Monday, February 25, 2013

Full Moon Rising


Chapter 49 - Christianity and the Prophecies


It was July and plenty hot. Owen smiled thinking, about Nola and her reaction to the pool’s water temperature. Before he dove in he looked at the roof of the garage and decided it was time to put what he had been training on and researching the last few months into practice and put solar panels on the garage roof that could feed a heater for the pool and supply power to the house.


 


James was picking Jamie up from school, so Nola could go straight to Owen’s from work. She had changed into a light slipover dress at work.  Then she had stopped around the corner from Owen's to discretely remove her underwear.  She pulled up into the driveway and made her way to the pool gate.  It sounded like Owen was swimming laps.  As she pushed the gate open the sound stopped and he came up at the far end of the pool and turned around surprised to see her.


"Hello woman."


"Hello Big Man."


She dropped her purse on the chair, pulled her dress over her head and made her way down the pool steps.


"Oh, woman! You shouldn't do that to me!" He said in mock exasperation.


She had made her way off the steps and into the pool but started to turn around as she said, "Ok, Sorry. I'll leave." She teased.


"Leave!?" And he pushed off from the side of the pool and grabbed her at the waist and spun her underwater and around then lifted her to make sure she was ok. She was holding on to him like Velcro but it didn’t sound like she was breathing.


“Nola?” and he held her closer to him. And he felt her relax a very little bit. “Nola?”


And she breathed. “Yes.”


“Are you alright?”


“Yes, I’m alright.  I think I need to keep a bathing suit here because I’m not sure I can survive surprising you.”


He laughed. “It wasn’t surprising me, it was threatening to leave. I’ll be gentle but you have to stay.”


“Ok, Big Man. Ok.” And she held on to him and dipped the back of her head into the water to get the hair out of her eyes.


He smiled and enjoyed the way her breasts looked in the water and her skin slipped beneath his fingers then said, "Oh!"


"Oh?"


“Well you boggled my mind when you whisked your dress off like that. You made me forget.”


“Forget what?”


“Eric is coming in July.”


“Your nephew Eric?”


“Yep.” 


“When exactly in July?”


“He arrives July 20th. His basketball coach is going out of town for vacation. So he gets to visit his favorite uncle."


 


“Well” and she sighed deeply and then leaned against his arm so he would hold her up, “then I guess there won’t be any swimming naked in the pool that week.”


“I guess not.” He chuckled.


And she pushed away from him to float across the pool. “How long is he going to be here?”


“From July 20th until July 27th.”


“That’s actually perfect.”


“Perfect?”


“Yes, I can take you to 2nd on the 18th and then Eric will be here to keep you entertained for a week.”


“What? Are you saying I won’t see you while he’s here?”


“Yes…”


And he interrupted her, “Why not? Eric knows you. He even likes you. You can still come for lessons.”


“Owen, be realistic. What could we possibly talk about in front of Eric? We are going to take a break. Besides…” 


And he said more forcefully than he intended, “No.”


And his intensity surprised her too. “No?”


“Well… there has to be a way that I can have my cake and eat it too.”


And she laughed at him as she floated across the pool on her back. “You can’t really want your 14 year old nephew to be here while I teach things most adults can’t comprehend?”


“No.  I just want you here.”


And she stopped floating and treaded water and said, “Oh. My. God. I hope Ryan and Stella aren’t spoiling Eric they way your parents spoiled you.”


Owen was practically speechless, “I…. I… You… I…” and he dove under the water and caught her by the waist, and with their height difference was able to stand up and turn her to him. He had been gentle this time so she smiled and said calmly, “Do you want to go to 2nd?”


And he was caught off guard by the question but answered truthfully, “Yes, of course.”


“Then be grateful that Eric is coming to visit.  After I take you to second we need to spend a bit of time apart.”


“What? Why?”


“Because taking you to 2nd requires preparation and recovery time on my part. And because traditionally the 2nd degree initiate needs time to settle in before they see their initiator again. It is required that we spend some time apart.”


He heard the word traditionally and knew she was serious but said, “You’re serious?” anyway. And he paused worried before he asked “How long?”


“Well was thinking that we could skip one week and then start up the next.  That’s why I said Eric’s visit is perfectly timed. He’ll keep you busy for at least a week.  I’ll be back the next Thursday.”


“You’re serious.” He repeated more for himself than anything else.


“Yes. I am. I actually think it’s a good sign that Eric is coming.  It’s almost as if the universe knew you would need him.” And she gently pushed away from him and floated to the side of the pool and began to flutter kick as she held onto the side and looked out at the trees they had planted.


He waded over to her he thought, the universe knew. This woman was unlike anyone he had ever known.


 


He leaned with his elbows on the bench and watched her flutter kick.


“Owen, you said you were raised Lutheran. Is Eric being raised Lutheran?”


"Well... sort of.  Abby insisted that we be members of the church she grew up in.  We attended" and he thought about it and calculated, "not quite monthly and on special occasions like Christmas and Easter. But it was more a social obligation than a commitment to a faith.  Dad never put much stock in it. Neither did Papa Eric.  I guess it's fair to say that Eric is being raised the same way.  Questions are always asked when someone doesn't attend a church. Stella and Ryan know that membership in a church helps avoid conflict."


