Chapter Forty Five VI
Don’t keep saying to yourself, ‘but how can it be like that?’
Nobody knows how it can be like that.
We finish up Amaya’s civics lesson, clean up dishes, Amaya is making sleepy eyes, Nikko tucks her in, enough work and lesson for today.
By the time Nikko comes into the bedroom, Janah and I had finished up brushing et. al.
Janah is stretched out nude, “Could I have two on one? I’m feeling gratification greedy.”
Nikko and I take turns on our favorite spot, we feel Janah tremble, then release an erotic flood of appreciation.
Janah, “Doubled is great!”
We work our way through a variety of toys until we’re satisfactorily multigasmed.
Always sleep well after sex, it’s morning, I go to the kitchen to create breakfast. What’s in my head? I hear Janah and Nikko in the shower, good God!...more sex. Through Nikko’s eyes, I see she’s against the shower wall, looking down at Janah busy going down. I switch off before I lose track of breakfast prep.
They come into the kitchen, Janah grinning, Nikko has a dreamy relaxed look. I set out tea and toast, yogurt and cut fruit. I’m at the sink, cracking eggs, Nikko is behind me, her hands roam along the tops of my legs and my tummy, kisses my neck. We wear t-shirts only, covered, but only by an inch. I feel Amaya come in, sit at the table across from Janah.
“Nikko is always all over Daphne.”
Janah, “They are evil people whom God will punish in hell forever.”
Amaya giggles, “They are beautifully affectionate with each other.”
Nikko joins Amaya and Janah, “So, what do you think of our affection?”
Amaya dazzles her smile, “I think everything you get up to is almost magical.”
Nikko, “What do you mean?”
“I am still observing, that is all I’m saying for now. My family is my mystery.”
She changes the subject, “David Li is interesting. When he wants to know something, he asks flat out.”
“What did he ask about?”
Amaya laughs, “He wanted to know if I was straight or gay.”
“Did you answer?”
Amaya, “Sort of. The way he asked, ‘Do you know if you’re straight or gay,’ was not nosy or that he was even curious for himself. He asked to see if I knew.”
“And what did you tell him?”
Amaya, “I do not know. He nodded, like he was confirming what he thought. And it is true, I do not. It is strange, not as strange as you guys, but strange all the same. I was photographed a million times for my looks, and I was ‘loaned out’ four times before you closed in and rescued me. The reason I bring it up is because of David’s question. I have no feeling about what happened, sexually, one way or the other, now or when it happened. I did not feel guilty or gratified. Even before, when I finally figured out why I was being photographed, I laughed at myself for believing it was for professional modeling.”
Nikko, “So you place no blame?”
“My birth parents were sleaze-balls, not so much for the modeling site, lots of parents do it. They were sleaze-balls long before the idea of having me photographed came up. Always scratching around to make a buck off someone else, not working themselves. My father had family money. As far as I am concerned, their behavior got me the family I have now. I like that, bad luck becomes first prize.”
We aren’t blown away surprised, but it’s comforting to hear her express herself. She isn’t going to suddenly crack-up by hanging on to a ‘poor me’ sob story, nor has she used it as justification for attitude or bad behavior. She could have been Sis, just younger when her apparent misfortune came. She turned it into gold. Sis and I had Ms. Alva, Amaya has us.
Amaya puts an elbow on the table, leans her chin on her palm, “You going to serve those eggs, or are you just practicing cooking eggs?”
“Hold on, queenie, you know I take time with eggs, eat more yogurt, eggs are almost perfect.”
Amaya, “I thought you were the queen.”
“I am, you are the queen-in-waiting, do you want to be Duchess of Greenwich Village, or Princess Amaya?”
Amaya cops a faux attitude, “I demand my queendom immediately. Henceforth, I am the White Queen, you the Red.”
I don’t look up from my final stir of the eggs, “Deal, Your Other Highness.”
Amaya, “Yay! White Queen of the royal line of Svensson, Sylk and Murakami.”
Good God! She’s already me, lucky girl.
