The following two months were busy ones, for both Julie and Carl. In less than a week from first talking with De Alberca, the funds had been transferred and Carl had made the down payment.
He was in a state of elation when De Alberca met him at the Bank for transfer of funds, and to have papers drawn up. When he called Julie that evening, she was thrilled with the idea of an adobe house in an oasis. He told her about the unusual assortment of plant, animal, and birdlife there, and about De Alberca being a descendant of first settlers. She said she couldn't wait to see it. Carl asked if she'd like to come for a look-see some weekend. She said no - she'd rather wait till she could come to stay. There was a lot to take care of in town, and she didn't want it delayed by her absence.
De Alberca had offered his housekeeper to help get the house ready. Julie vetoed that emphatically. She wanted the two of them to do it together when she got there. "It's a new start for us, Carl. We want the house to reflect that, by selecting just what we want ourselves."
He had fitted right in to the job at the newspaper. He really enjoyed working with Hayes, as he took great pride in the paper. Every issue that emerged each Friday had seven days of loving care behind it. Hayes was particular about every small detail of content and layout. He was painstaking as an artist who knows that every line, shade, and open space contribute to effect. Carl respected and appreciated this in his boss, and showed himself willing to work to produce just what was needed - and what Hayes wanted.
In his time off, Carl started work on the book. He found he had to make a subtle shift in awareness and focus. He had to call up memory of scenes, conversations, and feelings, until he was back in tune with what he had lived through. This was necessary, to express the remarkable discoveries it was his aim to convey.
After several such attempts, he found that his experiment with the resounding gongs came to his aid. Soon he had developed an exercise for summoning the special awareness he needed for writing. He could feel himself surrounded by the fellowship of the Encampment, and was able to slip in and out of an intense creative state.
The days passed in busy, rewarding activity. Somewhere in there, Autumn rode into the desert on late September winds, and began redecorating. Nothing as obvious as in North and East, but subtle changes that echoed with footsteps of Autum.
Colors of gold and blue sheathed desert and sky, woven about with rambling winds, and passage of wind-borne clouds. Days were crisp and cool. Nights were brisk and moon-glazed. The clear sky of desert nights was filled with jewel-bright stars. Blankets felt good, and the little wood stove filled the cabin with aromatic warmth.
Carl sometimes worked late at the typrewriter. The lamp gave its golden stream to the occasion, and an inner light of recollection radiated through him in inspiration. The book seemed to unfold naturally from within him. He rarely felt weary from writing. On the contrary, it was a refreshing experience. Watching the papers accumulate, was like watching a child grow. Soon, it seemed to have a will of its own, which bloomed like a younster's individuality. He came to feel less and less like its source, and more and more like the avenue of its birth. This was an evolution well known to writers, so he knew all was going as it should.
One evening he went to the Carlisle's for dinner, and enjoyed both the good company, and the good food. Alex and May had a boy of nine, and a girl of seven. They were healthy, exuberant children, with an interest in many things. They caught him with questions about newspaper work, and would not let go till he ended up talking for over an hour about past experiences. They sat listening, as if he were a visiting dignitary. Now and then they interjected very astute questions, which many adults wouldn't have thought to ask. Carl was quite impressed with them.
After the children had hurried off to watch some eagerly awaited T V program, Carl, Alex, and May had enjoyed a couple of hours of interesting conversation. Carl learned more about the area. Alex told him interesting facts about the early history of The Springs, and old legends and stories of the Indians who had inhabited the area south of the oasis.
There were the often found legends of a flood, and that the area had once been underwater. Indian oral records reported that, when their people first came there, they came in boats and settled in the hill area which was then a group of islands. Alex pointed out that there was some evidence to support this. Quite some distance to the south there were rocky cliffs along what appeared to have once been a water channel. About three-fourths the way up the cliff sides were water marks. Just above that, about the height of a man standing in a boat, were petroglyphs of an ancient people carved into the rock.
The Indians also told of legends handed down, which related that their people had come this way looking for a great sacred city, which had once stood somewhere on the now desert sands. When they arrived, it had all been under water. There was debate as to whether this Indian legend was at the root of Coronado's search for "El Dorado".
As Alex related these stories, his eyes seemed to look into great distances, as if he were actually viewing the scenes. Finally, at a pause point, he turned his gaze to Carl, and resumed in a musing tone. "The Indians believe that the Great Mother, which seems to be what we would call "Mother Nature" - or perhaps they refer to the Planet, as the "Earth Mother". Anyway, they believe that she sometimes reclaims her own, to remind her children to look for more enduring 'ground' within themselves. This seems to be thought of as a process to release them from a bondage to places and things. They express it more in symbols, but I believe that is the essence of what they mean. Remember Carl, this is as I interpret these stories. I must qualify them with that limitation."
As he listened, Carl seemed to see the unfolding saga of mankind. Over and over claiming the land, which was, in time, reclaimed by Natural processes. Wherever humanity had learned to live in concord with the Earth, as the Indians, and people like the De Albercas, and Carlisles, there was a sort of rhythmic flow of peace in their exchange, even though it was sometimes severe. Whenever humanity had a concept of subduing Nature, or pushing her around, her reactions were eventually equivalent, and seasons of violence occurred between them.