She nodded.  "Yes, hide in plain site. Raven mentioned something about Streghe being side door Catholics." And he looked at her questioningly. So she continued, "Side door meaning using Catholicism as a shield but Mary and the other saints like Joseph, whose shrines tends to be on the sides of the church, as a stand-in for the goddess and god and other pagan aspects."


"I get it.  Why did you ask about Eric?"


"Oh because he will be visiting and I was just curious.  It is amazing how many Christian principles and philosophies we pick up without even trying.  But I also asked because we haven't gone over Aradia's Words on Christianity or the Prophecies."


 


He laughed, "You want me to get the book and read while I'm in the pool?"


She laughed and teased, "Teachers privilege, you get the book and read while I'm in the pool." And she turned around and continued to flutter kick.


"If I get this view, OK."


And she splashed him and said as he laughed and she laughed with him. "I think I've reviewed this subject enough with other students to be able cover it without the book for now. We can read the words when we get out. Have you read them? Do you remember what they say?"
"Oh testing me huh?"


She smiled, "Maybe. You are going to 2nd." 


"In the Words on Christianity Aradia essentially says that there shall never be peace between Streghe and Christians, because they have chosen faith over understanding or one could say science, which I know appeals to you.  I think that their charge to proselytize and convert others to the one true way also inhibits peaceful coexistence. Aradia sounds like she doesn't have an issue with the teachings of Jesus but that what she saw as passing for Christianity in practice was not based on those teachings. She's not the only one to ever make this comment.  Aradia counsels us to avoid Christians, especially anything that might anger them, because they can be dangerous. I'm sure she would be perfectly aligned with hiding in plain site or side door Catholics or your philosophy of using what others know and believe to explain your personal philosophy."


Nola had stopped her flutter kicks and was hanging on the side of the pool looking at him with something close to awe. He grinned at her, grabbed her around the waist to hold her up because he could stand and her feet couldn't touch the bottom and waited for her to speak.  She held on not sure what to say but finally managed, "Impressive. You are definitely ready for 2nd."


"Thank you. I've had a really good teacher."


She smiled and nodded.  "Well then... What about the Prophecies?"


He was still holding on to her and said, "Well Aradia mentions the Age of the Daughter in her Words on Christianity as if it is some golden time to come. But I can't find any specific references to it in any other tradition. In the Words on the Prophecies she also mentions the Age of the Son and I take it that this Age has some relationship to Christianity and its power ebbing away in the Age of the Daughter, the age of reason.  Many of the things she mentions sound a lot like the changes that we've seen with rights and freedoms being established in the US and throughout the world by the Rule of Law. Unfortunately we have a long way to go before we get to Aradia’s Age of Reason. The U.S. being more supportive of the UN would be a big step in that direction."


And she thought I could so fall in love with this man. And caught herself and told herself to straighten up. While Tago smiled to Papa Eric.  Owen was on a roll.  "I don't get the part about the daughter being 36 years old. But it makes perfect sense that there would be someone, the silent prophet, who would bring the Old Ways back to light.  I'm hoping that my teacher will enlighten me on these Ages and the prophecies." And he grinned again because he could see she was impressed and because he was enjoying the fact that she was letting him hold her and was holding on to him.  


"Enlighten you? You seem to be doing pretty good on your own. Maybe I should just let you work on it a little bit more."


He grinned, "I am going to 2nd next week. Why don't you enlighten me now."


"Ok... I'll share what know.  But first what do you know about the precession of the equinoxes?"


"What? What does the equinox have to do with the Age of the Daughter?"


She smiled and said, "Well I guess that you need me after all. Not the equinox but the precession of the equinoxes.  It's an astronomical process.  You've heard of the Age of Aquarius?"


"Yes but that's astrology not astronomy."


"Actually it is both."


He shook his head. “Ok like most people our age I know a bit about astrology but you've lost me."


She thought I need to use my hands. "Owen I need to use my hands, will you hold me up so I don't go under?"


"Yes of course woman. I actually enjoy holding you." And he held her tighter.


She smiled at him going along with his teasing, "Not so tight, Big Man, I need some space to use my hands."


"I have some ideas about what you could do with your hands."


"Incorrigible.... I thought we were having a lesson here. Maybe I need to get out of the pool and get dressed."


He smiled at her and then gave her a little space while still holding her up. "How's this?"


"Perfect."


"I know."


She rolled her eyes at him and said. "You know the earth goes around the sun" and she used the index finger of her right hand and moved it around her left fist. "The sun and the whole solar system" and she tapped her left fist on the surface of the pool move against a background of stars in the galaxy and the universe." And she moved her right hand through the water around her left fist to indicate these stars.  "This background of stars contains the constellations that make up our Zodiac. Your sun sign is in Taurus. This means that on the day of your birth, when viewed from the earth, that the sun," and she bumped her left fist on the surface off the pool “was in front of the stars of the constellation Taurus." And she swept her hand in an arc around her fist and then pointed to a specific spot on the arc and said "Constellation Taurus", and bumped her left fist on the surface of the pool again, "Sun," and then used her finger next to her fist to indicate the earth, "Earth." And then drew a line along the surface of the pool with her index finger to where she had indicated Taurus was. Then she stopped and asked.


"Is what I said clear so far?"


"Yes, the Sun in Taurus as viewed from the earth. I get it. I never really understood it in these physical terms before but I do get it now. Thanks."


