The name for a dusty valley, except during the rainy season when the incessant wind ripples through the fresh grass and brief wild flowers like sea waves, and the shepherds bring their sheep up to the high meadows to graze. Do you think we’ll actually be able to recognize each other after all this time, and meeting in such very different circumstances as well so far away from where we were together the last time?
Quite right your suggestion to leave the guns in the car. It ‘s become a moral issue hasn’t it?
An evening a few days ago I was sat in a circle of listeners being told a Brothers Grimm story, The Millers Tale or some such title, about the son of the miller and his wife who at the crisis of the story are swept away by the Nixie spirit of the mill waters, which magically bubbles up and sweeps the man and his wife far, far away on a mighty wave. It was the crisis moment of the story, and retribution time by the Nixie water spirit, and as I listened to the story I thought that you wouldn’t call her power evil, although several people in the storytelling circle that I was sat in did. The Nixie was doing what you would want any LULU to do, or so I thought at the time and continue to think now. Truth will demand her cut.
The story goes on, and it is now many years later since the miller’s son and his wife have been separated by the Nixie. They have both survived, but have had to live their lives apart in strange unknown lands far from their homeland. They’ve both become shepherds, and one year travelling far from where they both live, they enter a dusty valley from opposite directions driving their sheep ahead of them. They both climb to the ridge at the head of the valley to find fresh grass. Seeing each other’s flocks, they go towards each other and meet, and talk and share a meal together over a fire. But irrevocably changed by age they don’t recognize each other.
However, the Grimms Brothers tale is a baroque story and has to end, so at the end of their evening together the miller’s son gets out a flute and plays a tune on it which is known only to his wife. In fact it was she who composed it many years previously, a haunting tune that had finally succeeded in waking the miller’s son from the long enchantment of the Nixie’s embrace (an underwater embrace at the bottom of the mill pond, to which it has to be remembered the Nixie LULU was entirely entitled by a previous oath given by the old miller himself in return for a favour of good fortune from the Nixie just before the birth of his son long, long ago), and produced the crisis of the Nixie‘s righteous retribution after the miller’s escape from the millpond waters. So at last they recognize each other, and that’s where the story ends. All a bit safe and certain.
Hope brought me here, one of them says (and now it is you and I talking together after we have met).
Hope? the other one (the other one of us that is) exclaims, You pay dear for that.
You pay dear for that – like Fred Orpheus, who in the moment of crisis that ends his time on earth has his head cut off. It’s thrown into the river so that only the echo of his last song lingers on in the riverside trees and glades for any passer by to hear. That perfect tune. Strangely I thought of that while I was also being reminded again of the name that Carlo Sebilia (perhaps after the Nixie Sybyl who comes from Campagna) gave in his Letter from Italy for the Parliament in Roma, to which he had been newly elected. “Pandora”, he called it.
Pandora indeed, and I recall again that Carlos’s Letter from Italy last week did also seem full of hope, and, more than that, full of many other optimistic expectations of what happens when “normal humans”, as he put it, become political. And delicious to the ear it was, like Fred’s last song, the echo of an echo of an echo. Nevertheless, before you or I become too “sniffy” about the improbability of the possibility of hope, I recommend a read of this review of the recent book by David Graeber, Debt: The first 5,000 years (2011, New York). The writer of the review repeats Graeber’s quote in the book of an Inuit hunter-gatherer recorded in Peter Freuchen’s Book of the Eskimo:
‘Up in our country, we are human!… And since we are human we help each other. We don’t like to hear anybody say thanks for that. What I get today, you may get tomorrow. Up here we say that by gifts one makes slaves and by whips one makes dogs’.
Echo of an echo of an echo… and, yes indeed, for our meeting better that we both come unarmed.