My Jubilee

Recently having turned 75, I think that respectable age qualifies for a jubilee celebration. At least I’m jubilant.  To celebrate this auspicious occasion, I had a portrait taken by the talented local photographer Carolyn Wright of the Photography Studio.  For the first time ever, I must say that this picture does me justice, and I’ve already featured it on my homepage.

Richard Balthazar, Writer and Artist

I jubilate in celebration of my many blessings:

First, having grown up, had a family, and gotten old in this country (USA)—where I’ve been ostensibly free, in spite of spending most of my life as an outlaw (gay), and could make a reasonable living doing what I like (arts, education, horticulture…). That covers many bases.

Next, having been in extraordinarily good health all my life. There have been a few medical emergencies and curable conditions, but especially in these later years I seem to have crafted a very healthful diet and regimen of physical activity (gym and dancing).  I try not to be too proud of my deceptively youthful (and handsome) appearance above and am more than happy to tell anyone my anti-aging secret (Kombucha).

Also, having had such exciting experiences, like trips all over around this country and into Canada and Mexico, fascinating festivals (esp. Mardi Gras and lots of Gay Pride celebrations), and wonderful performances by fantastic artists. I’ve lived a culturally rich life style.

On this my jubilee, I also jubilate big time over the exceptional things I’ve accomplished, though they may not have made me rich or famous. My jubilee is the perfect time to toot my own horn—since nobody else is going to.  So here goes:  Toot!

  1. Won an essay contest in high school (1958) and represented Arkansas representative at the First National Youth Conference on the Atom in Atlantic City. I still have my essay on atomic energy, and its blue-ink penmanship still reads intelligently, if archaically.
  2. Sailed gaily through college at Tulane in the early 1960’s with a double major in Russian and French Quarter debauchery and made Phi Beta Kappa.
  3. Wrote a Master’s thesis and a few doctoral dissertations in the later 60’s, contributing exactly nothing to world knowledge, but they got me a job teaching at a university.
  4. Appeared in theatrical productions: ballet (peasant in Coppelia, 1970), play (sailor in The Tempest, 1971), and operas (extra in Prokofiev’s War and Peace at Wolftrap, 1975, and supernumerary cardinal in Lalo’s Le Roi d’Ys, 1980, on Broadway, no less).
  5. Coached the Paul Hill Chorale to sing Kabalevsky’s Requiem in Russian at the Kennedy Center In 1975 and translated for the composer in interviews and social occasions.
  6. Was a stage interpreter with the Bolshoi Opera in Lincoln and Kennedy Centers In 1976 and got to watch their repertoire many times over (from down-stage left).
  7. Translated Tchaikovsky’s opera Maid of Orleans into English for productions by the Canadian Opera Company, 1978, and Detroit Opera Theatre, 1979. This was my first truly artistic achievement, a triumph of rhymed triplets in iambic pentameter. Toot-toot!  I’ve included a poetical excerpt in my Public Library for your enjoyment.
  8. Wrote the play The Special Case, a detective drama drawn from Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment, which was produced by the Santa Fe Community Theatre in 1990 and ran for two weeks to no reviews. An actor praised it as “a Russian Colombo.” Yes.  It can be read (and is available free for production) in my Public Library.
  9. Discovered the suppressed subject of the Indian Mounds, spent about 15 years researching them, and finally published Remember Native America, a mound travelogue, in 1992. It has since been superseded by much more research and revision of timelines, but all the same, it’s available here for free download.
  10. Discovered the neglected subject of the Aztec calendar, spent some five years drawing, and published Celebrate Native America, a new book of days, in 1993 with my artwork and an abortive attempt to proclaim a Sixth Sun, also available here for free download.
  11. Created a unique and exciting profession in 1997, spending 15 years as the Used Plant Man  (or the Iris Man in summer), a plant recycler at the Farmers Market, maybe not an artistic achievement, but I spread beautiful iris all over town. Good enough.
  12. Built an innovative greenhouse in 2000, a semi-subterranean, ecologically efficient structure for raising cacti, succulents, and ornamentals for market. Again maybe not artistic, but it was definitely an architectural achievement .
  13. Wrote the novella Bat in a Whirlwind (over about 30 years), an autobiographical story of almost coming out in the backwoods, published electronically on this website, 2015. Click here for free download.
  14. Wrote the novel Divine Debauch (over maybe 25 years), fictionalizing my dissolute years in the French Quarter, published by AuthorHouse.com , 2005. It really needs a rewrite, but I haven’t the energy or time. Meanwhile, it’s still a great gay read.
  15. Wrote the handbook Getting Get, a glossary of the English verb, (after 40 years of linguistic research), published by AuthorHouse.com , 2006, but also available electronically for free by clicking here.  Frankly, it’s my work of genius.
  16. Wrote the memoir There Was a Ship covering my time in in Seattle (1965-66), published electronically on this website, 2016. Click here for free download. It’s the story of a gay man going (kicking and screaming) back into the closet.
  17. Wrote the biography Ms. Yvonne, the secret life of my mother, published electronically on this website, 2016. Click here for free download. It was fascinating detective work and much photo restoration to uncover the life of a survivor of Hurricane Katrina.
  18. Wrote the unique reference on the Aztecs, YE GODS! an illustrated encyclopedia of deities, an essay on the surviving Pre-Conquest codices, and a coloring book of thirteen of my icon drawings based on images in the codices, published electronically on this website, 2017. Click here for free download of the separate sections.

