I started to rise and he waved me back down. He approached in his nimbus of animals, all silent and throwing off light, although not nearly as strong anymore– more like moonlight than sun. He sat lightly and comfortably in the twin of my chair. He just sat. The look on his face was one of slightly pleased gratitude. Not wanting to stare, and realizing that, whoever he was, he wasn’t going to jump straight into small talk, I glanced down at my cup. I noticed the tiniest bit of firelight playing across the surface of the coffee in it, and then I took another sip. Minutiae like this seemed to be sucking in my attention so fully and completely, it was like being hypnotized or drugged, but I accepted it totally, and the strangeness of it was only a floating awareness in the back of my mind.
I looked over at the newcomer again– he must be some kind of shaman or magician, I thought, although his energy seemed very down to earth and not hocus-pocus-y at all. Though, I supposed, time would tell about that.
As it did. For when I turned again to him, he no longer occupied the chair. In his place was a huge, shaggy timber wolf, looking straight at me. I didn’t even have time to gasp or be shocked or anything. The light flickered and the air shimmered and it was just a man again. He helped himself to some coffee, drinking it black, as I was. His movements were clipped and efficient, yet graceful.
I knew then that he had to be wise, that he had information that could help me. I fidgeted with my cup for a second, and then blurted out, “How can I heal myself?”
He looked at me mildly over the rim of his cup, and I noticed that his eyes were still the eyes of the wolf, unblinking, penetrating and metallic. Then he took a long draught of his coffee, set his cup down and stood. He walked around the little tableau of wing chairs and tables, going back behind them, walking straight and steady. I hurried to follow him, having no idea how big this room was and afraid I might even lose him in it.
There was a thundery whisper, and light sliced into the room, a cool and rather pitiless pearly light. The shaman pushed the heavy drape back and then let it fall in graceful, dusty pink folds. He looked out the window, which was very tall and very wide, although he had only revealed a fraction of it. There were a million book-sized panes of wavy, old, irregular glass.
I saw acres and acres, it seemed, of a broad expanse of grassland, bordered by towering, shadowy trees. Mist still hung in curtains, and the color palette was pearl and white, gray, umber, black. It had a haunting beauty, I could not deny. It had a stillness bordering on mystical.
The shaman opened his mouth to speak. I could see him much better in the pearly wedge of light. He was slight, neither particularly young nor particularly old, though there were threads of silver and gray in his loose braid. He wore a long, belted vest, with a white, possibly beaded, shirt underneath. Coyotes, foxes and dogs swirled around his legs to check in, then swirled off again to do whatever else they were doing in here. There was stardust in their fur.
“You can start,” he said finally, his voice quiet,” by trusting yourself.” He reached for my hands, took them. His hands felt big, warm, rough on mine, which were still a bit chilly. He folded a cool pyramid-shaped object into my hands, curling my fingers around it. I felt a deep soothing hum wherever my skin made contact with it it. “It’s a beautiful world, and you’re part of it.” He gestured toward the window, and I tore my eyes away from him and looked out again.
Streamers of sunlight were unfurling through the mist, burning it away in tiny flares. Steam rose from the fawn and gold grass. The trees in the distance rustled with leaves of emerald, amber, new spring green and jade. Swatches of the purest blue showed through the clearing clouds.
I felt his presence beside me for some time. I never looked at him again. Instead, I stared out the window, each color and detail of the landscape fascinating me in turn, and was immersed in his words. I heard the actual words, in his voice, echoing through my mind, but also I felt something bigger, deeper, wider, the shape of which I could not describe, echoing through my physical body. My palms and the soles of my feet tingled. I watched the sunlight change, spill apricot juice onto the horizon and limn every cloud with shining gold before diminishing, the sky fading to color of the ashes of roses.
I looked down at the stone in my hand. Unworked, its surface was rough but worn, resulting in a smooth, pebbly finish. It glowed a soft rose color in the twilight. It was heavy.
At a slight noise, I looked over where the shaman had stood, and there was a petite black dog with shining eyes, a pointed nose, and bobbed little ears. One of her front legs was missing. She ginned up at me and wagged her tail, clearly saying hello.