The Pool And The Door
Carl awoke early, feeling refreshed and eager, with a new sense of purpose. He thought quietly, looking out into the garden. The sun was just rising. It's low slant of light touched in highlights here and there with a golden glaze. He heard the soft morning sounds of birds, calling to each other, singing a melodious song to the fresh new day. Leaves rippled gently in a cool morning breeze, glinting like gilded filigree where rays of light touched them. The white, wading-bird, moved with easy deliberate strokes toward the pond. Clean, floral aroma wafted into his room.
Arising, Carl slipped into his sandals, and moved out the door to join awakening nature. As he neared the pond, he saw Chan Shu strolling along the Eastern walkway. The Elder paused, and turned toward him with the silent Ulathai greeting. Carl silently responded with the gesture. It seemed so natural to him now.The greeting even seemed a more intimate exchange in its silent form.
Chan Shu resumed his stroll, and Carl returned to quiet appreciation of the morning. Each participated with a contemplative motion in the ritual of natural unity which the garden symbolized in its way.
After awhile,Carl turned toward his quarters to dress for the day, and encountered Etanai standing quietly outside his door. Carl greeted him silently also, and the Elder responded in kind. Falling into step beside Carl, he said - "Vasai and I thought you might enjoy a visit to the pool this morning, and after lunch, an excursion in the visca. We've no desire to impose plans on you, my friend, but you've not yet shared these facilities of the Encampment, we think you might enjoy them. However - it's all according to your wishes".
Having shed his last trace of reluctance, Carl was glad for such prospects. "That sounds like an interesting day, Etanai. I'm sure I'll enjoy both !"
Etanai laughed, "Excellent, Ka-ra-el ! I felt sure that would be your response. Vasai will be along soon with some pool attire for you. She will conduct your 'swimming tour'. After lunch, we will all float away in the visca."
He approached the table, "Have you had breakfast yet ?" Carl nodded a negative. Etanai continued, "If you don't mind, I'll have mine here with you. There is plenty, I see, and Vasai will restock your table when she arrives."
They selected their food and returned to the garden. A question was still tumbling about in Carl's mind. When they had settled by the pond, he voiced it. "Etanai, would you please explain to me the implications of the 'welcome' spoken by the Regent Elder and yourself last night. It has a ring of suggesting a change of status, which I don't have clear in my mind."
Etanai smiled,nodding his head in understanding. "You are wondering what difference in your status with Ulathai is implied, and you are uncertain as to whether you are to be considered World Aspirant, or member of Ulathai"?
Carl was nodding agreement to each statement, but made no comment. Etanai continued. "You are both, my friend. You, and those like you, are what we call our 'border-line workers'. It might be best expressed to say that you are considered 'World Aspirant, associate of Ulathai'. It is the 'associate' status that is inferred by the 'welcome'. Does this clear it up for you" ?
As usual, Carl was receiving much more than the spoken words. He could see that the whole episode of his contact with Ulathai had characteristics which made it slightly different from those World Aspirants who attended Assembly in forms such as he the night of his 'dream'. At first he had puzzled about this, but had gradually come to sense that it was something planned from the beginning of his life, but which was only now coming into conscious awareness.
Anticipating Carl's next question, Etanai responded at once. "The night of your dream, you attended in your inner form, but later, you were actually taken into 'overlapping', so that gradually your physical body shared in this experience in the same density-dimension as our members."
"This physical alteration had already begun when you saw the 'fog' clear, and began the journey from your cabin. It was incomplete at the time, but sufficient for you to be with us with the major part of your 'total being'. However, this is also the reason there was, at first, only spasmodic recall of some experiences."
"Although you are now experiencing the Encampment in a solid state, The Springs, as you knew it, is still experiencing the fog, and will continue to do so until overlapping is discontinued. We don't like to cause altering of the normal activites of levels of Life, but in this instance it was necessary. We will discuss the ending of these effects on The Springs during our visca trip."
"To return to your particular experiences - because you have experienced certain alterations of the physical body during this period, it will be possible for level-change to recur in the future, should it be necessary. This is the conditioning which all border-line workers have which is not common to all World Aspirants - at this time. Also, among the main body of Ulathai, there are those who act in border-line capacity, using one form to operate at various levels. However, such have more conscious control of the process than World Aspirants have yet developed. The latter must be aided in such alteration. Yet - through such experience they progress rapidly to a more conscious capacity."
Carl could now understand his position clearly. It was what he had latently sensed, but had been unable to formulate. Where there had been an incomplete view of his position, there was now clear order. It could be filed away in the archives of inner knowing.
