One: A Novel
Excerpts

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Excerpt #1 - Threat City:

Pye stopped for a moment, searching for a story to tell us, then drew a little square in the sand.

“Let’s say we live in a terrible place: Threat City,” she said, touching the square. “The longer we stay there, the less we like it. There’s violence, destruction, we don’t like the people, we don’t like their choices, we don’t belong there. Threat City is not our home!” She drew a wavy line away from the square, angles and switchbacks. At the end of the line, she drew a circle.

“So one day we pack our bag and drive away, seeking the town of Peace.” She traced the difficult road she had made, followed all the twist and turns with her finger. “We choose left turns and rights, highways and shortcuts, we follow the map of our highest hopes and at last here we are, rolling into this gentle little place.”

Peace was the circle in the sand, and Pye’s finger stopped there. As she spoke, she planted tiny evergreen twigs in the sand for trees.

“We find a home in Peace, and as we get to know the people we discover that they share the same values that brought us there. Each has found her own road, has followed his map to this place where the people have chosen Love and Joy and Kindness-to each other and to the town and to the earth. We didn’t have to convince anyone in Threat City to move to Peace with us, we didn’t have to convince anyone but ourselves. Peace already exists, and anyone who wishes can move there whenever they choose.”

She looked at us, almost shy with her story.

“The people of Peace have learned that hatred is love without the facts. Why tell lies to separate and destroy ourselves when the truth is we’re one? The people of Threat City are free to choose destruction, and we’re free to choose peace.

“In time, other people in Threat City might grow tired of violence, perhaps they’ll follow their own map to Peace, make the same choice we made to leave destruction behind. If they all make that choice Threat City will become a ghost town.”

“And one day the people of Peace, remembering, curious, might visit the ruins of Threat City to find the destroyers gone, reality visible again: fresh streams instead of running poisons, new forests springing up from clearcuts and strip mines, birds singing in clean air.” Pye planted other twigs in the new town. “And the people of Peace take down the sign hanging crooked at the edge, the sign that says Threat City, and they put up a new sign: Welcome to Love. And some move back to clean the rubble, rebuild the mean streets gentle, and they promise the town will live by its name. Choices my dear ones, do you see? It’s all choices!”

That moment, in that odd place, what she said made sense.


Excerpt #2:

"It is early, early morning," she said, her voice suddenly low and mysterious. "Dark. We stand on a beach like this beach. First hint of dawn. Cold."

We were there in the cold and dark with her, living her story.

"In front of us stands our easel and canvas, we hold our paints and brushes." It felt like being hypnotized, by those dark eyes. I felt the palette in my left hand, the brushes in my right, brushes with rough wooden handles.

"Now the light rises in the sky, do you see it?" she said. "The sky is turning to fire, gold poring, ice prisms melting into sunrise...."

We saw, stunned in colors.

"Paint!" said Pye. "Catch that sunrise on your canvas! Take the light of it on your face, through your eyes, spread it into art! Swiftly now, swiftly! Live the dawn with your brush!"

I'm no artist, but in my mind was that glory, tuned to bold slashes on canvas. I imagines Leslie's easel, saw her own dawn wonderfully delicate there, careful beams blended to a starburst in oils.

"Done?" said Pye. "Brushes up?"

We nodded.

"What have you created?"

I should have painted our teacher, that moment, she was so darkly bright.

"Two very different sunrises." said Leslie.

"Not two sunrises," said Pye. "The artist does not create the sunrise, she creates..."

"Oh of course!" said Leslie. "The artist creates the painting!"

Pye nodded.

"The sunrise is reality, the painting is what we make of it?" I asked.

"Exactly!" said Pye "If each of us had to create our own reality, can you imagine the chaos? Reality would be limited to whatever each of us could invent!"

I nodded and imagined. How to create a sunrise if I'd never seen one? What to do with a black night sky to start the day? Would I have thought of a sky? Of night and day?

Pye went on. "Reality has nothing to do with appearances, with our narrow way of seeing. Reality is love expressed, pure perfect love, unbrushed by space time."

"Have you ever felt so at one with the world, with the universe, with everything that is, that you were overcome with love? She looked from Leslie to me. "That is reality. That is the truth. What we make of it is up to us, as the painting of the sunrise is up to the artist."

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