Chapter Forty Six VI
Life is unafraid and free. As long as you have the idea of influencing events, liberation is not for you: the very notion of doer-ship, of being a cause, is bondage.
Nisargadatta, I Am That
Even the big cabin in Canada is packed with the addition of Amaya, James and Kara. Four bedrooms taken, a loft for David Li, the couch is a big sleeper, we can unfold it at night for Amaya and Miyako. Food will be buffet style, the table can’t hold everyone at the same time. To avoid massive clean-up we go with throw away plates and utensils. I wasn’t going to have everyone cleaning dishes all the time. Yes, it’s all recyclable. Although, if you think about it, everything is recycled eventually, the universe is perpetually recycling.
Sis and C-mom go straight for the fishing gear, Kara and Lacy tag along to watch.
Chan and Ning take the kids for a walk the other way, David renews acquaintances, some are the children of animal friends now gone.
Nikko, Janah, James and I sit on the porch until the groups file back in. Fresh fish for dinner. Ning and I get busy.
I hear Amaya’s enthusiastic enthusiasm, “David knows all the animals! And a giant moose came along and gave us all a ride! I am here like, an hour, and riding the biggest animal I have ever seen up close. Miyako was up one tree, flying over to another, following David and I from above. The birds chattering the entire time. David said they were talking about the people who understood, and asked him if the girl with white feathers was here, too…Janah! It was sooo amazing! I will do a performance. All of you are invited to attend, put it on your schedules. Every night, I shall write the parts, and then…Showtime!!!”
James, “We all get a front row seat.”
Ning and I listen, smile at Amaya’s delight, Ning whispers, “Everyone Janah touches is blessed.”
“Me most of all.”
Ning, “In your case, Janah would put it the other way around.”
“Janah thinks she is the one blessed by all of this, this family, the temple, her schools, Chapmans. She makes life changing decisions, not always pleasant ones. This family is her sanity.”
Ning, “What do you mean?”
“The ugliness we do, which must be done, would take her down if not balanced by this group, and her extended family, Sonia, Black, Mini, Master Kim, the monks, Nikko’s parents. She has an incredible brain, part of which is an incredible sensitivity. Our other life seems insensitive, and in one way it is, to the people we deal with.”
Ning, “It is Buddhist in a way, at least the Shaolin way, not pacifist. There is no right or wrong, only the necessary and the unnecessary.”
“Still, it weighs on her. The way Nikko and I see it, the Amayas of the world happen, children are freed, abused are rescued, never to be put upon by the abuser again.”
“It appears that dinner is ready, are we missing anything?”
Ning calls everyone in, “Line forms to the left, find a spot and enjoy.”
The meal is taken in silence, it isn’t planned or ordained, it happens that way. We don’t have rules, we aren’t a government.
After dinner, Chan stokes up the fireplace, I pass around Chamomile tea and cookies. Nikko and Miyako sing a poem in Japanese, alternating parts at some points, then singing together at others. Ning and I hand out blankets and we troop outside to sit on the porch or the dock to watch the heavens. In the blackness of the wilderness, the star show is breathtaking. Too soon it’s going on eleven. The parents move inside and to bed. We leave the children to themselves in front of the embers of the fireplace, close up and go to bed ourselves. Nikko and I snuggle in around Janah, no playtime tonight, just the flow of three rivers into one. Then sleep.
Morning comes right on time. I shower, find Ning coming out of her bedroom as I exit mine, we laugh, “Timing!”
Ning, “Family needs to be fed, and I’m also selfish not to miss a moment of this magical place.”
We stoke up two twelve cup coffee pots, a gallon of green tea, I began to cut biscuits from the dough, the oven nearly ready. Bacon frying, biscuits baking, grits bubbling away on the stove soon has the house buzzing. The young girls stay snuggled under the comforter, but David Li, like his father, is up and outside. Sis and Chris appear, then Lacy, park on the porch with hot coffee.
Sis told me later the plan was to get up early and fish, but when they went to bed, Lacy had better ideas that kept them up for a while longer. She decided the fish would still be there and having Lacy all over her took priority. She always makes the rational decision.
