Excerpt for Candle, Texas by , available in its entirety at Smashwords





THE GEMSTONE

BOOK ONE




By




CHRISTOPHER F. MILLS







Copyright © 2018 by

The Moving Map


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author or publisher.


The Moving Map SB & MP Co.


Starleaf Ranch, Texas

cforestmills@Gmail.com



Published in the United States of America


Copyright 2012

Smashwords Edition

April 10, 2016







THE GEMSTONE

BOOK ONE




A Fable Of Man




An epistolary fable

from a wait of over five-hundred years




Translated from the Eternal

By the Reader




Christopher F. Mills





CANDLE, TEXAS




One-hundred-million years ago, every inch of Texas was under a tropical sea. Then the sea receded and revealed Candle. The evidence of the ancient sea is right under your feet. All you must do is reach down and grab a handful. There is all the ancient sea-bed sand you’d ever need. Not all the waters have left. If you close your eyes and use your nose, you can smell the ocean. It’s faint, but it’s there. If you listen late at night when the winds have died down, you can hear it. Like the sound in a conch shell, the ancient roiling of the prehistoric waves come in like ghosts. If you drop a pipe down deep enough, you’ll reach one of the biggest underground oceans on earth. The water comes up fresh and clear. It’s the most sparkling, clear gemstone you can discover in the earth. If you’ve ever been on an all day’s ride in the sun, you will appreciate the value of a clear drink of water. I’ve heard my father say it once or twice: All the clean air we can breathe, all the clear water we can drink and all the blue skies we can see. What else do we need?

I’d just made it back to Candle from the big city college where the night sky was clear as a foghorn, but still so few stars to see. I’ve always felt sorry for those who think if you’ve seen one star you’ve seen them all. I could never agree with that and had to get back to a place where no two stars are alike. Candle’s a place where to witness the stars here, you’ll never see life the same way again. Unlike the city, it is a peaceful place. Everybody in Candle practices calm breathing and being natural. There’s only one warning sign posted at the start of Candle property:


NO TRIVALS ALLOWED IN CANDLE.

IF YOU ARE TRIVIAL

TURN BACK NOW


That sign keeps at least eight of of nine people out all by itself.

It’s a different kind of place than most places. I cannot tell you how to get to it. It is an alternate route for everybody and a lot depends on where you are now. It is a place where time has stopped and become a one-on-one dimension. Even though I could tell you exactly how to get here, I would never do that. You must find it on your own. Candle is a big spread located deep in far west, Texas, a little north of Mexico and a lot south of everything else. If you drive into Candle you will wish to share it, but if you do that it will no longer be a secret. You can’t keep a promise until you’ve given it and every Candelian has made the promise to keep Candle secret. By the promise all keep, the beautiful secret of Candle stays safe. I’m telling you a little about it now only because now is the time. In this memo from the universe—if you get the memo—you will know all about Candle. I am not believing more than two-in-ten-thousand will get the memo, so I am not overly worried about the secret of Candle getting out.

The history books say there are seven wonders in the world, but I think there are as many wonders as there are wonderers. The first of my own seven wonders is Candle. To me, it is the first wonder of Texas. The other six are the stars, moon, sagebrush, my horse, ancient sea sand and the all-around wonder which comes from all these put together. In the cities, the more you have of artificial light, the less of the stars you see. In Candle, the total darkness perfects the stars. The echoes from the canyons in Candle speak all languages. The more footsteps you take in Candle the more wonder you come to—and like a good farmer, cowboy or pilgrim, you leave it where you found it for others to pick up later. But also, the memory is kept and carried along inside you.

Candle is a living ghost town. I include in my estimation of it all farmers, pilgrims and cowboys who came before. It is hidden in plain sight and unremarkable as to its commercial value, which makes it invisible to the mercantile-minded outside world. They pass right through and keep going. There are no strangers in Candle because nobody there ever meets a stranger. Candle is like the sun, it is difficult to look at it direct. Because most never look at it, most never see it. There is no paved access to or from it. You cannot directly drive or fly into it, for no public road or flyway leads into Candle. If it were a book, it would be more like a destination. As a destination, it is more like a book. I don't know if that helps, but if you ever go, I think you'll get what I'm talking about. The only injunction in Candle is to wonder. If there is a rule here to follow, it is that you must be filled with wonder. If you want to become a desperado in Candle, try and lose your wonder. In Candle, you can try to lose your wonder, but your heart won’t allow it. Of life, Candle is the everlasting beginning. Dream seeds dropped in Candle grow into beautiful things. It is the most bonny, beautiful place this side of anywhere.

My great-grandfather arrived in 1914, seeking with many others the rumor of a large silver mine reputed to be close by. To the chagrin of many, no metal for second prize was ever found and so they left like they came, in a great hurry. My great-grandfather stayed and named the place and as the town's population fell its fortunes increased, until a one-room school, a general store, a church and a cluster of clay-and-brick houses were all that was required. In the time since, the population of Candle, like the number of stars over it, has remained by and large changeless.

The place sits on noble, natural land and is made of ancient sea bed, mile-long trains, and countless star-filled nights. It is two people to the square mile in Candle. In the city, there are far more people than stars. In Candle, there are far more stars than people. But I don't knock the city. I've seen most all of them. There’s plenty of fine cities, but there’s only one Candle. I’m just saying I have not seen too many bright stars in too many fine cities. In the cities, they have replaced starlight with street light. And while most people are fine enough, it’s unfortunate that some people are not and make everything in this world seem terribly wrong. In Candle it is no great challenge, thanks to the number of stars relative to the number of people, to not be terribly influenced by some people. It is a fundamental truth of the universe that a man's peace thrives or dwindles according to the number of persons within his vicinity.

