Chapter Forty Five
Oh Canada, isn't that the song? I don't know how it goes, we aren't into national anthems. But it is quite splendid here and a month out of stifling Manhattan in July is most welcome. Everything is unpacked and we are on the porch, afternoon sun sparkling the water to the east, shadows creep across the lake, soon to be dark as it sets behind the mountain to the west.
Janah decided a year ago to buy the place outright. The couple who owned it are elderly, it only rents a few months a year and is frozen in all winter. Nikko and Mrs. Epstein researched the value, five hundred acres of Canadian wilderness, a five thousand square foot cabin. The rental value is almost nil. Access is by boat, it operates off solar power, generators and propane. The couple said they wanted a million Canadian, Janah paid it with no counter. They are a dignified, kind couple, married sixty years, too old to deal with the cabin, kids have no interest, we were a godsend. Mrs. Epstein said the best guess of value was eight hundred thousand primarily because there was no road. We considered that a plus, paid the million gladly. Since no one rents it now, we did a major overhaul, upgraded to solar, have the generators in an underground bunker so deep there’s no noise or vibration at the surface. Propane runs the stoves and heats the cabin and water, we expanded the kitchen, added two bedrooms, installed new bathroom fixtures and rainfall showers. The couple, fishing guides who own a bait and tackle shop, continue to bring us over via houseboat, and keep us provisioned. They also arrange for maintenance. We gave them the money to upgrade their docks, buy a new houseboat and expand their store. They now have the biggest business on the lake. The deal is simple, keep the cabin in working order, no matter the weather, open it up and air it when we or our guests come up. Guide fishermen elsewhere. Seal it shut when unoccupied, lock down the storm shutters, send Nikko a bill.
They were ecstatic, like a gift from heaven, we get expert maintenance and watchful eyes on our property.
The place is pristine. Windows open, crisp mountain air flowing through, it's summer, solar operates everything, I don't need to fire up generators, stoves and ovens light instantly, the water is hot, fireplace is ready to be lit and a stack of cut, dry firewood is out back.
“Dang, Janah. The place is as good as if I'd done it myself. Everything, towels, toilet paper, linens, all fresh, the kitchen is stocked. Wine in the cellar, champagne in the fridge, they started the ice maker when they provisioned, it's full. Nothing is missing.”
“Nikko sends a detailed list, they check it off as it’s done. They make suggestions about stuff we might overlook, tackle, nets, rain gear, flashlights. They take care of it, Nikko pays instantly, no screwing them around on invoices. She doesn't care what they charge, she cares if the stuff is here when we are. Now that it’s ours, we’re coming more often.”
Chloe and Amaya are on the dock with Zi. Chloe is catching minnows in a net, determined to fish before the sun sets. She catches two small crappie and returns them to the lake. She's after bigger game and will stalk them in the early morning.
Amaya, “I do not understand why a perfectly adorable young lady wants to get up to her butt in lake water and stick a slimy minnow on a hook to catch a slimy fish. In a proper lady's world, fish is a white meat on a platter with an appropriate sauce and eaten with a fork.”
Chloe, “You’re such a sissy. I had a farm life. I beheaded chickens and plucked them for dinner. The dogs had pups in front of my eyes, slick with blood their mama licked off. A fish in water is clean by comparison.”
“Eeeewwww, Daphne, please tell the philistine that civilized people are preparing to eat dinner. I shall hear nothing more of headless chickens or....dogs.”
I turn to Chloe, “Civilized people are preparing to eat dinner and shall hear nothing more of headless chickens or...dogs.”
Chloe giggles, “As the Her Wimpiness wishes.”
I turn to Amaya, start to speak, Amaya says, “I got it. Thank you, some of us have delicate, cultured sensibilities. Please be mindful of your betters.”
I turn to Chloe, “Some of us have delicate...” Amaya smacks me with a spoon, “Enough wise guy, I know what you two are up to.”
Janah and Chloe are laughing, Nikko and Zi are out on the porch and missed our silliness.
Amaya smiles, “The fish smells marvelous, dinner soon, where is my cocktail, ah, here.”
