James' sisters and their husbands and kids were in town for the holidays. Because James' father couldn't fly any more, their trips to Texas every other year had stopped and now the Texas family came to New Orleans. Everyone silently acknowledging that they wouldn't be doing it for long. James had a great family that was very close. Nola loved that Jamie got to spend time with her cousins. And there was no gift that anyone could give the grandparents better than the gift of everyone in the same room at the same time. But everyone had been here for almost a week and Nola was glad to escape the family gathering. One of her brother-in-laws was a pagan. But his wife was less accepting than James. So he mostly kept his head down and did his own thing. They rarely even got the opportunity to chat pagan while he was here. Once they had tried having more open conversations with James and his sister in the room but that hadn't gone over so well with James' sister. So now they shared quick snippets of conversation on the porch or knowing looks when they knew they were thinking the same unspeakable things as the family conversation flowed. She almost wished she could have taken him with her to Owen's but the fact that she was not going to be around the dining room table tonight was bad enough. Dragging him with her would have been family treason. So she didn't even elaborate on where she was going. Everyone assumed it was a neighborhood activist thing and she knew James would let them think what they wanted.
She had made sure that her cell phone was charged and once she got out of the driveway and down the block, called Owen to let him know she was on her way. Owen was watching the clock thinking now he could get an estimate on how long it took her to get from her house to his. He had checked the wine and set out the glasses and figured he'd wait 15 minutes before he started pacing in the front yard like some caged animal. He knew it was ridiculous but he was becoming addicted to these Thursday gatherings.
It was great when Nola could come near dusk. He hated it when her schedule made him wait until later in the evening. Tonight she was coming around 7PM which split the difference between their earliest and latest starting times.
The traffic was lighter than usual due to many folks being on vacation. So Nola made great time. She noticed that Owen was in the front yard, again. As she drove in the gate he had a pleased but surprised look on his face. As she got out of the truck he said: "Wow, is that a truck or some magic broom? You sure made great time."
Nola smiled and said: "I did, didn't I?" Then she put her finger playfully to her lips and said, "Don't tell the cops but I have a tendency to speed. Plus I probably know this city better than most. I've learned how to time most of the lights."
He grinned and she reached into the truck and presented him with one of her apple pies.
He looked surprised. “Wow, thanks.”
She smiled, “I made many for holiday gifts. I hope you like it.”
He hooked arms with her to walk her to the door and escort her back to the kitchen for wine. He liked this part of their tradition.
Nola saw the glasses on the counter and smiled. "Tradition already, huh?"
Owen grinned and said, "Yep." as he took the cork out of the already opened Ruffino wine. This time it was a Chianti. He poured his glass and then Nola's and then handed her the bottle, knowing she would want to see the label.
"Ah another Ruffino. Fun, a Chianti." And she swirled and breathed in the wine and took a sip and closed her eyes without even thinking about what she was doing as he watched and enjoyed her enjoyment.
"Nice, smooth, uncomplicated, definitely fun. Thank you for continuing to experiment".
"What no kiss this time?"
"Flirt. Shameless." And she kissed him on the cheek. "It's a perfect wine with which to hangout and watch Star Trek and then, as my daughter would say, 'philosophize'. I hope that's OK with you. I thought since we had already spent some time with 'What the Bleep' that we could finish up with the Star Treks. Do you mind?"
Owen's outside voice said, "Sure, but how did you know I hadn't watched them already?" While somewhere deep inside his inside voice quietly, 'you don't care what her plans are as long as she's here. She's right you are shameless'. And he smiled and so did Settrano.
Nola said: "Oh just a feeling. You're a busy guy. You barely had the TV system put together last time so I figured you weren't a big TV person and that you probably hadn't watched. I'm glad it worked out."
He grabbed the wine bottle and managed to hold it and his glass in one had as he hooked her arm with the other and started them toward the library she smiled at his old world manners, thinking that he probably liked the tradition because it fit with his basic tendencies.
Nola settled into the corner of the couch and enjoying the room and noticing that he seemed to have put a few more things a way as there were fewer boxes. She teased, “I see there are fewer boxes, now. So you’ve decided to stay?”
Owen chuckled, “Oh I’m staying. Latasha has been on me about having to clean around the boxes. Her exact words were, “Owen, now that you are finished knocking the walls and windows out of this room, and I have to clean it, you have to get rid of these boxes.”
Nola chuckled too. “Latasha, rules the roost then?”
“Latasha used to work at a hotel downtown but in January 2006 was having trouble finding work because so many hotels were shutdown. I got lucky and now she works for me and one or 2 other people. She prefers it to hotel work. I do everything I can to keep her happy. After 2 years, she’s practically family. I barely knew my grandmother. Latasha is like a grandmother.”
