Sometimes in the early hours of the day I like to hike the forest trails surrounding the property. There is something special about watching the sun rising through the branches of trees from the floor of the forest. I see life being regenerated in everything, from the opening blooms of flowers to the hungry sounds of baby robins tormenting their mothers for food. I have been thinking about words today and their power and impact upon society. Up ahead I see the bench where I usually stop to rest is occupied by Ursula K Le Guin. I attempt to back away but I unintentionally cause a break in her meditation and she looks up.
“Good Morning Socrates. I was just enjoying the feel of the sunrise through the trees upon my face. This land reminds me so much of home. I love this magical place you invited me to.”
“Good Morning Ursula. Please excuse my intrusion. I thought I was alone on the trail and I must have been thinking out loud to myself.”
“No apology is necessary Socrates. I welcome your presence.”
“Thank you Ursula. You mentioned home. Did you mean your home in Portland?”
Ursula laughs. “No my masterful friend. I was speaking of our home on The Farthest Shore.”
“The home of dragons?”
“Yes, of course.”
Ursula sees I am confused by her words, but continues. “I believe one of the functions of art is to give people the words to know their own experience.”
“Yes. I agree.”
“It’s one reason why we read poetry, because poets can give us the words we need. When I read good poetry, I often say, ‘Yeah, that’s it. That’s how I feel.’ Poets get the words right!”
Although it was my desire to speak with Ursula about words and storytelling, right now I am at a total loss for any words at all. I am still lost in her words, “The Farthest Shore.” I mange to pull my thoughts together enough to ask, “Is this the reason you started to write Science Fiction? “To give readers the necessary vocabulary for life possibilities beyond this one?”
“Yes, partly. Words do have power. Names have power. Words are events, they do things, change things. They transform both speaker and hearer; they feed energy back and forth and amplify it. They feed understanding or emotion back and forth and amplify it.”
“We are both poets. We know the power of words, but where does the science come in?”
“Science describes accurately from outside, poetry describes accurately from inside. Science explicates, poetry implicates. Both celebrate what they describe. We need the languages of both science and poetry to save us from merely stockpiling endless “information” that fails to inform our ignorance or our irresponsibility.”
“You are a gifted storyteller Ursula. It was your poetic language which led me to read your EarthSea Trilogy. These books were my first reading adventure into science fiction. They changed my life. I began to feel free again.”
Ursula pauses for a moment, then continues, “As a writer, I want the language to be genuinely significant and mean exactly what it says… If you believe that words are acts, as I do, then one must hold writers responsible for what their words do.”
“I know and believe in the power of words. Your words helped me to overcome my fear of dragons which started with a movie I saw around the age five. Your stories helped me to believe again in magic, in other worlds, worlds within and beyond this orb we live in. Such was the power of your words.”
“Wow! Thank you Socrates. That is quite a compliment.”
“It is true Ursula. I only give compliments when they are so.”
Ursula is momentarily at a loss for words now.
I continue. “In my later years I had a life changing dream about a dragon and had one tattooed on my chest. I would never have had that done in my youth. I did not trust myself enough and I did not trust the possible consequences of my action if there were to be any.”
“To see that your life is a story while you’re in the middle of living it is a help to living it well.”
“I know. I learned that truth from reading your books, Ursula.”
“There’s a point, around the age of twenty, when you have to choose whether to be like everybody else the rest of your life, or to make a virtue of your peculiarities. When I was young, I had to choose between the life of being and the life of doing. And I leapt at the latter like a trout to a fly. But each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again. Then very seldom do you come upon a space, a time like this, between act and act, when you may stop and simply be. Or wonder who, after all, you are.”
“Well, it took me until my mid thirties to come to grips with that choice. After thirty six years of doing, I tried just being. I still sometimes wonder who I am. Being here as you say is ‘between acts.‘ I am here. That I know, but change is certain.”
“And no matter how much I change there’s something about me that doesn’t change, hasn’t changed, through all the remarkable, exciting, alarming, and disappointing transformations my body has gone through. There is a person there who isn’t only what she looks like, and to find her and know her I have to look through, look in, look deep. Not only in space, but in time.”
“And what do you see when you look deeply into your true self?”
“Dragons. Dragons everywhere… When I die, I can breathe back the breath that made me live. I can give back to the world all that I didn’t do. All that I might have been and couldn’t be. All the choices I didn’t make. All the things I lost and spent and wasted. I can give them back to the world. To the lives that haven’t been lived yet. That will be my gift back to the world that gave me the life I did live, the love I loved, the breath I breathed. The way to see how beautiful the earth is, Socrates, is to see it as the moon sees it. The way to see how beautiful life is, is from the vantage point of death.”
“I understand Ursula. How might I be of service.”
“I would like you to escort me along The Other Wind to our home Socrates.
“The home you spoke of earlier? The Farthest Shore?
“Yes. Home isn’t where they have to let you in. It’s not a place at all. Home is imaginary. Home, imagined, comes to be. It is one thing to read about dragons and another to meet them. Are you ready Socrates to meet your true self?”
Before I could answer, she brings her palms together and is immediately surrounded with fire. Her body is transforming. I can see the formation of a red head and golden wings. Then horns and huge amber eyes. After a few moments she appears as a beautiful dragon.
“You are The dragon Orm Irian. The sister of Tehanu and called daughter by Kalessin, the oldest of dragons, from your stories.“
“Yes. I am Socrates. You are a dragon too. Your real name is Dragon Tao.”
As if to prove once more the power of words, when Orm Irian speaks my dragon name outloud, I become a ball of fire from which the Dragon Tao emerges. Orm Irian leaps from the trail into the sky as my transformation is completing. I watch her soar a hundred feet above me as I stretch my wings and ready for flight. We climb through the various trade winds until we reach the Other Wind, the one that will take us to the Farthest Shore.
Ursula’s last words to me before she became Orm Irian were these.
I remember one time while in human form I saw the dragons aloft on the wind at sunset above the western isles; and I would be content. I know it is time to return home now because I am no longer content with just watching. Thank you Socrates for being my guide.”
“My pleasure Ursula. My pleasure always. We are dragons all.”
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Twelve — William James will be published on Sunday, November 25, 2018.
Cover Art “Aries” by Emilee Petersmark.