Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Güarionex, the steed who took me to the Hermitage - Alexandra Roman

There is a strange thing about horses I do not understand. There are very mysterious and if you don’t see my point just look at them straight in their eyes. Their eyes have stories to tell but since they can’t speak they are silent. Still some creatures can speak to them and hear their stories and transmit them to others like me. They are called the Horse Whisperers, a rare species among humans. One of them introduced me to Güarionex, my golden steed, the one who will take me to the Hermitage.

I felt scared as I approached Güarionex for I have always been afraid of horses. If they don’t trust you there is much that can happen. I look deep into his black eyes at the same time as he stared at my green eyes. A moment of eternity passed between us while we gaze upon each other reading our souls.

Suddenly he made a nod and I came out of the trance. “He will let you ride him”, said the Horse Whisperer. I smiled for what I saw in his eyes was a story so extraordinary that was uplifting and inspiring. This horse was no ordinary steed he was a warrior who was a companion to legendary warriors. I felt unworthy of such an honor of being able to ride him.

“We must go know, is getting late”, the Horse Whisperer added as he climbed up his white horse. “The trail is long but inspiring. Let Güarionex feel the road and do not be scared for he will take good care of you. He has seen something special in you.”

“Why you say that?” I asked.

“He is letting you ride him. Last time he let someone ride him was a century ago by a great king of kings.”

“Maybe his bored and want to feel the road under his hooves.”

“No. He saw something in you so do not think of yourself as entertainment for him. He knows when someone is worthy of him.”

I look at Güarionex once more wanting to ask him what he saw in me. But as I gaze upon him I felt a warm feeling inside my heart that took my fears away. I smiled, he nodded.

I climb on to his saddle and waited for the Horse Whisperer to tell me what to do. He just said, “Hold on and seat tight, is a bumpy ride.” Suddenly the horses started running fast. I hold tight on to the rope in order to slow him down but Güarionex did not give in.

“Loose him up”, the Horse Whisperer shouted.

I did not want to do that. A chill went up my spine as the only thing I could do was hold on. I got closer to his neck trying not to fall down for I knew it was going to hurt a lot if I fell.

“You have to let go.” The Horse Whisperer shouted to me.

I looked at him not understanding what he said. I was really scared, the wind blowing hard at my face. The road passed fast underneath us as Güarionex rode faster and faster each passing second. The valley was hard to admire at that pace. Everything was a blur because you could not distinguish one color from the other, a wild flower from the grass. The only steady things were the sky above and the mountains beyond. They looked as if they were spectators looking down on us not wanting to miss the action that went on in the valley beneath them.

The Horse Whisperer’s words echoed in my mind as I tried to understand their meaning. “Let go.” I said to myself. “Just let go”. As I said that my hands relaxed their grip and loosened the rope on Güarionex. A sense of freedom revolved around me and confidence took over my soul. It felt great! I let go of my fears and enjoyed the ride letting Güarionex ride faster than before and trusting myself to him.

A rush of adrenaline flew thru my veins as the wind in my face felt exhilarating. Then it came out of my mouth like it had been there all my life trying to get out but never had the chance. A loud scream, yes I screamed so hard it was heard through out the valley as we rode fast through its green pastures.

The Horse Whisperer laugh and I joined him. “Oh, this is awesome!” I exclaimed.

“Every time, every time” He repeated with a huge smile.

“Can he go like this for a long time?” I asked out loud.

“A little longer!” He answered.

“Well then let’s have a race!” As I said that I let out a “Hia!” and Güarionex started to go even faster. It was a glorious experience that uplifted my spirits. The Horse Whisperer caught us in seconds and he pointed to a group of trees for us to stop and for the horses to rest.

We stopped at the chosen spot and when I got down Güarionex caress me with his face. I smiled and said to him, “Thank you too.” I kissed him in his forehead and hugged him. We stayed there for an hour eating and laughing. The Horse Whisperer told me of his craft and talents, of his family and how he was chosen to be a horse whisperer. He explained to me that they choose a name that only the horse appointed to him must know. But I could call him Rob. He was taught at the University of Centaurs by a legendary old centaur. He told me that the centaurs are the only creatures capable of teaching that craft for after all they are half horses.

The road was waiting for us and we climbed up on our horses but this time, for we were closer to the Hermitage as we covered most of the road in our ride, we took it slow. I wanted to enjoy the sites as we past beautiful trees and enchanting roads. Soon enough the sanctuary of the Hermitage was visible in the distance. It look beautiful, I smiled as I saw it. I was finally there and my heart was full of joy to gaze upon it.

“When we get there I will attend to the horses. You go in and relax and enjoy your stay. It’s a good place for meditation so take advantage of your time.”

“I will”

“I will see you when you and your party are ready to live.”

“Thank you for this wonderful trip”

“Don’t thank me, thank him.” Rob, the Horse Whisperer, said pointing to Güarionex.

I smile and gave Güarionex a pad on his mane. We entered the Hermitage and left the traveled road behind.

~Travels~ - Patricia

~Map to the Hermitage~
Arriving at the Hermitage was not an easy journey. I passed through many strange and curious places.

Leaving the cave my first stop was The Land of Prey. Incrediable birds of great girth and height reside here. Their main oject is the hunting of cats. Yes, cats ! I am relieved I gave second thoughts to bringing my dearest friend, Big Moma. My journey would have been very short.

Second Stop - District of Dolls
Third Stop - Village of Dwellings

Forth Stop - City of Chairs. I had to show identitification, have my passport stamped, a finger print was taken, and my small baggage checked.

