All things counter, original, spare and strange in Khujand, Tajikistan

Crater Arts

Saturday was the Crater Arts Festival.  We drank this delicious cider and looked at artwork and listened to poetry readings.  I can think of no better way to spend an afternoon.  That night we did this in my room:

Okay, not so hot of a picture, but that’s us dancing our hearts out in my very own EBP (Eligible Bachelor’s Pad).  Then there was a bonfire.  What a perfect day.  Below is the play I wrote for the trees in the crater.  It might be boring to just read, but it was pretty cool when it was performed.

Last Night in the Crater


It is a clear, still moonlit night.  In a small clearing an owl dives as if hunting, then turns into a mouse as it reaches the ground.  The mouse shrivels into a seed and the seed sprouts rapidly into a broad maple.  Soon after this a breath of wind distills itself into a drop of water, falls to the ground and likewise sprouts into a stately tree.  Other such unlikely transmogrifications occur until ten trees stand in a circle where once it had been clear grass.  Last of all a cyclone blusters its way to the center, gives birth to a sudden lightning strike, and ends by turning into a massive weeping willow with a dew drop glistening on each of its leaves.  The rest of the trees rustle contemptuously at its impertinence.  The maple who arrived first is the first to speak:


Sostenato: My friends, we have returned, exactly one year, as we promised, from the night when last we met in this fair glade.  We said then in jest that we should meet as trees.  I laugh to see we followed through.


Sprightly: I wish that we had met as tigers.


Aryl: Or as cockatiels.


Lyra: Perhaps as merry squirrels?


Aryl: Or fat baboons!


Sprightly: Or hippopotami!


Sostenato: Enough!  Despite your leaved disguises I can tell you are the young ones of our fellowship: Sprightly and the twins Lyra and Aryl.


Sprightly, Lyra and Aryl: ‘tis true indeed!


Sostenato: Well enough of your silliness.  We have more weighty matters to discuss.


Eudora: First I think we must resolve a mystery.  I count here ten trees in a ring, and one more in the center place.  That makes eleven, yet twelve months ago we numbered ten.  Let each one introduce himself and we’ll find out the extra. 


Sostenato: Let’s start with you, Master Willowtree.  What is your name?


Willow:  My name I think I’ll not reveal as yet

               For I do think it is a safer bet

               To wager I’m the one who’s out of place


              So gentlemen and ladies if you please

              The intruder you are looking for is me

              But don’t let that stop you from keeping face

             Tell your stories, all of you in turn

             Keep your tryst and see what you can learn

             Then at the end with magic make me dumb


            I’m nothing to your majesty’s renown

            You’ll have no trouble keeping my tongue bound

            So tell, do tell of all that you have done


Sostenato: I’ll keep no company with this wastrel!


Sprightly: Nay, I like him.  Let him stay.  Jolly fellow, I will answer you in verse:


            Stay and listen in

            My merry little friend

            But if you ever tell

            I’ll curse you’re hide so well

            You’ll feel you are a cushion filled with pins


Willow: I thank you.  Will you begin?


Sprightly:  With a will!  Twelve months ago we ten devised a spell that would loosen our ties to physical forms and allow us to change our shapes at will.  I left the company of these sages thinking only of how I could take enjoyment from my new-found freedom.  First I became a sea-captain, traversing the high seas, laying anchor in every friendly port I found.  I lost myself in adventure and debauchery until it began to bore me.

            After this I took the form of every fellow who seemed to live a merry life.  I was a highwayman, a jester, a courtier, and more.  Every form I took was entertaining in its own way, but each would bore me eventually and I would change again.  So here I return, having had the merriest year I have ever had.  Full loath I am, I must confess, to give up the morphological life.


Willow: A very catalog of pleasures, friend. What of the twins?


Eudora: I think it is unwise to disclose to this prankster.


Lyra: Oh, what harm can come.  I’ll tell you my fellow.  Aryl and I have a mighty ambition to be skilled in all the arts.  We went and impersonated great musicians, artists and poets. 


Aryl: It was a lovely time indeed!  Would you guess it, everywhere we went we were acclaimed as geniuses because of our faces, though what we created never amounted to much.  I think the average human is as changeable as we ten!


Willow:  Most interesting.  And who is next?  Shall we continue ‘round the circle?


Selmé: I care not who knows.  I am Selmé.  I used my powers of transmogrification to make myself beautiful.  I mimicked every famous courtesan I saw, showing forth the best points of each until I was sought after the world over. 


Willow: The pursuit of beauty.  Very well.  And you, my friend?


Gastro: Well, since the others are confessing, I will tell you.  I did nothing with my ability but gain entrance to the finest delicatessens in Europe and eat to my heart’s content before avoiding my check by fluttering away as a bird.


Willow: Why, a gluttonous thief!


