If it weren't for a man named Elvis, we would never have gone to Shangri-la. He rode up on a greasy black mountain bike to the Redfish Lady of the Lake dock early Sunday morning with these crazy-looking handlebars and a big grin, said he had worked on trail crews for a ranger named Berry back in 1958 at the far end of the lake, said he'd built bridges out there so Taoist-like that you couldn't tell they was bridges even if you were standing on them. So we caught the next boat driven by a Rastafarian captain to the far side of Redfish where sheep have probably never been and great big tumble-down boulders are lying all around like fallen gods and we crept through them, Liliputian-like, following a river loud with many things on its mind that came down from the top of somewhere. I carried a thin copy of the Dhammapada, "The Path of Perfection," in my pack, but never stopped to read it because I wanted to not get lost in abstractions and the green plants that grew there were shimmering in a way I'd never seen and the creek bottoms were made of crystals like giant sand and all around us loomed towering, un-manned fortress walls that shed ginormous boulder rockslides down in winter, clearing whole swaths of forest-giant trees. And I saw that a-v-a-l-a-n-c-h-e sounded just like what it meant, along with r-o-c-k and r-i-v-e-r and a lot of other words and I breathed in and out and thought how time doesn't really matter in the here and now of all creation. I thought of how language came from the urge to tell stories and how we then started doing things in the world to have better stories and how we got slapped on the wrist for not telling them right and how for so long it has mattered little what more than precious few of us, like Walter Cronkite, have had to say. I saw how priests have scared us into believing and how wars are made of business and how history could very well come to an end if everybody stopped thinking it was all headed somewhere in the future and instead took a break and walked in places like this and then I looked down and saw that I was walking on Elvis' bridge. It carried us across a bog on the only straight and narrow path in the valley and on the other end we took a left and crossed the loud river and dropped our backpacks in a bush, along with snacks and books and pens and ink and started climbing hard toward the big fortress wall and it got really hard and steep and we went faster and thoughts burned away like fuel for some brighter light. It was all blood and breath and quickness on the path to perfection and the higher we got the steeper it became until we came to a splashing waterfall that soaked lush grasses and colorful flowers at the gateway to Shangri-la.
Tony Evans: email@example.com