After breakfast, the day self organizes. The Li family, our three as one, Amaya, James and Kara are going to the waterfall. Sis, C-mom and Lacy are going to fish and hang out.
Miyako literally sprints up the mountain, followed by a remarkably spry Amaya, her dance lessons obvious in her easy rhythm. We spot ourselves around the edge of the waterfall, K-mom in some other state, absorbing.
James, “This is beyond even your description. It is truly magnificent.”
“It is rather beyond a mere verbal description, you have to be here, feel it. It’s why we don’t take pictures. Krishnamurti said, ‘the description is not the described.’ He is right.”
James, “Kara is mesmerized. I don’t know what work will come from this, it will be interesting to see if she tries to capture the whole thing, or various bits.”
“You mean one painting, or several.”
“Yes. She may not decide until she’s back at home. The thing will settle, and it will become obvious to her. I don’t know the process, not sure that she does. It appears to here on the canvas. Then she paints it.”
Amaya had stolen in next to me, listening, then, “That is how I make a song.”
James attention perks, “Can you explain?”
Amaya, “Sure. I see something, or get a vibe. I am still, quiet, with it, maybe not physically still, sometimes I dance, but it is the only thing in my mind. Then the words appear, written out, in color. I put them on paper but it really isn’t necessary. I see them in my head, like looking at a computer screen. The whole song is just there. Actually, at that point, it’s a poem, a rhyme. The music I put to it depends.”
James, “Depends on what, can you say?”
“It is like an artist does when he or she does a cover, you know what that is?”
James, “Can’t say I do.”
Amaya, “A cover is when one artist does a song written by another artist, but in his own style. Joe Cocker is a prime example. Taking someone else’s song, using the same words and tune, yet making different music. Not every musician can cover, not well. It is a unique talent.”
James, “I see. So what comes along that helps you decide what music to put under the lyric?”
Amaya smiles at me, “He is pretty smart, huh?”
“Don’t try and fool him. He’s in Janah’s category.”
Amaya, “It depends on the atmosphere I want to create, and the mood I am in. The same words can be a love song, a hate song, or a rock song or a ballad.”
James is absorbed, we might as well have been in his office, “Fascinating, can you give me an example?”
“Sure, Jimmy Hendrix playing the National Anthem, José Feliciano painted the same song on his canvas when he sang it at the Super Bowl, before I was born. Ray Charles took Georgia and made it a powerful love song about a woman, the state uses it as a smarmy love song for the state. Joe Cocker took a silly, childish tune by Paul McCartney, ‘A Little Help From My Friends,’ and turned it into an hit-you-in-the-face anthem. Keith Richards used licks he learned from Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters, and turned himself into the best lead guitar in rock and roll. But it is the change, subtle twist or complete one-eighty, that is the creative genius.”
James, “Okay. There’s one form of creativity, take a thing that exists and make it into something using the parts, but assembling them differently. Then there’s….there’s….wait, you’re telling me something. Don’t tell me. It’s almost….got it!”
James, “Amaya has just explained that there are no varieties of creativity. It’s all the same. It’s all reassembling parts in different, or counterintuitive ways. I mean, it’s no different than the universe itself. There are ‘X’ elements, made of the same things, atoms made up of electrons, protons and neutrons. Life creates a multitude of different and new things with the same basic elements. Human bodies all have DNA and RNA, but the combo platter as a whole is what matters. You do that all the time.”
“Are you implying I’m not unique?”
James and Amaya laugh, Amaya says, “That is totally Daphne. Did you know we split Queendoms?”
James, “I thought there could only be one Queen at a time.”
Amaya, “Think Alice in Wonderland.”
James bursts into an uncharacteristic grin, “You are the White Queen, Daphne the Red.”
“Good catch, doctor.”
David calls to her, “Excuse me,” she pops up and runs to him. Amaya doesn’t do much slowly.
He’s engaged with a family of marmots, the patriarch may have up to four mates, this one has two females with him and a few children.
David, “Be seated. And don’t fidget. Let them come to you, don’t pick them up and stoke them with an open hand only.”