Goodness! That was almost a whole horn concerto of jubilee toots.

 

I won’t be able toot about anything else for a while. I’ve only just begun a second memoir, this one about gay life in the carefree 1970’s, and there are still 13 more icons to draw for YE GODS!  You’ll be the first to hear about any new achievements.

Gay Memoir Redux

New edition of the memoir THERE WAS A SHIP

adapted from illustration by Gustave Dore

adapted from illustration by Gustave Dore

For anyone who may have accidentally read the 2015 version (which apparently no one has done), my sincerest apologies. I’ve recently reformatted the text and made important revisions.  Now it really is good to go—or better be, because I’ve got other fish to fry.

THERE WAS A SHIP is a memoir of a mere two years in the middle 1960’s, two of the most transformative years in my life.  Like the Ancient Mariner, the Old Me of nowadays tells friends the strange tale of the Young Me’s gay experience.  In short, a faerie slut in the debauched French Quarter of New Orleans sails off to straight Seattle, naively intending to stay out as a gay boy.  However, half a century ago Seattle was as homophobic as the rest of the country.

Encountering that conflict, I did what many, many thousands of gay men were constrained by straight society to do in those oppressive years: I climbed into the closet.  So THERE WAS A SHIP belongs to a genre of gay literature you might call the “going in” story.  Not that I’m very widely read, but I know of nothing else quite like it.  Why don’t you see what you think?

For free download as a .pdf file, just right click here and select “Save Target (or Link) As”. Of course, you can simply open it to read online with a left click.

 

Ms. Yvonne, The Secret Life of My Mother

Yvonne Trinite Tapp 1938 at age of nineteen

Yvonne Trinite Tapp
1938 at age of nineteen

My mother, YVONNE TRINITÉ TAPP, passed away a few years ago, in March of 2013 to be exact.  Even after relating to her as a mostly negligent son my whole life long, I really didn’t know all that terribly much about her.  Mother never talked about her experiences, ideas, opinions, or feelings, and now that she’s gone, I sorely regret never even thinking to ask.  So her long life has been for all intents and purposes a secret to me and everyone.

But this past January on her would-be 97th birthday, I wondered again about her secret life and realized that I’ve been sitting on cartons of old photographs and decades of her letters.  So I decided to turn detective, ferret out details of her history from the evidence, and write her biography for her many descendants to know about their fore-mother.  I hope other folks will also be interested in her long life well lived.

Those old photographs (and lots of the newer ones) took inordinate amounts of restoration and outright manipulation to be worth looking at. That close work provided me many intriguing clues, mysteries, insights, and new feelings.  It was an intensely emotional journey.

Over the past nine months, I’ve alternated between writing about Mother and drawing three more of my Aztec icons for the coloring book YE GODS! I’m not sure which I spent more time on, but I’ve now finished the pictorial biography:  MS. YVONNE, The Secret Life of My Mother.

Fortunately, Mother left behind two substantial pieces of writing, one of which I made her write for posterity, and the other I found afterwards amongst her effects. So as well as being a photo-documentary, this biography is also in part an autobiography of my mother, with an inescapable element of my own thrown in gratis.

Sorry that I can’t offer you much in the way of thrilling action or daring adventures, of philosophical or social impact, or of romantic or sensual titillation. However, what you’ll find in this pictorial biography is an independent and courageous woman who weathered the often oppressive vicissitudes of the 20th century and early in the 21st survived Hurricane Katrina.