Carl thought a simple law seemed to be in operation in such processes. It was one which people with a sense of 'wholeness' toward life tuned into, but remained obscure to those who did not sense the inter-relatedness of all life. Perhaps it was only attitudes of separateness which kept us bound to repetitive patterns of violence. Here was the very kernel of Ulathai understanding.
He had become so engrossed with these thoughts that he'd been unaware of his surroundings for several minutes. As his attention returned to the room, he heard Alex saying "I say Carl - did I put you to sleep with my long-winded monologue ?"
Carl laughed, and shook his head emphatically. "Oh no - Alex ! I just became so absorbed in the line of thought, I forgot where I was for awhile. It's all so interesting ! I think the Indians have a great wisdom in their attitudes - a wisdom which many of us are just beginning to discover. It's interesting to consider how much it could alter our lives for the better."
It was an invigorating and pleasant evening. As he drove back to the cabin, Carl was thinking that Julie would surely appreciate their new neighbors. Of his own knowledge of them, he would say nothing. There was no reason to, and that was obviously the way they wanted it. He had a strong feeling that she would become aware of those matters when the time was right.
He'd been calling Julie regularly each weekend. Almost two months had passed since his first call, when she told him that she was ready to join him. "I sold the house to a nice couple with two children. They're so happy to have their own home !" Her voice rang with enthusiasm, the words in a rush."We got a fair price, and they really need the house. I know I could have waited longer and got more money, but it just seemed so right for them - and us too ! You should have seen their faces,Carl ! Besides, I'm anxious to see you, and get into our new home !"
Carl thought she sounded as if he were going to criticize her for not waiting for a more affluent buyer. He wondered silently - 'what kind of guy was I ?' Really he was pleased. He was happy that she could now join him, and they could get into their new home. He was glad the young couple would have a home of their own. And he liked what she had said about a 'fair price'. That was exactly what Andy had said about their transaction. He'd done it for them, and Julie had just evened things out. He explained this to her, and she was delighted with the thought.
"I've sold my car too, Carl. We won't need it and the truck now. The extra money can help us furnish the house. Not that we want a lot of fancy stuff. I really want that adobe, earthy feel." Carl assured her, "I heartily agree ! Now just tell me when, and how, you're to arrive. Do you want me to come to get you ? I can !"
"No", she said, "I'll fly, and you can pick me up at whatever nearby town I can get a flight into. As soon as I make the arrangements, I'll call you at the newspaper".
And so it was that finally the day came for Julie's long awaited arrival. She wouldn't get into the nearby airport till eight-thirty that evening. It was Carl's day off, but he was too restless to get into writing, so he decided to drive out to the oasis to have another look at their new home.
As he was passing the office, Andy came out and waved to him from the porch. Carl slowed, and Andy signaled for him to come into the office. Carl was wondering what it was all about, hoping it didn't mean a change of status. There must have been a strained look on his face. Andy took one look at him and laughed, saying, "Don't look so upset, Carl, I just called you in to meet someone!"
Only then did Carl notice the young man standing in the hall leading to the sitting room. Tall and slender, with reddish-brown hair waving to the collar of his plaid flannel shirt, clear eyes smiling, the young man stood there, as if awaiting recognition. Carl stood immobile, uncertain, studying the youth, from desert boots and jeans, to smiling eyes. Was he beginning to see too much in everything ? Imagining things that weren't actual ? Uncertain what to say, he remained silent.
De Alberca moved to a position halfway between the two. He gave Carl an enigmatic look. "This is Alan Wade, Carl. Alan, this is Carl Jordan. Alan has just graduated, and will be with us for awhile, gaining experience for future work. He is interested in studying close-hand the flora and fauna of desert and oasis, and our natural irrigation system."
De Alberca looked intently into Carl's eyes as he spoke. It was easy to recognize the unspoken message. His words explained all that needed to be explained of the youth's presence. He was Alan wade, no mention was to be made of Eleri.
Carl smiled a warm greeting. He was happy to know the things conveyed by Andy's penetrating stare. He was pleased for two important reasons; he liked the young man, and was glad to see him again; and - it meant he wasn't developing a neurotic imagination !
Alan moved toward Carl, extending his hand, which Carl grasped in a hearty handshake, to convey his understanding. Alan smiled, and said, "My host forgot to mention that I will also be acting as handyman around here. If there's anything I can help with, maybe when you move into your new home, please let me know." Carl thanked him, and told them that he was going tonight to pick up his wife at the nearby airport."
Andy suggested, as Carl had plenty of time, that the two join him on a walking tour of the oasis. As they wandered through twisting paths of the oasis gardens, he told them in brief outline something of plans for future development of surrounding land. It was this that Alan could help with, and gain experience at the same time. The plan would be gradual development. Each newly developed area must be self-sustaining before cultivating beyond it. All was to be maintained as Municipal Park, and Nature Preserve. Both Alan and Carl were enthused with the prospects described. When Carl left, he was even more pleased with the beauty and companionship of their new homesite.