“Two minutes, perhaps pour everyone a glass of wine.”
Amaya pours, Chloe puts out salad, a stack of fries and fried vegetables for our resident vegetarian. Girls dig in.
Amaya, “Oh God, Daphne, fresh fish is extraordinary. Sooo delicate, crunchy batter, flakes apart in my mouth.”
“Our caretakers were kind enough to give us some of today's catch in the fridge, they even filleted it for us. All I had to do was batter and fry.”
Nikko, “It is truly extraordinary. Ned and Marlene are coming to take Chloe fishing at some point. Since they have to get up at some ridiculous hour, I said they should stay here the night before, but they said they’re used to getting up before sunrise, I let it slide.”
Janah, “I'm sure they appreciate the consideration.”
I start the fire, and we settle onto the couch and floor, throw pillows and bolsters all over the place. The floors are hardwood, so I'd shipped a couple of folding martial arts mats up, they cover ten by twelve and give us a more comfortable floor encountering experience.
We zone out, Janah laying on the couch, I'm behind her. Nikko lays on the mat with her head in Zi's lap, Amaya's back is against the couch, Chloe is in front of her, enveloped in Amaya's arms. Affection permeates the atmosphere, the fire crackles.
A long travel day and the stillness of the woods makes for an early night, and by ten all the babes are in bed. Everyone sleeps with their fireplace pal. I don't know what the others get up to, Janah and I merge for an hour then sleep.
I wake early, do the morning beverage prep ritual and fire up the oven. Doing woodsy things suggests pancakes, it’s Canada, we have fresh maple syrup in the pantry. Frying a pound of bacon and the smell of coffee soon has everyone up and active. I thought Chloe was asleep, I get my morning surprise when she walks in from outside with a line of crappie and three fat Walleye.
Chapter Forty Six
Chloe, “Pancakes! Yay!” she ices the fish in the cooler out back.
Cook eggs to order, bacon, fluffy mega cakes, my crew eats like lumberjacks, I have to make another round of pancakes.
Janah, “Please put these on the menu at home, they are sooo good, loaded up with butter and syrup.”
They must have been something, Nikko ate two, six strips of bacon and basted eggs, “Daphne will have me looking like the bears.”
Janah, “I'm going to see if any friends show up.”
She goes to the big rock and settles cross legged, Chloe helps clean up. I sense being here has shifted her mode from being slavishly served by Amaya and me to doing for herself. A good way to try on new personae is travel someplace unlike where you live.
I start to fillet fish, Chloe says, “Let me do that. You made us a fabulous breakfast, go the porch and enjoy the lake, it is stunning this morning. I'll be along soon.”
Amaya, “What happened to the Princess?”
“She's having fun being different. When we get back home, she'll revert.”
“I hope so, I like taking care of her.”
“She knows that. So for now, like her taking care of her. I'm still content with my normal role, slave girl to Amaya.”
“Good thing. I have no intention of becoming self sufficient.”
“Then we are doubly content.”
We go to the porch, Nikko and Zi are on the dock soaking in sun and the stretch of crystal blue bordered by lush green, then the tree line breaks and it's rock to the top.
Janah has a bird on one knee and a squirrel chattering away near the other. Even after such a long time away, the children of the animals Janah befriended had been told stories of humans who knew how to listen. They come to see the legends their parent passed on. The squirrel bounces up Janah's knee and onto her shoulder. He's sitting facing backwards, flips his tail to her face, I hear her laughter. She is feeding grain to the bird, two more join, doves. The squirrel turns, doesn't want to miss a treat, she holds a palm of grain up to him. There's a shadow, the birds fly off, the squirrel bolts for the trees and my old friend the eagle lands silently on the rock. It is the young of my old friend, I go over to inquire.
Eagle, “Father is part of the sky now. He told me of you. Said if you come, to check your vision.”
An eye exam by an eagle.
“I am here.”
They aren’t much for fiddling around, “Do it.”
I sit next to Janah, the spear enters my brain, my eyes go blank, pupils dilate to the size of dimes. He putters around for five minutes, it's weird, not very painful. Then he withdraws.
