Those who know me well, know the story I’m about to tell…
So I once started a post. A post with a short story about a jester. Now I’ve returned to that story. But so as to introduce new readers in the right order to the various stories, I’ve posted them all below. Well, not all of them. I have many more. But these are the ones I have released out into the world. It’s magical realism and herbal magic and all those things I love. For those who know me well, know the story I’m about to tell…
The Jester — Chapter Unknown — The Setting
And so it begun — the darkness started shimmering, as if something magic was about to happen. Then a golden line formed along the horizon, like a burning snake that glittered in orange and peach. A few minutes later it was as if a thousand lanterns were lit across the sky and it exploded in a burst of color — fiery reds and deep oranges, bright pinks and stunning yellows.
This was the awakening. What greeted the world every morning from the vantage point of the red rock. Here you got a free show at dawn, whether you were an ant, a human, or a bear. Nature made no distinction, but maybe as a human you could appreciate the spectacle more.
As dawn stretched her wings and took flight into morning, the dew drops glittered like diamonds and the plants stretched towards the light, greeting it with delight.
Then the midday sun came along, its warmth caressing the rock. Now animals gathered to enjoy the heat and the soothing coolness of the nearby river. The river itself danced in the sunshine and rocked back and forth as the wind played with it. As the river crashed against the rock, water splattered; drops forming cascades of glitter when met by rays of the sun. You could even spot rainbows amongst the tiny drops.
Once plants and animals had enjoyed the warmth for long enough, the afternoon breeze swept in. Now the grass and trees danced in the wind, to the music of birdsong and the sound of rushing water in the river. The wind dusted the area clean as it twirled and swirled and made everyone smile.
As evening fell, so did calm. The wind felt the need to rest and calm descended on the red rock like a comforting blanket as the sunset hour came about. Now a golden light caressed the landscape making everything look warm and cozy. The sky lit up in a display of fireworks so impressive even animals seemed to take note; stilling to see what the miracle in the sky was all about.
As the golden light slowly turned into a soft, purple hue, frogs and cicadas came out to play a symphony; a lullaby for weary ears. Then, one-by-one, the stars were lit in the sky to provide spotlights for the performers. When the moon herself rose to bring the greatest spotlight of all, night creatures could be seen fawning themselves in the light, like performers on a stage. The stage Mother Nature provides to all creatures and plants on Earth.
And so day-by-day nature provides her wonders and pillars for growth and transformation; for seeds to be planted and blossom into flowers; for ideas to take hold and grow into dreams and realities; for people to meet and create wonders together, or just sit back and enjoy the miracle called life.
The Jester — Chapter Unknown — the Traveler
And so the mistral was blowing. They called it the “masterly” wind, but to her it always reminded her of a minstrel. A minstrel that had taken to the streets in a big way. Bringing with it the tastes, smells and memories of other towns; other people and places. It shook the heavens and cleaned the Earth. It stirred up people’s imagination and made them stay up at night; sitting curled up by the fireplace drinking cups of tea, chocolate, or hot wine.
Yes, the wind cleaned the Earth as it stirred up people’s imagination and made them empty their thoughts into the night. After they’d seen what they’d kept hidden for many months, they were cleaned. Left in the air however was the residue of thousands of voices that the wind had carried with them. Violette liked to listen to those voices. Hear little segments of what was going on in the world. Catch whiffs of the scents from places far away.
If the rain came, of course, all foreign voices were cleaned away. Instead the Earth rose into the heavens and you smelled the scent of home. Violette liked that too. She loved her home. Yet, she liked the temptation of far away lands. Of travelers’ tales. Once every month or so she’d take her carriage and drive to Avignon to stock up her cupboards with new ingredients. She could have gone less often, but she liked her produce fresh and she wanted an excuse to go there. To smell some different scents in the air. Hear foreign accents. Be intrigued by scholarly talk.
During such visits she’d often have random encounters that’d leave her smiling. Whilst some people could go to a city and not meet a soul, she found she’d often meet strangers as easily as others spent money for milk. In shops where she went often she knew the owners and they’d introduce her to fellow patrons. Sooner than she’d know it she’d be sipping tea or hot chocolate in a salon with some person she’d never met before. Though many were country folk and rather than sipping tea they’d exchange herbal recipes, tales of births and miracles; hard to cure diseases and the joy of the new harvest, or the first spring blossom.
