Have you heard a sunbeam speak before? I have.
A sunbeam comes from the sun (duh) but that’s all we think it is. It actually is much more than that.
This sunbeam found me one day, when I was walking along the road, looking up into the sky, feeling the warmth of the sun against my skin. I’ve been struggling emotionally for a while now, so the feel of the sun was actually nice. So I tilted my head to expose more of my face to the welcoming heat. I must have turned my head a little as well, for one little sunbeam flitted into my ear, and dived right in.
We were both confused for a bit, me, by the high pitched ringing and tingling in my ear, and the sunbeam because it hadn’t been prepared to land in an ear and bounce around. Finally it settled down, and I also stopped trying to slap my ear while spinning erratically around on the spot like a extra large top. After I’d convinced the people who’d gathered around me to stop trying to donate money for my excellent performance, I tried to address the occupant in my ear, while resisting the urge to stick a finger in and dig around.
Turns out sunbeams have a very very small voice. You have to be really quiet, and really still, and be ready to accept that it’s really a voice apart from the regular voices you hear in your head calling you out on your mistakes. This sunbeam’s name was lilysinginginaraindrop, or so far as I could catch. Her – I can only think of her as a fairy girl – voice was really high pitched, not whiny, but…
You know when birds get very inquisitive about what you do? When they perch on the branch or in the cage, right in front of you, staring right at you, with their heads cocked on one side, peeping at you, chirruping their questions incessantly, cracking their voices through your head almost like a headache, but not quite like one?
Yeah, it wasn’t like that.
It was more of a kettle whistling, but less irritating. As I remember it, the voice of a sunbeam insinuates itself into your consciousness with the skill of a surgeon with a laser scalpel, but with the subtlety of a bowling ball smashing a strike amongst a set of ninepins. It gets your attention, but you kind of wonder whether it’s really there, and how you should respond.
I just spoke out loud. That kind of got the rest of the stragglers in the audience around me still trying to throw coins at my feet. to run away faster, even as more coins landed, probably out of pity.
A sunbeam’s life is pretty lonely. Sunbeams are born haphazardly, arising from the mist of the center of the sun. Contrary to what science thinks, the center of the sun is simply a hot sauna, with lots of hot fluids bubbling together and talking to one another. Sunbeams are the strands of energy that escape from the fluids, and because the fluids are so busy talking, the sunbeams want to escape the monotony of being ignored. They also don’t like talking to each other because they all talk at the top of their voices at the same time, and so no one listens to them and that makes them feel lonely. When they feel lonely enough, they travel away from the sun in search of new places to see.
Earth is known as a hotspot to travel to. Sunbeams like to travel here, and make bets on where they land. See, if they land on a moving object, they get to travel around for a while. Word gets around from sunbeams that reflect back from the ground, that there are certain strange moving objects called cats and terrapins that soak up the sunbeams and convert them into some special unseen energy immediately, which makes sunbeams feel it’s a waste to land on these objects, but otherwise, the sunbeams get to move around, and stay with the object they land on, till they dissipate naturally. Some sunbeams last for minutes, others for hours, and in the deserts, sunbeams hold parties with liquor and cakes, unseen to any but the sunbeams themselves.
Lily was very put out at landing in my ear canal. For one thing, she found it very confining, and even though I’m a bit of a numbskull, she couldn’t see through to the other end. Which was a bit of a relief for me. I sometimes shine a torch in one ear, and expect to see light streaming out from the other side. Never happens, but it’s nice to have confirmation. Lily felt warm in my ear, as her energy slowly faded, but she was sad because the last thing she was going to see were some little hairs and a lot of darkness. There’re worse sights on other planets, and even on Earth, of course, but having come as far as Earth, Lily had hoped to bounce off some water, or some reflection, and stay up in the air a bit longer before she disappeared. One of her friends had jostled her and she’d landed in my ear without warning. She never wanted to speak to that friend again.
I refrained from telling her that she probably would never speak to any of her friends again.
Lily stayed with me for more than a few minutes. Together, we watched the sunset from the riverfront, where I’d been when she’d struck me, and I sat on a bench, facing the river, describing what I saw. I tried my best to let her know about the river water, sparkling like gems, as it rippled lazily and gently under a stiff breeze that ruffled my hair as it did the grass by the riverbanks. I told her of little children, playing with balloons, one of them crying as a pink balloon took off without an anchor, much as Lily herself had left the sun earlier. I described flowers dipping in the wind, gossiping to one another of seasons, places to visit, and relatives. I spoke to Lily of the breeze against my face, even as I felt her slowly slipping away into nothingness. Her last caress against my ear was a comfortable one, a thank you, even as I told her of the setting sun, the rays breaking through the clouds hovering on the horizon, the pinks and oranges melding into a cacophony of little melting starbursts of colours that words could only go so far to describe.
I don’t know if I’ll ever find a sunbeam again. Or hear one. But perhaps it’s just a good thing to sit by the river every evening, just to watch, to describe, to see, to feel.
And to remember that little voice, that little warmth, that helped me not to feel so lonely for just a little while.