Amaya, despite her nature, is still, nothing happens for a time, then the male approaches her, then, out of nowhere, hops in her lap. She said she wanted to screech, but remembered David’s caution.
Later, she recounts, “It was sooo incredible, he poked me with his little snout until I petted him, and he settled down in my lap. He rolled over on his back so I could stroke his tummy and he fell asleep! I could not move, David’s connection with the animals is…is… I do not know how to say it.”
“I think you just did.”
“Miyako came over and played with the family like they were practically pets. Except it looked more like them playing with her than the other way around.”
David, “You caught it. They were playing with her. She knows to sit and let them hop and flip around her. Marmots are more trusting of humans than other forest creatures.”
Nikko, “What if they get careless with humans?”
Chan, “They know as well as we, very few humans can be trusted. A wrong move and they will scatter. Except for the birds at home, you notice that David does not feed the animals here.”
James, “So their friendship isn’t being bought.”
Chan, “No. They do it out of a sense of fun and compassion. David listens to their stories. Many incredible things happen in the mountains, beyond what we think we know.”
James, “I don’t doubt it. Many incredible things happen on Perry St. I couldn’t explain to anyone who hadn’t lived it.”
Chapter Forty Seven VI
Children and scientists share an outlook on life. If I do this, what will happen? is both the motto of the child at play and the defining refrain of the physical scientist.
The unfamiliar and the strange—the domain of all children and scientists.
James Gleick, Genius, The Life and Science of Richard Feynman.
It’s hard to describe, but you’ve had the feeling, the day shoots past without our quite understanding where it went. The sign of a magical day. Suddenly, it’s time to get down the mountain and catch up with the others.
The moms are filleting fish, Sis says, “They practically jumped in the nets, we caught dinner and a couple more. We pulled in the lines and did some serious nothing on the edge of the lake. Then we hiked across the shoreline, picked berries and, all of a sudden, it was five o’clock and we heard you guys coming down.”
Chris, “I see you had a similar experience, shot the day enveloped in beauty and wondering where the time went.”
Janah, “It was almost as perfect as my nights.”
Chris laughs, “Friggin’ spoiled.”
Janah, “Damn straight, well, not straight.”
Amaya screeches, “This is too good, I’ve got to write, where’s a spot I won’t be distracted?”
Janah, “See the big rock to the left? Take your notepad. It’s our quiet spot. Anyone there, even if it’s two or three, is silent. Unless one of the animals comes, that’s a different kind of silence. They will see that you are busy, even if they join you, they will leave you alone.”
Amaya snatches up her notepad and is cross-legged on the big rock writing furiously, like she’s doing a mind dump. She can sort out details she wants later, now it’s just get everything down. The best way to write in my view, and I’m the Red Queen and the White Queen writes that way. So, you have your answer. It’s the best way, we have said so, thus it is so, we are the Queens, God save us.
Sis and Kara come in, grinning through tears, Sis says, “Amaya was scribbling away when a dove landed next to her. She kept writing, the bird settled in. I could hear her talking to it, bouncing her ideas around. Then a squirrel hopped on her shoulder and she began humming a tune, making a note, humming again. She acted like it was perfectly normal, lost in her preparations, friends near.”
Kara, “I would like a glass of wine, is something open?”
“Pinot Grigio in the refrigerator.”
Chris is dealing with pans, “What do you want with the fish?”
The answer is, “More fish.”
I’d do Janah up in cheese, berries and flatbread. For dessert we have a dozen boxes of biscotti, various kinds of cookies from shortbread to double chocolate and Ghirardelli out the whazoo. Drinks are poured, wine served, fire lit. We eat spread out on the porch while the sun sets.
Amaya runs out of light, and comes over to her plate of pan fried fish and vegetable sauté. Then, for no reason other than joy, she steps out in front of the porch and sings the Hallelujah Chorus. Amaya’s version, solo, in the nightfall deep in the mountains, is indescribable. At the end of her performance, we’re Jell-O, melting fast. If it is possible to be more affected than any one of us, it’s Kara, she sits trembling, tears stream down her face. She has discovered something, and it will manifest in its own time. We know to leave her alone, although Amaya asks me quietly, ‘Is there something we should do for K-mom?’
