Thursday, 5 December 2013


Some words have a special power. Words that are emotionally charged, that speak of love or are sharp and hurt and pierce your heart like a knife. Mercy believed spirits lived inside these and, by chance, she discovered the Japanese did too. They called it kotodama. Mercy's word spirits however only gave her these words as warnings: NO! DON'T! STOP! Especially when she had failed to listen to her intuition or had gone against her instincts. It was the last curtain call before she could back out, and even so she still sometimes thought she knew better.
These words retained their special power, but Mercy received these as aftershocks, low underground rumbles, and not as she once did with the full impact of an earthquake or a tsunami. She was unmoved, unruffled. Her seas stayed calm with only a few ripples. She barely paused in her thoughts or in her activities. Her inner tide washed the word up and took it straight back out where it rejoined the word ocean; in a low tide, it laid among other sea rubbish, in a jumble of forgotten CDs and unworn clothes, while scavenging gulls perched or shat on it. She had grown used to ignoring such messages, regularly bottling these words and their power-giving spirits.
But that was before she knew her sands of time were running out...
Mercy wasn't young, in her prime, or elderly. She was in-between one, and years before the other. Her youth had flown and her mind had grown, but was not quite mature enough. She had blocked ideas, given in to her fears, written down her hopes and dreams and scrolled them up tight in a Promise Box. This she placed on the junk beach with the messages in glass bottles, then she had jumped into her yellow canoe and paddled off, yelling “Goodbye kotadama!” And felt very satisfied when the mountains echoed these words back at her.
She wasted precious years of her life in limbo, drifting in her canoe on a mythical tide. Mercy wrongly thought this life was safer because in the city she sailed on time: borrowed time, wasted time, too much time, not enough time... The city's sea was swallowed up in a time fog. People forgot who they were, where they were, how they got here and where they were going. Mercy too was sucked into this oblivion. Days, weeks and months were all routine; there were no gaps in the fog for dreams. The city's people believed their sea went on for eternity, as did life and time.
This is true, but their perception was screwed up. The passing of time is not important, it's if you're present in it: from moment to moment. Mercy was not. Her mind raced the minutes and hours, it forged ahead without rest. She wasn't happy or unhappy, she was lost. The life she led had no promise or meaning, and for each moment she was not present, she paid a grain of sand.
As the grains trickled Mercy's spirits grew low and her energy dwindled, and still she told herself it was not the right time, the right moment to live the life she wanted. It was too risky to give the city up, even though her seas were permanently unsettled. She was the boulder the waves tried to topple over. They crashed against her, wearing her hard surface down until one morning she awoke on a deserted, but familiar island with a green glass bottle and a box wrapped in a deep purple cloth beside her. She removed the bottle's cork and unfurled the paper: NOW!
Mercy felt herself surge as she read the word, she was finally HERE, present. She knew what she had to do. NOW! She unwrapped the cloth from her old Promise Box and claimed her abandoned treasure.

*Inspired by Ruth Ozeki's A Tale For The Time Being