Noah & Margo

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was in the days, in the early morning of time, when kids didn’t listen to their parents and generally stayed out with the family horse well past curfew.

In the evenings, after the hummingbird races in heaven, God would look down at the earth and start to get a headache. People were picking too much food and hoarding it. Some went hungry while others watched their stockpiles rot because they hadn’t invented preservatives. And God knew that when humans did get around to inventing preservatives, they’d cause cancer.

By now, most of the politicians and magistrates were on the take. Even when they did get caught, these powerful crooks would retire rich and earn even more money by publishing memoirs commemorating their decadence.

Not much was going right. One gender of humankind was bossing the other around for no rational reason, so God was toying with two ideas.

The first idea was to change all the hormones over night. This would reverse the aggressiveness in one gender and put the shoe on the other foot for a while.

The second idea was to change the languages between the sexes. Instead of bossing each other around, they’d have to work hard at communicating to overcome the loneliness. In the end though, God decided to wipe the slate clean and start a new human race.

On the morning when God was about to open flood gate number five to the big dam to wash the earth clean before starting a new humanity, God saw a black man named Ham walking down the road. An ostrich was strolling along behind him. Black people were God’s favorite color. To God, variety was the spice of life. But along with everything else that humanity had messed up, it had been decided by a small town council, up in Northern Mesopotamia, that yellow people were going to be the preferred color. From then on, the blacks, the reds and the whites were thought of as “inferior.” The more God thought about it, the more angry God became.

Right when God was about to reach for the lever to the dam, this Ham fellow started God laughing. He had on a pair of weird sun glasses with strings looping down and going behind his head (as if it would catch them if they fell). He had a shirt that looked like it had been used as a paint rag and his baggy shorts were made of feathers which perfectly matched the ostrich walking behind him.

God was laughing so much at Ham’s creative apparel that God decided a bit of this craziness must be carried over into the next try at humanity. Some of these humans were really good sports, despite their mistakes, so God stopped Ham and asked a few questions.

In no time, God found out that Ham came from a nice family. His dad was a black man named Noah and his mom, who was red, was named Margo. God remembered having a few walks with this young couple who were in their late five hundreds – the prime of their life. In addition to their son Ham, who had tried out for the priesthood but had flunked the dress code, there was Shem, an accountant and Japheth, a jazz musician.

With the incredible luck that only the Creator could have, Noah and Margo’s three boys and their wives had put off having children until they were in their two hundreds when their mortgages would be paid off. They were the only family clan in the human race without young children. The Almighty knew little ones would not be able to handle what was coming.

Right then and there, God decided to save Margo, Noah and their sons and daughter-in-laws so that there would be a few people with a little imagination – preventing the next batch of
humans from turning out like the ones before. And God felt good about the decision.

When Noah was told to start building a cargo ship in the middle of the desert, instead of laughing he said, “Why not!”

You see, in Noah’s high school yearbook, most people scribbled things like, “Good luck – you’ll need it.” His class voted him “The person most likely not to succeed.” He barely passed his courses and the only thing he was ever interested in was wood shop.

“Have I got a project for you” God said, but the worst part of it for Noah was telling his wife Margo. So he didn’t. He just started in on it.

“What are you building now, honey, a 450 cubit long wooden patio?” she asked.

Within thirty seconds after Noah’s answer, Margo’s face went pale, then transformed to an absence of color only later to return to red.

Just her luck. Her husband was asking her and the kids to pack up and move again. Another one of his harebrained schemes to go to the new world and seek his fortune. This time, it is supposed to be the end of the world and everyone is doomed.

Margo began to laugh, not at her husband’s latest project nor her son Ham, who was coming up the driveway. She was laughing at the collection of animals trailing behind him. Not only were her husband and sons building a boat in the middle of nowhere, they were collecting animals for the trip. Of course Ham had a great time being in charge of animal gathering. She knew he was all thumbs, when it came to carpentry, but he was taking some pride in meticulously gathering two of every species he could find.

Margo somehow forgot about the circumstances and counted her blessings. She realized that this was probably the funniest thing the earth ever witnessed and it was her privilege to be entertained right in her own back yard. “Thank goodness I didn’t marry that boring fellow who was going to invent collecting postage stamps” she thought.

Margo pitched in with her husband, sons and daughter-in-laws and passed her time trying to make the inside of the boat livable. She figured that if the water never came, they would at least have a nice summer house.

The neighbors had became a problem. They bribed their friends at the courthouse to rezone the neighborhood prohibiting arks. “It’ll lower the value of the property” they argued. It wasn’t long before their friends stopped coming by. All this talk about the end of the world and a flood was getting a little fanatic. And with his obsession with boat building, Noah had really let down his bowling team. His absence made them short-handed so the team came in last in the league.

Early one evening, when Margo and Noah were sitting on their back porch in the shadow of their nearly finished boat, Margo said, “Suppose you’re wrong? Maybe you misunderstood what God said. You know, I can’t even send you to the store to get a simple list of groceries without you coming back with the wrong things. Maybe God said that WE are going to be destroyed and everyone else is going to be saved.”

Noah looked at his wife – she always was a worrier. He paused, with a concerned look on his face but finally said, “Nah! . . . But even so, it sure has been fun building this boat. Did you see the stained glass window I put in on the upper level today? I think it’s a nice touch but I’ve got to figure out what to do about the rest room facilities.”

The days passed quickly and the clan busily prepared dried food for the boat. They gathered grains for the animals that were accumulating in their back yard. Despite all the problems they were having with the neighbors, the animals were the best behaved.

The lambs were napping with the lions. The giraffes didn’t seem to mind the monkeys climbing up their necks. Sure there were some household spats about someone being allowed to take along more than others on the trip. These family arguments were nothing, however, compared to the abuse they had to take from the townspeople.

The police were serving summons daily for disturbing the peace. The family was considered so weird for their boat building and animal gathering that the neighborhood children were prohibited from playing near the property. There were even casual tunics for sale which said: “Vacation on Noah’s Desert Love Boat: No Seasickness Guaranteed!”

On the afternoon they finished piling the sacks of grain into the boat, Charlotte, Japheth’s wife, was up on top of the boat nailing down the last roofing shingle when she felt a few drops of rain. Noah was over in the orchard picking a few limes for dinner.

Suddenly God came up to him and said, “Noah, this is it! Plan on having dinner on the boat tonight and have Ham get all those animals on board. Oh yea, don’t forget the ostriches. I would hate to have to figure out the design on those again.”

That afternoon, everyone got on board and thought Noah was only testing the suitability of the living quarters. At the most, they thought they were having a picnic inside the new house boat. After the storm, they would all go back home and play a few games of pinochle.

The rain kept coming down and the back yard turned to mud. They had to shut the door to keep from getting wet. After they closed themselves in and lit a few candles, Noah said, “This is it!” in his most authoritative voice.

For a minute, everyone almost believed that this funny talk about the end of the world was true. Perhaps Noah had done all this boat building and animal gathering for something other than a summer lark.

An elephant whinnied and one of the parakeets landed on Margo’s shoulder. Shem, who was up on the next level looking out of the partially opened stained glass window, called down and said, “Holy Mackerel! There’s about two hundred people slopping through the mud coming toward the boat. Better lock that door, dad!”

Right after they slipped the bolt tight, the knocking began. Just to have the last laugh, Noah climbed up to the window and yelled out into the rain, “Thought I didn’t know what I was doing, eh? Well the word they’ll invent for my expertise is ‘archeologist.’” Nobody outside laughed, so Noah shut the window.

