After a week of being in Houston, Nola had spent time over the weekend putting the house back in order and Monday and Tuesday digging out at work after being gone for a week. It hadn't been too bad because she never left on a trip before making sure the house was in order. Jamie and James laughed at her asking why she bothered when she wasn't going to be there to appreciate it. What she knew what that the better the condition she left it in, the better the condition it would be in when she returned. Jamie was old enough to help with the house work now and James after many years of gentle training could now be counted upon to ensure that the basics were covered. For her responsibilities at the office she had been lucky that her trip had been to a facility that allowed her to stay plugged in to the corporate network and stay up on corporate eMail and scheduling. It was only, only, the face to face stuff that she had to catch up on at work. Thankfully all had been quiet on the neighborhood front but she still had a board meeting at her house scheduled for Wednesday.
On Tuesday, she managed to get home in time to spend some before and after dinner time with her family and then take a shower to change her mindset and focus before heading off to Owen's. She marveled as she drove through the city just how raw the return from 'the real world' could still feel after 2 and a half years and also at just how much progress had been made.
The moon had been up for almost 2 hours. Owen was pacing in the driveway. He was past ready for her to be here. She pulled into and opened up the driveway gate at 8PM, exactly when she said she would.
Owen was opening the truck door before she had shut off the engine.
"Hello big man." And she stepped into a bear hug as Owen reassured himself that she was real. "Well, I missed you too."
He just grinned at her, locked arms and started walking toward the front door. She let herself be moved along then followed him into the house.
She stopped short, noticing the furniture was arranged slightly differently. Then she saw the beautiful table in the center of the room. She looked up at him with surprise and then moved to the low table kneeling down next to it to brush her hands over the smooth, rich dark brown wood. "Oh Owen, it's beautiful. Where did you get it?"
He watched as she continued to rub her hands over the newly finished surface. "It was a ruined piece I picked up for a song at an antique store. I kept myself busy refinishing it while you were away." he said honestly.
"What is this beautiful dark brown wood?"
And he grinned and waited for her response as he said, "Walnut."
And she actually gasped breathlessly, "Walnut, an antique round walnut table. Oh it is absolutely perfect for the altar."
"I thought so too." And he couldn’t help being pleased with himself. Her reaction was exactly what he had hoped for.
"It's a shame to have to cover it with an altar cloth. I guess now I can take my old spool back home with me for my next student."
Owen looked chagrined. And her brow furrowed as she looked back at him, confused.
"I got rid of the spool."
She smiled at him as she rubbed her hand once more over the surface, got up and said with appreciation, "Such a Taurus."
His grin returned as he hooked arms with her again and they walked back to the kitchen. Since they would be drinking red wine with the ritual he had opened the Brunello and she smiled seeing it again. As he poured the wine she said, "You also have flowers for the altar." Then suddenly, "Oh no, I forgot the cookies!" Owen handed her a glass of wine and reached under the cabinet and pulled out a box of the cookies they used, then moved in closer for a toast, as she said, "Thank you Owen."
"You're welcome." And he clinked his glass to hers. "I think I deserve a kiss."
"I think you do too." And she moved in to give him a kiss on the check but he managed to get control of the situation and it ended up a lot more like the New Year's kiss. When he released her from the kiss, she brushed her hand down his check onto his chest and said, "I'm going to change into my robe."
Owen already had his robe out of the downstairs bathroom and changed quickly in his office. So he was waiting for her on the porch swing. She smiled at him and took his hand and said, "Let's go soak up some moonlight". They stepped into the back yard and she and began the Rite of Union. Owen did it right along side her, following along with the words and motions exactly matching hers.
"You've been practicing."
And he smiled and nodded and handed her back her glass and took another sip from his.
"That large oak is beautiful in the moonlight. I love the clear crisp nights of winter."
They stood next quietly next to each other. Owen felt like lord of his domain. Nola finally said, "Well shall we go in and set the altar?'
"Sure but first I have to get some JD for Papa Eric."
Nola grabbed the bottle of wine and tucked the cookies under her arm and grabbed the flowers with her other hand and walked toward the living room. Owen followed her and set the shot glass of JD on the mantle. Nola put the cookies and wine down next to the walnut table and then took the flowers to the mantle and put a few blossoms in the small vase next to the photo and the JD. Owen lit a votive while Nola moved away with the flowers to her box and started removing what they needed to set the altar.
