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Razi and the Holy Wino of Shasta

Dreamed 1994/9/1 by Chris Wayan


Sketch of Mt Shasta: twin snowcapped volcanic cones, crowned in lenticular clouds Sketch of Mt Shasta badly eroded, 20,000 years in the future: twin snowcapped volcanic cones with a natural arch between

I dreamed of Mount Shasta, twenty thousand years in the future. If you haven't visited California or Oregon, picture two towering stratovolcanic cones fused together: Shasta proper, linked by a snowy saddle to lower Shastina, only as tall as Fuji. It's more a country than a mountain, four or five kilometers high, floating glacier-white on the horizon, compass needle and north pole in one, dominating a region 500 kilometers wide.

Shasta's always been as sacred as Fuji, too, with a reputation for spirits and odd happenings even today; New Age cults clutter its feet. When I was a kid, we drove by every summer on the way to Seattle, camped and hiked around it.

I always thought it was God.

But in my dream, set twenty thousand years from now, Shasta's old, and eroded terribly since my day. The saddle between the two peaks thinned as glaciers gnawed at both sides; it became a natural bridge, which then collapsed. The main peak eroded faster than Shastina, and the two are now twin peaks, a mere 11,000 feet high--a thousand meters lost! Unrecognizable as the Shasta I knew. I mourn the ruin of my childhood shrine, though I know it's deep time's way.

Only I'm wrong. Time is not to blame. Steep young cinder-cones do change very quickly, but... this isn't natural. For eons after my time, Shasta's been riddled with tunnels by weird little beings called snicker-penguins. Black and white bird with long drill-beak open in a manic laugh: a snicker-penguin, a high-tech species inhabiting cave-cities in Mt Shasta 20,000 years from now.

These secretive birds live underground, but prefer their caves airy and with a view. They may have already begun infesting Shasta's scenic slopes even in industrial times, causing part of its reputation as a spook-peak.

And slowly, their burrows gnawed at Shasta's guts, until its crown collapsed. And you thought only humans fouled their own nests!


The snicker-penguins may look cute, but no one likes them--it's not just me. I mean, their favorite saying is "Nyah, nyah!" I know that tone--when I was little, kids would follow me around and mock me for being different. Little critics. Shasta's infested with a whole race of bratty ten-year-olds in tuxes! Drilling holes in everything with their sharp little beaks...

Mockers. A whole mountain of mockers.

Humanity would like to kick the penguins out of Shasta, but even the Feds have given up. The Navy built a secret command post nearby, to coordinate the antipenguin campaign, but the penguins, those master miners, easily cracked in and took it over. When the Navy tried to stamp a logo on the peak to reclaim it, the penguins sabotaged the Navy software and erased the claim effortlessly, almost contemptuously. They didn't retaliate, just made it clear they're technologically ahead of humanity and plan to stay so.

But they could retaliate--and that's why the Feds have backed off. Penguins have the Bomb! A bearded, unkempt old man in a spattered red coat painting an oval panel on an easel in a meadow: The Holy Wino of Shasta.


Human hermits, mystics and misfits use the mouths of abandoned penguin burrows for their retreats. The Old Wino is the one I know best. Of course he doesn't call himself that--he sees himself as The Holy Hermit, the oldest on Shasta. But his drinking has gotten so bad, he wanders around in a fog--barely takes care of himself. He still paints, obsessively in fact--if not always well. He says they're prophecies--spiritual visions and shamanic dreams. Who knows? Revelations or drunken hallucinations? And while he paints whatever-they-are, he forgets to rest or eat. But not to drink. That he remembers.

Still, because he's been here so long and because he's reckless (one should never spelunk alone), he knows the caves better than anyone but a snicker-penguin.

One day, the Holy Wino leads me to a wonderful hot spring in a cave. Shasta's fire is not yet dead, whatever happens to its head; still living magma at the root. Lower down the slope, there are several well-known steaming cave-rivers where pilgrims come to bathe. But this hotspring seems private, only the Wino (and presumably the penguins) know of it--and now, me.

I'm honored by his confidence, but I'm timid to use it much. For I fear the penguins will come pick on me. No, that was a euphemism. Snicker-peck me to death. Or worse: not quite to death. Holy--holy as a swiss cheese.
Razi the krelkin, bard of Mount Shasta, in a hot spring, defying the penguins' claim to the whole mountain. Click to enlarge. Razi, a deer-girl with large pointed ears, closing her eyes to play playing a small golden spiral harp. Click to enlarge.


But the hero of my dream isn't me, or the Old Wino, or any human. No, not a penguin either--certainly not a penguin! It's a krelkin named Razi. This is yet another species that's evolved since our time. Razi's an herbivorous deerlike girl with a mare's mane and tail (usually full of bright beads--she has a crowlike love of glittery things), stubby four-fingered hands for front paws, a furry five-octave voice and a vast hearing range (and pointed, pointable ears).

Razi's a musician--well, a bard, really, a singer-harpist-storyteller, a role quite a bit more prestigious than simple musician. Her extraordinary wide-ranging voice is a job requirement: you have to take on the roles of all the characters in narrative songs, in the Shasta bardic tradition. Almost like a musical novelist or playwright!
By a mountain pool, three sentient penguins examine a spiral harp. Click to enlarge.

