Harmony in a Box – 04-03

“This wine is divine!  It tastes like s’more.”  Virginia said as she open-handedly wiped her face of a dribble of wine that had run from her cheek to her chin; the result of a splash as she had enthusiastically finished off her wine.  Her eyes danced with good humor.

With a puzzled look on his face Colin replied, “S’more?  I am not familiar with that word.”

With a devilish grin Virginia continued, “Yes this wine tastes like I need ‘some more’.”  She laughingly gave the punch line and we all laughed with her as none of us were familiar with the expression.

Colin motioned for the attendant to replenish our glasses. “The monastery has been growing grapes on this land for centuries. The wine you are enjoying is from a wine bottled in 1759.”

“1759? That’s the year Wolfe beat Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham.” I stated in an attempt to get into the conversation.

“Jamus, you know your history.” Colin remarked in an interested tone and he appeared pleasantly surprised.  He glanced over at the dining table. “Ah, dinner is served. I am sure you are all famished from your ordeal.”  Colin made a shallow bow in our direction and then motioned for us to take our places at the short table in the room.  Around the table were large embroidered pillows that were harnessed in a modest wooden frame.  Colin sat cross-legged on a smaller pillow atop a short wicker style bench.  Attendants brought bowls of soup to us.

“I don’t know what this is, but if it tastes half as good as it smells we got a winner.” Herb stated as he shifted himself into position at the table.

Virginia cocked her head to one side to smell the aroma coming from the bowl. She dipped her spoon into the bowl retrieving some of the steaming liquid.  She closed her eyes and pursed her lips and gently blew across the spoon before tasting the soup. “Mm mm delicious.”  She murmured to no one.  “I didn’t realize how hungry I was.  Aren’t these bowls beautiful!”

As the rest of the meal was brought out little else was said, except those necessary cordial mannerisms – excuse me, pass this, pass that. Dinner was served in various serving dishes placed in the centre of the table.  We were encouraged to take only what we wanted.  The place settings and serving dishes were simple yet very elegant.  I noticed the word “Discovery” on some of the ware.

Oddly, I ate very little. Every mouthful of food seemed fresh and alive.  I could feel my body extracting every morsel of nutrition from the food. The main meal having been served, we rested, semi-reclining on our pillows.  A warm cup of herbal tea was brought to us.

“This tea will help you sleep,” Colin advised as he watched us maneuver, looking for a comfortable position on the pillows after such a filling meal.

“Colin, what is it you do here?”  I asked, sipping the herbal tea; it had a pleasant licorice-coffee taste.

“Here at Harmony Monastery many monks devote their lives to the power of music, the harmony of the universe, and the vibration of life.  That is what we do here Jamus .”

Harmony in a Box – 04-02

“I am happy to see you all are well and able. Won’t you sit down and join me for a meal our cooks have prepared for you.” Extending his hand he motioned for us to sit at the table. “Thank you for joining me, I trust everything is in order.” Colin formally yet warmly addressed us.

“Yes everything is well,” I responded on behalf of us all, adding “My sincerest gratitude for your kindness and hospitality.”

“Of course, I am sure all of us have a number of questions for each other,” Colin replied with a half grin. “But first, would you care for a glass of wine unique to this Monastery?” He motioned the attendants to bring the offering anticipating our acceptance and indulgence. Finely chased chalices containing a honey coloured liquid were distributed to everyone.

”Here’s to us,” Herb raised his glass in a toast.

“To us!”  We raised our glasses in good cheer and the ringing of crystal resonated in the air like a finely bowed string orchestrating the next moment.

“I think that I can speak for all of us when I say that we are touched by your hospitality.“ Jitters broke the mood with a more serious utterance, having directed his conversation to Colin. “When do you think we can be on our way back home? I don’t mean to sound ungrateful; we’ll arrange payment for your generosity and hospitality. I trust, I hope, that you won’t take advantage of our helpless situation.”

Colin looked at Jitters and replied, “We would freely extend our services to you to help you on your journey, but at this moment I cannot say for sure when the next expedition is leaving the valley.”

