Thursday, October 6, 2016

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learning to burn part 5

Please begin at the BEGINNING.

I keep practicing, Auntie. I do. But nothing works. I only even begin to flame when I feel angry. How can I ever control my flame if I can't even get it to start?”

Perhaps, because you have begun to ignite differently than many, you should practice differently, too.”

I have no idea what you just said means!”
You believe you cannot begin your flame at will. And perhaps that is so given the circumstances. Maybe it would be wise to make your practice about controlling the flame once it arises rather than focusing on what you believe you cannot do and haven't yet succeeded at doing.”

Oh! Well, what am I supposed to do instead of the practice I've been doing, Auntie?”

There are many things to do here, my nephew. I will make some suggestions, but they are not all there is. You could help me in the garden, keep the water vessel full, prepare some of our meals, visit with someone who might enjoy the company. There are always many things we can do to be productive. We simply must be willing to see how we can be useful.”

Checking the water level in the vessel and picking up the pitcher almost at the same time, Ofonode walks to the well thinking about how wise his Aunt is. After filling the vessel completely, he decides to visit Ughegbe because it's now in the hottest part of the day and he really would rather not work in the hot sun.

Ughegbe sits in the shade of his dwelling. Ofonode puzzles over his dwelling as he does almost every time he sees it. The dwelling is taller and an entirely different sort of building from the groupings of earthen domes most of the rest of the villagers have built for a semblance of comfort in the heat of their plateau. He wonders why Ughegbe's dwelling has such tall and straight walls with a peaked roof that greatly overhangs the walls. He decides he will ask Ughegbe about it during his visit.

Ofonode!” Ughegbe calls to him. “It is good to see you today. What brings you to the edge of our village?”

You. I've come to visit with you, if you would like the company.”

What a pleasure. I rarely have visitors! Most of my conversation happens as others pass by. And that's very rare. Thank you for coming to visit me. To what do I owe the pleasure?”


Yes. Of course and always. If you speak only truth, you need not remember what you've said.”

Well, I have a struggle. I cannot seem to purposefully begin to burn. It only begins as a result of frustrations, annoyance, and anger. My Auntie and I have come up with a new plan, but now I have a great deal of time I was spending in practice. So, I am doing other things. She suggested I visit others that might enjoy company. I thought of you, so here I am.”

It is kind of you to think of me. Company is a great gift and pleasure to me at my age. Most of my family is long gone. Friends of my youth died many years ago. So, you are very welcome. Any time.”
Ofonode sits near Ughegbe on the bench that entirely circles his dwelling and is very heavily shaded, at least when sitting opposite the sun. They sit in silence. Ofonode, uncomfortably. Ughegbe looks completely peaceful to Ofonode. He wonders how the older man can feel such peace when he is always being drained in his work to support their plateau.

Why is your dwelling so different from the rest, Ughegbe?”

Did you know I traveled when I was just a little older than you?”

No. I didn't. That's interesting. Was it as rare when the village was at the same elevation as the rest of the land around?”

Yes. Our people are rare in the outlying places. To burn as we do, without dying and able to control the flame, is considered, by many in the world outside our village, an evil. They do not understand. Many fear what they do not know. This is why our people rarely leave. I believed I could find something different than I'd heard was there.”

Did you?”

Yes. And pretty much yes. But I thought not at the time.”

Please tell me more.”

Well, you almost always find that for which you are looking. I didn't realize everything I sought. In fact, I thought I was only looking for what I was aware of. That's rarely the case.”

So you knew you were trying to find people who would accept us and what we are. But you mostly found people who reject and think evil of us. Is that what you mean?”

I did find a community of differently gifted people. They are also rejected and have become a bit reclusive. They welcomed me readily, even though my gift was so very different from their own. It was refreshing. I would find them again, if I could.”

Why would you want to find them again?”

To invite them to unite with our people. If they relocated to our plateau, we could all benefit. I wanted to suggest to the elders that we welcome their village to live much nearer our own, but almost as soon as I returned the great quakes began.”

And so you were never able to suggest it. Would you have stayed here if they said no?”

Probably not. There was a young lady… It is no use. Her time is long past.”

I'm sorry Ughegbe. You never had a family, then?”

Actually, I don't know.”

What do you mean?”

The young lady I mentioned… she was afraid to come among my people. But we married while I was among her people. We were very happy for a very short time together. I thought we would be even happier if our two people came together. When she suggested a child might join us… well, I told her I would ask the elders to allow their village to join ours. I asked her to come with me, but she wouldn't. I have often mourned my loss of her and the life we could have had if I'd stayed.”
Do you think her village made it through the quakes?”