Once on such a trip she’d met a man who had quite the air of a refined man. He was a gentleman. Yet it was clear he’d traveled the world and learned to live in ways no gentleman lived. The adventurer could never be held entirely responsible for always behaving with tact when dealing with pirates and demons in seas unknown. It made a man grounded, because rather than speak it made him live. Face the dangers and the beauty of life. It made some jaded, it made others wide awake to wonder.
This man, James, had many a story to tell. For hours he’d charmed her with tales of everything from the perfect orange blossom for perfume to the most intriguing tea ceremonies in Japan. He was intelligent, knowledgable and not one bit conceited or proud. He was a gorgeous man.
His refined manners and rough hands would charm most any woman in a skirt. And given all women wore skirts at the time, that amounted to a rather large number. She was charmed too. She wanted to stay. Listen to more tales. Yet, as someone who knew most anything from looking upon a man, she knew that he would be like a giant in her town. He’d go there. He’d rumble around. Then he’d leave, only to come back at times, always longing to go again. And she, she’d enjoy the road for a while. She’d be curious. But she had a town to care for. And there’d never be harmony between the two. He’d never fall in love with her town, even if he would with her. And she’d never fall in love with taking too many too long journeys, even if she’d adore him.
There was discord and she could feel it trembling in the Earth, like the murmur before an earthquake.
No, what she dreamed of was slightly different. A bit softer somehow. Trips that went further than she’d been, but not too far. As for a man she wanted someone who would long to return. Someone who’d love her town like it was his own, even if he traveled.
Temptation is what temptation is though. Like anyone else she was tempted. If so only for a night, but night brings morning and morning brings light. She did not want to raise a child on her own with a father unknown, although the romance of one night with a man did appeal to her. One night. One single night of life and wonder. Not long enough to see the things that in daylight would break the two of them apart liked a cracked eggshell. But one night can bring heartache if you look upon it in the eyes forever and wise as she were she did not fancy the idea. So she left, but her body was aching for more.
It had been different when she were a mere eight or nine summers old. She’s been with her grandmother to Avignon, shopping for herbs and spices, as well as special orange water. A boy had looked at her from behind a sack of potatoes in the store. His eyes were green as grass, his hair dark as a raven. His cheeks were red as if someone had pinched them, but it was only the sun. The sun and joy of life.
He’d seemed so confident, yet completely unaware of his own confidence. There was absolutely nothing frightening about him, just an intense sense of warmth and some resemblance of the beginnings of strength. He’d smiled at her. One big beautiful smile. And she’d felt butterflies fluttering in her belly.
They’d spoken and he’d taken her outside. Showed her tricks with his yo-yo, followed by all sorts of other tricks. He’d done handstands and backflips, taken a dice out from behind her ear and juggled some eggs. Not a single one broke. And just like that she’d known that she wouldn’t break around him. That he caught what he said he’d catch.
She’d never seen him again.
He was, as she understood, part of a traveling carnival. Her grandma had smiled when she spoke of him – she’d met him as she’d given them rock sugar when she exited the shop. And she’d let them play as she carried on with her errands – they’d followed her around town, but stayed outside shops when she went inside.
He’d shown her so many tricks which she’d later memorized. At least the ones she could remember. Sometimes she’d looked into his eyes instead of at the trick and forgotten what he was doing as soon as it was done. He’d made her laugh.
They’d spoken. She’d spoken about recipes and kitchen delights; he of marvelous travels along winding paths. He’d spoken about bringing people to their heart; she’d spoken about curing people with herbs and spice. He’d spoken about the joy of watching acrobats performing new tricks; she’d spoken about the joy of sitting cuddled up by the fire in the kitchen, as the scents of what was baking slowly filled the room.
To her he was beauty. Plain and simple. He’d understood her. Everyone else was a stranger with whom she shared moments. He was listening to her soul. As if he could see it and she could see his. As if they were actually touching each others souls with their hearts. It was magic. Not the pulling of coins and dice from weird places, but that feeling of being seen. Of belonging. She knew they had different lives. Different experiences. But it was as if they understood each other perfectly. They weren’t the same, but their world was the same even if they went on different journeys.
Her grandma understood her too. She belonged to the same world. Her grandma had taught her about life. About everything she knew. She’d taught her to look inside people to see what they felt and what they needed to feel better. And the boy did something similar, only in a very different way. He understood.
Some people fascinated her and struck a chord with her, like the gentleman adventurer. He was exciting, yet refined. He was intellectual and he understood her as intellectuals do, but he did not feel what she felt. The boy did. That boy from so very long ago.
