The Eg

Jessica Macbeth

I'm on a list where writing exercises are posted once a week. Some of them are like the start to a guided imagery journey. The idea is to let your fingers take you on the journey, to write without planning or thinking, just letting the images arise and then describing them. One of the interesting things (for me) about doing this particular exercise was that, several times, I thought I knew where it was going, but each time my fingers forged off on their own path, not following my brain at all. It's kind of like doing healing without trying to control it or to "fix" things--just watching where the energy goes of its own wise accord. Or like automatic writing. Fun--usually.

I'm describing the source of this particular piece because I think some of you might like to try this one too. If you want to, just write—don't stop to correct typos or to worry about grammar. Just let the words run through your fingers without editing. We sometimes can learn some surprising things about ourselves with these little exercises. I find it best, myself, to approach them in a playful manner. Truths often sneak through most easily when we think we are joking. So, this exercise was:

Look at the wall next to where you are sitting. Now close your eyes and take several slow, deep breaths. Now imagine a door opening in the wall.
What does the door look like? Is it big enough for an adult to walk through it, only mouse-size, or some other size? Is it decorated in any way? Old fashioned? Futuristic? Get a good handle on that door because you are about to open it and go through it.
Open the door, walk through it. Take your time. Write about everything you see there.

The door is large and round, about six feet across. It is made of oak planks and has one enormous black iron bar across it with a hinge to the left. The handle is also black iron, pitted, and set into the right hand tip of the bar. The handle is very stiff and hard to use.

When I open the door it faces onto the high central plain of Tibet (which is a surprise, because I thought I knew where it would lead and it didn't). The plain is rocky and brown, with patches of green, and the surrounding snow-covered mountains gleam in bright sun. The sky is turquoise and bright. The sun is high, almost white, with a faint bluish cast to the light.

A breeze blows across the land, stirring up dust, which makes my nose itch. The air is thin and cold and dry. There is no sign of any humans within sight, but a yeti strolls across the plain in front of me. He pays no attention to me. Suddenly, someone behind me grabs both of my arms. I jump in startlement and lose my balance, but the firm grip keeps me upright until I get my feet under me again. My heart pounding, I look down at the hands—they are very large, hairy (even furry), and brown. I don't understand this—yetis have white fur. What can this be?

One of my arms is released, and I can turn and face it. Good Lord! A gorilla!

What is a gorilla doing here? She grins at me. She has very large teeth. She obviously doesn't brush and floss regularly. I ask her what she is doing here, but she merely shrugs and grunts. Now she is pulling me along and I have to walk quickly in order to keep up, in fact, I almost have to run. Each time I stumble on the rough terrain, her steadying hand keeps me upright. Gorilla's are vegetarians, right? I probably don't need to worry about her munching me for lunch. She is not just trying to avoid carrying me to the cook pot.

Oops! While I've been concentrating on keeping on my feet, the yeti has swerved in his course and has almost reached us. I can smell the hairy, animal smell of the gorilla, but as the yeti draws closer, I can smell his odor as well. Weirdly, it is of flowers, faintly jasmine, and of vanilla. I feel certain yetis shouldn't smell like this, but can't think why anything scented of jasmine and vanilla should disguise itself as a yeti.

The gorilla stops and waits for the yeti to reach us. I'm puffing from rushing around in this high, thin air. The yeti also grins at me, showing a lot of teeth. I thought apes grin when they are hostile, but of course, the yeti is not precisely an ape. He has a translucent, many-colored egg that he is holding very carefully in one hand. It is glowing with its own light, and as he holds it up to me, I can see the faint shadow of something moving within the bright shell.

He hands it to me. It is warm and very smooth. The shell looks hard and rigid, but gives slightly under the pressure of my forefinger. It is a reptile's egg, perhaps, with that softish shell. I ask him what is going to hatch from the shell, but he just says, "Won't you be surprised!" Then he and the gorilla both grunt with aamusement. The yeti is very big and I don't feel inclined to push the issue.

"You have to feed it words—lots of words—every day, until it hatches,:: he says. Drat, I hate making typos. He says, "It even likes typos. Some of the best things you say are typos."

"Do I need to keep it warm?" I ask.

"No, it has a fire inside it. Just keep it well fed every day. Don't let it catch your paper on fire!!!" He and the gorilla rock with silent laughter.

Abruptly, the yeti and the gorilla turn and stride away from me. There is no way I could keep up with them and obviously they do not intend for me to do so.

I make my way back to the round oak door, which is standing open still. I can see now that the grain stands out where it has been scoured by sandy dust and wind over many years. I come back here to my office and look around for a safe place to put the egg. The cats are very excited and all want to sniff at it. I have to put it where they can't roll it around. Although it is as big as they are, they would play with it if I let them.

I clean out a filing cabinet drawer, and put a cushion in it. I put the egg in the hollow at the center of the cushion (I've been sitting on that cushion—I shall have to get another). I close the drawer carefully. I guess I'd better get started on its bedtime snack .

Copyright © 2002 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.
This essay may not be republished on the web or reprinted anywhere
without written permission from the author.