Chapter Twenty One V
I don’t see why schools create cheating opportunities. Assigning homework that can be cribbed is one stupid idea. At Chapmans, we don’t do ‘hand it in’ homework. Nor do teachers stand in front of the class and lecture for fifty minutes. We do it in reverse. The teacher’s lecture is online. Students listen at home, then come to class with their questions. Once a week, there’s a detailed test. The instructor is in the room, paying attention, not reading papers or filling out forms. Students either answer the questions correctly, or they don’t. There are no surprises, there will be a test. Amazing how much they learn.
In the mornings, we rise early, at five, have coffee or tea, then Janah and Nikko mental, choppy, a word or short phrase.
Nikko hears, “__ __ tea.”
She mentals, “¬__ more tea?”
“J___ ___more tea.”
I bring more tea, Nikko had heard and her brain filled in the blanks pretty well.
Janah, “Be mindful that sometimes your brain will fill in the spaces with the wrong information. For instance, I might have been saying ‘no more tea.’”
“We did that at first, but as you know Janah almost always wants more tea, your head filled it in correctly. Obviously it doesn’t matter on small things, like if we miss do instead of don’t.”
Nikko, “I understand. If it is something important, do not assume.”
“Yes. For anything that has to do with social work, or Dark Ones, don’t rely on mentaling until you have it down cold. In the middle of handling a problem, we can’t have misunderstandings. When you get it fully, it will become apparent that mentaling is much simpler, much clearer and instantaneous.”
Nikko, “I understand, may we practice a few minutes more, something simple?”
We mental back and forth, laugh at our mistakes. Nikko thought Janah said to give her a bath, when Janah had actually said time for a bath.
Then I correct the mistake, but Nikko picks it up that she should take a bath.
Nikko is laughing at herself, “Even though I know Daphne understands I don’t want to sit in a tub, I heard the message incorrectly. It puzzled me even more because I never take a bath, only shower.”
“When we began it was harder because we had never been together, we had to learn each other’s preferences. Janah and I mental all the time, now you can learn by trying to listen in.”
Janah, “It’s easier to receive than transmit. Just try and pick up what you can. If you get tired, and you will, drop it. Your head will throb, your brain is stretching, growing pains. When we’re out, I don’t need you out of focus.”
Nikko, “No practice on the street.”
“Even in the temple, short sessions only. I need you fully aware when we leave the temple and come home. Once we’re home, take it as much as you wish. I found that after a night’s sleep, it’s okay the next morning. Actually, when we were learning, we slept like bricks because the practice takes so much energy.”
Janah in the tub, Nikko and I shower together, it’s early, seven, Nikko is going to see Sis. Janah and I are going to lounge. We’ll go to the Village Diner for lunch, been a while since we’d seen Mini and Chuck. Ning and I are cooking for the family tonight.
Nikko leaves, I cover my girl in lavender lotion, and do her toes and fingernails. Janah sits and takes it like a woman. The satellite radio is on, I’m into industrial electronica, but it isn’t blasting. Just a funky dance background with a harder edge. Nine Inch Nails is complaining about something,
When Nikko returns, Janah is stretched out on the mat, head on a pillow, in her delicious altogether. I’m chopping shallots in the kitchen in preparation for the sauce I’ll make later. Nikko comes up behind me, wraps her arms around the my waist, kisses my neck tenderly.
“What did you guys do?”
Nikko, “We went over the books. Janah is waiting on the mat to be taken. I think I’ll take her. You’ve been pampering her, she’s all warmed up. She looks creamy delicious.”
“I have more preparations here. Stop and listen, do you hear her?”
Nikko is still, ‘Daphne’s teasing touch has me worked up and wet. Come and taste, bring the toy,’ “Yes! It’s clear. Oh my, it’s so beautiful to feel her inside my head.”
Nikko kisses my neck again, “Janah calls, Nikko must answer.”
A few minutes later, I hear the most incredibly sensual moans coming from my other. I feel Nikko’s tongue on Janah’s softness, very, very slowly, tongue tease, intermittent bursts of soft kisses. Janah is squirming in a long gentle orgasm. Nikko ups the intensity. Soon Janah is gasping, delirious, as Nikko takes her creeping up to the top, the slow climb up a high roller coaster, building anticipation, then over, then a pause, the part just after reaching the pinnacle and before the sheer thrill of the screaming weightless drop; the subsequent twists and turns, smaller ebbs and flows of a really good ride, then the car comes to a stop, Janahs heart pumps hard, she falls back on the pillow.
