The Nameless Valley
Written By Mary S Ahmed
I opened my eyes and there it was…so familiar somehow as if I had lived there a million lifetimes. Red canyon walls of steep red granite and sandstone surrounding a valley that seemed like doors of birth to Earth Herself and the thought occured, “If I climb those walls and look out over the edge am I born again?” Then I laughed at the ridiculous thought. Down the center of the red valley flowed a shallow stream as clean as if no human had ever set foot here. Was I really here?
I realized then how easy it has been to sit up and leaned back touching the rough, sun warmed rock with the palms of my hands. It felt gritty and alive and the sand beneath me seemed to want to touch me back. I looked down an saw I was on a narrow pink sand bar and became aware of water tickling my toes as if it had some mind of It’s own as well. The sun was blocked by the west canyon wall and as i sat there, musing, time fled and I noticed the warmth directly over head had come from the WRONG DIRECTION! Heart racing I jumped to my feet looking wildy around as realized I was not anywhere I KNEW and then it hit me:
I had jumped to me feet! JUMPED!
“AHHHHHHHHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA” I screamed at the universe and realized I could SCREAM! the wild impulse of long delayed need slammed me like some unseen fist as laughing and crying and screaming I started to sing an old song I had adapted from one religion to another LOOOONG ago!
Is an awesome God
God reigns from Heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
My God is an awesome GOD!!!!!”
Over and over I sang and whirled like a dervish in one spot in the flowing water in the middle of the valley….I was the only living thing…The only sound.
Gasping for air and swaying with vertigo I fell in the water and wondered why there were no animals? The stone bottoms of the shallow stream were hard but I was not hurt and I realized I was wearing some kind of garment…long and rustly coloured and hand woven it seemed like the ‘Salwaar Kameez’ from…from…
…I sat down very troubled. Where was everyone? Why was it not sad that there was no one? My family…my mother…even my mother seemed as if she had lived a long life and died happy thousands of years ago….? I whispered to the breeze, “I love you mama….” and it seemed the breeze kissed the…tear? Was I crying? The sun had passed to the other side of the canyon and I began to walk aimlessly as energy seemed to flow up from the ground and it seemed like yesterday and epoch ago I had fought with panji and loved tariq and wished I had my own apartment and that the motorized wheelchair had come. Mama…she always had to drive from the next town to bring me food and she was so old then already…how old was I now? Did it matter?
I tried to see my reflection in the stream but it was too shallow and sparkly. I looked at my hands and yet somehow it seemed that i was more existance than flesh…yes there were hands and they flexed as hands do and they…but they were NOT too and yet…I stopped walking for a moment. My brothers, Micheal, Sajid and Wasim…they belonged to another time now…maybe another planet even….My sisters all gone in the light of times streaming onwards with their grace, beauty and perseverance. I should be sobbing with the loss…only one tear for my mother? Who were those who I hated so back then?
No names even left to me now…I looked upwards and spoke to God and wondered at the azure sky…neeli aasmaan…sapphire…ruby…lost in some daze of…of…aching throat and trembling heart…words coming…gracias narangi…mom was blanca chica but with cafe espiritu…
Mama…east and west were now truely opposite.
Deepamji…what planet did you get now? Thomas…where are you now? Are you in Native American heaven with your father? No. These thoughts were useless now they came from so long ago even the memories were no longer mine. Only the connection of the Mother on the kiss of the breeze mattered as it became dark and some new primordial dusk fell…was I an Eve? A Liillith? Did it matter? The tickle of the breeze was becoming a wind soughing down the canyon as if the sky would make love with the earth and I stopped to feel the great joy as it pushed against me and I pushed into it….where would the stars be now? Kahan Tahreek? J’ai nothing…word salad…the last cold purple chasing warm orange. Vines appeared hanging over the edge of the high cliffs…at least 1000 feet above me. Think hairy vines with yellow fruit on them…I picked one of the glowing yellow globes and bit into it and the pupils of my eyes became wide so the darkness was pleasant and everything limned in a phosphorecent shimmer. The fruit was hot, tart, sweet, salty and bitter all at once…a cave appeared before me.