As he drove back to the cabin, he was cheered by the unexpected number of Encampment friends closer than he had dared to hope they might be. At the cabin, he rested awhile, listened to news, did a few small clean-up jobs, and it seemed only a short while till it was time to leave. He showered and dressed, and at last climbed into the truck for the short trip to the airport. The drive was uneventful and relaxed. He moved along at a steady speed, enjoying the cold night air.
As he entered the area of heavier traffic, all his years of ingrained familiarity returned. He had no trouble fitting into the erratic stream.The busy sounds around him, lights of cafes, gas stations and motels passed along the way, were part of the tempo. Before, they had seemed monotonous, tiring, and nerve-wracking. Now his zest for life included it all. It was as if he'd learned to flow with it.
The Airport, with its large, domed, central building, resembled a hive, he thought, as he approached. Awash in honey-colored light, which flowed onto the grounds in a stream, the hum and drone of autos and planes, as they approached, made Carl smile. He thought how appropriate it would be to see the little visca hovering there.
He parked the truck, and walked a good city block to reach the sidewalk in front of the main building. He checked his watch. Almost eight-thirty. Not a long wait, unless the flight were delayed for some reason. He stood a moment, enjoying the brisk night air,which had become a little gusty.
As he stood there, a cab pulled up to the curb, and a well-dressed man got out. He seemed to be in a hurry. As he leaned in to pay the driver, a whimsical flip of wind caught his hat, and sailed it a short distance. it landed right at Carl's feet. Quickly he picked it up. Hardly had he straightened up, when its owner stood there next to him. Carl studied the laughing eyes, fine-featured face, and slightly greying hair, thinking what a familiar face it was.
With a good-natured laugh, the gentleman said, "The wind is as capricious as Fate tonight !" Carl laughed in response. "Yes",he said,"but sometimes we can intercept its tricks !"
The reply was softly voiced. "True, my friend. Very true !" A faint little sing-song accent was there. Were it not for the short, greying hair, and a more worldly look, Carl would have thought he were talking with Etanai. He stood staring at the gentleman, eyes full of uncertainty. The man reached into his coat pocket, and pulled out a card. "I must be going - or I'll miss my flight." He handed the card to Carl, who took it, still staring into the stranger's eyes. Again, the man spoke in a soft voice, "If I may be of service to you, please contact me. My number is on the card. Perhaps we will meet again." He smiled slightly, and with a slight nod hurried away, soon lost in the crowd.
Carl stood looking after him. Only when the man was out of sight, did he look down at the card in his hand. It read:
International Publishers Inc.
with addresses and phone numbers for several major world cities. Carl murmured softly to himself -"Etienne" ?
He stood staring at the card a moment, then carefully placed it in his coat pocket, and hurried away into the Airport. He had barely entered,when Julie came running over to him. As he put his arms around her, he felt as if a long race had ended. They had crossed the finish line together. They had both made it. It didn't matter if they had come in first or not. They had come in together, and they had both made it ! That was all that mattered !
She leaned away from him, and looked into his face. "You're looking good, darling !You look rested. The desert must have been good to you !" Her eyes were shining with happiness, interest, amusement, and finally darkened with immediate concerns. "Let's get my luggage and be on our way !" As they waited for her luggage, she told him she only had two bags. "I gave away a lot. I want to shed the old me. I want to get new. The old life is like a too-tight dress I've outgrown !"
Carl smiled and gave her a gentle hug. He understood so well. "Time to shed your chrysalis, little butterfly ?" She hugged him. "You do understand !" Her eyes were overflowing with happy discovery.
When at last they were in the truck and on their way, they relaxed into a companionable silence, until the city's rumble was behind them. As traffic thinned, and they moved into open country, Julie rolled her window down, and leaned her head agaist the backrest. Clean, cold desert air touched her face with vigorous strokes, lifting her hair back from her brow. It was obvious she was enjoyng a new sense of freedom already. Moonlight rinsed the land in gentle glow, and silvered the road ahead.
With a liberated sigh, she began to speak softly, like a stream flowing free. "Stars seem so near, Carl, so big, and bright, and near. It isn't really night, you know. Every one of those stars is a sun. A whole Universe full of suns, and our nearest one is even now pouring its light into lands right under us as we ride. I've lived half aware for so long - Carl - I want to wake up and tune into the wonders of every day."
Carl slipped his arm over her shoulders, and she moved closer to him. He was smiling quietly. He doubted that right now she had any idea just how well he understood. As she was speaking, he recalled Etanai's words about every star being a sun - one sun among many. When she spoke of living half aware, he could see Vasai telling him of her post in the world. How wistfully she had said,"I only have partial awareness there..." He'd let Julie unwind at her own pace. It would be like watching something beautiful be born.
Maybe that was why he'd had his experience first, and apart from her. So that he could understand what was happening to her, and offer loving, but uncrowded care. Yes - it would be like watching a rose unfold.
A broad, uncluttered country spread before them - all possibility. The road stretched ahead, into the distance. A symbol of the always-possible new beginning.
( © 1983 and 2000 -Betty Curtis )