As Nola started her drive to Owen's she was trying to work out the best way to tell him that she'd be out of town for a week. She had a feeling that he wasn't going to be happy about it and could already see his pouty, spoiled 10 year old, face. In some ways James was the same way always asking "Will you miss me?" Men. Jamie took it better than James. It was easier to leave now that Jamie was older. Before, the hardest part of leaving was making sure that Jamie had some fun things to do with her friends or grandmothers. But these day Jamie scheduled herself and the hardest thing was arranging her daughter’s transportation. As long as she made time when she returned for Jamie to tell her what had happened while she was away, she was just fine.
The only time that Jamie had ever had trouble with her mom being away for work was after Katrina when Nola had to leave her and James in Austin, TX while she returned to Baton Rouge and Chalmette to work recovery efforts at the Refinery. Nola spent exactly 6 days in Austin after they had managed to float out of their flooded city. (No, they didn’t leave. Yes, they saved themselves, with a little help from family.) She registered Jamie for school in Texas the day after Labor Day and a day later she bought her used replacement truck. Jamie & James were set up in an apartment arranged by James’ sisters, with things bought and borrowed and hauled to the apartment in the new used truck. So many people were generous after the disaster.
Once her family was set up, Nola headed back to Louisiana to work at the job that was thankfully still paying their bills. She stayed in Baton Rouge with a friend of her mom who turned out to also be colleague in Baton Rouge. She arrived in Baton Rouge late Friday evening, slept gratefully in the bed provided and the next morning picked up food and water supplies for the pets, grabbed a member of her new Katrina escapee family and headed back to New Orleans to check on her pets and get another set Katrina escapee family pets from their house. It was 10 days after the levees broke. It is amazing what the badge from a large corporation and bravado will do at a military check point. The water had mostly receded. There were only a few large puddles left on her street and sidewalk. They managed to rescue the pets but were still unable to get to her new friend's house because of the water. After being confronted by Blackwater paid guards on one of the high end streets that was clear for traffic they drove back to Baton Rouge. She started back a work the next day. Nola was the lucky one. She was more than busy, with work and putting her pieces of the refinery back together, with dealing with the home owners, flood & auto insurance agents and claims, pets, the fact that her mother and brother had lost everything and were recovering their own lives, it was the strangest survival of the fittest program ever devised. But being busy kept her sane.
Jamie had floated out of the city, finally getting out the day before her 10th birthday. So she knew exactly why she couldn’t return. During her family’s 2 month stay in Texas, Nola visited for only 2 days, driving from Baton Rouge to Texas for a promised school conference day the same time as the Hurricane Rita evacuation and returning the weekend after landfall through even more devastation. Jamie understood why she had to stay with Dad and why Mom had to go back. Jamie was ok until late October. She knew that the basement of their house had been gutted and cleaned out. She knew her mom had made sure that their main living space was ready for them to come home. She knew her school was ok and talking about reopening. Jamie finally broke down and asked her mom, why Dad couldn’t work at the big job in New Orleans and why her Mom couldn’t come stay with her. Nola got Jamie laughing as she explained why her dad wouldn’t do very well in mom’s corporate job. Then Jamie laid down the law saying fine, then she would come home, live in her house and go to her school. She was tired of Texas. If Dad wanted to stay he could stay in Texas.
Nola had to work on James. He wasn’t sure he was ready to return. Nola eventually had to lay down the law herself, the house was here, the only job left to them was here, Jamie’s very expensive, private and already paid for school was open, his daughter wanted to come home, she wanted him to come home. He had 2 choices: come home with Jamie or bring Jamie home and go back to Texas. James and Jamie came home the end of the first week in November.
Nola shook her head and thought about how tough the women in her family were and thanked the gods that Jamie seemed to have gotten that gene. Yep, she thought the girls were tougher and as she rounded the corner onto Owen’s street and she thought that if necessary she’d lay the law down on a pouting Owen. She grinned at this thought as she watched the big man turn as he were doing laps pacing in the front yard and walk toward the driveway see her truck and smile.
