I enjoyed whooshing along through the long Grasses on the back of The Dragon Queen. I won’t deny that I got an erotic thrill from it – for an immortal, she was quite a fox! – but I was quick to redirect the flow of this sexual energy, as I knew she would immediately sense it – as she must have done already – especially as such a fantasy could be precisely the verboten thought that could set off the afeared response in the grasses that she had been so guarded and cryptic about.
I must admit, I also felt slightly envious. I have always wanted to be able to change my form instantaneously, like a cartoon character; but, while I have been able to warp my thought body during meditative experiments, even during lucid dreaming, my body has always remained rigidly in form, and I’ve never quite been able to fly. But I knew, as my dragonian reflection in the water had already proven, that it would not be long before I was shapeshifting with the best of them, and able to fly, crawl, and dive at my leisure.
Just as I was beginning to day-dream, and drift off into my desultory thoughts, The Dragon Queen landed abruptly but softly, and changed into her fully humanoid form again.
“We’re here,” she said, sombrely.
I looked forward, and I could see a prominent mound, protruding regally before us. The land we had travelled through had been almost invariably flat, with the exception of the sense of a barely perceptible escarpment in the distance. So, seeing this sudden swelling was quite stimulating to the geography of the mind. Both The Dragon Queen and I could sense its prodigious retention of energy.
“Is there anything in particular that I should say and do; or not say and not do?” I asked, suddenly aware that this was likely to be a portentous encounter.
The Dragon Queen smiled and said:
“Just be yourself. You will learn Immortal Etiquette – and how to go beyond it – along the way. Be your fully authentic self. That is why you are here, after all!”
My fully authentic self felt pretty uncertain at that moment in time.
But The Dragon Queen, reading my thoughts, mollified me, saying:
“If you are feeling uncertain, then be uncertain, and make no decisive movements until it has passed. Decisions are thing to be accepted and acted upon – they are not to be rushed, or forced into existence.”
I breathed in the wisdom of this advice, and we walked lightly and solemnly towards the mound.
As soon as we ascended it, we saw The Master of the Long Grasses, sitting placidly on the ground, his tea set laid out before him. I could see the tea steaming perfectly in the gilded, simple, china cups, and could not wait to hold it lusciously in my mouth. It smelled slightly sweet, and I suspected that it was some type of oolong, supplemented by an additional herb.
The Dragon Queen bent on her knees, and genuflected before The Master.
“I am sorry for our tardiness,” she said, humbly and sincerely.
“It does not matter if you are late in keeping appointments, so long as you are prompt in following The Way!” Quipped The Master. “The tea is still warm, so please! Drink!”
I settled down on a mat, sitting on my knees in the Asian fashion, and slowly picked up my teacup. It had a golden edge around its rim, with a fascinating design comprised of many ornate balloons floating through the sky. It was a beautiful design, and, when looked at closely, gave the impression of enormous depth.
The tea was still too warm to drink, so I just enjoyed inhaling its sweet steam, feeling the heat of the cup in my hands, and admiring the loaded potentially of the deep, clear, golden elixir.
“And how did you get along with my grasses?” asked The Master of the Long Grasses, smiling mischievously.
“No incidents, so far,” I said, in a way I hoped sounded winsome.
“Good, good!” He responded, good-naturedly. “Never can tell what that raggedy bunch will take to, next!” Winking. “But you’ll have to excuse me if you find me coarse. It’s been a long time since I’ve had visitors!”
I took this statement as an opportunity to examine The Master properly. He had a long wispy beard, tied up hair, and emanated immense purity. There was nothing ‘coarse’ about him.
“Speaking of time,” I began. “Since we’ve been in this realm, I’ve observed that, although we’ve been travelling for several hours now, the quality of light in the sky hasn’t changed at all. Why is that?”