La Maravilla del Hombre is the road that runs through Candle and is, like Candle, shrouded in obscurity. It intersects at several points with El Camino a la Esperanza. It is a bladed-earth country road. Good for running horse and bovine across. It is soft and forgiving underfoot, unlike the concrete roads. On the urban roads, they will show you their finger and curse your grandmother for slowing them down on the way to the next stop light. On La Maravilla del Hombre, if you do meet anyone, they will stop and talk if they have the time and in the rare event they do not have the time, will wave as they go by. When you turn from the highway onto La Maravilla del Hombre, you will have to roll over the cattle grate, so go slow. Grandfather said La Maravilla del Hombre started centuries ago as a game trail then became a wagon road heading toward the railroad depot, which led to the big cities and away from the mountain passes. It remains today what it has always been, just a simple and natural country road you are likely never to notice, though you look straight at it.

La Maravilla del Hombre has been around long before the time of anyone alive today and has seen more than most but mostly it is a quiet road and never whispers a word. It leaves that up to the imagination of those who travel over it. It crosses Lone Pine Ranch, my family's property, which makes it, in legal fact, a private road, but all passersby and wayfarers may travel La Maravilla del Hombre free to partake of the natural bounty we are just caretakers of. I do hope you can agree that none of us truly own anything, except our own single moment and what to do with it.

For those with commerce to accomplish, for children walking toward the one-room schoolhouse, for cows headed toward water, all travel free on La Maravilla del Hombre. There is the general store which will trade its goods for services, just like they did way back. You would likely call the place antiquated and primitive. Candelians call it untouched and pristine. Everybody helps. The motto of Texas is friendship. Those in Candle, Texas take that to heart. It’s the one natural law we follow. Be a friend to one another. The population at the last census was unknown, being one of those matters shrouded in obscurity. Much like that silver lode way back.



A Thousand and One



On Saturday, March 3, 1990, I drove in to Candle from college. Later that afternoon I hitched up my horse and by the first cold winds of night, I headed out for an evening's star-go. A couple miles on I saw the headlights. Artificial lights are easy to see in the pitch black of Candle. I went toward them, curious why someone was out in the cold. As me and my horse traveled, I looked up and reasoned,

“These stars are the reason I'm out. Maybe that's why they are, too.”

The night skies above Candle are like mirrors that reflect all the stars of heaven. They call Texas the Lone Star State, which is a misnomer. There are more stars to count in the skies over Candle than any other place on the continent. If you like artificial light, you will not care for Candle. The skies here are clean and dark as coal. I thought maybe this light-bringer could be searching for the famous Marfa Lights. They crowd in from all over the world to see those. Candle is not close to Marfa, but city people get lost in the country all the time. Once I met an Arabian man with his family looking for the Marfa lights.

By the time I made it to the stranger, he'd turned his headlights off and was seated on the hood of his car. When he saw me he stood and yelled hello and I gave him a how-do back. It was too dark to see his face but even without trace of a southern dialect, his voice sounded honest. I gauged him to be about six feet, give or take.

I wondered aloud,

“What brings you out, mister?”

He spread his hands to the heavens,

“What else? Stars like these.”

We were quiet a moment. Then I said,

“Yeah. I can get that.”

I knew the man was good energy when my horse nickered and allowed him to reach over and pat his cheek.

“What kind of horse is he?”

“Nobody knows. He did not come with papers or pedigree. I reckon him as a perfect admixture of all the fastest. I figure him one-quarter thoroughbred, one-quarter Arabian, and one-quarter quarter-horse. In him are all named and unnamed equines. The only thing I know for sure is that he is, with no uncertainty or dubiety, the fleetest-hoofed horse on planet earth.”

“Huh. . .” the man replied. “What's the final quarter?”

“Supernatural.”

He laughed and said,

“He's a strong looking animal.”

“He is strong, and then some. But you may not want to say that other word about him. He might get offended.”

The man patted my horse,

“A thousand pardons, sir.”

He asked,

“What's his name?”

“GOD.”

“God?”

“GOD.”

“How'd he come to that?”

“On a spring morning three years ago, he ran in like he owned the place. Mama saw him first. I was just polishing off breakfast and as she looked out the window I heard her mutter to herself, below her breath, Good God, look at that horse run!

“So I got up and looked. GOD here was running across our property, east to west, then he turned back and ran west to east. Seemed he was looking for something. We went outside and he stopped to stare at us. I don't think he'd ever seen humans before. As long as Mama was there, he stayed clear. When she walked to the porch, he came up. He was a wild yearling. Truth is, he's still wild. I'm the only one he's ever let sit on his back. He patronizes all others. We figured something must have happened to his mother. We set word out, but nobody claimed him. As for the name, it's short for what Mama said about him that day. And it fits. He's the equine equivalent of light. He starts accelerating where other horses stop. He's a great wind. I've added further meaning to that name: Guts On Delivery. GOD here's got more grit than any dozen wild men or tame beasts.”

“How fast is he?”

“We clocked him last fall at 59 mph. He held that speed for a furlong before I asked him to brake it.”