It was clean and large. It was empty of life. Once flowing water had carved soft sandstone into useable shapes around the granite outcrops as if the loving hand of God meant for people to live here one day…the stream still flowed down the center and this cave was not anything like I recalled the ones from…youth? Was I ever young? No stalactites or stalagmites hung or sprouted from even bare floor or o’er arching vault…yet at once no human hand carved these shapes as round and comfortable looking as those above ground in a desert I had once seen…vision of a red sandstone ring and Carlos…another valley…another place…but those had been carved by human hands in the green oasis 700 feet down in the valley of tall spires…this was not that. I closed my eyes a recalled flying over the Himalayas on Google Earth….
……This was not Earth….was it?
Before me was a kind of rounded table and a kind of rounded stump next to it so I sat down and scooped some of the cool water that flowed right past into my ‘hand’ and it was so that I was solid enough to hold this water too…I brought my hand to my mouth and emptied the small cup my palm had made to taste the water. It tasted like rain. Only a few drops was enough. I was becoming aware that there was no hunger or thirst here…only interest.
Cat eyed and sleepless I prowled the cool radiance that enhanced eyes could fathom…I kept going deeper into the cave and the walls narrowed to a sculpted hallway with an even, sandy pink floor. This hall meandered as aimless as the running water that once made it and I went deeper and yet still deeper into the cave and laid down to feel the power of the ground surge through my back and into my head as some connection was made and the power of a whole mountain was poised above me as if waiting for some command….I rolled to my feet once more like a cat and gloried in the flood of bliss that came from ease of movement…somthing in me snapped as a cable when it carries too much weight and the chord that sings the galaxies ripped up my back and I began to stalk as light as a feather on rice paper leaving no mark….deeper and deeper into the heart of the mountain until the rock was touching each elbow as if to escort me to some appointment….the woven material softly rasped the walls of red granite and now holes appeared in the stone….even my now attentuated eyes were having trouble piercing the dark and sound became my guide as I paused at each hole to listen,
“Baby don’t go to that party they will hurt you there”
“Moooooooom! Everyone I like will be there”
The next one,
“Nooooooooo! Don’t put her in the ground!”
Each hole told a story of life and death in pallid whispers and tears and the mountain contained them all….I thought to experiment and put my mouth to one of the holes and said,
“Listen to the voice of wisdom!!!”
But my own voice echoed back to me from some void beyond the walls and no one heard me.
In extreme awareness of aloneness I tried to hug the mountain and it tried to hold me in its heart and I knew i must leave quickly for the love of a mountain is forever and i would live in the dark….
Ignoring the wails and whispers fromthe holes I quickened my pace and soon saw pale light head and had to shield my eyes with one hand thought it was night…the starlight was a bright silver white…..
I was standing at the edge of a vast sea as the waves rolled in on themselves in lines of seven….seven sets of seven….no tide no moon….
All along the edges of where the cliffs met the sea there was a thin stretch of beach…I looked up at the sky for any sigh of any season or any indication of where I was but there was no Orion for the Fall/Winter and no Dipper for the Spring/Summer and no North Star that the Dippers’ handle pointed towards….no Seven Sisters no Mars no Venus….so Serpent…nothing I could recognize….i walked carefully along the narrow strip of beach and felt the side of the mountain on my left palm and the seas rythmic swashing sounds to my right…..at one point a rock jutted out and the waves splashed across is softly in the darkness but the beach ended and I had to wade in the surf….It became quickly apparent that the shallow part of the surf was also a slender thread as my right foot slipped off the sandy edge under the water in a rapid and deep drop but even as I was forced to swim around the rock i noted the odd absence of rip tides and undercurrents…also it was not salty….was it a huge lake? One so huge it seemed to be sea? It was a bit of a job to haul myself up from the water on slipping sand and back to the narrow stretch of beach…the whole thing seemed so precarious and there was, once more, a marked lack of lifesigns….no shells or debris on the beach….no dead jellyfishes caught out….the sand seemed to cling to my bare feet and body as if it was alive and I brushed it away as it dried….I wondered how long night was here….
