No one really knows what happened up that 8000 ft. high mountain of snow or the fact that the small people live up there deep inside the wood. When he was given the assignment as a guardian of the four wind for earth and transferred to this Snowland as the last part of his term of service, he though it would be another quiet and solitary assignment. How wrong he was as it turned out. It is not the land that is the matter. It is the people. Or rather, it is one individual earthling, a mystical woman whom he never got to know or understand. The small people in the wood are not the issue. They actually became good neighbor. But this one earthling woman suddenly appeared in the serenity and he was unable to solve her puzzle. It is not fair to blame her for the failure of his last assignment. It is just that human are too complex to fathom.
He first met the small people after he escaped from the lodge and walked deep into the wood. he did not expect to meet any creature because it was mid day and the sun was shinning bright onto the trees. It was a long and pleasant walk. Then he heard the sound of people rushing pass him. But he could not see them at first. The sound of running feet was real and clear. He stood and listened. The wood was still. Soft breeze was whispering through the branches. But the sound of running feet was on the ground and not up there. He squatted and looked at the ground intensely. At first he could not see them.
But soon he noticed the moving of dry twigs and leaves. When he looked closely he saw that they were not twigs and leaves. They were people camouflaged as dry twigs and leaves. it was like a migration because these small people were carrying lots of bundles/boxes that resembled luggages on their backs. They did not seem to notice his existence. They were bent intent to rush to their destination, marching like a troop of military ants.
He decided to walk with them and tried not to step on them. But soon he discovered that no matter how he walked they were able to detect his movement by instinct or an inbuilt secret radar detector. They knew how to avoid being stepped on while rushing forward without breaking ranks. He decided to run and noted that they moved at the speed of his running speed, incredibly effortlessly fast. While he followed them and ran forward towards an unknown destination, he marveled at their accuracy and discipline and wondered whether these people were robots.
After an hour of upward climbing they reached the “city of gods”, walls of bare red rocks standing precariously overlooking the steep valley on the other side of the wood, beyond which he could see golden mountains rising above the clouds in mid-sky, rolls and rolls of them, lining the blue beyond like a belt of shinny shimmering decorations inserted by a giant painter.
The small people halted and arranged themselves into rows on the flat plateau beneath the wall of rocks. Suddenly the rock opened and revealed an entrance of about his height. The rows of small people started moving into the entrance like flood water downhill, and soon he could not see them anymore. And he heard a voice coming from inside the entrance
“Are you coming in or not? We haven’t got all days! You, I mean you, the man from outer space!”
Yes, it meant him. There was no one there except him and he was the man from outer space. So he had reached a point with a choice between curiosity and duty. Should he continue this strange journey to another unknown world? Or should he decline and return to his four wind mission on earth at the Snowland?
He was trained to obey the One who sent him. “No, sir, I am not going inside. Thank you for your invitation, sir.”
He watched the entrance closed up. Then he turned and returned to the Snowland lodge where he continued his earth life, guarding the four wind, and putting up with a woman fellow lodger whom he could not understand, not to mention having to write a book about her!
He actually got to meet the small people again. But that is in another episode. (to continue)
“There was another life that I might have had, but I am having this one.”― Kazuo Ishiguro
He is really thankful whenever he thinks of what he has that brief season. He sometimes wishes that he has another life, a normal human life, instead of being a “man” from another world, stuck on earth in an assignment to protect earth. Of course he has never thought that he would have been involved in any relationship with any earthling.
It was really a very brief year. She appears suddenly, not for any reason. She just happens to be a fellow lodger in that mountain lodge. The locked down order comes just as suddenly without notice and they have to live with each other. Just the two strangers on a mountain of 8000 ft above sea level.
From the start, they seem to know each other. Not in names or physically close. They seem to have a supernatural encounter that morning when he arrives. She is in the kitchen. She is making a cup of coffee for herself and makes one for him.
“don’t drink that instant stuff.” She says.
He doesn’t ask why. He enjoys that freshly brew cup.
