Saturday, November 25, 2006

Dark Nimbus

I wish you would move to forget my inquiry after you to your mother. You seem intent on reading in it only trespass of your confidence, instead of the nobility of motives I profess. It is as if you would make of me an enemy, perhaps so that we might explore another, more ombrous humour than friendship in these letters. Still, antagonism is a friendship of sorts. Perhaps only one side of the same coin...
Disregard. I was lost in some darker reverie, and I rarely allow myself to so wander. I think I am not myself. Allow me to recast a lighter nimbus...
Ah, the stage. It is your arena, not mine, I suppose. Though it intrigues me to wonder how my life might be translated into art, drama, verse, and then exit the mouths of those skilled in rhetoric (or in imitating it). Delightful. How would I be cast, I wonder? Would you be able to find a player with the right turn of his moustaches?
You have elicited my sympathies in this matter, for I do think that if my letters can transport some of La Mancha's sunshine into the dark dales of Denmark, then some good will come of it. I ask only to be left out of the composition. I think it should be difficult to live nobly, all the time thinking of my audience. Valor of spirit, it seems to me, comes from the knowledge that only conscience sees, and that it is never blind. Instead of composing for you, I will package vignettes of my life for your treatment. Do with them as you will.

On the subject of my stories: Do you remember Pancho Villa's story of the Ogre? That fool lives in hyperbole. It was hardly a goblin. I slew the vile thing with a single stroke. It seemed a meagre vengeance for the honest magician. I must remind Pancho to be more realistic.

Could I call on your library for something? There is a baron nearby where Pancho and I are camped, surname Odvallo. His nature is so composite as to be inscrutable. He sleeps both during the night and day, and leaves his chambers only during dawn and dusk. His left eye is pure white, with no pupil, while his right is large and dark. The hair on his head is bright crimson, but that on his chin is sooty. He walks with a cane that is solid ivory from the Orient, carved into the horrible figure of a snarling beast with green jewels set into the sockets of its gleaming skull. Each of his features speaks something contradictory, to the effect that is possible to say any one thing about him without having to say the opposite at the same time, and so the sum is that one says nothing at all.
In addition, accompanying him on his interstitial perambulations about his house is a sort of minister of the occult, a dark-cloaked figure standing stooped at only a handfull of cubits tall, and shuffling with a slow gait always a few steps behind his lord, moving his lips as if he were speaking to unseen spirits, but in a voice so low that none can hear him. His fingers trace the contours of an invisible icon interminably.
Is it possible that the genealogies of your collection (or your father's) hold some key to this man's heritage and the source of his title? Or perhaps a bit of lore on the subject of his servant. I seek some advantage, I have no shame in telling you. He is sure to be engaged in something sinister, and I wish only to be prepared when I am forced to resolve his monstrous dichotomies for the good of humanity.

Always in humble service and friendship
Don Quixote De La Mancha

A Brief Epiphany Brings to Light the True Nature of Things

Friendship is not fragile. Illusions are; affectations are; machinations and schemes and intrigues and self-interest are. But true affiliation, wherever it occurs, is impervious. So much so as to be a true wonder, persisting through time and trial as a lump of coal does in the womb of the earth, only later to be unearthed, brushed off, and discovered transfigured, transformed into the brightest of jewels.

Ages hence, another eye behind a jeweler's lens will judge if ours was this true feeling. I think it is, but have not the authority to judge it so. I find the critical gaze to be the most persistent, but most vacillating phenomenon in existence. Perhaps in one age, under some eyes, you and I will be friends, in another you will find me a villain, in some distant future we will never have known each other. We should persist in what we ourselves know to be true, and give them over to their own silly conjurations. Such are the many minds of those who would speculate on things long drifted into the sea of obscurity of all that is non-present. So give no heed to those who would say what a "Hamlet" is. Those who write your epitaph will have their inevitable victory over your memory, do not cede your life to them as well. Live for yourself, you have no choice but to die for everyone else.