Razi plays a peculiar round/spiral harp like nothing I've seen in the waking world, with radial strings like a spiderweb, and a sapphire clasp as the central spider--though it's off-center of course, to allow a wider range of string-lengths. The scale is chromatic; she can play anything on this compact little harp, though it can't go as low as her deepest voice.

Still, with that long spiral hornlike resonator, it thrums and sings louder than one of our concert harps.

So does Razi. She's a real character. Confident and easygoing, comfortable in her body, she's the sort to act on her urges, and doesn't think twice. Trusting!

Her life looks so risky, so brave, compared to shy me. Yet... her wild jumps all work out. A miracle-magnet!

Do I sound envious? You're right. A furry girl rises from a pool in a ferny cave, green-lit from its underwater entrance. Click to enlarge.


I tell Razi about this hot-spring cave, knowing she'll use it as I can't. She promptly gallops up the mountain, finds the cave, and dives joyfully into the spring. Rather than being harassed by penguins, she has her usual luck: makes a serendipitous discovery.

Razi dives deep, exploring the cave, and finds a flooded passage into a damp warm steamy cave, trailing with ferns... A furry girl rises from a pool in a ferny cave to meet robed, slender, bony elfin dwellers. Click to enlarge.
...a cave with level floors, firepits, ladders, and dim glowing spheres--artificial lights. Inhabited!

The residents look somewhat human, but very slender and delicate, with quick jittery gestures, as if they're a fast-motion film. They're a rare race of beings called cave-elves. How rare? No one's sure--very few have ever been seen or interviewed, for they're terribly private.

Razi introduces me to them, and we converse with fully half a dozen individuals--a Shasta record! Very nearly a world record.

A girl not much over three years old tells us "I'm thinking of having kids of my own soon"--though she still looks like a human child of six or so! Apparently this is normal for cave elves.

They mature mentally at an equally fantastic pace--IQs pushing 300 in human reckoning. I don't know whether they mature early and then plateau, or if they keep maturing to become geniuses beyond our comprehension. Her father, the only elder I know, seems brilliant, but still understandable... But is he hiding his full intelligence?

Or we may be blind to it. Like pearls before penguins.

He does tell me they don't like my exposing them, even mentioning them in a dream-tale. They want their privacy. I apologize, but say I must go on exploring, telling all the inhabitants of the Mountain about each other. For we all need allies against the penguins.


Later, I struggle to tow a heavy trailer full of electronic gear onto the freeway. The Navy's anti-penguin gear... and Razi's amps! Heavy stuff, and I wrestle with the wheel. My car's underpowered for this, but we need the gear! Cars honk at me, yell as they zoom by. It's humiliating, but I won't let them provoke me to throw out music... or self-defense!

Or passages like this. I know they don't make a neat, elegant story, but this isn't fiction. I'm reporting real experience, real memories, not an invention. So I don't want to censor awkward facts. Like Shasta's steaming, spook-haunted caves, the dream was riddled with messages--with meaning. Mixed couples dancing in a meadow. Very mixed: different species. In the foreground, a furry deerlike girl in the arms of a human boy looks shocked.


I'm doing a dance exercise with Razi, in a meadow. We stand facing each other and fall inward with arms before us, to form an A. It's a trust-exercise. I like leaning on her and her leaning on me. Her hands bang firmly into my pecs. Lightly built though I am, I feel solid.

But when I do the same to her, she flinches: my own straight-out hands touch her breasts. They're small, fur-covered, and a bit more side-facing on krelkins, but still, they might be tender. Or is she just shy, is this taboo?

I look around, and other krelkin dancers are leaning casually on each others' breasts without flinching. Is it because I'm human, or weigh more than most krelkins? Or maybe hers muscles are sore? Or is she uncomfortable with me alone?

I say neutrally "I'll try to find a place I can lean on--how about like this?" Rotate my arms so my hands cup the outside of her breasts, with most of my weight on her pecs below the shoulder. She tilts her head like she's listening to her own body, but doesn't answer. I add "Can you tell me if something else would work better?"

Because we have to figure out a way we can lean on each other...
Razi, a woman of deerish ancestry, thigh-deep in a hotspring. She has a dappled pelt, a long neck, pointed ears, and colored glass beads in her luxuriant chestnut mane and tail. Rocks, reeds. Icy peaks in the background. Click to enlarge.


Many months of intrigue later, we push the snicker-penguins back decisively! They still hold the heights, but the mountain-skirts are securely ours now.

To celebrate our victory, we three meet again, in the cafeteria of the Navy facility built into the mountain-foot, not far from the Holy Wino's secret spring. Razi's polite with the old drunk, but her rich voice can't fully conceal that she's saddened and embarrassed to see and smell him like this. Me too. He's apparently forgotten all about his role in the early stages of Razi's tactical triumph; we're honoring the husk of the man he was. The lunch drags on awkwardly, me adoring Razi but unable to say so; the Wino drinking quietly into a stew; and Razi, nervous and fidgeting, not wanting to be rude to the Wino, but...

