The Path Of Lord Jaguar

( 2 )

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781449033996
  • Publisher: AuthorHouse
  • Publication date: 10/16/2009
  • Pages: 292
  • Sales rank: 1,163,287
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Read an Excerpt

The Path of Lord Jaguar

A NOVEL
By Margaret Donnelly

AuthorHouse

Copyright © 2009 Margaret Donnelly
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4490-3399-6


Chapter One

As she had done since her arrival, Kémi looked out the second-story window of the servants' quarters and, seeing and hearing no sign of life, knelt down on a floor mat. Once her forehead touched the mat under her knees, her mind honored the four corners of the universe. Within seconds, she found herself in a womb of total blackness, blacker than the color of her African skin. It was an imaginary sanctuary outside of all physical boundaries, a divine cellar in which all of the complexities of her universe were nestled. Though she did not understand them, she trusted and absorbed their hugeness until loving jolts of energy washed her body.

The energy took her to the river groves of her hometown in Nigeria. Once her mind visited the groves, a forgotten memory suddenly spoke to her. On a riverbank, tree roots bathed in a transcendental light pumped energy into neighboring roots. The area was a nature-driven power station that turned these roots into umbilical cords that fed another riverbank near the ancestral whirlpool of her family.

Kémi's ancestors had prayed near this whirlpool for fourteen centuries. The energy of its rocks, waters, and surrounding forest were absorbed with their prayers and, together, were carried to the bottom, where they were honored. She was in the house of eternal consciousness that connected her to the spirit of her ancestors as well as to other invisible realms of the universe.

The energy she felt that day was real. It was just as real as it had been a long time ago when her grandfather, a highly respected priest of Ifá, their ancient religion, accompanied her to this riverbank. They visited the place so many times that she stopped counting by the time she was ten years old. Her spiritual training under his eye had continued for an additional fourteen years until his death over six years ago.

Such training consisted of teaching her oral scripture, divination, prayers, invocations, songs, dances, and recipes of herbal medicine, all spiritual tools that guided her in fulfilling her destiny. His lessons never ceased, even though she moved away to pursue a degree in education in Lagos. But he never missed the opportunity to test her whenever she returned for brief vacations. He always reminded her that destiny meant living life to the fullest while the divine realm guided her.

Therefore, her ancestral prayers were rooted firmly in her everyday life. The divine cellar connected her with their spirit and with the spirit of their descendants. Her ancestors were an integral part of any new stage and every process in her life. They were her strongest connection to the divine, but they were more than that. They were her protectors and her teachers. They took responsibility for her in the same way that she took care of them. She did her part by acknowledging them every day, by doing offerings, and by remembering historical events that were meaningful to the family. The spirit of family was always evolving as long as she brought good character to the lineage. True nobility meant having good character.

Thus, her morning prayers were an opportunity for re-generation and for new expressions guided by such ancestors. Above all, she had to be truthful and humble, because humility was the portal for growth. Good and bad consequences were the result of one's actions and thoughts. Failure was a lesson to be learned. Occasions that brought anxiety meant that there was something different to be absorbed, to be accepted, to be done. By being open to self-transformation, she enhanced her connection with God, or with the house of divine consciousness, which was her way of describing God. So, when she opened the door every morning in search of this connection, the person she was when she entered was almost always different from the person she was at the end of the day.

As she evaluated her own growth that morning, she found that her physical strength had grown as much as her power of concentration. Her intentions produced better and more immediate results. Her inner core had become powerful, like the womb of the river, nourished by her grandfather's ancestral teachings. Lessons never deserted her, even though she asked herself why destiny had brought her to this quiet enclave of Dallas, Texas. It was such a distant and mysterious place from where she had come.

While she changed her position on the mat, her thoughts meandered from life in her hometown in Nigeria to Cuba, where she lived for more than five years, to this rich neighborhood called Preston Hollow. It was only seven miles north of downtown, yet it was remote in ambience with creeks, hollows, woods, and impressive mansions off country-like roads.

Destiny had brought her here in search of her distant cousin, James Stewart IV. He was the manager of the estate where she was hired as a cook and housekeeper. James was a sixty-seven-year-old third-generation American whose great-grandfather, Fákúnlé Adisa, was brought to Texas by the slave trade in 1860. Fákúnlé was an eleven-year-old lad when sold to a white family near downtown Dallas. Now, almost 150 years later, his great-grandson, James Stewart, was her ally and mentor.

