Thursday, January 31, 2013

Chapter 47 - Cycle of Being


Nola was going straight to Owen’s after work.  Jamie had a late rehearsal at school wouldn’t be finished until 7:30PM and James was picking her up.  She had called Owen to let him know that she was free to come to his house a little earlier. She wasn’t quite sure how he was going to respond after she had refused his request to stay at Solstice.  He said anytime after noon was good and she had laughed and said, “See you a little after 4:30PM.”

As she pulled into the driveway he got up off of the edge of the fountain to meet her.  She smiled at how much he used the front yard as she pulled under the grape arbor.  He met her as she was getting out of the truck. 

“Evening Nola.”

“Evening Big Man. How are the fish?” 

“Well fed and growing.” And he hooked her arm in his and said, “You know I think we should start this early every time.”

“You do?”

“Sure why not?”  He watched as she thought about it.

She raised her eyebrows and then teased, “Well I figured that it was better if I let you have time to get something to eat before I arrived. It seems you think better on a full stomach. Once you say, ‘I’m hungry’, everything stops until you’re not.”

He smiled wryly, knowing she was right. He opened the kitchen door so she could go through first and then said, “I think you should come early and that we should have dinner together and then have the lesson.”

She smiling she shook her head at him and slid onto a barstool. He was too damn charming. He had probably gotten away with murder his whole life. She chuckled under her breath and smiled remembering how her brother had managed to escape from whacks with shoes or the paddle because he was charming or would start crying before he got whacked.  She on the other hand had taken her licks, usually deserved, full on, refusing to cry.  Owen was so charming he had probably never even gotten close to corporal punishment.

“What are you smiling about?”

“How simply being charming can make it easy for folks to get their way.”

He smiled. “So I’m charming and will get my way? You’ll start coming earlier, we’ll have dinner and then we’ll have the lessons?”

She shook her head at him and said, “As a kid you got everything you wanted didn’t you?”

He heard his Papa Eric chuckle and wrinkled his forehead. She let him fret.

“Pop, Did I?”

“Pretty much, son. Oh, your mom and dad never cut you any slack. But you did manage to get your way most of the time.”

She watched him think. He finally decided how to respond and said simply, “Yes.”, assuming that he would get his way this time too.

She raised her eyebrows and nodded once and said nothing. 

He smiled and asked, “What would you like to drink?”

“Water’s fine, thanks.”

He fixed a glass of San Pellegrino and slid it to her before he grabbed a beer.  “I can’t stop spoiling you now.”

She smiled and clinked her glass to his bottle but thought, Please, please stop spoiling me.  It makes being here too easy and the rest of my life harder.

He watched her and wondered what she was thinking.  But decided not to ask and as he did his grandfather said, “Good decision, son. You don’t want to know and I’m not going to tell you. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Follow your instincts.”  He sipped his beer as he thought about that and then said, “Where would you like to hold session today?”

She perked up and answered with, “Since I’m locked in an office most days, how about poolside?”

He moved to the kitchen door, opened it and said, “Poolside it is.”

Owen plopped in a chair and Nola set her glass on the table and then smiled at him as she slipped to the other side of the pool to check on the trees.  He laughed and watched her and then got up and followed her to the other side of the pool. “You can’t resist, can you?”

“It’s been awhile since I’ve checked on them. It’s heating up and…”

“And I water faithfully.  Don’t you trust me woman?”

She was been kneeling next to the fig tree poking her fingers in the dirt. She worried now that she has hurt his feelings by checking up on him. She stood up and touched the leaves. They were soft and green and supple. Healthy.  He had been watering.  She moved to a redbud and it looked good too.  She turned to him and said, “The trees look healthy and happy.”

He didn’t understand why she looked sad… defeated… So asked, “Then why don’t you?”

She looked down before she looked at him and said sincerely, “I’m sorry. Really I am. I didn’t mean to insult you by making you think that I didn’t trust you.  They are, after all, your trees.”  She was suddenly very sad. She walked into the redbuds and then down the line of pines and swamp maples running the leaves through her fingers and feeling how smooth and healthy they were. “It’s just…  It’s just that at my house… well… I can’t usually count on… I mean… I’ve gotten used to taking care of things myself. It’s easier than asking and… and…” she stepped out from the trees and turned to him again and said, “and I’m sorry. You’ve always followed through… I should know better.”

Owen had been following along as she walked between the trees and as she spoke he realized what the problem was… Damn James.  He pulled her into a hug and she said, “I’m sorry...”

“Shhhh….” And he just held on to her wanting more than anything just for her to be happy.  Papa Eric and Meana smiled at Tago.

She was content to let him hold her but realized she needed to pull herself together. Standing, the top of her head came to just above his chin.  He felt as she wiped her tears and then with her head on his shoulder said, “Jezz, that was embarrassing.”

He chuckled and still holding her said, “I’m hungry.”

And she laughed too. 

He loosened his hold but held onto her hand and guided her back to the chairs.  She sat down and he said, “Wait right here. I’ll be right back.” She nodded and smiled and said, “Ok.”  He went inside and she sighed deeply and shook her head. That was ridiculous.  What the hell is wrong with me? 

She closed her eyes and put her head in her hands because she knew.  What was wrong was that Owen was bringing the unhappy edges of her life into sharp focus. She had learned to survive by ignoring them. But now, with Owen as contrast, they were becoming far too easy to see.