Owen loaded up the ST:The Next Generation DVD, one of the early episodes, “Where no one has gone before” and then settled in on the other corner unable to avoid sprawling his large frame on the even larger furniture. She snuggled into a corner so she could watch the show and watch him watch the show so she would know how to use it figure out where and how to focus his attention later.
Owen smiled at her as he fast forwarded through the opening credits and music. Then, like he did most things in his life, he gave it his full attention.
She watched as he dealt with the images of a reality based on and so completely influenced by thoughts. She smiled as she watched him smile as Captain Picard talked to his grandmother to figure out what was really going on. She figured he was thinking about his own grandfather. Without commercials the show was only 45 minutes. So it was barely after 8PM when it was over.
Owen moved slowly as he was lost in his thoughts about the show. Nola just watched him and waited until he shut off the DVD player.
"Very interesting, woman. Very interesting teaching tool."
She smiled at him and said, "I'm sure that if I had had tried to talk to you about how our thoughts influence our reality, with out slipping you into the world of fiction first, you would not have been so open to the concepts. Now, just like with ritual you are more open, aware and better primed for learning."
"Subtle, you let Paramount and the Star Trek writers do your heavy lifting."
"Well Star Trek is science-fiction and Nature, science, is the great teacher. Why not?"
"Nature is the Great Teacher. Words of Aradia right?"
"um hmmm, Where is the manual? This might be a good time to review them."
"Stay put. I'll be right back." And he went to the living room for the book and was back quickly with it open to the right page.
She said "Go ahead, you read them." as he sat back down with the book.
"Nature is the Great Teacher. In Her are all things revealed. Nature reflects the Higher Ways of Spirit. The Creators established the Laws of Nature so that through them we might come to know the laws of the Great Ones. Therefore observe the ways of Nature around you both great and small. Everything has a purpose and reason. Be not confused by its seeming cruelty, for there is a duality in all things.
Respect Nature in all ways. Take only that which you must from Her, and remember nothing can be taken except that something be given. This is law for all Strega.
Know that the wind speaks of the knowledge of the Earth and the spirit of the kindredeness of all living things emanates from everywhere.
Nature teaches all living things all that must be known. She teaches birds to make their nests, animals to hunt and survive, children to crawl and walk. She teaches life. Once She taught all people of Her ways, but they chose to go their own way. They chose to oppose and to control Her. But for Strega there can be no other way than Nature. A Strega must live in harmony with the Forces of Nature."
Nola said, "Nature, the natural sciences and extrapolating even quantum physics can teach us what we need to know."
Owen remembering all those walks in the woods with his grandfather said, "I always thought of the pagan lessons of Nature as rough and raw and if I had to use the sciences: geological, biological and maybe chemical."
"Well, they are but, 'Therefore observe the ways of Nature around you both great and small.' Great and small. Most classical science deals with the 'great'. Quantum Physics deals with the 'small'. Aradia's words say look to both."
"Hmm. You've moved me from outer space, back to the woods and then into the world of thought. If I'm going to think this hard I need popcorn." And he got up and put out his hand to Nola to invite her to go with him to the kitchen.
She smiled at him and followed him to the kitchen. Stopping off at his bathroom saying, "I'm going to use your facilities."
"Open the closet and peek in."
She tilted her head slightly and raised her eyebrows indicating confusion.
He just smiled and continued to the kitchen.
She opened the closet and noticed her robe hanging next to his and smiled that it wasn't crowded into her box. Her intuition tingled and she had a strange feeling that even Owen wasn't sure why he had done it. She then noticed the wooden spool also tucked in the corner of the essentially empty closet and smiled again. It really didn't belong with the rest of his beautiful furniture. She noticed that he had kept the antique coal storage box she used to hold the rest of the ritual items in his living room. This storage box was a Katrinket. It replaced the round hat box she had used before Katrina and was significantly higher end than what she had previously. She had to admit her new storage box did go beautifully in Owen's living room. Yet, she still missed the old one.
When she got back to the kitchen he already had the pot coated with oil and popcorn heating up.
"I know I asked to be able to leave the box here and it's nice not to have the robe crammed in the box, but it's not necessary for me to have space in your closet."
"Hush, Woman. I have more closets than I will ever have clothes. I thought it was funny to be 'in the broom closet' together.
And she giggled because he was right, it was funny.
"So you really think that our thoughts can influence our physical reality?"
"Yes?... just yes."
"Well minimally, yes. Streghe have a saying: "Thoughts are things." The Star Trek episode illustrated that quite nicely. Their thoughts became things. Our minds are more powerful than we know or give them credit for being. Our brains are electro-chemical. We don't know how much of this activity might be quantum in nature. So, I think it's possible, yes."
The popcorn started popping with a vengeance and so conversation stopped while he focused on working the pot and popping every last kernel. He finished with a flourish emptying the popcorn into the large bowl. Then said: "We still have plenty of wine. Do you want anything else?"
