Several years ago, Arrell, I made a low shelf of wood and attached it to the wall above my bed. Before retiring to bed, I would draw some water and place it in a glass, so I might reach it in the night were I to awake and find myself thirsty.
As time passed, I found myself adding to the shelf with things you might scoff at, knick-knacks, nothings. During an afternoon’s walk and study, I might uncover a fragment of pottery by the side of path. A bird’s nest, undisturbed. Two coins stamped with a mark I scarcely knew. I do not know why I kept these things, teacher. I do not pretend that I had aspirations of assembling an archive or a museum. They simply pleased me, I suppose, and I was happy to find a use for my handiwork beyond supporting the weight of a single glass of water.
I have kept you too long without explaining the purpose of this digression. One night, I awoke, as I sometimes do, and sat up in bed to reach for the water on my little shelf. I must have been caught in that moment, Arrell, between waking and dreaming, for the strangest thing occurred. The moonlight through my window illuminated the shelf, and I saw with utmost clarity that my fragment of pottery was in fact a complete plate, a man’s face smiling in its paintwork. To its right was the bird’s nest, but it was now wound so finely in silver twine I knew that to touch it would break it at once. There were the two coins, and beside them a lit candle I never ignited, and beside them a dagger, and beside them a goblet…
… and beside them my glass of water.
You are far from a dream interpreter, teacher, and I do not expect that of you. But I was caught in a moment, a crystalline moment that night, when I was not sure which was real, which was truly real. Was it the little shelf I awoke to see the next morning, nondescript and sturdy? Or was it the one lit by moonlight?
This week on Friends at the Table: All Violence, All Brains
Alyosha. There are only two natures of things, and no more. There is the nature of how something is, and there is the nature of how something will be. Your shelf is as it is. Empty it. That is how it shall be. The people of Hieron are as they are. We must determine what they could be.
Cover Art by Craig Sheldon (@shoddyrobot)
Episode description by Jack de Quidt
Music by Jack de Quidt