Owen had salads in the fridge and a large roast beef poboy warm in the oven. He pulled the salads from the fridge and put the poboy on a plate. It was already cut in four pieces so they could share.  He grabbed 2 salad dressings from the fridge, loaded it all on a tray with silverware and napkins and brought it outside.  She turned as she heard him on the porch.   He said, "Grab the drinks and come onto the porch.  This way your southern bugs won't get us while we eat."

She started toward the door of porch which opened onto the patio with “My southern bugs….” But when she opened the door and looked at the table... "Oh my..."

"I made the salads, the dressings are bottled and the poboy is from down the street... Don't look Iike I went all out."   She put their glasses on the table and slipped into a chair, "Thank you.  Thank you very much."

"You're welcome. But I eat every night not just when you are here. Usually I eat alone so having company is nice."

She just smiled and put the napkin in her lap.


They were finishing up dinner when the bell on the gate sounded. Owen jumped up and said, "Damn I forgot about Roger." He went through the kitchen and out the side door and brought Roger into his office to get the plans for a new job site.   Seeing Nola's truck parked under the grape arbor, Roger teased pointing to the truck, "So she's here in the morning and she's here for dinner. You had 3 beautiful women to choose from when we went out for beers on Tuesday and you went home alone. When is she moving in?"

Owen shrugged and smiled remembering what his grandfather had told him. But he didn't respond, leaving Roger to make his own assumptions.

Owen's office opened onto the porch so Roger decided to use that way out.

"Hi Nola."

"Hi Roger."

Roger slipped into a chair.  Not wanting to rush his friend off, Owen sat too.

"Man do you mind if I have a beer while I take a look at these plans?"

Owen got up to get the beer and Nola started to clear their plates to make room on the table for the plans.

"Roger I'm not going to eat the rest of this poboy.  Would you like it?"

"Sure." 

Owen came back with the beer and Roger said, "Dinner and a show.", and opened the plans on to the table as Nola took the dishes into the kitchen. 

Owen opened the door for her and followed her in. "You don't have to do that."

"Oh don't be silly.  If I was at any other friend's house I'd do this. Get back out there with Roger. That stuff pays the bills, right?"

He shook his head at her and she said, "Go on." And he went back onto the porch. 

She took her time washing the dishes in the sink because it kept her occupied and out of their way. It didn't take long to wash and dry 3 plates and 2 bowls and some silverware.   She had just refilled her glass when Owen came back in and said, "Get out here, woman. You cleaned up already?"

"Yes."

"Get out here."

"Ok.”

He opened the door so she could go through and she slipped back into her chair.

Roger smiled as he rolled up the plans.  "So Nola, when are you moving in?"

Owen put his head in his hand.  Nola chuckled realizing that Roger was just teasing Owen so she teased back.  "Oh, I only come here to slum.  I like the independence of my own house."

Roger laughed out loud. "Do you have a sister?"

Nola smiled, "Nope, just a younger brother. Looks like you're out of luck, he’s straight."

Owen chuckled and Roger rolled his eyes and laughed.  "Ok... You got me." And he finished his beer and said, "I'm going to leave you 2 lovebirds alone.  See you Monday Owen.  I’ll show myself out.  Thanks for the beer."

Owen leaned back in his chair and said, “See you Monday.”

“Bye Roger.”


Nola waited until he was out of the kitchen door and then said, “You didn’t walk him out.”

“He knows the way. Besides all he’d do is find more ways to rib me about you.”

“Oh that’s just because I was here. He was messing with you and including me in the process.”

“Uh, No.  I get teased about you even when you’re not around and not just from Roger.”

Nola’s brow wrinkled and then she shook her head. “I’ve always wondered about how smart it really is to let the guys think we’re…. dating.  It’s pretty obvious that at least Roger thinks we’re sleeping together. Where did he get that idea?”

Owen laughed, “Because we have slept together?” and he could see that she wasn’t particularly happy with that answer so he thought fast and said, “Well… remember when you stopped by the morning after our last full moon ritual?”

“Yes.” She said cautiously.

“When Roger pulled up just as you drove off… well, he assumed that you had spent the night.”

It was her turn to put her head in her hand. She looked at him through her fingers and asked, “Just how deep is this hole? Do the rest of the guys think so too?”

He nodded and said, “Yep.”

She rolled her eyes.  “Perhaps we should break up and then just be friends.”

“Not a chance, woman.  If I did that half my crew would be hitting on you. Trust me it's safer this way.”

“Please. I’m older than most of your crew.”

“I doubt seriously that would matter. They all like you.” And he stood up saying, “I’m going to get some lemon ice. Your favorite, right?”

She wrinkled her forehead thinking not possible and then and shook her head at him and said, “Yes, it is. I think it’s time we started the lesson.”

“Lemon Ice, then the lesson.” 

And she thought, stubborn Taurus, but said, “Ok.”

She slipped onto a barstool and watched him scoop locally made Brocato’s lemon ice.  She smiled and said, “Did you know Brocato's had just celebrated their 100th anniversary the month before Katrina hit?”

He had no idea and said so smiling.

She continued as he slid the bowl across the counter to her. "It is so wonderful that the family business survived Katrina. I remember how some of the non-local reporters or planners responded when a huge crowd gathered when Brocato’s reopened. They called us provincial and insular. What they didn't seem to understand was that we were celebrating survival... of another family, another business and of our way of life.  Even little things like ice or ice cream are special to New Orleanians. Authors of other stories, like one in the New York Times, seemed to understand completely."

He smiled, slipped on to the barstool next to her and said, "I love New Orleans capacity to enjoy life." And took a bite of the lemon ice.

