Owen woke strangely refreshed and invigorated. He was ravenous and decided to cook a big breakfast: English muffins and over easy eggs. His favorite, well next to Eggs Benedict but he was hungry enough to do with out the sauce. He took breakfast out to the back porch and enjoyed the view. It was a beautiful February day but it edging near the 70 degree mark. As he was finishing up the 3rd egg and the second English muffin a wild but insistent thought popped into his mind. What the backyard needed was a pool! He saw the backyard with a landscaped pool fully formed in his head.
He had always wanted a swimming pool at his house. But in Pennsylvania it wasn’t that hot that often and there was also his family’s hotel with their indoor hot tubs and pool and sauna. There was enough room for a sauna too. Not that you needed one in New Orleans, all you had to do was step outside in the summer and it could feel like a sauna on some days. His first summer here had been brutal. Roger, who was a native New Orleanian and now integral to Owen’s business as well as his friend had told him that it was because he was fresh from the North and his blood hadn’t thinned yet, but it would. His second summer hadn’t been much better. A pool was just the solution to beating the summer heat and having a heated Jacuzzi for the winter seemed like just the right amount of necessary decadency. Then he caught himself. Necessary decadency. Where in the world did that come from? Then he smiled and thought New Orleans must be rubbing off on me. And Settrano smiled too because Owen was following his passion and not worrying about what anyone else would say.
He went into the office off the library and pulled out some gridded paper. He grabbed his tape measure from the truck. He only had to take few measurements to ensure that there was sufficient clearance from the property line. By lunch time he had the plans detailed on paper just as he had seen it in his head. Along the back of the house there was a bricked courtyard with a Jacuzzi with a small water fall over flowing in the pool in the far left hand corner. There were broad steps down into a rectangular pool that practically went from one side of the yard to the other. He had left enough room on the left side to allow for bamboo plantings all down the left side of the fence line to ensure privacy from the house next door. He loved living in this vibrant semitropical climate. Bamboo would fill in within the year. There were bench seats along the long sides of the pool on each side of the steps for sitting and drinking and talking while submerged. There were also broad steps along the back side of the pool that opened up onto another courtyard to the left of the great oak at the back of the fence line. On the right side of the pool there was enough walkway between the garage to allow folks to walk to the back courtyard. It was perfect.
He was glad that there was a drive way down the side of the house to the garage that could get the heavy digging equipment into the back yard. He was hoping they didn't trash the driveway. He needed to find someone to look at the oak tree and make sure that his plans wouldn’t impact the roots, but he was confident that this could be made to work. With his plans in his hands he went inside to figure out who he could get to do the work. He was convinced that he could have the pool by Jazzfest. He often had visitors for Jazzfest and a pool would be a great addition for his less tolerant of the heat northern friends and family. Eric would love it.
He spent the rest of the day reviewing his job sites and making sure everything was set for the next week and that there were no quality issues with the work done last week. His crews were great. He was grateful again that Roger such a stickler for details. Owen called Roger to find out if he knew anyone in the pool business. In the New Orleans area everyone knew somebody who knew somebody and Owen was looking for a pool contractor. The work they had done so far had been serious rebuilding. Not many folks had been looking at luxury items. But it was 2008 and by now many folks were recovered enough to think about more than just a roof over their heads and 4 walls without seeing the studs. Owen was surprised at how busy the few pool contractors were. He spent Mardi Gras day with Roger and friends and then most of the rest of the week taking his plans around to various contractors because he wanted to see how they ran their offices and then lining up visits to his home to getting estimates. By the time Thursday rolled around he had settled on a contractor. He had also decided on the paving stones and color scheme. He had placed an order to ensure that the bamboo would be ready for planting no later than the second week in May. He was enormously pleased with himself and his work plan for his luxurious back yard. He had decided that he wouldn't tell Nola about it but instead try and surprise her with it.
Meana knew that given too much time to think about it that the Lupercus experience would cause Nola's deep emotions to surface. Bellaria was sure that she could trust Nola's cool intellect to get her through. But just to be on the safe side she encouraged events at home and work so that Nola's mind was more than fully engaged. Sunday had been busy running Jamie around to parades. Every work day so far in the week had been a Monday. By the time Thursday rolled around she was more than ready for something different and the teaching session with Owen would be just the mental gear shift she needed.
