The gentle, yet razor sharp sunbeams that used to light up the first spring days back home in Sweden were always some of the most welcome for me. I could feel spring within me. The light changed, the air felt different. Something magical was happening. It was as if I could feel life within me. For some reason Easter became my favorite holiday because of this. Not because of the actual celebrations, but because I could feel this enchanted life force play inside of me. It was like a bud in the pit of my stomach, tickling me, waiting to explode into a flower in full bloom.
Today it’s the autumn equinox here in South Africa, but in Europe it’s the spring equinox. Day equals night. For me the spring equinox always brings me to France and a few years back I wrote a story around that time; it’s a story I still treasure today. It has my heart written all over it. I’ve been working on the second chapter ever since and ever so often I do finish one, but then later scrap it. Maybe I will publish the next attempt here some day. For now, enjoy my favorite spring equinox piece. It all begins at dawn, just as the celebration of the equinox is the celebration of dawn, re-birth, a new awakening…
For those readers that know me well, you also know the story I’m about to tell. Not because it ever happened, but because it was always part of me. You know how I longed to find it, at the same time as it was in me. I guess what I was seeking was an understanding from someone…someone like me that wasn’t me. I have cursed this story many times, because I did not feel like I controlled it, but rather that it controlled me. Yet, it is the most beautiful story I ever came across, because the story is about me. This is all that I am.
It was a town that you could get lost in. Alley after alley swirled in a mesmerizing pattern on the hill. The river passing through was a landmark, but even that twirled. Twirled around the little town and twirled in and of itself as the water was playing… It was a town that could play, that was for sure. Carnivales would light the streets, bring out the townsfolk and bring in strangers. Carnivales are designed for that – for openness. For something extraordinary to happen. You can almost taste it in the air – change has arrived.
People liked this town. It was quaint. Old fashioned, yet open. At least during the Carnivale. It was one of those weird Carnivales that no one knew of through advertisement. It was only the people that came across other people that had been there that knew. And those people often felt propelled to go. Because something, something captured them when listening to the stories of those that had been. It was almost like magic. You could taste the smell of gunpowder, spice and soft vanilla in the air. It was a strangely alluring smell. It smelled of adventure, of danger, yet of comfort and warmth. It was a two sided coin and you were drawn in to see both sides.
The town was, of course, made up of cobble stone streets and medieval sand colored houses. Flower pots decorated entrances and balconies. The sound of life echoed through the streets during the day and lovers’ whispers sneaked around the corners at night – if you listened carefully enough you could hear them. The wind carried them around.
The wind liked caressing this town. Rarely was there ever a storm, yet everyone knew that when the Carnivale arrived there was a different wind. Not the one that caressed the houses, but rather a wind created by something inexplicable. A wind one could feel within, not without. Although you could almost taste it in the air. So strong was the sensation.
In Carnivale time there was also a sweet taste to the air, because every other woman was preparing treats. Chocolates made with secret ingredients, teas made from exotic spices, cakes that looked more inviting than a hot tub in spring, desserts so overpoweringly indulgent that people had been known to become mesmerized by them and candy so supremely sweet, yet so mild that it melted your tongue and your senses.
If you can imagine this town – so sweet, so quaint, yet for one week a year covered in forces so strange, so delicious and so powerful and tantalizing it was almost as if they ruled you rather than you ruled them. Still, you knew, on some level or other, that if you were there it was only because those forces were part of you. Just like the joker is part of the deck. For some, of course, these forces were stronger and they were used to living with them. For others it was only once a year, or once in a lifetime, that they truly let them rule them and that was during the Carnivale.
At dawn, of course, most people and forces were asleep. Instead freshness was in the air. The smell of flowers, water and country air overtook everything else. It was only ever so often that the wind would bring you a taste of the undertones, those that would get stronger as the day moved along.
During one such Carnivale, at one such dawn, sat a man atop a bridge, overlooking the town. The sun was painting the sky a dusky peach, mixed with blues, greens and yellows. It was the colors that made this man arise so early. The colors and the need to see things for what they were. Come night he would become part of the dance of the living and if he did not watch out, he would forget. Forget who he truly was. Forget to see life.
He liked living though, he just didn’t want to entirely fall into the dance because he knew that then it would never stop. He would never step aside to watch. He would just play his part like all the others. Be swept off his feet rather than walking his way. He would always know what people thought, but he would not think it. He would be too mesmerized by their colors, their faces, the sensation of their hands against his…he would dance, but he would no longer be the one choosing which dance, which tune to follow, he would instead be led by the music, the people, the steps…
No, the jester preferred this life, this life where he walked on his own road. The road of course belonged to everyone, but few others walked it. When he did meet someone on the same road they would instantly become friends even though they did not come from the same place. They became friends because they were going in the same direction. They were few though and he had gotten used to being on his own. He had a life. He knew where he was going, even though that was a matter of a constantly changing heart. He knew he just had to follow it and that made him secure. He was comfortable within his own skin.