Eagle, “Sharpened colors, the owl has added night vision.”
“Yes, it is most useful, I see ultraviolet light and can track at night with little light, no light with infrared.”
Chloe comes out of the cabin, goes to the dock and stands next to Zi, the eagle turns to them, “Two can see colors invisible to other humans, who are they?”
“Most perceptive, they are called Sensitives. They read energy fields that surround all things.”
The eagle flaps his enormous wings once, “Bring them to me.”
“Zi, Chloe, the eagle would like a word.”
They walk over, Chloe is staring wide eyed, the eagle says, “The child has more than color sight. Do you want me to adjust her? She will be able to navigate by magnetic current, it will also improve her acuity, she is capable of far more subtlety.”
“And the other?”
Eagle, “Not the same, good, no way to improve.”
Janah, “The child will not be hurt in other ways, no vision problems?”
The eagle flaps his wings again, like he's aggravated, “I do not offer better to make worse.”
Janah smiles, “We are her guardians, please understand.”
The eagle is silent.
“Chloe, the eagle says he can make improvements to your sight, your ability to read auras and give you a feel for magnetic currents. What do you wish?”
“I cannot turn down such a gift. I am most grateful”
Eagle, “She has understanding, you can learn from her, human.”
Janah, “I am finding that every day. How would you like to proceed?”
“She is strong. She has the look of a human who has overcome much. Yet, due to you no doubt, she is open and generous. She is more like you than you yet understand.”
“You are not separate from the Earth, nor all its life. You contain all. She is that.”
“Ah, I wondered, I thought it might be an illusion, a wish for her.”
“She is ripening, and must stay on the tree a while, that is all.”
Janah nods, “We will leave her with you.”
“It will take three or four times, three sunrises between.”
“How long each time?”
“Until she has had enough.”
Nothing to do with that but go along. What are we allowing to happen? Chloe is but fifteen, if the eagle is wrong, or goes too strong, her mind may be damaged, or her vision impaired. Impossible to say if it could be fixed. The other side is the eagle and owl had worked with me, and despite the pain of the process, I was given incredible sight, night vision and impossibly strong hands, arms and shoulders. And I didn't grow a beak, which hadn't occurred to me until just now, what if I had? Hoot.
“Chloe, what will be transmitted is different from what I was given. I can tell you my process was very painful.”
“More painful than getting punched and kicked by my not sister every day for years?”
“Good question, I don't know how you experience pain. Just be aware, the pain doesn't mean something is wrong. All I can tell you to do is sink into it, let it flow, focus on something else if you can.”
Chloe nods. We leave, I call up Nikko, we move to the porch. I explain what's going on. Nikko, Zi and Amaya can't understand the animals, I can only get the eagle and owl, whether Chloe will be able to is not clear.
Chapter Forty Seven
I think the process is as hard on us as it is Chloe. During that first hour, she gasps, screeches, although she’s seated, she pops up and down a few times like she's being electrocuted. In a way, she is. My stomach flips and flops, Zi is transfixed, Amaya weeps and has the urge to run to her.
“Don't. It is part of it and cannot be avoided.”
She stares out to the lake, doesn't want to go inside, doesn't want to watch.
Zi, “Her aura is entirely lightening. So bright, can you not see, it is unearthly in its vibrancy.”
At least she’s not smoking, no scent of scorched wire.
The eagle is aloft with one massive thrust from his six foot wingspan, soon high overhead. I am next to Chloe in an instant, she is collapsing. I carry her inside, put her in bed, douse the lights.
“Can you hear me?”
“Yes, my eyeballs throb, the pain was intense, it is subsiding slowly. Something cold, on my face.”
I lay my hand over her eyes, use cold qi, “Amaya, a gel pack please.”
I am so focused, I just then notice she's standing next to me with one.
“Under her neck.”
Amaya situates it, I continue to use cold hand for a half hour, Chloe falls asleep. I take out the gel pack, close the door.