Bull!

“No bull involved. All equine. The deputy sheriff laser-gunned him start to finish. Speed, held that long, splinters all world records for quadrupeds. But GOD here doesn't need the validation of official world records. That 59 happened on this very road. GOD finds it amusing any four-wheeled carriage might consider itself his match and if any travel down his favorite stretch he will prove, if he is not reined in, who the big boss is.”

The man laughed and I dismounted.

I wanted to see what he looked like, so I stood near. He was filled in with natural, sun-darkened muscle. His hair was dark. His face was a composite of ancient Greek and modern European, which came out in the modern age as all-American. His eyes were incisive and bright. The evidence of intelligence was instant. He had what country people call a shit-eating grin on his face—like he knew every thought in my head and found it all humorous. A man about my own age, but as I remember it now many years later, the memory of him from that night is of a much younger man. That's what the years do, they age us, but our memories stay young. I reached out and we shook hands. I told him my name and he responded with his,

“A. C. Braithewaite.”

“What kind of name is that?”

“It's European, but that doesn't mean anything to me. I am without family.”

I took a six-pack out of my pouch popped the top off one and poured it into my palm, so GOD could have his nightcap. Braithewaite inquired,

“God drinks beer?”

“Well He's GOD, isn’t He?”

Braithewaite laughed. I explained,

“GOD drinks his amber ale every night before stall time and quiets right down. I envy this horse his ability to go right to sleep soon as his head hits the pillow. Wish I could do that.”

To prove me right, soon as GOD finished his beer in three licks, he set himself down on the desert floor and was snoring by the third deep breath. Braithewaite declared,

“That’s the damnedest thing!”

“Yep.”

I threw GOD'S blanket over him and he snuggled deeper into the sand.

Braithewaite asked,

“I thought horses sleep on their feet?”

“Like I told you, this horse ain’t regular. He sleeps on his side like a regular human being, and every little bit he’ll roll over to the other side. This sand is like his own feather pillow.”

I handed Braithewaite a brew and opened one for myself,

“We will drink to the stars, Braithewaite, and to all Roman, Greek and Arab poets who named them.”

We raised our cans to the stars and sat on the hood of his car. As the silence settled over we sat in increasing wonder. Silence on a dirt road next to a sagebrush field in a wide Texas prairie under stars is nothing heavy. It is illuminating and buoyant. It redirects your thoughts toward the good and wholesome things. It is, if anything is, inspiring.

After a few minutes we set our spirits and dreams between us and laid back on the warm hood of his Firebird, looking up at the lights. He broke the silence with mankind's oldest existential questionings,

“What is all this? Where did all this come from? All this space, life and matter? None of it makes any damned sense.”

I raised up from the hood, looked at him and asked,

“I think what you're asking is, who made who?”

He picked up on what I was saying and joked back,

“Who made who? Who made you?”

“If you made them and they made you, who made who?”

“And who picked up the bill, who made who. . .?”

“And who turned the screw?”

To that, we both answered,

“Nobody told you!”

We laughed, clinked our drinks, then laid back again and wondered on who made who. After several minutes of high-falutin', beer-facilitated intellection, which altogether precluded a smart solution to anything, I said,

“Intelligent life arose, and then came. . ..”

I trailed off. That was all I had. Soon I was lost again in my own strayed-end thoughts. He added to my ignorance with some more tough questions,

“Life? What is that? Intelligence, what is that?”

I stroked my chin in deep thought, then replied,

“Huh. . . Those are good questions we will need more beer to give intelligent answers to.”

He answered,

“Scientific studies have shown that beer's a causative factor in theoretical thought.”

“Beer's good for lots of things.”

“I'll raise my glass to that.”

“To raising glasses, Braithewaite.”

We opened another and drank on in sociable reverie, coming up with prodigious theories of time, life and the Holy Magnitude that is Texas. The stars flying over our heads were blessed relics and exceptional. As we talked and watched the Milky Way I waxed poetic and said,

“She’s a soft, beautiful lady, moseying sexy-like across the universe, her sequined nightgown trailing behind her.”

Braithewaite turned his head sideways like a big dog and stared at the Milky Way, then said,

“I never saw it that way before. But you might be right.”

“Braithe-waite,” I said, turning his name into a compound word. “It’s like breath and wait.”

As I poured my mouth a drink he said,

“You are right. That’s what it’s like.”

“I’m going to shorten all that to ‘Waite’. You okay with that?”

He got an odd look on his face for a moment, then replied he was fine with it. Liked it, even.

“You okay? I saw someone just walk over your grave.”

He said,

“My girl called me Waite. Only person, besides you just now, to ever do that. She claimed me and this race of men as her own. She told me I had to wait on it. I asked her wait on what? She said she could not know, and I couldn’t either, but it’d be great, if I’d just work and wait on it. She was one of the great souls. She thought a lot of this world and wanted me to learn all I could so as to be of some help along the way.”

“Sounds like she was a good girl.”

“She was a great girl. She was the love of my life.”

I held my can out,

“To your dear lady, Waite.”

We tipped our cans then I declared, in as pontifical fashion as I could—owing to the beers I had just imbibed and the youthful idealism within:

“Every soul has their war to fight, but with a country road, a five-pack of beer, one god-like horse and the stars? With all that we might discover that gateway which will open to another magnitude of being. I see the stars as man's anthem to look up to and dream by. Why do we look up at these stars? It’s because as men, this world is not enough. And because not one of us is ever going to have enough time to do all we, in our best days, ever dreamed of doing. So we must take a short lease out on some starlight.”

