Sunday, April 3, 2011

Chapter 42 – Next

Nola wasn't sure what to do next. May had been a very strange month. The May Day Ritual had been successful but the fact that it had coincided with Owen's birthday had blurred the lines some how. Then there was the fun but odd dinner with Owen's family and passing herself off as his girlfriend. She felt like she had done her best to pull back from that aspect of their relationship with Owen. She had done two No Lawnmower Landscaping site assessments with him and Joe the weekend after dinner at Galatoire’s. She had gone out of her way to make sure that Joe came along. It helped that Joe was interested and seemed like a natural at site assessment. There was no reason for Owen to say Joe couldn’t go along. But after these two outings she had done her best to intentionally spend less time with Owen unless it was specifically associated with preparation for dedication or initiation.

Responsibilities as a mom had allowed her to skip one week altogether. She was hoping that her student had taken that time to think about what it meant to be initiated and what he wanted next. Owen had pestered her to come to a pool/client party for OA Enterprises and she had agreed but said she wasn't available unless it was a Thursday since she already had that day blocked out. She did have standing commitments that made it harder on other days, but the real reason she insisted on a Thursday was that she was trying to avoid spending more time with him than was necessary. Her hope was that if she wasn't available that he would get bored and find someone else to keep him occupied. Unfortunately the pool party had the effect of reinforcing the assumption that she and Owen were an item. And it seemed like she was right back where she had started at the beginning of May.

It seemed to Nola that Owen was content with things exactly as they were. He was happy when she was there. He pouted when she left but he didn't cling or call or email in between lessons. He just waited until the next time… well not most of the time and she remembered being tricked into Saturday breakfast. He seemed to enjoy the fact that his crew thought of her as his girlfriend. He had done absolutely nothing to persuade them otherwise. And she thought about the fact that she hadn't either and comforted herself with the rationalization that the truth would be stranger than the fiction they had created. So now what? She had no idea. It seemed the only option was to just charge ahead and keep teaching. She had no excuse to stop.

Tago smiled at the frustration of Bellaria, Meana and Settrano. He knew that the only way out was through and that Nola needed time. As far as he was concerned things were just fine.

Bellaria and Papa Eric had been working on Owen but Meana didn't feel like they were making any progress

The week after the pool party had been a busy one for Owen. The party had been a success. More work was lined up for home repairs and they had requests for a number of landscaping jobs. One of the things that Owen wanted to do was formalize was Nola's participation in landscaping aspect of his business. He felt he needed her to make this work. Gardening was definitely a drug for her. She loved it. And he liked seeing her happy. She had teased about being put on the payroll and he had always assumed he would pay her. But she had never said a word about being paid and he wasn't quite sure how she really felt about being involved in his business. He had 2 new landscaping jobs and wanted to arrange for her to do the assessment. The site assessment questionnaire she had created was very helpful and Joe was learning, but it seemed to him that the clients were more relaxed when Nola was there to do the assessment. There was something in how she talked to them that made them feel like they had control of the outcome and the cost and this made them willing to let his crew have the job. As he thought about it, the questionnaire, training Joe, it always felt like she had one foot out of the door.
"and you want her to have both feet inside your house all the time."
"Hi, pop. Yes I do." He smiled.
"Now pop..."
"So what are you going to do about changing the situation?"
As Owen considered his grandfather’s questions he realized that he hadn't thought about changing the situation at all. And then he thought some more.
"Changing the situation…. Now that is a very good question. I don't know...."
Papa Eric and Bellaria smiled to Meana.

And he did think about it. The real question was, what did he want to change? And other than having Nola around more often, he had everything he wanted as well as the capacity to get anything he could dream up. He was satisfied with his home, his work, in his own skin, and he smiled as he thought, the path he was now walking. For the first time in his life he didn’t feel the gnawing need for something unnamable.