She smiled at him and created her own bite. He watched as she momentarily closed her eyes to enjoy it before she asked, "Did you have anything like this when you were growing up?"

"Not really. Oh we had plenty of ice cream but nothing like this Sicilian ice.  My upbringing was pretty bland.  Occasionally we'd go to New York on the train and get a taste of diversity.  But I spent much of my spare time in the woods with my grandfather."

"Do you miss it?"

"I really missed my grandfather after he died." And he hesitated, “But since you opened the portal it's almost like having him back."

"You opened the portal Owen. I just showed you the possibilities." She took another scoop and then asked, "But do you miss the outdoors, trees, mountains, hikes in the woods, fishing... "

"Maurice has a boat and I've been out fishing with him and Roger and some of the other guys.  It is different than stream fishing but it's fun and the fish are much bigger."

She smiled.  "Do you hunt?"

"Well I did in Pennsylvania but not since I've been down here."

"So do you miss it?" 

And Papa Eric shook his head and looked at Meana who understood that Nola was the one who was fishing, fishing to see if the universe would solve her problem and Owen would move back to Pennsylvania.

"Not really. I get to go back to Pennsylvania often enough.  I could find a place to hunt if I wanted to but none of the guys I know here hunt so I haven't bothered."

"Oh, I know folks who go deer hunting.  If you want, I could introduce you.”

“You know people who deer hunt?”

“Sure, why wouldn’t I?”

“I don’t know.  I think of you as a city girl.”

“Oh, well I guess I am, more so now than I was as a kid.  When I was a kid we spent the week in the city and the weekend on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  Crabbing with chicken necks on a string, gigging for flounders in the sound, picking blackberries, collecting eggs…”

“Hold on… chicken necks? Gigging?”

She laughed.  “I know, not very sophisticated or glamorous, huh?”

“What… is… gigging?”

“Yankee….  Carpet Bagger…. ”

“Don’t sass me woman. What is gigging?”

She laughed, “Preferably on a moonless night, you take a lantern and a long pole with a sharp pike on the end of it; believe it or not we used an ice pick on a broom handle, and you wade in the shallows of the Mississippi Sound. These shallows extend for miles. Using the lantern light you look for indications of slight depressions or different colors in the sand under the shallow water. As you walk along you have to gently shuffle your feet so that so that you don’t step on a sting ray. We also typically wore old Ked’s tennis shoes. When you see the right kind of depression and sand color change you use the gig and hope that it’s a flounder.  It’s essentially fishing with out the line.”

He was sitting back looking at her like she was from another planet. He finally said, “I don’t even know where to start.”

She tilted her head and looked at him and said seriously, “Where to start? What do you mean?”

“Step on a sting ray? What happens if you step on a sting ray?”

Her eyebrows rose, “Oh…. Well, sting rays have long barbs under their tails and if you step on one, they can stick you with this barb. It makes for a nasty gouge and can be very painful and dangerous.  Since gigging means that you are walking in their territory and in the dark you have to step carefully and be alert for the signs.  But giggers typically are any way because we’re looking for flounders.  Flounders and sting rays both make similar depressions in the sand. I always went with my dad and grandpa and they knew what to look for and taught me so I always felt safe.”

“So it’s a bit like hunting.”

She shrugged, “Well I guess so. You have to go to your prey’s territory.”

“And chicken necks?”

She laughed, “Back in the day before folks bought just legs or thighs or breast, folks bought the whole chicken. And my paternal grandparents had an egg farm so whenever they wanted a chicken they ate the one that that had stopped laying.  Anyway my grandparents, both sets, would save the chicken necks for crab bait. There are 2 ways to crab, well 3 if you count the large traps but you need a boat to do that. We didn’t have a boat. We had to work from the shore or a bridge. One way is with a net. You tie the chicken neck into the center of the net and throw it out into the water, a bit like a Frisbee on a string, wait a little while and then haul it back in as fast as you can so the pressure of the water holds the crab in the net. The other way is to tie the chicken neck or other nasty chicken part onto a string and toss the bait out into the water. Then you have to haul the string in very, very slowly so any crab attracted to the bait comes slowly to you as you pull in the string and when you get close you scoop it up with the scoop net. I like the second way better. It required more skill and interaction and so I thought it was more fun. Plus the nets could get caught on debris and get torn up or tip over when you were pulling them in and dump out the crabs.”

“And picking blackberries… you were a little wild thing.”

She smiled and shrugged.  “I was no debutant that’s for sure.”

“So much for you as a just city girl.

“You have no idea. Even in town, during the summer weeks I would ride my bike and play hide and go seek in the abandoned warehouses. There were still remnant cotton bales… sometimes we had to move to a different warehouse so the bums could sleep. Or we would ride our bikes in Jackson Barracks. The Barracks used work release prisoners to do maintenance and landscaping work.” Owen’s eyebrows were rising. “I thought the prisoners were nice.  They fixed my ratty old bicycle’s chain a bunch of times.”

“Prisoners…”

“Well, yeah I know we wouldn’t allow it now but… people are people and sometimes the ones you think you need to worry about aren’t the ones you actually need to worry about.”

His forehead wrinkled slightly, there was something in that statement. But she said, “I think we got off track. I was asking you if you missed the outdoors, like that beautiful place in the photo of your grandfather.”

Then he was lost in thinking about a small wild Nola on a shoreline with a scoop net and a bucket of blackberries. 

