I am standing in the entry courtyard of a wealthy Chinese scholar and government official. The gardens are tranquil even as people pass by me, their voices reflecting quiet pleasure as they gaze upon beauty’s various forms: an abundance of plant life, exquisite windows and graceful doorways, rock mosaics upon which I stand and muse. It is 16th century China and I have slipped through time. There is water surrounding the compound, cascading at the rockery, calm and reflective beneath bridges. Dragonfish adorn rooftops, protecting all from fire. Bamboo and pine grace the corners of courtyards and edges of many pavilions. Red patterned lanterns sway in the breeze beneath tiled roof lines.
The ornate-windowed, spacious study is a refuge where poetry could be written, calligraphy studied, books read. I see a chair from which I will peruse unfurled maps, ponder accounts of long journeys, write music or poems while fragrant tea steams at my table. My long hair is pulled up and blue flowered silk covers me neck to toe. I am full of anticipation as I find my chair.
My name is called and I turn. The spell is broken. I, a woman, would not be working in the Scholar’s Study in the 1500s. I hear a lone bell from another doorway, see orange paper fish turning against the sky. Rain falls harder and so I leave behind the Chinese Garden for home.
In the 21st century my apartment is just a base of operations, a point of entry and departure. It is not enough to hold me for long; there are so many worlds, vast, puzzling and magnetic. I settle into my reading chair close to a pile of books. Here are fiction and non-fiction about the deadly and mesmerizing Amazon, spies at work in 20th century Russia, the mighty Nile, Celtic spirituality, and 19th century Paris where Napoleon’s sister was up to mischief. And there is 1950s intrigue while looking for butterflies and love in the Grand Canyon. My own short and long stories await me as well, tales of faith and survival, demons set free and then tamed, of men who flee jungle secrets and women who dance as though their lives depend upon it.
And when Monday arrives and I return to work there will be clients, people I care to serve, who may share what has been hidden. They will open their mouths and often be astonished by what they have to say. They will seek relief and unearth the power of their own compassion. Once they ask for help, men and women who lost all dreams will design a future for the first time. They finally discover themselves in this wild territory we call life. They travel far as we each do. Their lives are composed of experience and imagination, effort and knowledge. Hope and encouragement guide them like a compass.
There are endless places of magic to enter, lives to ponder and explore. Where to begin again?