Janah, “I’m taking Nishiko into the bedroom and giving her anything she wants, and some things she doesn’t yet know she wants, at least an hour. Can you find something to do?”
“I’m going to pick up things for tonight. Maybe Ning wants to get out for a bit. Have fun.”
Nikko, “I got part of it. You’re going to take advantage of young Japanese girl while Daphne goes to store.”
Janah, “You are learning. Get out of those clothes and into the bed. I have a plan.”
**so now, intelligent reader that you are, you have figured out that the italics might include Nikko as well as Janah and me. Advances must be made, and they will be.
Chapter Twenty Two V
Quit the control freak stuff. Delegate. Give people a chance to make mistakes. You’ll find out they actually have good ideas you hadn’t thought of.
“I’m liking the Martial Arts Inn and Spa. I’m thinking of staying here for a while.”
“Don’t get too spoiled, there’s a voice mail from Mrs. E. It’s not only about work, they set us up for the retreat two weeks from now.”
Nikko, “___ a ___focusing ___ irst.”
Janah, “Very good Nishiko. You caught all the transmissions, and we got most of your reply.”
“We need to send Chan and maybe Black if he feels up to it. It’s pretty close, in Maryland, outside Baltimore. Just when I thought the world couldn’t get any more bizarre, it got more bizarre.”
“What’s the problem?”
I hesitate, Janah reads my thought, “Human sacrifices? Children?”
Nikko, “I wan__ go.”
“So do I, but Chan and Black need the challenge. To figure it out and deal with it on their own, no Janah, no Nikko slicing off everyone’s head.”
Nikko fakes a pout, “___fun for __ikko.”
Janah, “Nikko can work out with Daphne, and make sure her buildings are in order. We have a month long retreat in two weeks, you need to make sure business is taken care of.”
Nikko, “Mayb__ Sis can___ in.”
Janah, “Sis, Lacy and Chris are going with us. Mrs. Fong can run the buildings for a month.”
Nikko breaks out into a silly grin, which means her lip curls up a half millimeter.
Yes, we’re going to make the moms go along. They haven’t had anything like a retreat. The place is big enough, we had a spare room last time.
Janah returns Mrs. Epstein’s phone call. Then she calls Chan and Black and asks them to be at the Epstein’s at noon.
We go to the Village Diner to see Mini and Chuck.
“Hey Mini, the girls are here, they lookin’ pretty hungry.”
“Give ‘em somethin’ to drink, I’ll have them set up in a minute.”
I’d taken a first sip of Chuck’s perfect coffee, plates of food appear, an omelet full of vegetables and cheese, pile of fries, wheat toast and a bowl of fresh strawberries, blueberries and cantaloupe.
The food is stacked in the middle of the table, Chuck puts empty plates in front of the us, “Share and share alike. And make Nikko eat something, I can barely see her from the side, she’s like a shadow.”
Nikko stares at him, Chuck grins, “That stare don’t mean nothin’ to me girl. I’m one of the good guys. Just eat.”
I laugh, “She’ll eat today. We work out later, trust me, she’s going to need the calories.”
Nikko takes a scoop of fruit, then a second, cuts off a slice of omelet and a piece of wheat toast.
Chuck, “Ah, makes my day. Anyplace can get Nikko to eat has to have good food.”
Chuck walks off smiling, Mini slides into the booth next to Nikko, takes one of the fries and drags it through the ketchup on my plate, “Man I make good fries.”
“You make good everything. How’s the world treating you handsome?’
Mini, “Better now that you guys show up more often. That stretch when you were in the temple full time was rough. Of course, I had Susan and Miss Chris and their pal Lacy to help me make it through.”
“That’s the same thing they said about you and Chuck. It’s good to have friends in the neighborhood. And now, we have a favor to ask.”
Mini, “Name it.”
Janah, “It’s pretty simple. Check up on dad and Kara every so often. The rest of us, including the moms and Lacy are going to Canada for a month. Dad can’t get away, and K-mom has a showing right after we get back, which means she’s going to be busy setting up.”