She smiled and continued.  "The earth is tilted on its axis." And she used her right index finger to indicate the axis and then used it to create the base of a cone as she circled her axis finger. "As the earth rotates and revolves around the sun and the sun and earth move around the galaxy this axis points to different stars. It takes about 26,000 years for the earth's axis to precess, or make its way, completely around the cone.  The spring equinox used to occur when the constellation Taurus was on the horizon behind the rising sun.  Today the spring equinox occurs with the constellation Pisces behind the rising sun.  We say precess because the equinox going backwards through the constellations: Taurus, Aries, Pisces and the coming Age of Aquarius." And she shifted where her index finger was pointing as she moved it around one third of a full arc.


"Is this still making sense?"


"Yes. It is." And he sounded just a bit surprised.


"Ok so what does this have to do with the Ages?" and she answered her own question.  "Some say that the Ages are the Ages of the Mother, Taurus; The Father, Aries; The Son, Pisces and The Daughter, Aquarius."


And he said with almost awe, "The Age of Aquarius is the Age of the Daughter." And he held her closer as he adjusted his arms and thought about it.


"Some say."


"Well now that is very interesting." And he just held on to her and she let him think about it. Finally he asked, "What do you think?"


"I think that it is possible, especially when I consider the arc of human history.  The symbol of a bull and its horns was very common in ancient history 6000 plus years ago. Think of the bull goddess of Catal Huyuk in Turkey or the myth of the Minotaur. There is a theory that there was an age of warfare and conquest of tribe over tribe and this fits with an Age of Aries. Then think about Jesus and 2000 years ago and the Christian use of the symbol of the fish and Pisces.  While Aquarius is typically thought of as male there is no reason why the constellation couldn't be a woman."


"Now that is something to think about. And this is part of the Words of Aradia?"
"Well the Age of the Daughter is part of the Words of Aradia. Star lore, astrology and ancient astronomy are part of ancient earth history and part of what the Tanara would have studied."


He asked, “What about the daughter being 36 years old?”


She shrugged, “I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows for sure. My personal theory is that we will be 36 years into the 2000 plus years of the Age of the Daughter when the silent prophet appears.”


And he hugged her close to him and said, "Woman you are a very good teacher."


And she held on to him and said, "Thanks, but my fingers are getting pruney. Do you think we could get out of the pool and continue the lesson after I dry off?"


"Sure. I'm getting hungry anyway."


And she laughed as he waded to the shallow water and took her with him.  When her feet touch bottom he released her carefully so she could wade to the side on her own. But plowed ahead with his long strides and met her at the steps with a towel.


She said, "Thank you." And he wrapped her up and gave her a kiss.


"How do you feel about lasagna for dinner?"


"Lasagna… sounds fine."


"Ok. It's warm in the oven waiting for us." And he made his way to the door.  "I'm going to run upstairs and get dressed.  I’ll meet you in the kitchen."


"Ok." And she walked through the door he was holding open. He headed up the stairs and she shook her head as she went into the downstairs bathroom to finish drying off and get dressed.  She shook her head wondering. Lasagna. He had lasagna for dinner and it smelled good. I wonder where it came from.


 


He smiled as she came into the kitchen.  She was usually so quick getting dressed that he had rushed to make sure that she wouldn’t beat him. He had the lasagna on the counter. But she had taken time to dry her hair as thoroughly as possible with just a towel. When she came out she said, “It smells good.”


“Thanks.”


“Where did you get it?”


“I know that New Orleans is famous for its food but, I made this woman.”


“Oh… I… wow… I didn’t think… what with your work schedule…”


“You are so cute when you are flustered that it is almost worth being insulted by your assumption that I can’t cook.”


“I…  Well… I’m Sorry.”


He chuckled “and I don’t set the stove on fire.”


She smirked, “I get preoccupied thinking about other thinks and well….”


He chuckled again as he took plates out of the cabinet, and silverware out of the drawer. He pulled a bowl of mixed salad greens already tossed with a dressing from the fridge. “Will you put this on the table?”


“Sure.”


He pulled down 2 wine glasses and asked loud enough for her to hear in the dining room, “Ruffino Reserve alright?”


She smiled as she came around the corner, “Yes.” and he opened the wine.  Poured to glasses and handed her one. She held her glass up and said, “To the cook.”


He winked at her and began to serve “This is a family tradition.  I told you that my great great grandmother was a Boston Italian. This is her recipe. Believe it or not my brothers and I were all taught to make it. Mine happens to be considered the best.” And he slid a large serving to her.


“Good night Owen. I think that serving needs to be yours. There is no way I’m going to eat that much Lasagna. No matter how wonderful it is and it does smell and look wonderful.”


He looked down at the plate and nodded and created a smaller serving on another plate, “Better?”


“Much.”


She took the plate and her silverware, napkin and wine glass and went into the dining room. He followed with his and the wine bottle and they settled in at the table.  Nola served them salad.  Owen lifted is wine glass to hers and said, “Enjoy” and dug in.


Nola ate the salad while her lasagna cooled.  “Hmmm Balsamic vinaigrette.  Did you make this too?”


He nodded because his mouth was full.  “Its good, not too sweet and a nice balance for the bitterness of some the greens. This salad mix is very Italian.”


He smiled and watched her take a bite of lasagna and waited for her to close her eyes.  Yep, there she goes.  Open.  Hmmmm, closed again. I wonder what that means?


“Mmmmm… This is really good.  Is that a bit of mint in the meat mixture?


“Yes.” And he was impressed that she could taste it so specifically.