“Amaya, go to her in an hour, if she's asleep, do nothing. If she stirs use cold hand lightly, cooling not cold. If her head hurts, another gel pack underneath, not on her face.”
Amaya nods, staring at the closed door, “I wish to sit with her. I'll be silent, not disturb.”
“Better. Your presence will comfort her sleep. If she wakes, don’t let her rub her eyes.”
Amaya goes inside, the door shuts.
I turn to the others, “Nothing to do. Worrying won't make her better faster. Her pain is easing. Wasting the day is not what she would have us do when we could be celebrating the gift of the eagle.”
I know Nikko is thinking 'if it is a gift,' but she won't dampen spirits by saying it out loud.
We spend the day walking the woods, a few animals come around, birds follow Janah from tree to tree, sing cheerfully, telling her all is well. She relays the message to us and we have an enjoyable walk along the edge of the lake, detours into the forest to pick berries and mushrooms.
Nikko stays near the cabin, Zi, Janah and I return after three hours, a big bag of mushrooms. Two quarts of blackberries. I dump the mushrooms out and wash them, then the berries.
Amaya, “Chloe wants up.”
“Good sign, remember, no rubbing eyes.”
I hear bathroom things through the closed door, then they emerge, Chloe has a gentle smile, comes to me for a long hug, blinks at me. She used to blink up at me, now just at me. Her eyes are clear, I peer in deeply, the violet has deepened, not dark, more saturated around her pupils. I never thought eyes could be as stunningly amazing as Janah's sapphire blue, Chloe's have an edge on that.
She smiles, “I see shades in the snowy violet, layers. They didn't appear to me before, something happened for sure.”
“Only slight, dull, no stabbing pain like the process.”
“Take a walk with Amaya, out to the pier, up and down the lake. Don't strain, just see what comes without trying to describe it in any way.”
She kisses the others for their concern, she and Amaya leave.
“Well, she's not blind, and her perception of the aura has deepened somewhat.”
Zi claps her hands, “How glorious. I trained for years for more color subtlety. She will surely surpass me now.”
“After our long walk, I could use a shower, Zi?”
We strip, head to the shower, are soon shampooed, rinsed and lathered with soap. I'm lathered after lathering her and push her gently against the wall and kneel. Warm water falls down Zi and over me while I do my thing until Zi shudders her appreciation…. mission accomplished. We dry, lay on the bed with towels around our heads. Zi decides I need a healthy orgasm. She tastes tai chi style, then revs up and soon I vibrate my own gratitude. She slides up my body, roll side by side and we nap.
Just as I'm fading, I peek into Janah's mind. Through her eyes, I can see Nishiko's flat tummy. Well, we can figure out what she's doing to contribute to girlbal warming.
I'm up in an hour, feeling delicious.
Afternoon tea and a snack, nuts and cheese. Amaya and Chloe return ravenous, after a big breakfast, we didn't do lunch. They go off to shower, we are back on the porch with a second cup of tea.
I catch the tiny grin on Nikko's lips, Janah's body is a galactic playground Nikko visits often. She likes having Janah to herself, Janah doesn't seem to mind at all.
Amaya and Chloe are taking their time, I click on the Amaya channel long enough to see the top of Chloe's head in a slow yes motion, then see her eyes looking up at Amaya without missing a yes, I click off as Amaya starts verbally yessing to Chloe's physical yeses. Suddenly, I'm feeling quite positive.
Zi, “Your aura glows in affirmation.”
Zi, “Then Chloe is doing well.”
“Chloe is in the clouds sending Amaya into the stratosphere.”
Nikko, “Privacy is a lost concept around here.”
“Privacy is overrated. How can we enjoy everyone if we don't..enjoy everyone?”
“Daphne logic to rationalize snooping.”
“Daphinity, divine wisdom of the female.”
“Divine nosiness of the bad Shaolin.”
They laugh at me, I fulfill my role yet again.
Amaya, “Fulfill your role by drying my hair.”
I go to her bedroom, she is blasting Chloe, I fire up another dryer and blast her. Brushes brush, hair is soon soft silky dry.