The Jester — Chapter Unknown — The Crow
The crow crowed and she listened. It was an unusual sound in this forest. When she came here at dawn to harvest herbs and berries, the only sounds were usually those of twittering birds — early risers like the lark and the occasional frog, still awake after a night of singing by the river.
It was a small forest — not one where robbers hung out — but it held all the magic of larger forests. Moss covered stones and branches, glens were filled with wildflowers and there was that special shadowy darkness that could only be found in forests. Sometimes the darkness was caressed by glittering sunbeams, other times white mist floated in to stroke it. The damp scent of rotten leaves and pines in autumn, and the rising scent of dry pine in the heat of summer could also be found here. It was a forest, simple as that.
On early mornings, dew decorated the forest, making it sparkle when sunlight hit. And in winter frost covered the entire forest, making it glow as moonlight, or sunbeams showered it with whatever light could enter between branches.
She didn’t spend much time in the forest in winter, but once, on a brightly lit night, when the full moon glowed and the stars sparkled, she’d been lured out of her house by a glowing light seen through her window. The light had turned out to be the frost illuminated by moonlight and star shine. She’d walked to the forest and it had looked like it had been filled with sparkling diamonds. It had been like walking through an enchanted landscape, where every branch glittered. It was one of the most beautiful sights she’d ever seen.
The crow had startled her out of her reverie. Which was thankful, as she’d been thinking about James, the traveler. The man she’d not wanted to pursue, yet was left wondering about. Not because she wanted to be with him, but because she longed for someone to bring something new to her life. Someone to talk to. Someone who understood her. And James had understood a part of her most townsfolk never would. Her mind had always been too big for this town, yet this was her home. Even if she traveled, she always wanted to return.
So, as she stepped into the forest, she stepped into herself. She let go of James and the frustration (and sensual longing) she felt and rather chose to receive love. As she was. As all that she was.
She realized, at that moment, that the townsfolk which she loved and wanted to help and heal, she’d also come to despise. Because they left her longing for more. Their little arguments, problems and ailments sometimes frustrated her. Because had they only known had they only understood, then they wouldn’t have those problems in the first place.
She was the lucky one. She’d read books while most of them could barely read the simplest of pamphlets. Each one of them had gifts. Each one of them were brilliant in their own way. And she loved many of them. Cared for all of them. But they were not like her. Maybe Madame Fontainbleu, but not quite.
If she went to the big towns, there’d be many interesting minds, but not the people she loved. That’s why she’d always stayed. Waiting. Waiting for the next traveler to come to town. Hoping.
She wanted to travel, she realized. Wanted to be infused with something new. Something wild.
She understood then that we all live with the ghosts of who we want to become and what we want to do, unless we become the person we want to be and do what we want to do.
It’s just, we don’t even realize half of what we’re thinking most of the time. Don’t even notice our own desires, save from small twinges, or a sensation that something is lacking, or wrong.
Once you know, you take action, unless your mind is so clouded by doubt that you can’t think straight. Then you might run around in circles for the rest of your life. You need to know what you want, what you seek, and then you have to move in that direction.
Your life is in your hands, but usually, when you open your heart, your life falls into your hands. Sort of like a gift from the great unknown. Whatever forces may be. That.
Do and it shall happen, but that all starts with think and it shall be. Unlock your heart and it shall be. Know what’s in your heart and set it free.
A bird twittered up ahead and she realized that it was all about perspective — a bird’s eye view. She’d felt caught in her own life. Waiting for something to happen. But she could just breathe, relax and decide what she wanted to do. She felt sure that an opportunity would present itself now that she knew what she wanted to do. While up until now, she’d just sat back, waiting for the next traveler to arrive, while her own frustration had grown with her lack of inspiration for helping the townsfolk, who were not who she wanted them to be. They were not travelers with tales from foreign lands.
The crow crowed again. Sometimes, she thought, you have to die to your own illusions. Death, after all, is just a transformation. A change of shape.
It’s like being frustrated that you’re beautiful, but no one sees your beauty. You have to travel to be seen. The tale about the ugly duckling sprang to mind. She didn’t want her beauty to be seen. She wanted to meet people who understood her. Then again, that’s usually what people who wanted their beauty to be seen meant, because those who understand us find us beautiful. They truly see us.