None Taken

Don Quixote De La Mancha

A Rare Moment of Lucidity in an Otherwise Chaotic Mind-Space

I should apologize, then, most sincerely for having damaged not only your gentle emotions, but our fragile friendship. My interest in having Sancho Panza write my promised letter certainly was not to divide our twin spirits further, but to ensure that the still-emerging bridge between them should not suffer from a gap in time. For it was my understanding at that moment that it was not only candor, but duration and repetition that spelled friendship. That the writing of letters--however mediated--was not solely a method for transferring presence over distances, but for forming that very presence. Thus, I did not want my absence (in the form of indisposition) to damage the structure of that friendship we are building by obstructing my role in its construction, and in my absence I enlisted the skill of a trusted replacement to fulfill my duties. I seem to have won the opposite of my desire effects in so doing. I hope my apology and excuse can serve to splint the damaged beams of this bridge we are either building or traversing (however it is conceived, by myself or you). Perhaps you can find my absolution in your conjecture that Sancho and myself inhabit the same person. If this phantasy were true, then there would have been no crime; it would have been I writing the offending letter in another guise, and not, therefore, an interloper allowed into our congress of spirits.
And yet, I fear that my words my be taken in by your alchemical eyes, perhaps immune to vision. I worry more now that you are dabbling in this odd sorcery which bewitches your faculties. While you describe splendid sights, it must be remembered that the firmness of reality is the most fertile bed both for happiness and prosperity, both of which I wish for you.
And while you say that your current state inhibits your describing narratives, I must implore you to enter into the task for its therapeutic purposes. Not only can a good story elevate you from your dismal surroundings, its telling, I suspect, holds the power to allow the mind to construct and communicate its hidden motives. Truly, when it comes to the mind, an artful tale--like a dream--tells more truth than the most sober description. Speak sense man, and it will infect your soul. Speak madness, and you are already there, fox or no.
Perhaps marriage would soothe you (both). Be careful in seeking such a union, for while I do not doubt the sincerity of your feelings, I fear the violence of your passions.

Your metaphor of a horse calls to mind a most striking event of which I was a witness and an actor of late, and which I will relate to you. It is, I think, something I should have related earlier, because it has had a great effect on me since.
Upon being waylaid by my mount's having thrown a shoe, Sancho and I were wandering without aim through the gypsy camp where we had been forced to stop. It would be some time before a smith could shoe the horse, on account of his having to forge nails for the purpose. This particular band of gypsies, it seemed, was in the business of staging spectacles with animals on the outskirts of towns and cities for the benefit of the populace (and a small fee). It was a sort of traveling circus. When we encountered them in the middle of the countryside, their only performance was in training and practicing for the better part of the day, and our walk was ornamented in brief moments in which we would dally to watch the exercise of some great feat.
One act, in particular, caught my attention. Under a large tent, a kind of ring-master was training a young maid to do acrobatics on the back of a muscular black stallion that was racing in broad circles. As the man stood in the middle of the large ring, he drove the girl's horse endlessly with cracks of his whip that assaulted our ears. The young woman was obviously possessed of a remarkable talent in addition to her stunning beauty, but the training went on ceaselessly despite the perfection with which she carried out each of the ringmaster's commands. In addition to the feats of agility, he was also barking at her harshly, telling her to remember the audience and to smile and wave at them as if the whole thing were simple and pleasant. And to see such a sight, as the girl made a great show of happiness and whimsy, blowing kisses to the audience composed only of Sancho and I, and at the very moment tears were streaming down her rouged cheeks because of her exhaustion--it made my heart break. For truly the greatest injustice is not to be unhappy, or tortured, or driven on into a superfluous routine whose very pointlessness erodes the fine elements of the soul--no, the greatest injustice is to be subject to all these things, and to be made to act as if it were not happening.
Sancho stood with an odd mixtures of looks on his face, now laughing, now frowning, now crying out in pleasure or in offense. Yet above all, he was transfixed, merely bringing to life the myriad horrors or delights of the spectacle in the features of his face, while the rest of his body remained petrified. I resolved at that moment to break in, to assault the ringmaster or snatch the girl off the horse. Whatever it was, whatever action I conceived, I had to put a stop to that unholy tragedy.
And no sooner had I resolved to act, than my actions came into being. As if animated with some other-worldly power, my body, independent of my own control, surged forth, killed the ringmaster with a swift thrust of my dagger, and, grabbing the horse's reins, brought the beast to heel. The girl, even prettier close at hand than she had seemed from afar, thanked me and fell immediately feinted into my arms.
There is, essentially, nothing more to tell after this point.