Owen moved next to her and said, "Let me. I've been practicing and I hear that the Priest does the work in the God Months."
She smiled at him as he set the altar perfectly and then she asked, "Do you want me to cast the circle? Or would you like to do that as well?"
"I'll do it."
She let him lead and was very impressed with how smoothly he cast the circle. The Grigori were quite pleased as well. Owen led the opening part of the ritual. They charged the wine and drank a toast to Aradia. Then Nola led them on a meditation.
"It is a beautiful cool pleasant night. The moon is high in the sky and stars are dense and sparkling. You make your way down from the gentle ridge of a bowl-like valley... following a small, bubbling stream as you walk.... There are oaks and pines along the path.... but these open up as you reach a smooth lake... The moon is reflected in water made silver by its light. You move into the Rite of Union.... then look around to your right and see a round temple with a God and Goddess statues along one edge and an opening in the center of the temple roof. You enter the temple and give honor the God and Goddess....... and then step into the pool of moon light coming through the center of the roof..... You breathe in and out and absorb the energy of the moon........ You then leave the temple and make you way up a path that takes you to a high ledge in the side of the bowl-like valley..... You lay down on the ground under the moon and stars and open yourself up to the universe and all its wonder......
In his meditation Owen found himself there on the ledge with Nola and he removed his robe laid it on the ground and then removed hers and time stopped and they made love under the moon and stars.
Nola was enjoying the open sky from the ledge and remembering how different it had been for her when she was first learning the Ways. So very often the way she had met her teacher for Full Moon Rituals had been in visualization, meditation, on the astral. It had been a very effective learning tool. But having someone to actually do the rituals with now was a blessing.
After what seemed like a long while....Nola's voice broke in as she said... in the distance you hear the howl of one wolf..... and then the answering calls of others..... you pick yourself up and slowly make your way back..... past the temple.... past the silver lake.... through the oaks and pines .... following the small stream .....up to the top of the rigdeline...... where you return to the world.....
Owen slowly opened his eyes as he came back to himself. She refilled the spirit bowl and relit the flame. Then they both sat quietly and watched the flame. Nola was pretty certain she knew where Owen's mind was because part of her was still back on the ledge under the stars. The meditation had been stronger than she expected for their second Full Moon. She was content to let him be quiet and soak it in.
Nola did the Veglia then, blessed the cakes and wine. Nola offered the plate with the cookies on it to Owen making sure he took one to help him reground into his body. She took a sip of wine while he ate the cookie with out thinking about. Then she handed him the chalice so he could have some wine and watched while he ate another cookie. She refilled the spirit bowl and relit the flame. They finished the chalice of blessed wine and then she heard Owen take a deep breath and begin to breathe more normally.
Nola gave the Charge of Aradia and then read the closing prayer.
When she had finished she said, "I am hoping that you'll be willing to help me charge my spirit blade."
And he looked at her as if to say, OK but I'm not sure I know what to do.
She stood up and took her blade off the altar and then took his hand and he stood up facing her. She pulled him close to her and then put the blade carefully to her breast with one hand and then hugged him to her with the blade between them. Owen smiled liking this part of the ritual. Nola moved her hands up and down his back. He hugged her close and matched her movements. After a few seconds she pulled away slightly, grabbed the blade to ensure it didn't fall and pierce a foot, kissed him very lightly and said, "Thank you."
"Are you ready to take the circle down?" Owen nodded yes.
Nola again filled the spirit bowl with what she thought was just enough to take down the circle. He quickly took the circle down feeling that the Grigori were somehow very pleased with this particular ritual and thought to herself, as am I. As was Nola.
She then sat down on the floor next to the altar and Owen joined her. She poured more wine into the Chalice and sat quietly for awhile before she said, "I think that was the best Full Moon Ritual I've ever experienced. Thank you very much." Then she waited to see if he would say anything.
"That was a very powerful meditation…. Is that place you described real?"
"Yes and no. The description I used is based on research that has been done on what the temple grounds at Nemi were supposed to look like more than a 1000 years ago. I like to think it was real and the rituals over the ages have kept it alive enough that we too can go there in ritual. But Nemi doesn't look like that now. Today it is a very agricultural place. I hear it's famous for its strawberries."
"I was there."
"You've been to Italy?"
"No, your meditation took me there. It is real."
"For me too Owen, for me too."