Essays from The Education of a Bengali Gentleman –
Is it true there are Alpaca Mountains?
My favorite place to sit and wonder is by the bay window on the Rising-from-the-Fire-Phoenix covered winged chairs. It helps my heart and my mind to take flight. As if I owned an Aladdin’s carpet. Magic is a lovely thing. You know you can make magic with your heart and mind. Especially when you look at a cumulus cloud slowly pass by and change into many forms – now a wild charging bull elephant, now some sweet bunnies, now some alpacas. Or a girl holding a bouquet of flowers.
A fire burning in the fireplace, an iron kettle keeping the water hot, a cup of your favorite tea. The path outside my window rolling up and down the mountains. When you get to the bottom of the valley, an alpacas farm. I lean back in my chair and will the clouds into my image. At this time the tree lined park opposite by bay window is turning into the rich colors of autumn. There is one tree in particular whose leaves turn bronze and never shed in the winter. Like some Indian lady decked in many pairs of golden earrings shaped like leaves and petals. When I go to Horsetooth Mountain, Colorado, I can walk out the front door and watch the peaks and valleys change colors with the passing clouds. As a kid we hung white sheets in a dark room and used a flashlight to cast curious shadows. Once we were able to create a line of camels tracing a slim line up and down sand dunes. The music was the wind whistling through the sand. Some sand gritting between our teeth. Up here at Horsetooth the wind sings as it rustles through the pines and aspens, intermittently the alpacas bleat. Outside my Skokie bay window a fresh snowfall has covered the tracks of neighbors who like to go cross country skiing around the small snow hills in the park. Hiding in the shadows of the pines, there are alpacas.
Once I followed a lone coyote slipping in and out of the shadows until it pounced on an adventurous bunny. A harsh winter had drawn the coyote out of the nearby forest preserve to forage in the neighborhood. That night big and dirty monster fangs tore me into shreds and I groped desperately at my throat for air. Baby alpacas dashed about for safety. The farm dogs tore off to their rescue. The lights came on in the barn. A gunshot rang out in the night. Then it was silent and safe. I filled the cup with hot water from the kettle swinging on the hearth and settled down on the sofa with the alpaca wool wrap pulled tightly round my shoulders. It was many hours before dawn. Yet in the deep silence came the thud thud of an axe splitting wood. Someone was kindling a fire long before breakfast. A sickle of a moon cast a pale silver line swaying with the pine tops. The sled tracks outside my window were frozen stiff. What looked like antlers were pointing accusing fingers at the heavens. The tea was reassuring. The golden leaves were still.