WATERFALLS OF WHITE
One morning I woke up to a creaking noise, a rocking, and a breeze weaving around the curves of my body. Upon opening my eyes, I was surrounded by swaths of white cloth beneath me, wrapped around me, and pouring down on me. I could see where the cloth was suspended, cascading down through a hole above me like a waterfall. The blue sky, with bellowing puffs of clouds passed over me. Light flickered in through a tiny window in the wooden plank wall. I was in a serene place, like heaven. I ran my hands over my body to make sure it was me, over my waist, up across my chest, past my throat and to my face. My young body was as I remembered it to be.
Suddenly, a young man poked his head through the hole. "Are you getting up sleepy head?" he asked with a laugh. He disappeared quickly and reappeared, without knocking, into my quarters with a tray in his hands. He set it on the surface where I rested. It held a heavy bowl of steaming water with what seemed to be a cube of tea at the bottom, a shallow plate filled with something like "cream of wheat," and a peach which I recognized immediately. "We must be quick, there is so much to do," he exclaimed, as he reached out his hand to help me sit up and then handed me the tea to drink.
My hair fell forward and I saw that the strands were long and black. "You slept very well, very still." He was Chinese, barefoot, and wearing loose oversized clothing that tied at the waist. He seemed so familiar to me. I watched him as he went about the room tidying up. Another kid yelled down, "Hurry up Jun." Jun turned to me. "I will see you on deck, Lin," and darted off. I realized that I was no longer in my time and place. Feeling a little uneasy, I prepared myself to start the quest for hints. It had been years since I had thought about the tunnel in my grandmother's basement and meeting Jeremy, the young boy who worked at a tavern in Providence. I had convinced myself it was all a dream. I was ten or eleven years old now, soldiering on through my childhood, accepting the situations handed me. Yet, to have a second journey occur changed all that. And, it was different. I wasn't enclosed in a vaporous mist, hidden and secure.
Once on deck, I saw that the boat was different than most I knew. Low rails at one end grew tall as the ship sloped upward. Square, ornate sails dropped from two masts like open fans that had lost their ends. Flags and tassels blew in the wind that carried us through the water at a nice speed.
The river was beautiful and enclosed by rolling hills with steep sides, some rock and some covered with green. I saw enormous fish swimming below and alongside the boat. There were large clusters of dolphins following us and singing with joy as they leaped in and out of our wake. I couldn't take my eyes off the natural beauty surrounding me and stood by the rail for some time. I felt at peace, wondering if this was home. Perhaps what I had left was not my true life. I saw a watchtower and some sort of waterwheel that carried water out of the river. Birds stood on the shore, well fed and content.The ship's deck was loaded with children, some working with the white material, others sailing the boat or attending to maintenance. Jun was there and motioned me over. "We need to finish measuring the silk in this compartment today." He handed me a string he used for measuring and introduced to me a young boy, Shan, who was going to assist me. Jun went about his business as a leader and gave me a squeeze on the arm before attending to the other children once again. Shan and I began to measure white silk, which appeared as if it could easily add up to thousands of miles.
Soon an adult arrived, a strong looking man with long hair, a long mustache, and wearing items that were layered and textured. He wore a stiff leather vest with a flowing white shirt under it with collar and cuffs that matched. His shoes were tough boots that road tall on his legs. He had rings, a necklace, and a knife holder that added to his air of authority. This man looked right at me chillingly. I felt as if he could read my mind. He came close as if to say something and then continued walking to the side of the boat. I was drawn to his mysterious and all knowing presence. He inspected the waters, the hills, and the sky. "Jun, we must go faster. Put up another sail," he commanded.
More children flooded the deck of the boat and since there was commotion over the sails I pushed closer to my little helper to try to learn more of this situation. "How come there are so many kids," I asked.
"Jianyu gets us from the orphanages up and down the river. He saves us. The silk helps take care of us. We help make the silk and deliver it to the crafters."
This young boy had no problem with explaining things and he seemed to know a great deal. "Why does he do this?" I asked.
"He is trying to stop all the kids from crying."
"Stop the children from crying?" I was confused.
"Yes. His wife died and now she is trapped here, below the sun and just above the earth. The only way out is for the children to be saved and cease crying. Jianyu works to help free us so she can return home."
I felt dizzy. I had heard this before, a story about a woman trapped and connected to the tears of children. The wind picked up and my long hair flew about as the silk puffed up to take in breaths of air.
"Do you know her name?" I asked.