“It gives it a middle eastern flavor.”


“My brothers won’t use it. They don’t think it belongs. But it’s in the original recipe so I’ve always used it.  They can never figure out why mine is better. I think it’s the mint.”


“But the cheese mixture is different too. Isn’t it?  Is that nutmeg?”


“Yes. Damn woman. Anyone who can deconstruct a recipe like that has to be able to cook.”


And she grinned at him, “Oh I can cook, just not without burning something… like the stove.”


And he laughed with her. 


Then she raised her wine glass and said, “Many thanks to your great, great grandmother.”  He clinked his glass to hers and she added, “and to you.”


She sipped her wine and then took another bite.


“Really good, Big Man. You can cook for me anytime you want.”


“I can only cook for you if you agree to come for dinner. The only way I got you here today was by surprise.”


She smiled and nodded her head in acknowledgment and chewed the bite she had taken and decided not to say anything else.  She asked a question as a diversion. “Does Eric know how to make this dish?”


He thought about that. “I don’t know.”


“You should teach him, complete with the mint-nutmeg secrets, while he’s here.”


He nodded, “Not a bad idea. I learned to cook in my teens. We all did. Abby insisted.  She said, with 3 boys, if she didn’t she’d never get out of the kitchen.”


 


They had finished up dinner conversation about cooking and family traditions. Dinner had ended with small bowls of lemon ice.  They had just settled in on the sofa, Nola with a glass of San Pellegrino and Owen finishing up the wine.  Nola was thinking, a dip in the pool, a lovely dinner, I almost feel like I’m on vacation. He was thinking that this was the first time he had seen her this relaxed without dirt under her fingernails.


“You look very relaxed.”


She smiled and said, “I am. I was just thinking that with the dip in the pool and the lovely dinner that it almost feels like I’m on vacation. Thank you very much my Taurus friend.”


“My pleasure.” And he contently sipped his wine.  “Why do you always sit in that corner so far away from me?”


And she looked around realizing that she did always sit in this corner. “I guess I do sit here… I hadn’t really ever thought about why…” and she took the time to assess it before she answered, “I sit here because I like looking out of the French doors, because I like sitting where I can see all the entrances to the room, and the sweep of bookcases, because like being able to put my glass on this table, because it’s a good vantage point to be able to watch you and your reactions to what I say or what you see on the TV.”


“I thought you said you hadn’t thought about it?”


“Well not consciously until you asked then I did and then I answered. Why do you sit there?”


“I… you know I hadn’t thought about it either. I just prefer it here.”


“Well then maybe I sit here because I could feel that” and she pointed to him, “is your corner.” 


“Maybe so.” and he settled contentedly in.


 


“You know today we’ve finished reviewing the Words of Aradia.  We’ve reviewed the mythos, you’ve mastered the Rite of Union and circle casting. We have only 3 Treguenda and 4 Full Moons before we will have been completely around the wheel of the year together.  Do you think that you are ready for 2nd degree?”


“Wait… I thought you said you thought I was ready?”


“Yes of course. I do.  But I want to know what you think?”


And he thought about that, “Yes. I think I’m ready. I feel that the Ways, your Ways, are a part of who I am now. I know I’m competent in the rites and ritual trappings or you wouldn’t let me cast the circle. And I also know because I’ve watched you hold back that there are things that you haven’t talked about that you will be able to talk about once I am 2nd.”


And she smiled because he was right.  He continued, “But more than anything else I want to go to 2nd because one day I want to go to 3rd and be your priest in fact as well as practice.”


 


And she took a sip of her water to cover the fact that she could feel the effect of his intensity. “You know 2nd degree comes with an obligation to ensure that the Ways are passed on.”


“You mean I have to teach?”


“Well yes and no.”, and he grinned at her frequent response to his questions. And she continued. “At first degree you are opened up to the possibilities of all that you can learn and guided by your teacher. At 2nd degree you are given the rest of the story and you have all you need to carry on the Ways and to teach them to others.  And I know from personal experience with this path and from teaching in college that nothing solidifies learning like teaching. I think this is one of the reasons those who go to 2nd are encouraged to teach.”


“Hold on. You taught in college.”


“Yes, as an undergraduate.”


“An undergraduate?”


“Yes, I taught mineralogy and crystallography lab for 2 years while I was an undergraduate. I was offered the opportunity to make some extra money by teaching in the lab because I had done really well in the class when I took it. And what I discovered doing this was that I had learned it when I took the class but I really knew it as a result of teaching it to others. The same is true for my understanding of the ways. Teaching helps solidify what I’ve learned.”


“Damn woman.”


She looked at him like she didn’t understand because she didn’t understand.


“What haven’t you done?”


She wrinkled her forehead, “I’ve simply lived my life.”


“Sailboat racing, teaching in college, waitress at the CafĂ© du Monde, you’ve been to more places than I have, gigging for flounders, landscaping while you drive, rebuilding your neighborhood, working at a refinery…”


She squirmed a little in her corner of the sofa and then said, “Everybody has a story…”


“And you have more than most folks I’ve known.”


“Well I’m old so I have more than you.  Besides Nature is the great teacher.  I think we teach best from our experiences.”


He thought about that and then said, “How would you feel if I were to teach someone else what you have taught me?”


And she smiled sincerely, “Pleased and proud Owen and very glad the Ways were being passed on. I’m sure you could be a very good teacher.”


