A Conversation on the Portico
I shifted on my feet. The intense gaze of the Abbess made me nervous, and I was not sure if I was supposed to address her first. She was a most unusual Abbess. I expected a stiffly dressed, austere matron, not this woman dressed in a pale Grecian-style gown and glittering jewels. I could smell a faint scent of patchouli perfume.
“Lori, welcome to Lenora Abbey.” Her voice was firm but soft.
“Thank you. Uh…you know my name? ”
“Of course. Would you be more comfortable if I called you ‘Elle-Jay’?
“It is perfectly acceptable to assume another identity here.”
She turned and moved towards an alcove embedded in the wall. It appeared to be an altar with a flickering white candle and a small brazier. She picked up a slim stick of incense, briefly touched it to candle flame and then inserted the other end in the brazier.
“May I ask you why you chose that name?”
“I guess it sounds a little more polished and sophisticated. ”
“Ah, I see…Or perhaps it sounds a little more anonymous? Elle-Jay….L.J. Using initials will do that”
“As if you were trying to separate yourself from others?”
“And perhaps to separate you from yourself as well?”
I did not respond. She had hit a little too close to home.
“If I might suggest something,” she continued, “choosing another identity should assist in connecting you to your true self, not drive you away from it.
“I assume that’s why I am here… to find my ‘true self’,” I countered.
“If you want to put it that simplistically, then yes. That’s part of it.”
“And what’s the other part?”
The abbess smiled but said nothing.
“Great,” I muttered. The incense smoke began to rise from the altar and curl around the Abbess. She glanced down at my backpack that I held at my side.
“What did you bring with you?”
“Well, I brought my laptop, some granola bars, a bottle of— ”
“No, that’s not what I mean.”
“Um…. I brought a pod of lotus seeds.”
“Ah, is that what she gave you?” She began to walk toward another door and motioned me to come along. “Were there any instructions?”
“I’m not sure. The talking owl said to ‘dig before I got thirsty’…. whatever that means.”
“What? What does that mean?”
“I think it means that you came to the right place”. We walked through the door onto the portico overlooking a large grassy area.
“Why? What am I supposed to do here? If you can help me figure this out, I’d be very appreciative.”
The Abbess leaned against the railing and surveyed the grounds. “All I can say is that to be ‘thirsty’ in the real world is bad enough, but to be ‘thirsty’ in Lemuria, where the waters of Muse freely flow, is almost unheard of. You really must be in a bad way.”
“So what do I do?”
“What do you know about lotus flowers?”
“Not much – that they grow in the mud and I think symbolically they represent rebirth. That’s about it”
“And does that suggest a course of action to you?”
“Well, yeah. I suppose I need to find someplace to plant the seeds and then I have some epiphany.” I cringed when I said that. I knew I really should not be too flippant with the Abbess, but sometimes I cannot help myself when I am in an uncomfortable situation.
“Again, on a simplistic level you would be right.”
“But what’s the catch? There’s always a catch.”
“There is no catch. The goal is simple. Go plant the seeds.”
“So, where do I plant them? I’d like to get on with this.”
“Yes, you do like to get to the point and take care of things. Achievement is important to you.”
“Well, no disrespect, but what is wrong with that?”
“Nothing, but I don’t think I have to tell you the other important aspect, do I?”
“I suppose you are going to say that I need to stop and smell the roses?” I was on a roll now.
“Something like that.”
“Or how about ‘it’s the journey, not the destination,”
“Good, you know all this then.” The Abbess stared into the distance with a face that suggested that the time for our audience had come to an end.
“Okay, well, I guess I best get started….um, I wondering if you could just give some directions on where to go… just to get me started?”
The Abbess pointed across the grounds towards a wooded area. “Through the woods, on the other side of the Abbey grounds is a small shrine dedicated to wandering poets and other creative persons. It has a pond with a floating garden at the entrance. Simply plant your seed there with the other lotuses. Enjoy your journey.” She abruptly turned and walked away from me.
“Uh…Thank you. I appreciate that.”
(to be continued).
Image and story: L. Gloyd (c) 2009