ALCHEMY OF WORDS
ALCHEMY OF WORDS
“At one time or another we are all called to leave the safety of our homes, the certainty of what we know, the illusions of who we are. Not everyone will heed this call, of course. And those who do will risk losing themselves completely. But if we choose to ignore the invitation, we risk never knowing who we might have become.”
Those are words from my new novel Painted Oxen, a story about two men who embark on personal journeys that are separated by mountain ranges and several centuries. And yet their pilgrimages are somehow connected through a dream world that reaches across time and dimension.
One of the travelers is an older monk in ancient Tibet seeking a hidden valley that is said to bring enlightenment upon entering. The other is a young man backpacking in modern-day India, seeking a guru, the love of his life, or just a transformative dose of psychedelics.
Both men encounter adventures, dangers, and delights in the physical world. But their journeys are equal parts internal and external. The truth is anytime you go on a physical adventure there is also an inward journey that occurs. And it is often the inward journey that is most substantial.
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You may not have trekked in the Himalayas. Or endured ocean-crossing flights and endless train rides to wander strange lands in search of yourself or something else. But I know you have embarked on other kinds of journeys, big or small. You have left the safety of what you know and stepped out into uncertainty of some kind.
Maybe it was kindergarten. Maybe it was your first job. Your first date. Your first kiss. Your first apartment. Getting married. Having a child. Whatever it is, you know something of the hero’s journey.
Though it is possible you haven’t taken the first step on the most essential one yet. The one in search of your own Sacred Mountain.
The heart of the novel Painted Oxen is that at some point in our lives, we all have to leave our home in order to find the Sacred Mountain. And one of the things we discover is that our home is that the Sacred Mountain is our home. So every journey is really a journey home, a journey to ourselves.
The hero’s journey is an ageless story. One that continues to remind us who we are. And one we each have an opportunity to write.
Painted Oxen is one of those stories. It is also a kind of compass to help us find our way back to ourselves. And back to each other.
If you haven’t set out on your own hero’s journey yet, let Painted Oxen be your invitation. Now is always the time.
Begin the journey.
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Thomas Lloyd Qualls is a writer, a condition that is apparently incurable.
Join him for the launch of his new novel Painted Oxen, on Saturday, April 6, at 2pm. Sundance Books & Music, 121 California Avenue, Reno, NV 89509.