by Laynie Browne
(from The Book of Moments)
“You’ve missed the turn,” I tell him, “that was the street, Retract.” But he doesn’t hear me or register exactly. He is still looking for the street. It’s an old argument of streets, what one person may see or think they see from a certain vantage which seems to skip or belittle the vantage of the other. But we have an appointment. I am holding the directions. “First, Retract Street,” I say, “We should have turned right. We missed it. We should go back.” He doesn’t go back. We are curving around and around. Meanwhile, Bhanu’s description about the ritual is replaying in my mind. Ascension. Near the gravesite. Hidden. We are curving around and suddenly less green and many shuttered shops. We stop to ask someone. He says, “You want the other side of the mountain.” In the dream we never reach there, just drive endlessly round. But I have the entire moving portrait here, in what appears to be a single drop of water. The storm teased and drove us indoors with lightning but the rain did not begin until the middle of the night, illuminating the room, drumming the veranda, loudly.
Here is the portrait. On the other side of the mountain is a green area. We are outside in a little alcove or thicket. We are also in a dark teahouse with lavish potted plants. We are asked what type of tea, but then we are told “gentian.” When the cart arrives suddenly our whole seating area is surrounded by elephant-ear sized dark green leaves. I touch one leaf which is black and my hand colors. The attendant looks at me and then away, as if embarrassed that I’ve touched the dark leaf. Someone tells me, move away, while the tea is prepared. Then I am seated in a metal carriage and given a large armful of flowers, fresh cut and abundant. Stargazer lilies, pink, among others, white and fragrant. The carriage begins to ascend. I am literally above the gravesite now. This is a way of visiting. One ascends with the spirit, mimicking departure, as if in company, then descends. Visitation of below the earth by rising up. And then coming down suddenly my youngest son is beside me and he is demonstrating that one has to pedal, or climb, in order to get down. So I follow his example and there I was on the ground, holding abundant flowers at the gravesite and simultaneously seated at a teahouse. The leaves have been cleared away and I am instructed to drink.
Gentian, Gentiana lutea. Common names: Bitterwort, Felwort, Baldmoney, Ryntem Root. Genus name derived from Gentius, ancient King of Illyria (180-167 B.C.E), who, according to Pliny and Dioscorides, discovered the medicinal use. Commonly administered in the Middle Ages as an antidote to poison. Parts used: roots. Highly regarded as a bitter tonic. And, for those who suffer uncertainty, are easily discouraged. They may be progressing well but any small hindrance disheartens.
[sources: Mrs. Grieve’s A Modern Herbal; The Bach Flower Remedies by Edward Bach]