Thinking I had plenty of time, as the Hermitage was only one hour away, I took Heathcliff to a nearby blacksmith where he could be watered and fed oats. I walked across the street to a diner, washed up in the rest room and sat in the most elegant of chairs to order a proper meal. The food was delicious. The wine and cheese after dinner seemed to revive my spirits. I was ready to continue.

I must have read my map wrong, as I ended up in the township of travel. I asked an elderly gentleman for directions. His manners were that of a prince and he was so well spoken. His directions were none of the above and again I was to become lost in the Village of Crowns.

I took some extra moments to study the map carefully. As I traveled back I once again noticed the elderly gentleman. This time he was riding in a vintage car, waving and smiling as he left me in a cloud of smoke and dust.

I reached the Hemitage around midnight. My first thoughts were for Heathcliff. I am thankful there was a groom to meet me. To say the least, I am tired and in need of a comfortable night's sleep.

Ms. Lovelace ( Patricia )
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Detour...... - Lisa J

Oh I am so sorry to have seemingly disappeared the last few days!! That great brute of a horse took it into his head to take a bit of a detour and go galloping all about the country side :) I have recieved a message from heather and we have (hopefully!) figured out a way to control him, so I will catch up with you all and be at the Hermitage very soon!!

Gramma rides easy - Fran Sbrocchi

Gramma rides easy
Originally uploaded by FranSb.
Arriving at the Hermitage

~Leather & Lace~ - Patricia

Sitting on a bench, with the sides shaped as horses, I am adding the final stitches to my costume. A plain box wrapped in brown paper was left on the writing table in my room. My name was written on the lid. Various printed pink and orange cloth, tulle, ribbons and a strand of pearls are among the contents in the container. A small card lays among the folds of tissue paper. It simply states, 'For your dress. Keep in mind you will wear this at your presentation. Search your heart, search deep and compose a poem to read aloud at the performance. Tomorrow morning wait by the gardens and horse stables for further instruction.'

I clip my last thread and hold the costume out - it's beautiful. I brush the hair piece of brown curls. There is enough material left for a long sash to tie around my head. I sit the curls carefully in the box among the crinkled tissue. I replace the lid.

The vegetable gardens are lovely and bear oversized fruit in between the story book leaves shaped like long hearts. Yellow summer squash gleams in the sun. Two men gently lift one squash from the vine. I see beads of sweat along their foreheads. They shift their balance and tightly grasp the highly varnish vegetable. As they pass me I see morning dew on their prize weight.

The sound of hoofs coming from the white washed stable catches my ears and I turn my head. A white and brown spotted horse is being led by a groom. He stops in front of me and hands me the reins. 'His name is Heathcliff - take care.' He nozzles his cold nose in my hand - his nostrils flare as he breathes in my scent. I scratch between his eyes - what deep brown jewels these are - the color of amber and night. Black oblong pupils stare into mine. His mane is off white, shining, well brushed. One braid shows itself with three dangling bells. It is hard to say how many hands tall he is.

The saddle is English style and smells of soaped leather and oil. An empty saddle bag awaits my custom box. On the opposite side the bag holds a canteen of water, what appears to be a ration of food and a well worn map.

I mount the beast, at once I know I have become his burden as he moves slightly from side to side. I give the time he needs to ajust to my weight. In only a matter of seconds we are off, slowly, surely following the garden path toward an open iron gate.

Patricia ( the picture of the woman in the framed film strip is my Grandmother )
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Distant bells - Luna

A distant pounding of earth.
A jangle of bells.
The breathing of a dragon.
I look up and see my ride,
A white beauty with brass bells.
Festive designs decorate her forehead.
Her ears perk forward as I reach out.
I pull out a carrot and flatten my palm.
Her large brown eyes blink those lovely lashes.

My guide hoists me up and we are off.
My beautiful mare runs across a field.
The moon is new and it’s very dark.
Light magically emanates from the trees.
Freedom! Exhilaration!
My hair falls free of braids and feathers.
And we are in darkness moving with the night.
My skirt blows around like a small storm.
I lean in closer to hear her breathe.
In this moment, I feel truly alive.

A Gentle Soul - Vi Jones

The smell of well-worn leather and horse flesh excites my senses as I succumb to the rhythmic movement of the line-back dun beneath me. He has a gentle animal soul and is patient with the likes of me who haven't been on the back of a horse for many years. There was a time in my younger days I would have leapt unaided into the saddle and with a 'Hi Ho and away we go, galloped off into the sunset.' But things are different now. I need a boost. When Oliver, that's his name and what a peculiar name it is for a horse, turned his head and stared at me with those big eyes, he snorted and I thought, I'm screwed … he's going to give me a bad time. He's going to buck me off the first time the trail gets close to a drop-off. But Oliver has turned out to the gentle, caring soul he is and I'm able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the journey. Thank you, Oliver.

My Secret Companion Rides with me - Bobbi

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My secret companion, I thought hidden well

Was brought on this journey for stories to tell

For he begged me to take him on this mystery ride

So he could write poetry and song by my side

For grown ups and children, a passion so strong

To write from his soul is what he does long

This owl called Salish, a bird of the night

A shy and hurt being, he must be carried at light

He makes observations from silent high perch

At his home, in the Soul, of the Cafe..... his church

He watches the patrons and weaves story and song

from the wise and understanding conclusions he's drawn

Now Salish and I are being whisked far away

by Wizard and Stallion and owl, Aday

through snow and forest, to where this journey will end

to new lands and adventures, a warm Inn and good friends

Bobbi (and Salish_the_Owl)

