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Saturday, February 16, 2008

more dreams

By the end of the third day when the full moon broke through the clouds she took on a fever. We went to the elder of the native porters in camp and asked for aid through our translator. We were immediately urged to travel that night to the nearest tribe where we sought the medical assistance of a healer. Julie was in a bad way and needed a special spore to add to the mixture of herbs and unguents the shaman concocted, five of them to be precise and we were informed that precision was key to the creation of the cure. A shy native girl no more than ten years old showed us a white mushroom cap and our guide explained this was called shuiweh and was the ingredient required to finish the needed potion and that we should hurry to gather them up and return.

We set out on our quest taking the boat out and across the lake, beaching at small coves and inlets to search the shorelines for the elusive mushrooms. They proved to be less elusive than anticipated and before you know it we were carry hand loads of them back to the boat. Only five were required, but I supposed that bringing extras to the healer as a gift would act as a sign of gratitude and payment for the life giving service he was about to provide. The waters were dark and quiet as we covered the distance back to the village, the bright moonlight spilled onto the lakes surface giving the impression that we traveled through thick dark blood, glossy and still but for the ropey wake that followed behind us. Anxiety filled me as the natives steered the craft forward. It might have been a classic African Norman Rockwell moment if it weren’t for the humming of the outboard, and the Bart Simpson and MTV tee shirts worn by our natives.

The spores were offered to the healer and he turned and walked away without accepting the gift, walking away with no word or explanation. Did he forget something? Oh my god! Were we too late? I rushed to Julie’s tent and she lay asleep breathing heavy, a low moist sputter rumbling in her lungs and her skin oozed thick oily sweat but she was breathing and very much alive. I form a few angry thoughts directed at the village shaman. Was this a fools errand, send us away to keep us out from under foot as what ever secret ancestral ceremonies were needed to be performed outside of prying foreign eyes? Oh just think a moment, how could I be so stupid? We were given a specific task and we failed at it. I am amongst a conservative lot these lake villagers, in tune with nature and earth and respectful to creatures and plant life. Had we pulled up a year’s crop of mushrooms? Was there a shelf life on these spores? Did it take years to germinate or cultivate more? Had I broken some ancient taboo, disappointed their gods? I had no clue what I was thinking when I gathered up every mushroom in sight and the thought that my ignorant self indulgence may cost Julie dearly set uneasy in the pit of my stomach.

Our guide and translator returned some time later and explained that what we brought back was not the wembu diewhi shuiweh needed to complete the potion, what we brought back was common shuiweh or mimic toadstools that any five year old in the village would have known the difference. Then why didn’t we bring a five year old? I thought to myself. This was a nightmare.

“We must go back out!” I demanded but the guide shook his head slowly.

“It is much too late now. Your friend, she will survive another day, we will finish our task tomorrow.” then he led us to our tents just outside the village. I found it difficult to sleep despite the exhaustion that seeped into my old bones. The next morning I woke to a colorful bustling village full of motion and sound. I checked in on Julie’s tent, she still slept badly with sweat soaking though the medicine blanket that covered her. I was collected and brought to a feeding hole, a kind of native mosh-pit of pillows and grass rugs scattered about a dimple in the ground. I was served fruits and goat’s milk, cheese and a variation of pine nuts with a grainy porridge still steamy from the kettle. There was honey and clumped cream for the porridge and fresh water for washing and drinking. It seemed an endless procession of women and children bearing food and drink and gifts as well. Reed soap for washing, banana leaves for toiletry, a straight razor for shaving was a welcome surprise and a small treasure chest worth of small stones, some smooth and shiny, others peculiar and unique in shape and color and pieces of pretty glass as would be found in cheap jewelry all heaped around me to make my dining experience all the more delightful. Everyone carried a smile and worked swiftly and diligently at whatever task they performed. There was a veritable hive of activity accented by laughing children running frantic in a perpetual game of chase through out the village. Buoyant chatter and easy laughter blended with joyful song that came pleasant to the ear. There was an air of not celebration, but infectious contentment that called me to join in the activity and become a part of the hive and share the mysterious feelings unknown to most of the civilized world but so inviting within the confines of that tiny village. The emotional sensations that surrounded me were difficult to grasp at first, and then I recognized the familial bond that has long fled the cities of the western world. Here everyone worked for the whole, this is communal living at its most base element. There were no strays from the herd, no lone wolves, no self-absorption, no secrets from one another only from outsiders and then secret only because we were unable to see the magic. So applying modern logic; our conclusion can only be that these arcane truths must be deliberately withheld as a mysterious secret and not because we refuse to believe what we see directly in front of us. This is the only explanation plausible to educated and ‘enlightened’ contemporaries.