As I walked once more a kind of odd reverie o’er came me and some how God seemed as far away as the past and as close….surely God would hear me talk and so often in my now quickly fading memory it seemed that was the only one to talk to most of the time…..
“God? If You made everything then surely you can hear me from anywhere….where is this place? WHAT is this place?”, The night winds off the sea were cool and caused me to shiver, “Please God….remember the night I talked to you from the swing hanging from the tree and mama had the concrete bench under the tree? Is it still the same? Why do I feel like that world has been gone now for centuries? GOD! PLEASE! How many nights have I begged you for a sign? A word? I MUST believe in You I keep talking to You….I must believe that you can hear me….I would not waste my breath on the wings of this wind for nothing….”, no sound but the licking of water on sand, “ANSWER MEEEE!!!!”, I screamed at the stars and they winked at me. There was a book once….a man in that story had called the stars ‘campfires’ of other people living far far away.
Camp fires…where was I to find fire? Did I need fire? The shore line kept going like a game I once played called ‘Spore’….Was I supposed to be tired? Was I supposed to be thirsty? I dropped acid once and had no idea if I even needed to pee….this felt like then….the fruit was wearing off and how much time I had walked was impossible to say….
“GOD PLEASE!!!! PLEASE I BEG YOU ANSWER!”, crying I fell to my knees and then wondered if I should continue crying…would it change anything? God must be there to here me….The faint smell of rain…the way wet earth smells signaled a change in terrain….I beat the side of the moutain with my fists and all I did was hurt my hands and even that was….
So I rose with the sun that rose in what I would have once called ‘west’ but now had no referent for and kept on and turned a corner and saw a wide delta land where birds would have been if I were….
….but I wasn’t.
The rock itself had rivulets carved in it from water flowing towards the sea….the rivulets ran in grooves laid down by lava flow countless centuries ago….carefully i picked my way across them….some felt slimy as if some very basic life form was eating the rock that would one day maybe be the soil for some plant life….The sun was big and orange coming over the horizon and the way it looked yesterday the orbit of this world was perhaps elliptical….slowly crossing the solid mass of streaming rock bed as it converged inland at yet another stream I saw a fantastic sandstone courtyard all carved by Time Itself in spiral and arches and fantastic shapes! Water trickling from white volcanic rock faces that fell over old granite and I fancied there were rock gnomes trapped in the rock from the humanoid shapes within it….
as I scanned the rocks now turning a pale pinkish orange in the rising sun and the strong lacy shadows cast in Mornings Eyes and slowly walked under and arch through less than a centimeter of lightly rippling water and touched those fastastical shapes that towered before me and following the spire of one with my eyes I hugged it wishing….it knew this somehow and seemed sorry…one rocky outcrop 600 feet up, at LEAST caught my eye and i followed where it pointed and realized that the rock wall was very very high and the the top was hidden by the highest clouds in the sky….even the idea was shocking….the water was tickling my toes again and the rocks seemed to warm more under my touch…
Walking carefully over the watery rock bed I went to the sheer face and noticed holes in the wet white basalt and looking farther up saw another opening in the rock and began to climb the sheer face using the holes for support for bare feet an hands. I seemed to have done this before somewhere called ‘Red Rock Canyon’ but ….where was it now? WAS IT even now? My body remembered the way to hold it’s fingers on certain kinds of slant and how to lean into the rock face and it seemed from this porous wetness I should get raw fingers and toes or perhaps slip but the rock seemed to want me to climb it….the old focus of ‘plan-move plan-move plan-move’ kicked in and reminded me of driving and as my body took over the task I recalled the day I sold my car because I was no longer allowed to drive….but here….here this seemed…insignificant. Here were no roads….no gas stations….The wind lifted my hair off my neck almost like a caress and seemed to say something…I had heard this too…when….when was I ever a child? The wind knew me…how could that be so? This was not the aeonium of pre history for some new world….was it? Before there was time to dwell on what no longer existed I was able to place one crooked arm and then another over the lip of the open rock face and pull my body up as one knee hauled the rest of me over and rising once more from the floor of a tunnel I stared ahead and realized that the rock above was riddled with curious holes slanted so the light shown in dimly from the outside day….Racking my once packed brain for a geological explanation I could find none….and then decided it no longer mattered anyway….still wondering why i was not thirsty or hungry or tired or…..all bodily functions trapped in some trip that was more rational that seeing music and smelling purple…..