She had arranged to get to his house earlier because she figured it would help cushion the fact that he would miss a training session, so it was still light outside as she pulled into the driveway. She caught herself wondering just how much time he spent waiting for her outside in the front yard. As she got out of the truck she teased him and said, “You know if you’re going to spend so much time pacing in your front yard, I have some landscaping ideas I can share with you.” Settrano smiled at her playfulness.
Owen grinned and said, “Landscaping, huh?”
“mmm hmmm, I often mentally landscape yards of houses as drive past them. I love to garden and get my hands in the dirt, but I’m a lazy gardener. I also hate lawnmowers and think that the typical expanses of lawn should be avoided. So I mentally landscape the lawns into lawnmower independent gardens.”
“No lawnmower?! I hate those noisy, smelly things. You’re hired.”
She just smiled at him assuming he was kidding. But he was intrigued so he said, “Really, I’m interested. What would you do to the front yard?”
She tilted her head and smiled at him again raised her eyebrows slightly not sure if he meant it or if he was just teasing back. “I’d ask you what you wanted in a front yard first?”
“Oh no, you can’t get off the hook.” He waved his hands. My yard is your palette. What would you do.?”
She looked at him smiled and said to herself, ‘Ok you asked for it.’ thinking he hadn’t realized yet that when someone asked her opinion the best thing for them to do was duck, because she’d deliver. “Well I’d plant gardenias along the fence closest to the street, they’re evergreen, and will screen the yard from the street, can take a freeze, grow tall when pruned properly, have fabulous scented flowers that can bloom more than once a year once established. The grass would have to go of course, no lawnmower.” She opened her arms wide, whole palms open pointing to each corner of the front fence, “Then this side of the gardenias I’d plant citrus,” and she started on the right and moved to the left. I’d lightly mulch the bare ground and use reseeding seasonal flowers like red clover, cosmos – Sulphureus because they can take our heat, bachelor buttons, blackeyed Susans, maybe some lavender... There’d be rosemary bushes on the far corners and the inside edge of the walkway would have Blue Daze and Greek oregano... with maybe some daylilies and garlic chives behind that....” Then she turned to the house and after a second or 2 said, “I’d put kumquat trees on this side, they are smaller and wouldn’t block the view from the porch, there’d be ferns along the edge of the garden closest to the house, so you could easily step over them from the porch. With such a wide porch and balcony the gutters could go so the rain would naturally water the area. The ferns would help protect the garden from washing out. I might leave space in between the kumquats for a seasonal vegetable or flower garden. I don’t think you get enough light in the backyard for a kitchen garden closer to the kitchen… or maybe you could do a vegetable garden along the driveway or maybe some more reseeding seasonal flowers. More rosemary at the corners, with the same blue daze and Greek Oregano border for a little symmetry… The edges of both gardens would not be straight but loosely curved so it didn’t look so formal. There would be a path for you to pace on of course”, she teased, “and maybe a fountain along the wall, to give you something to walk back and forth toward, more ferns, maybe some mint or if you got enough sun a muscadine grapevine for that wall”. She turned toward the indented portion of the driveway fencing and said, “There’d be a Moonflower vine and a purple bean vine from City Park’s botanical gardens along that fencing…. Some garlic chives for protection by the door…. Oh I forgot the roses….”
He was doing his best to keep up with her vision of what the front yard would look like and he liked what she made him see. “Wow! How long have you been thinking about this?”
She was still fine tuning the plan in her head and said slowly, “Oh just since you asked me.”
“No way.” He said unbelievingly.
“Well, ok. I guess it’s fair to say I probably have spent about a cumulative 30 minutes thinking about it since I first saw your front yard. I really do this all the time as I drive through the city. I kind of do it without really thinking about it. I think that even though we live in the city our landscapes should be rich and green and more seasonal and produce things that are beautiful and when possible that we can eat too. It’s based on a whole philosophy of gardening called permaculture.”
And he thought, ‘When is this woman not thinking?’ What he said was, “That’s it. Make a list of the plants I should buy and the next time the guys have a break in their schedule we’ll start the transformation. You have to be around to supervise.”
“Owen,” she said a little sheepishly, “your yard is really fine. You don’t have to change it.”
