Only one who knows that life is really an illusion, and that death is really evolution, can begin to learn magic.Lieh Tzu, Fifth Century B. C.
Tea ceremony is a way of honoring oneself by putting another’s needs first, the joy that could be found in intimate service.Elizabeth Berg, Talk Before Sleep
Sprawled on the couch, I languished in a daydream staring through the open wall of the house across the East China Sea. The offshore breeze stirred the humid air with the smell of the sea and the scent of the forest below. I languished in the fugue of dreams.
Exotic birds skimmed across the treetops searching for the rise of wind currents that carried them out over the channels running through the islands and out to sea. The island looked like a dragon coiled over its tail where the Yellow Sea, Sea of Japan, and the East China Sea came together. The convergence of currents filled the water with fish that fed the appetites of all God’s creatures and stirred the tempest of wind and water.
The stone and wood mansion with its decorated paper interior walls, tapestries, and Asian paintings looked out over the bluffs of smooth stone. Boulders protected the bluff from the waves like stone guards. The surf always fought with the shore erupting in sea-spray that looked like famished tongues licking at a meager meal. The roar of the surf, wind in the trees, and the chirp and squawks of wildlife was a soothing background to my dream of living out my life in the cradle of this ancient land.
The woman that shared my dreams entered my field of view in a silk wrap with gold dragons brocaded on the cloth among stylized clouds of blue and white. The hem hit her above mid-thigh emphasizing her legs; strong and supple. The wrap held closed by a fabric belt revealed the curve of her hips. I felt my breath quicken. She carried a tray with a tea service arranged like still life art. With a well practiced grace, my host folded down on top of her legs; feet tucked under her as she set the tray down on the floor mat.
The earthy scent of ginseng and fragrant oolong tea filled the room as my Dragon Yobo kept her head down refusing to make eye contact or break the solitude of the moment with her voice. She leaned over and moved the cup meant for me to the side of the tray closest to me twisting the handle to my right hand. I eased off the couch to the floor and sat facing my ethereal dream.
I knew not to speak or move once seated on the floor. To violate the ritual of the tea ceremony would bring a sharp rebuke. She would punish me with kisses after scolding me. I was tempted to taste her lips and hear her sharp tongue.
After pouring my tea, she moved around to my side. The touch of smooth skin against my leg felt like a small tickle of electric current. I took a slow sip of the tea and let it tantalize my palate before swallowing. I looked over and smiled to show I was pleased. I poured her tea as she held up the small cup in both hands to show gratitude for the silence and pleasure we shared.
We enjoyed the sun reflecting from the sea and the forest that stretched out below us. The pleasures of the surf and wind blended with the grounding taste of the tea. The whole of the experience mesmerized us into a meditative mood. The woman of my desire and assured ruin reached around me and rested her head on my shoulder, her face against my neck.
“Do you love me, Nae Yong?” She breathed the words as lips brushed my neck.
I hugged her to me, “I love you like stars love the black night.”
“Tell me what you love about me.” She asked.
I let her sit in quiet regard and watch as my eyes took in her face, her eyes and lips with their pronounced vermilion border. Her graceful curves fell under my gaze, next the skin; supple, and smooth. My fingers trailed over her shoulders, down her arms, across her hips then down her thighs in a wandering quest of her apparition and the appreciation of the sight before me. I buried my nose in her hair next to her ear and inhaled the sweet musk of her perfume. The smallest of tremors sparked a primitive pleasure.
I kissed her and retreated while holding her lower lip between mine, letting her slide away.
“I love the taste of your mouth, the life in your breath, and your warm scent. I love the feel of your body on mine like a warm down quilt in winter. Most of all, I love the wisdom of your mind, the song of your voice, and passion in your heart. I love you, all of you.”
“If you knew my past, you wouldn’t love me as you do.” Her face slid off my shoulder and turned away from my gaze.
“It’s not your past I love. It’s our now and future I’m in love with.” My words seemed to stab her as my fingers found her chin and lifted her face to mine.
“Nae Yong, my past is always our now and future.” She spoke in a low murmur as her eyes saw something that wasn’t of our time.
“What is it that troubles you, Yobo?”
“Us,” she said without hesitation.
She went to the kitchen. I didn’t follow her. She was protective of her space and intrusion only made her defensive and angry. What she wanted to tell me had to come when she was ready. She returned with an Asian pear.
My Yobo sat in silence and used a paring knife to peel the fruit. Every cut took her further away from the pain she felt. She cut the fruit into cubes then used a small fork to lift the first piece and place it in my mouth. To this day, I love the taste of Asian pears and sweet memories.
Her mood lightened as we enjoyed the diversion together. We made it a game to touch one another as we fed each other and kissed the sweetness from desirous lips.
“Tell me about when you were a little girl growing up here on the island.” I ventured to offer her a chance to get whatever bothered her off her mind or let her pursue a divergence.
Like the ghost one cannot be sure of, she got up again and closed the sliding panels of the wall and locked them for the night. She turned on a lamp with paper shades that cast a yellow glow across the furniture and lacquered floor. I joined her on the couch as she lowered her head to my lap and stroked my leg as I rubbed her back.
“I was twelve when I came here to the island.”