She thought he was thinking about his grandfather or Pennsylvania so she waited and scooped and enjoyed another bite of lemon ice.  Finally she said quietly, “Owen?” He looked to her.  “Where are you?”
“Watching a small wild Nola pick blackberries as she waits to scoop crabs with a net.”

She smiled.  “A sweaty, muddy, sunburned Nola who picked a gallon of blackberries and caught enough small crabs for gumbo and enough large ones for everyone to get at least 2 large boiled crabs. An excellent haul for the day.   Now what about you?  Since you moved here do you miss the outdoors, mountains, trees changing colors, hikes on the ridgeline….?” And she trailed off remembering her trip last fall.

He thought about that. And then said, “Not really. This place and its people are so interesting I don’t have time to miss it. I work outside, granted in a city, a lot. But I’ve always liked living in my head and designing solutions.  I think you were a city girl who should have been in the country and I was a country boy who should have been in a city.”

She smiled, “Maybe… But I actually think it sounds like we got the best of both worlds.”

He smiled at that and said, “Maybe. Besides, I can go back to the cabin in the woods anytime I want to. It’s always waiting for me.”

She nodded and then looked just a little bit sad.

“Nola… what is it?”

“I’m glad that you still have a place to go back to.  The Mississippi Sound is still there, the pine trees, the quiet, the cicadas singing, the smell of the marsh, the song of the red winged blackbird, but the places and many of the people that I knew are all gone. Camille took many of them and then Katrina eliminated the rest.”   And then she scooped the last bite of Lemon Ice and said, “I came here to talk about the Words of Aradia on Death and Rebirth and we’ve talked about everything but.  I think it’s time to get started with today’s lesson.” And she picked up his bowl and put it with hers and dropped it into the sink, “See what coming early gets us…? Distracted.”

He met her at the sink and said as he gently turned her, “Leave that. Let’s move into the library.”  She let him guide her into the library.  She slipped into her corner and he plopped onto the sofa.

“So Aradia’s Words on Death and Rebirth huh? … Sounds like fun.”

And she chuckled and then said, “Well perhaps it would be best if we started with Life since we’re living it, before we moved on to Death and Rebirth.”

He kidded her with “Ok Task Master” and she sputtered as he found the section and then chuckled and waited for her to smile before he started reading, “We live upon the Earth because we are not prepared to live in the ways of the spirit. We are not physical beings, and this is why physical life is often difficult.”

He looked up at her and said, “Hmmm… Physical life difficult?  And he looked down at both of them and said “But we are physical.”

She looked at him and wondered if he was still kidding around, then decided to play it straight.  “I’ve heard it said that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience.   We are currently physical but what we are at our eternal core is not physical. This core is the unnamable thing most often called the soul.  It is this soul, this non-physical thing that we are referring to when we talk about the cycle of being: Life, Death and Rebirth.”
He decided to keep reading, “It is not our way to disregard the physical, for we dwell within it. So it is best to live in harmony with the world. But for us to become involved in the physical so as to disregard the spirit is likewise harmful. This binds us to rebirth, and to unhappiness.”

She said, “Balance again.  Think about spiritual beings having a physical experience.  We are here specifically to learn the things that are most easily learned by having the physical experience. ‘It is not our way to disregard the physical’ is an admonishment not to live for the afterlife but to live now for the lessons we can learn as physical beings.”

“Ah, now that makes sense. I always resisted the thought that all I was doing here was waiting for heaven.”

She chuckled, “Me too.” And they enjoyed a laugh before she added, “But again there is the caution to remember that we are spiritual beings and the physical experiences should enhance, build our spiritual development. To focus only the physical can mean unhappiness and that we’ll just have to come back and do it all over again until we learn balance.”

He smiled and read, “A Strega respects life and all living things. Life must not be taken without necessity.

This is just like what we talked about with the Covenant of Aradia.”

She just nodded and he continued reading,

“The purpose of physical life is to learn the higher ways of spirit through knowledge of the lower and to prepare our spirit for the existence for which it was created.

"So our lives here are a training ground.”

She raised her eyebrows and nodded, “Yep, pretty much. But we should enjoy it. That is part of the training.”

“Shall we go on to Death?”

“Sounds strange when you say it that way but, yes.”

He read, “Every beginning is also the ending of that which came before it. Every ending is likewise a beginning of that which is to follow. Coming and going are simply the two sides of the one journey.”

“More round and round we go?  Just like the mythos.”
She nodded, “Yes.  Spiritual beings get to have multiple physical experiences.  This is just one of many.  I know it’s not very enlightened of me but I’m looking forward to coming back.  There are so many things to see and do in the world. I can’t imagine taking it all in in a single lifetime.”

“Yes. I’ve watched you enough to know that you are busy absorbing everything and I can imagine you wanting more.”

She smiled cautiously as she thought about that and he continued reading, “Death is merely a change in awareness and of form. It is unfeared by the spirit, but often feared by the personality of the dying one.”

And he paused thinking about his grandfather who was dead yet still a part of his life. Change in form and awareness indeed. She watched and waited and then said, “I learned the hard way at 14, death is a part of life. It does us no good to fear it.”

“And I was thinking how my grandfather is almost as much a part of my life now as he was when he was alive.”

They smiled and slipped into their own thoughts and then he continued reading, “Yet the realm of death is like the dream worlds to which we journey in our sleep, and just as brief.”

She said, “It is that sentence right there that makes the movie, ‘What dreams may come’ an interesting view into the possibilities for the afterlife.”

“You keep mentioning that movie, but you don’t like it.”