He was an entertainer, that was his profession. He would tell people what they thought – read them like an open book. Of course he only saw that which was obvious, but they thought it was hidden and that he had cracked them open. Like any good entertainer he would also talk of the news of the day, only he would tell them for what they truly were, not what they were portrayed to be. There was a lot of humor in the truth. He would tell the audience that everything was a lie, but then that was the truth. He could juggle and do tricks with cards, he could play the flute and stand on the one hand. He was, to everyone else, a mystery, but to him he was quite open. He spoke the truth so everyone thought he was lying. He showed everyone a trick, but they could not see it, so they got tricked.
The woman was standing in her shop grinding spices in her mortar. She could have bought them ground, but they were more potent when fresh. The woman knew spices very well – she had studied the use of each one, but when she made potions she did not think. She let her subconscious decide – it had gotten all the information it needed through her studies and it was more trustworthy than her logical brain.
She was up early as her mind tended to be clearer and her instincts purer. That way her potions became even stronger. Besides, she liked seeing people in the morning – the few that managed to crawl out of bed. It was as if their minds, too, were clearer and it made it easier for her to determine what they had come there for. To treat themselves, of course, but what for? You’d think they’d come for celebration, but most came because they needed comfort. No sorrow felt as bad when indulging in something pleasurable and light, or sensual and musty, or simply tantalizing and warm. As the customers entered the shop she would serve them accordingly with wit and charms, but also with the right spices, cakes and drinks. As she saw it that was her job. That and the joy she got from playing with the ingredients, always creating something new. She also created potions for her own sake. Joyous little things that matched her mood. Sunshine food for the soul or tantra for the night time. Kiss me quick cupcakes. Turn me on chocolates. Take me out fudge. Make me laugh cookies. Soothe my soul tea. Bring it on truffles. Sleep well mints. Dream of love candy.
The wind suddenly swept by, swirling in underneath the crack in the door. A second later, whilst the wind was still playing outside, the woman heard a bell gently playing somewhere far away. She smiled. So he was coming. Whoever he was. The wind and the bells always let her know. It had started on a square in Avignon during their Festival. Since then it always happened.
The woman was used to reading signs, just as she was used to reading thoughts. To her it was simple, so long as her mind was clear. As soon as she wanted something the messages got mumbled up – the signs were still there, but she misread them.
The spices she had chosen today were warm – cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, chili… It suited the spirit of the Carnivale. It was made of such animal instincts. Of pleasure. Of the need for transformation. Liberty. Love. Laughter. Beauty. Truth. It was a bohemian revolution according to some, but mainly human if you knew nature. It was what every man dreamt of, but few dared to pursue. The total freedom of being without the need to be. It brought out your hidden desires. Those that were meant to be played with, not suppressed. People had left the Carnivale changed. People had left not knowing what had just happened. People had left pretending to be what they used to pretend to be. It depended on how strong the forces within them were to be free. Some felt more comfortable returning to their old shell.
The scent of the spices twirled up into her face as the door was opened. She didn’t have to look up to know that it was a man, but she was surprised at the lightness of his step. It was not an intrusive one she thought. He was humble, yet with force. He was strong but he cared to be light. Light on those whose path he crossed. She was sure he made an impression, but he didn’t change them by crushing their defenses. He changed them by softly showing them what was there.
“Bonjour monsieur, que c’est que vous voulez?” she asked and looked up as yet another waft of the spices entered her nostrils. So these were his spices she thought. Deep, yet with a playfulness and warmth. Warm, yet with a zest.
“I don’t know,” he replied, his eyes following her body. “I would like breakfast, but why don’t you tell me what’s the best in this café to eat?” She nodded. “Please, have a seat.”
He sat down and opened his bag – a worn out, yet sturdy backpack made of leather. It looked handmade. He picked out a wooden flute. “Would you mind if I play?” he asked. “I will keep it quiet so that the neighbors won’t complain.” “Not at all,” she said. “In fact I’d be curious to hear that which only you can play.” He looked up at her in some surprise. So she knew that each song was different to each man. He had already studied her. He knew that she could read people, yet she seemed somewhat confused by his presence. He too felt that there was something about her that he couldn’t explain, yet knew that he somewhere knew. It was something…
He played and she became mesmerized. In the song she could hear his journeys. She could see the grass fields and the towns. She could taste the food and drink the water. He played with feeling so everything was there in sight.