The ride to the Hermitage - Lisa J

well a messenger finally found me in the caves and I rushed back to my room and quickly packed my rucksack!! It can hardly fit another thing in it, so I certainly hope i don't find anything that I need to bring back with me or I'll have to leave something else behind!! I followed the passage and went through my door back out into the sunshine - squinting and blinking at how brilliant the light was after so long underground! There I saw my horse that I am to ride - and he is beautiful!! The guide is already astride her horse, and is a creature of beauty herself. She is lithe, with dark skin and kind eyes and long long flowing hair. I try my hardest not to stare, for not only is she beautiful beyond description, she is adorned in all sorts of handmade jewels and feathers of all different sorts!! As I gape at her she explains that my horse is wild, he will not allow a saddle or bridle to be put on him, I must ride bare back. I must ask him carry me, and if he agrees I may name him and ride him. If he agrees, he will allow no other to ride him as long as I live. I approach the great horse tentatively. He whinnies and stomps, throwing his head and his tail about and rolling his eyes back in his head. I am afraid, but I slowly move closer until I am right in front of him. I feel like I should say something formal, and am thinking hard how to put the words right. Suddenly he calms and levels a direct gaze at me. I return it, then, as if he had read the question out of my mind, he bows his head and kneels so I may mount him. I climb onto the great creature, and can feel him breathing heavily beneath me, as if he simply cannot wait to break into a gallop. I gently stroke his neck and murmur soothing words, calming him slightly. My guide smiles at me, turns her horse and heads off through the forest. I follow, and soon we leave the trees and enter a vast green plain. My horse whinnies in delight and breaks into a full gallop, faster than I've ever seen a horse go before. I can feel his muscular body stretching and reaching underneath me as he flies across the fields, turning everything into a blur of green. Such freedom!! I inhale it deeply and enjoy the feeling.

Treasure and Traveler's Tail - AshleyShea

I had just completed carving the Asian characters for Wisdom on my walking stick when I was notified that the riders were approaching. I grabbed my backpack and started making my way to the passage way that I traveled, was it only 24 hours ago?, on my way into this cave. But before I could enter the passage, I felt the familiar tug I had felt in the Conference Room (which, by the way, I've changed the name to Wisdom's Lounge). I looked to the hole in the stone walls that lead in Wisdom's direction and something caught my eye. It looked like a piece of ivory amongst the scattered rock. The tug wouldn't let me leave without inspecting.

Picking up the rectangularish ivory shape, I felt warm radiating from it. I knew immediately that it was a gift from Wisdom. It was her tug that made me find it and I knew her radiant love. Flipping the ivory over in my hand, I gasped in surprise.

On the back of the stone was carefully etched an image of Wisdom. I knew in my heart it was her. Her stunning beauty was familiar, even though I hadn't seen her during our conversation earlier in the day. So as not to keep the other travelers waiting, I put the stone in my pocket and made my way out the cave thanking Wisdom for her precious gift all the way.

The bright sunlight was a shock to my eyes as I exited the cave. But the even greater shock was the immediate discomfort in riding the mare. "Hey, where's the cushioned seating?" I wanted to ask of my guide. Just like an American, I thought, always looking for First Class accommodations. I tried putting my mind to something else like enjoying the view or deciding what I would perform for the Queen. But my thoughts were always brought back to my tail bone with each pothole (of which there are many on dusty paths). I decided, "I do not have to ride on a mare like a Princess. I can walk, at least until my legs become to tired." I signaled to my guide to stop for a moment so that I could get off the mare. At first he took it as an insult that I wanted to walk instead of ride but somehow I was able to communicate to him that, for my health, it was better for me to walk, at least for a bit. I gestured to my leg and pretended it had a cramp I needed to walk out -- rather than point to my butt and try to pantemime great pain. I'm not sure that that would have translated as well.

Walking alongside the mare and my guide felt great! My legs were well rested from spending a day in the cave, so it was nice to stretch them. Plus, I had the added benefit of taking pictures along the way -- an impossible feat perched on a bouncing merry-go-round mare.

I took turns riding and walking during the long trip to the hermitage. I'd get on the mare when my legs were tired and got off when my tail bone could no longer stand the pain. I was relieved when we passed a cave with this image painted on its side.

I took it as a sign that the hermitage was getting closer. By the looks of this primative map, the hermitage would be just past a marshy land and a campsite. Sure enough we were approaching wetlands, so I hopped onto the mare's back with glee. It couldn't be long now.

P.S. The image of Wisdom arrived today as a gift in my non-virtual world. It is a transfer on the back of a domino made for me by a friend -- Maureen Doerr.

Ride to Amazon Queen's Camp - le Enchanteur

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Everyone in the cave must have heard the commotion, the clatter of hooves as the riders came into the cave ready to take residents to the camp of the Amazon Queen. There are twelve of them waiting in the stables with stable women.

It will be a long journey and you must travel lightly. You need to bring a light bag with a wig and a costume inside. When we get to the Camp of the Amazons we will be performing for the Queen who I believe is currently preparing a banquet to welcome us and celebrate our arrival.

Don’t be daunted by this. You could do a poetry reading, tell a story, sing a song, read her Tarot, tell a fairy story or an old wives tale. The only requirement is that you make a presentation using your distinct voice. This is a stage you see, and I agreed to bring you because I figured you are all here because you are looking for a stage door, eager to walk out into the spotlight and be heard. You could just tell the Queen about your doorway or the vista that greeted you as you entered the cave or do a dance for her. I am sure you will be innovative.

Bookings have been made and we will be staying at the Lemurian Hermitage, recently occupied by a Hermit who will greet us and allow us to rehearse within the Hermitage. The good news is that members from the group who are currently staying at The House of the Serpent will fly in on ravens wings to join the preperations. They will not, however, accompany us on the the Queen's camp.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Cathedral - Anita Marie Moscoso

This place is known as the Cathedral and I came in by foot.

