I will close my eyes and my body will come loose.
Were it not for their bindings, my breasts would be slapping against my ribs with every basket I lift. But the solstice is nearly here and I must set an example to the others. When the day is at its longest, when the sun dips down as close as it plans to come to the long horizon, there will be dancing into the whirl. But before that comes feasting upon the spring’s first plantings.
The heat and humidity are so heavy that my skin feels cooked soft, as if it is leaking like a sieve everything inside me out into the whirled. It’s a relief to lick the sweat off my own upper lip. High above the tallest forest tops the relentless sun is making hot and cold air currents into equally relentless wind. But even those atop the fermentation vat are not high enough to feel it. Nothing stops the myriads of little insects from flying in to die and add their nutritious flavor to the brew.
The basket is taken by another and lifted higher, from hand to hand until its load of sap and fruit is tipped into the aperture. The top man is unsteady, giving in to the potent fumes. His lover tugs at his ankle, urging him to switch places.
In this heat it won’t be long before the drink is ready for us to drum and dance into the whirl and see where it takes us.
I am licking sweat from my upper lip again. Pounding, chanting, drinking from the passing gourd dipper, inhaling the aromas of smoldering herbs mixed with the tang of myriad bodies, we sway in waves of joined hands, in and out from the center. The familiar tingle of watching spirits makes me smile; all is well with my people, those here and those who went before. My throat is nearly hoarse from the repetitious chorus even with all the drink to ease it. My limbs are trembling from the exertion of the dance and the relentless noise I help to push ever louder. That tiny momentary taste of my own salt is all the sustenance I am going to get before I am flying free.
I close my eyes away from the incense sting and my body loosens. I am away between the spheres, between heartbeats, flying between the layers of the whirled to wherever the Goddess takes me.
Sister sun’s brilliance has come as close as ever it may come, blowing heat at us this longest day, and now must pause to inhale. Shadow rushes in to replace my body’s overload.
The Goddess takes many. I sense them around me like droplets of mist from a forest leaf in the colorless haze. It is our way. When our mortal shells fall exhausted from the stress of preparation, the depredation of illness, or transported by the dancing and drumming of worship, we visit the great whirlpool that turns our world. It is made of lightning and air and the edges of fire meeting water. It is made of the sparks of all the living things that inhabit the solid and the liquid and the gases, rubbing forever in great spirals all around.
Some call it the magic mill and say it vomits out every sort of riches. Some call it the maw and say it swallows everything and turns it into nothing, a nothing so terribly heavy it cannot be moved. Those who have been this way say it is a gate or a tunnel or a belly or a wheel. The bright sky becomes what I walk on and the hard earth becomes what I breathe and all of us are scattered and fly free.
Deep under the ground in caverns on the other end of the whirled there is a sleeping twin to me. The self she has wrapped in many layers of fur and wool, with wood and rubbed metal between fabric and rock, is very different in appearance, but what does that matter in the dark? Hot springs bubble up steam condensing droplets that have taken the time to dissolve the stones into shapes. Fire deposits tunnels of hot and cold around its greedy feeding, leaves its prints of greasy ash upon the cavern ceilings, but in the wise woman’s cocoon she barely breathes.
Not all of her people can sustain such a state of stillness, even in the season of sleep. But it is her sacred duty to make certain there are creatures of flesh throughout the long season to feed them all. Without them the hunters can do nothing but despair, and lash out at the weak and hungry at home.
Her dreams take her along the trails of the spirits of other creatures even more deeply asleep than she is-- serpents in tumbled masses, fish and frogs cold as ice, bruins and rodents and beetles snug in leaf piles. This is the road to where the sun has hidden itself, far away on the other side of the whirled, never showing itself at all on this longest night.
The mill of the world grinds out powdered ice far above the surface of her land under the far off stars. In my land the obdurate sun has goaded up giant winds to blow us all onto our faces on the longest day. Armies of us abandon ourselves there to fly in spirit, evaporated into mist that freezes as it rises ever higher into clouds. Then the clouds are blown down at our land again, dropping precipitous where the shifting wind bends the trees sideways.
Some, like me, turn and blow down on other lands, such as the land where my twin seeker follows the hibernating herds down, down into the navel of the whirl. I am so thirsty. Like wraiths my fellow ice particles are drawn to the spirit dreamers. In a flash my light goes to her ember and both of us quicken.
We meet. The tiny spaces between our substances comb themselves together and set up a vibration, shivering us, compiling us.
My copper skin is instead now freckled and milky, and my hair is turned into wires of orange instead of small dark tufts. I come to her hot quiet redolent nest in solitary hush, to the taste of breaths re-breathed beneath the blankets, the brightest light my mind’s eye.
Her layers of fat no longer conceal her tiny bones and instead she has lanky limbs, lashed together tightly by tested sinew, sculpted by air and motion. She comes to my dried out husk on the dancing ground surrounded by commotion and heat and screaming hurricane tumult, horizontal rain as warm as blood.
Neither of us is content in our momentary new stations. She does not like being unable to hear her own harsh cries of ecstasy over the din of the throng and storm. In the swimming unity of inner and outer moisture, threatening to dissolve her spark, are also rot and the creatures who seek it. For this she is too open and alive, and she cannot remain.
For my part, I dislike being a mute secret immobile under muffling layers of protection. When I am invisible I feel as if I no longer matter. Not mattering is moribund and stale and I would rather be dead than entombed with my panic. I can’t stay so closed.
Back we rush along the dream roads toward one another again, stretched into one another’s shape and overtaxed. Need for the other brings us face to face. Mirrors for each other, we offer our shocking experiences of light and dark as wordless visions.
She sees me seeing her snug abundance. It is delicious and plump as a juicy fruit. I see her seeing the hot mist of my breath in a fertile crush. It is like a strong drink heated enough to intoxicate before it is even swirled around the tongue.
She takes my her-sense and puts it on. I take her me-sense and use it as a veil for my dream bones. We are ourselves again but better. Goddess in us loves Herself.
Her ground is white and her sky is dark. My ground is dark and my sky is white. My face lowers to her heart and her face lowers to mine. Our hands interlace, right in right, left in left. Her up is my down and around us revolves the darkness and light of the whirling world.
Her mouth finds my breast and makes a ring of teeth and suction. Such a hunger for my taste! I feel bright fire and fierce bliss that rages into a glad shout and a grin that reveals all my dream teeth, lets out my seeking tongue to touch spotted skin. Her breast is a hot perfumed fruit and its stem is her stiffening nipple. As I lap at it, the flex and contraction of its million pores let out sweet nectar for me to swallow down, down, latching on and pulling it all the way in.
We drink each other forever and until the end of forever. Above her I feel my below, dancing and swaying like a tree trunk, my waving legs the branches, my toes the twigs, between them the honeycomb. I know that below her, up in my sky, the speckled skin filled with rolls of succulent flesh will be rubbing against itself, making moist sensation and scent rain out.
Lightning of climax streaks into every extremity of each of us and pounds forth our red blood. The longest day and the longest night we are swirling in both, the whirled through us able to celebrate.
Will we remember this after the long climb back to space and time? The whirled will tell.