And so, here, at the end of my tale, I leave you again in darkness, again alone at that great distance which forever separates us.
Your Friend
Don Quixote De La Mancha

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

On the effects of the weather for good and ill

It is curious, sir, that you should choose this moment to speculate about the relationship of your friend and his humble servant. It is on this occasion, in fact, that the honorable Don Quixote De La Mancha has asked me, Sancho Panza to take up his epistolary obligations in his stead for a term as to whose duration we can only guess.
My liege is engaged presently in a pressing matter (which I will describe later at some length), and while he is unable to continue your shared exchange, he was anxious that it should not die or lose its vitality solely on account of his indisposition. Thus, it has fallen to me to bring to life the adventures of which we have taken hold, and the grievous wrongs it has been our good fortune to right. I will, as well, communicate to him the contents of your letter on the subject of false theatre, the vigour of folly, the inclement weather of your home country, and the latest ocular prosthetics, but I feel it is not my place to comment on them myself. I should, rather, remain contingent to this discourse, and endeavor, like all good storytellers, to allow myself to fade and be eclipsed by the words I speak, rather than to contribute to my own grandeur by them. I leave that to other scriveners, if it be their nature. I essay merely to transcribe.
As for the tale I will tell: be warned, however, that here in the balmy climate of La Mancha things are born, live, and expire which would test the theories of your more northerly alchemists. It is a much different land than your own, so you must bear with my description. While it may seem fantastic, the natural laws of our realm allow such things to take place, even if they are suspended when one crosses the Rhine.
And so, I begin the tale Don Quixote has entrusted to me for this letter:
On a pale morning when the peals of the lark's song were clarion clear because of the thinness of the air, Don Quixote awoke earlier than normal. He emerged from his tent and surveyed the valley in which he and his manservant, Sancho Panza, had spent the night. Their fire had continued to simmer through the cool night, and beneath a crust of white ash, red embers sparkled. Eager to be on his way, in spite of the small hour, Don Quixote roused Sancho Panza and instructed him to prepare the horses.
Presently, they embarked towards the north, from which a rich wind was blowing, and with it the smell of smoke and a sense of foreboding. They were, at this time, on the way towards a small roadside hut of a mystic whom Don Quixote had been instructed to visit in furtherance of his quest to slay a marauding Ogre that he had been tracking, but which had eluded the knight. Hoping to approach the mystic's hut in the light of day, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza camped early the night before. Perhaps if they had not, and instead pressed on, they would have reached the man's dwelling in time to save both him and their hopes after the talisman they were promised at his hand. As it turned out, though, they were too late. Only the dirt walls of the hut remained, and the thatch roof and wooden furniture had been consumed by the blaze whose smoke they had smelled from afar and which seemed at first to have been spawned in a low hearth along the wall. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza shuddered to think that it was some philter or reagent for their benefit which was the catalyst of his misfortune. And yet, such a thought is hard to expel from the mind.
While standing in front of the smoking rubble holding back tears of guilt and sadness, Don Quixote pricked up at the sound of a faint cry from a nearby grove of elm trees, and it was there that the shaman had crawled to breathe his last breaths among the fallen leaves. Leaning over him, Don Quixote appealed to god for his life, to no avail, and the man died there on the ground amongst the smell of detritus and moss, but not before slipping into the knight's hand a leaden pendant on a thong and beseeching him to wear it, that it should help him avenge the arson and murder of which the mystic had been victim. By a stroke of ambiguous fortune it had been the very ogre the adventurer hunted who had committed these misdeeds. And with renewed enthusiasm, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza embarked, knowing they were near to their goal.
The two continued on the trail, and soon heard the savage sounds of the great beast feasting on ill-gotten game a short ways into the woods. They withdrew to prepare for what was sure to be an epic conflict.

Don Quixote, in fear for my safety has abandoned me here in our camp, while he engages that brute at this very moment. I hope soon to have news of victory and glory, and that the dying shaman's talisman has vouchsafed my lord's passage. Still, it is difficult to maintain an air of strength when I can hear the terrible din so near at hand.