And then, at dessert, he sniffles and says to Razi: "Well, how'd your quest go? You smell like you succeeded. I remember your scent, all these years. Still just as wonderful: 'Incense and Peppermints.'"

Razi gasps! His phrase triggers a mini-satori, a buried memory she lost years ago. The phrase was a key!

And he knew it, and carried it for her, all these years, until she could take it again. Not only are his mind and spirit alive in that old shell, he's capable of bestowing blessings. And subtlety, too: though human himself, he prompted her memory in a deeply krelkin way--notice how his phrasing referred to scent, not sight.

A holy hermit after all!

And yet, and yet... deep in the volcano, the penguins are still laughing at us. We've won a battle, not the war.

You know, I adored Razi, but I've idealized her. Even she's not perfect: she really underestimated that old hermit.

And so did I. Line of figures in a meadow playing 'crack the whip'; at the whip-tip is a red-robed bearded man, in the foreground. Click to enlarge.

What if the penguins have too? What ELSE does the Old Wino know?

I wonder.


My sister didn't warn the restaurant a large party was coming, or check to see what kind of place it was; she just heard it had great food. Turns out, it's a formal place for business types--humans, in suits. Not a krelkin in the place. When we clomp in, all wild and scruffy artists in spattered jeans and living fur, the manager glares and orders a separate room cleared for us, so we won't shock the regulars.

The Old Artist endures the party, obviously being patient for us. He'd rather be painting.

Then it's time for games in the park--a ferny canyon with a grass floor. The party-givers and a rich art collector run around playing "crack the whip" with the Old Artist on the end. He seems to have fun for a while, but you can see a patience-timer ticking away inside... until it runs out.

He dings his glasss for silence. A speech! Uncharacteristic of him... but we all "Thanks for admiring my work so much you feel it necessary to prevent it," he says sweetly. And walks out of his own party, up the crumbling old volcano, to his cave. To think, and drink, and paint, and lie in the doorway and commune with his mountain, old and scruffy and eroded like him. And, like him, serene.

To have his own happy birthday.


Apparently. And that, I think, is the message for me of this dream. I over-value Razi's femme virtues, and devalue another set of values, harsh and austere and solitary, that is developing in me even as I long to find a Razi, or become one. The Wino has a brutal sense of time passing, a bone-deep sense that we each have a finite span to spend. And he chooses to spend his creating, not having fun.

At least, that's the message for this millenium. Someday, maybe I'll be ready to face the full implications of those cave elves (what are their values and goals?), and try to lure them out into the light.

In, say, twenty thousand years.

Razi the krelkin, bard of Mount Shasta, sprawled under a tree, playing her harp; my first painting of her, years after the dream.


"Incense and Peppermints," the phrase unlocking Razi's buried memories, is not random: it's the title of a dreamlike psychedelic song by Strawberry Alarm Clock, about facing your deep self. The song was a hit in the 1960s, when I was a kid; so it's one of MY deep memories. Apparently, a deeper one than I knew.

2007 NOTES

Now, when I need to be rude and asocial, my inner Wino comes out more freely; the reward's been a flood of creative energy. The snickerpenguins in my head have themselves eroded into (mostly) constructive kibitzers. Perhaps as a result, I've nearly forgotten what it's like to have an artistic block. I spend much of my time in a flow-state, a blessed creative fever that I'd previously only known in short bursts followed by exhaustion and illness from overwork.

On the other hand, my chronic illness is looking more and more like undiagnosed Lyme disease. Today, these penguins drilling holes that erode the body of Shasta look suspiciously like spirochetes drilling holes in my tissue...

Cave elves? Here on the World Dream Bank, at least, I've begun talking of child prodigies and geniuses. While a few have flamed me for it, most of my mail on the topic's been from other isolated child prodigies--other cave-elves who recognize their issues.

This spring, I decided to paint the dream and tell all--Razi, the Wino, the snicker-penguins, and even the cave-elves. Yet when I had to discuss the painting, I spoke of all the others but shied away from those elves and their issues. Maybe in person I always will. In America, hatred of even giftedness is bad enough.

Oval painting on wood, telling the dream 'Razi and the Holy Wino of Shasta' in gold script meandering between eight leaf-shaped panels showing a snicker-penguin, the Holy Wino painting, Razi the krelkin harper, the cave-elves, Razi in the hotspring, and so on. CLICK TO ENLARGE.
Nearly all of the illustrations for the dream are close-ups of this painting. It's 54" tall (137 cm), acrylic on wood, lettered in antique gold. The central portrait of Razi floats half an inch above the main oval. While I'm still tinkering with details, I have to admit it's my favorite painting right now.

LISTS AND LINKS: time past, time future - dream peaks - Shasta, the holy mountain - dream beings - animal people - penguins and other birds - Krelkins - musicians - sexy creatures - paradise and utopias - hermits - drugs and alcohol - addiction and 12-step programs - genius, IQ, child prodigies - creative process - smelly dreams - artists - pure digital art - nonrectangular art - the mad lone artist returns, in Thief of Dreams - 150 years earlier, a not-so-different hotspring dream: Otter Medicine

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