Nola was due this afternoon. He was waiting at the fountain feeding and training the fish. While one fish had seemed to understand the connection between humans and food very quickly, the other fish was only now beginning to pick up on the idea. And he smiled as he thought about training fish. Nola pulled into the driveway and she smiled as she saw him walking to meet her.
"You look just like I thought you would when I first though about that pathway. How are the fish?"
"Learning and I never thought I’d say my fish are learning. But the one without the orange dot on its head is beginning to get the idea. Come see."
And he hooked her arm and walked her down the pathway. When they got to the fountain he took some pellets from the food container and said, "Watch." and he moved his hand over the pool and the orange spotted fish followed his hand and so he dropped a few pellets in on that end of the pool. Then he moved his hand over the other fish and it followed to the other end of the pool and came gently to the top and Owen was able to drop a pellet right in its mouth. His eyes opened wide and he said softly not to scare the fish, "Wow.... it's never done that before."
She smiled and said, "Perhaps it was just hanging back waiting until it could be perfect in the process."
"It's a fish."
"Yes," she teased, "but you're training the fish. You must think it has some capacity or why would you bother?"
"You really think the fish was just waiting until it somehow figured it all out?"
"I don't know. Maybe. Who knows? Some people are like that. My very earth sign daughter is like that. She is capable of doing much but looks like she isn't trying at all until suddenly she has perfected what ever it is she has been thinking about. Try it again."
And he did and the fish did exactly the same thing. Nola said, "It seems to have surpassed the one with the orange dot."
"I guess now I have to work on the other one."
"Do it one more time."
He did and she said, "Cool. I bet Eric will be surprised to see that."
Owen smiled and said, "Well now that we can feed them one pellet at a time, perhaps it will be less likely that he will over feed the fish. There will definitely be less food in the water."
"It's good that you have those water lilies to filter the waste." And she looked from the pool down the walkway and said, "It's a lovely little ecosystem."
"Yes it is. Thank you for creating it."
"I just dreamed it Owen. You created it."
"Nope, we created it along with Maurice and Joe and a bunch of others to help."
She smiled and nodded in agreement. He held out his hands to her and she got up and he indicated they should go through the French doors to the library. He stored the fish food and walked her back to the kitchen. As he was opening a bottle of wine he said,
"Well now that I am initiated what's next?" And he held out the wine to her.
She took it saying, "You know Owen I have no idea. For all intents and purposes you've been acting as an initiate so I thought it best to initiate you. You are already better as circle casting than some initiates I know." And she closed her eyes and took a sip, "mmm, Brunello... so good. Thank you."
He smiled and then she said, "We have a few more Words of Aradia to talk through. The Summer Solstice is coming up so we should talk about that. You have only 4 more solar rituals before you will have been around the wheel of the year." And she paused and then said, "How is your rapport with the Grigori?"
He had been smiling. But as he thought about the Grigori, he seemed to get serious. And at this she smiled because some how the fact that Owen was serious about the Grigori seemed right and good.
"Well, I'm pretty sure that they are watching, just like they're supposed to. Sometimes I feel their presence more than others."
And she nodded, because everyone's relationship with the Grigori was a bit different. "Do you feel alignment or rapport more with one than the others?"
"Hmmmm, I guess if I had to name a Grigori that I think is working with me I'd say, "Settrano. Some how since I started on this path my life seems more fun, more relaxed, more spontaneous than I've felt free to be in the past."
"Yes, really. Why do you sound surprised?"
"Well..... I guess .... you've always seemed pretty spontaneous to me... asking to buy me coffee, deciding to change flights so you would come back on the same day... dragging me to do a site assessment... and a few other things..."
"Well I am usually a very planned and practical fellow..."
"Yes", she teased, "You are most definitely an earth sign..."
And he smiled and continued, "For a long time I've had a tendency to do what other's expected or needed. Now I do things because I think they are the right things to do."
"And you think that this is Settrano's influence?"
"Well, I can't really explain it... but some times it feels like there is someone telling me, sure OK, go ahead, do it! So I do, when in the past I might have hung back and waited."
Nola nodded, "I understand." She too had felt that influence but had worked hard to resist it. Spontaneity hadn't always been her friend. Some how, Meana and Tago seemed to provide balance for her. Settrano was a background influence. Her alignment with Bellaria was natural and easy. "Any other insights or influences?"
"Well... sometimes it almost feels like Papa Eric and Settrano are working together."
"We are, son."
He smiled as he said, "Papa Eric just said they are."
"Yes, really...."
She smiled and teased, "Then you're in trouble. It's hard enough to resist Settrano's influence but if he has help....."
"Oh I'm teasing. It's interesting that your grandfather just pops in like that."
"I can't control it. But I have gotten used to it."
"Meana's working with me too, son."
"Ok..... Papa Eric says Meana is working with him too."
"Interesting. Grigori aligned with water and fire working on earth. Working with Meana has been very good for me."
Now it was his turn, "Really?"
"Yes. Really."
"Well how?"
"Well, Meana has taught me to be... softer... more accepting... of myself and others.... a little less fire and air, thought and action... and a little bit more feeling... taking care of myself..."
"So Grigori help with personal development?"
"Personal development... soul development... both... They watch and sometimes I think, just like they can let our magic work or stop it, they can influence our thoughts and actions, either encourage us or stop us. But these aren't teachings. These are just personal reflections of mine. I was curious about your experiences. I suppose it's the scientist in me looking for other supporting or contradicting data."