Mini, “When are you leaving?’
Janah, “Two weeks to the day. Basically all of July.”
Mini, “Do I go over, call, or what?’
Janah, “Send lunch over for K-mom, or she won’t eat, send enough so dad can have something for dinner.”
Mini, “Don’t worry, nuttin’s happening to your people while you’re outta town.”
Janah, “Thank you.”
Mini, “Fagitaboutdit. You bein’ a good daughter, lookin’ out for your folks. You’re good kids, not kids no more, but still.”
The food has disappeared. Janah did the major part, but I made a significant contribution. I wrap up my second cup of Chuck’s Greek coffee.
We pay the bill and head to Chinatown, stop to see Mrs. Fong. Janah explains the retreat, and asks Mrs. Fong to make sure that Ning’s family is watched over during our absence.
Mrs. Fong, “Nothing goes wrong at Shan residence. Do not say anything to them about watching. Let them lead normal life. No problems. I will handle buildings, good for old lady, I get lazy, dear Nishiko takes care of everything.”
Janah and I go to the temple. While I instruct, Nikko makes the rounds of the properties, and Janah delegates responsibilities to various disciples. She reaches out to Master Kahn.
“We will be gone all of July, not completely out of touch, I have a satellite phone,” she gives him the number, “Call on the other masters as you need them. You are in charge if anything arises out of the ordinary. I will make it clear that you are acting Abbott. I apologize for adding this to your work. Sung can be consulted if necessary.”
Kahn bows, “Since the intrusion of the ninja, we are more diligent. Enjoy your retreat, and bring us the inevitable new insights you will find there.”
Janah bows and Kahn leaves, she mentals me, “Everything is in order. I’m turning everyday matters over to senior disciples so they are comfortable with their role before we leave.”
Chapter Twenty Three V
Chris, “My God, what a splendid place. Your description didn’t do it justice. The lake is so blue, it matches your eyes, the clarity is astonishing. No wonder Chan and Nikko park themselves on the dock. I’m going to park with them. I gotta get out of town more often.”
“I think C-mom likes it.”
Susan, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Lacy so spellbound. She’s barely said a word. Thank you for including us, what a contrast to our busy city.”
“I’ll help Ning with tea and snacks, we have vegetable soup for dinner. If C-mom wants to try her hand at fishing, maybe there’ll be grilled fish, otherwise it’s a month of vegetarian. Janah found a lot of edible mushrooms and berries last time, root vegetables and greens we can sauté. We’re going to live partially off the land this trip, get ready to forage tomorrow.”
Chris, “I’m getting the pole and finding some crickets. Let’s see what I come up with. I have no idea about fishing, but it will be fun just to stand there and enjoy the lake.”
Janah, “Take the net and snag minnows around the edge of the dock. The trout and walleye will bite on those. You may have more luck early in the morning.”
Susan, “I’m going with her. Give me the net, I’ll get us a jar full of minnows and we’ll see what’s what.”
Janah, “Work your way down the lake, away from the dock. Just cast the line out and slowly pull it in. You’ll get the hang of it. Take a trotline, there’s one in the shed behind the cabin. If you catch fish, let them sit in the water until you’re ready to come back.”
Susan leans over dock snagging minnows in the net, transferring them to a jar of lake water. When she has twenty or so, she and Chris take the poles down thirty yards from the dock and separate a few yards apart. It takes only an hour. They have a line of crappie and two trout when they return to the cabin.
Chris, “That was fun! I’m a mess, I waded out a few feet into the water to get the fish in the net, that lake is freezing! Sis caught both of the trout, big ones, look.”
She holds up a pair of trout over two pounds each, and a line of white crappie that average a couple of pounds.
“Give them to me. I’ll filet and pan fry them.”
As the sun disappears, the family enjoys the freshest possible fish, vegetable soup and grilled mushrooms Janah found near the edge of the forest. Most of us are on the porch or the steps leading down to the lake with a glass of wine, Nikko and Chan on the dock with David Li. Miyako plays around near the bottom of the steps, inspecting every rock and plant she can find. This is an entirely new world for her, she is fascinated by it.