“Well, I don’t like the way it ends. But I absolutely find it a fascinating way to look at how the afterlife can work and the realm of death it portrays does fit with the Streghe view of death as a dream world.  It comforts me that our time in death’s dream world can be brief.  I would hate to think that the movie would end with the character forever in the world he agrees to live in.”

“I am going to have to watch that movie.”

“Please…? Not tonight.”

“Ok, I’ll keep reading.  Know that the spirit always moves to a higher state, and always toward the Light. The shadows of death can not keep us.’”
She sighed and said, “Oh much better.”

He smiled and kept reading, “Upon dying we are purified by the elements as we rise into the ether. From life we go to dwell upon the Moon (within the Lunar and Astral Realms) and there await our return. In Luna we are given vitality and made strong again.”

“The Moon?”

“Well, not the actual Moon…  This goes back to the mythos and that the souls of the dead are collected and pass with the sun under the earth into the underworld and are delivered to the Moon until the Moon is full and then they are delivered to Luna. I think that we should shift and move to the Word of Aradia Concerning Luna.”

He looked unsure but saw she was serious and had to flip to find the Words a few sections away. She said, “Go ahead and read the words on Luna.  It describes what Streghe think happen after death.”

He read, “Luna is the purest of all the Moon Worlds. It is where the Soul is taken to rest and be renewed. It is the place of eternal youth. Here is union with the Gods and with those Streghe who have gone before.”

He continued reading, “The portal to Luna is in the West, beyond the sunset and beyond the Ocean. Luna is a place of beautiful forests and meadows. A place of clear streams, rivers and lakes. Nature spirits inhabit these places as do all the beautiful creatures of ancient myth and legend. In Luna it is always Summer.”

And he paused before he said, “So Luna is the Streghe Summerland?”

“Essentially, yes.”

He nodded and kept reading, “The soul experiences Luna in the manner in which is most suited to its life experience. This is as it should be.”

He looked at her and she said, “You really should watch the movie one day.”

“Without you?”

“I wouldn’t be offended if you watched without me. But if one day you insist, I will watch it with you.”

He smiled and kept reading, “In ancient times, it was said that the shape of the Moon grew as it received the Souls from the Physical World, and that it depleted as they were reborn. But we must realize that the Moon is not truly the world of Luna, but only a symbol. Yet if you could see between the Worlds, you would see that the Moon is Luna.

From the Physical World, and by the physical senses, you can never see or know the World of Luna.”

He looked up confused at the cryptic wording assuming she had a way to clear it up. She laughed lightly.  “It is and it isn’t.  So clear, huh?”

He smiled and waited.

“I like to think that it has something to do with the possibilities of dimensions.  In our physical form the Moon is not Luna.  In our spiritual form or dimension it is. Right now I am physical so for me the Moon is a symbol of what is possible in other dimensions.”

“A symbol…” and he trailed off.

She smiled, “A beautiful, inspiring and enchanting symbol.”  She waited and then said, “I think we should go back and finish up the Words on Death.”

He flipped back and read the last passage, “If the Great ones, who created all things, have seen within us the purity of Light, then shall we go forth to be forged by the Sun and taken to dwell among the stars, in our new divine form. If this is not to be, then shall we be given unto rebirth (according to our deeds) within the world of physical matter.”

“So we rest in Luna and then if we are truly enlightened move to dwell among the stars or if not are reborn.”

“Yes and I think it is more likely that we will be reborn.  I know that I haven’t learned everything I could.  Have you?”

He laughed. “No, I don’t think I have. I just hope that my deeds allow me a pleasant rebirth into the physical world. Whatever lessons I have to learn I’d like to learn them gently.  If that means it takes me a bit longer to get to the stars, I’m ok with that.”

She laughed, “Me too. Exactly.” 

After a bit she said, “We should go on to the Words concerning Rebirth.  He had to flip around to find them again and said in mild frustration and exasperation, “Why aren’t the Words on Life, Death and Rebirth all together?”

Smiling she shook her head. “I have no idea.  I have always heavily used the Words for teaching and have reorganized them into what I think is the best order for teaching.  I think the only topics that I kept in the order presented in the book were the Words on Nature and the Earth.  But then students sometimes dictate reviewing the words in an order that makes sense to them. You certainly did.”

And he smiled remembering that first lesson before he read, “Rebirth

The human body will eventually fade away after the death experience. Yet the soul cannot be destroyed, nor is it subject to physical actions and restrictions.
After death of the body, the soul is still connected to its form for three days. For a period of seven days the soul is earthbound. After this it will be escorted by the Old Ones to the Moon Worlds.
For Strega the desire is to enter the world of Luna and be prepared for rebirth. The Strega also desires to be born among the loved ones that he or she knew in lives that have passed.”

“Now that’s interesting.  A Strega desires to be born among the loved ones that they knew in past lives.”

“Yes, I’ve always particularly liked that part.  In the Veglia it says that ‘we have been reborn among our own again.’  May I see the book a minute?”

He handed it to her and she found the page she was looking for.  “In the Shadowfest Ritual there the Myth of Descent, and there is a section which speaks to this. Here it is, “For there are three great mysteries in the life of man which are: Birth, Sex, and Death (and love controls them all). To fulfill love, you must meet, recognize, remember and love them anew. But to be reborn you must also die and be made ready for a new body. And to die you must be reborn, but without love you may not be born among your own.”  And she handed him back the book. “Meet, recognize and remember.  I’d like to think that’s what we are doing whenever a new streghe student finds their teacher or a working group. I’d like to think that is what happened all those many years ago when I first found Stregheria. We were all meeting, recognizing and remembering…”

“and loving anew.”