He wasn’t sure he wanted to teach. “I’m not sure I want to teach.”


She said, “Everyone serves the Ways as their talents dictate. You’ll figure it out. And everyone always has a teacher who is there for them to answer questions, even after they are 3rd degree. I still depend on my teacher. Sometimes teachers change as the student progresses sometimes they stay the same. But we each always have a teacher.”


 


He nodded, “Ok teacher, so what do I need to know about 2nd degree?”


“You know everything you need to know at this point. Technically I can’t tell you all the details until after you are 2nd. I will be back on Thursday to prepare you.” And she smiled at him, “And I am confident that you will like the preparation process.”


“You are?” he said slyly.


“Yes. And then I will be back to initiate you on Friday.”


And the 10 year old face started forming as he remembered, “And then you will not be back for 2 weeks.”


“Well 13 days actually. And remember, you’ll have Eric to help pass the time.  And she teased, “I keep telling you that you need more toys.”


And he said defiantly, “And I keep telling you that you are not a toy.”


She didn’t want to hurt his feelings so she said, “Ok… I’m sure you’ll find things to keep you busy.   Eric will be here and you’ll have time after he leaves to figure out how to work with your 2nd degree.  You also have a business to run. The time will pass before you know it.”


And he actually pouted thinking, not fast enough.


She smiled at the pout.  He probably didn’t realize he did it.    


“What are you smiling at woman?”


“Your 10 year old pout.  Make sure you teach that to Eric while he is here. It may come in handy.”


And he harrumphed. “It doesn’t seem to work on you.”


She chuckled.  “Oh it works just fine. I’m just older and wiser and so it is easier for me to resist.” And then she smiled sweetly as she got up and held out her hand to him. “Thank you for a lovely vacation, the pool, the dinner, the wine. But it is time for me to return to the real world.”


 


He held out his hand to her and she took it thinking he was going to get up.  But instead he pulled her onto the sofa next to him and he heard the sharp intake of her breath before he said, “The real world?”


She was still recovering.  “Well I didn’t expect that.”


He said again, “The real world? What does that mean?”


She pushed herself more upright and thought before she answered, “It means…  Jeez Owen can you turn down the intensity a little bit?…. I… I almost prefer the pout.”


And he smiled and released her hand. “Ok… but what do you mean when you say return to the real world?  You come here to teach me about magic and pagan ways and then you tell me that you are going to return to the real world?”


She looked at him, calmly breathed in and back out. “It means that it’s time for me to return to a world where I work for a living, where I’m the one who makes sure that everything is taken care of, where I don’t have vacations on a Thursday and have time slip away from me because I’m having interesting conversations and drinking wine into the middle of the night.”


And that seemed to almost satisfy him. So he pulled her into a kiss and when he released her she said, shaking her head, “and have men kiss me for no reason.” And she managed to get up off of the sofa but didn’t put her hand out again.  “I’ll see you next Thursday.”


“And Friday.” he said as he got up smiling.


“And Friday for your initiation.” She said as she continued to walk toward the kitchen.  She had lifted her purse to her shoulder when he asked, “Nola, why can’t this be the real world?”


She just looked at him; he was half into the 10 year old pout and half thinking of something else altogether.  And she thought, thank god because it dimmed the intensity. And she laughed at herself as she said, “Ok, ok, Owen. For you I’ll let this be the real world on Thursdays and Full Moons and Treguenda.”


And his grandfather said, “You can work with that.”


And Owen said as he walked out with her, “Ok, I can work with that.”

Thursday, February 14, 2013

It's enough. It's plenty

Dear Human:

You’ve got it all wrong.

You didn’t come here to master unconditional love. That is where you came from and where you’ll return. You came here to learn personal love.

Universal love. Messy love. Sweaty love. Crazy love. Broken love. Whole love. Infused with divinity. Lived through the grace of stumbling. Demonstrated through the beauty of… messing up. Often.

You didn’t come here to be perfect. You already are. You came here to be gorgeously human. Flawed and fabulous. And then to rise again into remembering. But unconditional love? Stop telling that story.

Love, in truth, doesn’t need ANY other adjectives. It doesn’t require modifiers. It doesn’t require the condition of perfection. It only asks that you show up.
And do your best.
That you stay present and feel fully.
That you shine and fly and laugh and cry and hurt and heal and fall and get back up and play and work and live and die as YOU.

It’s enough.
It’s plenty.

- Courtney A. Walsh

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chapter 48 – 2nd Degree Hedonist


Nola drove into the gate and pulled all the way forward under the grape arbor. Owen met her at the back gate to the pool, with a towel wrapped around him.  He had said in a phone call to her earlier in the week that since it was July they should have lessons in the pool.  When she made a comment about packing her suit, he had teased that suits were optional, just come straight from work, they could skinny dip.


“Evening Big Man.


And as she walked through the gate he said, “Evening Ma’am. Come here, take your clothes off and swim in my pool.”


“Now how does any woman resist such an invitation?”


“They don’t.”


So she dropped her purse on the chair and pulled the light dress she had on over her head and walked naked to the pool.


“You… You… You drove here with nothing on?!”


“I had a dress on.” And she stepped into the pool until the water lapped her breasts and gasped, “Why is it always colder than I think it should be?” And she turned around to get out of the pool and into the Jacuzzi. Owen dropped the towel and met her on the stairs and slid them both deeper into the pool.


He held on to her and said, “Just when I think that I know you, you surprise me with something else.”


