Date:          Sunday, July 27, 1999 (4:02 p.m. EST)
    "Who Said the Emperor Has No Clothes? Oh, I did."

Kibur Atse Gelawdios hoy,

I was enchanted by the tale of magical seals and of solitary time travel (though the nausea-inducing hairpin curves you took through time would have dissuaded a less intrepid traveler than I), and I will try to be equal to the task of responding. But before I engulf you with compliments, legass Gelawdios

{INTERRUPTION: a hasty typo, Welgadios, was just as quickly deleted -- you would have never forgiven me. ;o) }

…I prepared myself for another twist in this teret-teret carried out over the new millennium's version of the ol' QeCHinu shibo -- I am still amazed at how far computers have come, and have brought us with them. Do you think our elders were this intrigued with the telephone and the television? It's hard to remember that all this technology is only one-generation deep, at best. But I stray off subject…

…so, here I was, waiting for the next twist…, and when I'm distracted by the fact that you are naïve enough to believe that carrying money is beneath great people. I admit it's true that, for monarchs, the early form of the Credit Card was indeed the trusty Bejirond... hard to fit in a wallet but useful to drag around when inviting others out to dinner. Thankfully, I came fully prepared to that fateful meal, and was even forewarned…but more on that later.

Soooooo, speaking of compliments, let me begin by answering that overused question "Where's the beef?". Be it kitfo, QwanTa, zilzil Tibs, or even QurT (my least favorite), there is always room for beef, Your Vegetarianness, figuratively speaking, of course.

I now know that your art is your mighty sword (not the goradei but the pen) that you wield so effortlessly. You take the reader by the hand, much as you yourself were led in the story, and escort us through a soul search that leaves me filled with hope and faith. Not an easy task in these times of disappointment and despair; for this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Your imagery is exquisite, using animals and people, men and women (I thank you especially for that) to get to the source of the pain we all feel during these hard times, and those we've already gone through. Even the reader who is a non-Christian or is not particularly religious can accept the images, and easily appreciate how desperately those seven gifts are needed. You successfully marry the traditional with the modern, not glorifying one or the other, but using the best of both. You bring back fond memories of church rituals (though, I'll admit, as a kid I thought they were boring and backward) without beating us over the head with it -- such restraint! Overall, Master Storyteller, a truly magnificent job.

As you surely know by now, fellow traveler, there is another side to this story, but this is less of a twist than you might expect.

The year is still 2045…

While on that fateful journey you took, kind sir, did you not happen to see a white-haired woman, sitting straight and unbent on a mountain peak, cloaked with pride and (hopefully) with wisdom as surely as the gabi that one strong hand holds around her, the lines on her face telling of a life full of light, of love, and of courage in times of darkness? She would remember you, for you shared a meal in a tavern, and a journey across a bridge, so many years ago. Were you to approach her then, she would never look puzzled and ask, "Yemaneh, wendimei?"

In her other hand, she holds a full bouquet of mesQel abeba, the flowers' relatively short life perhaps symbolic of the fleeting nature of happiness, and their brilliant color reminding us of the intensity of that happiness, however short-lived.

She watches fondly over the crowd, and over the key people assembled -- Shiberu and Woderyelesh, and their daughter, Selamawit, all of whom she recognizes, but also her old friend and favorite co-conspirator, Gelawadios. He is accompanied by an unknown person with a timeless face and the look of forever about him. She watches intrigued as the seals are broken, and the people rejoice, and she has tears running down her face as she realizes that the journey, at least this one, is finally over. She carefully puts her flowers aside.

Fondly, she watches the big changes begin, and lights a fire as she quickly realizes that perhaps a prayer was required for each of the changes to come. It is true that nothing can work without the big changes; however, as women the world over have known since the beginning of time (and even some wise men), it's the little shifts that make the big changes endure.