The snow comes just as suddenly as the locked down notice. To him it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t get to meet or talk to anyone in person outside except the delivery men for food and other necessities. He can still walk and hike up the mountain as his daily routine. He talks to the trees and the wind. Oh, he talks to the small people up there too. People whom she doesn’t know. He works at night and walks in the day. No, he is not restricted by any human system. He doesn’t tell her this but she somehow watches him and knows.
What does he have that he can give her? He is one of the guardians of the four winds. He operates a security system that is beyond her human knowledge. He doesn’t talk about it. One day she sits across the dining table and tells him, I know who you are. You are a kind man. Too kind.
He looks at her in his usual calm and quiet way. Yes, she is right. He is programmed not to harm. He is very kind. Too kind.
Indeed, it has been a year of grace. A year of mercy. It is worth his life on earth. He has no regrets.
(The challenge prompts: Even though we can’t have all we want, we ought to be thankful we don’t get what we deserve.)
I have been thinking about the prevailing issue of self-contradiction and confusion of many individuals who are supposed to be thinkers and visionaries. I decided to post this random online data on a book (which was made into a movie) by Paul Theroux. I was very young when I first read the book and I was increasingly disillusioned as I stepped into the hero’s son’s shoes. What is one man’s utopia is another man’s hell. Today I find the same issue of utopia emerges and is making such loud and discorded noises in the Western world. Ironically it is the reversed that is being clambered now as masses from the third world are straining to gate crash into the Western world, which to them means paradise.
Allie Fox is a genius, a fool, a loving father, a madman, a dreamer, and a selfish… (by a reviewer)
In a breathtaking adventure story, the paranoid and brilliant inventor Allie Fox takes his family to live in the Honduran jungle, determined to build a civilization better than the one they’ve left. Fleeing from an America he sees as mired in materialism and conformity, he hopes to rediscover a purer life. But his utopian experiment takes a dark turn when his obsessions lead the family toward unimaginable danger. (Goodreads)
Once he has arrived in the jungle, Fox, a Harvard dropout, father of four, and an amateur inventor with an intense disgust for the state of his original nation, his vision are slowly corrupted and he becomes a cult leader, like the preacher he despises. The black migrant workers who follow him to Mosquitia even address Fox as “father.”
Spellbinding adventure story of a family that rejects its homeland and tries to find a happier and simpler life in the jungles of Central America. The motivation comes from the father, Allie Fox, who is a character in the classic American mold. A cantankerous inventor, he is articulate, shrewd, scornful, funny, very angry, and slightly cracked. An individualist, Fox sees modern American culture as a despicable combination of the wasteful, the immoral, and the messy. Uprooting his family from their Massachusetts farm home, he takes them off to a primitive world in order to escape what he considers the imminent breakdown of civilization.
The Mosquito Coast has the fascination of an ironic version of Robinson
Crusoe or a sardonic Swiss Family Robinson, along with the deeper levels
akin to those of The Lord of the Flies. As a sheer teller of tales
Theroux is at the top of his form, but he also succeeds as a moralist
with a subtle fable in mind.
The story is told with fresh innocence by the fourteen year old Charlie,
who observes his father with a mixture of love, horror, and
astonishment. He describes the voyage, the trip into the interior, his
father’s invention of a giant ice-making machine (which is supposed to
bring a new era to the jungle), and all of the adventures that ensue.
Charlie watches as his father becomes ever more obsessive, evermore lost
The Mosquito Coast Quotes
Fox says to his son: “Look around you, Charlie. This place is a toilet.”
“I’m the last man,” Fox tells Charlie.
