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  • Writer's pictureRoMa Johnson

There are Two Sides to This

Updated: Apr 15, 2022

There are two sides to this: the Doomsday-CNN-RachelMaddow-It-Can-Only-Get-Worse side and the other side that can’t be named but only felt.

In the morning I wake up to anxiety. The 12-20-2020 scenario plays in my head—what if I can’t go to England in October? Ever? What if the world descends into violence? What if there is civil war? What if this is the Fall of the Roman Empire on acid? Oh, and personal stuff too: why hasn’t a certain friend returned my call when I reached out? Does s/he think I am pathetic? What about my upcoming medical test? I’m not afraid of dying, but I am afraid of failure. Am I failing? Oh, darling, the Loop of Logismoi winds around me, threatens to strangle me. (Thus proving I am failing and pathetic.) This is covid in the isolation tank.

The only way out is out, you pathetic thing. Put your shoes on and get the hell out of here.

I walk out and into the other side. I walk down the middle of the street in tears, leaking a miasma of doubt and anxiety behind me like rancid farts. I walk past my usual turn-back corner, mostly because I simply cannot go back in. I walk on into a lush green neighborhood with large clean houses set back on verdant lawns bordered with flowers. I come to a corner, and as I wait for a lone car to pass I see on my right a very large, overgrown and somewhat wild bamboo grove. I am drawn to walk to the edge of it. I peer inside and see that in the center is an open space, totally hidden from the outside world. I push through and find myself inside the drum. I first read about bamboo “instruments” back in the 70’s in Madame Blavatsky. She described how she and Leadbeater went to India and on one occasion were taken inside a bamboo organ: a grove where holes had been very carefully and strategically placed in the bamboo stalks in such a way that when the breeze blew through the grove it made music in amazing harmonies, like living flutes. This grove has not been tended, but the bamboo clacks like a drum in the breeze. (I heard a magnificent bamboo drum in Hawaii once, on the Hana side of Maui.) I stand inside, turning to the quarters.

I go on. Further along, still in the middle of the manicured neighborhood, I come to a little stone bridge crossing a dappled stream flowing green and yellow through the light of the trees along its sides. I stop and vow that I will leave my fears and miasma on this side of the bridge and not take them across with me. In the center of the bridge I watch the water for a while, make a recording of its sound and send it to my brother—who texts me at that moment from inside his recording studio. I say, Here, you can sample this and put it in your music.

I go on. I see on my left a narrow green path leading into an emerald forest. A woman and a small girl are walking on the path, so I decide not to explore it. Another day. I come to a second bridge, larger this time, made of a metal mesh, such that I can stand on it and see another stream flowing beneath. I take its picture and send it to my friend who did not respond to my plaintive call earlier in the day. I walk on.

I come to where the road branches. I decide this will be my turn-around point. Apogee Avenue. The driveway on my right is lined with round river rocks. I pick one up and put it in my pocket, thinking I will toss it into the pool I saw under the second bridge. I start walking back. On my right I see a broad green path leading down away from the road into the woods. I am drawn to go there. I climb down the embankment and though I can’t see the water, I can hear it burbling behind the bushes. I follow the path along for a while until I come to a clearing next to the stream. There is a small waterfall here, with a pool at its feeder level. I decide to throw my rock (imbued with all my troubles)into the pool. I miss, and the rock hits another larger rock with a bang! and bounces into the pool. Swear to God.

As I climb back up to the road, my friend calls and we chat as I walk toward home.

When I reach the far side of the little stone bridge, I realize I don’t have to pick up the raggedy bundle of smelly fears I left here on the way in. Let it molder; may it become fertilizer to mushrooms.

There are two sides to this: Doomsday and— although there was no “frontier of twilight” as described by Lord Dunsany—what for now we can name Elfland.

You can see the gate from here.

Put on your shoes.


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