I began in the water. The Salish Sea. The prize presented to me by my knights. The still, salty water bathed me in its cooling embrace. Baptized in the abyss of darkness, yet safe. Safe as I had not known it in so long. So long since I sat cradled in my mother's womb. So long since the black veil meant peace.
And so I journeyed from the water to the path that invited me into its mystery. I walked, wanting to run as the unknown turn of its curves beckoned: Trust us. And I did. More, I cried to them. Take me further into your hiding. That night I had seen her. A face of light consuming the trail. Her eyes let in the darkness, her mouth opening. I remembered her light and then I was home.
I was standing at the base of the stairs, looking out at the lawn and the cacti and the aloe. I turned to my left to see the rose garden. The Sterling Tea rose I bought her was in full bloom. Full of the fragrance of the day. It was day. But what day? I mark my time now, by her presence and her absence. Which day was this?
I shifted my posture and so my gaze to look up the steps toward the door. That place where she stood. Always, that place where she waited for me. Whether in hello or goodbye, I could turn and see her there. The way she opened her arms to me as I looked up, I knew, this was hello.
I knew that place my face would find her neck. I knew those hands that rubbed up my back coaxing that one exhale from me that means, I'm home. I'm safe. I'm in her arms for as long as I want to be. We've been waiting for you for so long, she said smiling that wait-till-you-see-what-I-have-for-you smile.
And so, she guided me through the front door, her hand gently urging at the small of my back. I recognized the living room, but the walls faded. I was outside before I left the house. And there, in a large circle where these women. So many women. And a drum. I began to hear the drum. Kestrel, I thought: Help me to flit about this scene, above and below. Make me small and tall and quick of wing.
The center of the circle let fly a Kestrel who flew due north away from me. I looked again at the center. It wasn't fire. It wasn't water. I couldn't quite make it out... It's okay, came floating toward me. The wind carried whispers and falcon cries and the drum. Women began to touch me and shed my clothing. They wiped at me with muddy hands and colored fingers. They painted me, face and body. The laughed and held me. I want to see her again.
The drum. I look. She's playing the drum. Naked and swollen, swaying and pounding. I have never seen her play a drum. Look at what she can do. Dance took the floor. Women stomped in a circle over circles and creating circles. They sprinkled ash in front of their swiveling feet and pressed it down to mark a grey hoop. A circle made perfect by their connection, by their dance and with me at its center. By the ash of their mortal remains.
She left early, knowing you would follow her here. It will get easier, whispers. You will see us more clearly the more you return. As you return, as you learn the dance, you will become even more present on Earth. It is time to grow. It is time to journey and learn and move about in your life. It was just enough medicine. Just enough for a neophyte. It was a dance in the Oak Grove that watched my mother die as they watch me even now, come back to life.