I'm not sure. If I'd been there, though….'

If you'd been there you would not have been here. Our village would have surely been lost. Thank you for returning, Ughegbe. I hope your other village had someone like you.”

That is possible. I hadn't considered it. It is almost a greater torture to have this tiny hope renewed because I cannot find out for myself.”

I will find out for you if you can tell me how to find it.”

The land has changed so much, Ofonode. I do not know how to tell you how I found them. It would be completely different now. It is a kind thought. Thank you for a willingness to do such a thing for me when you know me so little.”

Ofonode felt sad. He sat quietly with Ughegbe who periodically looked at him and smiled.

We should move. The sun will creep near as it sets. For some reason, I burn very easily now. Having burned toes is very painful, believe it or not.”

Gee! It's much later than I realized. I should return and do some of the other work my Aunt suggested. Before I leave, can you tell me why your dwelling looks the way it does?”

My story did not stay on track, did it. Please forgive me Ofonode. While I was traveling, I saw dwellings built in this manner. In fact, most of those in my wife's village were like this. I enjoyed them very much. When I realized I would not be able to return to my love and her village full of such dwellings, I decided to build my own. It took much longer than it really should have taken. I am not as strong as I once was. I am and have always been happy with it. I guess it's also a painful reminder of my Emwinghare. But I would not want to forget her or my time in her village. Sometimes it is difficult to remember things from my youth. So this place is good for me.”

I should go now. May I visit you again, Ughegbe?”

Please do. I have enjoyed your company very much, Ofonode.”


Ofonode returns to his dwelling, barely waving at his friends as they call to him when he passes through the village because he is deep in thought. He works in the garden, thinking. Then prepares an evening meal to share with his Aunt, still thinking about Ughegbe.

You have accomplished much today, Ofonode. I am pleased and proud with what I have seen you do. What did you do while you were away?”

I visited Ughegbe. Who would need company more than he?”

A good choice, my nephew. How did he receive you?”

He was pleased for the company and we had enjoyable conversation. Did you know he was married once?”

I did not. He and I have never really talked much. I once visited him. We sat silently together. I didn't know what to say and felt rather uncomfortable.”

Even though he may not have said much, based on what he said today, I'm sure he really appreciated your company.”


Well, he left his wife in her village and...” Ofonode is silent and Kokofeko waits expectantly. “Would you help me leave our village in hopes of finding his wife's village?”

Surely you must know that she is long dead now.”

Probably. I know that. But that's not why I want to go. You see, his wife might have had a baby on the way. And that's not all… the village was made up of people like us. They didn't burn and I don't actually know what their gift is… but Ughegbe was going to ask the elders to welcome their village to move close to us because we could benefit each other. We still could if they made it through the quakes. And if they really are like us, they could have someone among their people like Ughegbe who could keep them all safe. Also, there's a chance that his wife had a child and one of his descendants is still alive. I would like to find them for him.”

You would like to take a life-threatening journey away from the village in hopes of finding people that may have died two generations ago and others who may never have existed?”

Yes. Exactly.”

I… I guess I will help you. This is definitely not something I ever thought you would do. I thought you would stay in the village like almost all of us.”

So did I, Auntie. But I've been thinking about Ughegbe since I left him and I think someone should try to find out what we can for him. And why not me. I have not begun a work that is intrinsically necessary in the village as yet. So it would be pretty easy for me to be gone.”

This is true. I will definitely help you. When would you like to leave, Ofonode?”

I don't know. Maybe I should leave right away? I don't know. No… maybe a week from today? What do you think, Auntie?”

Rushing is often an indication of anxiety. In some cases, moving quickly is necessary. It seems likely to me, though, that little will change in a week. So, departing in a week would probably be a good.”
The two sit quietly thinking.

Will you tell the elders, Auntie?”

I don't know. I was just trying to decide if that would be a good idea or not. I haven't come to a decision.”

We could ask the council to meet together with Ughegbe and have him tell them about the other village and why it would be a good thing to invite them to our plateau. Of course, explaining that I'm going to leave the plateau in hopes of finding them.”

They might want to assign someone to travel with you.”

I will go alone. If this is something I'm supposed to do, and I believe it is, I believe I should do it alone.”

Surprisingly, I agree you should go alone, my nephew. Though that goes against every desire I have to protect you!”

Will you ask for the meeting, then?”

Yes. Your suggestion is a very good one. And if we have discussed it in council, if you find them, you can return with them rather than risk an additional journey away from the village.”
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