To try to take their minds off the knocking and the sounds of angry voices, they all went around and checked to see if the pitch was keeping the boat watertight. It sounded like chaos outside. Because of the darkness and the rain coming down in torrents, little could be seen through that upper window.

The first five hours of the trip were a lark. Everyone was congratulating Noah for his foresight. Ham fed the animals and talked about their distinguishing marks. The rest of the clan eventually managed to begin a few hands of cards when Ham called out from the animal section, “Oh no! I’ve got two female Amadillians. They’ll become extinct.”

Everyone tried their best to cheer him up. Margo’s joke got their minds back to the cards. She said, with as much seriousness in her voice as she could muster, “And its too bad the snakes can’t multiply.”

“Why can’t the snakes multiply?” Ham said falling for it.

“Because,” Margo continued, “they are only adders.”

All went fine for the first evening but when it was time for bed, things started going down hill. No one had figured out how to assign the chores of the houseboat. It became overwhelmingly obvious that someone had to clean the animal stalls. Later that night, you never saw a more grouchy, tired and unsociable group of relatives in your life. By the next morning, none of the people or animals had managed to get a wink of sleep and everyone was at each other’s throats.

The food wasn’t right. Things were damp and musty. No matter what you put into your mouth, it all tasted like elephant trunk or birds’ wings. Probably the only thing that kept Margo, Noah and their sons and their daughter-in-laws alive was their hatred. As they heard the rain relentlessly pound on the roof over the top deck, each of them secretly planned ways to get even with their in-laws for taking a favorite spot, stealing their dessert or snoring.

After several days of this, they were all so exhausted that they looked at each other through bloodshot eyes. In fact, they all got a little punchy and stayed that way for the next several weeks. They told jokes to pass the time. In no time, they began to laugh at anything. Even comments like “pass the salt” would start a round of laughter. They would tell themselves, if they could survive this, they could make it through anything.

From sitting in their cramped quarters, constantly hearing the complaining neighs, chirps and roars of the animals, they spent a lot of time asking themselves philosophical questions. “What are humans that God is mindful of us?” Noah asked out loud one evening as he was getting nudged by a horse’s hoof while scraping parrot droppings off his toga.

A lot of things transpired during these weeks of deplorable conditions. Poems were composed. The bag pipes were invented. Shem’s wife Rachel came up with the concept of ice cream but unfortunately she forgot it before she wrote it down. Noah discovered that a few mosquitoes had gotten into the boat and everyone was depressed about it except the birds. Everyone experienced transactional analysis, mid-life crisis and self-actualization.

As the weeks went by, everyone had several significant emotional experiences. There was enlightenment. There were petty feuds. Weeks transpired when one refused to talk with another. There were crying jags and laughing fits. Everyone got religion and lost it several times. In the end, though, there was cooperation because there was no choice.
Stories. They all took turns telling stories. Out of their weariness came beautiful tales of ages long ago when unicorns romped on the hills and when the children of Queens and Kings unconsciously played with village folk as a matter of course.

Suddenly, in the dead of the night and after weeks of this, there was a loud scraping sound on the bottom of the boat.

Everyone jumped out of their hammocks. It seemed that the rain had stopped and their craft had rubbed against land.

“Land” someone said.

“October 10th and the rain stopped and it’s my birthday!”

Margo announced from the corner as she looked at the calendar she had drawn on the wall.

“No it’s not” said Wendy, her daughter-in-law. “Don’t you remember? You forgot to mark the weekends and I told you about it but you never listen to me. Your calendar is way off.”

And with that, Margo and Wendy got into one of the most physical fights yet seen in time. It took all four men to pull them away from each other. You see, when they hit land, it riled everyone up and they were not prepared to even hope.

Noah stuck his head out of the window and saw that there was nothing but water, except for one little piece of land. “Must be the top of a mountain” he called down to the others.
After each person had taken their turn looking at the small island of earth, they decided that good times must be coming.

They celebrated by going out on the roof of the boat. Wendy and Margo hugged one another. For the first time in weeks, it was not raining so they all danced like children. They didn’t know what to do with the fresh air and the only animals allowed on the deck were the birds. The doves went through the window and flew around for a while. Finding no place to land, other than the boat, they came back inside.

Life got better for everyone, now that the rain had stopped. There was the outside roof of the boat and a chance for sunbathing. The doves flew away one afternoon and were presumed drowned after a week. To everyone’s surprise, though, they finally came back.

One day, when everyone had slept in, one of the doves, which had been away for several days, flew in the opened hatch and landed on Noah’s face. Most everyone had experienced, one time or another, waking up with difficulty in breathing because an animal was sleeping on their face. To everyone’s amazement, this dove had a branch in its beak.

Everyone rushed to the roof. It was too good to believe. There was land all around them. Most of it was mud, but it was beautiful mud with beautiful muddy trees and muddy bushes and muddy mountains.

On Noah’s six-hundredth and first birthday, and no one dared to dispute Margo’s calendar, everyone jumped off the boat and had the longest and funniest mud war in the history of civilization. Even the animals stumbled out and rolled around and frolicked in the mud. It was quite a sight. For weeks these humans and animals had been cooped up in that wooden crate and you could not tell one from the other. Everyone was covered with mud and stunk to high heaven. Everyone was smiling. “Land ho!”

In a few hours, they all settled down on top of a hill about a thousand cubits from their boat. The animals tottered off in different directions, wandering just far enough to graze. Most of the animals were sick of the junk food the people had been feeding them. Everyone was too grateful to speak. It was a profound moment.

It was also a sad moment. All they had was each other and that rotting, dilapidated boat. Nothing remained in their former houseboat that didn’t smell like the elephant house at the zoo.

This was the moment that God picked to show up and greet the disembarked passengers. As God came up the hill to where they all were sitting, Noah called out, “Nice to see You, . . . and by the way, thanks! We’re glad You didn’t leave us behind.”

God smiled and started to talk about how this sort of thing was never going to happen again. About how they are all going to have children – which was no surprise to them. And God talked about how they were to start over being vegetarians because the earth needed every living being to reproduce – not to mention eating meat was bad for them.

And just to do something really special, God pointed up at the sky. In doing so, God waved a hand across and created this bright colored cloth or ribbon up in the air. It was beautiful. Here they were, sopping wet with mud and gray and surrounded by earth tones and God was painting colors in the sky.

“Wow!” Margo said. “How did You do that?”

God said, “It’s called a rainbow. I’m going to hang one of those out in the sky after every rain storm as a reminder that this won’t happen again.”

In a way, it gave Noah a nice warm feeling to see the rainbow up there. In another way, it made him a little uneasy. If God needed that rainbow as a reminder, suppose God didn’t happen to look in the right direction or had something else in mind and forgot. What if everyone would be finished off again? But from the look on God’s face, Noah knew he was wrong to worry.

That evening after the stickball game that God had organized, God sat with them around the campfire and gave them a whole list of suggestions on how to start their new society.

“You’re going to have to skip the rule, for a while, about not marrying your cousins. You haven’t got any choice about that” God pointed out. “You’re charged with a new beginning of humanity.

Learn from the wrongs of the past. Do the best you can. Make life fun. Make life fair.”

“And oh yea,” God continued, “happy birthday Noah . . . six hundred and one, I believe.” And with that, God started everybody singing happy birthday to Noah.

In a few minutes, things settled down and became even more reflective. Noah looked at God and said: “How are we going to start over? We’ve lost everything.”

God looked at him and said, “No you haven’t. You still have everything you need.”