“It’s very important for good teachers to keep their students guessing.” And she smiled thinking he didn’t have to know that she had stopped around the corner to remove her underwear. Driving braless on New Orleans streets would be for her an act of torture and insanity.


He held her buoyant with his left hand, her bottom leaning against his raised right thigh and ran his right hand over her breast because she was cold and her nipples were erect.  “You know it’s 80 something degrees out here.”


“Not in the water. I’ll give you 80 something air temperature but it’s 70 something in the water. Maybe even 60. That afternoon thundershower cooled things off.”


“Wimp.”


“About the cold? Guilty.”  She leaned into his left hand and relaxed more fully into the water. He rubbed his hand over her other breast and nipple, and she said, “hmmmmm,”


“I heard somewhere that all acts of love and pleasure are acts of worship.”


“I heard that too. Thank you for reminding me.”


“You really are a hedonist.”


“Shhhh, not too loud you’ll ruin my reputation.” And she floated off and moving leisurely through the water on her back. “I’ve been thinking.”


“About what?”


“About taking you to 2nd degree.”


He stood up and walked toward her, “Really?”


“Well, yes, Really.  I know you haven’t been around the wheel yet but there is nothing more I need to know about your capacity that hasn’t already been tested.” And she laughed mischievously.


“Ok what do I have to do?”


“You don’t have to do anything.  I have to do all the work.”


“I like this already. When?”


“Soon… and she stopped floating and stood up, "maybe in July.”


And he slid up to her put his hands around her waist so they were face to face and chest to chest and pulled her to him and gave her a slippery hug as he spun her around in the water.


"Ok," she laughed.  "Glad you're on board with the idea. Now I would like very much to get out of this cold water and into your Jacuzzi."


"Wimp. But I figured as much and it's all heated up for you."


She smiled at him and made her way up the steps and into the Jacuzzi. He had been swimming laps for the past 30 minutes so a soak sounded like a good idea and he followed.


As she settled on the bench seat that allowed the water to come up to her chin she said, "Ah, warmth." And smiled.


"A wimp hedonist."


"You know if pool designers were more strategic in their placement of the jets, we woman might be able to live totally without you men."


"Damn, but you are saucy tonight. And there is no way you could live without me."


"You are a significant commitment of my very limited time, student.  Do you want to go to 2nd or not?"


"Saucy and Sassy."


"Guilty. I'm in a particularly good mood today."


"Why?"


"I need a reason?"


"Well I guess not."


She had closed her eyes to enjoy the Jacuzzi, "Maybe it's because I feel like I've worked out a plan for the rest of your training."


"Really, what?"


"Well I think that I can take you to 2nd in July and then 3rd sometime in November after you've done all the rituals on the wheel and then you're done."


"I'm done?" And Owen got a cold hard feeling in the pit of his stomach.


Bellaria looked at Meana who, confused, looked at Tago, who shook his head and nodded that Settrano had better get in there and change the energy. Nola was being stubborn again.


 


She had been thinking about this a lot.  His training was going really well and she loved having someone to do the rituals with but she figured one of the ways to stop having him mess with her head and confuse her thinking was to complete his basic training and then ease off on the lessons and let him find a new toy.  And she heard Meana say loudly, "Nola that is cold and wrong headed and you know it!" And she sighed and mentally transmitted back, "This is too hard."  And Meana thought back, "And you are resisting the lessons we know you need." But Nola had blocked her out.


 


He heard and saw her sigh and asked again, "What does that mean, I'm done?"


"It means that I will have provided you with your basic training. It means that now it will be up to you to work the ways into how you live. It means that you will have more time to live your life." And she didn't add without me because she didn't want to say it. But, damn it, the line they kept walking was making her crazy.


 


"Damn it Nola open your eyes and talk to me."


She opened her eyes, "I am talking to you."


"You told me when we first met that you had been working with your teacher for 13 years!  Why would I 'be done'?"


"How do you remember that?!"


"13 is a very witchy number; it's not hard. Why would I be done?"


"Well... it took me a long time to get to 3rd degree. I trained via email and rare personal visits. My initiations took place in 3 different states over a decade.  You've had the luxury of one on one teaching practically every week and your progress has been, to say the very least, accelerated."


"So? Why would I be done?"


And she sighed. And Bellaria said to Meana, "No way is she getting out of this one. You had better help her find her heart."


"Don't you have a response to that, woman?"


She didn't. So she said honestly, "No."


"No?!"


"No, I don't have a response to that." And she stood up and got out of the Jacuzzi and dove into the pool.


 


Owen thought to himself this is ridiculous. I've never seen her behave this way. And he got up and dove into the pool and met her as she was coming up out of the water on the far side.


He took her by the arm and turned her to him and said, "What the hell is wrong with you?"


And Meana pushed her over the edge. 


"You. You are wrong with me. You are a joy as a student. You are great as a friend. You are fabulous as a ritual partner. I try to keep it light and playful with you but we are always so close to the edge. You need to spend your time with someone other than me. You need a real girlfriend, another toy to play with. I am married. I have responsibilities. My daughter and husband need me to provide for them.  The intensity level between us is making me crazy."


And Owen completely relaxed and said, "Finally."


"Finally?  Finally? What the hell does that mean?"


And he thought what does that mean? What he said was, "I think I've been waiting for this." What he realized was that he was glad that she seemed a little frazzled by their relationship.  She had always seemed to manage to keep an emotional distance.