She flipped back to the Words on Rebirth and handed him the book, “Let’s continue reading the Words on Rebirth.”

He took the book and read, “The ancient teachings tell us that the soul enters a cycle of seven lives through which it strives to be complete. Each cycle is followed by another until the soul is complete and physical life is no longer necessary” and then asked “Seven?”

She nodded.  “Does it mean only seven?  Is seven being used like some alchemical magic number, as a symbol?  Does a cycle of seven lives mean seven cycles that play out over many life times, not seven explicit lifetimes?  I wish I knew or had been told but, you know what I know.” And She paused before she asked “What do you think it means?”

He thought about that and she waited. Finally he said, “I think I’d like to believe that it’s seven cycles composed of as many lifetimes as is needed.”

She nodded. He asked, “Well what do you think?”

“I like the cycles theory personally.  I’ve experienced enough to know that repetition is the key to training, learning and growing and if this is so, Nature being the great teacher, then I think we need more than seven lifetimes.  Or maybe I’m just greedy because I like life. So, more opportunities to live sounds better to me and the cycle theory provides that.” She smiled.

He laughed and then lifted the book and she nodded for him to continue, “The memory of a past live if often hidden from the present consciousness so that each live is unique. Yet the memory can be recalled if truly desired. The memory of each life is contained within the soul. The soul is the True Self.”

“Nola, do you think that we’ve known each other in a past life?’

She hadn’t been expecting that question.  And then she wondered why not?  “Hmmmm… I don’t know.  I… don’t think so.  Or perhaps if we did our relationship was… good, no baggage… no unfinished business… no conflicts.” And she paused still thinking before she said, “What do you think? Did we know each other in a past life?”

He tilted his head. What did he think?  “I don’t know. Why do you say no baggage… no unfinished business?”
“Well… I tried past life regression once.”

“You did?! Did it work?”

“Well it wasn’t like Barbara Streisand in ‘On a Clear Day…’. But it was an interesting experience.  The guy essentially talked to me a bit like I do when I lead a meditation.  He walked me back down a corridor with many doors and then had me choose when I was ready to open a door. When I felt like I had formed the question I wanted answered and then he had me open the door.”

“Well what happened?”

“He had me look down at my feet and he asked me what kind of shoes I had on?”

“What?”

“Apparently so many people are trying to see places or faces and often the anxiety about what they will see causes them not to see anything. But looking down at your shoes is safe and unexpected and it can make it easier for you to see the rest.”

“Well what kind of shoes did you have on?”
“Simple, worn, muddy, handmade leather shoes.  I was standing on cobblestone.”

“Where were you? What else did you see?”

“Clean but slightly shabby clothes and when I looked up I was standing in front of a grey stone building, I think it was some kind of bank or financial institution, in the 1500s.  I think it was Europe, possibly England maybe Northern Europe.  It was grey and cold and wet.”

“Wow.  Who were you?”

“I don’t know. A servant.  A servant who worked for someone who had something to do with the building.  Someone who was in control of me. Someone who was not always nice to me. Someone who… I really don’t know… I never really followed through with any other visits. But I think I got the answers I was looking for.  I decided that it had to be this lifetime I worked on and worried about and not a past life.”

“Oh, so there was baggage?”

She laughed, “You could say that.”

“So you know what baggage feels like when it comes from a past life and impacts your current life?”

“Maybe. I think so. But I’m not really sure.  What I can say is that I don’t think or feel that you and I have any past life baggage.”

“Hmmm….”

“Hmmmm????”

“I’m trying to figure out if that is good or bad.”

She laughed, “And?”

“And what do you think?”

And she thought about what she could say that he might understand without dragging out her past and said, “I think it’s good.  We can start clean with this lifetime and decide if we would like others.  I’d like to think that I’m finishing a cycle with this lifetime.”

“Really?”

She nodded, “Yes, really and no I don’t want to elaborate.”

“Why not?”

She thought about that and decided to ask a question instead.  “Do you think you remember any of your past lives?”

He looked at her and then thought quietly for a minute before he said, “No, I don’t think I do.”

“Ever had a feeling a place was familiar?  Not just déjà vu.”

He thought about it and shook his head, “Nope. Have you?”

“Once in San Francisco.”

He looked expectantly and waited. She smiled and continued.  “I was traveling with my family as a teenager and the one responsible for giving directions as my mom drove.  I was lost. And finally gave up on the map and just started giving directions like I knew what I was doing. I don’t even know why.  Then all of a sudden I was in front of a house and looking down an alley on the side of the house.  Then I was in the alley looking back at myself and I was a small boy in short pants on a tricycle and then I was back in the passenger seat trying to give directions and suddenly I was able to find myself on the map and get us where we were going.”

“Weird. What year was it…in the alley?”

“Turn of the 20th Century.”

And they both said together, “right before the earthquake.”

And she nodded to him.

“Do you think you died in the earthquake?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t have trauma or fear about earthquakes and I like San Francisco. It was just a weird flashback. Nothing else in my life links me to that time or place or person.” And she paused thinking that wasn’t quite true. “Except… when as a little kid I used to spend time between the car and the fence, just sitting, usually with the family dogs close by, looking at our street.  It wasn’t a busy street. We only had a sidewalk on the side of the street opposite our house. Anyway I would sit and look at the street but I wasn’t seeing the present, I was seeing the past, the turn of the 20th century past.  It felt like a daydream. I can’t even tell you how much time I spent just sitting and seeing the street scene. But I eventually I grew out of it sometime between the age of 5 and 9.” And she paused again. “Has anything like that ever happened to you?”

