WINTER BREAK: A Luminous Journey into Wisdom and Love
BY ASTRID FITZGERALD
Copyright © 2008 by Astrid Fitzgerald
...from chapter 2...
Caroline drew to a stop when she saw Lorenzo wasn’t behind her. Getting out of the way of the steady stream of skiers, she scanned the slopes. "Oh, God!" She cried out loud, seeing Lorenzo barreling down a steep slope, way off-trail, quite clearly out of control. She was little surprised to see him take a spectacular fall, tumbling head over heels, more than once, before finally coming to a halt. When he didn’t move, Caroline, her heart pounding wildly, raced to his side. She let out a sigh, seeing him lying, spread-eagle, amidst his tangled gear, howling with laughter.
"Is this not wonderful?" He said, still laughing.
"Yes, it’s wonderful!" She was glad he found it so terribly amusing. "It’s wonderful you don’t seem to be hurt."
"Si, Si! But it is not what I mean! I am saying . . . " He opened his arms with a wide sweep. "all this is wonderful! La vita è bella . . ." He laughed his happy laugh. "la vita è molto misteriosa."
Lorenzo’s voice sounded like music to her, and she had no trouble figuring out he was saying life is beautiful . . . life is very mysterious.
She went to retrieve one of his skis, which, by sheer luck, had come to a stop by a sign that read No Entry. She shuddered, realizing Lorenzo could have ended up at the bottom of the cliff. She helped him get back on his feet, find his sunglasses and round up his ski poles and gloves. Caroline went ahead, gingerly this time, realizing Lorenzo was in way over his head, attempting to ski one of the most expert trails. On the way down, he took a few more spills and was covered in snow when they finally reached the midway station. Sylvia and Carlo, already on their way up, waved from the Bernina Gondola.
"We could take the ski lift to Val Zun," Caroline suggested to Lorenzo, knowing it offered some less hazardous trails. He agreed without a moment’s hesitation.
"How long have you been skiing?" Caroline asked him on the way up.
"I ski a long time ago when I was very young . . . And I ski last year here in Puntraschigna. Carlo and his family invited me, and I taked skiing classes."
"That’s amazing!" Caroline couldn’t believe she was hearing right. "It must mean you have a lot of natural talent. I’ve skied and taken lessons as far back as I can remember.’
"I watch you. You are fantastic!"
She laughed. "As matter of fact, I’ll have to do some serious training between now and New Year’s Day . . . I’ll be racing in the Giant Slalom competition."
"Che peccato . . . " He looked perturbed. "I think, you will not have time to . . . how do you say . . . to hang out with me, yes?"
"Oh, don’t worry . . . " She had trouble keeping a straight face. "I’m sure I’ll have some time to hang out with you. After Christmas, I’ll be taking some racing classes in the mornings. But I’ll have plenty of time to do some downhill skiing just for fun. Have you ever done any off-trail skiing?"
"No." He shook his head, and then his eyes lit up. "Yes, yes . . . you see me do it a little time ago."
"I’ll show you how to do it. It’s real easy. But I think, for a start, we should ski a less treacherous mountain." . . . .
. . .from chapter 4. . .
"Why do we forget?" Caroline asked
"It is a very long story . . . " Luma fastened the shawl that had taken flight. " . . . an eternal story inherent in matter. Forgetting, my dear child, is caused by the play of the forces of Maya – the eternal illusion. The forces of Maya ceaselessly combine and re-combine," Luma said in a kind of chant, sweeping her arms through space, " . . . vibrating as light and sound . . . forming waves and patterns of ringlets and spirals . . . giving endless births and unceasing sustenance to the visible and invisible universes."
Caroline’s mouth fell open seeing Luma’s words take shape, and was still open as she watched the last of the vibrating clouds of light and undulating waves float through the hut and the ringlets and spirals and crystalline shapes go pop and disappear into thin air. Luma had to be a magician after all. She didn’t dare ask how she’d done it, seeing Luma was looking a little wobbly and had her eyes closed, concentrating very hard.
Luma, finally opened her eyes, smiled, and went on. "When human beings look about them at the visible world, they take it to be the only reality, and live as if matter were the only thing to be regarded." She slung her shawl over her shoulder. "But the story doesn’t end there. Human beings, believing themselves to be independent of Universal Spirit, grow arrogant and, over time, deny Spirit altogether. Hence, they live from a small, constricted self, in a very small, constricted world of their own making. In this constricted state, they do not, cannot, know who they are. And having forgotten their true nature, their source and dependence on the One, they become despondent, fearing life and fearing death."
Caroline was still trying to grasp what she’d heard, when Luma went on. "You have asked the big question, my child," she chuckled, "and there is much more to the human story than can be told in this brief time together. But, as you do your own work – awakening to reality, and remembering who you are – you will, in due time, be able to answer your own questions."
Caroline wondered how long ago she’d forgotten.
"When a baby is born," Luma went on, "it has no sense of a separate existence, but feels itself at one with the universe. Later on, through contact with the physical world, the child loses the ability to commune with the imperceptible world. Soon thereafter, the child acquires the sense of me and mine, which is encoded in language and social conditioning."
Caroline questioned whether she’d ever grasp the meaning of any of it.
"As the child loses the experience of unity, it feels itself to be separate, which brings on the pursuit of identity. Henceforth, the child believes itself to be the sensations, the feelings and the body. Later on in life, as the being falls deeper into forgetting, it identifies itself with its mind, its intelligence, its constitution, its profession and possessions. And there is no end to this drama of forgetfulness."
