♠ Scroll 9
It had been raining for hours, and it didn't look like it would be stopping anytime soon. I stood in the doorway of the theater, beneath my umbrella, and when I started walking home I noticed a man standing in the rain. His hair and coat were dripping wet as though he had been standing there for a long time as well. Our eyes met and he nodded as I passed, and said, "I was waiting for you, sir." I had no idea who he was, and sure didn't know him, so I kept walking. I heard footsteps hurrying behind me, and his voice again, saying, "I have brought you the thing you had asked me for." It was absurd because I had never asked the stranger for anything, yet there he was, holding a small black plastic bag. I looked from the bag to his face, and back to the bag, and knew what he was about.
Several years ago on a cold night on my way home from work, I saw a man lying on the roadside, seemingly drunk, and I gave him my coat and asked him if I could take him home. He looked up at me, and without hesitation said, "Yes, please, but to your home, sir." Next morning when I woke up, he had already gone, leaving a note that said, "Thank you very much for your kindness, I will go look for what you asked me to find while you were sleeping last night." All morning I had tried to think what it was that I might have said, but I couldn't remember except my dream in which I had wished to collect pieces of colored glass for the ceiling of my little shrine soon to be built in the woods behind the house. Certainly the man standing in the rain in front of me now was the one who had stayed overnight on the couch in my living room.
As soon as he handed me the plastic bag, the man disappeared in the rain like a splash into a puddle. I stared at the bag in my hand and made for home, in a puzzle. I was somehow alarmed when I emptied the contents on the kitchen table and discovered that it was indeed filled with tiny bits of colored glass, in every shape imaginable. The glass seemed to shine like a pirate's hoard on the table, glittering and breathing of the sea. I thought of faraway beaches where the man must have picked up these one by one, and of the original glass objects that might have been rolled by the waves into this kaleidoscope of colored jewels. I picked up one of the glass pieces -- a blue colored one that was most brilliant.
It reflected the phosphorescent light from the ceiling, but also it shone as if from inside, casting a bluish light onto my palm. Shocked, I dropped the jewel of glass onto the floor, cracking it and in a twinkling it vanished like a splash of water. I was desperate to recover the lost pieces of blue glass but there was nothing left of it in sight. Outside the window I noticed a curious thing -- the sky had gotten brighter above my house, and thunder cracked in the blue sky. I hurried out of the house and saw that above my house there was a break in the clouds and the sun was shining through, revealing a bright blue sky rising miles above. Around the neighborhood though, the rain came down, and tiny puddles appeared everywhere.
Suddenly, I wished to shoot an arrow through the break and to follow behind it, flashing through the hole in the clouds into the light above. The jewels on the table seemed to somehow have come from this invisible realm overhead, or perhaps from the depth of my mind? The feeling of ascending or descending always follows an equivalent orbit in the physical world, whether or not we perceive it. I went back into the house, took a handful of glass jewels from the table, walked outside and looked up at the sky where millions of stars were shining. I stared at the jewels in my hand and headed for the woods behind the house. The rain was coming down, and dripping from the leaves like tears, but soon the arching sky started sparkling anew with sparks. I dug a hole in the ground on which my shrine was to be built and buried the glittering glass jewels in it.
(Photo by James C. Hopkins: Ishigaki-jima Island, Okinawa)