“No.” He said seriously.  Then, “Hey, didn’t you say that you thought your daughter was a reincarnated Japanese person who died in the Kobe earthquake.”

She smiled. “Yes, but I was just making that up because of her love of all things Japanese and because her birth year was 1995 same as the January Kobe earthquake.”

“But she said that sometimes when she is learning Japanese or something about Japan it feels like remembering.”

“You remember her saying that?”

“It’s not your typical teenager conversation.  Yes I remember.”

She tilted her head and then shrugged. And he said, “Well?”

“Well what?”

“Do you think your daughter is a reincarnated Japanese person?”

“It’s possible. But there is no way to know.”

“It would be weird if both of you died in earthquakes in a past life.”

“But… insignificant in this one.  I’ve always fed my daughter’s interests. I hope that one day she gets to do what she loves and if she loves Japan and languages then I’ll do every thing I can foster that, not for her past life but for this one.” And she realized that she had successfully avoided answering his question and said as she pointed to the book. “Why don’t you continue reading?”

He figured that they could pick this conversation up another time.  So he conceded and read, “Each physical body (and personality) is only a garment worn by the soul. It is not important whether you are a man or a woman, for each is but a small lesson, and you shall be both many times.
And he looked up, “that’s something to think about.”

She smiled, “Yes, it is. Our souls get to try on many bodies and personalities. And she paused before she asked, “Can you imagine being a woman?”


“No.”


“Wow,” she teased, “that was a fast answer.  You are such a heterosexual man. Either that or you’ve had a past life as a woman and…”


His eyebrows went so high, that she laughed out loud.  “You should see your face.”


“I…” and he decided to start again. “I… Woman, I can't think with you laughing at me like that.”


She covered her mouth to stifle her laughter and then said sincerely but still smiling, “I’m sorry. You’re right. I don’t mean to be rude.”


He laughed with her then said, “I can honestly say that I haven’t a clue what it would be like to be a woman.  I can’t begin to imagine it.  I lived with Lisa for a long time and she would have friends over and I would try to stay out of the way because the whole female to female conversation thing baffled me.  I mean I like women…”


She giggled again, “I know.”


And he tried to look stern, “and they like me.”


“I’m sure.”


And he laughed and shook his head at her “But there have been far too many times when I was convinced that we weren’t even the same species.”  And she wrinkled her forehead as if to say, Poor Owen. “Don’t look at me like that woman. You know what I mean. I know you know what I mean. You women know exactly what you do to us.”


She laughed, “Ok. I admit men and women do tend to go after problems differently. But I have to confess that there are times when I don’t understand women either.  Sometimes I’m sure I think too much like men.  When I do it confuses them because they are expecting me to ‘think like a girl’.  But I’ve always worked mostly with men. I actually prefer it to working with a bunch of women.  I think I know what you mean.”


He nodded and smiled, “You are a pretty strange woman.” And it was time for her eyebrows to rise. “You are all woman. But I’ve seen you work and think like a man.  It’s an interesting combination.  And he paused thinking a very interesting and appealing combination, before he asked, “So you can imagine being a man?”


“Yes, I can imagine it.  I can’t know, but I can imagine. Besides I grew up in an age when women were becoming the men they wanted to marry. In many ways I think it is easier to be a woman and imagine being a man than it is to be a man and imagine being a woman.”


“So, you asked that question and it was a set up!”


She smiled at him, “No. No, it wasn’t.  I was simply curious so I asked.”


“And discovered…?”


“What I knew already.” She teased, “You are all male and like being heterosexual.” And he smiled and she asked, “Have you ever had anyone do a past life reading or regression on you?”

“No. What’s the difference?”

“Oh.  Well a regression is where someone takes you back and you see. A reading is where someone tells you what they see about your past lives.”

“And you’ve had both?”

“Well, yes.”

“Ok, so what was the reading like.”

“Well… it was different, odd.  I went to this the home of a lady who did readings and sat on her sofa and she sat on the chair across from me and she told me that I had many past lives and that I had been both a man and a woman in past lives and that I had lived in Roman England and somewhere in Northern Europe and had a life time where horses and long distances were a part of my life.  I asked for some details and she did her best to provide them.”

“Did you think she was faking or right?”

“I don’t know. I don’t doubt that I’ve been a man in past lives.”

“You don’t? Oh, because of San Francisco.”

“Well yes I guess but not really. I think it’s all a part of figuring out the balance. As spiritual beings having a physical experience, it makes sense that we would experience, need to experience actually, being both male and female.  Even today, even in America today living as moderns the male female experiences are different and it is through these experiences that we learn and grow.”

He smiled and then said, “This lifetime it’s my turn to have the heterosexual male experience.”

She nodded, “And you’re doing a fine job.” And smiled and said, “Why don’t you keep reading?”

So he did,   “The Law of Return governs the life experience and condition of each new life.”

And she said, “It’s the Streghe version of karma.  How you live your life, influences the next.”

“And how long it takes to complete a cycle.” And the way he looked at her did more than hinting that he wanted hear why she thought she was completing a cycle.

She looked at him and then said, “Stubborn.”

“Taurus.  I’m told we’re like that.”  And he waited and she waited.  And finally she figured she may as well say it and be done. 

