Too much time since Nikolai had fallen off the radar for reasons unknown … at least, to anyone but those close to him; most might assume that he was just absent for his usual reasons of a ‘rough vision’ … but what they didn’t know, was that it was more of a rough series of visions.
In and out, in and out; he’d had so many since his 18th birthday that Nikolai was finding it difficult to grasp time, to know where or when he was … because, more and more, he was experiencing a closer future—his own future—tied in with the visions of others, from others … and he didn’t know when he was.
He didn’t know where he was …
Wait … no.
Nikolai stood, barefoot and pajama-clad as he woke from his trance, standing at the entrance to the Nightingale Library … how … did … only a second before, he had been in a field with fire arching above and raining down as burning hail …
Immediately, his right arm lifted and he listened to the distinctive ticking of his father’s watch upon his wrist.
He breathed deep through his nose, exhaled slowly by mouth as he lowered his arm once more. He was on Nightingale—but that didn’t ensure safety, when he was … that was what ensured safety. But for how long?
Another slow breath.
He was losing his mind, and he honestly didn’t know how much more he could take of this …
At the end of last week I returned back from a two week trip to Colombia where I continued to work (and travel) on a personal project about Shamans, aka Medicine Men and Medicine Women, aka Roadmen and Roadwomen. It was without doubt two of the most intense, but incredible weeks I’ve experienced.
On this trip I was attending and acting as a supporter on a Vision Quest ceremony. The people who undertake the quest (the Vision Questers) spend four days in the wilderness without any food or water in one small area marked out by prayer ties praying for a vision to guide them on their journey (it’s undertaken annually for 4 years). It’s a ceremony that dates back thousands of years and crosses cultures from Native American to Christ’s 40 days and 40 nights pilgrimage (vision quest) into the desert. As supporters, one offers constant prayers for the questers and to Mother Nature, and eats and drinks on the questers behalf. Even being a supporter in that environment one is truly allowed the time to go deeply internal and contemplate on individual questions and questions about society as a whole. When you really consider how little time you don’t spend in a distracted state in ‘normal life’, two weeks of little to no distraction, and thus solid reflection becomes quite exhausting. One starts to question everything about their lives and the issues they carry. In part it becomes exhausting because it becomes clear how much of one’s life is lead by decisions that were made for you, and you unknowingly walked along with.
On one level this project is about taking beautiful photographs, but on another, it’s about personal growth and learning. Meeting great teachers who teach outside of what I already know and challenge the thought processes I’ve spent my lifetime learning. Forcing myself to see and experience from a completely different perspective. For that alone, I’ll be forever grateful that I’ve been trusted and allowed into this community to take photographs.
This portrait is of the Roadman and teacher who lead the ceremony and guided the questers, Mao
«E poi? Come è andata a finire la storia di voi due?»
«Niente, non l’ho più vista. Lei ha fatto le sue scelte, io le mie. Però, ogni tanto mi capita di pensarla e qualche volta ancora la stringo, la bacio, ci faccio l’amore…»
«Ma se l’hai voluta tu. Dicevi che non eri pronto. Adesso che senso ha pensare a lei?»
«Accidenti, amico, hai mai provato l’amore? Ti è mai capitato di guardare una donna e sentirti tremare, vederla sorridere e pensare che stai assistendo ad una sorta di visione celestiale? Ti è mai capitato di toccarla e sentire i polpastrelli che ti si infuocano di desiderio. Baciarla e pensare che la sua lingua è l’unica al mondo che si intrecci così perfettamente con la tua? Dimmi, ti è mai capitato?»
«No, a dire il vero, no»
«Ecco. Tu provalo l’amore. Poi mi dici se te lo scordi più».