He looked around at the grass and the azalea bushes and said, “My yard is lawnmower dependent and boring. I like your vision much better than what I have today. It’s lush and probably more like what the grounds might have looked like when the house was built. I have officially put this on the list of things you do with out thinking about it.” He hooked her arm in his and said, “Impressive, shall we go inside and choose a wine?”
She smiled at him and nodded and they moved into the kitchen.
“What kind of wine would you like tonight?”
She sat down on a barstool and just shrugged then acknowledged, “You know I really like that you choose and I don’t have to do anything but appreciate it. But it’s warmer than it should be for January so how about a white?”
He smiled, grabbed 2 champagne flutes and pulled the 2nd bottle of Prosecco they hadn’t used for their New Year’s meeting out of the refrigerator and popped the cork. He poured the wine and moved next to her barstool so they could toast. She smiled and clinked his glass with hers. Before she knew it he was giving her a New Year’s like kiss. “Well…” she said making light as he broke the kiss but stayed close, “I wasn’t expecting that I thought I was the hired landscape help.”
“I’ve decided Prosecco requires kissing.” And he did it again.
Thankfully he was standing and she was sitting so he didn’t have as much control of this kiss as he had for the New Year’s kiss. With her hand on his chest she said, “I’ll remember that so that I’m better prepared next time.” He was still close and she figured that now was as good as any to tell him she wouldn’t be here next week.
“Owen, I have some news about next week."
This tweaked his anticipation, “Next week, what about next week?”
“Well next week I have to go to Houston for work.” And there it was, the pouty, 10 year old, face. She giggled quietly and said, “You should see your face.”
“All week? All week long?” and he plopped on the stool next to her.
“Unfortunately yes. I hate Houston, but I have to go.”
“When do you leave?”
“Sunday evening. The session starts Monday at 8AM."
"When will you be back?”
“Late Friday, the session doesn't end until 5PM"
"Aw, 14 days. 14 days until you come back?"
"No only 12."
"12?" he said hopefully.
"Yes, the full moon is on the 22nd and I thought that we could do that ritual together on Tuesday."
And with the pitiful spoiled but not quite so pouty face he said, "12 days is still longer than 7."
"I swear you're worse than my kid. What if I also come back again the Thursday after the Full Moon?"
"Ok, then I guess I won't have to call in my favors and stop the planes."
And she shook her head and him and smiled.
He moved her into the library instead of the living room, then set the wine bucket on the marble table top and said, “What I’m going to do with myself for 12 days?”
“Oh I have some suggestions for keeping you busy.” She said noticing that all the boxes of books were on the shelves.
“Ok I’ll bite. What are they?”
“You can work on memorizing what is said during circle casting. You could use circle casting practice casting to work on your rapport with the Grigori.”
He looked a little dubious and said, “Ok, but while talking about them is one thing I’m not sure about hanging out with them without you.”
And Tago actually chuckled.
She smiled and said, “Well you can practice the Rite of Union, work on memorizing it. I don’t just do it on Full Moons. I do it whenever the moon is visible and I'm alone and can focus. Doing the Rite when the moon is in different phases can have slightly different effects. You should experiment. Some also do it at dawn like the Cherokee morning prayer or Navajo dawn pollen ceremony to honor the sun as well.”
He face changed from pouty to interested, “Hmm I never thought of it like that. I’ll have to try it. Then said, “Cherokee and Navajo... How do you know about those?”
“Really only through reading and travel. Native American culture is rich and spiritually linked to the earth and the web of life in a way I wish that our modern American way of life could appreciate more. America and the world could be a very different place, if our ancestors had respected the native peoples. My paternal grandfather insisted that one of his ancestors ‘married a Cherokee Indian Princess’. When I was a little girl I never dreamed of being a princess in a castle. I wanted to be a Native American Princess, way before Disney made Pocahontas. In 2006 I took my daughter to North Carolina and made sure that she saw he play “Unto these Hills” which tells the story of the Trail of Tears when the Cherokee were forced to walk to Oklahoma. I spent some time in New Mexico and Navajo culture all around you there. I find the link between the Navajo and the northern Athabascan tribes interesting.” And she paused remembering, “Chaco Canyon is beautiful in the middle of January. I think I told you that the yellow soil in my earth elemental bowl comes from a place in Canada where the Native Americans collected ochre from ground considered sacred. And she paused again remembering, “Nothing is more beautiful than the way the summer light polarizes on the Canadian plains. My path is Italian but I’m an American and Native American culture and pagan paths have many similarities. But it is harder to follow a Native American path, even one that you might have a slim genetic link to, with out feeling like a wannabe Indian. So I read and respect the Native American paths as they align with mine…. I think this might be a perfect time to look at the Words of Aradia on the Earth.”
