Forty-Four

By a river, the Sun was a big, orange orb, just setting. I saw a group of ibis landing in the water. One of them came to me. It was dark, but I could make out its silhouette against the dark red of the Sun. We were standing in ankle-deep, crystal clear water. We could see fish, tadpoles, larvae and other living things moving, swimming.

Then the water thickened, it became muddy. “It’s how it is, there are cycles, the water thickens, then clears up” the ibis explained. And, with its long beak, it picked a larva. I thought it would eat it, but threw it behind its back instead. At that instant, the thing transformed into a fully developed insect – a dragonfly or a butterfly, and it flew away. The ibis did the same with other forms of life in the mud, they all turned into their fully developed selves and flew or jumped away.

“But some of them you eat or discard, don’t you?”

The ibis didn’t reply, just looked at me silently.

“How do they know what is going to happen when you single them out?”

“They don’t.”

The river turned into a wood, and the ibis transformed into a woodpecker. I could see bugs and grubs deep under the bark of a giant tree. The woodpecker looked at me intently, then started to do its job.

Forty-Three

I was in a canoe, bundled up like a mummy. The Siberian man was rowing, we were going down a fast and narrow river. Then we were gulped by a cascade. As we were falling in slow motion, I could see people standing at the edge, watching us. I fell out of the boat, into the water. Suddenly, we were on the bench of the river, at dusk.

And the Siberian said:

“Divination is a bodily practice”

I looked at him, waiting for more.

“Why do you think the religions of the book were so against it? Because there’s no other way than through the body. And they all want to separate the “spirit” from “matter”. But there is no such thing as a body and there is no such thing as a soul. You know the body-soul that divines, the subtle body, the golden thread we are all made of, that we all weave and are woven from. Feel it now.”

And I was the wind that touched my skin. And the soil I was standing on. And the grass growing towards the rising Moon. And I was the Moon. And the Siberian man. And I was myself.

Forty-Two

I was walking in a riverbed and I did not get wet because the water divided around my body. My arms were open wide, I could touch the soft, liquid light with my fingertips. There was also something on my back, the sensation reminded me of arms or legs made of gauze or thin paper… I wondered how they looked, maybe I had insect-like wings… Whatever they were, they felt new and fragile. I wondered what would happen if they got wet. But they didn’t.

Then it was late afternoon, almost evening. I was in a forest. A soft light walked among the long shadows of trees. And there was a cascade. The water in its fall became a male body until it splashed and merged with the river below. Again. And again. The third time, however, he did not plunge into the stream: he started to run. He ran and ran through the forest, and the river followed with such force that it broke some trees and uprooted others. All was under water.

By the time he was gone, it was getting dark. Right in front of me, I could see a whirling, pulsating darkness: a hole where a tree used to be. The Siberian man stepped to me, took my hand and, minding his steps at the edge of dark, infinite vortexes, he was leading the way. We were heading towards an enormous tree that resembled a woman.

Eight

I was in the forest, again. I heard birds, and as I looked up, I saw a group of cranes flying by. They turned and started to fly in the opposite direction, as if they bumped into a wall and had to change course. Then they turned again, to and fro, as if they were sewing the sky together, and the distance between one end and the other was becoming smaller and smaller, and I saw that indeed there was a wall, one of water at either end, closing. I was not sure whether the cranes were bringing them together or the walls were pushing the cranes, but at one point they touched and the whole world submerged in water, including me. I saw sunlight filtering through, playing on the grass, and it was so beautiful, so peaceful…

But then I noticed something moving, something red, like a snake. When it came closer, it looked more like a Chinese dragon. It got quite dark, all I could see was a big, gaping wound, I don’t know whom it belonged to, but I heard my mother and grandmother panic “we should call a doctor”, telling each other what to do, shrieking, I couldn’t understand them anymore, and I couldn’t see them, either, or anything else.

Next, I was in the forest, again. It was almost night, and a group of crows were flying to and fro the same way as the cranes before, but it was not water they were welding together and pouring down on us but darkness…

When the night fell, I saw a figure made of bright smoke. I couldn’t make out its shape, but it had wings. As it was approaching, it looked more and more like somebody riding a winged horse. As soon as it reached me, it froze, went black, and made a clanging sound, like metal hitting metal, and I heard my mother say “it is cast iron, it’s from the factory” (my mother used to work in a cast iron factory called “Vulcan”). She went on clanging and clanging, but I could not see a thing, it was so dark. Little by little, it started to sound more and more like a bell, a huge bell… For a moment, I was in a cemetary.

I saw the group of crows again, tightly clinging together, facing me, cawing, and their cawing was more and more like words, until they were screaming “it was you, it was you, it was you”. I got frightened, couldn’t move for a moment, and then when I could have moved, I decided I would not, happens what happens.