When she found James, he had only a superficial connection to Africa due to distortions of place and time rooted in his family's struggle for survival in America. Nonetheless, she had awakened something buried deeply within him, a thread that lay hidden, forgotten, in spite of the complexities of their separate journeys. At least both understood that theirs was an opportunity to understand their own limitations and those of the world they inhabited. She was teaching him a different perspective, one that went back centuries to the place where his ancestors came from, where human life began. He, on the other hand, was conveying lessons on how to survive in a country that she had turned to for sanctuary.

The gap between the family in Texas and the family in Africa was narrowed by their admittedly brief acquaintance, but this was their vision. The vision is what held them together.

Chapter Two

Kémi was a strikingly beautiful woman of medium height whose oval face was punctuated by eyes with heavy lashes and a heart-shaped mouth. Her dark chocolate, thirty-year-old trim figure had not changed much since her adolescence. There was a coolness about her that gave the impression of aloofness, even though this was not true. A careful observer always noticed the great warmth of her large brown eyes, especially when she laughed, which was something she could do with great joy.

As she rose from the floor, she was glad that it was a balmy January day. She hated the icy, unblinking winds that occasionally moved through Dallas. Though the weather was still chilly compared to the sweltering hot weather of Cuba and Nigeria, it was acceptable. She only needed to wear an open black sweater over her navy blue uniform.

As the cook and housekeeper of the estate, she was expected to walk from the servants' quarters, located a few yards behind the mansion, to the mansion's kitchen, by 7:00 am. Her first task of the day was preparing breakfast for her employer, Henry Bruhner, a bachelor of German descent from Argentina. In his early sixties, he was a world traveler who relocated to Dallas ten years ago.

Bruhner was away on one of his trips when she arrived three months ago. James trained her as fast as he could because Bruhner was expected back in mid-January. James taught her Bruhner's customs, protocols, and favorite foods. Bruhner enjoyed elegance, and he demanded perfection.

Therefore, that morning, while she stood at attention a few feet to his right, she took care of his most minimum whim while watching his patrician profile read the newspaper and eat the German-style scrambled eggs, ham, toast, and coffee that she had prepared for him.

The dining room suited his taste for expensive furniture. The room was sumptuous. The eighteen-chair table's glass top was supported by a massive baroque silver-plated pedestal, and it was dressed with the finest European tablecloth, napkins, and sterling silver cutlery. A fresh-flower centerpiece was delivered that morning by a local florist. The color of the flowers complimented the faux bronze and black silk upholstery of the high-back chairs. The rest of the décor was also meticulously coordinated. A large Positano chandelier with bronze leaves hung over the table. The table sat on a color-compatible antique Sultanabad rug.

Except for his temples, which were white, Bruhner's hair was gray, and his eyes were black as coal. In comparison with six-foot-tall James, who arrived at the end of breakfast, Bruhner's stature was shorter by two inches. In contrast to Bruhner's almost icy demeanor, James's kindly face nodded to her, making her feel at ease. As he did every morning, he waited for Bruhner's invitation before he sat down. Such morning protocol ended when she cleared the table and disappeared as fast as she could into the kitchen, which was next to the dining room.

Because today was Friday, she dedicated the rest of the morning to the preparation of lunch and to the cleaning of four bedrooms upstairs, one of which was Bruhner's master suite located in the northeast corner of the house. A vaulted gallery connected his suite to one of the guest bedrooms in the back. The gallery provided a large amount of wall space for part of his extensive collection of Flemish paintings. It bewildered her that so much space was available to one man, who was usually absent.

His bedroom was outfitted with a king-size bed and furniture that reflected his predilection for antiques. Several of these fine pieces were decked in silver and gold silks, while others wore black and warm neutral colors. A crystal-with-gold Venetian chandelier was the most impressive piece due to its craftsmanship and because of the way it sparkled when it was lit. French doors led to an upper terrace, where the top branches of an old magnolia tree fanned out majestically. Sunrays came in through two other large windows that served as an ideal opening for a panoramic review of the outside landscape, including a beautiful terrace on the lower level. To the north of this lower terrace, a cluster of old live oak trees formed an expansive green canopy all year long.