I could tell this hit a bruised nerve in Braithewaite. It was his tone of voice, just left of center, as he said,

“We fear death, so we never have the guts to really live. Our fear comes from the awful reality that all our work to become is gone forever at the moment of our death. Happiness? A lucky condition the lucky don't know they are in. My girl got to a place where she should have been dead, not only on the outside, but inside, not an ounce of forward energy left. And you want to know what she did on the very last day of her life, wracked with pain that would have buckled the strongest men? She climbed a mountain with me and she smiled and laughed the entire way! She laughed and smiled up to the moment she closed her eyes, went to sleep, and died. It was glorious. She came to that moment when she felt that one precise ounce of life left, and she held tight to it until the end. She remained unbroken by the pain. She was glad and proud of life all the way through. She stayed that one thing most are not on their best day: humble. She was always thankful.”

“She sounds like a hell of a lady.”

“She was that and then some.”

“When’d she pass on?”

“One year, five months, one week and, by the sunset of this next day coming on, four days.”

“I’m sorry.”

We drank our beer and I kept secret the tear I cried. His story of the girl made me think of my mother’s words, how she told me time flies faster than the light which measures it and not to worry too much about things. She said whatever we dream to do and be will sure come and go, in the blink of our blind, hopeful eyes. Son, men only have two eyes, and two just ain’t enough to see everything with. Mother told me to lose my fear and discover my reason. She said by reason, a mind discovers wonder. By wonder, the mind matures. And the mature mind doesn't possess irrational, fearful thought—which, considering how much fear I knew then and know now, I just couldn’t understand the whole secret behind Mother’s recipe for rational thought. Total Greek to me. She told me that with rational thought, graceful courage is then possible and by the graceful state of courage, all that's true about our deepest dreams and the world becomes evident, as if by magic. I asked Mother then what I still think about it:

How in hell will I ever become gracefully courageous then?

She was asking a heck of a lot of a boy chock-full of fears and irrational thoughts.

Waite’s story about his girl must have reminded him of his own mother—or maybe I had talked all that aloud while thinking I had thought it. He exclaimed:

“My mother taught me that a light breath on a hot cup of coffee will cool it quicker than a big bluster and though I don’t claim to know what women think based solely upon their words—no man is that bright—I always figured she was telling me about more than how to cool a cup of coffee.”

I smiled and nodded and we sat in our memories while the Sexy Lady moseyed deep into the canyons. It had been a full hour since either of us had talked—or maybe we had talked that entire hour and it only seemed we hadn’t—when he said:

“Damn straight! One thing's for sure: the one dream this world can't take from us is to live and die STRONG!”

I opened the last can and poured half of it into his and agreed,

“That's right as rain, friend.”

We tipped our cans and he said,

“I’ll tell you what’s right. If this world is the premier design of what it means to be alive, then I will climb out on a new branch and give my own example.”



The Falling Star



It had been hours since the sun set, taking with it all the warmth, and after five beers and a thousand-and-one thoughts between us we had become chilled, so while GOD sawed wood we got up and sat in the car. I had come to understand that Waite was playing the lead role in a real-life movie titled The Loneliest Life Ever Lived. He was near exact my own age, 19-and-three-quarters, and had the previous December graduated at the top of his class from one of those pernickety Eastern universities. He was awash in life's sorrows. Sorrows, come to find out, had been a way of life for Braithewaite since the beginning, so he had traveled into the quiet lands, away from the garish city lights, to do some amateur astronomy and to look for tomorrow’s next thing.

He was a young prince who had lost his kingdom. He was without friend or family. Everybody he ever loved had gone to speak with angels. It felt to him the promise of life had fallen down a hole and disappeared. The foul gossipers in his own mind were telling him his chance had passed. So he made a break for the stars to speak to them about it. He went to give defendant's soliloquy to the heavens about his sad noir life. Though he had committed no crime, he had been charged by the merciless and rude authority called Life to feel every facet of life on his own. When he made it out there, he found he didn't know what to say. So it's good I came along, for I had all kinds of dumb things to fill up the sad time with and by all that, to make Waite smile. Waite’s human soul had grown faint but he did what his girl told him to do, he waited.

That night we both experienced one of the unforgettable events of our lives. I know the exact time of the event for I can see yet in my mind's eye—like a weathered photo—the shiny green digital clock on his Pontiac’s AM/FM Delco radio. Before, during, and after the event it read 22 minutes past 11—which probably felt for Waite far too long past love but hopefully right on time for hope.

We had just sat in the car when the brightest nightlight we ever saw lit up the inside of the Pontiac and the land around it with incomprehensible brilliance. Peering out the front windshield, we saw that night’s greatest shooting star. From the northeast quadrant it blazed straight down, exploding in pastel colors—each as luminous as the last—lighting up the sands of the ancient sea bright as daylight.

All the tragic, beautiful themes of the world were in that wayward star. Filmed by the universe's greatest cinematographer, it fell as a three-act moving-picture show. There was a shocking beginning, magnificent middle and glorious end. In a handful of breathless seconds, the good, the great and the eternal things were shown to us. It fell silent as a needle. If it made any noise, we were too dumbfounded to hear.