I stroke her head, kiss her lightly, “Very kind of you to ask. You already did it.”
Amaya, “There is pain, but not suffering. There is bliss, but not pleasure. Kara has dimensions of emotion I cannot understand.”
We squeeze hands, “Now go and see Miyako, she wants you with her.”
Amaya runs off to play on the dock in the dark. An adventure, the night sounds, only stars, and billions more. The family settles inside, only the two of them, huddled under a blanket, sheen of moon across the black water. They wind up spooned into one another, lying on their sides, and fall asleep. Nikko and I pick them up at ten and carry them to their bed, tucked-in under a soft quilt, fire freshened in the fireplace. They don’t wake, but I notice that, when I walk past after finishing up in the kitchen, they have somehow spooned into each other again. Miyako curled into the tall length of Amaya. Like magnetism.
I shower, my girls already asleep. I slip on the available side of Janah, kiss her softly, feel her smile, then darkness.
Today, up a bit later than usual, around six thirty, I notice the moms are up and out, likely standing knee deep, fishing. I peek in the empty bedroom, Lacy has gone with them. Geez, I thought, a fishing Jones with the moms, who knew?
I have the fire re-stoked, coffee pots full, tea made. I’m out on the porch alone when James appears, coffee cup in hand.
“Thank you for insisting we come. Next time, you won’t have to insist. Kara is in some other dimension. Fortunately for me, she returns long enough to make exquisite love. Naturally, I’m biased.”
“No, it happens to us too. I don’t have to explain to you that we have an extraordinarily intimate life. Expanding our horizons expands our intimacy horizons. I’d say it was Janah, but that’s not it. All three of us, all one of us, is intensified. It’s a good thing, a very good thing.”
James, “I have no complaints.”
Kara appears, also with coffee, “Sex talk at seven in the morning, you should be ashamed.”
“I wasn’t privy to details, but apparently shame wasn’t a factor last night.”
Kara laughs, “Shame and good sex are mutually exclusive.”
She changes gears, “I assume Amaya doesn’t know your story.”
“She’s had a lot to absorb. As perceptive as she is, Janah thinks she’s getting to the nub of it on her own. We’re going to have to explain it to all the kids. David Li has a feeling, Miyako, not yet. So we’re cruising on the topic until whenever we decide.”
Janah is busy with Nikko in our bedroom; decisions are not being made at the moment, only sensations. Ning joins us, then Chan, who nods politely, bows to K-mom and goes to the dock. He is soon joined by his son, they sit silently together, at least for awhile. Then the forest creatures discover the boy who understands them is awake and the dock becomes a landing point for birds, joined by a variety of small animals, and a wolf. Different species, often predator and prey, sitting silently around the huge man and the boy. Kara has her hand to her mouth, not for the first or last time on this trip.
Ning, “This has become almost routine, but obviously not routine. Like the rest of this family, explanations can only spoil the beauty.”
Two young girls creep out the front door, one in my lap the other in Ning’s, I get Amaya, she is so beautiful. She kisses my neck, then my cheek, then the corner of my mouth, softly, lets it linger. My heart skips a beat.
She curls her head into my shoulder, “Look at all the animals. David has this capacity. Miyako explained what happened, she can’t explain why.”
“We were just having the identical discussion. Nisargadatta says everything that happens is both the cause and effect of everything that happens. Explanations will not explain, as we cannot know everything that brought us to this point. Explanations are for covering over fear of the unknown. When you understand that you are the cause and effect of everything, there is nothing to fear. Thus endeth the lesson. Go and join Chan and David, go slowly but directly. You will meet David’s friends.”
The girls walk slowly down the steps, then take their time approaching the dock. A few minutes later, Amaya is singing with the birds, in exactly the same tone, with exactly the same notes. Kara has another hand to mouth moment.
The wolf nuzzles Amaya, and backs away.
David, “He wants to introduce you to his family. Follow him, you will be safe.”
Amaya doesn’t hesitate, she follows the lone wolf off into the forest and is gone half an hour. She comes back out of the woods, almost in a daze.