She placed a plate in front of him and a large cup of hot chocolate, gently spiced with cardamom. “You think I need to be soothed, do you?” he asked, somewhat surprised. “You think you are strong, and you are, but you have walked far. You have given your energy to the hearts of strangers, helping them. You have recovered in the fields and in the valleys, but not many send their energy to you. There was a woman in a town once, but she is but a memory to you now. It brings a smile to your face, but it no longer brings you warmth. It is rare that you find someone you like. Sometimes you encounter fellow travelers, and you share a laugh. You get giddy and happy through talking to someone who knows, but it is not love, it is only sharing. You understand each other. You do not love one another. Yes, the chocolate will soothe you and the food heal you.”
She walked back into the kitchen, knowing that she had said much more to him than she had to any customer in her whole life. To others she had to talk in fairytales. She had to tell stories to make them understand. If she spoke her mind they would be frightened, but he was like her. He read them too.
The jester bit into the muffin, which indeed made him feel an instant warmth, a comfort, throughout his body. Now he knew what he had seen in her before that he had not been able to understand. They did the same job. She through patisseries, he through cards. They played tricks on people. They entertained people, through their taste buds or their minds. Both, of course, leading to the heart. They saw people for who they were and then showed it to them in ways they understood. They opened them, healed them and let them move towards where they needed to go. The people never knew. At least very few. Often they just felt entertained and lighthearted, excited and thrilled, turned on or high, comforted or blessed with joy. They didn’t realize that someone had just gone in and rearranged the pieces of their puzzle. It was a lonely job, yet a very sociable job. It was a heartwarming job, but it did drink some of your energy, like the woman said, because all your energy went to them. You then had to sit and recover in nature – gain energy from somewhere else. He did not question his path, he just sometimes wished that someone would understand it. Not just understand it, but travel along the same path as him, stretching out her warmth to him. Because of course, the warmth of a woman was different from the warmth of a man – both needed but in different ways.
As she came back out to continue grinding her spices for the cake she was baking he asked her: “So you are the magical witch of this town?” She laughed. “Some like to think that. There is nothing as exciting as spells, but there is nothing magical about my food. I make people believe in a message. And I add the spice to enforce it and the intention to go with it. People would understand if you explained, but they prefer life’s little mysteries to remain intact. They’d rather think they were saved by a spell than by nature itself. Such is life.” “They’d rather be fed health than told to get healthy, you mean?” “Something like that.”
The woman’s body swayed as she was grinding the spices. It was as if she was dancing when she moved. She played with nature. He played with minds.
“Can I hold my show here tonight?” he asked. She nodded.
That night the Carnivale atmosphere once again swept across the little town. The air got musky and hot. Desires were lived out, laughters shared. Performances brought joy, fire eaters brought light. Sweets brought freshness and dancers brought lust. The spices became intense, the people open up and played.
As dusk fell the jester performed his tricks. People were baffled. He would tell them little things. Things they didn’t quite understand. He would also gently whisper the desires of their heart. The woman fed them desserts and cakes that suited their mood – gave them what they needed to get; took them from where they were to where they needed to be. There were many laughters, a lot of confusion and finally dancing until dawn. People forgot to think beyond that night. They were swept away by the moment. By the passion. By pure joy.
As dawn came the jester and the woman sat on the bridge. “These are the colors of the jester,” she said, as she pointed to the sky. “I know.” “You play with the colors like you play with the people. You jest, but in your jest lies the truth.” He laughed. “And you bake, but in your baking lies the truth.” She smiled. “It’s an easy disguise.” He countered: “And so is the jest, the magic, the entertainment.”
From that moment, or even before that, they knew that their lives were intertwined, as was the spice with the batter and the cards with the deck.
Sometimes an Ocean meets a Wind. The Wind stirs the Ocean to move and the Ocean sprinkles its mist on the Wind. They fly together, but they will always be apart. Sometimes a Fire encounters a Wind. The Fire burns brighter and the Wind gets warm. They gather strength from each other, but they know they will forever be apart. Sometimes the Earth has a rendezvous with the Wind. The Wind brushes the Earth and makes it come alive and the Earth throws itself into the wind in a game. They twirl together, but they know they will part. Then, once in a while as destiny says, a Wind comes upon another Wind. They match each others’ strengths. They intertwine with one another to see if they can play. They swirl and twirl in patterns to see if there is a rhythm they both like. Maybe sometimes they fly rather quickly, maybe sometimes rather slow. If two such Winds meet and they find a rhythm and enjoy to play, if they are both flying in the same direction, even though only their hearts can tell where to next, then they have found their true partner in life. Because as we know, they know each other inside out. They were born the same, only life moved them apart. They know different notes, but they belong to the same symphony. And together they play.
Written by Maria Montgomery