Lizard led me along a stony little pathway winding its way through an array of the most gloriously coloured plants. The flowers surrounded us, enveloping us in their warm scents, heady jasmines filling the air, really quite soporific. I think I may well have succumbed had I not been so excited by the sounds coming from up ahead. I could hear talking and singing and clattering and, well, all the usual sounds of life buzzing merrily away. Getting louder we turned a corner, coming out into a small clearing and there below us, at the base of the hill, lay a settlement. Until that moment I had not realised we had climbed onto higher ground, however, the settlement was definitely below us, lying in a valley.
From this vantage point I could see that the buildings had been set in a seemingly specific manner, the outer buildings forming a circle whilst two straight rows were contained within it – running north to sound and east to west. There was something at the centre, but from this distance it was difficult to distinguish.
I followed Lizard down, again experiencing that odd sensation of ascending whilst descending, all the while the humming of life becoming louder and clearer.
As we approached, two figures came out onto the path to meet us. The smiles on their faces were huge – it was as if they had been waiting for us, expecting us. ‘Of course‘, I reasoned to myself, ‘they know Lizard and are welcoming him home, assuming this is his home’.
I was taken into the warmest embrace – the pulse of this person was so strong yet so calming. I felt immediately at ease.
“I am Iolite and this is Malachite, we are happy to welcome you to our home Willow, we have been waiting for you. Come with us and we will show you where you will be staying, a hut has been prepared for you, I am sure you will be most comfortable.”
Iolite took my arm and led me into the settlement – as we crossed the outer circle of buildings she made a sign, but I was not quick enough to catch it properly. Lizard and Malachite walked behind us, I could hear them chattering away to each other but not what they were saying, although there seemed to be something amusing them as they chuckled away.
Once inside the circle I was led to a hut with mottled brown walls and a beautiful green roof, which lay to the east. “This will be your home Willow, whilst you are with us. Please go in and refresh yourself. Your belongings will be perfectly safe here. Food is being prepared and will be ready soon, we shall come back for you in a short while.”
I entered the hut to find it to be lined with the most beautiful and sumptuous fabrics, the floor covered with, what looked to be, hand-woven rugs, and there were cushions of all shades and sizes – one or two big enough to take a whole person, I suppose they are for sleeping on. In the corner, well not a corner for there are none, the hut is round, a little table stood which had been adorned with coloured candles, stones of all descriptions, and a small mother statue honed from rock. Opposite this was a similar table holding exactly the same except on this one stood a small father statue. There also stood a basin, again feeling as if carved from rock, a jug of water by its side, so too a bar of soap. I emptied the water into the basin and washed – ah that beautiful scent of jasmine again. I changed out of my grubby clothes, placing them into the basin to soak. I couldn’t help myself, I had to touch and feel everything in the hut – all the surfaces, tables, shelves, basin etc were made from varying pieces of rock or stone – all the wall coverings felt smooth and soft and warm to the touch, as did the floor underfoot. As for the cushions, well, they were just the best – so soft, so yielding – I could see I was going to sleep very well here.
“Alright?” – Lizard’s head poked through the opening. “Oh yes indeed, this is wonderful,” I replied. He grinned, “You will like it here, they are good people and wise, you can learn a lot from them if you will.”
“Hello”, Iolite’s voice sounded from outside, “Are you ready to come and eat?” I joined her and Lizard outside. “Thank you,” I said, “I feel so much better for a clean up.” Iolite smiled. “Come now, let’s get you fed.”
At the heart of the settlement, where the two straight rows of huts crossed, or would have done had they met – there was a circular space, within which had been laid a fire with various pots steaming away. It looks as if the cooking for the whole village could be done here, although at this time there was only Iolite, Malachite, Lizard and myself . There were plenty of other folk around but they were just going about their business as usual.
“Where am I? What is this place called?” I asked.
“Time enough for questions later, now it is time to eat,” this was Malachite whose voice has the sound of hot chocolate, very smooth, dark and warm which immediately puts you at ease. I have to admit I felt a just a little melty!
Malachite served us platefuls of delicious pulses and vegetables which had been cooked to perfection and spiced just right. I was in heaven! I am a very earthy person, I like my food and I like my comforts – this place suited me just fine – I think they may have difficulty getting rid of me!