“Is there a phone, computer, satellite dish, some way of getting a message out of here?” Jitters asked getting more aggressive with his tone. “I am sure all of us have family and friends that would like to hear from us.” Jitters looked at us trying to drum up support for his argument.

“I am sure there are many people that are worried and anxious to hear from you, unfortunately at this time we have little contact with the outside world.” Colin responded calmly with little regard for Jitters’ anxiousness.

“Well that’s just dandy!“ Jitters tone was decidedly sarcastic. ”We’re trapped in the land that time forgot.”

“Come my good fellow; things could be much worse.” Herb broke the tension in the room. “We all have someone to contact but given the circumstances, if a phone is our biggest worry then we are doing okay. I’d say we’re pretty damn lucky to be alive.” Herb raised his glass taking in a long breath, as the corner of his lips turn from concern to a genuine smile of jubilation. “God it’s good to be alive.”

Everyone raised their glasses in a toast to this statement, even Jitters, who, reluctant at first, lifted his goblet in acknowledgement. Consciously we make sure all our goblets touch which emitted another beautiful ring of sound into the air. Colin, too, raised his glass with a nod, distant yet a part of our celebration.

Harmony in a Box – 04-01

The excitement of renewed acquaintances was in the air as I entered the dining room. The occupants of the Monastery all seemed to arrive simultaneously; the air was filled with high pitched laughter and the shouts of loud voices from people filing into the dining hall.

“By Gads, it’s good to see your face and I don’t even know how long I’ve known you.” Herb motioned towards me extending his arms to embrace me. ”I feel like we are in some strange episode of Gilligan’s Island, but on real TV,” he said patting my back. An attendant offered us a heavy chalice filled with a warm red liquid.

“Strange isn’t the word!” Jitters walked towards me extending his hand in a friendly handshake.   I’ve never seen him embrace. He is always the businessman, talking on cellphones, making the next big deal, selling potential. “I’ve done some snooping,” Jitters told me, and in a loud whisper he continued, “I can’t find a phone, or a clock; I have no idea what day or time it is. The attendant seems to understand me, but doesn’t know what I’m saying. Just smiles and nods his head.”

Virginia spotted our little group and excusing herself from her new acquaintances, turned and headed in our direction. I take another sip from the finely chased goblet, savoring the flavor of its contents in my mouth while I watch Virginia make her way towards us. I reached out to embrace her and then took one step back to appreciate her beauty.  I smiled with admiration as I told her, ”My you look stunning for a person who has been to hell and back.”

Virginia’s shiny black hair looked radiant against her milky white complexion. In the candlelight I admired her beautifully embroidered full length dress. It was made of a fine white cloth that, from the backlight of the candles, gave a teasing glimpse to the form of her legs. Her blouse was velvet green with puffy sleeves . A beaded purple sash around the waist gave a gypsy flavour to her presence.

“Oh, my God can you believe this? I thought we were all doomed out there in that boat. Then we are rescued by those whales that turned into men. What about that unbelievable ride on the dog sled, to a palace in the middle of a lush valley somewhere in the Arctic. It’s more than a poor girl can take.” Virginia teasingly placed the back of her open hand to her head and pretended to faint. In a round of laughter we cheer her rendition and summary of the last few days.

The softness of the candlelight made the large room cozy, warm and intimate. The room was shrouded by gold stitched curtains with tassels that draped in arches on the walls. A large Persian rug, soft to the foot, was atop the mosaic tile. At one end of the room a large wide dining table with place settings seemed to appear from the shadows. I noticed Colin seated at the table on a large pillow.

Harmony in a Box – 03-10

“Come, come. Please. Are you ready?” A voice faintly echoed in the tiled room.

Startled I look around trying to recognize the voice and locate the sound. Looking over my shoulder I see an attendant motioning with his hand for me to come with him.

