Thoughts on the Swing

The telling of the Tempest

Last night I dreamt I was in a boat on the high seas looking at a horizon pinched between building swells and blackened clouds.  Sheets of rain breaking against my face.  A dread of lost loved ones washing up with the next swell.  My hands frozen to the batten as the sails were aback in squalls of uncertainty.  Remembering my tears, I centered the rudder, waiting on the luffing sails. In water too deep for any anchor, too far out for any certainty, 

I looked back for an answer.

On a tepid beach under clearing skies I wade in from the shipwreck.  I see a shadow sitting just beyond the break.  As I approach he seems somewhat amused, almost giddy.  His forehead glistening and crinkled as he maintained a grin.  

“Well, it’s about time my lad.  That storm was one for the books.. Or even a play maybe?”

“I’m sorry… who are you?” I asked.

“William…” he said.  “… and you will have to excuse me but I’m a little out of my vernacular… but, this is in fact, your dream, so being able to understand what I’m saying is probably the point.”

“I don’t understand”

He dipped one eyebrow and said… “Young man that wasn’t what I was going for at all” …he finished with a chuckle. 

I shook my head and pushed back my hair… “I’m sorry, just who are you again?”

“I told you William… playwright, poet, and actor… at your service sir.  I understand you are looking for answers… maybe even some justice.”

“Wait, you’re Shakespeare?”

He chuckled a bit, “What’s important my boy is that you think I’m Shakespeare.  I’m not the one here looking for answers.  Like I just said, it’s your dream”

I knelt down in front of him and just then a wave broke swamping  us both in cool water.  His laughter was contagious and he blurted out – “Isn’t this marvelous my boy?”

As the water found its way around us back into the sea his eyebrow dipped again as he looked deep into my eyes.

“So my lad, what do you know of rage?”

The question was stabbing and concise.  It took me back to the only place I could go.  I trembled as I tried to say the words.

“I have seen rage as a little boy.  I cried because that was all I could do.  Witnessing rage of no more worth than that of a spoiled little boy; but in a grown man’s body.”

“So you understand the difference between monsters and men?”

My head dropped… “There is very little difference…  He hurt my mom.”

William pulled his knees up and wrapped his arms around them.

“But there is a monster you’re still afraid of isn’t there?”

I picked up a handful of sand and clenched it with my fist… “I have my father’s temper.” I whispered.

“The Tempest.”  William said with a smile as he pointed to the fading dark horizon. “…that storm, “ he popped his lips, “…you spend all your efforts to evade it and yet, it is the reason you are here.”

He paused and laughed…

“Young man I did not bring anything to this conversation that you have not already felt.  Maybe you should try confessing to a priest or something, or maybe your wife…

Do you have a dog that seems sympathetic?”

I stared blankly as William looked at the horizon.

“You know something lad, there is no single person in this world that has cried for justice without a bit of shame.  When you think about it, … it’s quite comical actually.  We all want things to be fair and just but our own selfish nature gets in the way.  There is no magical way to uncover hope because it lies in depth, within our own self determination.  But, still, — we are doomed to look for magic because that is the tragic comedy that people do.”

William looked up at the sun and dug his feet a bit further into the sand.

“So, young man, where have you seen hope?”

It took a moment for me to find an image in my mind.

“I was in India once.  A place as foreign to me as anything I had ever experienced.  There was color and joy.  There were smells pungent and occasionally putrid.  There was maniacal, purposeful chaos pulsing through the streets.  And just as you turn a corner, there was poverty and squalor.”

William glanced up… “But where was the hope?”

“Well, this particular day was Guruprab; the birthday celebration of an important guru.  So there were these random parades mixed with intense traffic in the streets. I guess a parade was simply a matter of will.”

William burst out laughing “Yes of course, much like a play is a matter of William” With a trailing chuckle he apologized…”Sorry… Please young man… continue”

I closed my eyes and continued…

“I remember tractors pulling large, colorfully decorated trailers loaded with children dressed in brightly colored clothing.  Women walked along behind smiling in pleasant conversation… Younger men kept together wearing bright colored turbans while older men sported beards and mustaches so thick, they seem to be carved deeply into their faces.  Music and prayer chants blared out on speaker systems pushed well beyond their limits.”

William interrupted… “Wait, what is a tractor?  …What is a blared out speaker system?”

I looked back up at his eyes in a bit of a scowl…

“William, I admit this is pretty cool, you psychoanalyzing me here – on a beach – in a dream but – I gotta say you’re killing the mood right now.”

 William smiled…

“Sorry” he said spreading his arms like an angel;  

“Actor… Tragic comedian”

I closed my eyes again…

“There were cars, tuk tuks, motorbikes,  all jostling and edging around them — and so were we when we came up next to one and stopped for a moment.  Suddenly I was locked within the gaze of a dozen or so children. They of course were transfixed on me, the pale guy in a cowboy hat.  So many large, dark, beautiful eyes and delicate faces, surrounded in bright swaths of color.”

William’s face took on an intense stare.  

…”I smiled and gave them a wink.  Some of them smiled back.  Then their heads bobbed slightly as their tractor began to move again. Suddenly, with the honk of our horn and an engine rev we were gone from each other’s world.… It was just just a moment in a strange and crazy world…”

I paused and took a deep breath. 

“But It was a moment I shall never forget.”

William smiled and thought for a moment.  He picked up an agate he found next to him and threw it into a wave back lit by the setting sun.  As the wave broke there was just the faintest spark of light as the water and stone were relinquished in turmoil.  Like tension breaking into peaceful reflection before the next wave comes. 

“So that is what you saw” said William “… a glimmer”

He chuckled until he was in a full belly laugh… “A glimmer of hope?” 

I failed to see the humor as I sat there with my heart flailed out in the sand. 

William eventually became quiet as he stretched his legs straight out, his toes pointing skyward.  

“Young man, you have learned to live with rage and you can see hope.  And it seems you might even have the ability to describe it.  There may be perfect people who never know the tempest but, those make for boring stories…

You have to describe the storm in order to define the hope…”

William raised his arms, widened his eyes and shrugged his his shoulders. 

“…I ask you lad.  What is the tragedy in that?”

Just then another wave broke over us and suddenly William was no more than a handful of sand slipping through my fingers.  And as I watched the grains slip into the outgoing rush of water…

I awoke.  

My phone pinged me with an incoming text.  I wiped my eyes and leaned over to the nightstand.  It was a message from my granddaughter…

“Good morning Papa… it’s a bright and sunny day”

Every storm gives way.

Every story goes on.

In the telling of the Tempest. 

— 

For my dear friend
Mitchell Peterson
© db 11/20/2020

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