He was thoughtful for a moment and then he said,
"Let's move to the library."
As he started for the library he said, "Oh there is something I wanted to show you." And he stopped at the dining room table. "We have new signs for the trucks."
And she moved to the table and saw that he had a number of magnetic signs. The signs said,
OA Enterprises 504-985-7017
design, repairs, renovations, solar power & insulation
We do it all, including
NO Lawnmower LAndscaping

"What do you think?"
"You.... you... put no lawnmower landscaping on the signs?"
"Sure, business is good. How do you like the way I worked NO LA" and he pointed to the capital letters "into the name?"
"I... It's nice."
He looked at her a little confused, "I hoped you'd be pleased." But then he thought about how he felt that she always had one foot out of the door. He wanted to put his arm around her so she couldn't run away.
"It's nice Owen. It's fun and creative how you split the difference between Nola Landscaping and No lawnmower Landscaping." And she did her best to smile at him and mean it and not feel.... what was she feeling... scared?
He said, "I picked up 2 more jobs for you and I was hoping you could tell me when you are available to do the assessments."
"Jobs for me...." she said quietly. Then she got practical and said, "Where are the houses?"
"One is uptown in the Garden District and the other is in Lakeview."
"The Garden District? That's scary. Where exactly?"
"Second Street between St. Charles and Magazine. Why do you say scary?"
“Oh my god, the heart of the blue bloods... or maybe they are new blood...."
"What makes this scary?"
And she looked at him as if he was speaking another language. "You really don't know?"
"No.... I really don't know. Sure the houses are larger and the people have more money but.... so what?"
"So what? You've obviously lived a lucky life. Only someone who hasn't ever had to worry about money could say that." And he thought about the fact that she had no idea how right she was. "I'm a girl from the 9th Ward Owen. I grew up working class people. Sure I've been in the corporate world and I have skills now that I might not have grown up with, but I'm still blue collar at heart. People in the Garden District have money, power, and position. They don't think like I do or maybe it's more fair to say I don't naturally think like they do. Our base expectations and understandings of the world are so very different. I'm not sure that I'm ready to do the Garden District."
"But they've heard about us from friends and they’re interested...."
"Did Leblanc recommend these people?"
And he thought about it, "I don't know. I think that they are friends of the lady who did the fountain. She was very impressed with the yard layout. She saw it before and after and asked a lot of questions about it. These folks said they were putting in a fountain."
"Oh..? is that better somehow?"
"I... I... I don't know. It's just me. I always feel a little out of my element in the Garden District."
"But doesn't your daughter go to private Garden District school?"
"Yes, but sometimes I wonder if it's the right thing to do for her now."
"What?! Then why do you send her there?"
"Because...the early childhood program was, in my opinion, the best in the city… I needed to be able to feel good about going to work and leaving my daughter with someone else. I still remember leaving her at day care when she was only months old. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. That Garden District school made me feel ok about where my daughter was spending so many of the hours in her day. One of the reasons I’ve kept her there is because it provided an excellent education without the religious influence of parochial Catholic schools and PreKatrina most public schools were not an option. But as she has gotten older, I am less enamored of the upper social class overhead and occasional attitude associated with the school. Sometimes it seems like they expect the parents to be so grateful for the wonderful opportunity afforded our daughters and that they forget that I am paying significantly for the education being provided. "And…” she shook her head, "It's complicated."
"Well I can't say I completely understand."
"Have you ever traveled and had to speak another language to get by?"