“How did you come to live here?” I asked, my curiosity peaked.
My Yobo stopped talking and stared at the lamp. She was unsure of how far to go with the truth. I decided to change the subject. I found in time that pursuing past lives was always an unwelcomed intrusion.
“The house owners must think a lot of you, Yobo. They let us stay in this mansion and ask nothing from us.” I offered.
“Nae Yong, nothing is free. Our lives incur debt that we will pay with our blood, body, and soul. We will pay with our labor and sweat and incur more debt as we go.” Her voice was strong, almost prophetic.
“How do we pay our debt to the owners?” I probed deeper.
“Give them your life, Nae Yong and you will earn your honor and freedom.”
“I won’t fail them or you, Yobo.”
“Then make love to me now and later, I’ll tell you stories about the island and a little girl.”
Do you ever see their face in a dark shower in an old house with outdated green tile stained white from water like the blood of your love history? Did you cry uncontrollably on the wet floor grout lines pressed into your flesh Like their finger tips hot with passion, now cold with accusation loose, and fading away? Did you pray to whomever and promise you'd be good if given one more chance to have again what you lost? Were there sleepless nights and endless dreams of that moment the back was turned and it all ended? Did your heart break, and later burn with anger and revenge? Was your fury grander and longer than the moments you lay with them awash in the gripping throes of sensual delight? Were you the one who left? Then you already know, we're designed to carry sorrow into that pit alone where there is no one to blame but ourselves. Here is where we learn to mend our ways to listen to the heart that burns and slowly rises for tomorrow when we are able to do it all over again.
Be Still like a great mountain.
Move like a Flowing river.Chang San-Feng, Creator of Tai-Chi
Awakening just as dawn breaks through distant clouds, your space next to me is cold and bare, only the disturbed sheets hold your form. Now, I know you were never there, only a dream come true in the silence of night. Daylight brings me a beautiful mountain stillness, buffeted by storms and the banshee howl of wind. No harm is done in the quiet that invades my thoughts. The patter of rain is a soothing drumbeat on worn clapboards. Many summers ago the wood siding was pearly white, like your smile when I met you and we sat by the river, soaking our feet in the cold water under a throbbing sun. Now, this house and your memory are gray and streaked like tears; the ones I feel, and never show.
By Hyperion aka Daniel I stood on the ramparts of age stained wooden beams looking over crenellations of a dying civilization without hope, over the heads of conquering hordes, lazy in their days, preparing for the terrors of night. Beyond the smell of decayed greed And displaced honor was a road, in a winding valley that stretched out like a snake. To the right was the way to Oblivion, well traveled and full of ruts. To the left was the way to Salvation, a city too far to contemplate. I chose to stay and defend the crumbling walls, pulled down by horses, hooks, and rope. And, when the victors entered the city, shouts of victor and screams of vanquished remained in my ears when I awoke. We, who lived past the conquering slaughter, would all be slaves on the road to Oblivion, tied together with chains and choked on the bitter illusion of living. I chose a different fate and planned my escape down the road to Salvation, a village too distant for most. When I arrived the city was dark, and the air reeked of despair; the conquering hordes had ridden through; there was no one living there. In the streets were burned the books where ancient wisdom died; dead lay the priests and teachers, who fed the people the gruel of lies. Sun-bleached bones blocked the way, ravens picked them clean. The glare of skulls, the curved back of mules, and children in their mothers’ arms quietly lay Invader and defender in death entwined, one lived for destruction, the other lived for a time, neither would be right, nor wrong, laying sprawled ignoble in their rest. In each frozen grimace was not equal justice sublime? I knew beyond Salvation must surely lead to death, and so I took a different route, and that one proved the best. I traveled for endless days until I had nothing left, with my two hands and sound mind, I decided to help myself. Down the coast to the Ionian Sea, I sold my armor, my shield, and my sword, And followed the path of pilgrim and army, until finally, I made it to Greece. At the temple of the Profit Ilias there begged I for alms. A kindly old priest gave me grapes, olives, and directions to Areopoli. Further, still, I ventured down to the last finger of land where I happened upon a hilltop overlooking the Aegean Sea. There I planted my grape and olive seed, and built my villa of calcite stone picked from the ground left by time, caressed by sea-breeze, solemn, and alone. When my orchards bore their fruits The market brought me coins. I lived the life of peaceful dreams until a young lady of common birth promised to be mine. Long hair and golden eyes caught the morning sun, clad in golden silk and Aegean blue, she looked up, and I immediately knew she was the one for me. We tended our orchard and home, but no children came to hand. We spent our days in daily toil, our evenings on the veranda. She sat and listened to all my tales, her soft embrace and tears blinked dry, reflected seas of aquamarine and mountains brushed in olive green. Love filled our days and nights with productive toil and quiescent dreams. On our final day, the conquest came, and caste our souls away. All these hundreds of years, I’ve wandered in and out of life in the search for her, my golden-eyed Lady with lips ripe and fresh, her skin soft alabaster, a song of life on her breath. At the ruins of our estate, the wild grapes still grow, the Aegean Sea is still blue, and the hills are verdant green. I look in every shadow Along the hillsides too, in hopes to find her again someday, And begin our lives anew.