“Come. Please. Get ready. Dinner.” The attendant placed a bundle of folded towels and what looked like clothes on a chair just inside the doorway to the bath. Leaving the room with a half bow the attendant disappears behind the wisps of steam rising off the water. I stepped out of the bath, wrapping myself in a towel and take the clothes over to the bed. Fingering the fabric I noticed that the clothes were of a very fine cloth, in an assortment of bright colours, adorned by fine needlework and beads. The clothes although unusual, were loose and flowing and of a comfortable fit. The shoes provided were a soft hide decorated with beautifully coloured stitch ornamentation.

Fully clothed, I sat on the edge of the bed and stared out at the panoramic view through the French doors.   The doors framed a lush green valley encased by mountain summits. One particularly high summit had a snowcap that was picture perfect. The clouds in the background reminded me of scenes from mountain ranges in Quebec. I sat confused in a trance wondering am I in a surrealistic dream? Did I die in the storm? What is happening to me?

With a light tap on the door the attendant appeared and motioned to me, saying. “Follow me.” Walking along the hall I noticed the high ceilings were a white plaster fresco design. The walls were white stucco material and the floor was tiled mosaic in an assortment of patterns and colours. Now evening, the hall was undulating between light and darkness with images dancing off of the flames of the beautiful brass lamps which lit the passage. Our footsteps were silent in the corridor due to the shoe hide on tile.

Silently we walked along the corridor, my mind recognizing that I should be exhausted, however, revelling that, to the contrary, I was experiencing a feeling of rejuvenation. A kind of harmonious serenity was coursing in waves through my body. There was a subtle fragrance in the air that was foreign but pleasing, not overbearing. The gentle sound of chimes could be heard in the distance, radiating chirps of birth and hope. The attendant stopped at a large arched doorway and motioned me to enter the room, he made a half bow as I walked past him.

Harmony in a Box – 03-09

The attendant broke my reverie to motion me to a room off the bedroom. I followed him through an archway to the bath. I noticed a small room discreetly tucked into the wall behind the arch leading to the bath. In it was a low commode, primitive but suitable for my purposes. Opposite the commode room on the other side of the entrance to the bath was a low chair. The floor throughout was tiled in a beautiful mosaic that led right to the edge of the bath. The bath was sunken in the floor with steps that descended into the water like an ancient Roman bathhouse. Wisps of steam rose from the water’s surface. The smell of sulfur tingled in my nose. I deduced the bath water probably came from a natural underground hot spring. The smell and sight of the bath triggered a similar sense that I had at the hot springs in Banff, Alberta.

Cautiously I entered the bath, feeling the water, hot at first, but meditatively I lower my body into its womblike appeal. Lying in the bath, my body submerged, I cupped the water in my hands and lowered my head, allowing the water to slowly caress my face. I was overwhelmed at all the events unfolding before me. I was not even sure how much time had elapsed from the start of the sightseeing boat tour, the storm and rescue, ending with the journey to this monastery. Was it two, three days, a week? The timeframe was uncertain. Exhausted by the series of events and feeling intoxicated by my utopian surroundings, I rose to half chest in the water. I wave my hands away from me in the water. The ripples radiate away bouncing into the bath’s wall.

A very low sound starts to thrum in my mind, like the vibration of a large gong, without having heard it struck. Slowly and with increasing impetus it seems to vibrate and radiate from my very being. I hear the sound of my heart beating louder and louder with every breath. Ripples of energy radiate from my chest with each heartbeat. The bath water, no longer soothing, seems to get more turbulent with each beat. Visions of the storm and the giant waves danced in my mind.

Sounds seem to permeate from all around me, incorporating all frequencies, like white and black noises dueling with each other. Piecing high sounds, like hundreds of hospital monitors, tie up my cerebellum. Low vibrations, subsonic vibrations sounding like a thousand Tibetan monks chanting, daze me until lights are flashing behind closed eyes. Then quietly it passes and the feelings dissipate into the breeze as the sound of distant chimes dot the background. A fragrance titillates my senses as the waters lay still. Through my nose I draw a deep breath and fill my lungs and chest to their capacity, slowly I exhale to a total stillness. Cupping the water to my face I wonder what caused the hallucination that just absorbed me.