For free download of this biography as a .pdf file, right-click here and select “Save As.” If you left-click, you can open and read it online.  Meanwhile, I may have found a way to convert this and my other books into eBook format (still free) and promise to do so as soon as I can.

 

 

 

 

Free Play – Book for Musical Theater

Thank goodness I’m a somewhat organized person. In the aftermath of finishing my eleventh Aztec icon, Ocelotl, for the coloring book YE GODS!, I switched back to my current writing project, a biography entitled “Ms. Yvonne, The Secret Life of My Mother,” which I then proceeded to bring up to the last chapter.

Planning to finish that in a while for posting on this website, and not yet ready (for technical reasons) to start the twelfth icon, Ometeotl, I dropped back to some other planned work: to revise my play first written some 35 years ago under the title “Octoroon,” a gay-themed historical drama set in Civil-War New Orleans.

Now entitled “Soldier-Boys,” the play was initially designed as the possible book for an operatic libretto, but now I (more realistically and pragmatically?) consider it a possible book for musical theater. It has now been posted for free under Public Library/Plays.  All it needs now is a composer and lyricist to pick it up and run with it.  Hopefully, anyone would work with the two musical numbers I’ve indicated with my supposedly poetic lyrics:  a parade march for the (now-extinct) Krewe of Comus, and a soldier song.  Anybody interested?  Come on, guys—it’s up for un-copyrighted grabs!  Go for it!

For free download of “Soldier-Boys” as a .pdf file, just right click here  and select “Save As.”  To read it online, left click here.

Meanwhile, here’s a fore-taste:

CAST OF CHARACTERS (in order of appearance)

GUY-PHILIPPE GAUTIER: 19, natural son of Charles Thissaud, returning from France

ACHILLES, Marquis de Marigny:  20, French nobleman and Guy’s university friend

AMALIE: slave woman in late 30’s, Phoebe’s personal maid

UNCLUTHA (actually Uncle Luther): aged slave, manservant of Charles Thissaud

CHARLES THISSAUD: early 50’s, Creole gentleman and Colonel of the Confederacy

PHOEBE THISSAUD: 22, Charles’ wife of 3 years, a Protestant from Savannah

JEANNIE: slave girl, daughter of Aunt Millie

AUNT MILLIE: mature slave woman, wet-nurse to Thissaud children

Also: Sailors, slaves (workers & domestics), 2-year old boy, infant, masquers, revellers, ball guests, Confederate soldiers

 And an excerpt, part of the opening scene:

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(Afternoon on riverfront at Place d’Armes, Cathedral, Cabildo, etc. in background. A ship is at the wharf where a large CROWD mingles and passes.  GUY and ACHILLES walk down the gangplank and await their luggage.)

GUY (gesturing expansively):  Well, here it is, Achilles, mon ami!  My New Orlins!  Not much compared to Paree, mais we do have our own Champs Elysée!

ACHILLES: At last I discover Amérique-a!  C’est magnifique!

(In the CROWD, a group of costumed REVELERS passes by.)

GUY: Well, look at that, cher—our fine ship done got here for Mardi Gras!

ACHILLES: Alors, mon âme, we must drink for your return to the homeland.

GUY: Yes, indeed!  Somethin’ to fortify myself for the comin’ ordeal.

ACHILLES: Cher Guy-Philippe, do not fear.  Your homecoming is to be happy!

GUY: But it’s so bitter comin’ home to this war!

ACHILLES: The Yankee is the barbarian of the north!  The war is our chance à gloire!

GUY: I s’pose so.  But Achilles, I dread so meetin’ this Savannah lady my Papá done married.

ACHILLES: Ah!  Mais les femmes…  Pas de problème pour toi, ma fleur noire!

GUY (throwing his arm round ACHILLES’ shoulder):  You an’ me, cher—les deux soldats!  Now let’s go find us a big bottle o’ wine.

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A Decade Ago

Two weeks into the New Year may be a bit late, but I’m inclined to reminisce about life as I knew it a decade ago. I feel like, you know, doing some spontaneous memoir-izing.  Indulge a few fond ‘memoiries,’ if you will.  Let’s look back on when I was still the Grandfatherly Gay Character around Santa Fe, 2005-2006, sole proprietor and employee of Babylon Gardens Salvage Nursery.  Oddly, of my two previous careers, it was the most wonderful and fulfilling.