We had witnessed a bolide—a large, brilliant meteor that explodes in its fall to earth. The bolide blinked out just before hitting land—and Candelian cowboys being particular about their property at night—we never investigated.



GOD on the La Maravilla



After the star fall, we talked out the rest of the night. At the first light of dawn, I woke up GOD. It was race time. I instructed Waite,

“Now what's going to happen is he's going to smoke you off the line. That's just a given. He'll jump the first twenty feet before you can blink. After that, you'll catch him. But listen to me: Don't you break my horse's heart. Keep abreast of him just enough to make him call on the will of the gods, but not enough to make him think he ain't one. We'll run from here to the cut-off. It's three furlongs. I'm going to let him loose to do what he wants. We'll see if he can break 60. Watch your speedo and let me know if he makes it. After the cut-off, me and GOD will keep straight across and you take your right at El Camino a la Esperanza and we'll see you when you come in next.”

“Will do.”

He stuck his hand out and we shook.

“It was nice meeting you.”

“The pleasure was all mine, Waite. I look forward to seeing you again.”

I leaned down and whispered in GOD'S ear,

“You ready for this, old boy? This son of a bitch thinks he can beat you. What do you think about that?”

GOD twitched his ears and I felt 1,200 pounds of supernatural phenom roll from the hooves up. I tensed a millisecond before he shot off. GOD didn't need whip or fanning to do what he knew was right. When Waite caught us, GOD shifted into second. Braithewaite let GOD keep his nose just ahead of the Firebird. After a furlong, GOD shifted into third, still accelerating. It always felt to me that each of his hooves represented a gear and he switched from one to the other at his own appointed time. He came to his top speed in stages and then, when he hit his run toward top-end, all hell broke loose and you had to hold on—not tight—but light. It was like riding a bolt of lightning.

When he reached full strength, it was spiritual and physical metamorphosis. He was beautiful. As we flew, the thought crossed my mind of all the money the world would say he was worth. I smiled at that silly notion. His value was far beyond cheap lucre and all it could buy. As he came to me free, he remained free. There was not enough cash in the world to buy him. His worth was making the earth move beneath our feet. His worth was making the wind whistle in our ears. His worth was in his own unadulterated joy of running his heart out. By his straining, he sought his own wonder and gave for free—as long as I could hold on—some to me. The wonder of a horse is in their speed and strength and GOD was wonder's epitome. Every time we went out, we owned life and everything in it. Money? To hell with that. Life is the thing we bought at two hoofs to the ground.

At the point in his run when he switched to fourth, the song of his hooves on the caliche was metallic and hypnotic and the atmosphere immediately dropped decibels. At full gallop, GOD barely seemed to touch the ground and the earth grew quiet. At all points start to finish, GOD kept his form perfected. He was life making art. He was life being original. He was the rebel who said to hell with it and did it his way.

To the right of us, Waite had the Delco blasting AC/DC's ‘Who Made Who’. A few moments after we hit fourth, Waite yelled out the window,

“He just hit 63!”

As GOD flew, I smiled. I had never doubted him. He was a blaze of glory, flying toward daylight and sparking up La Maravilla del Hombre. Dawn was rising. It was a new day.

And that is what happened in Candle, Texas on La Maravilla del Hombre the morning of March 4, 1990. I now hand the story over to you, Waite, and Mr. Silver. Go walk and talk with those two for a while, take a lease out on some starlight. When you come back, you might be changed. You should be. This is the tale of the age and of all ages. It clarifies the uphill path to meaning and the reason why the world in every age, nation and place destroys life and the hope of life. The Age of Humanity dies now because humanity refuses life. They refuse to replenish the one gemstone.




LA MARAVILLA



Marvel sprinkled stardust over a cloud

And from the pitch-black there came a bright sight

Of silver color made, and twinkling shroud

To un-barnacle the stars in darkest night

Wonder sprinkled wizard dust over to be

A lit trail in the dark night for life to see

And when the Clock of Time struck past Never

Life sprinkled promise over its mute face

And made Time strike, once again, Forever

And not be so intent on bawdy haste

This world is cruel fever and fair dream,

Loose stitched by life's faint and unraveling seam

There's just not wonder enough in this place

For magic to reveal all its charmed trace





A.C. BRAITHEWAITE




A.C. Braithewaite, the Ninth Keeper and First Revealer of The Gemstone, died at forty-two on September 22, 2012. It was the first of fall. He was a born dreamer and in the time I knew him he taught me many things. In the time since I have continued learning by him. Among the evidence of his life are the words here.

He was an anomaly, a virtuoso, a self-taught polymath who could perform algebra and calculus at the same moment. I know that is fact. I saw it directly. Dang-dest thing I ever saw. While talking on the phone, he could add up five rows of figures while debating the non-efficacy of business statistics with his on-hand guest. His mind was eclectic in knowledge and full of life. In him was a philosopher's philosopher and a common man's man. At commercial enterprise, he was a wunderkind. Braithewaite was history's greatest good pirate, demanding, and getting, a bounty of billions from the planet's most profiteering companies. Those who knew, figured the bad pirates would take him out. But it was a natural death that did the foul deed.

He never knew a base, ulterior motive with any honest soul he ever met or anything he attempted. He was genuine to a core composed of stardust and earth and lived on eternal hope, big dreams and true love. He told what to do to some of the darkest powers of the earth, but there was no presumption or assumption in him about any living thing. Conceit against his fellow man he never knew—even those who deserved it. He buried the dashed-to-pieces animals he found on the side of the road. I was there one time during such an event. He said, through tears he tried to stop,

“This poor thing shouldn't have to stay here like this.”