"What? Where did that come from?"
"I'm trying to use an analogy. Work with me here."
"Oh well....considering the places you’ve been, I’m embarrassed to say not really.” And he thought about it and then said, “Except once I went to Canada, Quebec, and the signs were all in French and the people spoke French. But they could and would speak English too."
"Well do you remember what it felt like to be in Quebec? Wasn't it a little unnerving? Didn't it make you feel just a tad on edge and uncomfortable? Maybe not all the time... but at those critical points where you had to read the French sign to know what turn to take or you had to speak French to get what you needed?"
"Well..." and he looked like he was about to say not really.
So she broke in with, "I remember my first trip to French Canada. We crossed the border between Ontario into Quebec. All of a sudden all the signs were in French. The highway hadn't changed. I could still read the map. The town names were the same or close enough but it was disconcerting. It made me ... I don't know, uncomfortable until I got used to it."
And he had brightened, "Ok, yes. I know what you mean. I have experienced that."
"Well that is what it is still like for me when I interact with Garden District blue bloods. It's still a little disconcerting. I can see some of the undercurrents but I can't see or know them all because I didn't grow up in that world and it makes me uncomfortable."
And he could see she was serious but didn’t understand how she could feel that way. He knew she did just fine with people of, what had she said, money, power, position. "But your daughter has been in that world for more than 10 years right?"
And she nodded a bit dejectedly, "Right."
"I've never seen you look like you were out of your element. You seem to be able to have a natural ease when you interact with people. The guys like you...
"They are practical, hands on, blue collar workers Owen."
"The clients like you. You have a strong presence that is comforting. You listen to them and they can see that and they listen to you. You are the reason why we keep getting landscaping work."
"The landscapes are why you keep getting landscaping work. We did your yard and your yard sold the first clients and so on and so on... It's not me."
And he looked at her like she was crazy, "Come on. You do the site assessments, you talk to the clients, you created the questionnaire, you design the layouts. I just draw them up."
"And then you have your team create them and arrange for the plants to be delivered and ...."
And he put his glass down and scooped her into a hug. "You are the strangest woman. I think you can do anything and yet a few blocks of this city somehow scare you. I don't understand it but I see that it is real. I'll be there with you. It will be Ok. When can you do it?"
"I... I..."
He released her slightly from his hug, "Joe is looking forward to this."
And she sighed because she knew that he was right. Joe would be thrilled to get bragging rights to a Garden District house. "When are they expecting us?"
"How did you know I suggested a time already?"
And she just smiled at him, "I guess I'm used to Settrano's influence on you. It just seemed like you would have leaped because you could. Friday afternoon. You told them I'd be there, we'd be there, tomorrow afternoon."
And he was surprised but smiled, "Yes. See how amazing you are?"
And she sighed deeply again. "Joe will be there too?"
"Yes. You can come here and then we can go to their house together."
She shook her head, "No. I'll meet you there after work. It's close to Jamie's school and I'll have to pick her up at the coffee shop or her friend's house after we've finished. James will be at work."
That was not what he was hoping for but he managed to be light on his feet, "Ok but let me make it up to you by taking you and Jamie out for sushi."
She shook her head at him. He said, "I know that you aren't a sushi nut like your daughter but I figure that getting Jamie on my side it a good thing."
She finally said, "If I turned down sushi my daughter wouldn't forgive me. So .... Ok. Friday. Did you give them the questionnaire?"
"Yep, here it is." And he handed it to and she began looking it over. "I'm going to get the wine. I’ll meet you in the library."