“One of the sicknesses of the twentieth century? I’ll tell you the worst one. People can’t stand to be alone. Can’t tolerate it! So they go to the movies, get drive-in hamburgers, put their home telephone numbers in the crapsheets and say ‘Please call me up!’ It’s sick. People hate their own company — they cry when they see themselves in mirrors. It scares them, the way their faces look. Maybe that’s a clue to the whole thing…”
“I guessed it was a migratory bird, too innocent to be wary of the spiders in the jungle grass. It worried be to think that we were a little like that bird”
“Why do things get weaker and worse? Why don’t they get better? Because we accept that they fall apart! But they don’t have to — they could last forever. Why do things get more expensive? Any fool can see that they should get cheaper as technology gets more efficient. It’s despair to accept the senility of obsolescence…”
“And father said “I never wanted this. I’m sick of everyone pretending to be old Dan Beavers in his L. L. Bean moccasins, and his Dubbelwares, and his Japanese bucksaw — all these fake frontiersmen with their chuck wagons full of Twinkies and Wonderbread and aerosol cheese spread. Get out the Duraflame log and the plastic cracker barrel, Dan, and let’s talk self-sufficiency!”
“Nature is crooked. I wanted right angles and straight lines. Ice! Oh, why do they all drip? You cut yourself opening a can of tuna fish and you die. One puncture in your foot and your life leaks out through your toe. What are they for, moose antlers? Get down on all fours and live. You’re protected on your hands and knees. It’s either that or wings.”
“The world is plain rotten. People are mean, they’re cruel, they’re fake, they always pretend to be something their not. They’re weak. They take advantage. A cruddy little man who sees God in a snake, or the devil in thunder, will take you prisoner if he gets the drop on you. Give anyone half a chance and he’ll make you a slave; he’ll tell you the most awful lies. I’ve seen them, running around bollocky, playing God. And our friends… they’ll be lonely out there. They’ll be scared. Because the world stinks.”
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
“He used the word savages with affection, as if he liked them a little for it. In his nature was a respect for wildness. He saw it as a personal challenge, something that could be put right with an idea or a machine. He felt he had the answer to most problems, if anyone cared to listen.”
Summary The Mosquito Coast begins in contemporary suburban America. Allie Fox is brilliantly clever with his hands and his head is full of ideas. But he hates the modern world. His children have no television or toys, they wear old clothes and they don’t go to school. He hates his boss, Mr Polski, who, Allie thinks, is only interested in making money and doesn’t care about the future. One day Allie decides to get out. He puts his wife and children in his van and drives them away from their old life. They travel by ship to Honduras. At La Ceiba, on the Honduran coast, his bewildered family watches as he buys a place called Jeronimo, a small town on a river in the jungle…
Background and themes Travelling: Paul Theroux is a traveller. The nature of travelling means that you move on. Moving on, leaving things behind and looking for new experiences, is an important theme in The Mosquito Coast. Allie Fox doesn’t like what he sees in America. His solution is not to stay and try to change it, but to walk away. When things don’t work out at various places in Honduras, he makes his family move on and start again. Obsession: The Mosquito Coast is a character study of a man who develops a paranoid obsession – of a man who thinks the whole world is against him and only he can save the world. He lives in a state of high tension, never resting in his attacks on America and western civilization. He fights against the current of modern life. He thinks he is the last real man in the world. Control: In Allie’s attempts to create a new world in the jungle, he tries to control everyone and everything around him. He makes everyone see things his way. When he feels threatened, he reacts aggressively and violently.
Father/son relationship: The novel also examines the relationship between father and son. Theroux elicits warm feeling towards Allie by telling the story through the eyes of his loyal son, Charlie Fox. We feel sorry for Charlie as he comes to understand his father’s failings and to lose his belief in him. The natural world versus the modern world: Theroux sets up an interesting paradox as the basis of the novel. All the time that Allie is searching for a simple paradise, he is planning how to change it and tame it. In fact it is the children who learn better to live with nature – eating wild plants, protecting themselves against insects with leaf juices, building a simple shelter from materials in the jungle. Allie, meanwhile, plants western crops in neat rows, puts up elaborate mosquito nets and builds an ice-making machine.
Paul Edward Theroux is an American travel writer and novelist, whose best known work is The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), a travelogue about a trip he made by train from Great Britain through Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, through South Asia, then South-East Asia, up through East Asia, as far east as Japan, and then back across Russia to his point of origin. Although perhaps best known as a travelogue writer, Theroux has also published numerous works of fiction, some of which were made into feature films. He was awarded the 1981 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel The Mosquito Coast.