“Why, he’s a very canny fellow, isn’t he?!” said The Master, turning to The Dragon Queen, and raising his thick, cloud-like eyebrows in comic fashion. “The answer, my boy, is that time moves very differently here from the way you’re used to. That’s why I chided your elegant proprietor for apologizing for her tardiness- a side effect of spending too long in lower realms, no doubt. You could no sooner be late here, than insult a Buddha, and get a beating for it. You probably can’t make it out, due to the somewhat infinite, and mirage-infested, horizon we have here, but it takes the sun no less than fourteen million years to set on this planet. For that reason, it has become known as ‘The Planet of Perpetual Dusk.’ Of the length of the days, I cannot speak. But suffice it to say this: It has been a long time since I’ve seen the night-time.” And, with a slightly crazed look in his eyes, he urged us. “Your tea should be cool enough now. Please, drink! Go on – drink!”
I needed no more encouraging. I took a sip, and was instantly refreshed by the tea, which caused my whole being to shudder with relief. Being without tea for long is like being without love or oxygen – it is always a cathartic and seismic response when you taste it again. The tea tasted clear, and sweet, and had a delicious, ineffable quality to it, that I could not readily describe.
“I know it’s an oolong,” I said, “but why does it taste so unique?”
The Master of the Long Grasses looked pleased.
“It is a Premium Ginseng Oolong,” he said. “After the leaves are steamed, withered, oxidized, and rolled, they are coated with powdered ginseng and liquorice. Here! Look!”
He offered me a small tub of the tea in its unbrewed form. It looked very strange, a mysterious green colour, flecked with gold, like a rare, but volatile rock from a distant moon.
Reading my thoughts, he said:
“Distant Moon Oolong – that would make a remarkable name for it, wouldn’t it? I may start calling it that from now on,” and then, standing up, and directing his voice out towards the grasslands, he shouted “DISTANT MOON OOLONG! DISTANT MOON LOONG!”
We both looked at him quizzically.
“Just letting the grasses know,” he said, sheepishly. “They’re very into that sort of thing. But it is very important that you drink up. I do not give you this tea, arbitrarily. A long and dynamic journey has been arranged for you by the heavens. Ginseng is an immense repository of celestial yang energy, and so is this mound. As such, it nourishes the vitality, and increases the strength. But not all of the places you will be travelling too will be quite so nourishing, or accommodating, with their energy reserves.
“As a human, you have been habituated to living in a solar system, and that relationship to the sun has informed a good deal of your understanding of the astronomy of the cosmos. But there are many different types of planetary system in the universe, not all of which could be said to possess such a unifying, and radiant centre. In fact, much of the cosmos is littered with Lunar Systems – in these, an enormous moon serves as the centre, around which all the sibling planets orbit. Unfamiliar with fire or solar energy, these planets live in a deadened, haunting twilight, beset by interminable waves of hallucination and delusion. There is no mediating ego or waking consciousness here – only the mystery and danger of darkness. It is quite a thing to look upon whilst voyaging through space – all of these bewildered planets moving slowly around a watery, tyrannical moon, in a slow, and sluggish procession. The planets are all deeply bewildered and imbalanced, and, thus, often collide into one another, sending shockwaves throughout the galaxy. We refer to these Lunar Systems as ‘The Nodes of Yin’.”
“Will I ever have to go to such a place?” I asked.
The Master of the Long Grasses nodded gravely.
“On this Moon, called ‘The Floating Pit,’ there is a network of caves. At the bottom of this cave is a chamber of frost and snow. If you can melt this snow, and turn it into water, it can be used to make The Broth of the Illumined. Of course, you will meet many dangers and guardians along the way, but isn’t that always the case when apprehending something profound? You may even have to die before you drink it.
“But let’s not dwell on such things, right now. Such travails are a long way off, and you have not even finished your first cup of tea since leaving the planet Earth! Settle your mind. Leave danger for later.”
With that, The Master of the Long Grasses ceased speaking, and we drank our tea in silence, the whole planet enshrouded in peace, as the sun continued to set at its own impenetrable pace.