Bruhner's stately two-story French chateau-styled mansion was built on a north-south axis in the early 1900s. He modernized the home when he bought it. The ten-acre expanse, like most of the large estates of Preston Hollow, included flawless lawns, gardens, creeks, ravines, and woods. The landscape was ravishing when the temperature was appropriately warm. During the winter, however, the manicured lawn was pale in contrast to the native Texas trees in the surrounding woods, which still showed different shades of green.

Indiana and Texas limestone were the main materials of the residence. The polished limestone floors were softened by imported Persian and Turkish rugs. Upholstered antiques, imposing European cabinets, and tables of varying eras, sizes, and origins furnished most of the mansion. An abundance of French doors and windows allowed sunlight to highlight the antique white walls, matching faux-finished high ceilings framed with intricate hand-carved moldings. The library's coffered ceilings, hardwood floors, wall-to-wall cabinets filled with books, and paneled walls gave it an intellectual air that Bruhner thought was well-deserved. He considered himself a cultured man who should be surrounded by an impressive collection of books as well as art.

In the entryway to the mansion, a foyer with a curving staircase on the right led to the bedrooms upstairs and to double doors to the dining room on the immediate left. The foyer directly opened into the large gathering room that faced the north with French doors to the lower terrace. Different European styles of the past were represented in a series of large chandeliers throughout the house. While each provided a focal point, the foyer's eighteenth-century embellished Italian lantern was particularly striking. In all, the lower level, which included the kitchen, dining room, gathering room, and library, together with the upper level, offered an elegant European residence.

All in all, Kémi grew accustomed to her cleaning rituals while she basked in her good fortune that there were lush gardens and woods surrounding the estate.

* * *

After Bruhner and James returned from their errands in the early afternoon, Kémi served the master of the house lunch in the same meticulously refined manner used for breakfast. Later, while Bruhner relaxed in the library, she fed James at the kitchen table.

James's mind focused on their plans to do some sightseeing soon after Bruhner's departure for Argentina the next day. His flight was scheduled for mid-morning.

James asked, "Should we have lunch here before we go out?"

She shook her head. "I'll take some sandwiches," she answered in her British-accented English, a leftover benefit of Britain's colonial occupation of Nigeria for more than a century.

He stood up. "Kémi, bring your coat tomorrow."

"Is it going to turn cold again?" She frowned.

"You never know about this weather," he said. While he turned around and left, she dedicated herself to the next designated chore for Friday: inspecting and cleaning the grand collection of silverware and hollowware that had belonged to Bruhner's family for centuries.

The collection included varying styles: Victorian baroque with a gold family crest ... French seventeenth century with golden flowers ... Peruvian scrolled trim ... and all wore an encrusted 24-karat gold "V" emblem on the tip of the handle.

The process of cleaning it was not arduous, just boring. Any piece with the slightest tarnish was cleaned with a sponge, rinsed and dried by hand, and then returned to a felt-lined wooden chest of up to 135 or 140 pieces, or to a felt storage roll or bag. These were kept inside a large walk-in closet that was always locked. Everything from silverware to linens was stored in there. The closet was located on the north side of the kitchen next to the stairs leading to the basement.

The pieces did not appear to be very old because the silver did not have tiny abrasions, always present in really old silver. She had seen extremely old silver pieces, said to be from the time of the Spanish conquest, when she lived in Cuba. Her ex-husband had a few, which he secretly guarded. However, she kept her observations regarding Bruhner's silver to herself, given that James was always too eager to remind her that the collection's lineage went back to the powerful Welser family. Bruhner's pedigree, according to him, was connected to the Welsers, who used gold and silver as the foundation of their great wealth to transact business with many kings and queens of Europe.

She was not as impressed as James, but she took good care of the pieces. At dusk, after she finished this task, she retired to her apartment because there was no need to prepare dinner. Bruhner was spending the evening at the Dallas Country Club, which meant that she would not see him for the next two months after serving him breakfast tomorrow. He always spent this time of the year in Argentina.

Without wasting any time, she changed into cotton slacks and a light wool sweater in order to visit her favorite creek-side spot on the eastern border of the property. It was already dark. She carried a flashlight, even though she seldom used it. She knew her way through the foliage to the spot under elms and oaks that bordered the creek. Most of the trees were natives that were already there when the terrain was nothing more than a flat, wide open field called "the black land." The old black prairie had been replaced by cotton fields when cotton was an important cash crop in this area. The trees remained when land developers turned the area into a residential community of large lots.

