I am three, she said,
And always have been.
We three are one
Ever united.

The first treads lightly upon the surface, and not even a grain of sand shifts at her passing. Her hair, unbound, ripples like wheat-stalks, bending in the breeze and sunlight. Cloud-like she, substantial-seeming, yet, should you reach out fingers to grasp her, she will flow around you and through you, over and beneath you, leaving your hands empty and your skin chilled to goose-bumps.

Love is but a word to her, without context or meaning. She is pure, with the purity of ice or diamond, white, cold, hard, incorruptible. Unsullied ever, untainted, for none can soil what they may not touch.

She is bright with the beauty of edges and brilliants, in all its sparkling terror.

This is one.

The next stands firm in her footsteps. She has lips, red and intoxicating as fine, aged Burgundy wine and a fragrance of apricots and incense. Honey, she is, smooth, flowing, and golden; sweet on the lips and soothing to the soul.

Love, to her, is heat and pleasure, a feast to be fallen on and shared recklessly, wantonly. She is lush, vibrant, a Spanish garden in full summer, shot through with oranges and purples and pinks to dazzle the eyes and seduce the soul into endless dancing. She reaches out her hands to gather and hold, to keep and to nurture, to charm and to caress.

Hers is the beauty of flame and sunsets, which warms and devours.

And this is two.

The third, the last, moves not, yet her stillness is not inaction. Her eyes are grey as sorrow, and as deep as desperation. Her texture, parchment; scribed on every surface with wisdom, written starkly by experience’s bitter ink. She stands like a beacon or a monument, freely offering truth and insight to any who dare to seek it.

She knows love, in all its guises, but feels it now as pain and loss, an emptiness left by the passing procession of all that once filled her heart. And yet, she is not angry nor twisted, but, like the mountains, calmly accepting of time’s sure, slow erosion. A tall forest she is, not touching, not demanding attention or notice, but standing ready, always, to use all that she is and everything she has grown to know to protect and shelter those who come to her.

She wears the beauty of darkness, owns the subtle play of shadows and the soft gentleness of rest.

This is the last

Take one, take all, for they cannot be divided – to try to separate any one from the others would be to destroy everything.

I am three, she said
And we three are one
Embrace all, she said
Or else, embrace none.

Start Again


"What has been divided must be reunited.
The pattern has been shown to you; it is for you to understand.
Unite the three divided kingdoms.
Bring together the three queens."

Of all the puzzles of my life, this riddle of the three queens has been the most elusive and at times frustrating. So many times I have thought that I understood the meaning. At first I believed it had something to do with myself, as the pattern was familiar to me through the failed relationships of my early life. There would be the elusive first queen, the one I could never reach. There would be the passionate second queen who offered herself to me, usually in the most madly physical ways. There would be the third queen, the healer who always stood apart from me although she was always there for me when I needed her. They always came in fairly rapid succession. So, the first conclusion I reached was that I needed to make a decision. This pattern had always caused me misery and heartbreak. Since I could not attain what I most desired, I would end up getting hurt and betrayed by the passions of she who gave herself to me, and always needed to rely on the stoic reliability of the third. So, the simple answer was that I needed to keep myself focused on one of the three. I tried to maintain an unwavering commitment to the first queen. I attempted to keep the second satisfied, for the betrayals were always related to her knowledge that she was not my first choice. I attempted to find the third queen first so she could see me as I was rather than as a creature of need.

That did not work.

It began to get clearer as I became able to see beyond my own needs and desires. The next step was to consider their needs and desires. What was it that I could give to them that was essential and important? Each was always jealous of the others. Each wanted what I was able to give to the other two. I was causing strife between them, most obviously in the three "shadow queens," Tina, Christina and Tammy, because they worked together in the same restaurant.

There was a strange, inexplicable and powerful bond between Tina and myself. She was the one who had guided me in dreams to the place where there was no snow. She had originally come from the same town I had come from and had grown up within a handful of miles from where I grew up. She was somehow physically similar to me, drank the same beer, smoked the same cigarettes and owned the same leather jacket I owned. On our first meeting we both felt we knew each other. It frightened her. The last time we spoke she told me that she had turned to religion as an answer because, "There is no other explanation for all that has happened since you arrived." There was more to the story that she never told me. I only knew part of it.

This bond caused a feeling of envy in Christina, the second shadow queen, who longed to be with someone who desired her above all things. In their workplace, Tina was often the center of attention, the kind of woman whose beauty and charisma drew men to her. Christina was more the invisible type, shy and withdrawn, the product of having carried the twin burdens of cancer and obesity as a child. She would steal my attention from Tina. It would feel like a victory to her, and together there was great passion consummated, but eventually there would be betrayal and abandonment. I could never truly make her feel like she was all that mattered to me, or even that I held her in higher regard than all others.

