In the courtyard of her father's harem, Amira forebodingly awaits the arrival of her betrothed, Abu Aneza, an old sheikh of a desert tribe pivotal to the safe passage of her father's caravans through the desert. On this fateful day, Amira is saved from the dreaded marriage by the surreptitious arrival of a man from the Divan of the Sun, as predicted by her recently deceased mother in a dream. Richard, the stranger who is no stranger, echoes up from her dream, unleashing the dormant supernatural powers passed down to her through the centuries via her grandfather, Farud'd-Din Attar, and the mystical Simurgh of Persian lore.
Amira travels with Richard on the Ship of Souls from the Persian Gulf to the Land of Hind seeking liberation and reunion. Through her clairvoyant powers, she flies on the wings of the Simurgh--that timeless being from beyond the world sea that flaps its wings and manifests many from the One. Sailing on the Sea of all Being she travels--nonlinearly--in multiple dimensions shifting her point of view as she seamlessly transforms from one facet of Being to the next, beyond time... Where Dreams Coincide.
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Where Dreams Coincide
By Diann Carroll
Balboa PressCopyright © 2015 Diann Carroll
All rights reserved.
I wake by the gurgling fountain in the harem of my father's courtyard where I've cried myself to sleep. Though I look up and see you for the first time, it's not the monochromatic tawny hue of hair, eyes and skin, the thin mustache and full mouth, the broad, square shoulders and jaw, nor even the expression of capacity and determination I recognize in your deep-set eyes. It is the Source that joins our minds as your eyes bore down unblinkingly holding my gaze as story after story unfolds spinning infinity into an instant ...
With great effort, I wrest myself from the force of your presence. "Who are you?"
The resonance of your voice strikes — a chord — Richard ... Richard ... Richard ... echoes up from the corridors of my dream — vibrating so powerfully my mind shatters into a thousand pieces, each fractured piece like a mirror reflecting back my image as you.
"What are you doing here?" I ask as I rise from the fountain's edge looking down at the pattern my prostrate body has left in the damp sand. Breathing in deeply the moist scent — I withdraw into the dry, dusty shadows of the alcove to pull myself together. But, as I look at you from the obscurity, our eyes lock again.
"How do you know my name?"
"From my dream," you answer, and we are drawn into a realm — where the dream and waking worlds meet, and where they overlap, our vision becomes omniscient. At a ship's rail, we stand listening to the moon as she spins tales connecting the stars with her reflective light, weaving a story where our souls intertwine ...
As the surface of consciousness ripples with the cacophony of high-pitched laughter and sharp, caustic cries, we look up as one through the canopy of trees surrounding the fountain. On the roof of the women's quarters, we see a pack of my sisters and cousins running with arms raised, their trailing garments symmetrical with the plumes of the bird they pursue. Clouds of dust rise swirling in their wake. The comic scene relieves the intensity of our meeting through laughter.
"Silly geese, they are chasing a bird." Looking more closely at the bird, I exclaim, "That bird is wearing rings!"
A fragment of the dream passes before my mind's eye, and I hear my mother say, "You will know him by the bird wearing rings." An image of me riding on a horse with a man dressed in the costume of the Shammar tribe follows.
"Yes. Dressed as a Shammar, I will rescue you from this ill-fated marriage as the dream foretells," you say. Then, in response to my thoughts, you add, "Indeed, we have witnessed the same dream."
We look into each other's eyes and read the depth of our connection.
Hearing the bird squawking, we look up again to see Wafra nearly grasping the bird's tail. As her fingertips brush the fugitive appendage, the bird soars to the left out of reach, and Wafra comes to the roof 's edge bringing the train of pursuers to a skidding halt. The women fall one upon the other into a giggling heap.
Soon, a man, the likes of whom I have never seen, appears before us breathing hard. "Richard," he gasps, "let's get out of here before these houris whisk me away to their paradise!" You answer my surprised look, "This is my first mate, Lo Chen, from China."
"Hurry, Richard! They have not yet seen you," Lo Chen interrupts. "I'll send a message via the bird, Cumshaw. She has a carrier in her rings!"
Lo Chen tears us apart. Then, you and Lo Chen duck out of the gate. Cumshaw flies over the wall just as the train of female family members encounter Wassila, my father's second wife, exiting the apartments and Mohammed, our ancient and trusted servant, entering the harem.
"Where did that bird come from?" they sternly ask in unison.
They only ask about the bird, so I ask myself — Richard, were you and your Lo Chen only a fragment of a dream passing behind my eyes? And in the asking, the sound of your name resounds internally in response — Richard ... Richard ... Richard.
"Where did that bird come from?" Wassila repeats turning a suspicious gaze at Wafra whose only response is a shrug. Wassila's incredulous look lingers on Wafra. The other girls' guilty giggles turn Wassila's questioning gaze towards them.
"We were just chasing a bird," Yasmina responds.
"These girls are as flighty as birds today. They can scarcely contain their excitement," Wassila tells Mohammed uncharacteristically brushing the incident aside.
