Cleaning Out the Rooms
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The First Wandswoman of Byzantion takes a stand on the podium.

"When I was born, my eyes were the color of Turkish coffee. When I opened my eyes to the starry sky of antiquity, a billion globes of incandescent plasma burned themselves into my vision. There was only wonder in my eyes, as free of preconceived notions as I was from sin. Would that I could hold the cosmos in my stubby fingers."

"A baby looks at everything with that wonder. The flowers on the trees and the cobblestones in the road are as vast and beautiful and terrifying and incomprehensible as the infinite sky."

The Wandswoman produces a single olive flower from the recesses of her coat.

"Look at this blossom. Comprehend it. It has four concentric petals. Structures molded by millions of years of evolution to attract pollinators. Pollinators to spread the genes of a tree, grown from a stray seed of another tree from the seed of another all the way down to biogenesis on the planet Earth. "

"To understand this flower is to understand the totality of existence. There is as much of God’s creation in it as you or I. Why then, does it become a backdrop to us? What changes it from such a perfect arrangement of atoms to form a living thing in spite of the overwhelming emptiness of the universe to a blur in the wind, unworthy of a mere spark of cognition? Where has that wonder gone?"

She projects an enlarged picture of her eye onto the wall. It is beady and deep-set into the vulture’s face.

"I’ve seen many things in my millennium and a half of existence. For the better part of it, I made my living off it. To document the strange, the wondrous, the awe-inspiring is the life of a Wandsperson. What is once in a lifetime for a mortal is normal for me. A starry sky becomes just another day in an endless chain. A beautiful place becomes a regular locale in time. Everything that is exceptional blurs together into eigengrau."

"Perhaps a few centuries ago, I was drowning that gray. It permeated my life, slowly filling my mind with a static droning. I poured myself into my work, finding only the most exotic stories and curiosities from the far realms. I chased novelty for diminishing returns. I ran in circles."

"When I was born, my eyes were unblemished. After so much seeing, they had crusted over. A thick, leathery layer of metaphysical scar tissue blinded me like a cataract. "

"Some see naught but shapes and colors, devoid of meaning. This was the opposite, but equal in the magnitude of its severity. I was so preoccupied with what I knew, I could not consider what I saw. What was right in front of me."

"One day, I had had enough. I locked myself in my study, despite the protests of my colleagues. Then, I wrote down everything I knew. Every tidbit of knowledge poured from my brain in a great deluge onto paper. Thoughts, memories, all secreted away in tomes."

"When my pen finally stopped, my mind was clean. Distilled consciousness, with nothing to pollute it. It took me a few seconds to remember how to breathe. It took another few to remember how to open my eyes."

She stares off into the distance for several moments.

"Wonder, awe, those oft-used words do not begin to describe it. To see the world anew, to learn again. The boards on the floor, alien constructs wrought of trillions of dead cells from an arrangement of carbon so fine it could make copies of itself. Every book I read became an enthralling page-turner, from technical manuals to library logs. And there was a whole world out there, beyond the confines of my study. That, for lack of a better phrasing, blew my mind."

"Eventually, my knowledge returned, and the childlike wonder began to ebb. But why am I saying this? Why do I share with you my story? Because exceptionality is relative. That which is common, that which is seen and smelled and heard and touched and tasted every day, is no less wondrous than that which we spend every waking hour chasing. The infinite expanse of creation is made of everyday pieces, and in those pieces is the incomprehensible vastness and complexity of the universe."

"Thank you."

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