Caroline always believed she was her body. Didn’t everyone? "Does this . . . this drama happen to everyone?" she said, hesitantly.
"Yes, my child. It is in the nature of things. Human beings, unlike other creatures, have been granted many glorious attributes – reason, self-awareness, intellect, intuition and discrimination – which, by universal intent, are the self-same instruments necessary to awaken from forgetfulness, and removing the veils of illusion, thereby finding the way back to unity."
"Veils of illusion?" Caroline burst out.
"The veils of illusion, also known as vestments or coverings, are the effects of false beliefs and mistaken identification with the body and the faculties of mind. Divesting oneself of the veils of illusion is difficult, and achieved by only a few in a million through sincere aspiration, grace and strength of character."
While Luma paused, Caroline tried to grasp what had sounded rather strange – unlike anything she’d ever heard. What was she to do with all this, and why on earth was she telling all this to her.
"You desired to know what is real." Luma said.
Caroline was getting used to the fact that Luma was able to read her mind.
Luma smiled, which made the light around her even brighter. "The only way to know what is real is to remove that which is unreal – the mistaken beliefs and the claims on identity we spoke of earlier. When, in due time, ignorance retreats, just as the night at dawn, human beings experience that which is real. They are given glimpses of the essence of their true being, lifting them up into a higher order, where they enjoy happiness, knowledge and bliss." . . .
...From chapter 6...
They arrived at a sign pointing to the Philosopher’s Walk. After making some estimates, Caroline figured there was ample time to hike the three-mile loop.
"Speak that I may see you. – Socrates." Lorenzo read the first of the many carved signs on the Philosopher’s Walk.
Caroline, mumbling the words herself, couldn’t make any sense of it.
"I think," Lorenzo said, "Socrates is wishing to say that we know each other by our speech, by how we express our thoughts and feelings. To say it more clearly, it is through the faculty of speech we can see into each others’ soul."
"Oh, that’s beautiful! And I think that is very true." She smiled at him.
They continued up the path, stopping for a short while at each of the philosophical quotations, reading them in turns, and reflecting on their meaning. At other times, they rested enjoying the magnificent views, opening to ever widening horizons.
When they got to a bench in a sunny and protected spot, Lorenzo took off his backpack, crying out "Perfezione! Perfect view, perfect day, and mia amica, Carolina. It is more than I could dream of. Mangiamo!"
He produced two lunch boxes and a white tablecloth from his backpack and spread it on the bench. There were smoked cheeses, soft cheeses and crusty peasant bread and all kinds of pickled vegetables.
"This is all I could find early this morning," Lorenzo said, opening a small bottle of red wine. "Please, have some."
She took a tiny sip.
"Have some more!" he laughed.
"No thanks. I wouldn’t be able to walk up the mountain if I did."
As soon as they finished their scrumptious picnic, Lorenzo pulled out a disc player and put the headphones on Caroline. "Here. Listen to this!"
After an initial shock, she got attuned to the high volume, and closed her eyes, feeling the sounds resonate through her whole being. Right from the beginning she recognized the strains were from Vivaldi, one of her favorite composers. The tempo, at first, was agitating, almost terrifying. Then the music turned gentle and comforting, only to suddenly explode into a tempestuous clamor, reminding her of a raging storm.
"Thank you!" Caroline took off the headset after the music came to an end. "That was wonderful. I love the part that sounds like horses and sleigh bells."
"Yes, I do too. It is the Largo, the second movement of L’Inverno . . . Winter. I love very much Vivaldi. I think he was a great genius. He did not just describe nature . . . what I mean, imitate natural sounds, the way some composers do. There is much more to his music. It creates . . . no . . . it brings back the natural order in the listener. But, I found out this can only happen, if a person is listening completely and consciously."
"Yes, I know what you’re talking about. I feel great . . . like new – as if the music had blasted all the cobwebs out of my brain."
"Is it not amazing? The effect of sound on the human being is very, very powerful, and I think people are becoming more conscious of this. The master teachers of ancient times knew much more about the incredible power of sound than we do now. They say that the whole universe is created by a single sound, which keeps on sounding and . . . and preserving the creation. And then, they say, when the sound stops, it will all disappear. Poof!"
"I hope that won’t happen right now, or anytime soon." Caroline laughed. "I love all this . . . this beautiful creation, this . . . "
Lorenzo drew her close, kissing her on her brow, her eyes, and her nose and cheeks. She was too startled to utter a sound, and clenched her teeth tight when he squashed her aching arm. Not wanting to hurt his feelings, she squirmed her way slowly out of his embrace and stood up.
"Forgive me!" Lorenzo hid his face in his hands. "It is very difficult . . . I cannot stop myself. I wish to express my love for you."
Caroline couldn’t bear seeing him look so downcast, wanting to hug and console him. But she just couldn’t get herself to move or even say a word.
He got up and cradled her head in his hands. "I love you, Caroline. I love you very much, and I hope, and I wish you will feel the same way I do . . . someday."
Too choked up to say anything, Caroline put her arms around him and buried her face on his chest. Lorenzo held her for a long time, rocking her gently and speaking softly in her ear . . . Carolina, Carolina, cara mia. Gradually, she let herself go with the motion, as her heart opened to an indescribable feeling of joy. . . .
Copyright © 2008 by Astrid Fitzgerald
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