In the third shadow queen was a different kind of insecurity. Tammy had grown up as an orphan and had always struggled to survive. Men often desired her for her body, but rarely for what else she had to offer. She listened to everything I said and read every word I wrote, even when those words were meant for someone else. She worked to understand me, and when the time came, she rescued me from self-destruction using my own words to bring me back to life.

It was not possible to choose one over the others. They were all essential, and soon I started to see that my desire to make a choice was a red herring. The puzzle had to do with understanding three aspects of the same image, the three kingdoms divided. I was seeing each for what was reflected of them in my eyes. There was much more. I was only seeing them from my perspective, which I learned several years later while listening to eulogies at Christina's funeral. There was more to her than she revealed to me, and the same was certainly true of the others.

"By dividing the shadow queens
you learned how to unite the three queens.
The lesson unfolded.
Whether you learn what is taught is your choice.
See what divided them and see how to unite them.
Were not the shadow queens together when you found them?
Did you not play a key role in dividing them?"

I had gone wrong when I attempted to possess a single queen while all but disregarding the others in the process. It was my covetous nature that led to the fall. I tried to reason a way by which one of the shadow queens could become my "partner" and stand with me always. This led to a confused state of mind where I decided the first could never be truly possessed and the second could only be possessed in a brief and passionate time. By the time I got around to the third queen, well, who the hell wants to feel like a third choice? Consolation prize?

The three life queens, the ones who would always be part of my life, had a different quality to them in how they related to me. With the shadow queens, it always felt like a transition, a temporary state of being. This is why I began calling them "shadow queens," a representation of something else.

Two of the three life queens were known to me when I came into contact with the shadow queens. I knew the first to be The Muse, who I had known since we were teenagers, a woman I had been in love with my entire adult life. She mattered more to me than anything, but she was always elusive. When I knew her she denied it was possible for us to be anything other than good friends. When she disappeared she made it difficult to find her. I knew the second to be The Toad, a woman I had met just prior to my departure to Florida, a woman with whom I had the most passionate and intimate, but purposely short-term affair with. She somehow knew that in order to not lose me she would have to let me go before we reached the limits of the passion.

Sometimes, even when I am certain, I experience violent pangs of doubt. I had those pangs when I was with The Toad just before leaving New England and setting up a new life in Florida. I went over it in my mind many times. Was she a queen? Was I just delusional? As these questions reached a crescendo in my mind, a car pulled out of a side street in front of us as we travelled down the road. I had to slam on my brakes and just barely avoided slamming into the car that cut us off. When I looked up all I saw was the nameplate of the car we nearly hit. "Crown Victoria." The Toad's given name is Victoria.

"When the third queen appears you will know your time here is done.
You will have to make a choice.
That which you most desire will become real."

What did it all mean? This was, after all, supposed to be the ultimate reason for my return after suicide. To identify and realize the nature and purpose of the three queens. It was a riddle I often obsessed about, and in doing so completely screwed up. You can't see clearly when you look too closely.

The third queen appeared just as time seemed to very obviously be running out on my stay in Florida. It had been done. I had met and experienced the shadow queens and now several years had passed since I had met and divided them. The third queen, The Nightingale, not only appeared when I most needed her, she was responsible for enabling my reunion with the first queen, The Muse. She would not accept being second best to a ghost. She knew no one can compete with a memory.

What had once seemed the potentially simple solution, if it were only possible, no longer was simple. The Muse, the first queen, who had eluded me for two decades despite all my efforts to convince her to stop running, opened her arms to me. She gave me everything. She gave me the entire farm and all the property surrounding it. If I had not learned that possession was not the answer, I might have stumbled. Much time had passed and now there were two other women who I loved with all my heart and could not abandon simply because I had fulfilled my own greatest yearning. And the truth is, The Muse would not have respected and loved me as much as she does if I had been able to throw The Toad and The Nightingale on the discard pile. It would have fulfilled a passing fancy, but it would have disappointed her in the end. She had long relied on me not abandoning her or forgetting about her, so in her heart she could not wish for me to do the same to someone else.

"Your experience with the other is a reflection of the self.
You can see only what your vision allows you to see.
Expand your vision to see more.
The experience of the self is a reflection of the other.
In this lies the answer."

In the end, it was not a riddle at all. It was an adjustmet of perspective and understanding. I had divided and lost the shadow queens because my desire, ambition and ego pushed me towards the need to possess one while pushing the others aside. Each gave me something I needed, and yet I wanted more than what was offered. I wanted the whole cake and I wanted to take it home. Yet, the shadow queens presented themselves with aspects that reflected those of the life queens so that I could understand. And because of them I have not sacrificed any of my queens in favor of another. I will love them forever and I will accept only what is given and I will give each all that I am capable of giving them. For within them is a reflection of who I am and within me is a reflection of who they are.

To lose that would be to destroy everything.


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