I shook the lackadaisical doldrums from my now clean skin and focused on the problems at hand. I had searched frantically for mushrooms last night in the dark and did so poorly informed as to what I was searching for. I learned what I wanted was a death head mushroom so named for the yellowed ivory color and the brown scarring that naturally occurs on the cap of the shuiweh that when looked upon from a certain angle appeared as the form of a skull with sunken eyes, nose and maw when ripened to maturity and viable for the shaman’s potion. I was afraid that my knowledge of mushrooms was extensively lacking in the ability to recognize one from another so I took heed of my lesson the night before and bribed a coterie of children with chocolate to assist me in my endeavor.

We set out into the jungle racing about like an Easter egg hunt, children running and laughing and darting from shade tree to shaded root. I made sure my guide translated that only five were required and that I should be led to discoveries rather than pulling them from their nesting place and delivering them to me directly. Much was apparently lost in the translation for the children brought me colorful flowers, more pretty rocks, and a few varieties of lizard that blended so well to the color and pattern of my hand as to disappear from view entirely. All impressive and well intended but not what I was seeking. We ventured closer to the shoreline as that is where I searched the previous night but found nothing but games and laughter that began to fill me with guilt and a little annoyance considering Julie was back in the village wasting away. I reluctantly allowed a break for lunch, which consisted of fresh picked fruit, some edible flowers and a tuber root that tasted remarkably of apple and ginger. I could market that back home I thought to myself as I rose to continue my quest. The children took their time in eating, some curling up in the shade for a nap afterwards. Others slowly rejoined me and we continued our mini expedition through the forest. By evening my spirits plummeted as the population of insects rose. The children grew weary of the game and no chocolate could bribe them any further and we returned to the village subdued and empty of hope.

Dinner was laid out in the dining pit when we came in to the village. The children for the most part scrambled to their mothers except for a few of the oldest who carried the youngest sleeping in their arms. I made my way to Julie to look in on her. The shaman was by her side as well as my translator who informed me that a hunting party was assembled to assist me after the dining observance was concluded. I looked up confused from Julie’s side.

“I have been searching with the children all day and have not found a single sprout to match your description.” I announce feebly unaware if Julie could hear me or not. “I am cursed with bad luck and stupidity. A seemingly lethal dose for poor Julie here.” I finished.

“You seem not to understand,” translated my guide “you are most fortunate for the shuiweh you seek only blooms on the nights of a full moon. Tonight the villagers will take you where they grow in abundance, but you must take only what you need, and you must search them out yourself. The quest is part of the cure. Your heart and your faith must fill the spores you harvest or they will be useless to the shaman. This I thought was understood.”

“There is much I don’t understand.” I replied, and then I woke up. It was a good journey and entertaining dream, I hope it continues.

3 comments:

pat said...

I still like the bacon wrapped stuff...but happy birthday!

Jan said...

Michael..happy birthday!

I haven't been around the blogosphere very much lately, but I do think of you, and hope that all is well in your world..or worlds! :)

Sue is right..you are one of the most creative persons in the whole universe, I think. You're mind must be buzzing all the time..when do you sleep?

Take care, my friend.

katie said...

Happy Birthday to You!! Sue sent me. ;) Hope it was a good one!