Be well. I hope Don Quixote De La Mancha can resume his correspondence soon.
Sancho Panza

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Seven Times Around the Track, Another Lap

It may surprise you to hear this, but I often find myself envying you and your misty world of melancholy and intrigue. Sometimes the bright spaces of La Mancha and the straightforward order of my spirit leave me feeling, frankly, bored. Upon closing the covers of a well-worn romance, a tale of inspiring chivalry, I look about myself and feel disheartened by the disspassionate character of my homeland. I think, then, of your own surroundings and can't help but find them more fertile for the happenings of drama (let us hope it be comedy) than my own country. I almost suspect that if adventure doesn't happen upon me soon, I should have to force it to appear.
Perhaps this envy is simply an effect of the epistolary nature of your Uncle's kingdom, that is to say, it, like exotic Alexandria, exists for me only in letters, and you, like Roland, likewise. I am assured by receipt of the key to your castle that your such a fortress does indeed exist, somewhere, and that with it, should the road I travel wind eventually thence, I should be able to vouch for your own existence as well therein.
I entreat you to be more generous with your mother, she no doubt has your best interests in mind. I have great faith in the holiness of her station as descended from the Madonna, though I confess some reservations about your own mother's readiness to marry your uncle so soon upon hearing news of your father's death. Methinks the marriage was ... . Well, I should refrain from saying, on account of the censors at end of this letter's voyage.
Of the ghost: beware! Revenge is never easily gained, and never at a mean price. And yet, neither is the justice which promises to be bought with it. If only there were room in that exchange for tranquility of the spirit, I should be much happier with your prospects. As it stands, though, this spectre seems to be directing you along the long, dark path which is often the surest, if not the quickest or safest route to that ultimate end towards which we all hurtle.

As I anticipated, and contrary to your admonitions, Sancho Panza and I were forced to cross through the stream that ran along the plot of land on which sat the inn of our recent lodging, rather than upon the bridge spanning it which turned out to be too narrow. Frankly, I am happy to have done so, for it allowed us to stray from the path in a most productive way. It has reminded me that one is not always obligated to progress in the customary ways, that one must not always search out the sturdiest bridge. Instead, there is often a course of action looking one boldly in the eye, which can be seen--not by focusing more intently, but by relaxing the gaze, by insisting less on the methods to which one has become accustomed and allowing a new method to present itself. It is a new freedom, really, which we have gained at the cost of wet boots. I think that, rather than being the beginning of our decline, it shall be the inauguration of our ascent.
I embark with a light heart.

Don Quixote De La Mancha

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Give It Another Shot, Always

Your talk of ghosts is harrowing, and the abrupt end of your letter leaves me in some suspense as to your safety. I hope you do not mind my writing to your mother to inquire about your health. I did so quite reservedly, though, and you need not fear that I have divulged or suggested anything to her that would be unseemly. I think she needs no such suggestions. If something has followed you from that sinister inn and has done you harm, I feel it should be on my head and would weigh heavily on me. Of ghosts one must be wary. There is much in this world that lurks in the interstices between the living and the dead: souls misdirected on their passage, hateful spirits enchained in hallowed ground. We may often encounter the incredulous among our peers, but you and I are kindred in our courage to admit to the existence of these beings, and it is this courage, so often belittled by those around us, which will afford us the fortitude to face them when they threaten and to heed their will if it be righteous. I trust this courage has not failed you.
In order not to wring my hands, I should turn now briefly to other matters in the hopes that when this letter reaches you, you should be safe enough to enjoy lighter fare.
This sanatorium you mention where Ophelia has gone: though I do not doubt the good intentions of your self or your family, I think there must be places more conducive to the health of the spirits than the place you describe. Certainly Zurich (and no doubt the Alps in general) are ideal, where one is able to stroll the narrow paths that climb the precipices and descend into the pristine valleys in which nothing disturbs the tranquil satisfaction of nature as it admires itself in the mirror of a still lake. But in another institution perhaps she might find better company, instead of dying soldiers, she might meet a painter, or someone nice.
But my reason for mentioning her in my previous letter is as enigmatic to me as it is to you. I can only say that the woman whose acquaintance I so intimately failed to meet, simply called Ophelia's name to the lips of my mind, as if it wanted me to invoke her being without my own will playing its customary role. And at this point, I can put it no better. In time, maybe.
As for my voyage, Sancho Panza has fallen a trifle ill and we are held over in a quaint inn that bears no resemblance to the ombrous lodging that has recently benefited from your patronage. It sits on the bank of a quiet brook over which spans a bridge so narrow I think we shall have to wet the feet of our mounts when we depart. There is a blind old man who I believe is the grandfather of the housemaid, and who sits all day by a fire n the main room whittling the most extraordinary creations out of the supple yew branches I fetch for him. Some of the figures are so fine and so ingenious that they seem to dance when the wind blows through the open window. The man also whets my appetite for adventure as he tells me stories over his carving of the vicious beasts of the nearby forest, which he describes in the most meticulous detail from memory. I sate my anticipation in drawing these monsters while I wait for my comrade to recuperate.

