Though I'm reluctant to make any comparison at all of our Xanadu Forest to your Earthly dimension, it feels proper to express that there is one very large difference between our existence and yours: namely that in our lands we never lack love--of self, AND of neighbor. Even in our darkest and weakest moments, love remains, for us, the greatest power and the chief of all emotions. That's not to say we never get angry or make poor decisions, but that we never resort to violence nor wish ill toward others--even those we despise. For instance, I'm no fan at all of the greedy fat squirrels of Walnut St, and I truly despise the filthy seagulls of Bleakerton...but never would I intentionally cause or wish harm upon even the very foulest of their respective species. I simply avoid them best as I can, which is much easier to do than one might imagine. Especially since it is my own imagination that gave birth to them.
And poor decisions we make are rarely apologized for, for there is no need. In a word, the Xanaduvian way is to accept all things (including ourselves and our neighbors) for what they are rather than to attempt to control or correct them. For we believe that all things were made to be exactly as they were made, and that the One that made them understands all things much better than any of us. And since we are all flawed in some ways or others, we all know well that we are in no position to make judgments--of ourselves OR of others. We ARE. Everything else IS. It's that simple to we in the blessed Xanadu Forest and beyond. And besides, it's especially foolish to make judgments upon things we know nothing about, isn't it? I, for one, am very stubborn when it comes to this, and Edwin the Bee is always happy to remind me of that! He seems to truly enjoy every opportunity to inform me that I know nothing! But He truly loves me, and I truly love Him. And now this reminds me of the time Dear Caesar Emeritus, the Baloo-eyed Akita, and master of our Library Tree--and myself!--once made very poor decisions on the very same sun-greeting. So, if you like, dear reader, pull up a log, a rock, or a soft place in the grass and join us for a spell.
Some of you will recall that Caw Caw Carl, the Stellers Jay, and my assistant to the assistant county clerk, had been doing the majority of my ancient Xanaduvian language homework of late. And though dear Caesar never got angry with me for passing along my homework, he had been reminding me more and more lately that I wasn't likely to learn much of my ancestral language without completing the work myself. Thick-headed as I am, it of course took extra prodding by my great instructor for this to really sink in [Truly, I am a slacker at heart--and anyone that truly knows me knows this well about me. But I don't apologize for it! It's just the way I was made, whether good or bad I don't know], but it really had begun to sink in, and I felt a great sense of accomplishment after completing a rather lengthy assignment all by myself. Indeed, I was anxious to turn in my work on this particular sun-greeting, and a vigorous pace carried my homework and I to the Library Tree with very little effort.
To my surprise, I entered the Library Tree to find dear Caesar Emeritus on his back upon the floor, all four of his massive paws pointed straight up toward the heavens. Thinking myself clever, I laughed and quipped, "So you've taken up yoga now, dear Ceasar?! My beautiful gatekeeper Madeleine will be the end of us all for sure!"
Dear Caesar seemed to be very distressed, though he didn't turn his head at all to look toward me when he replied, "Kev, is that you? Oh, Kev, I'm afraid I've made a terrible mistake. I'm so glad you're here...please help me!"
I dropped my completed homework to the floor and rushed to dear Caesar's side with a sense of urgency, scratching his ear tenderly. "What's the matter, dear Caesar?" I asked him.
"Oh, Kev. Kev, the vendlum leaf. I decided to test it, and now I can't see a thing! Only light. Surrounded by overwhelming light. Closing my eyes, or even opening them again, has no effect at all! I can only see the light."
I tried to calm and reassure dear Caesar, "Oh, dear Caesar, I'm sure it will be fine." I continued to scratch and pet the Baloo-eyed Akita tenderly, and added, "After all, it's called 'Seller of light' for good reason, I'm sure, so it sounds like it's doing exactly what it's supposed to. ["Vendlum" in the ancient Xanaduvian tongue translates into English as "seller of light"]
Dear Caesar continued, without moving, but enjoying my tender scratching and petting, "I'm sure you are right, Kev, and I've also supposed the effects are quite natural and temporary. What concerns me is that younglings from Lemmington are coming this sun-greeting for a special story group I started. I don't want to let them down, but there's no way I can manage them in my current state. We must find a way to reverse the effects of the vendlum leaf...and we must do so quickly!"