“I met a wolf family. I don’t know what to say. The big guy walked me right to his mate and cubs. They were feeding, so adorable. I didn’t know what to do, I sang a soft song, Nikko taught me in Japanese. The father picked up a cub by the neck and dropped him into my lap. The baby was adorable, I stroked his nape, behind the ears, and he fell asleep. I was crying. A bit later, dad picked up the cub and lay in front of his family. I took that as my cue, I bowed to them, then left.”
Kara stands, walks to the dock and sits with Chan and David. She is soon surrounded by the life of the forest. She doesn’t speak the language, as David does, but she radiates the feeling. The animals understand.
Sis appears with Chris and Lacy along the shoreline, take a sideways trip into the woods so as not to disturb the dock. I hear them going in the back door, piling the fish in the sink, pouring coffee. They join us on the porch.
C-mom, “I see we have a normal day going.”
James, “It isn’t eight o’clock and I’ve been triply amazed. I wish I could see into Kara’s mind.”
“You’ll see it soon enough.”
James, “Yes, right. She’ll paint it and I will understand. Guess I’ll just wait. The art will say more than she could say in words anyway.”
“Kind of the point of art, no?”
James, “Daphne, you again cut to the heart of the matter.’
“I’m the Queen of Hearts, it’s my job.”
Chris grins, Sis laughs out loud, Lacy says, “You can always tell a Chapmans girl, top of form, twenty four, seven, three sixty-five.”
Chapter Forty Eight VI
I hear people going on about desire, like there’s something wrong with it. If it wasn’t for desire, you wouldn’t get out of bed, or in bed, you wouldn’t move, like being dead. Striving to become desireless is just desire couched in fake spirituality.
Janah, “I’m hungry.”
“Come and get it, breakfast is out and ready. We went with a buffet smorgasbord, just grab what you want and find a place to sit.”
Janah, “Nikko is horrid, totally nasty. The things she makes me do, I don’t know how long I can wait before she makes me do them again. I’m….”
“Hungry. Come and join us on the porch.”
A minute later Janah is sitting with a plate of berries smothered in vanilla yogurt and a stack of toast. She likes it well buttered, mostly skips jam or jelly.
Lacy, “Where’s Nikko?”
Janah, “Getting breakfast, which means tea and a sliver of bacon.”
Nikko comes out the door with a plate full of grits, four pieces of bacon, a giant biscuit and scrambled eggs.”
Janah giggles, “Or something.”
“I’m going to have to get into one of the brains and find out what you did. She’s ravenous.”
Nikko, “Going up the hill today. I want to fly with Miyako. It will take calories. Have the children eaten?”
Janah looks at me, I shake my head no.
Janah, “Miyako and Amaya. We are going climbing today. Go inside and eat what Daphne puts on your plates. You’ll need the energy. Then dress in the hiking stuff we brought for you. It’s chilly this morning, but the hike up to the falls will take care of that. We leave at nine.”
The girls move to the table, I give them a solid breakfast. Ning and I pack plenty of snacks.
Janah, “Who else would like to join us? Daphne will prepare packs for lunch, she needs a body count.”
“Lunch for all, nobody wants to miss out.”
Ning appears, then Chris, we make a backpack assembly line, granola bars, water, cheese, bread, jerky, more water, Ghirardelli.
We don’t quite make nine, closer to ten we’re making our way up the mountain. An hour later sitting on the rocks and dirt surrounding the bottom of the falls. It’s good to park and enjoy the hundred foot wall of water and the foamy blue pool it splashes into. I make sure everyone is watering themselves, that the kids are well hydrated. Then a thermos of hot green tea, laced with cane sugar.
Chris, “I’m doing the waterfall, who’s up?”
Kara, “What’s that mean? You think you’re going to climb up there, to the top?”
Chris, “The top of the falls. The mountain goes up much farther. I’m doing the falls today, and a further slog up the mountain day after tomorrow. We only have a week, I’m going to kill myself having fun.”
“She went up last time. Learned a thing or two about rocks. I’m going, Janah loves the rock climb, who else?”