Lacy says softly, “I can’t thank you enough for insisting I come. I kept thinking about preparations for school, the things I ought to do. The importance of it left as soon as we got on the houseboat. It was like I was some other person in some other world.”
Ning, “It’s the feeling I had when we came several years ago. David Li was just getting his feet under him, actually he learned to walk here. Then Miyako was conceived here. Each year we talked about returning, but the first year went by with Janah’s new role as Abbess, and Nikko’s job, then we came only for a week the next year. Last year we couldn’t get away. Janah was determined nothing would stop us and we would make up for the lost years by staying a month. I can promise you one thing, I can’t say how, but you will be changed when you leave this place.”
Lacy, “What do you mean?’
Ning, “It will become apparent. I can’t explain, but it will happen to each of us.”
We sit and watch the darkness, what seems like billions of stars visible in the ink black sky. The silence is absolute, not so much as an insect. I’m on the railing that surrounds the porch. There is a whoosh, and the great horned owl is suddenly perched next to me on the railing.
“I see you have come back to us.”
“It’s been too long. Our lives are overcomplicated, we needed to see our friends again, to regain our sensitivity.”
“Your family is respectful of our place. And I see the child who speaks with us has grown. Does the young one speak our language as well?”
“Her skills are not those of her brother. She is learning three languages of humans, she will speak many languages, she has a gift for it. But not sensitive to the animals like the boy. Your brother, the Boreal, helped us in tracking ignorant ones. He has great respect for his great horned brother.”
“The Boreal is most intelligent. He knew instantly that you had been trained no doubt.”
“He told me you were not the sentimental type, and could have just as easily snapped my neck.”
The owl looks at me blankly, he has no other way to look, his eyes don’t move in their sockets like humans, they appear to be staring, “We kill to eat, not for fun. The Boreal was playing with you. they are quite mischievous. Good hunters for the city. They almost never reveal themselves to your kind. He saw you and recognized. One owl knows another.”
“It is a privilege to be part of the family.”
The owl says nothing for a time, “How long here ?”
I tell him.
“Come in three nights. I will help you. Not the boy, he is not a warrior, nor a killer. Let him play with the squirrels. The eagle will appear, he remembers his promise. His training is not so painful as mine. You are up to it?”
“I am your student, and his.”
The owl disappears into the night.
Ning asks David, “What did the bird tell Daphne?”
David Li, “She will train with him again in three nights, the eagle will come to improve her distance vision. Aunt Daphne is in for a busy vacation.”
Susan says to Ning, “I thought it might take a few days to begin to settle into the changes you spoke about. I’m already beyond my understanding.”
“Everything will happen as it will. More silence, more learning. Go with it. Anticipate nothing, have no fear. Nothing here will harm you, not the birds, not the snake, not the bear. They know we are not like the others. They will all teach us if we are silent and attend.”
Lacy, “What bear?”
Ning giggles, “Last time, a grizzly came out of the forest. Janah was on her rock, the one over there. She will sit there much of the time, often with David. The bear came out from that corner of the woods. He went directly to Janah. He sniffed her, put his huge paw on her shoulder, then he sniffed David Li. David climbed on his back and the bear gave him a short ride.
Chris, “Christ, weren’t you scared?”
Ning, “David was laughing so much I didn’t think to worry.”
Lacy, “Will the bears become too trusting of humans?”
David Li, “They would never trust humans. They can smell fear. The grizzly came because he was curious. He caught no scent of fear. He knows we are only dangerous when we are afraid or greedy. Then, they run away or attack. If the human is too near the family, they attack. They don’t attack for food, up here there is no hunger, they live in plenty. They don’t want to eat you, they prefer berries and greens.”
Janah, “Which I need to go and find in the morning so we can have something for lunch.”
Chris, “I want to fish again, first thing in the morning.”
Susan, “Me too.”
Nikko and Chan come up from the dock, “Owl came to visit I see.”
“Yes, he’s going to do more training, and promised the eagle would come. They don’t have schedules, but the owl said three more nights.”
Nikko, “After breakfast, we can go to our place up in the mountain. The moms should learn the way, so they can go when they wish to enjoy the pool and waterfall.”
Susan, “What pool and waterfall?”
“We’ll take you up there tomorrow, it’s a good hike, and worth it.”