"Am I to receive no welcome at all" ! A light laughter accompanied the question. Turning, they saw Vasai standing by the door, wearing a wistful look. She appeared very youthful. The full-length robe had been replaced by a shorter tunic. Carl answered in light tone. "You are always welcome, Vasai ! Need it be said"?
Etanai laughed gently."I'm afraid you show a lack of understanding of feminine nature,Ka-ra-el "! With a smile, he turned to Vasai,"Have you brought our friend his pool attire, Vasai"?
With a gleam in her eye, Vasai motioned for them to join her inside. She showed Carl the replenished table, then playfully handed him what appeared to be a scrap of white material. It felt light and soft to touch. He unfolded it, revealing a tunic similar to her own. "Change into that", she said, "and we'll be ready for pool exploration."
Carl withdrew into the alcove. When he reappeared, he felt easy and casual; more than he had in a long, long, time. The tunic fitted as if made for him. Vasai, seated in a half-divan, smiled playfully as he came into the room. She arose, took his arm, explaining that Etanai had left to make arrangements with Eleri, and would join them for lunch.
As they walked toward the courtyard, Vasai displayed her lighter mood. Accustomed to the more serious manner she presented in their previous meetings, he was charmed by the casual wit sparkling through her today. He'd not really realized that, despite the fact that the Encampment was there for purposes of serious importance, the Ulathai were graciously good-humored, rarely showing the somber depths of their concern. He'd seen it a few times on Etanai's face, in the general attitude of Assembly officials, and deep in Vasai's communicative eyes. As he considered this now, he appreciated even more this interval of relaxed companionship offered.
Although he'd been impressed by the expanse of the pool when viewing from a distance, he was even more impressed as they neared it. Extending from the brink of courtyard seating area, clear to the edge of the roadway encircling the Encampment, it was indeed larger than any pool he'd ever seen before.
The waters didn't have the artificial blue cast seen so often in pools of his familiar world. They were like crystal, and had a slight rippling agitation, which produced wavelets and caused the waters to twinkle in sunlight with prismatic color. The floor was apparently of white stone, and thus offered no hint of coloring to the waters.
Curious about markings around its enclosing wall, he stopped to examine them closely. Some were plainly astronomical glyphs he recognized, but was not familiar with enough to identify exactly. Others were various geometrical appearing combinations, and some appeared to be enscriptions in script of the Ulathai. He turned a questioning glance to Vasai. She smiled, and creased her brow in studied thought. At last, she spoke, making a sweeping gesture around the pool. "Ka-ra-el, there are so many varied markings it would be quite time-consuming to explain them all. I'll have to ask you to accept the explanation - a very general one - that they are all symbols of some aspect of the Cosmos."
Although she'd been almost apologetic in her reply, Carl was well satisfied. It confirmed his intuitions about the matter. "That's quite enough , Vasai. I'd guessed that they were something of that sort.".
Vasai regained her lighter mood, and took his arm as they descended the steps into the pool. As the waters washed over him, Carl felt as glad and free as in days of his youth. Now they began splashing about, half-swimming, half playing like children. Happy sounds of the few others in the pool, mingled with their own in easy harmony of joy of life. Carl discovered an amazing buoyancy to the water, and an effervescent quality similar to his bathing pool. He asked Vasai about the unusual characterustics.
She drew him to the pool edge, and pointed out a fine mesh double grillwork which ran around the inner perimeter of the pool. The parallel grills were separated by about six inches. She explained that this constantly filtered the water of residue or debris. The rotating action of the central fountain moved the water gently in alternating centripetal-centrifugal action. As the water passed through the inner grill, an up and down motion periodically enclosed water between the two grills, where it was filtered by other underwater elements. This flowed underneath the pool floor through a series of channels, was purified, recycled, and pushed up into the rotating fountain in an aerating process.
This process provided a buoyant, stimulating quality to the waters, with no agitation or drag on the pool floor. It was the combined passage of water and air through carefully spaced, and varied-sized exits in the fountain, which created the lovely, flute-like musical tones.
Again, Carl was impressed with how all constructions in the Encampment were not only utilitarian, but were also esthetically pleasing. In every structure, there was clearly intent to create something both useful, and beautiful.