He once stuffed a ten-thousand square-foot building with Art Deco modern art for people to enjoy but laughed at the idea he was rich because of the money he had to spend. He didn’t consider it his, but a fortune of humanity he held in trust to do some good with. He lived the idea that true riches are of the mind and spirit. He drove no showy cars and wore no flashy clothes. His flash was within. You never would have known he was richer than Croesus unless he told you. And he never would have told you.

He said there was only one part of him that ever felt poor and that had to do with the matter of lost love. Love left him brotherless, orphaned, widowed and much too early. His destiny with love was like the rose that drops its petals in the spring just after blooming. At the age of 18, Waite lost his girl and his heart at a place called Blue Mountain and then placed his grief deep within the mountain, hopped a train, and vowed never to go back. But he did go back, every year on the first of fall. The last two years of his life he mostly lived on Blue Mountain and is where he died and is buried.

That last year he told the mountain ranger who oversees Blue Mountain that he planned to make one more trip to the summit on the first of fall. The ranger, seeing his physical condition, did not believe it possible for him to scale the 9,712-foot-high mountain. Later, when he checked on Braithewaite at his cabin and found him missing, he journeyed to the peak and found him there.

The ranger said there was a luminous silver-winged butterfly sitting on Waite's chest, slowly flapping its wings. As the ranger walked near, the butterfly—the largest the ranger had ever seen—flew up and around his head and then flew off. In Waite's hand was his grandfather's original copy of The Gemstone and its lost tales. In his other hand was a blue rose.

What was most dumbfounding to the ranger was the full-bloomed rose shrub he found Waite lying under. He had seen a rose shrub on the porch at Waite's blue cabin the week before, still in its plastic. Waite told him he was to plant it at the summit when he made it. After the ranger told the story, he said,

“To my knowledge there has never been any blooming rose shrub at the summit. There are plenty along the skyline ridge trail, but none at the summit. It's just too high for roses to grow at the summit.”

He then shook his head and said,

“But they say God works in mysterious ways, don't they?”

As executor of Waite's estate, I was made aware of The Gemstone at the reading of his will. I took it home and perused it over an evening that became the late morning in so brief and long a time that when I finished I could not tell if I had been reading forever or just a moment; nor could I tell if I had been reading the story of some other, or of me. It seemed like both.

It all reminded me of the wonder we had experienced the night we saw the bolide. He taught me all I know about falling stars. He said,

“The bolide is a space-rocket making a beeline for earth, zooming down and vanishing into the terrestrial region that for it is alien country. It's a star's last waltz and evacuation from space. Why the rock heads south, vacating space and committing suicide on the terrestrial—vanishing into the nether regions of earth—is of course a matter of chance. But I like to think it has to do with the wayward rock having wandered around so long that it needed a new and concluding experience. Maybe it has to do with the universe seeking life. As men wish to go up and explore, some stars wish to come down and do the same.”

In the nearly ten-thousand nights of star-gazing since, I have seen only two other bolides. Those lesser two hissed, sizzled, and popped, while the great bolide was quiet as snowfall. Maybe they were smaller because I saw the lesser two in a place other than Texas. Everybody knows everything's bigger in Texas. The hard truth? There’s great good and there’s great bad to that.

That star fall was, for both of us, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of starlight. For Braithewaite, it left behind the burned-in-memory of wonder. He called it heaven's treacly syrup dropped into the morning coffee of his soul and he remembered its sweet taste ever after. He long wondered what some farmer did with what he must have thought was just another damned rock he found in his field.

Braithewaite had gone to talk to the stars that night, but they had talked to him. He decided then to try and put into words what the heavens said. As he walked through a world where the beautiful lights are scarce and the bright, tacky lights are common, that fallen star ever remained a beacon to his long night of the soul. He considered it heads-up from the heavens that by the dark, the light shines brighter. That Elysian candle informed and always reminded him how by dreams made-from-wonder the soul of man lives. He never forgot the wisdom in that light. And so, by the moving map of his mind and inspired by a fallen star, he built words, relative to other built words, into what he came to call The Gemstone.

Twenty-two years later when his life was near through he told me,

“I have made in my free and thoughtful moments what I like to call a streamlined art-deco moderne literature. It is a structure designed-in-hope to make one stare and wonder—and at best—to gape in awe, as if seeing a great bolide for the first time. By the alchemy of the stars I attempted to communicate marvel, to be a propagandist for the miracle. It was my walk out on a limb, my best go at being human.”

Now, after his death, as I look on it from all directions—from back of it, up at it, to the side and from the top of it—I smile at his curious creation.

He said to me,

“I know it cannot do what it’s not. It's unlikely to achieve distinction with the masses, but it may do famously for the few. It is for those ready to extricate their souls from the worldly estates and become. . . if but for the moment, themselves. I am untroubled that it might not be fated for the worldly estates. Those are too rich in their conceits. It is for the genuine hearts and souls. It will touch those who are untouched by the world, those ready to free themselves of the clutches of machines and machine-like things. The juvenile will find it despairing, the superficial will find it pathetic, the academic will consider it with cynicism and the impurest of caustic faultfinders will use their two best go-to words—maudlin and sentimental. And I guess it is, in fact, to each of them, exactly all those things. So I cannot fault them.”