The Mosquito Coast, also known as the Miskito Coast and the Miskito Kingdom, historically included the kingdom’s fluctuating area along the eastern coast of present-day Nicaragua and Honduras.
Waiting at a period eating place which features songs from a past era. The light jazz music brings back the old time for those of a certain age. Interestingly the young millennial (a third generation of my extended family) who introduced me to this place is only in late twenties and happened to like the food and wine. We waited for at least half an hour for the six-nine pm crowd to leave to get to our reserved seats. It was certainly a popular place for private chill. There were not less than five rounds of “happy birthday” songs to five separate groups of diners during our rather hurried brief stay. I gobbled up my salad as I was in a hurry due to other engagements. The poor millennial had to gulp down the wine and pack home the pork rips. Well, I may return for the music if I happen to pass that place again. But the waiting was too long for this traveler. (Sigh)
It was a Transient moment in time in 2007 and we were in a tourist bus. We were on a tour bus. The mountain seemed so near all of a sudden. So were you. I thought for a moment that time had stood still and we would never age, or that we would slowly grow old together taking our own time. We went to the usual tourist attractions. Good food, drinks, hot springs, gardens, night life in the cities etc. Why do I dig out this ten year old picture and try to recall the mountain today? After parting for so long? I have been pondering on a word lately . It is called, “lingering”, and it means “lasting for a long time and slow to end.” But sadly it does end in the end. Time sets a limit for phases of life, no matter our perception and determination to hold fast, and in reality its name is called, “transient”, which means lasting only for a short time, fleeting, passing, impermanent. Someone may say that a mountain is unlike a man. It will remain after the human travelers are gone. Yes, for a time. Yet, if you consider the real age of the creation you will agree that a mountain too has a limit in time. I still keep the pictures of you smiling and posing with the beautiful snowy mountain in the background. It was such a clear day. You looked so young and happy. Ten years. So soon. So transient. Today you told me in tears that you could not bear to have me vanishing from your life, living alone somewhere…Yes, we both need a miracle. We both believe in miracles. Memories are miracles. Like the lilac bedroom paint you liked so much, with the name “Forget-me-not”.
I admit that sometimes I cannot help but recall the lingering lyrics from a song by Garfunkel,
When the singer’s gone
Let the song go on…
But the ending always comes at last
Endings always come too fast
They come too fast, but they pass to slow
I love you, and that’s all I know
Coming home means changes. Lots. Crossing time zones and the international dateline and losing one day. That’s not the issue. The issue is the drastic change in temperature and humidity as I transfer from a cold and dry winter to a tropical hot wet zone. My physical reaction is not what I have expected. I have been too optimistic but alas, in vain. So the week after arrival has been a struggle between time zones. The body rebels into alternately shivering cold and burning fever. Sleeping and mere lying down is the only thing one can do in such a condition. It has been a tough time for a traveler. The past six months (170 days) has been interesting and fruitful. As I traveled and explored some hidden sights I have witnessed the marvels of God’s creation. The ocean was spectacular. The sky too. Trees. Flowers. Birds. Sceneries. It was like a picture show as I walked around places and took time to look at things, especially the multi-facet, vivid multi-color beautiful sights that nature had displayed. Sometimes I missed my own home ground too. I missed the park and the walk without encumbrances. In a cold place one has to wear layers of clothes even to go out for a simple walk. In a tropical place one wears light shorts and t-shirt wherever one goes. But one cannot walk far in hot weather. One can walk for hours in a cold place. I have not been out walking yet. Perhaps I shall do so soon. Walking is an easy and pleasant physical exercise. I have enjoyed this for years. In my younger days I went running round the lakes in a park when I tried to get over an unrequited love. Another time I went jogging near someone’s home hoping that the someone would come out and jog as well so we could meet by chance and say hello to each other. Later I went jogging with someone. No longer alone. But I shall still walk regardless of company. There are routes and trails that a walker walks alone. I have come across some couples who walk together in the cold. Usually two women. Perhaps