Noah was about to start an argument with God about that one, and so was everyone else, but God just stood there and smiled with God’s unique knowing look. And because God was so beautiful and so mighty and wonderful all at the same time, they decided they shouldn’t get into a tiff about that one. After all, they were standing on land.

A little later, God was going for a walk down on the plain with the animals but Noah kept thin king about their situation. “Everything we need?” Noah mumbled to himself. “God calls this everything? I’d like to know how God thinks I can make a go at things without any hardware stores. And I’d like to know how we’re supposed to have vacations if we don’t even have careers. And the pension plan – what’s going to happen to us when we are in our 900s?”

But then Noah looked over at Margo, sitting nearby. She had a smile on her face because she was watching her boy Shem rolling down the hill, with his wife Rachel, like a couple of kids. She was thinking about children. Noah saw the sparkle in her eyes and delight in her smile. He saw the pink tones of the far off sunset were reflected in the softness of her face.

Noah remembered that just before the flood, they had celebrated their 586th wedding anniversary. He still remembered his awkward proposal for marriage when he was fifteen – or was it Margo who had proposed? It had been some life, so far. They had a lot of history with each other. The kids were only one hundred years old but they’d grow up one of these days. And somehow reading her husband’s mind, Margo scooted over next to him and settled back into his arms. They watched the sun go down, knowing that it would return on the next morning. It probably would never rain that much again.

“I think God is right about that” Noah said almost unconsciously.

“Right about what, Noah?” asked Margo as she continued to watch the kids from within Noah’s arms.

“About having everything we need” he answered as he slowly stroked her hair. She relaxed against him as he continued. “It took me six hundred years but I’ve finally realized what’s most important in life.

It’s not the job or the bowling team (but never tell anyone I said that). It’s not the flood or the ark. It’s not even about surviving.” And with gentleness, he looked in Margo’s eyes and slowly said, “It’s about making life more fun and fair for you. Being with you is all that matters.”

God happened to be walking near – just below the hill where they sat. God smiled. For once, at least some of them, had finally gotten the point of it all.

And it was evening. And it was morning. And life started up again.

TTL

Moonset

Back at the end of the 20th century when the human genome was sequenced and mapped, genetic and biological scientists had made amazing gains in understanding human life. They came to master elements of human growth and death through the DNA sequencing. This enabled us to dramatically increase our knowledge of the human longevity.

By 2030, medical science could implant a small biometric device that counts down how much time remains for a person to live. The device was composed of miniature DNA biofeedback transducers that are attached to the skin’s surface but connected to the subdural cellular DNA material of the body’s central nervous system. These plasma diodes provided a tiny digital readout on a skin-like mesh, showing the date when the individual will expire.

The medical research teams, that first configured them, called them “TTLs.” They derived the name from the computer term TTL meaning “Time To Live.” It was the hop limit on our computer mechanisms that measured the lifespan of data on our devices. The inventors initially thought the term would soon change but for some reason, it stuck.

Today, with TTLs, no fortune tellers or spiritual guides are needed. The embedded biometric chip indicates the exact date we will expire. You’ve got, say, exactly 17 years and 14 days left to live. For your sibling, it might be only 8 years and 27 days. Your time remaining shows on the digital readout on your skin’s surface at your clavicle (hidden just under your neckline).

~

By 2035, a TTL marketing plan rolled out and with it came an enormous uproar. The influential people from organized religious circles decried it a fraud. They did so until several of them, in their dying moments, created death-bed videos, admitting they were wrong.

At this point, a few entrepreneurs begin marketing software which was said to hack past the human biological countdown mechanism. In their product launch, they “guaranteed” an extended warranty on the lifespan limits, amounting to an additional five or more years of life. While these surgical implants initially cost above 3.2 million dollars for insertion, these life-extenders, when added to the TTL implants, would add years to life and modify the digital end dates. But these biological extender implants were cost prohibitive and were kept from the public knowledge. Most people could only watch and wait out the count-down on their TTL digital readings.

Within several months of the introduction of the TTL life-extender devices, the FTC exposed the fraud. These “life-extension” add-ons were only a programming modification of the logarithm of the TTL biometers, temporarily replacing the true expiration date for a later one.

After all the hoaxes and con artists were prosecuted, most people slowly began to adjust to the reality of knowing the true brevity of their lives.

~

Initially TTLs were a boom for the life insurance industry. Their sales soared or dipped according to the number of years remaining on people’s TTLs. Eventually, though, people stopped purchasing life insurance altogether and the industry collapsed.

Yet people are reluctant in accepting the inevitability of their death. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance as Elisabeth Kübler-Ross correctly suggested in her 1969 landmark book On Death and Dying.

Most people tend to avoid looking at their TTL readout. It is only when their TTL date enters the last decade of their life span that they actively make some changes their lives.

As expected, many quit their careers and ventured into entirely new fields. Currently, on all corporate resignation forms there are check boxes to indicate “Approaching TTL Date” under the reason for quitting.

In their final decade, some divest themselves of unneeded wealth while others gamble their life’s savings away, just to see how much they can accumulate.

Some abuse drugs and alcohol and venture into dangerous experimental nihilistic lifestyles. Many self-medicate and prematurely die of liver failure. To whatever extent that people shorten their lives through neglect, their TTL is a constant and fixed date.

Many flock to religious institutions and groups, seeking meaning for their lives as they near life’s end. After all, NOW is the only meaningful event or tangible commodity that seems to matter. Most of the population is exclusively focused on who they are with and the quality of their relationships. Medical offices frequently have Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” as part of their standard office Mosaic® playlist.

In the last TTL decades, some engage in risk-taking. Some try skydiving, scuba diving or mountain climbing while others try to brave public speaking. Comedy clubs find that their ‘Open Mike’ sessions have hundreds signed up well in advance. One club in San Diego calls itself “I’m Dying Up Here” and broadcasts live performances.

With the deployment of TTLs, the travel industry has skyrocketed. Thousands seem to be fulfilling their ‘bucket list’ as they travel around the world. There is considerably less worry about traveling to suspected terrorist-affiliated countries. If your TTL still shows a number of years remaining, you book your travel, knowing that it won’t be during this coming trip that you expire.

~

TTL specialists typically give Ted talks about achieving excellence in focusing on the present moment. They’ll frequently admonish their audiences to direct compassion toward people in need – particularly those who struggle in coping with their coming endpoint.

News reports have turned from what a particular national leader is threatening other to more positive stories. The focus is more on the things the TTL people are doing in society to make a difference for the better. Awards and honorariums change to TTL behavior which brings society new methodologies of physical, social or spiritual healing. Award nominations are no longer based on box office revenues or the numbers of previous popular nominations.

For recent years, “TTL Specialists” have appeared on talk shows explaining their theories about overcoming the drawbacks of death. Doctoral theses, accompanying books and programs have proliferated on the subjects like “Managing Our Endpoint.” New social science fields teach why we should no longer be anxious or striving. Doing so, it is said, robs us of energy and focus on the being present with the remaining life that is before us. Those who used to say “have a blessed day” more commonly say “have a precious present.”

Faith-based organizations have migrated to new leadership of the laity. Almost as if they are ad-hoc gatherings of passengers on a sinking ship, organized religion has become characterized by open sharing sessions instead of liturgy and fixed readings. Life stories and philosophical learnings are regularly shared, giving speaking priority to those with quickly approaching TTL dates.

Out of those faith-based gatherings have emerged groups who called themselves “Visitors.” These are TTL-mindful people who simply visit people. They come to be with those in prison or they eat their lunches at the soup kitchens with the homeless and indigent. Members of “Visitor” groups share how they have divested themselves of their excess resources, sharing with the needy and compassionately treat others like brothers and sisters.

