I did this audio recording of “Blue Ronel Running” today preparing for a segment I am putting together for DS 106 Internet Radio, as well to meet a “record a spoken narrative” challenge for Phonar, a free and open photography class on the web.
I had never read this story out loud, and I was oddly shaken by the end of my reading because it echoes so deeply of a displacement I experienced from an existence in two different collective minds–my birth family and then an intentional community I lived and breathed and had my being with for twenty years–to my life as an individual, although a marriage has an aspect of a collective mind that is also wonderful, and perhaps that, too, finds an echo in the story.
Blue Ronel Running
by Sandy Brown Jensen
dreamed the Pomi had come to take me home to the future. In that dream, we were all sleeping outside in our airlifts and Cales came around to shake each of us awake to see the austroborealis in the southern sky. “Look south,” he had signed. There was no moon for this planet, so the shimmering waves of whipped yellow, scarlet and perishable green over the bulky shadows of the Dayrings were dramatic. I had hoisted Tip-top onto my shoulders and climbed the plank platform the kids had built in the Rigger Tree for a better look. Jemstone clambered right behind and curled up in my lap. I rubbed my cheek against Tip-top’s soft gray fur, and the tiny Jemstone wiggled in the crook of my elbow. Cales and Mops stood close to each other, leaning on the ronel fence. Mops’s bright red wires wavered into purple and orange in the strange firelight.
The ronel caught the linden-flower scent of our watching and turned as one on the far side of the field. From my tree house perch I could see the massive outlines of individual bodies melt into the moving flow of one as ronel thundered straight at the fence, eyes silver and intelligent against their fine cobalt heads, the inky tracery of pattern on hot skin scrolling as they ran like a message being told too fast to read. Cales and Mops didn’t flinch; they knew this ronel trick of old. At the last possible second, the liquefied ronel spiraled into a cerulean pinwheel, slowed, shifted into individuals.
“Hey, ronel, hey, ronel,” Cales murmured, putting out a hand for one azure shoulder to lean into. We all settled together to stare in silence at the rare lights undulating over the southern skies. When the great display shook one last sheet of silken yellow across the horizon and then faded, we went back to sleep.
When I woke again, I swear it was no dream. The sleek saucer-and-cup shaped craft sliced delicately across the pale blue of the ronel pasture. The burnished gleam of its timeshift paint glowed gold and red as it settled lightly, lightly on the surface. My heart gave that unique doublebeat I’d learned was the physicality of joy. I could see the familiar shapes of the Pomi beaming out at me from the observation hall that circled the craft like a transparent necklace joining the cup and saucer halves. A face like a star with its five smiling points, the two-light twinkle of a crescent, the long, triple twist curved bottled shape with racing neon circuits of welcome–my Pomi, come at last to take me home to our future.
Everyone woke up then–Cales, Mops, Tip-top and Jemstone. At first they stood there with their mouths open, but when they saw me racing across the yard, flipping horizontal through the slats of the ronel fence, they were right behind me, these good people who had taken me in so very long ago.
Only Mops and Cales remembered when I had been left to their care. Those mares had long ceased haunting me–those old dreams of purple and bruised pain, of screaming and having no tongue, of the pursuing Direwolf who always caught up with me in the end and took me by the throat. The children, Tip-top and Jemstone, who ran with us to the glorious returning Pomi craft, were a new generation who hadn’t known I was different. I never spoke; what of that? It had always been that way. I never grew older, the eternal sister.
The dear Pomi flung open the light doors, and we all crowded into the broad, circular observation hall. I was surrounded by touches, textures, gentle smells and colors of Pomi greeting, “All in one,” they said, “You are one in all.”
“Hey, look!” cried Tip-top, the small and gray furry, “We’re flying now!”
“Lift me up!” Jemstone demanded, crawling halfway up Cales’s leg.
“Ow!” he said, unhooking her before he suctioned the back of her neck and lifted her onto the silver timebar. Then he caught his breath. “There’s our house and the ronels are running after us. Look, Jemstone, they look like a river of blue.”
We all pushed up against the windows and peered out. The landscape peeled out below us like the fine veining you see on the back of a Rigger Tree leaf. Ronel were a thread of sapphire flowing like a liquid stream across the hills, trying to keep us in sight. We lifted higher and Wildport Husk shrank to a circulating yellow light. “Home,” I thought, then pushed the thought away more quickly than it had come. My home was in the future. The Pomai were my people. I had meant Wildport Husk to be a storm stop only. Mops’s red wires wavered, signing south to me so that I saw then the austroborealis come back into view, limning the unfolding landscape. The Hills of Wildport Husk rippled up to the dark shapes of the Dayrings. I turned to Star-Pomi, and I had no need of this soft tongue that had never worked after the Direwolf killed it in a mare when it was first new. My heart opened like a linden-flower, and I said in the high verse of our language, “How good it is to be going home. Tell me of our victory, of the future of Pomai, citadel of my birth and childhood, how it was I was remembered on this far and distant planet. What message, what song?” Then the grief came in waves, and there was no other way to prepare me for the thoughtful, slow reply of Star-Pomi. “Chil-ra, the bright citadel is fallen to the ground. Pomai have no longer any shelter, or oracular laurel tree, or speaking fountain. Even the vocal stream has ceased to flow. Chil-ra, we have no future to return to. We have all of now, and we have only part of the past.”