I helped dear Caesar to his feet, and was grateful he was able to move and to stand up, though he was quite disoriented, of course, and I had to hold him up. He wrapped his front leg around my shoulder for support, and I continued to reassure him, "Try not to worry, dear Caesar. We will fix this, I'm sure of it. You're not going to let the younglings down." In truth, I had no idea how I was going to fix this, but I knew well it would do no good at all to tell this to dear Caesar. I silently reminded myself to breathe gently and slowly, and began to search my mind for possible solutions.
Just then, Madeleine's albino peacock (peahen) voice emanated from the intercom upon the wall above dear Caesar's desk, and asked, "Is there anything I can do to help, Kev? Sounds like quite a pickle." I noticed her voice was more tender than it normally was when she spoke to me, and I wondered briefly whether we were both beginning to understand one other better finally since she became my beautiful gatekeeper. [Yes, dear reader, my mind is easily distracted--even in times of distress!]
Then I realized my mind had become distracted again, and silently reminded myself to breathe slowly and softly once more, and I replied to Madeleine's intercom voice, "Thank you, beautiful gatekeeper, but no. This is an ancient Xanaduvian matter. I will find a way to fix this. I'll give you an update as soon as I'm able, and thank you again, Madeleine." And then it was my turn to make a very poor decision; for it occurred to me to guide dear Caesar toward the Sacred Pub, thinking that perhaps a pint or two of After Ale might be a perfect remedy.
[Now, dear reader, before you're tempted to believe that what's about to follow completely contradicts the Xanaduvian beliefs I laid out in the introduction to this story, I must make a few points:
1.The Sacred pub was not open for business when Caesar & I arrived
2.Olga the bartender fairy has a VERY strong personality
3.Olga is very well accustomed to dealing with critters in altered states of consciousness, and, as anyone who has ever been intoxicated well knows, they are often in need of "tough love"
4.Olga is always more than willing to apply this "tough love," and it sometimes comes off as an attempt to correct someone. And sometimes it is. But this should never be mistaken for judgment. She does so only out of genuine love and concern for her and all others that might be affected by any poor-decision-based incidents. Running a pub is no small task, you know!]
It took several knocks upon the Sacred Pub's door before a less-than-pleased-woken-from-slumber Olga the bartender fairy finally opened the door to dear Caesar and I. I knew Caesar and I were about to receive a great tongue-lashing from Olga as soon as I saw she was adorned in her terry cloth bathrobe and slippers. "Imbeciles! Ungrateful and thoughtless imbeciles!" were the only words Olga spoke to us before I began to explain what had occurred. My explanation of the events did little to soften Olga's breaths, and perhaps may have made them harsher. "Vendlum leaf?!!! What in Hades' name made you think vendlum leaf was a thing to try?!! That's sorcerer's weed, it is!" Despite Olga's fury, she led us inside the Sacred Pub and retrieved a pint of After Ale for dear Caesar as the emeritus and I sat down at the bar. The bartender fairy continued grumbling as dear Caesar chugged down his After Ale, "And I thought YOU the smart one, Caesar! Emeritus my ass! Imbeciles--the whole lot of you--I swear! Why do you let these fools corrupt you?" Then Olga turned to me and admonished, "And you, Mr. Kev, there's not a fluck's chance in Interterrestria that dog came upon vendlum leaf without your doing, laddie! What is wrong with you people?!!"
I lowered my head solemnly, and took my verbal beating from Olga silently. I knew well that any attempt at excuse or explanation would only anger her the more. After a respectful pause, I turned to dear Caesar and asked him, "Any difference, dear Caesar Emeritus? Any change in your vision?"
"None at all," dear Caesar replied almost hopelessly. "Just this overwhelming light. And disorientation. Perhaps I should have another?" I agreed, and Olga the bartender fairy barked at us more while she retrieved him another pint. Upon her return, she had seemed a bit calmer, and slid another fresh pint of After Ale in Caesar's direction. Then a strange and unexpected thing happened, and concerned us all greatly! I tried to put the pint into dear Caesar's paw, but his paw went straight through the glass--ale and ALL! And just as I was grasping his pint, intending to pour it down his throat, he began to hover above his bar stool. I jumped out of my own bar stool and rushed to hold him down. To no avail! I couldn't grasp him! My hands passed right through him as though he were a ghost, and he continued to drift and away and became increasingly more transparent. Then I saw an expression upon Olga's face that I had never seen before--and that I hope to never see again! It was the perfect blend of fury, panic, and helplessness.