To truly interpret the Byzantine thought here dissolved into simple words will take the ego free of popular pretensions. This writing is not of any kingdom, but of spirit. The ancient Greeks had no concept of class. Braithewaite was the ancient Greek and by this work called on the winds of old Hellas. Here the spirit of truth and beauty meet with wonder and love.

His attempt to portray life's spiritual eloquence took the seasons of a lifetime. The effort strained his soul into words. His plain aspiration was to sift meaning from uncountable thinks into concise thought. A great ambition was invested—the seeking by hand, mind and heart for his small place and part in eternity. There, too, was a deep love of humanity involved. The love remains. The acid of his days eroded the ambition. Here is the science of the soul, from which comes all other reasonable science. Here is a sourcebook of wonder.

In his last days he instructed me,

“Life wakes us to wonder and wonder is the heart of love—and we always end up losing heart. Then love wakes us again. After love, then comes our great despair. If we choose life over death, light over dark, wonder will save us. And on and on, across ten-thousand days and ways, the movement of love, loss and wonder goes. Each despair may bring us closer to a higher state of wonder. Our souls, our lives, they are moving maps.”

Waite was right. Wonder connects us. All else separates. By wonder, love culminates and perfects the love in the soul and makes for all the good and great things. Self-love without wonder becomes emptiness. Wonder without love becomes loneliness. After each despair, we work again on our wonder—the only thing we may ever perfect—so as to try and perfect our love. Those days which define living at its best are those where wonder-with-love appeared. So Waite dreamed and worked to define a celestial paradigm toward the self-discovery of wonder. As the star fell it turned to dust. He took what turned to dust and fashioned a gemstone from it.

Waite’s Gemstone is the chronicle of souls. On strange and mysterious paths, this tales reads true, while so much of what is poured into the pillars of society is more incredible than King’s fiction. He made here only words. And like yesterday's newspaper, they will someday tumble away in a stray wind down the street. Then the paper will crumble to dust—the grand demolition of his Streamlined Art-Deco Moderne building. Such is the end of us all and all we do.

But he would not complain about it, for he knew well that all stars, life and love are destined for dust and then is left the promise of grace after despair. And that is the only way to perfect the thing called love, which is wonder’s epitome. On that night long ago, in a state of astonishment after we saw the star fall, he said,

“With love and wonder we possess superpowers. With these, we know the bright parts of the heavens. Without them, even if we own the world, we are still in the dark and without heaven.”

That has now been a lifetime ago. I can say of any who ever owned the world or was in direct correspondence with the heavens, none matched Waite for wonder.


In The Gemstone is the philosophy of my friend and a number of his forebears. I hope your examination of it does for you what it did for me: remind you of the astonishment and wonder hid within existence on this beautiful blue rock. All of it is inside information on the most superhuman soul I ever met.

Waite was told the legend of the first Braithewaite in America by his mother when he was twelve. He decided then he would become something other than what he was: a poor boy with little chance. For all his dreaming, hoping, believing, and ceaseless working, he was, as he called it, given a life rarely experienced. To him, all was gift.

In the end, he made beautiful, everlasting things. As long as I knew him, there had always been something extra special about him. He was the most separate, solitary, uncommon man I ever knew. He understood that the world and death will destroy a life, but the fate of the spirit is our own. Waite was divine and his life, a consummate model of the golden mean.

After seeing a small part of the heavens fall, he was inspired to write what he dreamed heaven was. He came to see heaven as that portion of eternity we discover serendipitously along the way. He’d said many times in various ways,

“Our lives are like shooting stars blazing across the sky, quick to come and go. And like the butterfly flapping its wings and the pebble rippling the water of the pond, by their movements the course of earth through the universe is changed.”


This is a book of private letters to wonder. It is a man's final will and testament to life—that moment's swoon which comes and goes and is so bright it hurts our eyes, so we close them and when we look back? Poof! It is gone, never to be seen again. The Gemstone is Waite’s sad but hopeful history of love. Love for life, existence, and all living things. It was his long search for complete and specific truth. It was method writing at its most difficult, and always cinematic. In our final talk as we remembered our first meeting, he waxed astronomical about the falling star,

“The destiny of meteoroids informs us of our own fate. It is rare for a meteoroid to become a meteor. It is rarer still for the meteor to become a meteorite. Rarest of all is the bolide. The rock has to be made of stern stuff to make it all the way to earth. For the bolide-meteorite to be witnessed by human eyes, grand luck must occur. Only a handful of meteorite falls are eye-witnessed each year. To find a meteorite is the rarest of events for a space rock. They are, the lot of them, fated for eternal obscurity. I consider life to be that rare, curious mixture of space-rock, cosmic dust, and understanding—that we will soon no longer be anything more than space-rock and cosmic dust. . . at least to mortal eyes.”

Waite told me all kinds of facts about meteors, such as those most often seen are not found on the surface, and those most often found are rarely seen. An estimation is that for each square kilometer of the earth’s surface, one meteorite for every 50,000 years, on average, will fall. They also say one of the best places to hunt for meteorites is in freshly-plowed farmer’s fields, especially after a rain. An important fact is that the majority of meteorites contain enough iron and nickel to make them paramagnetic. When he told me, in that last conversation, that someday he planned to take a metal detector and go look for that fallen star, I said,

“Are you aware, even knowing the general area where it fell, it would be like finding a needle in a haystack?”