Somehow the light diffused through rock and glowed as two bare feet padded upwards in another tunnel….spiraling one way or another as if this was once highway for some giant snake and always light coming in the holes….so I knew the ascent was staying close to the outer wall….sometimes the vines with the yellow fruit hung into the holes and I ate of them even while knowing it was to see in the dark alone…the taste…the taste still weird and the feeling still as if I had eaten nothingness…for many days I climbed without sleep or need for it knowing night and day only as the fruit came at the intervals night came….it was awesome to be able to walk and walk so….not even in life was I ever so strong…..yet mentally I knew this tunnel also had to end as the mountain tops on any planet must end even if they breach the sky so I was not afraid to be there at all in what seemed an endless white and then glowing monotony….there was a ‘top’ to this and i was still ‘breathing’ or at least I believed I was….
At some point it was night. my trail led upwards out of the cave and entered a flat mesa type mountain top….the silvery white stars and sky glowed as the latest fruit juice melted to nothing on my tounge. Before me in this pure light were seven glowing white marble colomns in a half circle and between each colomn were three red lilies growing….there were four white marble basins with a shallow layer of absolutely still reflective water over luminescent green moss of some kind which lined the basins and begind that was a green, thick jungal that felt as if it hid some kind of life….something in me felt like to be singing….
I went reverently to the edge of the mesa and looked down. Last year 1000000 years ago I was on that airplane where my head hit the ceiling and had a window seat….the clouds in the day looked like a vast expanse of snow and this was even more awesome as the vast expanse of snow was so far below me as pale as mercury or silver nitrate….it was like looking at the patchwork quilt of green fields fromthe sky only these were snow fields in the air and just as far below, it seemed, as 20,000 feet above ground would be….I laid on my stomach on the ground and put my chin on my hands and looked out over the cloud lands and wondered what sunrise would look like from this height….this opened up so many ideas….if I were so high above the sunrise how long before I might cast a shadow? I had no idea of direction at this point…where WERE east and west? How would I know? if I wanted to pray what should I do? Then I laughed out loud…..
….God was everywhere God could hear me.
I got up and, still laughing, raised my hands to the night sky…there was a song a man named ‘iqbal’ wrote once on earth long before I was born and that was the song that I was recalling now and smiling like all the joy of the universe I remembered learning all the words and needing a translation and I sang it:
” Khudi ka sirr-e-nihaan
La ilaha il Allah
khudi hai tegh-e-fasaan
La ilaha il Allah
La ilaha il Allah
La ilaha il Allah
La ilaha il Allah
La ilaha il Allah
Khudi ka sirr-e-nihaan
La ilaha il Allah
khudi hai tegh-e-fasaan
La ilaha il Allah….”
The song was a long one and I sung it over and over like some mantra and thought God could surely hear me….and as I sang it light came pale from below and….I ran to the edge and looked down as the sun rose it lit the OTHER side of the cloud fields and the snowy white clouds glowed with orange neon where they thnned and awe filled me up like a river overflowing its banks and I laughed and laughed and laughed….