s showing me. The water this deep was still clear and clean. Green growths fuzzed the lily pad boxes and stems. All appeared co-living in synchronicity. All the fish smiled. Occasionally she spotted a snail bedding down or a four or six legged crawler of sorts moving around their small world spaces. Ava smiled losing herself in this playtime and laughing at herself faltering every now and again in this new propulsion method. Forward movement, yes. But how about turning? She curved right, left, trying to feel the feeling of the different water wash flows in turning. She somersaulted forward then backwards.
AhHa! I love this! I’m back on the synchronized swimming team like in high school. Come one, guys, she mentally called to the fish around her and beckoned with her arms. Watch me now. Do this! She point her toes and spun one way then the other. She flew two swishes up then floated down feet down. She demonstrated then beckoned the audience she had gathered. Now altogether. Like on the sync team she watched out of the corner of her eyes left and right to make sure she was aligned in her turns and in correct reach proximity to keep an even look to their dance. She choreographed another quick routine first asking them to watch, bear with her as she broke it down, demoed the steps – or spins and fin swishes as it were – then conducted the group in the whole albeit short production. What a time! At the end of four new routines, the others grew weary of this playtime and starting drifting about showing first clues of boredom. Ava took the hints quickly, not wanting to overstay her welcome with the demanding over-enthusiasm of a first-timer. She looked for Stripey who chucked his chin forward, motioning her to follow him again. She nodded thanks to the sync swimmers and propelled forward after Stripey.
When Ava stopped her forward swimming at points to stare at a particular plant or greet a good looking fish, her feet floated below her. She floated upright. When she started again she let her legs float back behind her so that she could hip swish, hip swish, to go forward horizontally again. Her legs worked in tandem here, not in split motion like a biped. The best reference she could come up with as she tried weakly to describe it for herself was to say it was like the butterfly stroke from her competitive swimming days. The rapid wave motion of the legs together providing the formidable thrust of the stroke. Ava lost her thoughts more and more though here. She found it harder to think, put words on the moment. She felt warm and deep heart feelings though. Her pace, keeping time with Stripey, the full fun feeling of just being here with these playful other water beings, all with the free time to find amusements with each other or be still in quick naps near the sun-warmed surface.
All these experiences filled her heart and legs and arms and certainly her face with an energetic joy. She sighed and almost cried. She loved and felt loved for all this beautiful scenery and Stripey and the fishy others. The plants and plankton and the underside of the lily pads she knew carried sacred lotus flowers. Colors bounced from her retinas here with a newly real shimmer and brightness that called immediately for attention and understanding. This – a fundamental happiness. She felt herself heart calling, meaning using her heart as a sounding device, a lateral lo-jack or GPS locator here underwater. She sent her heart beat out first with questions: I belong here? Beat: This is so good, you know? Beat: Will you let me play with you? Beat: Come on, let’s play, ok? Then the harder heart beats of an insistent soul. Beat: A long time! Beat: I love this! Beat: Let’s do this!
Her soul talked and called in time with her heart beats. Beat: Awesome! Stripey! Awesome! Stripey bounced and played harder, faster, feeling her. His silly smile got broader, wider and his gums showed cartoony like. Stripey called his guy gang who all came to play too with this new girl. Fun silly girl. So big and different but so athletic. She could keep up with them even as displaced a lot of water around them. They learned to surf over her buffeting waves of movement near them, grinning at the large muscle movements they had to do to keep close to her while she moved with her crazy super obvious glee.
Baseball! Let’s play baseball, Ava sent questions mentally, and hearing back that they didn’t know baseball, had only seen one land at the bottom of the lake once after cutting a surprise entrance into their underwater realm. They had heard from its vibrational telling that this ball came from a fast game of toss and hit and run and cheering yells from happy families of players and fans who loved the sweat and smiles the game brought to everyone. These guys loved the idea of learning this new game. Sure let’s play, coach. One of the fish friends flew to his home to recover the old treasure of the human baseball.
Ok you hover by that rock. You three out in front of me pretty far. You to my left. You, Stripey, will pitch. Pitch is like this. Ava took the baseball, tried cleaning it a bit of the scuzz covering it from its time down under. She tossed the ball in an underhand throw to Stripey who batted it back with his strong tail. Ava threw her head back to laugh. Perfect! You’ve got it! She beamed her instructions to him mentally. Hold and toss it with your tail! She saw the others pantomime the motion as Stripey performed the toss himself. Ava lifted a piece of a fallen branch from the bottom and took her place at the contrived home base of a large lily pad box. She cocked the bat over her shoulder and nodded at Stripey. Stripey pitched. Ava swung, hit, and enjoyed the arc of the ball over Stripey’s head to the hovering outfielders. Quick to the point of the ball’s fall, all collided with each other, knocked snouts and bounced backwards as the ball hit bottom. Everybody laughed. That happens, said Ava! You guys are great. Baseball players now!
The newly formed team spent flipped and flitted playing the game as Ava showed them more and more. Running bases. Outs, strikes, fouls, errors. Throwing strategies. The guys were intense. They concentrated and gained skills rapidly and at the end of another hour Ava called a huddle at the pitcher’s position. Team, you are a great team, guys. Super smart, super strong. You’ve got the makings of a major league monster here. Stripey, you’re team manager now. You set the practice schedule and find other guys to play with and against, ok? Now fins in the center. All touched tails in the center. And one, two, three slap: Team Baseball! Ava called it and they slapped. The circle broke and Stripey and Ava floated off to the side themselves.
Stripey, Buddy, Ava spoke with her heart. You are the best! I’m loving you guys! Stripey spoke back for the first time to Ava’s head. Ya, we feel you like a new sister, sister. His voice was surprisingly gruff, showing an age that Ava hadn’t expected given his lithe form and strong swimming skills. You going to stay with us? He asked. His face was as blunt as his question. Ava looked in his eyes though, surprised by the thought. Oh, I…I suppose I should go Stripey. I’ve got a life upstairs. Upstairs. Out of the water. She climbed out mentally to the water’s edge remembering that life. That life. I was here to figure out what I wanted and needed to do next in that life. Stripey, old boy, I loves you. Love this life you have here. You want me here? Hell, yeah, Stripey nodded still holding her gaze intently. I love that you want me here. Ava communicated back. Can I come visit again? I think I have to go. Go out there again to the city and get on with things. Can I come visit though? I need to know you’re here and need to play like you play. Swim like you swim. Will you let me know when you’ve got your first baseball game? I’ll let you know, Stripey agreed. I’ll let you know and you can be the honorary pitcher.
Ava rushed at him opening her arms for a hug then realized she didn’t know how to squish him without hurting him. She made a round loop of her arms in front of her, hands touching, for Stripey to play in. He swam round round a couple of times inside then did circling loops in and out of her arms. Just another moment of play in joy and sweet times. Expressions of sweet joy play together. Stripey slowed and waved bye with his tail as he headed off to find his friends again. Ava floated up, up, winding around the long stems of the lily pads and towards the sun and surface.