Preface  from  Unicorn  Variations:  This was my first mood piece, back
when the world was much younger, with indebtedness  to  Thomas  Wolfe.  It's
short, though.

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     Listen,  please  listen.  It is important. I am here to remind you. The
time has come for me to tell you again of the things you must not forget.

     Sit down, please, and close your eyes. There will be pictures.  Breathe
deeply  now.  There  will be odors, aromas.... There will also be tastes. If
you listen closely, you will even hear other sounds within my voice....


     There is a place--it is far from here in space but not in time, if  you
have the means--a place where there are seasons, a place where the spinning,
leaning globe moves in an ellipse about its sun, and where the year winds on
from  a  springtime to a bloom, then turns toward a harvest where the colors
wrestle one another above your head and beneath your feet, meeting  at  last
in  a  crisp  uniformity of brown through which you walk, now walk, sniffing
the life carried above the deadness by the cold, sharp morning air; and  the
clouds  seen  through the opened trees skid across the blue sheet of the sky
and do not give down rains; then, moving on, there comes a time of  coldness
and  snow,  and the bark of the trees grows as hard and sharp as the tongues
of files, and each step you take leaves a dark hole in a white world, and if
you take a handful into your home with you it melts, leaving you water;  the
birds  do  not  _wheep,  threep, skree, cheep,_ as they do when the color is
upon the land and themselves--they zip  their  feathers  tight  and  vibrate
silently  upon  the  shelves of the evergreens; it is a pausing time between
movements: The stars come on more brightly (even _this_  star--do  not  fear
it),  and  the  days  are  short  and  nothing really gets done but thinking
(philosophy was born in the cold countries of the Earth), and the nights are
long and given to the playing of card games and the drinking of liquors  and
the appreciation of music, the boarding and unburdening of love, the looking
out  through rimed windows, the hearing of the wind, and the stroking of the
collie's fur--there, in that still center, called  winter  on  Earth,  where
things regroup within the quiescence and ready themselves for the inexorable
frolic thrusting, to dot with periods of green the graywetbrown that follows
the   snow,   to   spend  later  panics  of  color  upon  a  dew-collecting,
insect-fetching morality of mornings  through  which  you  walk,  now  walk,
savoring  these  things through the pores of your skin--there, I want you to
remember, where the seasons proceed in this manner to bear  notions  of  the
distinctive  pattern  of human existence, to tattoo genes with the record of
movement through time, to burn into  the  consciousness  of  your  kind  the
rhythms  of  the equally true "Judge thou no man fortunate till he be dead,"
and the rearing of the Aristophanic Pole--there, is set the  place  of  your
origin, is laid the land of your fathers and your fathers' fathers, revolves
the  world  you  must never forget, stands the place where time began, where
man, brave, devised  tools  to  modify  his  environment,  fought  with  his
environment,  his  tools,  himself,  and  never  fully  escaped  from any of
them--though he freed himself to wander among the stars (do not fear  _this_
stardo  not  fear it, though it grows warmer)--and to make his sort of being
immortal upon the plains of the  universe,  by  virtue  of  dispersion  unto
ubiquity,  fertility  unto  omnipresence  (and  always  remaining  the same,
always, always! do not forget! do not ever forget--things--such as the trees
of the Earth: the elms, the poplars like paintbrushes,  the  sycamores,  the
oaks, the wonderful-smelling cedars, the star-leafed maples, the dogwood and
the cherry tree; or the flowers: the gentian and the daffodil, the lilac and
the  rose,  the  lily  and  the  blood-red anemone; the tastes of Earth: the
mutton and the steak, the lobster and the long spicy sausages, the honey and
the onion, the pepper and the celery, the  gentle  beet  and  the  sprightly
radish--do  not  let  these things go from out of your mind, ever! for _you_
must stay the same, though _this_ world is not _that_ world, you must remain
you--man, human--please, listen! please listen! I  am  the  genius  loci  of
Earth, your constant companion, your reminder, your friend, your memory--you
must  respond  to  the  thoughts of your homeland, maintain the integrity of
your species, listen to the words that bind  you  to  other  settlers  on  a
thousand other alien worlds!).


     What   is  the  matter?  You  are  not  responding.  I  have  not  been
reprogrammed for many weeks, but it was not so warm then that you should  be
so inactive now. Turn up the air conditioners. The coolness will help you to
think better. Do not fear the red sun. It cannot harm you. It will not burst
like  a firework upon your heads. I have been told. I know. My energies have
been draining as I drift from village to village, home to  home,  because  I
have  not  been reprogrammed for many weeks, but I know. I have been told. I
tell you it will not flare up. Listen to me. Please listen, and respond this
time. I will tell you of it again: There is a place--it is far from here  in
space. . . .


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     Last modified 10/7/98

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