"Guanshiyin," Shan replied.
"Do you meaning Kwan Yin?"
"No. her name is Guanshiyin."
I could say no more.
The world was enormous at that instant. Time felt continuous and connected. I remembered all the porcelain statues that my grandmother collected. I remembered the story of Kwan Yin. She, (though in some cultures is a man) has compassion for humanity and wishes that pain be taken away from life. She is called many things that are spelled differently yet all sound very closely related. Another of her names is Quan Yin. I froze as I stood so close to her beginnings. The woman named Guanshiyin is real and not just a statue.
The boat picked up speed as we move through a deep passage. I lean towards Shan to ask one more important question. The boat tilts to one side and we are separated as we slide about in the white flowing silk over the smooth wood of the deck.
Shan and I were swallowed up in the piles of airy white silk as we slid across the deck of the moving boat. The opportunity to seek more information from my little helper came to a halt. In one split second a whooshing sound came across the deck through the air above us. Shan and I looked over at Jianyu, his eyes opened wide and froze in their sockets, his head drifted downward towards his chest and his mouth opened to expel a gust of air.
"What is it?" I asked as I stood up.
His hand reached upward and I noticed the tip of an arrow protruding from his upper chest. Blood trickled out in several lines down the carved texture of his vest and began to expand through the fibers of his shirt underneath.
Both Shan and I ran to Jainyu. I leaned him into me as Shan wrapped his arms around Jainyu waist and began to cry. My hand inched across his back searching for the arrow's end. A seven inch wooden shaft protruded out of Jainyu's back, just above his shoulder blade. I pried Shan's arms away to detach him and pushed him back, as the three of us dropped to our knees on the white silk. My face was close to Jainyu's and I saw the years of hard work and thought in his eyes.
There was activity all around us and Jun arrived. He shouted for some to slow the boat down and for others to prepare a table and to boil water. The deck grew silent as the children took control. Jun left for a moment to retrieve a special tool to cut the end of the arrow off.
The blood became heavy and traveled quickly across the surface of the deck wicking up through the layers of silk. The rolling sea of white soft mounds soaked up red for an unreasonable distance from where we knelt. Jainyu's eyes were piercingly deep as he looked beyond me. Suddenly he gasped in my ear, "Throw the cloth in the river!" I heard him, but I assumed it didn't matter. I couldn't move. I stared at him wondering. His expression grew desperate. "Throw the cloth in the river! Now!" he yelled hoarsely.
I trembled as I turned to gather up the reddened silk in a haphazard way. It had absorbed the blood and there were only darkening smears left on the dark wood I went to the edge of the boat again and again, dropping long strands of silk down into the river, tying together ends when I came upon them. All the organizing and measuring was undone. When the silk touched the river his red blood dissipated in the flow. The silk moved gracefully in the tinted water.
Jun cut the wooden shaft and Jainyu cried out in pain. I looked backed to see how Jainyu was doing and our eyes met. "Don't stop," he pleaded. "Put the cloth in the river!" he added in a softer voice.
I pushed as much stained fabric overboard as I could find.
Several young men arrived to assist Jun in carrying Jainyu away. I attended to the fabric flowing in the water as the boat finally began slowing down. I sat on the edge of the boat and watched the silk swirl about naturally on the current. It was beautiful and calming. The sun was high in the sky. I was alone but for the giant fish swimming around the cloth inspecting it. The water, minus the dolphins, twinkled. The birds on shore were silently watching. I waited for the right moment when all the white cloth seemed cleansed and I felt ready to haul the bundle up. I rung the water out as I pulled the wet silk back on board.
Jun came on deck to tell me that he had pulled the arrow out of Jainyu, who now slept, and that we could only wait. The edge of his cuffs were trimmed with blood. Together we laced the silk around the deck, over ropes and rails. The boat was enshrined in hanging white silk, sheer enough to see layers deep. It began to sway slightly in the light breeze as it dried. There was a scent, a natural smell of nature, of river water, which made me grateful to be alive. As I was caressing the silk against my face I was compelled to ask Jun why Jainyu was attacked. "I am sure we were suspected of having silkworms on board," he replied.
"Worms?" I wondered without stressing the question too much.
"Yes. There is a battle to guard the secret of silk and there is worry that the worms and the methods for making silk have been stolen. We knew the danger." I wanted to ask more, but a young boy arrived and announced that Jainyu was awake and wanted to see me.