The family is tired, a long day of traveling, a few adventures on the very first day. We’d stayed outside so long, there isn’t even a fire in the fireplace. Tomorrow perhaps.
In less than an hour everyone is collapsed into bed, snuggled under warm comforters, and the warm comfort of each other.
Chapter Twenty Four V
The visions that the mind can conjure up are so empty and dull; but when the mind does not build out of its own materials--memory and time-- there is that without name.
J. Krishnamurti, Commentaries on Living
When dawn breaks, Susan is on the dock with Nikko and Chan, cross-legged on a blanket. It’s damp in the early morning, brisk chill. Susan smells coffee, I appear with a thermos, and plastic insulated cups, Tervis Tumblers. Excellent for keeping hot, hot, and cold, cold.
I return to the kitchen, homemade biscuits in the oven, slow scrambling two dozen eggs. While they cook, I boil bush-cranberries Janah found, mash them for the juice and let it cool. It would make a good vitamin C rich drink. She has a bucket of black raspberries, after a good wash, I put them in a bowl for a snack. There’s a half bucket of evening primrose root that has to be boiled twice, then at some later meal, I’ll add stems and leaves for an evening soup, along with roseroot and wild mustard. Also a basket of violet flowers, out of which I can make tea.
The scent of brewed coffee gets everyone in motion, soon the table is surrounded, filling up for an active day, fluffy biscuits, grits, soft scrambled eggs, and raspberries. Ning and I clean up, Janah perches on her rock and is soon surrounded by friends, David Li on the ground in front of her, chattering away with two squirrels. The others spread out on the porch with second or third cups of coffee or tea, marveling at how Janah and David connect with an alternate universe where people talk to animals.
Nikko speaks to Miyako in Japanese, there are many new words to learn in the woods. She makes up a Japanese song about the boy who rode a grizzly bear, and teaches it to Miyako, they sing it together on the dock. Chris, Susan and Lacy walk the edge of the lake as far as they could, then return to the cabin.
Janah comes over from her spot, “Is anyone in the mood for a hike?”
Sis, “I’d like to see the waterfall.”
Janah, “We’ll pack a light lunch. Bring lots of water. It’s steep in parts. Mind your step, the path occasionally runs near drop offs, don’t want to lose anyone.”
“It’s also chillier up there. Bring a windbreaker, or layer up. I’ll organize packs with food and water.”
Chris, “You’re not doing every damn thing all trip. I’ll help. Ning has to get the kids ready.”
Fifteen to get ready, bit over an hour hike, we hit the waterfall, the terrain hasn’t changed, there’s a flat spot to settle onto, and boulders to climb on and take it all in.
The moms and Lacy are catching their breath in the higher altitude.
Susan, huffs, “Geez, this is a different feeling from just working out. I thought I was in good shape.”
Janah, “You are, the oxygen level is lower at this altitude.”
Chris is taking deep breaths, “It doesn’t seem to be bothering you guys.”
Janah, “The first time we came we had to adjust to the lower oxygen levels. Then it was easier the second time, even though we skipped a year. Easier even the third time, although we only came for a week. The body seems to remember to crank out extra red blood cells. You’ll get a little better each day. In a week it will seem normal. Just don’t press yourself the first few days, or you’ll feel faint and fall off a cliff. That will put a crimp in your vacation.”
Lacy’s, “Yes, I need to sit and let my lungs catch up with my heart.”
“Drink lots of water, tea counts, just stay hydrated.. When you’re feeling brave, take off your shoes and stick them in the water. It’s freezing, but it feels deliciously good after tramping up the mountain.”
Susan has her shoes off and dips them into the icy water, she screeches, “Oh God that hurts so good!”
I bring out lunch, sandwiches, pickles, nuts and lots of water and tea, then dark chocolate bars, they attack, “Maybe you could wait until I unwrap them. The paper and foil is going to be hard to digest.”
Lacy, “This relaxing vacation may kill me. Rest, I need rest, then I can make it down the hill.”
Which is exactly what we do, catnap to the sound of falling water and a chill breeze, delightful. It’s getting on to four o’clock.
We take our slow sweet time going back down. After showers, Sis breaks out wine and Chan prepares the fireplace for later. Tonight is grilled fish, with herb and olive oil baked potatoes.