Young adults, with several decades remaining until their TTL date, stop aggressively competing in the office for the manager positions. Instead, they personally try to become the technical support and customer service center for all of their colleagues as well as their clients. They intentionally try to empower their colleagues around them by sharing their own talents and knowledge to help them excel in what they do. They display marvelous levels of creativity and innovation – just for the joy of it.

~

The TTL readout on our clavicle bone has been the start of new social consciousness that is transforming our society. The social change has begun because it is unmistakably clear that we can’t take things, money or power with us beyond our own TTL date.

For the most part, those within the final decade of their end date, tend to be uninterested in how much money or power or social influence they have. Instead, they tend to use their energy and resources in trying to make life somehow better for those who suffer. They spontaneously grab a hammer and nails and join the neighborhood kids in building a treehouse. They create a website for the folks in Brentwood who are trying to save the Coral Trees. They transport some wheelchair-bound seniors across the street from their rest home on Ocean Boulevard so they can see the exquisite Palisades Park view of the ocean. They buy them an ice cream cone when taking them to the Prominade.

~

In time, societies benefitting from the TTL readouts will continue to evolve. Segments of society will become known as the ‘Places of Paradise.’ They will be countries and cultures known by the current generations as the most favorable places in which to dwell. That is because no matter what is going on in the world, the people who are most conscious of their time to live will be more fully living in the present. They, and the communities they create, will be considered the most elevated humans ever to inhabit the earth.

Near large shopping centers, unneeded automobiles and previews of the available homes are on display. Anyone needing transportation or shelter is able to access these regional auction centers which distribute homes and cars donated by those with expiring TTLs. Homelessness has largely disappeared. Automobile and home prices have plunged.

In proximity to the auction centers are also so-called “Final Word Studios.” The studios are be staffed by volunteer camera crews and set designers to help people record their final parting words before their death. One franchise calling itself “Finally” has as many locations as McDonalds or Starbucks. These studios work with soon-to-expire people who want to create a final last-words video for their family, friends and posterity.

A person nearing their TTL date are able to sit down and work with the studio crew on creating their final video. People can say their last words from their favorite mountain top view, in the comfort of their own home or with almost any background set of props they can imagine.

They can write and choreograph the scene as they imagine but producers and writers are available to help with them with their script. Volunteer actors and actresses are also on hand to add to the production. They can do a final monologue or soliloquy. They can narrate pictures from their own family scrap books. They can read their poetry or curse at their Ex. They can get out whatever it is they wish to express, knowing that this is what they are leaving as their sign post of their life’s experiences. The only stipulation is that at the time of the taping, their TTL reading must be within the final few weeks before their expiration date.

~

This author’s TTL device now shows only hours remaining. So I simply wish you a precious present, hoping you live your remaining time with the fullest mindfulness of the incredible beauty that resides within you and those around you. Know that as your remaining time transpires, all that you are and have been has been part of the height of humankind’s universal beauty and celestial nobility. Good job.

… Philip Siddons

Before and Beyond The Light of Day

One day, during one of Heaven’s typical beautiful afternoons, the unicorns had just finished performing a majestic dance and run across the meadows. It had been their gift to God and to anyone else who happened to wonder by.

After the performance, God thanked them for their delightful promenade and started back to the celestial palace. As it was, God felt like carving, a hobby recently undertaken by the Almighty. As usual, others of heaven’s inhabitants walked along with God just for fun.

On the way to the palace with The Almighty, the unicorns talked of their gratitude. They were still thankful to be free to roam throughout the land, unlike the ancient days when they were confined only to the pastures of sorcerers who thought they owned them.

As they headed toward the palace, they heard the beginning beats of a nearby orchestra which was starting a song. Michelle Branch was standing on a nearby hillside, surrounded by hundreds who comprised a full orchestra and as many singers of a great choir.

As the pianos, electric bass guitars and violins began with the initial beats in establishing a rhythm, The Almighty smiled in recognition of the hymn “You’re Everywhere To Me” (Recorded back in the ancient earth time as “Everywhere”on her CD The Spirit Room.) and immediately begin to sway with the music.

In an instant all who were walking with God stepped into a wonderful dance. They seemed to have been choreographed as all were waving their hands above and around themselves in perfect rhythm with the song. Everyone sang every word and those who could, performed equally exquisite symmetrical dance movements in the sky above. The swells of the chorus and deepening rhythm of the tympani drums thundered down through to the distant valleys. The singer’s high octave soprano voice was perfectly supported by the blending of the sixteen part chorus. Even the trees swayed with the song. At the final chord, God, and all those surrounding dancing and singing beings, landed in a graceful final posture. In that instant, the seraphim angels exploded themselves into a thousand multicolored stars to light up the sky. The hills danced. Heaven thundered with a final cord.

“Cool” said God as they resumed their walk back to the palace.

It didn’t take the Almighty more than a minute to begin singing another familiar ballad with the silver-horned unicorns joining in singing. There were now hundreds who moved along with God. There were people, numerous angels and scores of gleaming fairies who had joined them after the unicorns’ performance in the meadow. In Heaven, most everyone enjoys singing and whenever someone starts up a song, voices blend in with marvelous harmonies, rhythms and antiphonal choruses.

Along the way, Mary joined the group as she was just coming from the weaving cottage. She wanted to give God the beautiful blue robe she had just woven.

“This is splendid” God said, smiling and kissing her and putting it on with obvious pleasure. Its blend of blue hues were woven with intricate artistry, shimmering as it mysteriously reflected the light of the Creator’s countenance.

“Wow! Michael expressed, looking at God’s new cloak.

“Majestic!” said Angelica, a seraphim who was also among those who were in route to the palace.

God decided to express thanks to Mary for the gift and swept a hand out toward the slope of the nearby hill. Instantly the hillside was covered with thousands of bird of paradise flowers – all matching the many colors of the new coat. In a whisper that all could hear, God said “Thank you Mary.”

As they neared the palace, several flew or walked off to other places. While walking down the beautiful central inlaid blue and green marble hallway, God noticed Michael stopping to talk with a woman leaning in her apartment doorway so God also came over.

Above them, the grand hallway of the palace vaulted up to the open and endless sky. The crystalline gothic flying buttresses regally leaned in from above, as if supporting the sky behind them. Between them were intricately carved cave-like stalagmites of gold. Each formed giant ornamental figurines. Their weight and mass created dazzling walls and foundations between and beneath the towering columns – giving the hallway a cavernous and endless depth.

Directly above the hallway was a ceiling of open sky – all of the planets and stars clearly within sight. From standing within this grand palace corridor, one could see the expanse of the universe above – framed by this golden and crystal edifice.

The woman speaking in her doorway was Doris. God remembered she had recently entered the celestial palace to take residence after a splendid life on the earth planet. She had been here long enough to rejoin her husband John and meet most everyone. She even made several new friends who had come from the planet Photon in the Crimea galaxy.

Doris’s face was radiant with joy as she saw God. Angelica and several others were coming to join her in conversation with Michael. She had passed through many human years but as were all, who dwelled in God’s house, she was ageless. The resiliency of her spirit radiated out from her human form in which her essence dwelled.

Pausing in her conversation with Michael, Doris slowly turned and said to God, “Thank You for the two lights You had sent me in my last transition, Holy One. I was uplifted at a time when I needed them most. I will thank them myself when I dine with them at tonight’s feast.”