The morning seemed to pass swiftly. While in the pool, he was introduced by Vasai to several of the younger Ulathai. Vasai arranged the introductions with such disarming simplicity, that he felt like a familiar member of their community. The young ones were healthily curious, but good-natured, receiving him with easy acceptance. Among them, he met three young ladies, whom Vasai told him were her special charges, as they had chosen her specific line of work in Ulathai. When he told her that Etanai had told him something of her role as nurse to those in certain stages of training, she seemed pleased that he knew, and offered further explanation.
"Yes, that's true. The period of 'stress-familiarization' is an especially delicate one for our people. This is why it is monitored so closely. we gauge training to ensure that they will have no lasting scars, but will develop strength and poise at the level they will be working. We do not believe in pushing the novice into situations which may cause shock, or result in hindering traumas. We supervise training periods very closely to avoid such problems."
"This does not mean, however, that trainees are not allowed to make rash mistakes of youth, if they are of the temperment to best learn that way. Counsel is available at anytime they want it, or feel need of it. They are prevented from actions which might bring about extensive, or permanent damage. This is done by temporary withdrawal from the scene, and thorough corrective counsel from the Guardians concerning the matter. All who enter the training, are aware of, and agree to, these safety restrictions. They know that these limitations are not an effort to impose our will on them, but to protect them from severe reactions in Time, of which they are unaware."
Carl was fascinated by this clear picture of the Ulathai training method. He better understood his companion's tender concern, and knew that she had no doubt played a part in his successful adjustments, and recovery from shock. This is probably why it was Vasai who had been sent to meet him in his hideout among the trees. Her scope of comprehension had enabled her to understand his position. Her similarity to Julie, had made it easier to accept her, and her half-amused, quietly friendly approach had put him at ease. He was sure she was very adept in her work.
They had retired to the divans as she explained her work. Now, as they sat quietly, a glow of warm communion was around them. There was more of a transference than just the words, as was usual for her people. Carl felt happy that he at last felt free and relaxed enough to offer his energies to the exchange in an attitude of shared peace.
Time had passed so pleasantly that it seemed it had been only a few minutes when Vasai suggested they go to change for lunch,and also be ready for the afternoon excursion in the visca.
As they entered the corridor, they encountered Andrah, on his way for lunch. Vasai greeted him and presented Carl, explaining that he was from The Springs. Even Andrah's smile was intense. It flashed like sudden sunlight across his face, emphasizing the sparkling dark eyes. "Oh yes" - he said - "I remember you from the Assembly" !
Everything about Andrah announced exuberance. He spoke as if greeting an old friend. Carl was amazed that, with all those attending, and the importance of the proceedings, the Gita had remembered his face well enough to recognize him. But then, as he looked into those deep, penetrating eyes, he realized they probably missed nothing. The alert intelligence clearly behind them would register and recall everything it touched. He was also impressed with the enormous energy of this person. It radiated from him in palpable waves. One would not forget having met Andrah face to face !
The Gita made the gesture of Omu Amrishi, and smiling said, "Perhaps we will meet again - in another time and place" ! With a slight bow, he departed, the blue robe sailing behind him.
Carl stood a moment, still engulfed in Andrah's wake, then turned to Vasai, with a puzzled look. "What did he mean by that, Vasai ?"
Vasai smiled. "Just that, Ka-ra-el. Just what he said. Among the Ulathai, encounters may always occur if necessary to the unfolding of our work. The same could apply to me - to Etanai - to Chan Shu - or Eleri - any of us".
They turned down a hall leading from the corridor to the area of Ulathai quarters. Vasai paused, explaining that her quarters were along an area opposite from his. As soon as she had changed for the trip, she would meet him in his quarters.
Carl continued to his quarters, and was soon busy preparing for the afternoon excursion. As he was dressing, he was thinking of the more intimate understanding he now had of Vasai. He understood her manner, the sometimes polite reserve, and the sometimes warm, girlish gaiety. In her official capacity, she was unflinchingly dedicated. In her personal life, she was equally dedicated, but could also share a simple, warm, human fellowship.
He could see that was where he had been unsuccessful in his life before. His professional detachment, which was necessary to his work, had come home with him. It had moved like a cold ghost through the warm, shared life, Julie had tried to create of their marriage. He could see this so clearly now.
He thought of Andrah's parting comment, and of Vasai's explanation. After his return, he might see any of them, anytime, anywhere. And - as Etanai had explained, about his altered physical condition making it possible to experience an overlapping, whenever it might be necessary in the future, there was always the possibility of finding himself in another "Encampment", sometime, somewhere. The future held possibilities he would never have dreamed of just a few short days ago !
After his return, the door might be closed, but it would not be locked. The thought pleased him.