"What?  Waiting…? What are you talking about?"


He put his other arm around her, bent his knees and pulled her with him into the deeper water. She put her hand on his chest to create some distance. "Owen, please. Let me go."


"No. No woman I am not letting you go. I am happy with things exactly as they are."


"You... You..." and she sighed and then said sharply, "Well good for you." And she tried to wiggle out of his arms with no success.


"It's no good."


"That is exactly what I have been trying to say. It's no good. This whole situation is untenable."


"Untenable. Now I never expected that."


"I know I used the word correctly.  We can't defend or maintain this situation."


"Why not?"


"Did you not hear me say that the intensity level between us is making me crazy?"


"Yes." He said


"And?"


"And what?"


And she sighed and became liquid with exasperation and he loosened his grip and smiled, more than a little pleased with himself. She took the opportunity to get to the stairs on the far side and climb out.


He waited watched her before he pushed across to the other side. She was slipping her dress over her head as he walked up the pool steps. She was headed for the gate when he stepped in front of her.


"Owen I'm embarrassing myself. I think it best for me to leave now."


"No."


"This is ridiculous." And she turned her back to him and looked to the heavens. But there was no help for her there.


"See, now there we agree. This is ridiculous." And he wrapped the towel around himself.


"Sit down and tell me what exactly you think is wrong with this situation."


"Owen I don't know where to start."


"Ok, start by telling me why you think I need a ‘real’ girlfriend.”


And she breathed deeply in and out. "Well... I understand that the truth is crazier than the fiction we’ve created.  But I guess that I feel that if you had a girlfriend then.... then... then I wouldn't end up masquerading as your girlfriend and I could just be your friend who happens to be female."


"Hmmm, Is it so bad when people think we are a couple?"


And she didn't answer right away.


"Well, is it?"


"Owen, I'm married. Do you understand that? Married?  I have a husband. People know I'm married. Eventually, and especially in this town, someone who knows someone who knows someone is going to put the pieces together and my husband is going to ask me why so-and-so thinks that I am your girlfriend."


"I see. So it's not that being with me or even having people think we're a couple bothers you. It's that you don't want your husband, to be what? Embarrassed… upset?"


"Well, yes in part.  Look I know what it felt like when he left me emotionally and was seeing and having sex with another woman. I know what it felt like when one or two of our friends knew. It was no fun for me. It was humiliating.  I don't want to hurt him. In point of fact I am having sex with you. Granted ritual sex but never the less it's sex."


"Right. And he knows that you are a 3rd degree priestess and he shook my hand and he knows that I am your student."


And she sat back because she hadn't thought about it quite like that before. And Bellaria smiled. Very good Owen. Back her solidly into that corner.


And she rubbed her temples, "Owen do you remember when I said that you always had to be honest with me?"


"Yes."


"Be honest with me. Don't you think our relationship is a little strange? We are closer than I imagined being with a ritual partner. It's confusing to me. Isn't it confusing to you?"


"No."


"No. Just no? Can you please elaborate beyond, just no?"


And he heard Papa Eric say, "Say exactly how you really feel."


"Nola, I am happy, really content and happy for the first time in my life and I have you to thank for that. This path we're walking is good for me. It feels right.  Being with you makes me happy. Having people think we are a couple makes me happy. Working with you on landscaping projects and other business ideas makes me happy. Hugging you and kissing you makes me happy. I don't care that you are married. This relationship is a blessing for me. I'm doing just fine."


And she sighed because she couldn't think of a response.


He continued.  "Here's what I know. You love your husband. You care about your husband. You feel you need to provide for him and your daughter. But I don't think that you've been in love with your husband for a long time and I think that is the problem. I think that is why being with me is making you crazy."


And she couldn’t stop the tears from silently running down her face. What could she say to that? Except...finally... "You're right. That is the problem and it makes me crazy and it makes me sad. Every time I am with you or we pretend to be a couple I want to know why I can't have, haven’t had in a long time, maybe not ever, that same ease and happiness with the man I married." And she wiped her cheek and she stood up and grabbed her purse and walked silently to the gate.


He tried to stop her and she resisted. He put his hand on the gate and there was no way that she could open it with him leaning against it. She turned to go the other way and he physically scooped her up and took her through the kitchen door. She couldn't see for her tears. She was beside herself with hurt, confusion and embarrassment. She had solidly hit the wall and she crumpled against it.  Meana looked at Tago and shook her head. They knew it would be hard.  They had to wait and see just how hard.


 


He took her into the library, sat her down on the sofa and wrapped her up in a blanket knowing she had next to nothing on and a wet head.  He sat holding her, but she was blank and numb with tears running down her face. Nola was overcome with the exhaustion of holding that truth from herself. She was exhausted by the release of the truth. She was exhausted from pushing Owen away. She had rolled onto to her side and was facing away from him.


Owen wanted to hold her and take care of her but he knew that sitting next to her in just a towel was a bad idea at this point. He said softly, “Nola I’m going to get some clothes on and get you something to drink.”


Nola did what she had always done whenever the world overwhelmed her.  She rolled herself up in the blanket and collapsed into sleep.


 


Owen went into the downstairs bathroom to pull his clothes back on, all the while thinking very loudly to Papa Eric. Now what?


“I hear you son.”


Well, now what?


“I don’t know, son.”


Meana said, “Tell him not to push her any further. She needs time.