She was still in the dining room when he returned from kitchen.
"Tomorrow is when we do the site assessment, woman.”
"umm hmmm... do you have anything that shows the layout of the yard?"
He put his hand behind her back and moved her toward the library. "Turn over the questionnaire. I did a rough sketch."
And when she didn't start walking he hooked her arm and said, "Come on woman... we can talk about it in the library."
And she followed him and sat in what he thought of as her spot on the sofa. She was still looking at the rough sketch. He just sat and waited. Then she looked up from the sketch and said, "The sketch is helpful... I'll need to see how the light works with the houses next door. I can use mapquest to get the rough compass directions...."
"Yes and you when you see it you the ideas will just happen and I'll have trouble keeping up you and getting them on paper. Tomorrow is soon enough. You don't seem scared anymore."
"Well... I am apprehensive, but it won't kill me." And she smiled and took a sip of wine and breathed deeply. "Besides it is gardening and with someone else's money..... how bad can that be?"
"Much better.” And he smiled and clinked her glass and said, “The Lakefront folks are hoping we can talk to them on Saturday. Are you available on Saturday?”
And she shook her head at him and thought how the fates seemed to conspire so that she spent time with Owen, “Yes. I’m an early bird my family is not. So I’m available Saturday. Saturday AM is the best time...” And she managed to smile as she said, “Did you already schedule this as well?”
“Well, I suggested Saturday morning but I didn’t promise Saturday. They haven’t filled out your questionnaire but they have it and are working on it. I’ll firm up the arrangements tomorrow.”
And she laughed lightly, “OK.”
He grinned, “I think that since we’re going to do a Friday assessment and then go to dinner and then do a Saturday morning assessment that the best thing to do is for you to meet me here. We can go to the Garden District together. I’ll take you and Jamie to dinner and then home. I’ll pick you up Saturday morning and then you can pick your truck up at my house and head back home.”
She looked at him thinking, “Well…”
And he raised his eyebrows at her as she said… “that does sound logical…”
“I thought so.”
“Thank you for doing these assessments.” He was thinking that now would be a good time to talk about making her an official part of OA Enterprises but she just said,
“You’re welcome.” And then moved on and said, “So, new initiate, what would you like to talk about tonight?”

She watched as he slipped into what seemed deep thought and wondered what kind of question was coming her way. He was suddenly thinking a million things at once… he thought about how much fun it was to work with her… he thought about his grandfather asking what he wanted to change about the situation… he thought about how this was exactly what he wanted every night to be like… sitting and talking with this woman… and he thought about how strong and vulnerable she was all at the same time… he thought about how the Garden District and well heeled people somehow scared her…. He thought about how his grandfather had said that he wasn’t sure if Nola was ready to decide whether she can be in love with her husband or anyone else ever again… he thought about… Aradia’s Words…”
Papa Eric looked to Bellaria as if to say, “Is that your influence?”
Belllaria smiled and said, “He has the capacity. But he usually thinks consciously about only one thing at a time.”
Papa Eric laughed and thought, “Well he better focus or he is might strain something.”
Nola sipped her wine and waited perhaps there was something brewing under his normally happy go lucky façade. She hadn’t really seen him quite like this before. She’d seen him drop off into deep thought but it looked like he was actually not so much in deep thought but swimming in too many thoughts.
And Papa Eric nudged Meana, “How can she be so good at seeing into other people and not see into herself?”
Meana answered, “Nola does see into herself. But her life hasn’t always been easy or safe and she has taught herself to control her thoughts and emotions. When she lets herself feel deeply she feels out of control. So she keeps her feelings surrounded by her mental strength.” Bellaria nodded. Meana continued, “Through this path she has taught herself to be in the moment, but her life experiences have taught her to be almost outside of the moment at same time. She loves life and people and even without Settrano’s influence has a hedonist’s capacity to enjoy many things. But while she is brave and strong and capable she is cautious. After her father died she only allowed herself to be fully and completely in an emotional relationship with James and he has hurt her more than once. The protective layer that helps her move through life can also be the same thing that allows her to pretend she is keeping things from herself. But deep down, she knows. The problem has been getting her to act on this deep knowledge. She needs a catalyst. Owen is her catalyst.”
“My grandson does not know himself that well. He is still figuring it out. He is so comfortable that he doesn’t seem to think that anything needs to change. He needs a catalyst too.”
Tago said, “Nola needs time so let go and Owen needs time to reach out. Meana has been working with Nola. You and Settrano will have to keep nudging Owen along until the right catalyst presents itself. But we must give them time to work through this themselves.

