“Hello?” I heard a voice behind me.
I turned around and there stood a lady, with a golden sickle in one hand and in the other, a handful of thyme and sage.
“Oh, hello, I’m…I’m…” I tried to talk.
While she was putting the sickle back in its leather sleeve on her belt she said “I’m Vivian,” she smiled kindly. “Welcome to the Travelling Artists’ Guild Halls, I guess you’re looking for the Guildmistress?”
“I’m…I’m…Ilan and he is my horse, Shobogenzo San” I stuttered and smiled.
“Nervous?” she said.
“Well, I’m certainly having a very interesting day!” I relaxed a bit with her easy-going presence. “Is this…Shangri-La???” I finally asked, not sure why the question popped into my mind like that.
“Shangri-la?! Oh no, not yet” then she looked very deep into my eyes, and she laughed.
“Not yet?” I repeated. “What do you mean? Is it going to be?”
“No, not for me. But perhaps for you, if you wish it” she said
As if she was in a little rush, Vivian turned towards the village and indicated me to follow her. “Come, come to my house and have a herbal tea with me in the back garden. I think you need to settle down and get some explanation. I know this must be all very intense, but you will see that after I give you some hints about what this place is and why you are meant to be here, you’ll feel at home. By the way, you’re arriving just on time, we are about to celebrate the Ceremony of Departure, and still you will have a whole afternoon to walk around and install yourself. Don’t worry about the horse, he’ll be happy to trot around, there’s a lot of food in the plains, and he can drink from the river. All horses here are free to go wherever they want, and they never go too far”.
“Oh, I don’t worry! I know what he is feeling at all times, and now he’s just as happy as he can be!” I sighed and followed Vivian.
We crossed the bridge, and after the bridge we turned left and followed a little dirt path until we reached a wooden fence. Seeing it from the other side of the river I didn’t realize how beautiful the house was, but now that I was standing just before it, I noticed so many more details! The house was made out of old stones of which some, the lower ones, were covered in moss. The thatch was so well arranged that it looked perfectly uniform. Three windows in the front allowed me to see a bit of the inside; a few old wooden shelves with well arranged stuff on them, but I couldn’t see much. I was intrigued.
“This house is so beautiful! Do you live here?” I asked.
“Let’s say this is where I live when I come here, yes” she answered.
Instead of going inside the house, we walked on the lawn to the left, and around the building. Vivian had the most amazing views of the village from there. In the back garden, she had a lawn, some fruit trees, and a vegetable garden. She invited me to sit at the garden table under the porch which was covered with climbing vines, and were now, turning into amazing oranges, maroons and reds.
She went in, and came out with an iron kettle, and while she was lighting the wood of a handcrafted outdoor oven, she continued talking “Ilan, the first thing I want to tell you is that it’s not the first time I meet a Misaki. A long time ago, I knew your mother very well”.
“Ok…” I said “So this is the place where I’m going to get all the instructions I need to start my journey???”
“That’s it, you got it” said Vivian. “You are good in resolving mysteries! We like this kind of people here, you are definitely a Misaki!”
“And I suppose that the Guildmistress is the owner of this place?” I asked.
“Well, nobody really owns this place, Ilan. This is a place that is no one’s, and everyone’s at the same time, you understand? The Guildmistress is the person that has been elected this year to organize and guide our journeysm,” she said.
“Yes, I understand. My mum told me that the Guildmistress was willing to meet me here. I’m guessing that she is the one that will tell me everything I need to get started?” I sipped from my cup a little bit of hot liquid and of course, as always, I burned my tongue. Pretending I was ok, I continued asking “Where can I find her, Vivian?”
Vivian was sipping from her cup without getting burned and I envied her, the herbs smelled so good! I put my cup on the table waiting for it to cool down a bit.
“She actually asked me to take care of you until the Ceremony of Departure, she is very busy right now. I’ll tell you myself what items you need to travel, show you your rooms and the stables, and one essential thing; taking you to meet your very own mentor”.
“I like this, Vivian. I like it very much. All starts to make sense.” I said while checking my cup with my hand.
“I know, everything will feel very familiar to you from now on, because you are on the right path” she said. “The right path, and the right place”
“And the right people” I said convinced, and sipped the now-not-so-hot-herbal-tea from my cup, which warmed me inside in a chilly autumn afternoon.
“¿Or was it the person sitting in front of me that warmed my heart?” I thought.
And a tear of the deepest joy only known by me, rolled down my face, and reflected on it, Vivian saw the marvelous grassy plains that lay in front of us, but she also saw the sacred land in me.