"Me?" I nervously questioned. Down the wooden ladder I went and pushed open Jainyu's door. I poked my head in just a bit.
"Come in, Dear" he said with a gentle voice. I stood beside him, finding it difficult to look him in the eyes. "Please, have a seat." My two feet never left the spot, as I twisted awkwardly to land on a chair. Jainyu pushed himself up and begun to talk nonsense that made me very uncomfortable. His words were both puzzling and affirming. "You will return safely to where you belong, Dear. I learned something and you need to listen to me very carefully. You will know what to do, Dear. Don't ever second guess that."
The room started to spin. So much was being said in so few words. I placed my hands over my ears and demanded "Stop, please stop. You don't know what you are saying."
Jainyu seemed to know who I was, not just at that moment, but, perhaps who I was before being here.
"There now Dear, it is all settled. Jun will care for you. He will be by your side. You need not be concerned about this life. Jun loves you and all will be completely well."
I was now able to look him in the eye. He seemed to embody the feeling of contentment that I had experienced on deck. He then requested that I go to the top drawer of a cupboard where I saw delicate boxes and wrapped bundles.
"Please take that little pouch towards the back and open it." I undid the ties that were the handles of a simple colorless bag. Inside there was a small purse, a clutch made of wonderful, assorted brocade fabric and a huge, heavy metal clasp with intricate artwork on it.
"See that man? That's me." Jainyu said as nodded his head towards the purse.
He made me smile and for a moment he seemed like a youngster and I was the adult. I peered closely as I ran my finger over the detailed imagery of a man running with a teapot through a forest of trees. I started to unlatch the purse to see the inside and how it worked.
"No, don't open that yet. There is a gift for you. It is for later. It will help you remember." Jainyu instructed me, "What you must do is put the bag around you and wear it at all times." He continued, "You must know that I love you. I love you and will always be with you. In all moments of life, I will always be with you."
I felt as if this love was the answer to life, I drank it in and wanted it all to be true. His love seemed so wide that it spanned all of time and was for all people.
I draped the bag under my jacket, pressing the contents to my body. My face softened, I could no longer cry or smile. I felt free from the desire to have things make sense.
I sat down by Jainyu's side as he rang a bell, knotted with a faded and worn red ribbon. A young child entered the room and was asked to find Jun, who arrived quickly.
"Jun, as you know, this is your ship. All on it is yours. You know your mission. You will help the children and you will care for Lin." Jainyu explained.
With a few quick statements and a bow, Jun and I were bound together. Jainyu, with much effort, removed his rings and slipped them one by one onto Jun's fingers. He then placed one of Jun's hands under his chin, pressing his head on it in a tight hug.
Jainyu smiled at us as his eyes relaxed and I reached out to touch his face. Jun rested his hand on my back. We didn't say a word as we all huddled together closely. The moment was charged and I had butterflies inside of me. His energy was leaving him, but it was not loosing power. The life force left his face in an instant. I can't really say what happened, because I didn't see a thing, yet the sensation of power seemed to travel up and through the points were are three bodies touched. It seemed like forever, but I knew it was only seconds that I felt the marrow in my bones move. When I looked up at Jun, he peered down at me with warmth in his eyes. Jun pulled his hand out from under Jainyu's chin, gently gliding his fingers over Jainyu's body, then reached to cradle my fragile neck. I tilted my head to press my lips into the palm of his hand. We were united in a way that felt as if we both knew all things without needing to speak a word. Jun placed his forehead on mine. "I am with you now. I will never leave your side." I did not have one single worry in the world, not one.
"We must prepare the return of Jainyu's body to nature immediately."
Up on deck the sun was setting. The silk was completely dry and I started taking it down, pulling at it so it would fall and flow all over me. As the sun disappeared into a pink glowing sky, all the children gathered on the deck of the boat. I was amazed that we numbered close to a hundred. Into the water we lowered the warrior's body, rocking the plank so it slid off into the river without a splash. With each breath, I felt the purse close to me, wondering what was inside. Most importantly, the man on the metal clasp was with me.
MY GAMMA WAVES
A love story involving a 21st century artist, a woman who experiences a "breakthrough." Past, present, and future merge in thirteen stories that express different forms of love.
Set in different regions and times, thirteen interconnecting lives explain why specific contemporary artworks were made.
My Gamma Waves is a story that presents the iconography of the artist's personal cosmology.
Early excerpts (2000-2002)
There's A Lady In My Locket
Waterfalls of White
Elevator to Somewhere