Nola just sat there and looked at the site plan he had drawn up while she waited for him to decide what he wanted her to teach or talk about next.
Owen finally surfaced from under all the things he was thinking. When he became aware of the room again he realized that she was contentedly waiting and thinking about the site plan. He moved in and took the questionnaire from her hands.
"We can do that tomorrow."
"Well I was just keeping myself busy while you working out what we're going to talk about tonight."
"Oh... Well… then I guess that I can...
"No, you can't leave. I don't want you to leave."
"Oh.", then she teased, "Should I click my heels and salute or just say ‘yes, master’?"
He smiled at her, "I prefer ‘yes, dear’ to ‘yes, master’."
"I'll have to work on that."
And they just smiled at each other not knowing what to do next. Nola finally said, "OK, I can see I'm going to have to do the heavy lifting. Next week we'll talk about the Summer Solstice. We still have Aradia's Words on Death and Rebirth to work through, as well as ..."
"Can it be movie night?"
And she thought about her teaching movies and said, "Well…”
And he said, “I think I want to watch ‘Sirens’ again.”
“I don’t think….” and she thought but didn’t say out loud that watching ‘Sirens’ wasn’t necessary for him. He didn’t need any help to be willing ready and able to experience the transformative power of sexuality.
“ …No… considering the Summer Solstice is a ritual where we Streghe are charged to do magic to heal or reestablish or ensure balance in the world… I think perhaps that watching ‘What the Bleep do we know, Down the Rabbit Hole..’ is a better choice.”
“OK, What the Bleep. I have wanted to watch that movie again.”
And he got up, found the movie and put it into the DVD.

When he returned to the sofa he patted the spot next to him and she conceded and sat where he indicated. He happily settled into the sofa and threw his arm over the back of the sofa. Nola smiled to herself as she thought how much he was like a harmless puppy wanting to snuggle next to someone.
Nola said, “You know there is an expanded version of this, a DVD set with I think 5 hours of information.”
“5 hours. Maybe we should get it.” He smiled thinking he could probably order it on line.”

Owen started the movie and held on to the remote control and this time he paused so they could talk through some of the concepts. It was midnight before they finished.
Owen was smiling thoughtfully as the credits rolled when Nola picked up the questionnaire and said, “I can meet you here for 3:30PM tomorrow.” Owen was lost in thought.
“Jamie will have to go to the bookstore and wait for me. I’m sure she won’t mind. Especially not with the promise of sushi.” And she stood up.
Owen looked up and realized that she was leaving. Nola shook her head at his spoiled 10 year old face and said, “That face is pitiful Owen.” And she leaned into him and gave him a kiss on his forehead. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Don’t get up.”
He got up, hooked her arm and walked her out the side kitchen door to her spot under the grape arbor.
He gave her a hug and said, “3:30PM tomorrow. I’ll call and confirm with the clients. Is 9AM on Saturday OK for the assessment?”
“9AM is fine. The earlier, the better.”
“Ok, I’ll pick you up at 8AM on Saturday and we can get coffee and then head to the site. I’ll see you tomorrow, right here at 3:30PM.”
She smiled at him and said, “Ok, Chief.”

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