“When I had my past life regression and the past life reading I was very careful not to give any hints as to what I thought might be possible. Or why I was bothering in the first place.  I presented myself as just curious.  I had the past life reading first.  And the reader indicated that I was linked to someone and that we had struggled with commitment and love and trust.   One of her stories was of a solider, a Roman solider in Britain, in love with a woman of privilege. The soldier didn’t feel good enough to pursue her and was angry over it because he thought she could have influenced the situation.  It didn’t feel real to me. But the reader seemed sure, and was fairly confident but not certain that that I was the soldier and not the woman.

The past life regression was essentially all me.  It felt real and it was scary.  I was a female servant in a wealthy house with a spoiled rich son who liked me and bedded me and treated me well for awhile and then I was nothing more than a slave. I had his child. I think that in this lifetime I ended up running away and dying in the act of running away. I can’t determine whether I ran away without my daughter or, with her and we both died. But I am sure it wasn’t good.

My life with James… has been complicated.  I fell in love with him and stayed that way for a long time. Being in love with him, when it was good and when it was awful, was the strongest force I had felt in my life. It seemed odd and in its own way otherworldly. He can be wonderful. He can be capricious and mean. He wants to be protective and to provide. He is proud. He doesn’t like to be reminded in anyway that he is more provided for than a provider.  During our relationship I have been buffeted and bullied and hurt but I have done my best to be principled and fair and open to what it takes for him to be happy, even if that meant we weren’t together. But I am tired of the cycle.  I don’t want to repeat it.  I feel that I have done my part to show him how a relationship can work.  I have done what is necessary to break the cycle.  I choose not to repeat it in another life. I am done.”   

As he listened to her tell the story so matter of factly, it felt like she was giving a book report and not talking about her own life, lives.  She was thinking that Owen should be careful what he asked for.  She could see he was working it over in his head and was sure that he had no idea what to say now.  So she let him think and got up to use his bathroom.

Owen barely noticed her get up then realized she was walking out of the room, “Nola…”

She heard the concern in his voice and managed to say, “I’ll be right back Owen.  I promise.”

And he thought, Nola had been with James, and not happy more than one lifetime? She was right it was time to end the cycle, this woman deserved to be happy. He was still thinking when she returned and slipped into the corner of the sofa and said, “Why don’t you finish the words on Rebirth.”

His grandfather said, “Just read son. You can think more about it later.”

And Papa Eric looked at Meana with concern over Nola’s story of essentially being a slave to a rich man. Tago nodded to them both, “You can not rush them.”

Owen opened the book and looked a Nola who nodded before he read, “But beyond all of this is the realm of Tartaru, which is the abyss. Here are the Souls that are inclined toward evil. Here are they kept in restriction until the Great Ones decree their fate.”

He sighed and managed to say, “Pagan purgatory?”

She was glad to have something else to talk about. “Well, maybe.  Because I believe that there are some individuals who are truly evil, I am not philosophically opposed to the death penalty. I am content to let the Great Ones handle these folks and I want these truly evil beings far from me. I wish I could trust our justice system with the death penalty decision but, well, I’m not fully convinced. Is it possible that there are some Souls in need of lifetime incarceration? Is that better than for the Soul to be ‘recycled’ by the death penalty?  Sometimes I think yes, especially for the truly evil, but I really don’t know.”

“You’ve really thought about this.”

“Well, yes. I think most people have to some degree.”

“Hmmmpppf, maybe; but I doubt like you have.”


“Here’s what I am convinced of, what ever mistakes we may make in this life, we get other chances in the next.”

He put the book down, moved next to her on the sofa, “It looks like we’ve finished the words on Life, Death and Rebirth.  That was some lesson.”  Then he smiled as a thought crossed his mind, “I think it would be a lot of fun to come back and have another life time with you."

She managed to smile back but said nothing even as she thought it sounded appealing.

“I mean it, woman.  And..., following up on some of your other lessons, I’m making it real with my words and my thoughts. So I will find you in the next life.”

She smiled at him and said defiantly, “Ok, you’re on. Just remember you might be the woman next time or maybe….”

And he leaned in and said “Nope, I want a lifetime where you are female and I am male and we find each other very early in our lives and spend a long and happy life together.” Then kissed her.

And as she came fully back to herself she said, “Jezz, Owen you can be overwhelming sometimes."


He smiled at her and said, "Good and here's hoping the universe is paying attention." She managed a smile and he said, "Go ahead admit it.  It sounds like fun doesn't it?"


She laughed, "Ok, I admit it does sound appealing."


"I knew it."


"Incorrigible."


"But you like me."


“Yes, I do and… thank you for making me laugh.”


He sat back pleased with himself as she said, “It’s late and I need to go.”


“Aw…. Why?”


She laughed again, “I swear you are still 10 years old.  Because it’s late. I have to get some sleep so I can go to work tomorrow.”


“I thought you said that some people are so charming they always get their way.”


“And?”


“And if that true then you would stay so I could get my way.”


“Oh… well then I think you’ll need to work on charming because I’m going home so I can get some sleep.” And she got up off the sofa.


He laughed at her and teased back, “OK, Then I’ll have to let you because if you stayed you wouldn’t be sleeping.”


“Incorrigible.” She said as she walked to the kitchen.


“But you like me.” He said as he got up off the sofa.


She laughed.


“Come early next week too.”


“I’ll think about it.”


“Ok. I’ll take that. It’s better than an outright no.”


She grabbed her purse and with her hand on the door said, “Good Night Owen.”


He followed her out and gave her a hug before she got into the truck.  “Night Nola.”