I came here in search of Spirits and Ghosts.

I want to know them and learn how to tell their stories and I've been told unless I do this correctly I could find myself in a world of trouble.

Actually the word used was " cursed "

It's a journey my Grandparents would have approved of so I took it and this is what I found.

I started my journey on horseback, it had been given to me back at Camp and I was told it was a Blood Mare. " Like the drink? You know...Bloody Mary? " I asked the Stable Woman.

The Stable Woman shook her head, " You must be Anita, " she mumbled and she helped me up and I settled into the saddle. " The one who thought she was going to ride a motorcycle into the Cathedral. "

I just laughed and at full speed raced away from the stables into the Night.

I wondered later how she knew where I was going, I hadn't told anyone.

When that bad tempered animal and I got to the road leading into the Forest it refused to step off the Path. I tried bribing it and I tried pulling and pushing and all it did was show me it's teeth and it rolled it's eyes up until all I could see were the whites and strange as it may sound...I think it growled at me.

So I went in alone and when I turned back in the hope the animal would follow me I saw it was gone and in it's place I saw a woman in black. Her clothing was black, her hair was black and black gloves covered her hands. Her face was so dark it almost looked blue and she wasn't looking at me.

She was looking past me.

Into the woods.

It took me three days to reach the Cathedral and in those three days I saw animals with too many heads, I heard voices coming from the trees and horrible maniacal laughter coming from the rivers and streams and ponds.

I saw things caught up in the tree branches and in the bushes and lying on the path in front of me.

I saw nooses hanging from trees sometimes knives and guns were up there to. I saw clothing and shoes and strands of hair, I saw children’s toys and books other things that touch us as we move through our lives.

Then I saw graves.

I saw old graves marked by weather worn tombstones, I saw freshly dug ones waiting to be filled. I saw funeral pyres and tools from a trade I practiced when I was a Mortician littering the ground too.

At the end of the trail I came to the Cathedral and something came at me from my left and seemed to wrap itself around me, like a snake.

I couldn't move and I could hardly breathe and I found it wasn't important I do either one here in the Cathedral.

" How do you like it here? " a voice asked me and I knew it wasn't sane.

" I don't "

" Very smart of you, very wise...the living should never feel at home in the house of the Dead."

The thing turned loose of me and then I could feel it standing next to me.

" I came here to learn to tell stories " I said, " Will I be welcomed here? "

It was quiet and I could hear the sounds of the world...the wind, airplanes, running water and birds and in the distance a train’s whistle. " We've been teaching you since you left the camp...haven’t you been listening?”

“That's all you have to learn to do, that's all the permission you’ll ever need. "

I could hear it moving away from me and I began to move in the opposite direction and when I got back to camp I began to write more then I ever have in my entire life.

And of course now I Listen...there is so much, after all, to hear.

Night Ride - Karen

Chinese Horse by Su Yah Ping (colorized)
When I went to the stables, I found a spirited mare with a certain look in her eye that drew me to her. Her name was Mahdohkt, "Daughter of the Moon." I mounted her and whispered in her ear, "Take me to where the dream begins, Mahdohkt." She started for the wood, and soon we were in a canopy so dark the moon could not penetrate it. But Mahdohkt herself gave off a pale, silvery light, illuminating the path ahead just enough for safe journey. We rode for several hours, my hands twined in her silky mane, listening to the night noises. I felt completely safe with her. Eventually we stopped, and I dismounted. Before me was a cave, and Mahdohkt made it clear I was to enter. I left her at the mouth of the cave, and made my way forward. The cave was dimly lit, from what source I did not know, and I could feel a faint, stale breeze against my skin. I walked on nervously, wishing for the comfort of Mahdohkt and her pale gleam. As I moved deeper into the cavern, I heard singing, faint at first, then stronger. It was ethereal and brought tears to my eyes. I walked more quickly, until I reached a chamber that was lined with gleaming minerals, and in the center was a woman, spinning in circles and singing. As she sang, starlight spun from her lips and swirled about, eventually making its way up and out of the cavern through an opening in the ceiling. I accidentally kicked a rock, and the woman turned and abruptly stopped singing. She had long flowing hair which covered part of her face. She brushed it back and looked me full in the face. I gasped. Except for her hair and flowing gown, I was looking at myself. She smiled, and as she did, starlight spilled from her eyes and blazing light shot from all of her fingertips. As she looked at me, she took my hand and began once again to sing. Immediately, I was filled with such longing that I clutched my chest, throwing my head back in suppplication. All of my hopes, dreams, and hidden yearnings were present, flowing though me. The epiphany struck me like lightning--she was me. I created my own dreams, singing them into life in this beautiful but dark chamber, hidden deep within my soul. The dreams rise as song to penetrate my consciousness, often in subtle and ethereal forms I cannot readily decipher. But despite all of that, she--I mean me--I continue on, dancing and sending messages to myself, waiting for my brain to catch up with my soul, waiting for me to put the words to the music, which I do best when I sit down to write. She--I--am where the dream begins. And ends.