“Don’t push her son. Just be there for her and let her figure out what to do next.”


Owen pulled on his jeans and a Tshirt.  He fixed himself a beer and some San Pellegrino for Nola. He took a deep breath and went back to the library, half expecting her to be gone. What he found surprised him more.  She was curled up in a fetal position on the sofa, wrapped up in the blanket and looked like she was asleep.


 


He whispered very lightly “Nola?...    Nola?”


And she didn’t move but, looking carefully, he could see that she was breathing.  He sat down in the other corner of the large sectional nearest the French doors and turned on a reading lamp, picked up the Diana at Aricia book and started to read.  And hour, a beer and 2 chapters later she stirred, pushed her hair out of her face and looked at him. “I’m sorry.”


“For what?”


“And she turned her back to him and said almost under her breath. “Damn it, Owen do you have to be so nice?”


“I am naturally charming.”


And he saw her laugh. At least he hoped she was laughing. She turned around to face him again and she was smiling as she got up.  He took that as a good sign, but needed to make sure. “Where are you going?”


“To rinse the salt water out of my hair and to put on the rest of my clothes."


 


She didn’t take long in the shower and came out with a towel wrapped around her head like a turban.  She sat down next to him and he thought ‘Uh Oh’.


“I’m sorry for crashing like that on you.  I’m kind of like a possum when I get really upset. I shut myself off as a self defense mechanism.”


“Interesting. I can’t say I’ve ever seen anyone do that before.”


“Well, I usually manage to hold it together until I get home. But you wouldn’t let me go home. So….”


“I see.”


“I also want to thank you.”


“You’re welcome. For what?”


“For being the only one I have that I have been able to be truthful with regarding how I feel about my husband. I’ve been carrying it around all by myself for years and it is feels better to be able to say it out loud to someone else. Thank you.”


“You’re welcome.”


“Come here woman. You need a hug.”


And she melted into his arms and felt safe. And Meana smiled and said, “Nicely done Owen. Very nicely done.”


 


He finally said, “I think that this is a teaching movie night.”


She smiled at him. “Ok”.


“Which one?”


“Under the Tuscan Sun. It’s not too challenging. I use it because it's set in Italy and because I think it shows the value of non-traditional family and initiates are non-traditional family.”


“Under the Tuscan Sun it is.”


“Let me get this towel off my head.”


He smiled and went into the kitchen to get another beer and while he was at it refreshed her San Pellegrino water.  He had the movie ready when she returned. And without being asked she snuggled under his arm and Owen smiled 'thank you' to the universe.


 


And Papa Eric said, “Small steps.” 


And Meana said, “For the both of them.”


 


The movie ended and Nola moved.  “There is something about that movie that always makes me feel better. I think I like the way the difficulties are worked through rather than worked out.  I know I like the idea of friends as family.” and she got up and held her hand out to Owen. “I have to leave now.”


He looked up at her and wished again that she didn’t have to leave. 


“Don’t look at me like that; it makes it hard to go.”


He smiled, “Then don’t.”


And she managed to laugh “Didn’t you hear what I said before I collapsed on your sofa? I like spending time with you. It is a gift from the Gods as far as I can see. I am glad that I have you in my life. But I need to maintain the boundary between friend and teacher and …. and… well more than that. My family needs me to go home.  I need to go home to maintain my grip on my life. It can’t all blur together.”


“Why not?”


“Why not?” and she thought about that and then answered as honestly as she could, “because I’m not strong enough, because the world I have to live in wouldn’t understand. Because…  because… while it works for you today, it won’t one day. One day you are going to want more for your life, a wife, a family. Whatever you think we have in addition to being ritual partners won’t be enough.  One day you won’t be satisfied with a pretend girlfriend. One day you will want the real thing. So I have to leave.” And she felt her throat constrict as she said it.   Phases in her life always ended. But unlike moon phases they didn’t repeat with any consistency. She had to flow with the passage of time and that would mean that she would end up somewhere else.


And he realized that she was right. Part of him already wanted more. But as he watched her face he realized that she was thinking about something else, “What are you thinking about?”


“Phases… how we all pass through phases in our lives…”


“And you think this is just a phase?”


“I know it is just a phase.  I know from personal experience that things will change. I can’t see exactly how, but Nature assures me that things will grow and change and decay and … change.” And she shook off her melancholy, breathed deeply and said, “Thank you again.  I’ll just make my way out.”


But he got up and took her by the hand and walked her to her truck. He gave her a hug and kissed her because he couldn't help himself.


She just let him because it was easier than struggling and damn it she did like it. “I will see you next week. Night Owen.”


“Night Nola.  Let’s try lessons in the pool next week. Ok?”


She smiled, “Ok.”


 


As he watched her open the gate and leave his driveway the questions his grandfather had asked him floated back into his head: So what are you going to do about changing the situation?  What next? These thoughts combined with Nola’s pronouncement that one day he would not be satisfied with how his life worked.  What she didn’t realize is that there had always been a part of him that had not been satisfied. Maybe that wasn’t the right word, maybe it was content. He had been satisfied with his life, but he had never felt, and he remembered what he said in the pool, content and happy.  He was content and satisfied and happy. Hadn't his grandfather said that Nola was part of the answer? He didn’t care or need to care what the rest of the world thought. What he wanted was for Nola to be happy.  That was what he wanted next.


 


And his grandfather smiled to Meana.