As she drove to Owen's she realized that she had forgotten to call and had just assumed that they would still be able to meet. She checked her rarely used cell phone only to discover that the battery was dead from lack of use. Oh well she shrugged if he's not there or busy I'll just find a peaceful coffee shop and read for a few hours. Some alone time wouldn't hurt.
Settrano had kept Owen so wrapped up in his pool plans that he didn't realize today was the day Nola was due back until late Thursday afternoon. Early Thursday morning there was an emergency with supplies for one of the new job sites. Wednesday night thieves had broken in and taken the lumber supplies. Thankfully Roger was savvy enough to ensure that only exactly what was needed was on site. And Owen's offsite storage facility was able to restock but it took a number of runs from the storage facility to the job site to get things back on track, and the police report and re-securing the house. And putting in some fake security cameras and signs to try and thwart the thieves. He was stepping out of the shower knowing Nola was due any minute. He dressed quickly and was opening the front door as she pulled into the driveway. He grinned as he walked toward her.
"Hello big man. I wasn't sure you would be here. I'm sorry I didn't call to confirm. You look like you are getting ready to go out. Shall we reschedule?"
"Oh no." as he hooked her arm in his, "Every Thursday, you promised. I'm not going out. I just got in and showered. Come inside and we'll get some cool white wine before we start the lesson."
And she wondered again when the new student fire would burn out. But she just smiled back at him.
Owen was glad he finally had a reason to use the wine fridge. He had also stocked up on San Pellegrino and Perrier because Nola liked her fizzy water.
"Well what would you like? I have a Pino Grigio from the Columbia Valley or one from Napa Valley."
"How about if we open both and taste test? I really like the Columbia Crest Wines. I think that the Columbia Valley in Washington is making better wines than California these days. I've begun to wonder if maybe climate change is making Napa too hot. But only by tasting will you know which one you like best. "
Owen wondered what she didn't think about and smiled as he opened the wine. He got down a total of 4 glasses and poured out a little of each for both of them.
Nola smiled and said: "Try the Napa first." So they did. "Now the Columbia Crest." As Nola took her sip she tried not to smile as she waited for Owen. His eyebrows went up and he smiled. She asked: "Well which one do you like?"
"The Columbia Crest. I'll cook with the Napa."
She smiled at him and said: "Don't just agree with me because I'm the teacher."
"Oh I'm not. How do you know these things?"
"What things? Which wine I like? I told you already. By drinking it! To me the Columbia Crest wines are cleaner and smoother. The Napa wines seem to have begun to bite back. Not just this Pino Grigio. I like the cooler Russian River Valley over Napa, which come to think of it is probably why I like the Columbia Valley wines."
"I'll have to remember that."
"Owen, buy what you like. You'll spoil me."
"Is that so bad?"
And he watched as a curious look past over her face and for just a split second she got a very faraway look before she said very quietly: "I guess not, just different." Then she smiled and said "Well what shall we work on today? I'm sorry to say that I have been so busy that I did not come prepared with a lesson plan."
And she waited and wondered just how bad 'Uh oh' really was.
"The student is supposed to have questions, huh?"
She smiled and nodded and said: "It does work best that way."
"I've been so busy that you'll have to give me a minute to think up some."
"OK, since you're spoiling me with wine, I suppose I can sip and wait."
"Let's slip out to the back porch and enjoy the spring air while I think and you sip."
Owen filled their glasses and grabbed the wine and a wine bucket. They settled into the big porch swing. Nola tucked in one corner and Owen sprawled out in the other. They were strangely comfortable in the silence of the early evening. Bellaria turned to Settrano and winked at Meana as if to say: We've kept them busy all week. Your turn.
Owen finally said: "I think I understand a lot more about Lupercus now."
Nola just waited wanting to know where he was headed with his thoughts.
"The ritual was simple but powerful. But the effects seemed intense."
Nola waited some more, sipping her wine and agreeing with him silently that the effects had been stronger than she'd anticipated.
"Not dangerous, just strong. It felt good to just flow with the energies of the crowd. It felt pack-like and we were the alpha wolves."