I start to dress Amaya, Chloe says, “I'll do it, you can pull out something for me.”
She pulls up Amaya's shorts, stops to plant kisses on her legs, slips on her platforms, stands and pulls a t-shirt over her.
Chloe, “My turn,” I repeat the process for Chloe, she winks at me, “Good student,” I get a lovely long kiss for my trouble and the feel of Chloe's long tongue in my mouth.
“Can I undress you and start again?”
Chloe strokes my cheek, “Soon,” the promise is not lost on me, my heart dances.
Chloe grins, “Ah, just the aura I was looking for, bright purple bordered by a dark green lust. I am the royal purple, you are the lust.”
“I'm good with that.”
Chloe kisses me again, “As am I.”
Another heart flutter, Chloe giggles. She takes Amaya's hand and they go first to the kitchen to make a drink, Chloe decides to try one, Amaya makes hers with vodka, lots of ice, an olive and cocktail onion, skips the tart bitters she likes. Then out to the porch to dazzle everyone else. I go to the kitchen to pan fry fish and sauté mushrooms in butter and garlic. When the meal is ready, the girls come in, I open wine and pour, they devour.
“If everyone will find a spot in front of yon fireplace, I'll serve blackberries and cream, well, half and half, we are in the back country after all.”
Nikko adds wood to the fire, it's at a nice roar as I hand out big bowls of blackberries sprinkled with cane sugar and just warm half and half.
Chapter Forty Eight
Our trip is its normal abnormal. We visit the falls, climb past them, steep and rocky, to the top of the mountain. It's a eagle's eye view, the valley beneath, our crystal blue lake, peaks and more peaks, snow clinging to the caps. It takes all day so we camp out, even Nishiko and Amaya, who dislike the entire concept of dirt and no running water. For them, the river doesn’t count as running water. It starts from a collection of snowmelt as a stream about a quarter mile down.
The star show is near blinding. With my vision, it is like a sheet of white diamonds. Chloe says she sees colored light radiating from them, colors she cannot name, they aren't colors humans can see. If we hadn't been beat from the hike, we might have stayed up all night. We sleep past sunrise, make our way down.
Amaya surprises me. I knew despite her griping that Nishiko would adapt and endure, she is samurai after all. But Amaya climbed, got scraped up, hiked the mountain, slept in the near freezing night and kept pace on the way down, even during the final dicey descent alongside the falls. Lose your footing and shoot straight down, with the fun of bouncing off rocks along the way. She did exactly that, and despite bruised ribs and a twisted wrist, sucked it up and finished the descent unaided. I admire her tenacity.
Amaya, “What did you expect? Chloe was beaten near daily as a child, has undergone two painful treatments from the eagle, faces one more and has not complained once. After what she’s endured, how can I whine about bruised ribs?”
“She instructs by her presence. Good student to learn from observation instead of being told all the time.”
Amaya, “I learn from you, Janah, now from Chloe. And I am grateful for it.”
“I am privileged to serve.”
Amaya tries to be stuffy with a, “Yes, you are,” but her pain interferes with the act, she giggles instead, “quit being ridiculous and come treat my injury.”
Which I do, aided by yet more frozen blue packs. We take the subsequent day to recover. Chloe fishes while Amaya and I watch, Nikko and Zi tour the property, walking stretches of woods we'd never visited, Janah has a stream of birds, squirrels, an owl, a huge black bear comes to visit.
Ned and Marlene call, tomorrow Chloe goes fishing around the lake. Amaya wants to go, to keep an eye on Violet Princess, Amaya would freak if anything happens and she isn't there.
Janah, “You going? If something goes wrong, Amaya doesn't have your skills and Nikko will be like a cat on coals with them gone without a guardian.”
“Of course, I’m not letting them out of my sight.”
It’s easy duty, Ned and Marlene have steered that boat around the lake for forty years. I have nothing to do but enjoy incredible scenery and the delight of Chloe as she snags fish after fish. Amaya is as giggly in seeing Chloe's joy as Chloe is in catching fish.