“Your thanks have already been received, My child” God said, “for it was my two luminary essences and I Who Personally came to you in your move from your apartment to the rehab facility” God said with a gentle smile. “You would be interested in hearing how they came to you?”

“Oh yes,” said Doris with interest as she, and the others who were there, slowly began to sit at God’s feet in the hallway.

As God came to a cross-legged seated position to face the listeners, the winged creatures, in complete syncopation with the Almighty’s movements in being seated, also gracefully collapsed to sit as one unit, folding their wings behind them with the poise of a ballerina’s pirouette. With the natural silence of anticipation and reverence, all were now sitting around God in the grand hallway. God’s face became even more radiant.

Brushing hair back with both hands, God smiled broadly and began with a face of beauty and joy. A story was about to begin.

“Near your eightieth birthday, Doris, I was in the conference room carving on the grand table” the Almighty began. “I was considering how your earthly form was wearing and that you would soon be needing help. Of course I had, long ago, arranged for especially caring people to be coming into place to assist you as you had to change your dwelling.

One of the most difficult sorrows for Me is how I must refrain from showing My children the future. If you clearly saw how I am always beside you and how I unfailingly bring you what you need, you might go about your life less mindful of your own responsibility for your choices. In this domain beyond time – the future, past and present exist – you would have known that you were already here with John and the rest of us as he made the transition to fully experience of My Presence.

“On that side of time,” God went on, “you had to dwell without knowing the future. This is so that you would use your freedom to direct your life’s choices with the resources I’ve already given you. But you could not see this then and I knew you were troubled.

“I was feeling your sorrow when you were grieving about leaving your home to move into the health care center. I know the comfort of familiar friends and familiar surroundings and the sadness that comes with their loss. So as I was feeling your sadness, I was carving in the great conference room table. My current project is the wooden carved reflection of earthen life on the surface of the conference table.”

As The Almighty spoke, all could see the scene of God over in the palace conference room. When God spoke, you saw things as they happened.

In the room was a lengthy mahogany table with villages, farms and cities intricately carved on its surface. If it wasn’t for the uniform deep brown hues of the mahogany wood grain, you would think the table top was vibrantly alive with life and movement.

God was sitting near the end of the lengthy table, slowly shaping the hat of a miniature person walking along a peaceful street in a town. At God’s left was a gentle Turquoise glow, a light form being who, by being there, was reflecting her rays directly on the table at the place of the carving in progress.

To God’s right was a darker, more purple, light form also reflecting upward and around to the other parts of the room. This light was Indigo on the spectrum, also casting a complementing light directly upon God’s carving work. As God continued telling the story, the listeners watched it unfold.

“I was carving on the table with my two luminaries Turquoise and Indigo. They accompany Me wherever I go and as it happened, Turquoise was giving each of us a hot fudge sundae.

Turquoise, . . . I love how she becomes deeper in her hues when she fills with enthusiasm, . . . she began to speak of her meeting with the Sun. She talked of the Sun’s powerful rays. The pulsing radiance of the golden and orange glow. As she ate and spoke, she paused to look into God’s face and then at Indigo but went on.”

All the inhabitants of God’s house, who were gathered there in the grand hallway, continued to see the events as God spoke. They saw God carving at the table, sitting comfortably and casually back in the chair, smiling as Turquoise spoke and changed hues of her color according to the inflection of her words.

“I hope to spend more time with the Sun” Turquoise continued. Perhaps it will increase my own intensity. I know I could glow with a deeper radiance and wider spectrum” she said wistfully, pausing, and then looking at Indigo and then at Me” God noted. “She was looking for advice but I just smiled, knowing Indigo was soon to respond.”

“Indigo agreed with her about the Sun’s warm and powerful rays” but God let her go on without interrupting as she thought, out loud.

“If you ask me,” Indigo finally responded, knowing she had finished and that God was likely to wait until he responded, “consider being more mindful of the perfect intensity you already possess.”

Indigo smiled and let his words sit for a while with Turquoise. He looked at her with a steady and unchanging golden glow as Turquoise pondered what her response might be.”

“As has always been the case,” God said with an engaging warmth and thoughtfulness, “my friend Turquoise had given her pause but before she returned to her thousands of emerging ideas and creativity. She slowed in her thoughts to consider his words. Turquoise looked at the calmness in Indigo’s countenance and then continued her next words. She looked at Me and from the look on My face, she knew I was about to speak. Her smile broadened but her eyes revealed her questioning feelings.

“Turning toward Me she asked, “How can I become more mindful of my intensity? It seems dim in comparison to the Sun’s glow.”

I said, “One of my children is about to enter a life transition, during which she will need you both. Both of you come with Me and the answer to your question, Turquoise, will become evident.”

“With a sudden flare in their light forms, both Turquoise and Indigo thrilled within themselves as they passed out of the conference room with The Omnipotent One to the Milky Way galaxy and to earth. The hot fudge

sundaes had been consumed and like magic, the dishes had instantly appeared in the nearest one of many palace kitchens. In no earthly time, the three of us stood in a modest apartment. The time space was measured just past one of the galaxy’s millennium markers” God said.

As Doris sat nearby listening and watching the Almighty’s story unfold, God turned to her and said, “Doris, here you see yourself sitting and reading through the descriptions of your future living space.” As could the others seated around her, she could see herself in her old apartment. It was the wee hours of a morning and she had woken, unable to sleep. She was looking nervously through the pamphlets the retirement home had given her in preparation of her arrival.

“Your worry has found expression on your face,” God pointed out, “and I felt your sadness. You were struggling with letting go of your familiar furniture. You knew not all of your familiar possessions could be taken with you.

“You were also remembering your years with your husband John. You were overcome with a sense of your loss” God said, reaching over to put a hand on her shoulder. “How I longed to show you how you were already here with John in this place, even though all of your senses were focused only on your earthly residence in time past. You would have never understood how the celestial city exists in times past, present and future. You were certainly not even aware that the three of us were beside you. I wept for your sorrow and the limitations of your awareness.

“It was then, however, that I turned to Turquoise and said, ‘This is your calling. Speak to her of what is possible. As you do so well, put her in touch with her abilities to see what could come about. Lead her to create and bring about what has not yet been’ I said.

“Next, I turned to Indigo and told him to wait for Turquoise to do her magic. ‘At the appropriate time,’ I said, ‘show Doris that things are just as they should be. That all things that matters are connected and there are lessons in each experience that relate to all others.’

“For the time following, Turquoise began to bring Doris’ attention to the pictures of her future dwelling in the health center. Without her knowing of My presence and the luminaries, Doris turned her focus not on what she could not take but on what she could bring with her to her new home. She became full of ideas and possibilities. Turquoise showed her how a small oak table could serve as a writing desk as well as a breakfast table.

“Doris, you remember this time, don’t you?” God said to her as she was intently watching her former form sitting in her apartment. “You were full of energy and some delight as you went through your most prized possessions and contemplated new uses.”

“Yes,” Doris replied with joy in her voice, “I found that what started out as a dreary day had been transformed into a time of creativity. I felt like I did when I was planning for our first new home” Doris concluded with joy in her face.

“In the earth hours that followed,” God continued, “you heard a knock at your apartment door. Your kind neighbor, Andrea, had stopped by for tea and to ask if you needed anything at the store.”

Those attending the story saw a red haired and cheerful woman in her forties, speaking brightly with Doris. “She had many enthusiastic ideas to help you decide what furniture would serve you best” God continued. “With Turquoise’s gentle but new light, you came back in touch with your life-long abilities to think of new possibilities. You embraced your gift of creativity and connected with the new ideas of your neighbor Andrea” God added. By now, you’ve noticed that Andrea lives across the hallway from you here, as well.