Night Ride with Fireheart - Gail Kavanagh

I must admit I quailed when I saw the horse that was waiting for me. I love horses, but she looked as she had come straight from Hell.
Her hooves were striking sparks on the ground, and when she reared up, it looked as though she was enveloped in flame.
Even the stablewoman didn’t want to get too close.
``Her name’s Fireheart – and she’s all yours,” she said, and bolted back into the stable.
Fireheart had no saddle or bridle and I am long past being able to vault jauntily onto the back of a naked horse, but as I stood there hesitating, her head suddebly whipped round and she grasped the back of my robe with her teeth. She flung me up on to her back and I grabbed at her silky mane. It looked like I was going for a ride.
``Take me – “ I hesitated. ``Take me to the Source,” I said.
She leapt away, and I held on with all my strength. Her hooves left a trail of flames as we raced off into the night.
All I could do was hang on, my hands twisted in her mane, my legs turning to jelly with the effort of staying on her back.
Finally we stopped, and I slid to the ground with more gratitude than grace. We had come to a place that looked terrible and bleak.
The sky was stormy, a bilious colour that seemed foreboding. Below me I could see the mouth of a dried up river bed which I thought was the Serpent’s Way. In the distance I saw the glassy gleam of the ocean – but that offered me no comfort, as it usually does. It looked so cold and threatening.
A road led down to a ruined tower, standing like a blackened, rotting tooth against the night sky. I drew close to Fireheart and she breathed a long warm breath on me, giving courage, then she nudged me in the back, toward the tower.
The road was sharp and stony, with jagged bits of flint poking up. I cut my foot and I was limping as I drew close to the entrance of the tower – that was just a black gaping hole in the wall.
A chill air gripped me as I walked inside. The air I was breathing felt like fingers of ice clawing at my lungs. I paused to try and get accustomed to it, and a figure loomed out of the dark.
She was dressed in a shroud, shreds of the grave hanging about her, her hair long and loose around a face so wasted it looked like a skull. Her long bony fingers clutched at the air – I saw she was blind, her hollow eyes milky white and staring.
``Who comes here?” She said. Her voice reminded of the wind sighing through a cemetery.
``I’m one of the travellers from Duwamish,” I said. ``I was given a horse to take me anywhere I chose, and I chose the Source.”
She laughed, a thin keening sound that rippled through my head like a banshee’s wail.
``But all I find here is destruction and ruin,” I said. ``What has happened?”
``The Source has dried up, traveller,” she said. ``It must be sung back into being.”
She moved away, and I went back out into the night, where Fireheart waited to take me back.”

NIGHT RIDER - Leonie Bryant

The stablewoman rushed to me as I came down the path. ‘Come quickly’ she said. As I walked into the stables, I could hear the commotion. I rushed down to see my beautiful mare champing at the bit. She had a look of desperation in her eyes. The stablewoman helped me to mount my horse and we tried to calm her down. But she wanted to be off.

We rode up the path, through the forest and up into the highlands. With ears pinned back, my horse raced across the grassy plains. The wind whistled through my hair, as I clung tightly to her neck. I wanted to ride, and ride onwards forever. I could feel all my cares and woes being left behind, as the wind continued to blow. The freedom is incredible. I have never experienced anything as exhilarating!

Finally we came to a spot where other horses were grazing. My mare had come home. This is where she belonged. Slowly I dismounted, and gently stroking her neck I wandered over to sit under a tree pondering my newfound freedom.

Ride into the Night - Megan Warren

I walked down to the stables; I have never ridden a horse, let alone at night. I don’t think you could count the donkey or the unicorn ride. Something led me to believe that tonight was going to lead me down the same path.

I arrived at the stables just as the sun was setting, casting an orange glow in the sky. The stable hand was nowhere to be seen. I called out “Hello, hello I’ve come for a night ride.” There was no answer. I called out again “Hey is there anyone here?” Again there was no response so I started back towards the house. I hadn’t got far when I came across a young boy leading a white mare. The mare broke from his grasp and trotted up to me. The boy ran up the path to join us. “She has found you; she has been waiting to take you for a ride into the night. She will take you where you need to go and have you back by dawn.”

I mounted the steed and she immediately took flight, straight into a gallop with me holding on for dear life. The scenery flew past in a blur of tree trunks, foliage and dust kicked up by the mare.

We reached a clearing soon after and she slowed to a trot. It was then that she spoke to me. “Secure me to the railing there to your right, then follow the path that leads between the grove of trees, you will know your destination when you come to it.” I tied her to the railing as she requested, there was water and chaff in basins at its base, and she was happily munching away when I left to walk down the path.

The path was somewhat overgrown and lit only by a sliver of the moon. I walked on until I came to a weather worn and rusted gate. I opened it to pass through and it creaked and groaned. It was only then that I noticed that I was standing in a graveyard. Something had drawn me to this place, I don’t know what and why tonight! I don’t mind cemeteries, but not in the middle of the night. I tried to open the gate to leave; it seemed to be stuck fast.

My breathing became heavier and my palms sweaty as I started to panic. Then I remembered what Nana had told me. “Do not be afraid. The dead cannot hurt you, it is the living you need to worry about” I started to calm and felt drawn towards the centre of the graveyard. I walked carefully through the many fallen headstones until I came to a small statue of an angel. It appeared to be the grave of a little girl. I couldn’t read it clearly, it had weathered over time. I was able to make out the child’s name Eliza Jane she was born in the 1800’s and she had a mother or a sibling called Charlotte.

I cleared away the weeds that were growing into this grave. I thought to myself that I seemed to be doing an awful lot on this trip. This was obviously the place the mare had been talking about; why I was brought here. A sweet almost angelic voice spoke to me: “We have called you; you have been chosen to tell their stories. Remember the book” I knew what book the voice was referring to, the book that Livia gave me The Forgotten – the story of lost souls – I hadn’t forgotten. Then the voice and the feeling of needing to be here was gone. I walked carefully back to the gate, which this time opened without a struggle and a creak and a groan.

I walked back to the mare, waiting where I had left her. I untethered her and told her I would like to some of the way to enjoy the peace of the evening.

