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Tainaron by Leena Krohn, 1998

Mail from another city

© Leena Krohn

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Tainaron - Mail from another city





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The Dangler - the twenty-third letter


I really must say that many of the inhabitants of Tainaron have the most extraordinary habits, at least to the eyes of one who has come from so far away. Quite close to here, in the same block, lives a gentleman, tall and thin, who is in the habit of hanging upside-down from his balcony for a number of hours every day. This strange position does not seem to interest passers-by in the least, but when I passed under him for the first time I was so startled that I immediately thought of running for help. I thought, you see, that there had been an accident and that the man was clinging to the wrought-iron decorations of the balcony with his feet. Longhorn, who was beside me, remarked coolly that he had selected his pose through his own free choice and that I would be wise not to interfere so eagerly in other people's lives. I admit that I was offended by his remark, but recently I have begun meekly to take his advice.


I see the man most days, and whenever I walk under his balcony I greet him, even though he never responds. In fact, I think he is either asleep or meditating. In his chosen state he is so limp and floating that he recalls a garment that a washerwoman has hung out to dry. With incomparable calm he suspends his head above the busy street without stirring, even when the fire brigade drives under him, sirens wailing. He always looks the same: a bright, even gaudy, green, so that one can make him out from the broad steps of the bank at the end of the state like a living leaf against a red brick wall...


Does he dream as he hangs there, sometimes suspended from just one limb, but nevertheless apparently completely relaxed? I believe that is exactly how it is. I know from my own experience the difference between the immobility of fear and the immobility of the hunter, but this is neither. I believe he dreams, dreams swiftly, passionately and incessantly, dreams with death-defying intensity without sacrificing even a jot of consciousness to the struggles of everyday waking life. I believe he must long ago become convinced that all action is unnecessary, or even dangerous.


There are days when I think that this gentleman is admirable and his way of spending moments of his life most enviable. On such days I, too, would like to concentrate on sweet communion with my private visions as headlong and with the same kind of mental calm as he. But do not imagine that it would be possible. In the evenings, even if I shut my window tightly, turn out my lamp and fill my ears with cotton-wool, this city teems before me, still more restless and colourful than in full daylight. Then I should like to get up and got to see whether the green gentleman is still hanging head-first from his balcony. I should like to climb up there myself and position my limbs just like his. Then, with my blood flooding my head, all of Tainaron would begin to dissolve into the mists and I, too, should begin a dream, endless and leaf-green....


But if, in the morning, my nocturnal experiences return to mind, if I have idled through agonising labyrinths, I know that I would not wish to spend my life in the city of dreams. If, on such a morning, I pass under the Dangler's balcony, I am more inclined to pity him than to admire him.


Then I know that in my dreams I can never capture the same sun-glow and that the air that I breathe can never, there, flow as freshly in my cells, and I can never see so sharply or so far; and I believe once more that what is true can be seen by everyone, everyone.


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