He heard the bells coming, one…then another. They all had the same tone, repeated vibrancy, their ring calling the participants back to the room. As he came to, he was aware of a dull ache in his right knee, an chronic running injury. The lack of self-consciousness lifted now that everyone was present, glancing around, some more wrapped up in their thoughts than others. He smelled pinon pine and another fragrance he couldn’t place. Cedar?
The leader of the session, Lakota, sat legs crossed on a raised platform. His eyes were closed. Head tilted, his long black hair cascaded, he appeared to be listening to a reedy woodwind instrument coming from a corner of the room.
“Find a pillow, and circle up,” Lakota said in his baritone voice.
Chip glanced around, he’d forgotten to bring a pillow.
“I brought two,” the frizzy haired woman said. She handed him the tye-dye one that had Grateful Dead written on one side. He chose that side, sat next to her.
“I’m Gloria,” she said. “I’m your Mom.” She smiled, her coffee stained teeth didn’t detract from her shining glow. Her frizzy hair seemed to be sparkling, dancing.
Chip nodded, still deep in the experience he’d just had.
They’d been invited to lay down on mats, each participant was assigned a trained assistant.
“Close your eyes, and follow your breath,” Lakota had instructed.
At first Chip thought, so what? I do this naturally, don’t I? But after some time passed, he felt a person close, moving around his body. Not touching him, so he squinted, even though they were asked to keep eyes shut. The woman was doing a form of a dance over him, like a massage without touch. And suddenly, powerful visions of his mother came to him. He closed his eyes, breathing harder, deeper, he felt his heart racing.
He felt pulled across a wide open tundra, at first daunting, then magical. It was dream- like, other-wordly and yet familiar. Then he saw her.
His mom stood beside a fast, furious river. The sound of the rapids was so loud that Chip couldn’t hear what she was saying. It was as if her mouth was moving, but silent simultaneously. The images jumped: now he was inside a mosque in a temperate location, running through a narrow hallway, from or toward something, he didn’t know. Perhaps both. He was opening doors on both sides but the rooms held only air. He was looking, searching, but for whom? The heat intensified, and the sweat poured down his face. He opened the last door, inside it was a coffin. He walked toward it, and as he did, he started to fly. Up into the wooden rafters of the building and out over the vast waters of the Mediterranean.
The next thing he remembered was being cradled like a baby, in a fetal position, but by whom? It was his mother, who started cooing to him as if he were an infant. Rocking him. She sang softly, a favorite nursery rhyme from his youth. He smelled lavender, her skin immediately after her daily baths. It gave him chills, a blanket was placed around their cocoon. He wanted to stay there forever, inside this image, hearing her song. For him. It felt like hours passed.
Then he heard the bells.