It was nearing dawn when we returned to the stables. The stable boy was asleep in one of the stalls, so I left the white mare tethered to the railing. I thanked her for guiding my journey and started back towards the house.

Night Ride to the Tree of Crystal Souls - Traveller

I was delighted when the enchantress told us that this evening´s entertainment was to be a night ride to anywhere we wanted to go and that all we had to do, was go to the stables where our mounts would be waiting for us.
This was a dream come true, I would finally get to visit the tree of crystal souls.
It was dusk as I made my way down to the stables where a young groom came to greet me, but there was no horse in sight. Instead, he held out his hand towards me and gave me a little model of a horse. I held it up to one of the lanterns and saw the most beautiful little crystal horse. "In view of your destination tonight, it was felt that this would be the most suitable steed for you. Take the little crystal horse to the blind springs and place it with its head near the water. Whistle into the wind and your horse will come to you". My hand went automatically to the little bag that held my own little crystals. I did as instructed and whistled into the wind, whereupon a beautiful moon-glow coloured horse appeared out of the twilight. "I must ask if it's alright to bring Hiss with me" I thought, whereupon the animal nodded its magnificent head. I silently wished myself astride it and low and behold, there I was surveying the ground from a long way up! "Whither shall I carry you, mistress?” it asked. "To the tree of crystal souls, if you please". "Hold on to my mane, it will take us a while to get there. We will be flying through the sunset curtain." I wrapped Hiss carefully around my waist. He would be safe there and would keep me warm if we were going to be flying through the stratosphere.
Ash flexed its knees gently. "Ready?". I squeezed my knees against its warm sides in reply and Hiss gave me a reassuring squeeze just for good measure. Thank goodness I had wrapped my hands into Ash’s mane for the gravity thrust almost dislodged me. We seemed to shoot up and up and I could hardly breathe. After what could only have been about 30 seconds Ash stopped its upward course and we levelled out over the top of the clouds. I could see the moon and stars high above me. I had no idea what sort of distance we covered but we started to descend through pearl-pink clouds and seemed to be heading towards the sun in one of the most dramatic sunsets I had ever seen. As we got closer, Ash said "this is where we fly through the sun, hold on". We seemed to hurtle towards the heart of the sun and the walls rose up blood-red and glowing around me. Then all of a sudden we popped through.
We were on top of a sheer cliff. Waves crashed around the rocks at the base and there was one single tree, leaning at an angle, some way back from the cliff edge. Ash landed a little way away from the tree and I dismounted. It walked away to graze, leaving me to stand in breathless awe of the tree. The tree of crystal souls is so named for the souls of those drowned at sea in shipwrecks on that particular bit of coastline, have taken refuge there. They cannot be buried in the ground and have to remain in sight of the sea. Each soul is encapsulated within a crystal. I had been afraid that I would see horrible images of people drowning but when I got closer to the tree I could see that there were fruit hanging on the tree. I gently touched a cluster of grapes and realised that each crystal grape shape contained a face. Individual fruit contained a single face. Ash had walked softly up behind me and nuzzled my shoulder. "The clusters of fruit contain families or crews and the single fruit contain the souls of single sailors". I shuddered a bit, thinking about all those people who had drowned in the pounding surf far below but the faces were peaceful and contained in a thing of beauty. They had found some comfort from their horrible manner of dying. Ash explained to me that, at night, each crystal fruit was illuminated from within. From a distance the tree looked like a swarm of fireflies but distances were deceptive and the tree now served as a sort of beacon for the lights could be seen from far away and sailors steered their craft in the opposite direction.
I was full of thought as I remounted Ash and we made our way back through the sunset curtain.

(The legend of Amethyst begins with the grape. To protect the nymph Amethyst from the advances of Bacchus, god of wine, the goddess Diana turned her into a sparkling gem.)

Monday, August 15, 2005

Night Ride Barbara Banta


"I shouldn't have read the other posts," I sighed. "They're just too wondrous and beautiful."

"It would be foolish to missssss the night ride," said Paisley, an exquisite shades-of-blue snake.

"I don't know where to tell the horse to take me."

The little snake, curled loosely about my wrist, patted my hand reassuringly with her tail, then slipped off and slithered over to my computer. "Go down to the stable, you can figure it out when you get there"

"Come with me?"

"Uh-uh, horses don't trust snakes."

It was dark as pitch on the path leading away from the House of the Serpents and what should have been excitement felt like a clenched fist in the pit of my stomach. A lantern hanging on the barn door gave out a paltry light and when I entered the stalls were empty except for the last.

I heard a startled whinny and then, "I thought you weren't coming. Where are we going?"

"I have no idea," I admitted, "I suppose we should go searching for the meaning of life or something like that."

"You need to narrow that down a bit."

"This can't be right," I said after we arrived at what Shadowfoot swore was our destination. We'd ridden for hours over mountains, crossed corn fields, and highways and now we were clip clopping down the middle of a city street with rickety row houses on either side that looked like they'd stood there for a hundred years.

"There's only one window lit," she said, "that must be it. I'll wait here. Be back before dawn please."

I knocked and the door swung open. Inside the apartment, a radio was playing a Benny Goodman record from the 40's----and an old woman was sitting at a kitchen table sorting pieces of a jigsaw picture and tapping her toe in time to the music. She looked up, smiled and beckoned me to join her.

"Mom and I used to do these together." I said, smiling back.

"More fun when you have a partner," she nodded and her glasses slid down to the tip of her nose, "I was hoping someone would stop by tonight."

"I'm not sure if I've come to the right place."

"Not sure of a lot of things, I expect."

I had to laugh. "True enough. I've spent a lot of time in caves and forests and mythic places lately."

"Am I a bit too ordinary?" she asked with a twinkle in her eye.

