After her conversation with Ursula at Bear Essentials, Rhea bicycled straight to the barn at Benden Farm, making the mile plus in record time. The classic wooden structure at the bottom of the hill from the house seemed blessedly empty of people at the moment. She breathed in its characteristic smells of straw and animal feed and walked in past the small tractor and its attachments, plus assorted carpenter and garden tools. Most of the latter were hung neatly on the wall in their appointed places as Carlos was a stickler for orderliness (“You’d think he had Swiss blood,” Cali often quipped). But a few were jumbled against the wall as if someone had just left them recently. She listened for activity outside and didn’t hear anything but someone could be just around the corner. No matter. Not at all inclined to linger in the working part of the barn, she wound her way up the intricately decorative spiral staircase – welded by Johan when he was first getting going.
In contrast to the tidiness below, the huge upstairs loft was a creative jumble. Soft couches draped with India prints and old blankets lined the walls joined by colorfully painted booths garnered from a restaurant remodel. A low stage at one end held a drum kit, a marimba and a pair of conga drums in stands. Other percussion toys, as well as a tuba and two trumpets were jumbled here and there. Instrument cases indicated more musical riches, as did an appropriately battered upright piano. There was even a pull down projector screen that bespoke evenings curled up in the couches watching movies.
Colorful banners and an earth flag dangled from the rafters. Huge paintings in very different styles hung on the walls and there was a partly finished mural on the floor in the west corner that looked like a new group effort. A few beer bottles and cider jugs indicated another recent use of the space. Rhea smiled at the memory of that evening. It had been fun adding Uri’s amazing didge playing to their eclectic mix.
She wasn’t much of a musician so the instruments didn’t call her but she made a beeline for the sound system. After a few minute’s search, she found what she was looking for among the jumble of CD’s on and under the table. Loreena McKennitt. The Visit. When she was at the store she hadn’t consciously noticed it, but riding home she realized that Ursula had been playing “Tango to Evora” – the theme music to the Burning Times films a bunch of them had watched together last year at Halloween. If she was going to take Ursula’s witchy class – for that’s how she thought of it – then she needed to come to terms with the fear in her body over the thought of exposing herself in that group – or to the community at large. To do this was taking a big step in owning what she had known about herself ever since weeping over those movies.
She slipped the CD into the player and that song on repeat. Taking a deep breath, she stood quietly as the music began to fill her. Shivers washed along her spine when the wordless female voice began. Good. Rhea had learned that shivers meant she was on the right track. An image from the film ran through her mind: a lone figure playing a violin on a hill top. Rooted there, strong in her convictions about her wisewoman self. Strong in her memories. Then and now.
With the thought of those generations – eons – of strength, Rhea began to feel herself as a tree, roots going down, branchy arms beginning to wave, trunk swaying. Thank goodness she’d learned about grounding from Ursula the other day at Illahee. Rooted, she could face the music – literally – and begin to dance.
Another image from the film flooded her: a woman, cape flowing, wending her way down the narrow alley of a medieval stone town. Her terror of hounding persecutors was palpable and Rhea took it in. Owned it. Re-membered it in her own body. Darting here and there in this familiar modern setting she knew the feeling of being chased, even as she was driven by her need to counsel a sick old one, tend to a woman in labor, heal a neighbor child’s infection. Her basket of salving herbs was on her arm, she had only to get in the door…. this time. Yet inevitably another alley and another door awaited. New fears and new betrayals.
Soon the fires burned and screams filled Rhea’s being. Her own. Her friends. She choked and moaned until shrieking, her body whirled and dashed, seeking refuge and other times. Yet, still the beleaguered images came. A dark-skinned Romany woman in ancient India. Men on horseback swooping viciously. The colonial village of Salem, Massachusetts. Neighbors shrieking. Fingers pointing. Priests and sanctimonious ministers torturing, condemning.
Dance the pain. Dance it out…. Swooping and swirling in the storm, treelike, to bend but not to break. Promises of future success…. Was now the time? Here at the beginning of the 21st Century. This life, these people. Could they betray again? Possibly….
As terror threatened to well again, there was a sound at the top of the stair and two men appeared. Rhea gasped and, still the grips of the dance, flung herself towards them in a fury. A tall African-American man – dark brown skin and curly dreaded mop bouncing – and a slim Asian with features blurred by Russian and Mongol parentage.
Yet their stance was open and their expressions warming enough that the steam went out of her engine. Panting she slowed and then bowed as with a look at each other, the men dropped their bags and danced towards her. The music swelled again.
Fingers touched lightly. “Arlo and Uri.” She breathed their names, turning slowly in a circle as they wove a dance around her, their maleness softened by their need for her to feel safe and loved.
Soon she let herself go again as new images whirled past her. African villages where the wisewoman was honored. Asian steppes where the drummers were women. Arawak healers in the Amazon jungles searching out and brewing the powerful vision medicines throughout the ages and doing it still, sharing their skill and lore with seekers from the north.
All were part of their world’s heritage. If these dear men were any evidence, the times truly were changing. The ancient ways were re-emerging even into this dominant, increasingly tortured culture. She knew she could trust these men and the women around her. Rhea blinked…. For Cali was here too now and Carlos. Jay and Fern. Ariel.
Circling, they all joined hands. Someone had changed the music. No longer a lone tree or a solo beleaguered witch, she was in a safe circle of beloved souls, triumphantly dancing their new world into being.