Doris nodded in affirmation with a warm smile but soon returned her gaze to the continuing scenes of her past life before her. “I wish I had been more mindful of what You had already given me” Doris said to God. “It seems as if I have lived with less light than I could have for so many years” she noted with a sigh.

“Ah, my dear Doris” God responded with a gentle arm on her shoulder, “that is why I have always been beside you. So that you would never feel the searing and unending despair as one who has no hope. Of course it was Indigo’s role to continue from there” God went on.

In the scenes which followed, Indigo’s purplish glow appeared to surround Doris in her new residence. She was eating in a rather pleasant dining area with other residents, talking with her new friends. At times, she laughed. In other moments, Doris was seen with sadness as she heard others tell of their transitions. Yet in more scenes than not, Doris seemed to have a look of contentment.

“Your thoughts often returned to your past” God pointed out as they watched. “Whenever the light of Turquoise embraced you, you were filled with profound thoughts of all with which you have been blessed and what could be in the future.

Whenever you were graced by Indigo’s deepening light, you saw that in all of your loss, you somehow were able to embrace the wholeness of your own life. That throughout the many unexpected times of sadness, people and things had come together to the point of there being enough. As Indigo illumined your soul, in the tired sunset hours ending your days, you were mindful of time made precious in time’s passing. You sensed the purity and holiness of each moment in which you have taken breath. Each each exchange, with another of My creatures, is always filled with new possibilities of healing and delight – filled with a never-before-connectedness which makes for the meeting of minds and hearts.”

“All these things you have sensed throughout your visit to earth” the Holy One said, “and it is now that you fully see how wonderful and transformed life becomes with the wisdom of these added lights.”

“Yes, Sacred One” Doris said, looking into the gentle eyes of God. “The light of what can be and the knowledge of how everything is just as it should be makes each moment sacred. How utterly magnificent that we are privileged to breathe in each moment in eternity” Doris concluded.

As the story had gracefully ended and a singer was stepping up on a nearby pedestal in an enclave further down the hall, God, and all who where gathered, slowly rose.

God beckoned, with a slight wave of a hand, inviting Turquoise and Indigo to move into the gathered assembly. A chorus and musicians was beginning a song. What seemed like a thousand musical instruments and voices quietly began a song, just in front of the millions of heavenly hosts.

God gathered the two light forms Turquoise and Indigo closely and said, “It is to you both that I entrust My Spirit of Wisdom for My children.

“Turquoise, before the morning rays of the Sun come to My children, cause their eyes to envision what they can not see. Sing to their hearts of what they can bring about that has not yet seen the light. Fill them with the knowledge that in any moment, with a playful mixture of fun and work, magic can be created in any task. But know that it is the exact intensity of your present glow that brings about this power to transform the ordinary to something of splendor. Turquoise, the Sunshine has nothing on you.”

Turquoise smiled and her light blue hue deepened and all, who were near her, moaned in awe at her joyful glow.

“Indigo,” God continued, “your illumination brings all to see My actual presence in their life. As the weariness of life comes upon my children and as they reminisce over what has been, cause them to see how all things are connected. Illuminate them so they may make the connections between the pain and the healing, the loss and the contentment. Bring them to see the astounding love we all have for them in a time when their hearts are shrouded with the darkness. Speak to them, as you did in speaking to Turquoise, that who they are is just who they should be. That they are and will become what they must. Convince them in their hearts that all things are in transition to good.”

As the music was beginning of the song, God said to them all, “This has been from the beginning. All that ever was and will be is for you. All that I have been and will be is embodied in an unquenchable love of your soul.”

As The Almighty spoke, God’s image transformed to the likeness of a constantly changing person. God’s face and countenance continually changed. God’s countenance became a celestial display of gentle compassion and renown wisdom.

In as much time, again God’s image transformed into a slowly moving swirl of light. It was as if all of the colors of the universe now joined in a dazzling blend of distinct light forms. Yet half of this moving column of light burned with an intense Turquoise – the other half, a deep Indigo.

Suddenly all of the heavenly hosts joined in the rising swell of singing and instrumental song and dance. All that lived, moved in dance or flight into sparkling patterns – all in cadence to the song. The earth, the stars and all the planets of all the galaxies pulsed with the unending universal chorus.

And it was morning and it was evening and everything was just as it should be.

 

United Express

Welcome aboard United Express, owned and operated by a  spun-off subsidiary called Chautauqua Airlines and the Republic of China.

Our United Express flights are designed for the efficient delivery of you and the hundreds of other United’s frequently
stranded passengers. You will be pleased to know that our high standards require us, by law, to get you within 700 miles of your intended destination within the mandated four-day deadline before providing alternate transportation through another, more reliable, airline.

We are also proud to use these Express flights for training our new pilots and flight attendants – some of whom will successfully graduate and move on to better paying careers
with other airlines. Our motto Is: “You’re in God’s hands so don’t worry!”

Once we reach cruising altitude, in about two hours, the captain will turn off the seatbelt and non-smoking signs. Both signs are backwardly illuminated by the same light bulb. That’s why they’re both either on or off. If your signs never go off, you won’t be allowed to smoke and you must keep your
seatbelt on for the entire flight.

United Express prides itself on its progressive stance opposing the supposed “medical experts” who deny the health benefits of smoking. For those of you whose no smoking and seatbelt lights do eventually turn off, at that time you may feel free to get up and limp around the cabin until the blood begins to circulate in your lower extremities. Because of the narrowness of the aisle, please restrict thoroughfare to one person at a time, yielding to flight attendants and the emergency medical personnel who are also suffering from motion discomfort.

The captain would like to remind you that anyone caught by our potty surveillance cameras, in the act of dismantling the lavatory smoke detectors, will be immediately bound and gagged and stowed in the unpressurized luggage compartment. Perpetrators will be sentenced to three consecutive life prison terms in the Republic of China.
Those caught tempering with the overhead electrical fans, lights or chair armrests will have their electrical tool boxes confiscated by Federal Marshals, identifiable by their single
earphone with the pale tan spiraling wire (trailing from their ear). Dismantlers will be handcuffed for the remainder of the trip with a hood over their head and then executed upon
landing.

In our final descent, once the captain has turned on the no smoking and seatbelt lights, you have five seconds to comply before a series of aerial barrel rolls and abrupt assents.
This flight is part of a Cleveland air show (which is detailed in the fine print on the back flap of your luggage folder). For an English translation of these stipulations, please call our toll-free automated customer service line in Bombay.

Meanwhile, sit back, try to stretch your feet out (as fully as they’ll extend) and enjoy your flight with us. But don’t dismantle any of the other electrical devices on this aircraft
under penalty of Federal Law!

How Connected Do We Need To Be?

It is 2005. It’s been a technologicalogical year so far. I taught a class for the Religious Studies Department of the State University of New York at Buffalo on Paul’s strange first letter to the Corinthians. I’ve been able to experiment with the use of their relatively new online course software called CourseInfo.® 1 It has a quiz generator which the students loved because they could take the tests at home without leaving the squalor of their meager abodes. With virtually all the time in the world to take the quizzes, they could look up any answer in their class notes or the web-stored lectures.

Actually, the quizzes have served as a forced
review of the class material, achieving my original
goal: that they never sit in a church and hear a talk on 1st Corinthians and not be aware of the historical, religious, cultural and linguistic things prompting Paul to write such a diverse and difficult response to their problems. If their ministers ever fail to do their homework before their Sunday presentations on Corinthians, they’ll know it.