And she waited as he worked through the memories of last weekend that his busy week had kept him from thinking about. She was a bit lost in her own thoughts as she realized that she hadn't really fully processed last weekend either. She was so deep in her own thoughts that when he reached in and gently kissed her she just kissed him back. As he moved closer she came back to teacher mode and put her hand on his chest. He looked down at her hand and said: "Thank you."
"Yes, Thank you for introducing me to the primal energies and for keeping me from getting into a bar fight."
She smiled at him then and said: "Well it seemed the least I could do. It would be bad of me as a teacher if I let my student get beat up..."
and she saw his eyebrows rise and come together as if to say 'me get beat up? It's the other guy you should be worrying about',
so she added quickly "or get hauled to Central Lock Up - yuk! for beating someone else up." Then she added seriously, "I should have been more careful. But I was having an awful lot of fun for the first time in quite some time. So, thank you for that."
"You should definitely have more fun more often." Nola just smiled gently at him and silently acknowledged that he was probably right she should. And Settrano smiled.
Owen said thoughtfully, "You certainly seem like you can handle yourself on the street and on the dance floor. Thinking back I realize now there was a strange wildness to the energy in both places. I remember you saying something like a bar fight and a kiss were 2 ends of the same spectrum. I think I know what you mean, but I think I'd like you to elaborate." And he looked down at her hand still on his chest.
She dropped her hand and he smiled at her and sat back in the cushion and waited. Settrano was thrilled with how easily Owen responded to his passions whether these were learning or kissing. He had always thought Nola needed someone around who could encourage her to freely acknowledge her own passions. Meana understood and in many was agreed but was cautious because she knew that passion can sometimes also cause pain.
Nola swirled her wine in her glass and took a sip and closed her eyes to appreciate the wine and pull her thoughts together. Owen smiled again at how Nola was able to deeply appreciate the smallest of things. She breathed deeply in and out and then began.
"We live in a modern world surrounded by all forms of energy. As moderns we think of energy mostly in terms of mechanically created and human controlled energy: the motor in your car, the battery in your cell phone, the signals on the Internet or the television and radio, the light bulb as you turn on the lamp. Very few people know how these energies truly work, are really harnessed and controlled. We take the world's energies for granted.
We are also surrounded by a natural biochemical, electric and physical energies. The air under the trees is different than the open air. The water flowing in a fountain changes the energies and atmosphere. Wolves howling create flowing energies too. People are also part of this web of life, this web of energy. Our moods and states of mind influence many things. As do our rituals. Last weekend we aligned ourselves with primal energies that are a part of the web of life all the time but that we take for granted and forget about or that we control to be part of society. We channeled and expended that energy with our romp in the Quarter."
Pausing almost as if talking herself she said, "Perhaps that was why I herded you to a different direction on the street... " then went on, "We forget that we humans can be both predator and prey. Predator and prey carry with them aggressive and adrenaline driven energies, the fight or flight instincts. But creation and destruction live side by side. The predator eats the prey to survive. Sex and death are very much interwoven as they are creative and destructive energies. When you were so close to being destructive by fighting unnecessarily, my instincts kicked in to pull you back into creative energies by kissing you."
And Owen, who had been amazed at how profoundly different Nola had sounded, caught himself saying without thinking: "So the kiss was about restoring my balance."
"Yes." she said quietly out loud, thinking to herself, now there is a nice safe answer.
But Settrano smiled as Owen, while accepting and acknowledging the answer, wasn't content to leave it there. "But I've read the rituals in the manual and I can see that the sexual energies that are there. These are subtle and in the background but were probably much more a part of the rituals of the past."
Nola waited. Owen waited. Owen out waited her as she breathed deeply and shook her head and acknowledged. "Yes the rituals of the past are more aligned with primal energies of creation and destruction. What's in the manual is a bit more watered down."
She sighed, shrugged her shoulders, tilted her head slightly and shook it in an 'I don't know' fashion and sighed again, "Out of respect for our more modern, or I should say American, meaning overly influenced by our Puritan ancestor's, way of life and to get published I suppose. This is why it is best to learn from a teacher rather than to just read the manual. A teacher can help you read between the lines. This is also why it is best to actually do the rituals. This allows the trappings of the modern world to fall away and to open us up to broader experiences and learning."
Owen seemed lost in his thoughts but content with that answer. Nola was reminded again just how much work new students could be but barely smiled as she acknowledged that the teacher often learned from the student as well.