Crescent-Pomi caught hold of my eyes with those twin gleams so hard that some old understanding passed through me, shuddering this soft-textured body with a cold wind. In a moment I had it all, “No!” I cried out and grasped the silver timebar that ran around the obhall. I shook it, trying to feel the ultra-violet pulses of the future that had always run through it, undulating with familiarity, promise, memory of a future life, but Crescent-Pomi was right, the speaking current, like me, could no longer talk. The past pulses were there in dashes and darts, the way the green river of recall is said to run. Only the bright stream of now ran firm and full-bodied, silver and blue as a longfish beneath my hands.
Neon-Pomi tried to slow the flow of images for my body differences, but they came like curling paper in a hot flame, flying up into nothingness, places and names and memories long ago in a future world, now fresh, now torched in the image fire, now gone in the ember wind. Time future sizzled backward to the now, and I saw the time block that Direwolf had built not so far from here. No future time, no home to home to. The soft body that evolved here on Wildport was built to pull gasping grief inward. How it courses in pain through the heart and bowels, wrings the mind, and how the salty tears wet the knees when doubled over on the floor. This body is meant to cry out, but I could not cry out the pain of losing all I held future dear. Pomi did not touch me, for they did not know how my body would curl and shake, double into itself, but our grief flowed into one. They gave me anxious gleams and textures, the scent of sandalwood.
It was Mops who turned away from the window and ran to kneel by me. “Chil-ra,” she said laying her thousand red wires on my shoulder, “What is it?” These people have their own intuitions, their ancient ways of knowing even shifted shape anomalies like me. Cales and Mops had picked me up years ago out of the ronel pasture, no questions asked after it was clear I could not answer, and they took me into their own river-burrow in the Wildport called Husk.
Arrows of pain darted through my abdomen as I uncurled myself. Mops suctioned me under one green patterned arm and helped me to my feet. My knuckles felt old although they could not age as I signed to her that all was lost. The future, I said, was gone, these the last of the Pomi, and they adrift like space vagabonds, they who were always so heartbound to the hills and suns of Pomai. Her red wires quivered, puzzled. “Cales, Tip-top, Jemstone, come over here. We need to have a council.”
There we were, high over the Dayrings, having a council with the Pomi. It seemed strange as a dream to have these two parts of my life meet each other, seek for a way to speak, discuss a problem for its best solution. Many times had I sat in just such a council ring in Wildport Husk, thinking together with the townfolk how best to rotate a crop, rig a weir, solve a funny love triangle. Now, as then, Cales and Mops and I signed back and forth like crazy, only this time I was interpreting from my own heart-language into the logics of theirs.
Finally, they seemed to grasp the problem, and Mops, as usual, had the solution, “Come back to Wildport Husk with us, ” she said, pragmatic, then turned to the Pomi, “and what of you, good folk? Can you not stay with us?”
Pomi-lights quivered in confusion. This had not occurred to any of us, and we had borrowed future grief of our parting already. I was not a successful example for Pomi because I was one-light-sun. I had been able to focus, consolidate, become one among the many of the Wildport people. Even if voiceless as the Direwolf gave chase through my mares, I had hands and I could sign; I had no age, but that had gone unnoticed. But Pomi was many; my option was not theirs.
“Leave me now for a moment,” Neon-Pomi said, “For I am honored and full of thought. Can Pomi live in Wildport Husk? I must think.”
I turned to the window with Mops. Rough Cales held Tip-top. Tiny Jemstone up on the timebar, toes curled around it, reached one claw to my shoulder for balance. The vast Plains of Clock melted over the edge of a table cliff and disappeared as the craft, silent and sleek slipped through the night. We ran all the way to the waterfields before I noticed a curving back of our trajectory. The stars blurred, the colors of the austroborealis smeared, the green phosphorus of the waterfield crackled beneath us as we curved, and I knew some return had been plotted in the map room above.
Pomi came among us. Tip-top squealed as he was lifted up to the tip of Crescent-Pomi, and Jemstone continued balanced on the timerail, held now in delicate place by the out-points of Star-Pomi.
“We are no more than time tramps now, ” Neon-Pomi touched to me, “and that will not do for who we are, what we have loved. Pomi will come to Wildport Husk with you and make a form, a place, a story, a history with you.”
“What have you chosen? What will you be?” I cried in my own way, the emotion of homefolk big in my chest.
My Pomi now are the running blue ronel. I go to the fence and call them by name. “Star. Crescent. Neon.” They rub their great, silent heads against me, closing their liquid eyes in pleasure, and we speak in the old way, heart-to-heart, as Pomi have always talked. Jemstone and Tip-top grew and their children and their children’s children came to my unchanging care. Each learned to ride the blue ronel, to care for the lovely beasts, to learn the lessons they would need to take us into this very particular future, this very local Wildport Husk future, no other.
In my dream the blue ronel run in a singular turquoise stream. I am astride in my permeable, soft flesh, low, cheek to hot Neon-blue flesh, and now, only tonight, only in this place. They are my tongue, and we speak blue pastures.
That was 2005, and my sister, Cheryl Renee Long, did a large painting of the central creatures in the story–the blue ronel.