Sometimes life throws someone in your path who sees you, sometimes you have to walk another path tp be found. The path you truly wish to be on.
Violette looked up at the blue skies, visible through branches. Light shining through the canopy of thick greenery. The light, she reflected, had always been there, but she’d been busy being caught in the forest.
Life, she mused, is only limited by our own limitations. She’d felt a growing discomfort; an awareness that something was wrong, she’d just not realized quite what until now. Here. In the forest. Where a crow had crowed. She immediately started thinking about who would look after her garden — all her herbs — but realized that all that was easy. There were plenty of masterful people who tended a garden in this town.
Answers, she pondered, are so simple once you know you’re looking for them. It’s before you know you’re looking they’re hard to find.
And with that she went merrily on her way, looking for raspberries for her patisseries. Because she had a feeling that today, someone would be wanting something very red and very refreshing. A deep, fruity rush. Something a little bit like new love. And she felt excited about bringing them that, because in a week’s time, she’d be on the road. She’d be happy herself.
The other night, as I was standing in my kitchen, in my log cabin, in the forest, a crow crowed. I looked up as it’s an unusual sound around here. A few moments later, I sat down by candlelight and picked up a pen and paper. Just like in my teens I was without a device to type on and just like in my teens I returned to my favorite character: the Jester. The traveler. The magician. The entertainer. The wise one. So I wrote a chapter in The Jester — my very much unfinished novel that, ever so often, gets a new chapter added to it. It all started with a short story someone asked me to write.
The funny thing with writing is that you discover as you go along. I didn’t know what I was writing until it was written. And as I wrote, solutions presented themselves. For some reason I was looking at my Facebook feed and an acquaintance of mine had posted a heartfelt post about losing a child; something I feared myself a little while back when the little one was diagnosed with a chronic disease. Her post made me realize that it’s all about perspective. Her love took her through it. As my love needs to take me through the situation with the children I’m raising. With the older boy’s autism spectrum disorder, with the girl’s ghetto ways and with the little one’s disease. Love is the right perspective.
As I wrote, I also got another perspective on my office situation. For months I’ve been frustrated as my children leave later in the morning than previously and one of my children now comes home midday. It disrupts my workday as I work from home. Besides, at home there’s always something to fix, clean, or get distracted by (recently: having no electricity for example). And it’s lonely. For years, I’ve felt it was lonely.
Lately I realized I needed to get an office space due to the situation with the kids, but I’ve been dragging my feet getting a space where I live as getting another empty desk where I sit by myself typing isn’t particularly alluring. Also, paying another bill is always something I drag my heels with. So I’ve kept going to coffeeshops, but it breaks up my day and sometimes I want to start working at six am, or finish at midnight. It doesn’t pan out. If I have work space at home, a couple of coffees a week keeps loneliness at bay, but now my workspace at home has been compromised by the kids coming and going.
Writing this piece, I suddenly realized that if it is too expensive to drive to Cape Town to a co-working space every day, I can take the bus. Yes, I lose time, but having longer work days is still preferred. Even driving and wasting money on petrol is preferred to what I’m doing right now.
So yesterday, I got myself a viewing for a space in a place I love, with flexible working hours, where I can meet other people. And suddenly my life feels completely different. I feel like I actually have a shot at living life the way I want and accomplishing the things I want to accomplish. I will have the time I need to work and I’ll be in a space that inspires me, while meeting new people.
The Jester — Chapter Unknown — Winter
The earth rose to greet her no matter the season. Today the air smelled of winter. It had that unmistakably clean tinge to it and was cold and crisp like an apple. It was almost as if though you could take a bite and it would crack like the skin of an apple, or a piece of ice. Frost was only a breath away.
Dreams clouded the sky–it was so heavy with them, she just about expected them to fall down and powder the earth with a fine layer of snow. Because in winter, people dreamed. Cooped up in their houses huddling by their fireplaces, they dreamed. They dreamed of long days and summer nights spent out in the wilderness catching fish, or kissing their latest lover, high on the essence of summer. And as people dreamed, the sky got clouded with their desires until they fell down like snow–sprinkling the earth with seeds that would blossom once summer arrived. At least if they were nurtured.
Snow. All she could think of was roses captured in Turkish delight. Smooth like ice. Cold. Dusted with powdered sugar, just as the earth would soon be dusted with snow.
People did not associate roses with winter, but today she felt sure roses were just what she needed and what should go on the menu tomorrow. Some light pink Turkish delight to match the soft grays of the clouded sky. And if combined with something made with mint, it would be cool, too.