Though I’d supposedly “retired” on early Social Security in 2004 from a long career of arts administration, I‘d kept on working half-time in local nonprofit organizations (including education, health care, and philanthropy), for minimal compensation, of course. For some years I’d been happily working on grants and technical assistance programs with the Santa Fe Community Foundation and then in April 2006 decided to move over to manage a new state-wide organization of nonprofits called NGO-NM.  The sad finale to my illustrious administrative career was having to close that worthy effort down at the end of the year.  I still have the incised plastic door-plaque somewhere.

My 2005-6 season (speaking both academically and organizationally) started quite dramatically in August with Hurricane Katrina. Residing in Metairie, my elderly mother (87) lived through it, sheltering at Bonabelle High School.  Of course, that’s a remarkable story in itself.  When she finally made it here to New Mexico—on her own! —to stay with me, I convinced her to write about the historic event for her descendants.  Soon I should type it up and post it for them and you.

In late November 2005 when at least Metairie was back to functioning again, I drove Mother home. Miraculously her home was essentially undamaged, no flooding at all as it stands atop a vestigial ridge between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi.  A few blocks north or south had been six feet under water.  Personally, I’m inclined to attribute her good fortune to a Kwan Yin I’d given her.  Compassionately, the female Buddha still stood on a console directly across from a thin aluminum picture window to the southeast, having apparently peacefully faced down Katrina, the monster storm of the new century.  Meanwhile the big maple at that corner of the house had snapped off about four feet above the ground and merely fallen on the yard.

As if I weren’t being creative enough with the organization work, soon as I got back to Santa Fe for the holidays with my local family (grandson then just over three), I went back to work on my weird linguistic hobby of some 40 years, a structural definition of the innocuous English verb ‘get.’ By the time I started with NGO-NM, it was ready to publish with http://www.AuthorHouse.com, then under a different name, entitled “Getting Get, the Glossary of a Wild Verb,” which came online in November.  Sometimes since, I’ve humbly suggested to forbearing friends that this absurd little pamphlet could well be my work of genius.  If only anyone but I were eccentric enough to see its simple profundity.

NEWS FLASH:

GETTING GET is posted on this website for free download.

Just right click here and do it.

You probably already know, however, that Santa Fe’s notorious for poor folks having to work multiple jobs to get by. Accordingly, besides organizing stuff and defining the wild verb, I spent a miraculous third half of my time as the famous Used Plant Man at the Santa Fe Farmers Market.  In honor of my signature product, in the summers I turned into the infamous Iris Man.

Every Saturday morning, and Tuesdays in summers, I peddled previously-nurtured, restored, or recycled house plants. Not mention that in my spare time I did what I cleverly and artistically called ‘land-shaping,’ which involved terracing, rock walls, and laying flagstone patios.  In other words, I played around digging in various folks’ yards, gardens, and sandboxes.

2005 in the greenhole

2005 in the greenhole

2005 in my booth

2005 in my booth

That greenhouse was of my own design and construction. I called it my ‘greenhole,’ literally a hole I dug six feet deep and slapped a plastic roof over it .

The Greenhole

The Greenhole

The only other infrastructure for the business were folding tables, a portable pop-up tent with the proud banner of Babylon Gardens,

2006 booth at Farmers Market

2006 booth at Farmers Market

And the gallant Grover (the Grey, like Gandalf), a 1970 Chevy C-10 pickup. Grover hauled load after load of plants and paraphernalia through so many pre-dawns and then stood nearby for thousands of touristic snapshots of a typical Santa Fe scene.

Grover the Grey

Grover the Grey

As if doing meaningful work for society, publishing a fantastic book, and selling spectacular plants weren’t enough, in June, 2006 I came out as an artist in an art show for the Santa Fe Gay Pride celebration. I’d earned the gay category 45 years earlier, also in June.  I showed three pieces:  the assemblage shrine Bull of the Sun, the carved sandstone Venus, and my very first piece of digital art, the cover for my novel “Gymnopedie.”

NEWS FLASH:

“Gymnopedie” the novel has been withdrawn from publication and

rewritten as a backwoods novella called “Bat in a Whirlwind,”

available for free download by right-clicking here.

2006 publicity with baby jade

2006 publicity with baby jade

While we’re at it, I want to share with you a picture of one of my favorite plants in the greenhole. Soon I really should do a post with more stuff on the wondrous plants I had in there.  This one has an outrageous Latin name I loved reciting to folks:  pachyphytum oviferum amethystinum (fat-leafed, egg-shaped, amethyst).  Here it is in bloom in 2005.