the men have to work and the women are free to walk during working hours. Some walk their dogs. Some younger women push their prams comparing notes with each other. One mother runs as swift as the wind with her pram and her rather large baby is sound asleep despite the commotion. The mother is slim and fit and athletic. Is she a splinter in training? The couples are usually of older ages, like they have retired. Perhaps the older women live together. They seem to display the tender ease and comfort with one another which only countless years of close relationship have fostered. Occasionally I encounter a lone man running, or an old man struggling with a walking stick. One old man with a grocery bag with difficulty walking has looked at me with suspicion and decided to halt and stand aside for me to pass. My plastic bottle of water concealed in a plastic bag might have appeared formidable. Sometimes I meet a man and a woman with their dogs. A family. A rather rare sight. I look at the couples and their relationship. They look ordinary. Man and woman. Woman and woman. Occasional man and man. Friends. Neighbors. Families. Acquaintances. Just ordinary people. I listen to some conversations as I happen to be near them and they continue talking loud enough for eavesdropping. Normal ordinary events are the topics of the day. Nothing unusual. We often greet one another as we meet. People in the part of that cold country where I lived are polite and courteous. They have good manners. It’s in their upbringing. This is something we do not normally have in my home country. Walking means exerting the body while refreshing the mind. The trees and the grass. The sky and the breeze. Refreshing and relaxing. I usually see blue sky. The cold country has such clear blue sky that one can’t help but wonders where they get such a lot of blue paint to decorate their sky. When I return to my own sky I am going to pray for lots of blue paint too. Once I got the Mediterranean blue and it’s fabulous. I have a white house and the Mediterranean blue sky is just right as its backdrop. Walking is like writing a free-flow article. Like what I am doing right now. With no intention of a goal. Why write? Just. Why walk? Just. Free-flow. No lecture. No forceful deliberation of arguments. Just. No purposeful straining the muscles and disciplining the body to submit to the forces of nature and bending the forces of nature to submit to the body. Free flow walking does not impose any stress. One does not have to do it. One does it because it’s free and easy and enjoyable. I do get the side benefits. Like the beautiful yellow flowers that covered the hill top completely one day when I climbed up a hill. It was unexpected and was the best gift I had received during my stay in that cold country. No one expected the flowers. They were everywhere. Like spring secretly landed on that hill top too early to announce. I was led there because I listened to the heart and not to the external forces. I was alone. I took in the entire gorgeous scene all by myself. What a rich man I have become. The fabulous blue sky. The purple distant mountain. The lush green grass. The yellow flowers. The eagles. Mine. For a time up there on top of the hill. Walking and writing are similar. Writing is walking with the mind and the heart, driving the fingers. Walking is writing with the mind and the heart, driving the legs. My time is still upside down as I sit here looking out of my spacious window. It’s pitch dark out there. Every one is sleeping except me who is still on another time zone. Amazing. But when am I going to get used to the night as night and the day as day here? Until then I can only dream of walking in the sun at the green park under the blue sky.
Traveler turns around
Pursuing the still small voice
Look, an eagle soars.
Wherefore he comes round
Stirring waves of rushing sound
Cloud to cloud ahoy.
Swift as light he glides
Azure coast to coast he dives
Leaving jet behind.
Reading some wise words from several Nobel Literature Laureates, I list these below to remind myself during my momentary attempts at haiku, often after taking an interesting picture.
Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood. (T. S. Eliot)
Literature is a state of culture, poetry is a state of grace. (Juan Ramon)
I don’t think poetry comes from an education…I think that it comes from God. (Joseph Brodsky)
The experience of a poem is the experience both of a moment and of a lifetime. (T. S. Eliot)
I do not go in search of poetry. I wait for poetry to visit me. (Eugenio Montale)
[ Promised Rest for God’s People ] God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God. For only we who believe can enter his rest. As for the others, God said, “In my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest,’” even though this rest has been ready since he made the world. …(Hebrews 4[Full Chapter])