Roses were soft and sweet and people needed that on days like these when the grayness of the world threatened to swallow them. Yet, there was an edge to all the gray. A sharpness–a bite in the air that turned your cheeks into roses in their own right. As much as your senses were dulled by the gray color scheme, they were awakened by the cold. It was impossible not to get a thrill when walking briskly in this weather.
So that’s what she did–Violette went for a brisk walk through the sleeping little town. The streets winded around sand colored houses. Walking along those streets, Violet felt comforted knowing that she knew every turn. Every step was familiar to her.
Then she stopped. In front of her was a red parcel. Neatly wrapped and sealed with wax, it stood on the pavement like a stop sign. A tag was attached to the parcel with a piece of twine and suddenly the tag moved with an unexpected gust of wind that seemed to have come out of nowhere. It was a still morning. The morning before frost. The morning before snow. The air was practically heavy with it. Heavy and still.
As the tag moved, Violette took a step closer. The tag was black and her name was written on it in purple. Purple paint. As she leaned down to take a closer look, the scent of violets greeted her nostrils. Spooked she took an involuntary step back. Her grandma had always done that–scented her gifts with violets–but she’d been gone for many years now. Violette ran her bakery. Lived in her house. Cared for her plants and her customers alike. So who was this parcel from and why was it standing in the middle of the pavement?
The sun had only just grazed the sky with that kind of bright yet muted yellow light that signifies a winter morning. It mixed together with the gray to create that perfect winter sky. The fact that it was a Sunday and the sun had just risen explained why no one else had found the package. This was peoples’ day off. A time to sleep and mend old socks and friendships, not a time for getting out of bed at the crack of dawn. Though, admittedly, many people did. They just didn’t set about walking through the village unless they had a very urgent errand. All shops were closed–even her bakery.
Violette felt a shiver move through her. She took a step closer toward the parcel again. This time, she touched it. It felt good. Warm somehow, even though it was cold to the touch.
She turned the tag around.
“My dear Violette, when you receive this I will be long gone, but your dreams will still be alive. Your heart beating in your chest, your keen eyes always studying and learning, and your mind stirring with questions and answers. You’re a seeker, yet someone who is content to stay mostly in one place. You love your home, but would like to see the world for short periods of time. I have no doubt you will undertake ,amy short journeys. Maybe even a grand one, one day. However, in the meantime, I give you this gift. I told Xe to drop it off when passing through town next. He might come see you, he might not. He’s a curious fellow with a brilliant mind, not unlike yours. You’ll enjoy his company if he does pop by. I told him to leave you the gift where you’ll find it. Given it’s Xe, it might be at an unexpected place. I may not be able to hug you, but I will always love you, Gran.”
Violette stared at the tag, that, by now, felt burning hot on her skin. It was a note from her gran from beyond the grave. Tears rose to her eyes. On the darkest day of the year, her gran had given her a gift.
It was a miracle. Only, of course, it wasn’t. It was just her gran thinking ahead and planning a lovely surprise for her. But then miracles are often like that–small things that are exactly what we need.
As of late, Violette had felt restless. Like she had to go some place, only she didn’t know where yet. She was not so patiently waiting for it to reveal itself. The place she was meant to go, that is. And how she was meant to get there also needed ot become clear. She knew the day would come when she’d know, but in the meantime, she’d taken to pacing her kitchen at night and drinking way too much lemon balm and mint tea to soothe her restless mind.
Violette scooped up the gift, and turned around to return to the bakery. She couldn’t wait to unwrap the gift and make her Turkish delight and mint…mint caramels, she decided. Some would be crushed and spread over the Turkish delight. Soothing. They’d be soothing. She needed that now. Just as she needed to open the burning hot gift resting in her arms.
This week we’ve been celebrating the winter solstice here in the southernmost tip of Africa. I’ve been listening to First Frost (again), drunk mulled wine, baked apple pie, lit several fires and candles (a candle is currently burning bright next to me and a fire is blazing downstairs), eaten popcorn with chipotle sauce and butter, collected pine cones and chased shy rays of sunshine. As the weekend approached, this came to me. Well snippets of this came to me. Something about Turkish delight, the scent of winter rising from the earth, and dreams snowing from the sky. The rest I just penned now.
The Jester — Chapter Unknown — The Carnival
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.
The last one is the original story. For more magical realism, visit my Instagram.