Yet many of these students won’t because
churches, by in large, aren’t making that connection with the 20’s age group. The clergy and the staunch leaders of the denominational franchises may get their second chance when these young adults return for the wedding and baptism certifications.

It’s odd to me that some people spend their
lifetime having nothing at all to do with a local
church and yet be hell-bent-to-leather to make sure they participate in two church rituals – baptism and a wedding in a church building. It’s almost like they have to have these two good luck charms in order to move ahead several squares on their Americana board game of life.

But when the pager on my hip starts to vibrate, it reminds me that I have succumbed to the lure of yet another gadget. This time, it’s the Motorola “Talkabout”® pager. Perhaps their Marketing department wanted to create an image of a 1  made by Blackboard.com.© “walkabout” in the Australian “outback.” . . . Tie me kangaroo
down sport, . . . whatever.

My last pager stopped functioning and the
service provider suggested I subscribe to paging and email services with the cell phone I already own. This, I figured, would dictate that I have to leave the phone on all the time to get pages. The attractive young woman behind the counter suggested I also purchase a vibrating cell phone battery so the whole phone can vibrate.

What they fail to realize is that cell phones are
too big to be pagers. Can you imagine carrying around a beeper the size of a banana and have it suddenly begin vibrating in your pocket or purse? Good grief, you could get arrested or something. Perhaps I could use it in an audition for the cast of Ally McBeal.

“Excuse me but I think there is a phone over
on your desk that is having a seizure.”

This little technological wonder looks like a
miniature computer from a kid’s gum ball machine
with a keyboard small enough to be operated by a
touch typist eight inches tall. It is the width and
thickness of the palm of your hand. The little screen displays the telephone number of the individual paging you if the caller chose option number one but it can do more.

Those calling my pager number can also choose option two, allowing them to leave a  voicemail message. When a voice message is left, the display indicates a voice message is waiting, prompting me to dial the number on the nearest phone and listen to the message.

Option number three of this paging service
connects the caller with a live operator who will type whatever the caller dictates and that message appears on the pager screen.

“Pick up eggs on your way home.”

“I am sorry I missed the class quiz on line but my computer isn’t working and I couldn’t get on one at the school library because my car wouldn’t start.”

Imagine standing in line, looking down at
your pager and it says, “My divorce lawyer has
documented all of your shenanigans and we’ll see you in court.”

You look up and respond to the person behind
the counter, “I’d like a cheeseburger, a fries,
chocolate milkshake and several aspirin please.”

There is even an internet address assigned to
this device so people can type a note directly to my pager from their computer. Since I can read these messages anywhere I am, I’ve also instructed my Outlook Express© email software on our computer to forward all received communications to my pager. Since the pager uses wireless and internet technology, I can actually type a response to the text messages sent to the pager and there isn’t a cost-per minute fee.

But with this much accessibility, I wonder
just who I think I am? The Almighty? There are not
that many people who need my immediate attention. Maybe I’m having a midlife crisis?
Someday, into the not too distant future when they add the live video function, are we going to have to rent a small locker into which to put these things to get a little privacy? Someday, will we be surprised to see Leno or Letterman trying to have a video conversation with us from our pocket when we reach for change to pay the paper carrier? “Are you truly happy with your cellular carrier?” one of them might say.

Perhaps it’s our loneliness that prompts us to
want to be so accessible in our cellular and internet connectedness. Frankly, I would like it if God would send me a digital message once in a while.

“Nice going on how you handled that road-raged jerk of a driver” God might type to me.

“Buy Lucent Technologies stock – now!” God might advise.

“Missed you in worship services yesterday” I’d be
reminded.

“Stop everything and go back and apologize. She was right and you completely missed the most important thing. I don’t know why I ask her to stay with you.”

Maybe it’s fear. Perhaps we’re hoping someone will send us the one little encouragement or bit of information that will come at just the right time.
Maybe the Almighty has been sending messages
we’ve ignored. Missed any messages lately?

With today’s much more powerful cell phones and wireless palm devices, we are now able to be so connected that we can be in touch with anyone and everyone at any time, do business anywhere. But has you noticed that, in the process, we run
the risk of never being in touch with ourselves? In the overall seduction, we can easily forget that our primary connection to life is through our own
interiority – the experiencing of our own body and all our senses, including the mind, which allow us to touch and be touched by the world, and to act
appropriately in response to it. . . .

“With all this talk about connectivity, what about connectivity to ourselves? Are we becoming so
connected to everybody else that we are never where we actually are? We are at the beach on the cell phone, so are we there?” (See John Kabat-Zinn, p.152=153. Coming To Our Senses, Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness, (New York: Hyperion, 2005) ISBN: 0-7868-6756-6.

Coming of Age

On a day not long after the knights of the Round Table flourished, there was an aging wizard and his young apprentice walking through a meadow on the edge of a village. It was Spring and the hood of the cloak of the tall wizard was thrown back, revealing his long gray hair and even longer white beard. At a glance, his beard could have been mistaken for a sash for it flowed down his chest, and comically around his left hip, across the small of his back and its end was tucked into the front right pocket of his cloak. His face was bronze and with his bushy white eyebrows, he looked as if he had walked through many ages.

His apprentice was a young woman of twenty with long hair, black as a raven, which flowed gracefully over and down her shoulders. Her cloak matched that of the old wizard’s, gray with silver and reddish lines woven through it.

“Tell me Galadriel,” said the wizard, his name was Ondag, “have you been able to achieve the disappearance spell lately?”

“No but I think I’m as close to it as I’ve ever been” she said looking at him with a smile and a sparkle in her eyes.

Ondag paused in the meadow and looked into Galadriel’s young and beaming face. His own face was a weathered sea of wrinkles and gaiety. Looking intently into her eyes, as a gentle wind began to toss her hair, he continued: “Yes, I think you are close to having that one” and with that, he swept his arm ahead, slightly bowing, saying: “perhaps this field?”

Galadriel turned her head slightly at an angle, as if pausing in a conversation to reflect, looking at the field of heather and gorse, and exhaled evenly, quietly repeating the spell: “lamma ta farleo uhmdello rah.” But immediately the meadow turned completely red and the nearby houses red as well. Everything became surreal.

The wizard chuckled and uttered: “lamma la farleo uhmdello fah” and the field vanished and the two appeared to be standing in thin air, near the houses of the village.

Galadriel slowly tapped her fingers into her head in self disappointment but Ondag put his arm around her shoulder and gently said in his cheerful way: “Those who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed. Try it backwards.” So she perked up and as she swept her outstretched hand back toward her chest, she said, “sheendo triumph” and the field was instantly as before. They both laughed and walked on, approaching the village of thatched roofed homes and other buildings.

Nearing the first house, they saw a woman carrying a sack going into her home. From within the home came a young voice. “Mother, where is my dinner?” To which the woman responded as she began to open the door, “Why don’t you get it yourself.”

Next, without going in, the woman quietly closed the door and sat down on a nearby bench against the house with her bag. She just stared vaguely in the direction of the village.

Ondag and Galadriel, as if they had the same thoughts, stopped in their tracks in hearing the words. Fortunately they both were not in the line of the woman’s vision and when her tall young son came out the door, he did not notice their presence either.

The young man said, “I can’t understand why you’re so irritable, mother. All I asked for was my dinner.”

Ondag turned Galadriel and himself aside when he saw her coming forth with a comment. Further away, Galadriel said, “With insensitivity like that, it would be a wonder the boy ever found happiness.”

“I agree,” said the old wizard, “but which one do you judge as insensitive?”