A crease of suspicion lines Mohammed's forehead. "So much work to do and these girls have the time to chase a bird," he grumbles. Wassila agrees as they return to their work, Mohammed occupied with lambs for roasting and Wassila with my trousseau. My sisters and cousins re-enter the residence quietly questioning Wafra about the incident. Only, Yasmina remains behind.
"Amira, Amira," Yasmina calls approaching the fountain where I remain transfixed. I hear her as if from afar but cannot respond. She touches my shoulder and asks with a look of sincere concern, "Did you see that Amira? A veiled woman turned into a bird!"
"Allah the All-Merciful in his divine wisdom sent those strangers to relieve my tortured mind."
"Strangers? I only saw one."
I am tempted to confide in Yasmina, my closest sister and dearest friend, but I am afraid that if I do, my escape will be foiled.
And so I answer, "Well, there was that bird, wasn't there?"
"I swear that woman became the bird, Amira."
On cue — Cumshaw flies in chased by our little brother Samir.
"Look, look at that bird!" he cries.
"She's carrying a message in the rings on her feet." Yasmina moves towards Cumshaw, who flies out of reach. "Samir, bring the falcon to catch her."
"No, no, Yasmina," I frantically cry grabbing her forcefully by the shoulders. Again, Yasmina looks at me with surprise.
"I would not have her caught. I beseech you, let her be. She's free, free! Would that I were free like her, Yasmina, light as that feather there lifted by these hot currents of air that raise the desert dust. Would that they raise me into the air where I could choose my direction free like a bird! Oh, Yasmina, can you imagine that?" Yasmina looks at me blankly.
Cumshaw lights on the wall. Samir begins to climb after her. Cumshaw flies to the rooftop.
"Let her be. She wants to be our friend. See how she stays. Samir, come. Sit beside me. You know, after the wedding, I will be going away."
Samir looks at me with tears in his eyes.
"Why must you get married, Amira? Stay here with us." I hug him, but he continues his petulant protest, "I will have no one to tell me stories when you are gone."
"Yasmina knows my stories. She's heard them thousands of times just like you."
Yasmina nods and smiles at Samir.
"She will tell them to you."
"But it will not be the same," Samir responds gulping deeply to hold back his tears.
"The next time I see you, Samir, I will have new stories to tell."
A glimmer of interest shines through the veil of tears covering Samir's eyes.
"I have a surprise for you," Yasmina says putting her arm around Samir's shoulder. Run along to my quarters. I'll be there in a minute."
Samir hugs me then runs away to hide his tears.
"Here, Amira, a wedding gift for you," Yasmina says extending a gold-framed mirror. "Even if you travel to the ends of the earth, when you look at it, you will see me in you and know I love you and am always with you."
"Oh, but you do understand Yasmina," I reply with a catch in my throat. As I stare in the mirror —
I see beyond the image, through the past and past the future, into the ever present. Truth lights our joined minds, and I can see images of stories where our two souls are intertwined in the mirror of God's eye.
Mysteriously, I now know the power of vision my mother passed on to me, and I know it is also within Yasmina, as it is in all my sisters only veiled by fear.
"Knowing you are with me gives me strength, Yasmina."
Our tears join as we embrace. Yasmina follows Samir out of the courtyard, looking back over her shoulder at me.
I mourn the loss of childhood. I would not leave my dear brother and sister, but the thought of marrying that old, shriveled sheik fills me with dread. I turn my attention to the prophecy of the dream chanting your name over and over in my mind — Richard ... Richard ... Richard. Though your name is foreign to me, it rolls familiarly across my tongue inspiring an unreasoned confidence. My mother's voice has guided me from beyond the veil to heaven's gate.
Before we met, I had sobbed myself to sleep at the edge of the flowing fountain in the courtyard of the women's quarters, my oasis from the barren emotional landscape of my waking hours. In my dreams, my mother visits me to assure me life is not what it seems.
While alive, mother had kept my father's unbound greed at bay. She filled his coffers by advising him when, with whom, how and where to trade the silks, gold and spices brought to him by ship from India and Africa and by which route and which caravan to transport them east and west. Through her vision, he profited, every transaction leaving him richer rather than poorer as was the fate of so many other merchants ruined by the resurgence of hostilities on the ancient trade routes.
Mother's advice was indeed phenomenal since, like the majority of respectable women in Basra, she had spent most of her adult life behind the walls of her husband's domicile. Unlike the women of Basra, she grew into womanhood traveling God's creation with her nomadic family. Her vision, unhindered by the walls and veils of village life, stretched to the limitless horizons of the desert. As she journeyed by her father's side, she developed second sight — soul, heart and mind in singular focus.
My mother had been forced away from her family because of her gift of vision, not only a source of income but also a great source of pride for my father. The community honored and respected my mother as a diviner, consulting her for all significant decisions.
In fact, my mother's reputation preceded her. People came from near and far to ask her advice and so vastly broadened my view of the world. This, more than anything else, prepared me for my future.