Owen reached around and grabbed the manual off of the table. It was amazing how the manual was close when ever she wanted him to read from it. He flipped to the back and quickly found the page and with out her asking read out loud:
“The Earth is the nurturing power of the Mother. She nourishes us and from the soil She returns that which we sow. She gives us healing herbs and herbs by which we work our magick. The very Earth gives us life, without which we would perish.
There is a healing power in the Earth and a vital force. We know that a wounded animal will lay against the Earth to heal its wounds. They understand, and we are one with them through our religion.
I have taught you the secrets of the circle, for therein is the secret of the power of the Earth. Everything that the world does it does in a circle. The Earth teaches us the doctrine of Cycles. The Sun, the Moon, and the seasons come and go and return again and again. Even so it is with the cycles of our own lives. The Earth teaches us just as Nature does for they are one. Earth is the body and Nature is the Spirit.
We must live in harmony with the Earth and with Nature. To do otherwise is to court disaster. The forces of the Earth are greater than any power we can safely master. To strive against these forces is foolish.
Do nothing to the Earth that shall take away from the purpose it serves in Nature, for this is the natural balance. And the Earth shall alwa ys move against us to restore itself.
Is the tiller greater than the soil he till? Is the family greater than the crops they help grow? Is not the life within the soil, and within the crops, our own? How shall we be without them? What you do to the Earth you do to yourself.
Do not think that we are greater than the Earth, or than Nature. For surely they shall both crumble and dissolve all that we shall erect. And there shall be floods and earthquakes, and hostile weather to show us our errors and teach us perspective.”
And he finished they both sat back deep in their own thoughts. Finally Nola said, “I think that every American should be required to read Aradia’s Words on the Earth every day. It would significantly change our culture. My small efforts at permaculture gardening is only a small way that I try to align myself with the seasons and nature. A lawnmower is a silly way ‘to strive against these forces’.
He thought about that and about how she wove the ways and Aradia’s words into various aspects of her life. He remembered the dreamy way she recalled her travels as she spoke about Native American culture and wondered just how many places she had been.
“North Carolina, New Mexico, Canada, how many Native American places have you been to?
“hmm, I don’t know… Chaco and the 4 corners area, Mesa Verde, the Grand Canyon, most of our National Parks have Native American sites and I’ve been to a number of those: Yellowstone, Yosemite, Lavabeds, Crater Lake, the Olympia peninsula in Washington state, the Smokies of course, Pipestone in Minnesota, the Arcadia on coast of Maine… and in Canada YoHo, Head Smashed In and Writing on Stone Provincial Parks and on the plains Waneskewin near Saskatoon… Central Mexico’s Sierras, Mexican culture is richly woven with Native American influences…”
The talked deep into the night about travel and the beautiful places they had been. Owen was surprised at how broadly traveled Nola was. Nola said that there was still much she wanted to see but that she hadn’t traveled as much as she used to since she married James. Nola said, “I can travel with a sleeping bag and a rental station wagon as my tent. James prefers 5 star travel and we really can’t afford that so, I either travel alone or with my mom or with friends and occasionally with Jamie.” Owen stayed silent as he thought about the fact that he had the means to travel and probably hadn’t seen as much of the world as she had. He thought about how much fun it would be to watch her appreciate whatever she ran into as she traveled.
It was after 1AM and Nola had tried to cover her yawn for the 3rd time when she finally had to admit, “Owen I’m sorry but I going to fall asleep sitting up. I have be at work in 5 or 6 hours”
He wanted her to stay but knew she had to go and so he stood up, held out his hands and raised her from the sofa. He walked her to her truck and gave her one of his bear hugs. As she pulled away he stood there thinking that 12 days sounded like an eternity.