Learning the Culture

    So Doug is falling in love with Zawmb’yee, but disaster is to follow folly. Doug writes:


Zawmb’yee Is a Tease

Zawmb’yee is more of a tease than I thought. I wrote the poem out for her with a brush on a canvas. She sat by the underground-river Zhushcratylm, gently rested the tips of her fingers on the canvas with her eyes closed. I leaned forward and stared into her like a wild-eyed pupil. “Yes,” she said, “it demonstrates the devotional stage, but there is no sharing of thoughts.”
I stroked the back of my hand across my lips, wiping my tingles. She took my hands, made a gentle humming sound like a ferocious purr, said: thank you and next week I’ll show you a vision in the fifth passage. Then she said, your phone is ringing — don’t you think you should leave the cave. A quick kiss and I found myself leaving hot…


I find myself thinking about Zawmb’yee everywhere I go. I wonder how she is able to navigate in the mainstream world above ground. I know she lives in the sacred quarters in the cave but is also expected to mingle in the city and across the world. It’s hard for me to imagine such a spiritual person riding on a common bus to meet me for lunch or come to my lonely apartment, see me type a poem into my computer, pull me away for more embraceable things. I think about what I might say to her about it: “I imagine you drifting in thoughts on the bus by the window with a mystery package. Can you hear me honk; can you see me as the bird that flaps a clap, applauding your reverie. On your way, squealing with the wheeling of the bus, I am the squeaky brakes squawking to see you; I am the roar of the engine. Wake up. Don’t miss your stop; don’t drop your precious package. Arrive soon, because I can’t wait to open you up to ride with me.”

I imagine her everywhere doing her “learn the culture” exercises for Utcoozhoo — smiling on strangers at every museum, chatting at every Opera, commiserating at every bar, a discreet angel with casual compassion. But I am infused with the perfume of her joy:

    You in Me

I woke up to my
longing for you; coffee
bit my dream
I stirred your cream

If I dress to seek you
will I know where
passion gallivants

You haunt me with
your many haunts. I
feel a phantom kiss
and miss the bliss from
flesh and ardor, belief bones
troubles massaged in a love whisper,
soothing music
melodic compassion

I am out to find you
driven like the mating birds;
walking, I hear the coos
but let them fly unknowing
for I have a gift for us:
wait ’til you
see me smile
everywhere I know you

But then Chloë is to call and my body is at attention…


I was thinking the other day, sitting under the Dome of the Endless Light by the K’ut’mbletaw’i River, that Utcoozhoo promises many spectacular things to Zawmb’yee, but it’s always in the future. When she wonders if anything he says is true, he always tells her the story of Tpiqlat’ng who was everywhere, nearby, and beneath all things at the same time. Nobody believed Tpiqlat’ng either. The day Tpiqlat’ng returned with great treasures for everyone, rather than be grateful, they demanded to know where he got it. He was nearly beaten to death when he told what they thought was a grandiose lie:

“I rode the river to the place of the Gods where I was given the honor to ride with them on a flying mole in a fire tube under a great ocean to the Rocky Mountains.”

He begged for one last chance to prove it to them. He said, “Whoever is as brave as they are angry, come meet the Gods.” The few volunteers he took to the K’ut’mbletaw’i (means, “They say it speaks to wash away false beliefs”). They rode it out to the surface and beyond, transferring to a new vehicle. All but the meanest one came back with great wonders. The Gods left the arrogant one behind — they say by his choice.

And then after all that babble, Utcoozhoo won’t even tell her what treasures and who was left behind for what purpose. Now doesn’t that just become another spectacular story promised for the future?

She says she wants to talk to me about one of her homework assignments. Gee, I don’t know that I can be of any help….


I Saw the Pfambuuwisen

The mystical things always sound so calming, and yet so dangerous. I fear she may be seeing too much before she’s ready to understand it.

Zawmb’yee always seems to come out of nowhere when I’m writing by the K’ut’mbletaw’i. Poor Zawmb’yee — another disappointment, or delay.

She broke into my musing with “I saw the pfambuuwisen, the blue dream-stars shining on glistening water like crystal and all that, but now Utcoozhoo gives me a puzzle: ‘How are we like blue sheep?’ He says you know.”

“I know? How do I know…Um oh yeah, of course?” I lowered my voice to a whisper of authority, and I hugged myself like I wished she would. “I’ll give you ‘my best tongue in the wind’ as they say.”

I’m working on it. OK, I see I’m not really doing this diary thing very well, because some days I don’t write very much. I’m just not that talkative, and I never did this before. Some people kept diaries since they were kids. I never did that sort of thing. I didn’t even like reading much, though strangely I wanted to write a novel (I guess everyone does). Quite a contradiction: to want to do something I have no skill or talent to do. Zawmb’yee seems more like the type who could do it quite easily… ah, phooey, I’m getting tired now and I haven’t really said anything. I’m supposed to write down all my thoughts, I suppose, but they fly by too quickly (most of the significant ones, even the ones not ineffable–{hmm, double negative — is there “effable”}. What was I going to say — I forgot…


I can see why Zawmb’yee is in turmoil. Everything is a contradiction. Utcoozhoo wants her to learn the dominant culture to blend in. If she does that, isn’t she assimilating into the mainstream, and adopting their ways. I would think she’ll just become another sap (as Utcoozhoo calls them). But yet he wants to teach her the traditional ways.

He’s trying to get her to see the pfambuuisen, yet Zawmb’yee just seems to have the blues nowadays. Another contradiction: blue in a vision — a spiritual light, but brimstone burning blue — a devilish thing. (The devil is in the details.)

Exposure to the modern world could destroy the ancient culture. Hmm, I was reading about the last Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan. They just introduced satellite TV because they believe the young people must know about the outside world. But some elders worry that their culture will be corrupted and lost.

Bhutan’s an interesting place with diverse climates and habitats. Aha, I think I have it — blue things in Bhutan. They have the same dilemma as we do: to assimilate, accommodate, or stay isolated.

Zawmb’yee needs 12 ways to answer the question, “Why are we blue.” Well, I think I have one:

Blue Sheep In Bhutan

Have I sinned
to love snow leopards

I have heard
and blues too

Scampering up cliffs
blue sheep make me cry
freezing to hide

Snow leopards
must eat –
I will not look

Kayaking down the Mochhu
I see only splash
only sky

Blue is clean
red I deny

Prayer flags on the mountain
let me be of slate color
hiding my friends

Can I sing the blues
in the sorrow of the lamb
with only wool to give
in cold comfort, or

must I be the tiger
to growl at my hunger
to dominate

The dominate culture is like a tiger. We are blue sheep hiding? No, that doesn’t sound right. Aaah, well, that’s the best I can do for now… I mean, it’s her homework. Why do I have to do it? Yeah, I’ll just say I’m giving you a clue, and pretend like it’s some deep profound strategy to get her to think, even though it’s just hogwash, ’cause I don’t know. I’m not wise — I’m just confused… maybe she won’t notice the difference…

— Doug

[So Doug is confused. Seems nowadays everyone is confused — Naztko]

—- END of ” 4. Learning the Culture ”

5. The Endless Light that Purifies the River

— Naztko