There was a time when my vision was unveiled like mothers, but my vision clouded as I became aware of the walls surrounding me. Contrasting my life with stories my mother told of her childhood, I grew to resent my father for having stolen my inheritance.
To my vehement complaints, mother would reply, "Amira, you are God's gift from this union. Such a gift could only spring from the Divine. Nothing in God's creation is an accident. Accept God's will and your destiny shall be revealed."
But I was too angry. I watched with a resentful filter before my vision, distorting Truth. Then, my mother's passing entirely eclipsed my sight.
Though my mother's gift did not appear to be forthcoming in me, the possibility of my being latently endowed with such a talent, coupled with my mother's power to withhold her own, had prevented my father from trading me in marriage. That is until she left this world. One did not need to be clairvoyant to predict what would come to pass.
When I produced no profitable advice for his trade, he cried, "If she cannot protect my trade with the gift of sight inherited from her mother, she will protect it by marriage to the sheik of that quarrelsome Aneza clan!"
With his usual shrewdness, he proposed the marriage to Sheik Abu Aneza carefully guarding the fact that I had not inherited my mother's gift. Quite the opposite, in fact, he propagated the myth that I had and asked for unequivocal travel rights for his caravans through Aneza territory as a bride price. The patriarch of the Aneza tribe painstakingly negotiated with the various clans of the hitherto impassable Nejd and arrived at a guarantee of safe passage.
Most girls, unaware of their prowess, would submissively accept such a fate, but this proposed marriage kindled in me the most profound feeling that this would not be my destiny, no matter what my father said or did. I told him so without mincing a single word, thus driving my father to such extreme anger I thought that his death would save me from the ill-fated marriage. Poised to strike — he thought better of marring my appearance before the wedding and ordered me out of his sight. So, I cried myself to sleep by the fountain, having in a fit of madness driven everyone in the harem away from me.
In my dreams, mother reawakened in me the Light that throws no shadow. And just when I thought all was lost, you appear and my vision restored.
Suddenly, something falling into the pool breaks my vision into circular waves of diffracted images. Looking up, I see Cumshaw perched on the fountain cocking her head to one side and chattering. She reminds me of Mother lecturing me. As I retrieve the parchment from the water, I feel a breath stirring the otherwise stifling heat of this May afternoon and smell the familiar scent of orange blossom, my mother's perfume.
Looking back into the fountain —
I see the shimmering waves become my black hair — a black sea of reflective waves defined by mother's hand alternating with brush. I feel once again the soothing touch of her hand and hear her reassuring voice:
"Life is simpler than it seems Amira. We complicate it with needless ramblings. Taking an indirect route to happiness and getting lost in the twists and turns, we cover God's voice with the senseless rumblings of a part trying to make itself leader of the whole. Listen to your inner voice. God has placed it there to guide you home. To hear it, you must be willing to let God's will be your own. It will lead you to heaven's gate, and the world will be transformed. So simple, we cannot believe the Truth, because we cloud the path of communication with rubbish, clinging to it as if it were salvation when in reality it is the veil that covers Truth. Remember, when this body, which now serves His plan, returns to cosmic dust, you will see me in the light and know that I am not gone only transformed."
"Mother, please. Don't talk like that. Without you, I am lost," I croon barely able to muster a feeble protest while I am transported to some serene realm by her gentle touch.
"You shall never be without me. I am always with you. Our love is constant, beyond form."
Her image fades into a — Light — so bright it fills my mind and becomes ...
... the parchment I retrieve from the water. It reads: We have been invited to the wedding. Lo Chen will enter the harem disguised as an Aneza woman and secret a horse for our escape.
Your message confirms your reality, your presence in my life, and I am overwhelmed with feelings of love and gratitude. The Light of the white parchment fills my mind, where —
I watch the smiling face of Lo Chen take form, and I am filled with mirth. His large, round head bobs precariously on his small shoulders threatening to fall as his eyes disappear into timeless laughter. With his whole being, he points to the universal humor of man and woman strutting about, oblivious to the — Light — that fills them all.
Then, as I gaze into the fountain the prelude to our meeting magically unfolds ...
You walk with Lo Chen along the wall outside the harem where you meet our servant, Wafra, returning from the well. Wafra looks you up and down coquettishly. Above the veil, her almond eyes grow wide with suggestion. Subtly, she nods toward the harem wall, and then lifts the water urn to her head. In timeless rhythm, she sways toward the gate, cognizant of her feminine mystique and stealing backward glances over her shoulder. Entranced, you follow.
Snatching a black veil hanging on the wall, Lo Chen tosses it in the air agilely ducking beneath its swirling folds and, entering the harem gate, mimics the powerfully alluring flow of Wafra's body beneath the veil. You surreptitiously follow shaking your head in silent laughter.
Arriving at the gate, Wafra turns to lance a final piercing glance and sees Lo Chen mocking her. Her large eyes widen, her head tilting in astonished posture. She muffles her laughter beneath an angry cry, "Ghlas."
Excerpted from Where Dreams Coincide by Diann Carroll. Copyright © 2015 Diann Carroll. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
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