I made no effort at all to remind myself to breathe gently and slowly, but almost instinctively reached into my pocket and removed the Dragon's Eye. I thought instantly of King Midas LeBottom, and instantly he appeared within my silvery orb. "Well, hello, Mr. Kev!" the orb spoke, and added, "So nice to see you! I see you're learning how to use the Dragon's Eye. Good. Very good. How goes it?"
Olga the bartender fairy began grumbling expletives and derogatory statements about sorcery that I won't repeat here, but I somehow managed to tune them out and reply to good King Midas, "Not so well, good King Midas. It seems dear Caesar Emeritus has experimented with the vendlum leaf you gave us, and now he can see nothing but overwhelming light. And younglings are arriving for a special story time with him."
King Midas LeBottom replied calmly, "Oh it will be quite fine, Mr. Kev. The overwhelming light he's seeing is quite the natural and proper effect of the vendlum leaf. The effect will pass soon enough. So long as he doesn't drink any ale, he will be quite himself before you know it." The good King Midas became slightly albeit lovingly agitated when I explained that we had just given dear Caesar some After Ale, but King Midas remained mostly calm. "I see," he continued. "Well, we have quite a situation now, Mr. Kev. You and dear Caesar Emeritus are going to have to learn some meditation techniques very quickly, lest we lose his spirit forever. You see, vendlum leaf only takes one's VISION into the light--not one's being. By giving him the After Ale, you've unwittingly allowed his entire BEING to latch on to the effects of the vendlum. Since Caesar has had no training in meditation as pertains to the light, his entire being is being carried away and he'll be trapped in a sort of limbo. The light that is overwhelming him now is sort of a universal narthex--a starting point of entry into any number of dimensions and universes. So what we'll need..."
I interrupted the good King Midas in a state of panic as I saw dear Caesar becoming ever more translucent, and still drifting--his being now only halfway visible beneath the ceiling of the Sacred Pub--"We're losing him! We're losing dear Caesar Emeritus! He's fading and passing through the ceiling!"
The good King Midas LeBottom replied ever so calmly, "It's okay, Kev. Relax. Breathe. I am with you both now. Time is only an illusion, there is no rush. Even should he vanish completely, you and I can go to where he is, and we can bring him back. But you must stay calm, and must breathe...ever so slowly and gently." I closed my eyes and breathed. "Good, good," I could hear the good King say to me, but it was no longer coming from the Dragon's Eye. And he continued, "I feel you now, I can feel your calm spirit. Now keep breathing gently, slowly. And you'll be happy to know I have located dear Caesar Emeritus, and I am here with him now. It's time for you to come join us, Kev..."
I opened my eyes just long enough to see that dear Caesar was no longer visible at all--and the look of wonder upon Olga the bartender's face, though she had long fallen silent. Then I shut my eyes again, and continued breathing. I imagined being with King Midas and dear Caesar, and most magically, I could see them. They waved and made silly faces at me from within the overwhelming light! I felt my own being fade quickly, and suddenly there I was among them in the midst of the overwhelming light. Nothing else. Only the three of us, and the light. It felt strange, to be honest, but in a most beautiful and comforting way. All sense of time and of fear were completely absent. All sense of urgency completely gone. I felt love. I felt warmth. I felt unity--not just with King MIdas and dear Caesar--but with all the universes and dimensions. I had no idea if my physical body was still in the Sacred Pub, and I didn't care in the least either way. I was among the dearest of friends now, in the midst of the light of eternity, and feeling the love of all of existence in a most profound way I'll not soon forget.
Good King Midas LeBottom embraced dear Caesar Emeritus and I, and we all laughed and shared wonderful stories. Then King Midas taught us how to "paint" universes and dimensions using only a single finger--or claw--as the case may be. It's very hard to describe adequately with words, which I considered, is perhaps yet another lesson for me. It was truly a magical experience, and dear Caesar and I caught on, and finally understood that we could "paint" ourselves into any existence we might choose. Free from all time and fear. This moment, and forever more. In love. With love. Being love.
Beautiful of beautifuls! Lovely of lovelies!
Thank you, dear reader, for joining me on this crazy beautiful journey!
I love you.