Then, from behind me, came something like an old peasant woman dressed in a large, black shawl. She charged at the crows, “shoo, sparrows, shoo, shoo! shoo pidgeons, shoo, shoo!”, again and again. I recognized the words from a folk tale.

These words are uttered in the story when the young couple – who were kidnapped by the devil when they were children – decide to escape from him. The devil sends his servants after them when he realizes they are gone, and each time the girl can feel him coming, the boy casts a spell and they turn themselves into something else. The servant doesn’t realize it is them and goes back to the devil empty handed. First time the boy tunrs himself into a priest and the girl into a church. The second time the girl turns into a field of wheat, and the boy into a man guarding the field. When the servant of the devil comes and asks him whether he saw a boy and a girl running this way, he just keeps saying “shoo, sparrows, shoo, shoo! shoo pidgeons, shoo, shoo!” until the servant’s had enough and goes back to the devil. The third time it is the devil himself who comes after them, this time the girl turns into a lake and the boy into a golden duck. When the devil arrives, he knows the duck is the boy, but he has to go into the lake to get him. When he enters the water, the duck keeps swimming towards the middle where the water is the deepest, and the devil drowns.

I decided to let the woman deal with the crows, and slipped away. First I was going slowly, then I to run, and at one point the world was turning upside down, around and around.

When it stopped, I was relieved because I first thought that I was on the upper side, but then I noticed that what surrounded me were not winter branches but roots, I was below the ground, and I got really scared. I saw a pool of water, and as I started going towards it, the world turned around, again. I realized it was more like a river… I sat down on the bank and put my hands in the water. I saw something that looked like roots growing into the water, but they moved. They started to look more and more like human hands, and my own hands looked small in comparison. As the branches or roots were changing into a person, I knew I should look at my companion, but I just couldn’t get myself to. “it’s okay” – he or she whispered “everything is okay now, you don’t have to look at me, you will look when you are ready, it’s okay, it really is”. It felt warm, it felt safe, just sitting side by side, the sunlight playing on the water…

Six

I was in an old forest, it was late afternoon or evening, and a group of children was running around, laughing, chasing each other. Then it started to snow… I was surpized, because it felt like summer, warm and green… but then I realized that what surrounded us was not snow but seeds from a cottonwood tree. There was hardly any wind, we were enveloped in small, luminous feathers, playing in the colours of the setting sun. The world was in slow motion, as if we were all floating. I looked around, observing all the details, the lights, the colours, and I noticed that there was a river close by, and a boat on the bank. There was an old couple sitting by the boat. I remembered the woman from previous meditations. I didn’t recognize the man, but I could tell from the way they looked at each other that they were intimate.

Then I saw the great yew tree… I was mesmerized and went closer. It had a cavity at its foot, and there seemed to be some light within, red, like fire, but I didn’t want to go down there. I stared upwards instead, and pondered whether I could climb up. I suddenly remembered an old dream with my “home”. In my dreams, I am usually either in an unknown place, or somebody else’s house, but in this one I was in my own home:  a tree house with colourful, translucent veils instead of walls, high up on a big, old tree, in the middle of an ancient woods…

Five

I wondered, what would it be like to meet Jupiter? I thought I’d ask the bee. I found myself in a narrow boat,  like a canoe. There was somebody sitting at my head, rowing. I was lying on my back, staring at the sky above me. I saw some spots of light shooting by, they looked like fireflies, except the bee who was flying very close to me. Then I realized they were not fireflies but stars, and that even though it felt like we were hardly moving at all, we were in fact gliding so fast the stars seemed to leave a trail on our breaths…

It was a small river, and we were going upstream, the landscape changed from summer reed to autumn meadow to snow covered field, and the river got more and more narrow, until the rower had to step out and pull the canoe.

At one point, somewhere in the midst of autumn, we stopped by a field of harvested corn. Barely visible beings wrapped me in a large piece of white gauze, as if I was a newborn baby (I still couldn’t move). I saw my mother as a young girl, maybe seven, they also put a sheet around her shoulders, like a shawl to protect her from the cold. Then I saw another girl, about the same age, on the other side of the river (to the right) and they dropped the cloth on her head and tightened it around the knees, I was frightened for a second that they would suffocate her, she seemed scared, too, but didn’t move or give a sound. They loosened the gauze, and then my canoe sped off, leaving me to wonder if the girl took it off her head in the end or stayed under it…

Finally, the rower stopped pulling me across the snow, and I wasn’t sure whether we arrived somewhere or she just got exhausted. Then I heard a drum, two reindeers came to meet us, and I could feel a new presence welcoming us without words.

.


Note:

Going upstream the river to the north reminded me of the tree of languages, my mother tongue belongs to the ugric family, one of only three languages. The other two people are both native to Siberia, they are mostly nomadic reindeer herders – the drum could have been a shaman’s drum.

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