He smiled and replied,

“I am aware of that, sir. But I take comfort knowing ten-thousand years after the fall which produced them, meteorites have been discovered! Maybe ten-thousand years from now, I'll go look for that meteorite. The fusion crust should be gone by then. Until that day, I think I'll wander around some.”





THE FIRST MEETING

1974



Long ago on Blue Mountain I met an old-timer within the hallowed grounds of a campestral cemetery on fall's beginning day. His being resembled a craggy old rock and he walked with a broken gait. All of him to me was tall, but I did not notice much the difference. He seemed my size and I seemed his. That is how his kindly demeanor made me gauge it. He was not there to stay. That September day was just a moment's stop on a long journey for him. The perfect benevolence evoked by his misty-white presence spoke to my heart and set it at peace. On the day I first met him I was aged four years and two months and he seemed as old as Blue Mountain.

Though I never addressed him directly, I came to think of him as “Mr. Silver”. In fact, I never addressed him directly with any name or title. He is beyond titles and my sense of him never allowed me the confidence to imagine I could call him by name—his own or the one I gave him. But in my mind, he was and is Mr. Silver. It was so natural a name it seemed to me a moniker given by some other that somehow I picked up.

Throughout the years of my youth I continued to perceive him. He would walk into a room and I would turn to look and he would vanish. But his form was unmistakable. Then my youth passed and I saw him no longer. He disappeared. For good, I thought. I almost forgot him.

And then, in the spring of my twenty-first year, I began to perceive him again. The perceptions were few at first, but as the days progressed they grew in number until it became routine. By the end of summer I was in complete astonishment by my mystic perceptions of him.

In 1991, on the first of fall, I met directly with him a second time. This time he spoke. It was a familiar strain and I knew right away I'd heard it before. There was a whispering below the voice; a faint, crystalline, silver echo which seemed to be the incarnation of a moment that slipped from the orbit of eternity. This first-of-fall meeting with Mr. Silver would become a rite of privilege and passage for the following six autumns.



HALT!

Who Goes There?

1991



There is a stream I know well that runs close by and along a ridge and from the rich clay of the ridge grows giant pecan trees that brush against the bottom of the sky. In my earliest days I picked countless buckets of pecans there with my grandfather. Above the stream and below the giant trees there is a meadow and there is where the fruit falls to be picked up by bird, squirrel and man.

In that meadow is where I met Mr. Silver a second time. He had picked a bucket of pecans and was shelling them. I noticed his method was like my grandfather's. He would hold two in his hand and crack the egg-shelled fruit with a quick squeeze. He was sitting under the largest of the giants and leaning back against the rough bark. I sat and leaned back with him and partook of his bounty. Then I asked him the question it had always seemed to me, since the first time I had seen him, he would know the answer to. . .

What is life?

He did not answer. He did not whisper a word. He merely looked over and watched me and I watched back. I believe that was part of the answer—the initial non-answer. Then he winked and I smiled and he spoke,

“What is life? That is not a proper question. Life asks the question of man, not man of life. And there is only one immortal question that life asks of every man. . .”

He waited two moments. I arched my brows.

“Yes?” I asked.

“Who goes there?” He asked back.

Then he cracked two giant pecans, discarded the shells, threw the fruit in the bucket and said,

“It is a bold question, but life is bold. There is no quick answer for the young and no simple answer for the old.”

I then asked him who he was.

He chuckled and echoed me,

Who am I!

He reclined his head in thought and stared at the ground, moving the strands of his silver beard with a silver hand. It was a long moment before he said,

“I heard the answer whispered once, but it has been ages since and I have forgotten. She was sagacious of soul and fair of form and I will never forget her. But her words, to the letter at least, are another matter. I am a wayfaring woodsman and that is all. And it is enough.”

He then stood with an air of command that informed me my questions to him were over. He swung his long arm around, encompassing with his hand the trees, meadow and stream. I sensed that was designed to inform that nothing before us was to be worried about overmuch, that what we were here for, at this moment and all moments, was far beyond the moment. He said,

“I have come to you—a keeper of the star's true tales —to speak of astonishment. Among deep shadows and beneath bright stars it was whispered once that these star-true tales are destined to astonish the nations of men. . . Perhaps. But men and their nations are not often astonished by quiet, wise and beautiful things. But there is the dream of it.”

He drew in a bemused breath and grew quiet in his dream of universal astonishment. Then he said,

“Along with the astonishment of men and their nations I am here to speak of more mundane things, such as the balance of life which is counterbalanced by all that is not life; of the balance of good which is counterbalanced by all that is not good. The dark of the world seeks to blot out the light. And even the fool donkey foaled from a ninny-goat knows that in this world what is wise, good and bright is often trod under by what is foolish, bad and dark.

“All men are destined to meet their maker at the level they make themselves into. All men begin from clay, cloud and lightning and some day are given the opportunity to become starlight and stardust. Not all will choose to. Some go and grow toward the flesh of this earth to become one with their chosen kind, such as the spineless worms which slither there. But all of life is test for life, even for worms. Even the worm must endure the earth that holds her hostage.”

He pointed a long finger at me,

“So Life begs the question: Who are you? Who goes there? Are you spineless worm or bright star, fair? It is a bold question and is your own riddle to share.”

He stopped and looked at me with a gaze which saw everything and then pierced beyond to the other side. He was looking right through and seeing whatever small portion of eternity there was in me. He continued,


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