Nikko and the kids opt to hang at the pool. Miyako and Nikko want to leap around the boulders and to the trees. Amaya is sitting on the biggest rock, talking with David Li. Ning wants to go up with us, so does James. Chan and Kara are going to mind the store. Susan and Lacy are going berry hunting.
It’s a steep and challenging climb, I’m worried about dad, he’d never done this kind of thing before. I know him as a physician, psychiatrist and scholar, not as an athlete. We sit at the top, breathless but otherwise intact, watching water flow over the edge.
James is huffing, not alarmingly.
“Dad, you been doing workouts on the sly?”
“I started swimming again, about six months ago. You guys have been so tied up, it never came up I guess. I swam off and on during and after medical school, then very off and on. Then I wanted to do it again. I’ve been four times a week the last six months. And New York is a walking city, I usually go back and forth to work on my feet. I found I hadn’t lost too much.”
Ning is enthusiastic, “That was fun! Finally, a sport where being tiny is an advantage. I’m going with Chris next time, to the top of the mountain before we leave.”
Janah, “The top is an overnight.”
Ning, “Even better!”
Janah, “It’s cold up there at night.”
Ning smiles, “Husband’s job to keep wife warm.”
We laugh, and we’re sure he’d have no problem generating plenty of qi for both of them.
I hear the splash of water a hundred feet below, a song lifts up from the pool. Amaya is singing in her natural voice, along with Nikko, a poem Nikko made up, Amaya polished and put to music. The voices warm me, I’m the only one who can hear it clearly, Janah listens through my ears.
Ning, “I hear a song, is it Amaya?”
“Amaya and Nikko. They will have to perform it again tonight. It’s very beautiful.”
Chris, “Damn, I want everything at once. You and those ears. I suppose Janah isn’t missing a note.”
Chris is quiet, letting us enjoy to the end, then, “Crap. I want to hear like a flipping owl.”
“Ambition in a master?”
Chris, “Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s not ambition, it’s jealousy,” she whaps me on the head, I roll and kick her.
Soon we have a sparring match on the rocky ground, dirt flies, we do some minor battering for five minutes then sit down for a drink of water.
“That was kind of fun. Rockin’ in the Rockies, the battle for Canada.”
James, “Mother and daughter trading shots. You guys are really good. You know, since Daphne’s rank test for 5th, I’ve never seen any of you fight.”
“Get out! You know, that’s true. We spar frequently, but mostly at the dojang. I hadn’t thought of that. Kara hasn’t seen us either, or Ning much. Nikko and I will put on a match for the family when we get back.”
Chris, “I want a piece of that action.”
“Okay, we’ll see if Sis wants to play, and we’ll grind out an evening of mom mayhem.
James, “I’m not starting a family war am I.”
“Not at all. This is what we do. It’s fun for us. You’ll enjoy a side of the family you don’t see much.”
James, “Wow, Jerry Springer, right in my own little nest.”
We laugh, “Nest is getting bigger.”
Chris, “It was you and Sis, then me, then Janah and family, Lacy, then Nikko. Now it’s Ning, Chan and family, Black and Sonia, David Li, the Murakami’s and Ning’s family, the Shans, Mrs. Fong. Then there’s the Epsteins, Master Kim, the temple, Mini, Chuck and the Jamaicans.”
“I’ve been thinking about having them all over to the apartment. Let Ning and I feed Chuck and Mini for once. The Jamaicans would be a riot, reggae on the roof.”
Chris, “Now there’s an idea worth follow-up. Let’s do it.”
Janah, “We’ll have a party on the roof as soon as the weather is nice. After school is going, before mid-October. I’ll need to do the math, but it’s a big roof. We’ll be okay.”
We make our way carefully down the steep descent. Miyako is asleep, Amaya on the flat rock watching us descend, David with her. Amaya is already as tall as David, be taller soon. He likes her, but the temple held him, not the outside world. He would perhaps wind up like his namesake, a contemplative. And she, who knew how the prior life had touched her? Too much guesswork. Lots of kids have horror stories and go on to face life with little more than a vague memory. Others get stuck with mental imagery that crosses all their other relationships. I don’t see that for Amaya, she’s found her tribe.