Pachyphytum Oviferum Amethystinum

Pachyphytum Oviferum Amethystinum

The Farmers Market always went outdoors somewhere in late April around my birthday, and in both the 2005 and 2006 seasons that was on the wide-open corner of Guadalupe and Cerrillos skirting the railroad tracks behind SITE Santa Fe. In my humble used plant vendor opinion that point out there in view of two busy streets was the perfect, I mean the ideal, location for our wonderful community market.

In years past we’d simply popped up our tents, if we had one, further north along the tracks across Paseo de Peralta behind Santa Fe Clay. (And in years before my time, it had been in the parking lot of Sanbusco Center.)  Now almost all the vendors, including makeshift Babylon Gardens, flew a white canopy like a flag to be seen from all around.  We were truly a spectacle of folk life that made me proud.

As a matter of fact, it seemed a vindication of the pleasure a certain clueless kid once enjoyed in peddling peaches in a booth beside the highway. It was that splendid interaction with people around a subject you deeply love and the thrilling opportunity to share the work of your own hands with them.  Every day, even the slow ones, I loved the glory of hawking my beautiful plants, talking about them and how they like to be treated.  In a word, it was a trip.

Ironically, the fortuitous move from the hinterlands of the railyard up to this prime spot was caused by big city projects afoot for the neglected old railyard. I believe the powers that be moved the Market out where people could see it to get support for the new building they were preparing in those same hinterlands as an indoor place for us in the winters.

Among other opponents of that project, I felt the current arrangement, as I said before, was ideal. For the winter seasons, we’d been going indoors at El Museo Cultural, and vended there happily, even with poor lighting and no call for flashy tents.  It felt very folksy, local farmer cultural.

But the majority of vendors, or at least the power that were at the time, had their hearts set on a fancy market hall like in Boston or Seattle or wherever. This ambition caused a whole bunch of trouble, but don’t get me started.

(Can’t help it. For just a few repercussions.  Before the building was even done, the Trust for Public Land and other powers kicked the Market off that superb spot on the busy corner to make the new Railyard Park.  I suggested, clearly not vociferously enough, that they design that great space on the corner for a fancy open market plaza for us farmers and for other fairs on other days.  Irony Alert:  My sweet old vending space is now in a rotunda of rose gardens where few people care to walk.  Roses to be smelled and not sold.

Kicking us out made the Market wander for a couple summers around parking lots. The summer beside the DeVargas Center was a huge come-down, but in more levels of irony, our summer of 2008 in the almost ideal PERA lot was the most spectacular in the history of my unorthodox nursery.  To make matters worse for us gypsy farmers, for some reason we also lost the El Museo space and had to spend a winter in a grungy industrial place on Cerrillos Road.  Again the irony, it had once upon a time been a gay nightclub, the Cargo Club, I think it was called.  Or Club Luna?  I’d gone there only a few times to dance.)

At any rate, between Market days Grover and I would tootle all over town and even out to Espanola or Eldorado to grub freely in folks’ iris beds or do plant rescues or paid land-shaping jobs. It was a splendid gimmick, an ingenious concept if I say so myself.  I provided a free, much-appreciated community service and turned my (minimal) physical labor into totally free merchandise.  No overhead except gas for good old Grover.  Good job for an old guy.

Frequently folks gave me way more plants than I could ever hope to sell at the Market. Like 500 lb. of blue iris?  I’d just give them away.  Once I got a whole greenhouse collection from an estate and recycled (propagated) thousands of new plants to give away to garden clubs, school classes, and anybody I could foist them off on.  I always kept a FREE box at my booth, and folks checked it frequently for adoptions.  I joked that I was a “philplanthropist.”

Sometimes I’d simply show up at a business or office building, like that time at the Toney Anaya Building when I marched in and told the receptionist, “I’ve got a giant jade tree that wants to live in your lobby.” A couple times I simply arranged for gigantic plants to go to great spots like at the Capitol complex or other public spaces.  They had to do the hauling though.

A decade ago I was a plant freak in his element, and my only problem was believing what a happy old man I was. Even older now, I’m still a happy fellow—and I believe it.

BAT IN A WHIRLWIND – Free Gay Novella

HOT OFF THE DIGITAL PRESS! 