"No, actually, our tour has been wonderful, but more exotic than I'm used to. This is just what I need."

"Splendid," she replied. "You do the blues and I'll do the greens"

"Where's the box top with the picture?" I asked.

"No picture on the box top," she said, shaking her head.

The music ended and the news blared out the usual mixture of violence and corruption.

"The world's going from bad to worse," I said with a sigh. "it's enough to make you lose hope."

The old woman gave me a funny look, picked up a piece and put it into place, then mumbled something under her breath that sounded like a name.

"Almost finished, and I still can't figure out this picture."

"What makes you think we're finished?" she asked.

"Well, we only have five -- make that four pieces to go."

The woman rose from her chair with some effort and rubbed her knees. "Don't drop it," she said, "and follow me."

I slid my hands under the cardboard base and, carrying it like a birthday cake, walked behind her into the next room. I expected a living room or dining room, but found myself instead, in a two-story warehouse. Ceiling-high shelves stacked with identical boxes lined the walls and scores of square tabletops were covered with puzzles.

"Put it down here," she pointed to a puzzle twenty times the normal size in the same blue and green color scheme as ours.

"Amazing." I slid the puzzle in where it belonged and stood back to study it. "Part of a tree? I don't get it."

"Time to start the next one," she said and, taking a box from one of the shelves, bustled back into her kitchen with me trailing behind.

She dumped the puzzle onto the table and immediately began the process of sorting colors and searching for corners and edges.

"Can I make you a cup of tea?" I asked. Even accepting the strange warehouse in the next room, clearly the woman was obsessive and needed a break.

"If it will help you think."

"Help me think? Aren't you the one who needs to think? There are thousands of puzzles out there and they don't even make a picture! I mean, what's the point?"

She glared at me. "I don't mean to be unkind, but you've come a long way to find your answer and it will be dawn in less than an hour. You'd better concentrate and figure this out, young lady!"

The tea steamed while I fumed. Some night ride, wind up in an inner city slum, putting puzzles together with a crazy old woman who insults me. And what answer? I'd never asked a question!

"Jack Farley," she said.

"Excuse me?"

"Julia Cordoba."

"Look, I really have no idea what's going on, but I'll help you finish this one and then I've got to go."

She took a sip of tea and fit a nice size piece into the frame. "Oh. Peter Jennings."

"He just passed away," I said.

"Yes, he was a good news reporter. You know, it's said, that people reveal themselves in the first few things they say to you."

I hardly knew what to reply, but it was obvious either the names had some significance or she'd gone over the edge, since she was, by this time, almost chanting them. Now and then she looked up at me as she said a name and then-------- without warning---------- I heard my own.

"What did you say?" I asked and suddenly in my mind the pieces tumbled into place!

She watched silently as I staggered to the table and sat. I found I had to talk, to verbalize what I'd just come to terms with, even though I knew we both understood it perfectly.

"My question was about loosing hope wasn't it?"

"It was one of the first things you said," she acknowledged. It's why you came tonight even though you didn't know it yourself."

"Too much communication nowadays. We hear and see it all, the violence, the hatred, the tragedies. How does anybody stay sane? Keep from being depressed? How do we make things better"

She scooped up some pieces. "Ivan Boradin, Molly Turner, Jason Masterson, Kimberly Stevens, Francesca Multi, Emily Ho, ordinary people around the world doing the best they can at whatever they do, trying to make a difference." She picked up my piece and dropped it in my hand.

"It's pretty small, I saw larger ones."

"Your life's not over yet. Try harder, make it grow. Work within your faith, be kind, encourage. Come into the warehouse a minute. I need to show you some things."

I wandered with her from table to table, scrutinizing the giant puzzles that were formed from the little ones the old woman put together in her kitchen. She pointed to some of the larger pieces and named them. On the blue table, Eli Wiesel, Carl Sagan, John Glenn. On the yellow table I saw a piece that almost looked familiar.

"Vincent Van Gogh," she told me. "I worked in Thoughts and Quotes for a time before they sent me to Visuals. One of my favorite quotes was his, pretty much answers your question. 'So instead of yielding to despair, I chose the part of active melancholy. I preferred the melancholy that hopes and aspires and seeks to that which despairs in stagnation and woe ' Brave man Van Gogh.

"On another tack," she continued, "I'm basically in the middle, as far as production is concerned, me and thousands of others. When those last two tables are finished somebody'll come by to pick everything up and take it to be assembled into the whole."

"It must be something to see!"

"Oh, no one ever sees that except the Creator." She crossed to a window and pulled back the curtain. "Now one last bit and you need to get going. The stars are beginning to fade. I don't suppose you brought your glasses with you?"

"Of course," I started to reach for my purse, "I can't read a thing without them."

"No, not those. The ones the Enchantress gave you. Well, you'll have to use them when you return. The vision never lasts more than a few seconds, so make sure you don't blink."

She led me to the door and stood on the porch steps with me while I waited for Shadowfoot to cross the deserted street. To my surprise, I felt a wave of sorrow wash over me as I turned to leave.

"Do I know you?" I whispered.

"We almost met once, but that wasn't our time, nor is this. Some day, when our work is over, we'll be great friends." She kissed me affectionately on the cheek and reached over to give Shadowfoot a pat then watched us ride off into the morning mist.

It had been an exhausting night and when I returned to my room the sun was high in the sky. Paisley was still asleep and all I wanted to do was lay down and pull the covers over my head, but there was one thing I had to do first. I opened the draw string bag the Enchantress had given me and took out the special glasses.