The flames of the newly lit fire die down, and in the buhei tradition of her foremothers and forefathers (even though it's not Nehasei any longer), she makes the following requests to the Higher Power.

The doves fly by, and she raises her voices to the heavens. "Now that peace has come, let each person learn again to smile at and greet each stranger he meets on the street, let each person learn again to invite a loner to join the warmth of her group in a cup of coffee. No more shall we refrain from extending our kindness to strangers because of the newfound inhospitable chic that is part timidity, part pride. Let us return to some of the old ways that had served us so well."

As she says these words, she gathers her skirts high and steps across the embers, sending her message on its way.

The red horse thunders through the valley. "With the end to murder and torture, let the little unkindnesses in our daily lives also end. Let us no longer ridicule those with physical and mental disabilities or pretend they do not exist. Let us think twice before meting out physical or psychological punishment, especially on children. Let no one kill another's spirit, or hope."

Another long step over the fire, another wish on its way.

She watches the black horse and the balance. "As justice settles over the land, let the little injustices also end. Let no one be passed over in a store, ignored at a counter, mistreated in a classroom, lay untended in a hospital, because they were not dressed well enough, are not imposing enough, or fail to be impressive enough, to merit note. Let money, or its absence, play no part in settling differences, or in making difficult decisions."

The skirts swish over the glowing embers and herald the passing of the message.

The horse that next flies by is the color of the ashes now collecting around the dying fire. Her eyes follow its passing until the last flash of its hooves, and she goes on with her self-appointed task. "With the elimination of hunger and disease, let us rejoice in our bodies. Let us no longer take them for granted, abuse them, or neglect them, be they ours or others', but feed them well and make them strong. Let us love the unique vessels that God has made for our souls to reside in, each vessel in its own way a work of art."

Those below the woman on her mountain do not see this next step across the fire, and do not know of her small wishes, but she knows. And she continues.

With the passing faces of all who were slain, she weeps. "Let no one ever fear again to speak their mind, to stand for good and right, to stop others from their evil deeds. Let us learn, too, to forgive those who have done us harm, big or small: the friend who betrayed a confidence, the step-mother or the in-law who treated us ill, the neighbor who bore false witness in a small matter not worthy of the lie. Let us no longer feel the acid burn of Qim in the center of our being."

Her step is no less firm or determined in spite of her trembling lips.

Her tears are forgotten with the opening of the next seal, as the glorious mountains that she's always claimed as hers are given back their former glory. "With the return of our natural riches, our trees, animals and birds (and bees?), let us learn how to keep them as resplendent. Let each person whose arm automatically extends to throw a cigarette butt, a foil mastika wrapper, a plastic bag, find his fingers unable to let go. Let those whose poverty forces them to overuse these resources find ways to gain a decent living, and to retain their dignity as well as their natural heritage. Let us no longer cut, burn and destroy all the plenty that has been given to us, so that 50, 100, 500 years hence, divine intervention will no longer be necessary."

The wish, another step, and a fire…and a woman with her job almost done.

The sound of the kebero is a welcome end to the silence that was engulfing the valley. She sits still for yet another few minutes, and stands again to take the final step. "This seal needs no further tinkering. Let there be no more divisions." As her final words go on their way, the fire finally dies.

She looks back at the young woman she had been so long ago, and across the bridge of time and space, they smile at each other. "Yenei lij, in our hands and within our hearts, we all have the means to make this happen. Each of us will bring our perspectives, and with them our solutions. I pray that you, in your time, and we in ours, will know when to come together and reach the most important compromises."

Then a mischievous smile shines across her face, one I easily recognize, and she extends her hand, and a little something, across the void to the younger woman, standing in the tavern in Debre Tabor, "…and here's arba-sidist birr t'amsa. If I know Gelawdios, he'll stick you with the bill."

Just before she disappears in the distance, she turns back with one last word, "Go easy with the brownies."

