Stories are there to be hunted like Easter eggs

· Versión en español aquí ·

Indigo, come down from the sky – Indigo is the sky come down – where Life requires learning from every mistake, to survive. Michael Knisely

I

There is no life beyond writing. There is not outside of writing. And There is no life outside of pain. The experience of the pain of the human existence is best reflected through the art of writing: a Paracetamol or an Advil for the human soul. The virus is pure existence. Writing is a virus that possesses us and won’t abandon us. Writing is a virus in the shape of multicolored Easter eggs.

Writing is life itself. You cannot leave life or writing at five in the afternoon. Writing is everything to me. Everything. I even write with toilet paper. An écrivain practices the craft of writing the whole time. When an écrivain eats breakfast, he devours a story or a poem too.

II

Once, Octavio Paz said, in The Language of Trees, “my destiny is that of words.” Octavio Paz is also an écrivain like me. And yes, our destiny is a destiny of words. We live the life of words, we are trees and seeds. Outside of the asylum and within the boundaries of life, the écrivain is possessed by a disease that makes him what he is. He writes in a burrow. The écrivain observes the words that flood the world like drops of rain and calls them by a name. Each drop of rain is a story and a word. Each drop of rain is a colored Easter egg.

In the rainy city, the écrivain walks with an umbrella and records his thoughts in the Voice Memos app of the I-phone. Even when he is working as a volunteer at a store like Habitat, he has to hunt down stories among furniture, tiles and used toys. The écrivain is finally the ultimate stories’ hunter like Van Helsing. The stories are there to be hunted like vampires or Easter eggs in a front yard.

Stories inhabit us, they surround us like oxygen or carbon dioxide. Like this surviving and absurd violet orchid that looks at me with contempt from the table. I call her the orchid of bliss. I don’t have a desk, the écrivain writes better on a table, if it’s a kitchen one, much better. I write these lines on paper with an old pen my mother gave it to me as a gift. The flirtatious violet orchid looks at me with contempt. Behind the orchid, the figure of a trickster rabbit subtlety emerges. Actually, I have two bunnies, I don’t know in which burrow the other one has gone to hide.

It is the hour to rend thy chains, the blossom time of souls.
– Katherine Lee Bates

III

The trickster rabbit reminds me that Easter is coming. Another Easter goes by and I won’t be able to enjoy it with Octavio and Emiliano, my children. There won’t be hunting Easter eggs and telling them beautiful and entertaining stories about the rabbit —the one they believe I am, too—.

American children at a very young age are excited by the advent of Easter. It is a great holiday for the children of this part of the world. The opposite happened in the southernmost territories of the continent.

IV

Back in South America, Easter was not a party for children. Easter did not fill me with joy. Once, I almost drowned in the sea. In Ancón, the locals reminded me that this time of the year, the sea waters behave ferociously wild because the sea was grieving and crying for the death of Christ, our Lord.

At the Peruvian Easter that I recall, there were no colored eggs, no chocolates, the latter because I was asthmatic. Yet, there was passion fruit that I stole from the fence of my great-grandmother’s house. I love chocolate ice cream with passion fruit sauce. Passion fruit cheesecake is also not far behind in my list of favorite foods. I tried them both as an adult, when my asthma improved.

For me, Easter was a celebration, but a very different one, I admit. I used to go to Ancón in general, other times I would spend it at Zarumilla’s house with my mother. My great-grandmother’s house in Ancón was very humble and was built of quincha, a Creole material that combined the inventiveness of the Spanish colonizer and the indigenous inhabitant of the Peruvian coast.

I loved her blued windows and doors. The house survived three terrible earthquakes, those of 1940, 1970 and 2008. The scars were still present on her whitewashed walls. Sometimes, I used to kiss those wounds. They were the indication of the strength of the house, which for me was a living being, and definitely she was. There, I listened to so many stories that inspired my childhood dreams that later became the writing of an adult: the stories of the Easter Rabbit.


Easter Day (1881). Oscar Wilde.

THE silver trumpets rang across the Dome:
The people knelt upon the ground with awe:
And borne upon the necks of men I saw,
Like some great God, the Holy Lord of Rome.
Priest-like, he wore a robe more white than foam,
And, king-like, swathed himself in royal red,
Three crowns of gold rose high upon his head:
In splendour and in light the Pope passed home.
My heart stole back across wide wastes of years
To One who wandered by a lonely sea,
And sought in vain for any place of rest:
“Foxes have holes, and every bird its nest,
I, only I, must wander wearily,
And bruise my feet, and drink wine salt with tears.”