Gastro:  Well it’s no worse than Copulen here!  Far better in fact!  Tell him Copulen.


Copulen: I am not ashamed as you are, Gastro.  I am an avowed scoundrel and I care not who knows it.  I used my powers to make myself the Don Juan I have always wished I was.  Think what you will of me, I enjoyed myself.


Willow: I am beginning to see it takes no great wisdom to be a skilled magician.


Sophistro: (weezing) These fools are no example.  My name is Sophistro.  I have spent the last year accruing knowledge.  I have known what it is to be every element in nature, from lead to gold to air to fire.  I have learned the inner workings of plants and all manner of things you could never comprehend.


Willow:  To what use have you put this immense knowledge, Master Sophistro?


Sophistro: Why none that I know of, but that matters little.  I know more than any mortal.  I stand alone.


Willow:  So you do.  Who is next?


Nadala: I am.  Those here know me as Nadala.  This past year, however, I have gone by as many names as there were days.  I wanted to be everyone I met, rather than spend one day as myself.  I took on so many personas I cannot tell you anymore who I was before.  Yet I am drunk on my impersonation!  I wish I could continue it forever, rather than stay a single person.


Willow: A fate indeed worse than death.


Nadala:  What?  To be given the lives of others is death?


Willow:  Just so.  But now we come to My Lord Sostenato.


Sostenato:  Quite rightly you call me your lord, for lord I am of vast lands.  I have used my abilities to undermine my enemies and expand my power.  I was the fly on their wall, the eagle over the battlefield, and the servant pouring their poisoned wine.  I had been powerful.  Now I am nearly omnipotent!  Stranger, whoever you are, you behold a man whose footsteps fill with greatness in the rain.


Willow: (chuckles) An admirable metaphor my lord.  And who might be the lady to your right?


Eudora: So it comes to me.  My husband has neglected to reveal that I am the one who made this spell.  I have used it in more subtle ways than he.  By way of my perfect mimicry I ruined my enemy’s reputations, discrediting them before their friends.  I have made good use of these twelve months, I assure you. 


Willow: It seems so.  Tell me my lady, why did you bestow this gift on these ten people?  Are they all wise magicians as you are?


Eudora: Never think it!  To make the spell required the blood of ten.  I brought all these along to complete the number.  In consequence they all shared in the power I sought for myself. 


(a hubbub of consternation)


Eudora: Enough!  The rest of us have revealed ourselves to this stranger.  It is time he told us who he is. 


Willow:  I’ll answer you in a riddle:


I bear your weight

With steady gait

On more than two

Wrought iron shoes


(puzzlement from all)


Sostenato: Magnifico?


Eudora: You know this prankster?


Willow: He certainly does my lady, I am the last creature he released his anger on before he forsook his natural appearance.  Coming late to this conference twelve months ago he dug his spurs into his horse Magnifico until the blood came.  By chance a drop fell from my flanks just as Eudora made this magic spell. 


Eudora: I do not believe that a horse could be so well spoken.


Willow: I only needed teaching lady.  I’ve lived a life of listening this year.  Listening and making my own halting attempts at speech and reason until I became the intelligent articulate being you see before you.  I have you to thank, my lady, for a year of education.  I think you know, if you’d but stop and think, that this gift did not come freely.


Eudora: What do you mean?


Willow: Oh, I think you will find out before long. 


Well, I think it’s time that I reformed

And take again the former shape

I had when I was born.


Farewell, noble magicians.  (Neighs and canters off)


Slightly: Farewell, merry horse friend!


Lyra and Aryl: Goodbye!


Sostenanato: A damnable interruption.  It is now eleven o’clock.  We have only an hour more before we must return to human form or we will remain as trees forever.


Eudora: God’s wounds!  I have it now!  Change quickly everyone!  Do not wait!  Return to your original form! 


Selmé: What for!  I do not want to return to being normal.


Sprightly: It is so boring being just one person.


Sophistro:  You fools!  We are already stuck.  I tried myself to take back my aged body, but I could not.  Explain, Eudora.


Eudora:  The blood of the horse diluted the spell, and spread it to eleven, decreasing the time that we could remain shapeless by one bare hour. 


So fixed we are as trees, we ten

Forever trapped in bark and stem

We listened to a nag too long

So in a circle here enthronged

We’ll be an object lesson now

To all that wish they could somehow

Change shape as often as the wind

Be tall or short or thick or thin

Take warning discontented men!

Or such as this could be your end.



Willow: So now you sit in shade of these ten trees

              And hold this festival of art for all

              O gentles be reminded here by me

              That all the discontented will so fall.

              Be happy, mortals in the path God gives

              And do not live with hatred for your frame

              For it is for God to make, for man to live

              This moral given, let us end our game.







One response

  1. Julia McConnell

    Well told, Seth!

    November 27, 2007 at 5:11 pm

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