‘Master,’ said the lion, looking at the boy with glowing eyes. ‘You who bear the emblem of the Childlike Empress, can you tell me this: Why must I always die at nightfall?’
‘So that Perilin, the Night Forest, can grow in the Desert of Colors,’ said Bastian.
‘Perilin?’ said the lion. ‘What’s that?’
Then Bastian told him about the miraculous jungle that consisted of living light. While Grograman listened in fascinated amazement, Bastian described the diversity and beauty of the glimmering phosphorescent plants, their silent, irresistible growth, their dream-like beauty and incredible size. His enthusiasm grew as he spoke and Grograman’s eyes glowed more and more brightly. ‘All that,’ Bastian concluded, ‘can happen only when you are turned to stone. But Perilin would swallow up everything else and stifle itself if it didn’t have to die and crumble into dust when you wake up. You and Perilin need each other.’
—Michael Ende, The Neverending Story
I visited Montreal for the first time this past weekend, on the event of my sister’s graduation. Had an enjoyable time drinking fine French Canadian beers, pretending to speak French and struggling valiantly to hold my own with idealistic, new-minted Canadian intellectuals. Also spent a fair amount of time wandering the streets presenting my country-boy fish-out-of-water colors to the absurdly thin and fashionable Quebecois in my unhip hick flannels and wool and silly aussie hat. It rained a lot. I stood under a lot of awnings in zen contemplation of clouds, hid out in bookstores (found a nice used copy of If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler) and the Musee des Beaux Arts (viewed ghostly panoramic tintypes of the Bay of Havana, glorious hyperbolic propaganda posters of the Cuban revolution), stepped in a lot of puddles and got a lot of drenched. Like I said, an enjoyable time. But I am a simple man, and I have to admit, the best part of the weekend was last night at 11 after the long car ride home, standing in my garden with the stars and the seedlings and the dregs of a half-pint of homebrewed kolsch.
It’s the contrasts that make meaning.