They spent the rest of the evening drinking the bottle of Columbia Crest and talking about ritual and energies and how the Wheel of the Year influenced the energies that could be experienced. It was close to midnight when Nola yawned. Owen smiled at her and reached over and pulled her close to him so she could lean against his chest. "Close your eyes for just a minute. I know you have to leave. I know you don't want to be embarrassed about falling asleep. But I've worked you hard this evening and you need to rest before you drive home." He had one leg on the ground and the other kicked out along the edge of the seat along side Nola's body. And she was so tired that she just went along with him and closed her eyes against the warmth of his body. Meana looked at Settrano who smiled back as if to say: I told you so.
Owen was content and alive. He was beginning to think that he got it. That the philosophy of living that Nola was teaching him was exactly how he had always wanted to live his life. He caught himself thinking about Papa Eric and how much he wished that Nola could have met him. Papa Eric was not easily impressed. Oh he liked people and he had accepted them for who they were and as a result they liked him right back. But impressed... few people impressed Papa Eric. He had the feeling that Nola's intense awareness of all the aspects of life would have impressed Papa Eric. And he leaned over and kissed the top of her head.
He drifted off and found himself on the ridgeline near the cabin. Papa Eric was right there. "You look mighty pleased with yourself, son."
"I guess I am Pop."
And Owen asked himself why, then responded.
"'Cause I like where I am. I'm in New Orleans, Pop. Just like you told me I had to be. I'm doing what I want, working to restore older houses and the lives of the people who live in them after a terrible disaster. I found a woman who is teaching me exactly what I didn't even realize I've always yearned to know. I'm finally set enough in the other aspects of my life to really listen and learn. You'd like her, Pop. I think you might even be impressed with her."
"Well now son, that would be something wouldn't it."
And Owen caught himself smiling.
"But guess what, son?"
"I am impressed with her."
And at that Owen started and Nola stirred and woke up.
Nola put her hand on Owen's chest as she started to sit up. Owen involuntarily put his hand around hers. Nola realized that Owen was dozing and giggled slightly and when she did he opened his eyes.
"Well, she said with a twinkle in her voice, "I guess I can't be embarrassed about sleeping if you doze off too."
Owen smiled at her barely aware of what she was saying. Nola moved to collect the glasses and wine bucket and bottle. Owen sat straight up.
Nola's eyes got large and she almost dropped the glasses. "Owen, what in the world! What's wrong?"
"OK..." she said slowly, looking around to make sure that there was nothing lurking in the yard, “...you said that already."
"Papa Eric likes you... no one better, he said he is impressed with you."
"Owen, my brother sleeptalks, I mean I've actually had conversations with him while he's been asleep. Are you really awake or are you sleeptalking?"
"No, I'm awake."
"Really? OK... stand up."
He stood up. "Woman I am awake. I probably did drift off somewhere for a moment but... Wow! Cool. I actually had a conversation with Papa Eric. I think I need to say thanks with a shot of JD on the mantle."
She just shook her head at him as they walked into the kitchen and wondered what had brought that on. As a witch she knew that the veil between the worlds was thinner than most people thought. But although they'd covered a lot of ground tonight, neither the Lasa Shrine or Papa Eric had been a part of the conversation. So she considered this quite a segue. In the kitchen Owen grabbed the bottle of JD and poured a shot. He smiled at her as if to indicate that she should follow him. She grabbed her purse from the counter and followed him into the living room and watched him set the shot glass of JD on the mantle, reach out to hold her hand and say out loud, "Thank you, Papa Eric."
And Bellaria nodded to Settrano to make sure he realized that he now had an ally on the other side in Owen's Papa Eric.
As Owen turned to her he saw that she was smiling at him but that she had her keys in her other hand and her purse on her arm.
"Aw..." sounding 10 years old. "You're leaving."
She thought as she smiled at him and shook her head like a mom with a kid who should know better but who also knows that he can get away with it sometimes and said: "Yes, I have to go to work early tomorrow." that at least this time his was a statement and not plea for her to stay. Owen conceded and hooked his arm in hers and walked her to the car. He gave her one of his bear hugs and said good night wishing her safely home.
Meana made sure that they both slept soundly and woke up refreshed.