I held the tiny puzzle piece in the palm of my hand. Such a small, inconsequential life I thought and, reminding myself not to blink, I watched it split into thousands of interlocking pieces that showed the days of my life and each of those splintered into kaleidoscopes of rainbows and colors and flowers and faces and mountains and lovers and raindrops and words and kite tails and sunsets and trees and butterflies and grandparents and kittens and . . . . . . . . . and . . . . . . . .

Night Ride - Simone Crowther

Scarlet drops of blood lay glistening. Slowly, they began coalescing: forming muscle fibres, skeleton, organs, flesh, finally hair. It was like watching foetuses grow at high speed in the womb. Then it was over. Thirteen glistening wild mares stood pawing the ground, flashing eyes and gnashing teeth. No sane person would go near them but this wasn't a sane world, so I approached the last one at the far end. Coal black with a tiger stripe down her back. She was trembling with a sort of barely suppressed irritation. Her eyes rolled in her head and she looked like she wanted to kill someone. With a stab of the heart and an inner certainty, I knew she was mine. I put out a tremulous hand which she snorted at and then deigned to sniff. Emboldened, I twisted my hand in her ropy, bristling mane and climbed on her back. She reared and I thought it was all over.

Enormous fiery wings opened up beneath my skirt and she shot into the air like a bat out of hell. I cling to her neck as she rockets upwards with furious speed. The world reels. Stars become silver streaks as she rides the Mistral Wind of Desire and we lose ourselves in the flight. This is no Pegasus, this is Nightmare Herself, demon horse of spectres and divine fury.

Something uncoiled in my stomach as I caught her riotous rage. Yessssss! I screamed as I gave myself to the storm.

Madness wells up inside of me, fury possesses me. I am a maniac driven by an insane rage that seems to belong to the very earth herself. We are not alone, there are other Furies riding this night. I see them in the distance riding the knife edge of the storm, all filled with deadly purpose. As one, we howl with banshee laughter, with glee. For tonight is Walpurgis Night and tonight we are free. We are here to set the balance right, to hunt the hunter and right wrongs long left to brew.

Suddenly I realize that we are not alone. The air is peopled with winged things and the atmosphere tingles with electric anger. Harsh, furious forces of nature fill my soul, threatening to tear it apart. Mage fire crackles from my finger tips and joy bubbles up inside of me.

I stretch my hands forth and bright white lightning crackles forth. We strike trees and the earth itself in explosive bursts of incandescent built up energy. Trees split apart in agony and the earth itself splits open in response. A host comes from that newly made chasm... A baying, yelping surge of hell hounds. White luminous canine shapes of energy with red tipped ears and burning terrible red fire eyes.

We see him, the huntsman and hurtle after him, shrieking with lunatic laughter that wells up from our depths. We thrust the proud hunter from the sky and tear him to bits. Each claiming a bit of our own - reclaiming our power that built him. The balance is restored. Exhausted and spent. All is calm.

Ride With Care - Anita Marie Moscoso

Before I leave for my Ride tonight I wanted to share this bit of real life Lore to remind you that Heather's interview with the Gorgon isn't JUST an interview and that the Gorgon's story isn't JUST a story.

There is a tribal Elder from The Makahs ( who attended a meeting back in June to discuss earthquakes and tsunamis with FEMA (federal emergency and management agency) officials.

The Tribal Elder's name is Helma Ward.

Her story is a warning for us all living here in the Pacific Northwest: " The stories say this has happened before and will happen again" Helma is quoted as saying.

She’s talking about catastrophic earthquakes.

Because her warning come in the form of ‘ storytelling ‘ no one was listening. A very dire warning and a detailed account of a truly devasting event were disounted as ' fairy tales '.

Now scientists are paying attention because science is finding evidence her story actually did happen:

One winter the Makahs were starving and held at bay (they were fishermen) by harsh weather.

The Thunderbird (who was of monstrous size and caused lightning when it opened and closed it's eyes ) decided to help them and rose up out of the Olympic Glacial Field and attacked the whale in a battle that tore apart the land, caused the volcanoes to erupt and when it was done the Thunderbird delivered the whale into the river in a large wave.

This isn't just a story about a mythical battle, its a very detailed description of an earthquake (the Thunderbird) and the resulting tsunami (the large waves...remember what happened in India? When the tide went out and all the fish and sea life that was left behind and the kids ran after them? ).

According to Helma's Grandfather there really WAS a whale in the river and no one knew how it got there. According to other accounts other tribes found numerous sea life and whales on dry land after this 'battle'.

( From The Makah Reservation )

Scientist have only recently discovered that in 1700 a huge earthquake whose impact was felt in Japan hit our Pacific Northwest. One of the areas that would have been horribly impacted by this quake was the area where Helma’ s tribe lived.

Helma’ s Tribe has this story and in their tradition of storytelling have known about this event all along... which is why Helma doesn't allow her Grandchildren to catch their school bus in this place where ' the ground was made bad "

Legends aren't just stories...remember that tonight when you ride out.

Night Riders

After Heather's interview with the Stheino and Eurayle(The Gorgons)they pronounced Heather Gorgophone, or Gorgon Slayer. The Gorgons are new women, with a spring in their step and they want me to tell you to ignore that trickster bird, disguising himself as Minerava, who has been spreading paternalistic nonsense around the House of the Serpents, alarming everyone. If the River Duwamish is dying it is not because Heather has interviewed the Gorgons. It is because of practices upstream which must be stopped.

But I digress! Which I have no doubt Minerva intended. After the interview Steino took thirteen droplets of blood from their coral throne and carefully dropped them in thirteen stables. Horses have risen, snorting, offering to take travellers for 'night rides'.

If you want to join in the fun go to the stables and find your horse. You will know her. She will take you anywhere you command.