Sitting in her quiet spot was like being in the center of God's house. The space allowed her to find her deeper self and to connect with her guardian spirit, whose sustenance always gave her strength. This spirit was called Òsun. Centuries ago, Òsun became the guardian of Oshogbo, her hometown. Somehow, this sacred connection survived the death, pain, ostracism, and suffering brought by the invasions of many foreign civilizations. The imposition of these civilizations never completely drowned out her people's ancient customs because no one could ignore Òsun. In Nigeria today, Òsun still spurred weekly ceremonies of men drumming and women dancing at the edge of the river that she and her ancestors always visited.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Path of Lord Jaguar by Margaret Donnelly Copyright © 2009 by Margaret Donnelly. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Posted September 8, 2012

    The book certainly is informative. A large chunk of the early ch

    The book certainly is informative. A large chunk of the early chapters is basically a large collection of information on the culture and times that are relevant to the setting and story of the book. There is a lot of exposition overall. At some points it felt more like I was reading a history text than a fictional story, and it takes a while to get to the meat of the story. Still, it seems Margaret Donnelly has done her research. She also draws upon her experiences as an immigration attorney for one of the main plots, where Kemi struggles to retain the right to live in America. It leaves me wondering just how much work went into this novel.

    The book covers issues of racism/prejudice, spiritualism, and retaining ties to one's culture and roots. Kemi is a Nigerian Ifa priestess and Pablo is a Mayan holy man. Both have strong ties to spiritual realms, and try to negotiate their daily lives while maintaining the values they were brought up with. They forge a partnership. Their relationship is and interesting one, as they teach each other about their religious backgrounds, and the reader can compare and contrast and learn more about them. They must deal with persecution and misunderstandings, and in the end I think the story ended in a satisfying way. It's sort of bittersweet, but it wraps the important details up.

    Overall this is an engaging book with a premise I have not encountered before. Some of the writing needs work to better integrate the expository bits and the dialogue flow more smoothly, but otherwise this is competently written and interesting.

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  • Posted September 1, 2012

    I wanted to love this book because the concept of an alliance b


    I wanted to love this book because the concept of an alliance between a Nigerian Ifa priestess and a Mayan holy man sounded so amazing. Immigration attorney Margaret Donnelly, who wrote this novel, obviously did a ton of research. It definitely showed, and that was part of the trouble with the book. I feel that in fiction, the research should be doled out gradually on a need to know basis. It should also be integrated into the narrative. It seemed to me that the first half of The Path of Lord Jaguar was mainly an information dump consisting of cultural/historical research and character background. The plot didn’t really get started until the second half. The information content in the first half was certainly interesting to me, but it lacked the dramatic impact that I associate with fiction. For example, when I read about a potentially intense incident in the life of an ancestor of one of the characters, I wished that it had been shown as it was experienced rather than told in summary. Flashbacks can be utilized to re-create events from the past. They could have been introduced as ancestor visions of Kemi, the Ifa priestess. Such dramatization would have made the first half of the novel far more immediate and compelling.

    A related problem was the attempt to relay information to readers in dialogue when the characters wouldn’t really have needed to have such a conversation. For example, Pablo, the Mayan holy man, needs an opportunity to explain his sacred view of the landscape. So the author has Kemi make the following remark: “But there is no mountain, no temple, no pyramid. This is mostly prairie.” I believe that as a priestess, Kemi would have known what Pablo meant without his having to clarify his beliefs. She wouldn’t have been so literal. This made Kemi appear unrealistically ignorant.

    I didn’t find the character of Pablo very convincing. I’m not talking about his spiritual practice. That seemed authentic. No, I mean the portrayal of Pablo as an individual. He seemed to make pronouncements rather than speak in a conversational tone. I could understand him and his motivations on an intellectual level, but I couldn’t relate to him emotionally. His brother Arturo, who never appears in the book, felt more like a real person to me than Pablo did.

    It’s also important to note that there was what appeared to be a serious character inconsistency involving the employer of both Kemi and Pablo. Some readers might disagree, but I saw a fundamental flaw in his motivations that undermined the credibility of the story line.

    Despite all these criticisms, I have to say that I adored Kemi. She overcame tremendous adversity and prejudice to become an inspiration to me. David Levin, Kemi’s immigration lawyer, was another stirring character. Donnelly probably drew from her own experience as a lawyer to create him. She must be a very caring advocate for her clients.

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