And so the story ends, and I have to say, it irks me royally (pun?) that you get the last word. But perhaps that is best; otherwise, these poor readers may have to read yet more pontificating (could there be two bigger windbags anywhere else on earth?!!). Thank God we are unknown (we may need to ….ahem….. TAKE STEPS to ensure that our identities remain hidden). And remarkably, I also broke that 5 page barrier -- what a way to end!

Thanks for a great journey full of good-natured nitirik and loads of fun. May all of our future journeys be as twisted and as enjoyable…

With my deepest regards,


p.s. there is no post script. (Were you expecting one? I wouldn't want to be that predictable….)

Date:         Monday, July 28, 1999 (4:02 p.m. EST)
From:      Gelawdios
Subject:   "It Was Good For Me Too"

Girmawit Etege Makeda,

Emebeté, thank you very much for your kind words and observations. You have also been a wonderful fellow traveler. On a few occasions, had you not decided to get off at a particular fermata and changed our route who knows where we might have headed? Your embi baye and ashafergn attitude toward despair and pessimism (remember how your perception of the Debre Tabor dinner was completely different than mine?) emboldened me to try to coax hope and faith out of the messenger of the Apocalypse.

Madam, the seven gifts that leaped out of the seven digital disks would have been incomplete had it not been for the complementary ceremony that took place at the nearby mountain peak.

Excuse the digression. At our age, Madam, I think it is important to be honest with one another. I will therefore abstain from any fugera. No, madam, I did not see you when the Apostle John and I arrived at the top of the crater. Since you and I have been travelling partners now for quite some time, I should have immediately looked for you when I arrived at the foothills of the Entoto. However, two things prevented me from looking around: the lush mountainscape and the Apostle John.

The last time I had seen Entoto (late 20th century), it was in the process of  being choked by the construction of new buildings. When I left Debre Tabor and landed straight on the foothills of the Entoto, I was dazzled and relieved by the sight of the robust mountainscape. It had struggled, shook off its stranglers and regained its former glory. What more I can say about the Apostle John? As I wrote earlier, when you are walking to an unknown destination with the author of the Apocalypse, you do not want to be too demanding.

Nevertheless, I did see you once the first seal had been broken. I was looking up when I saw a giant shadow temporarily obscuring the rider of the white horse. I first thought it was an eclipse and therefore an evil omen. (Maki, notice how I stray toward pessimism when you are not around.)

Then, I turned back and noticed the late afternoon sun that was hovering above Makeda’s peak. The smoke that arose from the fire that you had lit on the peak made the golden glow of the sunset sparkle. In mid air, leaping across the fire, you momentarily blocked the sun’s rays and cast immense shadows on the gathering in the crater.

Madam, had a different person cast the shadow, I would have interpreted your apparition as a harbinger of doom. But, at the end of a teret, one must grasp not only the moral of the story but also the essence of each character in the story. You, Madam, are Meskerem, the Eternal Spring. The infinite hope for rejuvenation. Nay, Madam, the bouquet of mesQel abeba in your hand will remain forever brilliant.

Oookay, I think it’s time to fast forward to the end. Well, once I noticed you on the peak, I waited until the seventh digital disk had been inserted. After I had carefully viewed the images of those that had divided our country and her people (phew, I’m glad I—that is Atse Gelawdios—was not one of them!), I decided to remain in 2045 but send my younger self back to Debra Tabor. Unbeknownst to you, I was limping—yes, gout always gets in the way when you’re trying to get the girl—toward the sunset when you wrote your last entry.


[Note to the Editors: I did reach the peak. Yes, I have walked into the sunset, hand-in-hand, with Makeda. No, I will not summarize my feelings about my phenomenal journey with her. Yes, I’ve decided to express them directly to her, in private. As mentioned in an earlier entry, some revelations are best left for the elfign. Yes, my Bejerond is right behind me: I don’t want to suffer additional indignities. By the way, Makeda has second thoughts about those brownies.]