Rest assured our correspondence is guarded.
Don Quixote De La Mancha


Index, indices, the moving object. An integration of functions into static forms. So that my less-restless eye can find in your mind's flux a certain return. The movements of your ever-wand'ring mind (and the nature it belies) are, at heart, circumscribed by walls thicker than those of your father's keep. Its musty halls and corners (and libraries) that never see daylight are the perfectest assurance that, safe from siege, your melancholia will flourish most ingeniously. Your retreat should be a retreat outwards, not only into your own hallowed lands, but perhaps further, somewhere beyond the veils of that damnable fog. Once its vapors recede, I would think you should see a great many things more clearly.
Of course, it is also untrue that because I wander wide here beneath the sun, that my own journey is not circumscribed in some way. I hint of course at what I cannot describe. I am not my subject, after all, and as painter can only trace the model, not myself. I leave that, perhaps, to you, though I will here give you the outline of one of my features so that your portrait will be the more complete (though perhaps not one as titillating as you had hoped:
The woman whose image I impressed upon you in my last letter (and which had impressed me in turn), is, I was later to learn, the daughter of the local landowner, though by illegitimate lineage. I was unfortunate enough to be the guest of this boor for a rainy evening during which he treated me badly as if I were an imbecile and gave my man and I only the meanest quarters in which to pass the night.
During that night, shivering with cold, I was roused from my half-sleep by a beautiful voice like a siren singing a song I did not recognize and which I do not recall. I looked out the window of the house and saw, wand'ring below the bright moon, that same girl, clothed in a heavy cloak, making her way between the tombstones of the churchyard nearby. I was assured of her identity by recognizing her gait and a single moment when she seemed to look directly at me and in which her face was illuminated by the celestial orb's pale glow. She paused only briefly at a small headstone and then departed after tracing her fingers over the lettering, all the while still singing that lovely song.
I memorized the location of that monument, and, the next day when I was reading the name I found there, a short, bald padre interrupted me and inquired about my interest in that particular resident. I explained my uncanny tale to him sheepishly, and he was good enough to provide me with that information about her parentage I have already recounted, augmenting it only with this: that the grave at our feet was that of her mother, who, upon being betrayed and forgotten by her lover, had died of grief.
Apparently the girl was struck with a kind of hysteria that only expressed itself under the full moon, and which compelled her, as of she were a somnambulist, to trace the letters of her mother's name and to sing to her the very song her mother had sung to her as a child.
I am reluctant to say so at the risk of opening a painful wound, but I think there is something in this girl which reminds me of your sister. Perhaps it was this unnatural resemblance which caused her to stick in my memory, and which compelled me to mention her to you, even though I was reluctant at first to do so in full.
This was more a recounting of where I have been than an account of where I am going, but they are all that, and so it will have to suffice.

I hope this letter finds you better if not well.
Don Quixote De La Mancha

Friday, November 10, 2006


It was always in your nature to find conflict where there was none. or to locate it slightly left of its truth. I entreat you to retreat, reconsider, view your adversaries with an eye to see if they are also your enemies. I think you will find they are not.
In any condition, if you must continue the "fight", please do in mind of your health. I would hate for this mental warfare to deplete what tenuous reserves you have, the short extent of which I know too well.
Of myself, I can only say that I continue on the road I have been walking: long, winding, gorgeous beyond description. This week, I am at ease. Along the way, I have often found cause to investigate events, peoples, and places that strike me, but of late, they are of little note. Only one will I recount. I met a woman: slight, dark, with lively eyes like I imagine under the brows of Sappho . She waved to me from a small garden in front of a house whose meanness became to me a function of her beauty, which even at the distance I was, radiated so powerfully that I could not help but stand dumbstruck for a moment staring at her, until she blushed and ran through the dark portal into the shadows of her dwelling. It has been a number of days since then, but I am still unable to banish her image from my thoughts. I wonder if I shall see her again in the flesh, but I think not. I am bound to a certain straight-forward movement that prohibits me retracing my steps, even for such a one as she.
I am not lonely, though. I would lend you my man if I could, that the joy I find in his enduring support could be yours. I am, however, sometimes convinced that the fog that envelopes Denmark is too thick to be penetrated by our lovely southern winds, no matter what form they take, or from whose lips they emanate.