After some thirty years in the writing and re-writing, I’m inordinately proud, not to mention vastly relieved, to announce the electronic publication of my (autobiographically based) gay novella BAT IN A WHIRLWIND.

For FREE download as a pdf file, right click here and select “Save Target (or Link) As.”  I hope in the near future to figure out how to offer it to you in Kindle format.

This little book is probably of most interest to the gay and/or literary reader, but the themes are appropriate for wide general interest:  life in the rural South in the Rock’n’roll Fifties, sexuality of adolescent boys, child abuse, religious oppression, race relations, and nature.  For the squeamish, I should advise that it involves a good deal of fantasy (innocent) and dreams (Freudian).

The novella is not so much a coming-of-age or coming-out story as the intimate personal account of a confused country boy who discovers love and himself.  Covering the senior year of two best buddies in high school at the end of the 1950’s, this all happens in backwoods Arkansas, mostly at a remote truck stop café called Piney Hill, where young Ben is virtually a prisoner.  The boy is swept up in an emotional whirlwind, besotted by a quixotic passion for the TV star Annette Funicello and at the same time bewildered by confusing feelings for his best buddy Danny.

Give it a read and get a laugh or two. After all it’s a no-risk, free gift. Go for it!

 

BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, Chapter 15. Stomped-on Toad-frog

In this last chapter of the backwoods novella BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, Ben has a chance to say goodbye to everyone he knows and loves and then, excited about leaving for New Orleans in the morning, goes to bed on his nest of pine-straw in the back yard.

To read BAT IN A WHIRLWIND, Chapter 15.  STOMPED-ON TOAD-FROG, right click here and select “Open,” or to download as a free pdf file to read at your leisure whenever, select “Save Target (or Link) As.”  You can access the previous 14 chapters for reading or download from the chapter list on the book page.

BAT IN A WHIRLWIND

Excerpt from Chapter 15. – Stomped-on Toad-frog

Maybe it was the moonlight, or the hard work of the day, but I had a long complicated dream—

It’s golden evening, and I go to the river.  Trees in straight rows, but they’re huge tall oaks that make me think Tudor.  The sunset turns amber, rays slanting through the columns.  Standing on the high bank, I say to myself, “It’s too late to swim.”  Below, there are jagged rocks in the bank.  A chorus of voices sings sweetly, “Here are the crawdad towers of shrimp-gulls, here the polyp tubes of ash-clay, and chandelier coral.”

Swift water in front of me, a wide river, and I follow its sinuous channel fast to the sea, which draws back, baring sand dunes and fields of sharp stones.  A rain of powdery shells falls and shatters to blue dust.  I don’t want to stay here, so I fly high, high overhead and away, across the land, a desert-crosser returning, outrunning the river.  Beneath blur rows of honey-green orchards to a blue lake.

Now I’m on the ground behind a big house among dark cedars.  A familiar voice, Danny’s, calls “Annie Over!”  We’re playing that stupid game.  Again I feel desperate to see him.  I run in the back door through an empty kitchen and down a hall past rooms of furniture draped with sheets.  And I know it’s our house, Danny’s and mine, the one he dreamed of.

I open the big front door to let Danny in, but he isn’t there.  So I step out onto the porch of that beautiful plantation house with white columns looking out over the lake.  Suddenly I see him running across the field, waving, and I find myself breathing hard as though I’ve just been running too.  Danny is beautiful in the golden evening, laughing.  I motion him in the door.

Evening sun streams through the windows, swirling around us.  In the parlor, the sheets are strangely gone from the furniture.  Little green turtles sit and crawl all over the sofa, chairs, and tables.  Danny stands in front of me, a blush on his smooth cheeks and a glitter in his eye.  Amber light burns like honey on his shoulders, and my own arm is also gilded.  But my skin grows dark, dark like molasses, like Zaya’s.  Danny’s arms encircle me, and there’s a blinding joy of flowing into one another.

And we slide down, down, like down a boat slide, down a mossy channel into the lake among the reed pools.  The water is thick and soft around us, the warm blood of the ancient living Earth.  Part of it, Danny and I, I and he, we drift slowly around among waving seaweed.  And I know that we, and everything else, are just cells in the body of the giant animal Earth.

Above, the sun glimmers down from a high shimmering circle on the surface, flashing through undulating sea-grasses.  Fish dart about, brightly colored, splashes on the green.  These are the glossons, the threrches, emerald black and leaf-brown birds, and we are they, in plumes and veils of rainbow-feathered fins, floating forever together and one.

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