"I think I'd like some water. I'll get it. You don't have to wait on me."
"Hold on." And he reached into the fridge and pulled out a bottle of San Pellegrino water and she smiled at him.
"Owen you are such a Taurus. You get pleasure out of other people's pleasure don't you? Thank you very much. You are very thoughtful."
"A Taurus...?," then he thought about it and she was right. He realized he did get pleasure out of other people's pleasure. No one had ever told him that before. But what did that have to do with being a Taurus? He looked at her curiously.
She didn't respond right away but finally said, "Yes, a Taurus. Taurians are earth signs, you all like to be grounded, this why face to face teaching works better for you. But Taurians love the finer things in life, the best seats at the theatre, the finest tools" and she pointed to his pots and glasses and waved her hand around the room "and they love pleasure so much that they can get pleasure from the pleasure of others."
He smiled and acknowledged, "Well I think you're right. But you sound like you are speaking from experience as much as from some astrology book."
She got a bit of a faraway look in her eyes, "Yes it's a combination of book learning and personal experience. I once knew a Taurus who loved taking me places, dancing with me and making me happy."
"But not your husband."
And she realized that she had stepped in it and that Owen wasn't going to let her slide without providing more information. So she confessed.
"No, not my husband. It was before James became my husband. My Taurus was a colleague, who was married with a bit of trouble in his relationship but who was totally committed to his wife. I liked his wife. We often went out together or as a 4 foursome with their friend. My Taurus liked me but I think that in many ways I was a diversion. Someone he could spend time with, talk with, play with, introducing me to things that he thought I might miss without him. It made him happy to make me happy, to make the women in his life happy. And it was good for him to have me around when he couldn't make his wife happy."
"You had an affair with a married man."
"No," She said quietly. "I had a deep friendship with a married man. But we never totally crossed the line." And he noticed that her eyes had very faraway look. "We could have loved each other but he was already committed to his wife. I told him that I cared for him and that if his wife didn't want him that he needed to know I did. But being an earth sign and fully committed to his wife he stood firm. I respected his decision and we stayed friends until he moved out of town."
"Do you know happened to him?"
"Not really. I haven't spoken to him in a decade. And you have totally gotten us off track."
"Not me! You were the one that brought up me being a 'such a Taurus'."
"You're right. My bad. Where were we? Oh, 'Thoughts are things'."
"I believe you." He said grinning. "For a minute there your friend practically materialized in the room."
And she smiled back at him and managed to say, "You know I think that is a perfect lead in for the next Star Trek. Shall we take the popcorn back to the library?"
"Lead on teacher."
Owen loaded up the next CD and they settled in again. Nola explained that this was the 2 part opening episode of Deep Space Nine. It would take an hour and a half. She watched as Owen smiled as Commander Sisko used baseball to explain the linear time to non-corporeal and essentially timeless, eternal aliens. She watched as Owen turned to her after the Commander again returned to the scene of his wife's death and asked the aliens why they kept returning him to this place. Only to have them respond that they were not bringing him here and to have him realized that he existed here because his thoughts were powerful enough to bring both him and them back there. Then she saw his eyebrows lift as the aliens said: 'It is not linear'.
Owen powered off the DVD and turned to her, "Very interesting teaching tool, Woman. I'm not sure that I'll ever tell my brother what I am learning from you. But I sure have a much deeper appreciation of the Star Trek genre than I ever had before."
She just smiled at him and let him continue.
"I even think I begin to see what you were referring to when you said that the wheel of the year is not linear and how this combines with the power of our thought to bring us back to where our ancestors were so we can learn from the experience."
And she smiled and nodded. "Very good. I knew you would get it if I found the right tool."
He sat there so deep in his own thoughts that Nola was able to get up and take the glasses back the kitchen, pick up her purse and stop at the facilities.
When she returned he realized that she intended to leave, he turned on the charm. "You can't leave already. I'm sure there are a million things we could talk about."
"I'm sure there are too. But I can see that you are all in your head. And that's actually exactly where you need to be. I think that it's best for me to let you marinate until next year."
"Yes, the next time we meet is January 3rd."
"What are you doing for New Year's?"
"Oh I'll be with Roger and company at his house in Mid-City."
"Oh then you should definitely make sure that you see the Mid-City bonfire."
And he looked at her quizzically so she responded, "It's a bonfire in the middle of the Jefferson Davis Parkway neutral ground. It's become a practically sacred thing since Katrina. You should see it for yourself and then tell me what you think, next year."
"Ok, you win, this time only. I hate it that you're right. I am inside my head."
And she held her hand out to him and he conceded and walked her to the truck, gave her one of his bear hugs and said, "See you next year."
" 'Night Owen."