Ned, “Never seen the like. Every spot we go, she snags a Walleye. I've had to drag customers to half a dozen spots to get a nibble some days.”
“She is one of those rare people.”
Marlene, “She's got a gift, her exuberance is like a virus, a good one, it catches you and you're caught up in it. Miss Daphne, you bring special people up here, I don't know how exactly, but over the years I got clues.”
“And how do you read the clues?”
Marlene, “Janah. She's got a spark inside, never knew nobody had such until she come along. Then along comes...”
“That child. We marvel at it. We're plain folk up here, we don't know much about the city world.'
“Ms. Marlene, the city world would never catch on to Janah and Chloe. Only people who are part of nature, real nature, here in the wilderness, would catch the scent. Creatures of the forest.”
Marlene, “So you know?”
“Janah speaks to them daily. The eagle gave me his sight, the owl his night vision, hearing and grip. The eagle expanded Chloe's vision, and she can already tell you what your mood is, and what you plan to do next, before you know it yourself.”
Marlene has tears in her eyes, “I never thought to see such a one. Since you and Miss Janah have been coming, I hear the whisperings. I feel the flow of the conversations, not the exact meaning. I told Ned that the animals have a special feeling for you.”
Ned, “I used to think my old gal was losing it. Talking birds. Consider myself a practical man. I finally got inklings, at least enough to shut up and listen. I swear, sometimes I think the insects are talking to the flowers.”
“All nature is communicating, freely and in joy, except humans. Humans suffer from the delusion they communicate on a higher level. They don’t understand anything, all communication in words is on a lower level, miscommunication most of the time.”
Ned looks off into the distance, Marlene says, “I don't know how much longer we can run this place, Miss Daphne. Our two kids got no interest in this life. We do the best we can, but it won't be long until we can't do it anymore.”
“What if I send up people who would love to learn the business? You teach them, they do all the work.”
“Where you going to find that these days? It's a solitary life, most days it's repair, maintenance, take customers fishing, back and forth to cabins. Busy for weeks, then nobody for weeks. Winter time, it's raw cold, and snow up to the roof.”
“Miss Marlene, I know people who would find such a life pure joy.”
“We can't pay them much. It would sure be a help to have a strong back and a willing attitude.'
“We are going to send you two people, they will require no pay. We will pay for their room and board plus a salary for you. Teach them what you know. Fair enough?”
Ned, “Miss Daphne, you can do this?”
Chloe, “Mr. Ned, Daphne can do anything.”
After a dozen Walleye, Chloe throws back fish, then quits altogether and we cruise the lake for another two hours, absorbing the beauty and chatting with our guides.
Chloe describes the consequences of her encounter with the eagle, “The eagle's vision is acute, he sees farther and with more clarity than humans. He also sees in color, and the wavelengths of color are far wider. I see colors I have no name for, no human we know of has seen them, except Daphne I suppose. Not just combinations of the seven primary colors, but colors we cannot see, and combinations of those. I have to integrate those colors into my vision. For instance, I see the green leaves as green, just as you do, the blue lake is blue. With eagle eyes, I see layers of color on the lake, ripples in the water I could not see before, designs on the leaf I never knew were there.”
Ned, “We're ten minutes from your dock. Gives me chance to thank you for all you're doing for us.”
“Mr. Ned, it is our pleasure to know you and Miss Marlene. Soon, less than a month, you will hear from Janah or me. Then friends of ours will call, at least two, perhaps four will come to visit. Talk with them, take them around the lake, whatever you decide is fine with us. If you need additional accommodations, let Nishiko know. Our cabin is too far. We’ll put them up locally. If you’re satisfied, we’ll buy or build a home for them, take all the time you need.”
Ned, “The Jackson place has been on the market for ages. It's right down the road from us. They'd be happy to rent, and they'd be real happy to sell.”
We’re at the dock, unload the few things we brought, the line of Walleye, Ned and Marlene back off the dock and we head up to the cabin.
Janah, “I followed. There are monks around the world who would jump at a chance for such a life. Six or more months of contemplation and study for a few months of guiding hikers and fishermen around. This is almost too easy.”