V

No one can really know what their lives were like. They had no novelists -and would not have permitted anyone to read a novel if one were handy. Their creed forbade anything resembling a theater or “vain enjoyment.” They did not celebrate Christmas or Easter, and a holiday from work meant only that they must concentrate even more upon prayer.
-Arthur Miller

She was a blued, beautiful, simple and brave house. That house was my great-grandmother herself: a wonderful blue egg. I did not know her, but, according to the family story, she was not from Lima, nor was she from Peru. Her origin could be traced further north, some spoken of Ecuador, others of more distant lands where dancing, singing, tarot, palm reading, blood oaths and curses made a semiosphere of being and affection.

I even kissed the wounds of the blue house, I ran my small tongue over her wounds. I felt that with this healing method, I could repair her pain a little. I swallowed a bit of lime in the meanwhile. In the simple living room of the great-grandmother’s house, the family shared the meat of the already illegal muchame (dried dolphin) cooked with chard and eat it with soda crackers.

VI

The muchame was sold like illegal drugs. One knocked on the wooden door of the fisherman’s house and then, the bills were exchanged for the much-appreciated dolphin meat. In a well-packaged black bag, the customer received the expensive and valuable muchame tamale. In the sand areas of Ancón, there were no Easter eggs to hunt, but there was passion fruit in the fence of the backyard. Further, in the very center of the yard, where the clothes lines were standing, one could appreciate the almighty batán (stone), the Stonehenge of my childhood, where my aunt Esperanza used to grind herbs to transform them alchemically into yummy creams that she used to cure and also to cook.

What I liked most about that magical space was the passion fruit, which I devoured with ecstasy. I am one of those who loves acidic flavors, the more acidic, the better. Those passion fruits were abandoned, nobody cared for them, but some emerged desirable and tasty, and finally ended up in my mouth.

Moreover, Easter used to mean, watching Spartacus, The Ten Commandments or The Robe on the small television in the house of Zarumilla, a working-class neighborhood of Lima that had been conquered by the courage of its neighbors at the beginning of the fifties. Also, Zarumilla is the name of a town on the border with Ecuador. The name also recalled a battle that supposedly we won against Ecuadorians in a war that no one remembers and that took place in the 40s. Zarumilla is part of the district of San Martín de Porres founded in the 50s. The history of this sector of the city is closely linked to that of the black, South American saint: it is popular, and nobody cares.

VII

Long for the clouds, where poetry is . . .. Earth’s waters reflecting back both white and “Paris sky” blue, color we extract and transform, repeating and repeating the body-breaking digging down to roots, yellow, brown, green turning to blue, finding that Life’s gifts include dyeing
-Michael Knisely

For Easter, American children like Octavio and Emiliano paint hard-boiled eggs with ecological colors, which will later be hidden by the adults in the front or the backyard. The idea is to color many eggs of different colors: yellow, blue, red, violet, orange, green. It is always possible that other children, neighbors or relatives, arrive to hunt the eggs too. Hunting Easter eggs is a community effort. Normally, children hate to eat hard boiled eggs, they prefer the chocolate ones that are awarded as a prize after the adults examine the number of Easter eggs that the different children have been able to hunt this holiday season. The little ones always have an advantage.

Everybody makes sure that this is not a competition, something rare within the American civilization where everything is a competition. Rather, each boy and girl enjoys the entertained hunt that will later become a memory: a mental Easter egg.

There are eggs that are more difficult to find than others. Some evil adults camouflage them well: the blue ones next to flowers of the same color, the greens within the domain of that color in the yard, the yellow ones near the duckling figures of the same color, the red ones near the gnomes that also wear a bright red attire.

The idea is that the children don’t only fill their bellies with candy, instead they had cognitive fun through the experience of learning, coloring, thinking and counting. This way, they received the gift of adventure that which prepare them for bigger adventures in their future life. This story already sounds like a Dr. Seuss song or an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

VIII

Outside, a snowstorm breaks out. And the only window that connects me to the real world reminds me of it. The real world is not this, because the real world is not written, but it is lived as if it were a novel, but a lived novel and not a written one. Perhaps, one can tell the story of the real world, but never one won’t write it. The real world embraces us, inhabitants of a planet that dies a little bit more every day.

Outside there is a world on fire and I am inside in my spaceship, safe. In this cybernetic cavern, I write the stories of men, their boring lives, I make them better, more beautiful, even sublime. I paint them like Easter eggs because someone has told me that this rabbit is capable of writing the sublime and the sublime is nothing more than to narrate the lives of men colored like Easter eggs.


Good Friday. By Christina Rossetti

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter, weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon –
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.


IX

Stories are like those Easter eggs hidden everywhere. Stories are the universe. In that journey, through the universe of life and death, one must find those colorful stories. The writing itself, that fold, is pain, love, suffering, tenderness. Each color carries a meaning. Each story carries one color or more than one.

Now, my dear reader, go around the world with your basket ready and hunt those little eggs. Those stories will become books: your own interfaces of being and affection.

The End