Their Own Minds
One morning when the sky was already full of sunlight, a young girl woke up and looked out the window at the beautiful rolling country and the beautiful shimmering river. She was a beautiful princess and she rode out with her prince riding in their kingdom over gently rolling hills of sagebrush until they came to the smooth river edged in channels within channels, braided like the hair of the princess. They rode slowly under giant trees along the bank of the beautiful river and were greeted heartily by everyone they met. So they wandered long over the land, pausing often to appreciate the beauty of each place; unique, humble, magnificent. It seemed they rode through a stained-glass universe in which every scene was perfectly arranged and proportioned. The soaring eagles, the tall grass, the limitless blue sky. their own youth and health. The day was so full of wonder and love that any conception of past or future disappeared.
In this enchanted state of mind they sat down to picnic on a sun-dappled river bank, soft, with high grass all around and trees shaded where the river came in to a deep pool and where it went out, so that only their own illuminated moment of deep and calm water existed. They lay there for a long time looking at the water until, later, the prince caught a small fish. It was fat and full of eggs but they ate it anyway. Each egg was a jewel of juice in their mouths, and when they ate the flesh of the fish their saw rainbows dancing in the water. The colors swirled around them and their blood became rainbows dancing in their hearts and they fancied they knew what it must feel like to be a fish.
As I said, they were enchanted. And so when they began to wonder where the water came from or where it went, their thoughts were not the usual human words and ideas, but rather, the slippery and adaptable thoughts of creatures who accept the water as eternal and incompressible...as life itself seemed. Where was there room for more? But still the river flowed. Was the water pushing up on the one side of the pool, or pulling away on the other side? How could the water on the one side know to move out of the way of the water on the other....or, alternately, how could the water on the other side know it needed to flow down and take the place of the departing water on the first side?
With these thoughts swimming in their minds it need scarcely be mentioned the need they felt to depart their human clothing and slip into the cool clear pool to experience their own smooth bodies, so smooth they forgot to breathe, so fishlike they forgot all about being a princess and a prince, and were finally fish with rainbows in their hearts, perfectly enfolded in the flow. Every effortless gesture transformed and became movement, a perfect fit in the perfect stained-glass world.
And that is how fish came to live in the water. But, oh reader, don't worry where that fish they ate came from... it came from their own minds, of course. From their own minds.
There was a small town between the dry mountains and the sea, where a dark-eyed people lived peacefully and slowly. Slowly because they lived in a hot desert where the sun stood still every day, high in the sky, so they stayed still in the shade, taking the siesta. Every summer the heat came wavering down out of the barehills and the sun shown so mercilessly it baked the ground and their humble dwellings and their skin until everything became sunbrown leather and they looked out of sunbrown leather faces at their sunbrown leather houses. The people were healthy and happy because the sea was full of fish and it wasn't such a bad place in the winter, anyway.
But one year the winter didn't come. Or, it came, but it was as hot as the summer and the dark-eyed people peered out from faces of sunburnt leather and asked one another, if the winter brings no relief from the heat, what will happen come summer? They sheltered in the shadows fanning themselves and waited, as they did in the summer, for the winter, but since it was already winter they didn't know what they waited for. Every shimmering-hot day was hotter than the last, and they spoke in low voices as if they were suffocating, holding their breath with nothing to hold it for
Spring was still hotter, hotter than any summer they could ever remember before. The people grew afraid and looked with their dark eyes out of the sunbaked faces at their sunbaked town, at the dry plants and dead trees and the animals panting weakly. Only the fish were healthy and happy. The heat was incredible. It was impossible to lie down to sleep, impossible to move. The wind, when it did come out of the stifling hills, was like the blast of air from an oven. Nothing could stand the heat, rubber melted, paint peeled, everything dried out and turned to dust.
The sunblistered people camped along the beach, swimming to keep cool. They stuck poles in the surf and hung hammocks there to sleep, and swam and fished all day, and forgot about their former homes. Fires started spontaneously in the town, the land was so bright and bare it hurt to look at it, and it was impossible to walk on it.
Then summer came. When the sun rose over the water the sky exploded with a kind of oppressive brilliance, a red-hot wall of fire that seared everything it touched. The people gulped a burning breath and dived under the waves and held their breath as long as they could, and when they couldn't hold it anymore they quickly gulped another, and dived again to avoid the torrid surface. They kept breathing in gulps and eating fish and they were healthy and happy and it wasn't such a bad life in the summer, anyway... and today we call them dolphins and wonder why they don't build houses or sleep in beds....