Amaya, “Did you hear our song?”
“Yes, I did, it was a little lost in the falls, but that made it even more mysterious. A song about flying girls, and talking to the animals, a wolf family and riding a moose. I don’t know how Nikko stuffed all that into a Japanese poem. How did you work out the music?”
Sis, “It was so cool, the falls in the background. It was like they’d practiced it for weeks.”
Amaya, “We swapped verses in a kind of rap beat, then came in together on others, and a refrain. It was easy, improv, take the feeling from the other and work yourself into the next rhyme, then hand it back off. No different from jazz.”
Ning, “She makes it sound so simple.”
David, “It is simple, for Amaya and Nishiko; it isn’t a contest, rather a cooperative effort.”
Janah, “Intelligence at work.”
David, “Of course. Nishiko took the darker parts, then Amaya sang about turning them into light, Nishiko warned, Amaya confronted the challenge. It was a musical philosophical discussion. Most interesting.”
Lacy, “I didn’t understand the words, but the sound was pure magic. How did Amaya learn so much Japanese?”
Nikko, “We practice every day. She has to learn fluent Japanese, she’s going to be trained by Ari in the tea ceremony and the geisha arts.”
Lacy is wide eyed, “Oh, now that is very cool. Do I get to have an evening’s entertainment?”
Amaya, “Everyone. In about two or three years I think. Mrs. Murakami warned me. Imitation is not what we are after. She will train me, but I have to develop my own style within the structure.”
Susan looks at me, “You never mentioned this?”
“It was just the last kendo session, it came up rather suddenly. Then we were planning the trip, you guys were wrapping up your business details, it got lost in the action.”
Chris, “Geisha. I’ve written about the culture. You’re gonna have your hands full.”
Amaya, “It is performance art at the highest level. I am going to be on it, all over it, inside and out.”
Lacy, “From what I’ve just heard today in song, I don’t doubt it. Nothing ever worked quite so well with Daphne as telling her something was going to be hard. That translates into worth it for her. Easy is not worth it.”
Miyako, up and about for the tea and snacks, catches a second wind, “Come on Nikko, let’s do one more round!”
They bounce around, we eat, got lots of tea and water down, then it’s quietly noisy, the falls are white noise echoing around the hillsides, birds chattering, then literally out of the blue, an old friend appears.
The sky darkens over my head, I feel him coming and turn my owl head to watch him circle above, the giant eagle lands almost silently. I feel for his prey, they never know what hits them.
“The eagle has landed.”
He looks at me, “I take it that phrase has some significance in your world.”
“A long time ago, when men went to the moon.”
Eagle, “Ah, you mean the night sun. Yes, it was a great accomplishment. Your kind do so much harm, for once you managed to go beyond yourselves. Although I don’t see what you learned.”
“Not much. It was before my life, and I don’t see that it made life better for humans. It was something to momentarily cheer over I suppose.”
Eagle, “There are more this time.”
“Yes, we brought our other parents.”
Eagle, “Do you want to refresh your sight?”
“Sounds good, when?”
Eagle, “I see you just arrived. Seven suns, I will come for you, you will be here that long?”
He lifts the great wings and is gone.
Chris, “What the hell was that? My children are all insane. Are you on something?”
“He asked me on a date. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’m queer.”
Chris, “You’re incorrigible. I don’t know why they let you stay in the temple.”
Janah, “Daphne and the eagle are friends. He doesn’t have many. She interests him because during her first, very painful, training, she didn’t give up. He admires that. The animals don’t have medical insurance. They get hurt, they have to hope it heals before the wolf and coyote catch on.”
I turn to find Amaya, she is writing furiously in her journal. Perhaps the eagle will make it into her one woman play.
Janah, “We must seem like aliens to her sometimes.”
“I feel like an alien to myself sometimes.”
Janah, “Good, we are not the person, the body, the mind anyway. It’s all just a placeholder during a short lifetime.”
“Think you could make my nonperson quiver and moan at some point tonight?”
“I know I can.”