“Well of course the woman cares nothing for her son or she would not have snapped at him so. She may have had a difficult day but the fellow did deserve a better answer, . . . didn’t he?” Galadriel asked in earnest.

Ondag looked over at the house with curiosity in his eyes.“Let me show you a spell I haven’t tried for years” he said. Next, he held both of his hands before him, as if holding an invisible object and uttered the words. “holio  metra summa quinnos.”

At first Galadriel saw the young man walk backward into the house. His speech was rippling and meaningless, also backward. The woman stood up from the bench, went to the door and after an indistinguishable utterance, closed it and walked backwards away from the house with her bag as she had come.

The sun swept over their heads like a shooting star. Nights and days flashed by speedily and all scenery before them became blurring, filled with random humming and whirring.

Finally Ondag uttered, “Stop!” and the scene stopped. The houses were different. They seemed to be in another part of town. With somewhat different clothing, unknown people were walking about in the village.

Suddenly a cart loaded with hay was coming toward them but Ondag did not move, even after Galadriel tried to tug him away. The cart went right through him. They were as ghosts, invisible.

“Where are we?” asked Galadriel after collecting herself. “Is this a vision spell or a dream spell?”

Ondag responded, “Neither. This is a time change spell, taking us back into the past and we don’t exist in it. At least you are not born yet and I’m living, in this time frame, in another country. I could go there if I looked over my shoulder but I will stay with you. This is thirty years ago.” Pausing to point to someone approaching them, he continued, “Do you see that woman in the blue shawl?”

Almost skipping down the street was a younger version of the woman who had, only moments before the spell, just returned to her home and son. “Yes, and she seems happy” Galadriel said. “Why is she so happy now, compared to how serious she is, I mean, how she seems to be in the future?”

“You shall see” said Ondag and they followed her down the street.

The young woman entered a home and there to greet her was a handsome young man, only a few years her senior. They embraced.

“This is her husband” Ondag said. But the couple could neither hear him nor see the two wizards.

Ondag and Galadriel listened to the couples’ talk. He spoke of his work at the local jousting fields. He told of the latest combat practice trials and the newest war ponies. The woman spoke of the village and would ask her husband for permission to buy this or that. And so the conversation went for some time.

“They seem happy enough” Galadriel said, looking at Ondag with a questioning look.

“Have you stopped to wonder why she has to ask permission so often?” Ondag replied. But without pausing for an answer, Ondag snapped his fingers and the scene began to change as it had before.

Just when everything, again, seemed to be in a blur and whir, he again said “stop!”

It was a different home this time. The couple had aged ten years and they were in the midst of entertaining a houseful of people. They were apparently workers and families from his jousting club. Some of those in attendance were eating, others were arm wrestling or filling beer steins – most all of them salubrious from the vintage.

In one bedroom were two sleeping children. A boy about four and a girl about six.

“Theirs?” Galadriel asked.

“Yes” Ondag replied. It was well into the evening and the woman stood at one corner of the table, picking up dirty dishes, ignored by her husband. Further down the table he was laughing at a story that wasn’t funny, told by one of his superiors from work sitting across the table.

Ondag snapped his fingers several times now, causing scenes of the woman’s life to appear with six to twelve months elapsing each time. There were glimpses of vacation travels of the family. They were seen in cathedrals, fairs, market places and the jousting arena. But Galadriel noticed a growing distance between the woman and her husband. She saw that talk came more freely between the woman and her children than with her husband.

As various scenes passed before them, the children grew older, as did their parents. Whether by chance or circumstance, the husband was more and more absent. The woman’s facial expressions were more often downcast and there were more occurrences of her being alone than with her husband.

Ondag snapped his fingers once more and waited for an indeterminable number of moments as things changed. During the change, Galadriel commented with concern, “She seems to have grown increasingly sad. Their marriage has been disappearing.”

Ondag, also moved, added, “Yes, she was a wife and mother but she lost some of herself in it all. Because while he thought she should be in charge of the house, he never seemed to understand that she should be able to be in charge of herself.”

Time stopped at Ondag’s command. They found themselves within the house they first saw earlier that day. It was modestly but pleasantly furnished, only in the middle of the main room was a pile of dusty bags and other items showing a return from a journey. Laying in the corner of the room was the young man Galadriel had first seen coming out of the door asking for dinner.

“Where’s the husband and the daughter?” Galadriel asked, looking around from room to room.

Ondag said, “The woman lives with her daughter, who is cleaning homes to earn bread. Her husband left two years ago and has not been seen since. Perhaps I skipped over too much, too quickly, but alas, the woman must struggle to earn her living.

Her son, here, has just returned from a holiday. The woman has had difficulty making ends meet but still manages on her meager earnings.”

“Where does she work?” Galadriel asked the old wizard.

“I thought I saw her working for the town healer. She washes his bottles and does his bookkeeping” Ondag summarized.

“How lonely and tired she must feel” Galadriel said but with distraction she looked out the window and said,

“Look there. She is returning home with a sack on her shoulder.”

The woman was turning in from the street, obviously tired from the day’s work. But the young man, also seeing this, got up and went to the nearby window. He called out, “Mother, where is my dinner?”

“Well the nerve of him,” cried Galadriel. “He is of age” she continued. “He ought to…”

“That is where you are mistaken” interrupted Ondag, who stroked his beard as he kept his eyes on the scene.

The woman’s voice was heard at the door, “Why don’t you get it yourself” she said with the days fatigue in her voice. And as the young man went out to voice his complaint, Ondag spoke again.

“He is not of age nor is his sister. But you can now see the scene was not as you first judged.”

Galadriel, with an unsettled look, said, “Yes, but I suppose I should have guessed that. But when, Ondag, will her children come of age? Though she is a strong woman, she most certainly could benefit from more support and understanding by her children.”

Ondag responded, “The scenes of what is to come are unknown. I have neither the power nor the desire to know the future. There was only one Wizard, around Whom time is measured, Who knew the future. But from the past, I have found time to yield patterns to one’s coming of age.

At that moment the young man was beginning to walk away down the street, while the woman again sat wearily beside her home. Tears were in her eyes.

“The pattern is seen,” Ondag continued, “when a young one looks away from self and looks eye to eye with parents from a distance.”

“You do not mean that when one grows as tall as one’s parents and leaves the home, do you?” asked Galadriel.

Ondag, for the second time that day, put his arm on Galadriel’s shoulder and said, “Only when children cease to make their own needs central, can they look away from themselves. At the point when they can look at their parents as other equal adults (with needs of their own), that is when they have come of age. It is then that they can make any place in their sojourn their home.”

As Ondag finished, Galadriel’s face became jubilant and radiant – the likes of which Ondag had not before seen in her. He again looked deep into her eyes and saw that she had grasped his words.

Galadriel and Ondag were distracted by the return of the young man to the house. He was rushing past them and awkwardly brushed by, apologizing to them without his eyes meeting their faces. He turned to the side of the house, where his mother was still sitting and without saying a word, slowly took the sack from her hand and sat beside her. He put his arm around her and  pensively looked at the ground before them.

As minutes passed, they talked. Smiles appeared on their faces and they even began to laugh. In a few moments he stood to his feet and started toward the door carrying her sack. As the door opened he said, “What do you want me to make for dinner?” And with that, Ondag and Galadriel walked on their way.

At the far end of the town, the wizards choose different paths. From having been apprentice and mentor for five years, they now parted as friends, eye to eye, from a distance. For on that day two had come of age – a young woman and a young man and in doing so, the future held magic for them and for all who would be close to them.