In spite of bending her head, Diana still hit it on the lintel of the door. But at least there really was a garden on the other side.
A thin mist, pearly pink in the early morning light, covered everything, giving the garden an air of mystery, yet the mist was still unable to conceal the garden’s rainbow colours. A narrow path of hexagonal tiles wound its way among the roses. The light breeze made the roses sway in harmony with the nightingales flying above. Only the sound of the birds and the gentle murmur of the water in the marble pool broke the silence.
Diana stood for a moment with her eyes half shut, inhaling the perfume in the air. With each breath, she felt as if she was being drawn closer to some heavenly place. But she returned to reality as Zeynep Hanim took off her shoes and started to rub her bare feet in the earth.
‘Come, dear,’ Zeynep Hanim said, ‘you do the same’.
Diana took off her shoes and did as she was told.
‘I know asking this won’t make any difference, but I still want to know why I now have a pair of dirty feet.’
‘The roses are always wary lest the beauty of a gift should make them forget the giver.’
‘Of course!’ Diana said, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’
‘Roses never, not even for a moment, forget that their existence and beauty are gifts from the earth. They are well aware that when their time comes, they’ll fade and fall to the earth as seeds, and that the earth will only accept the seeds of the roses which haven’t forgotten where they’ve come from. By touching the earth with our bare feet, we show the roses that we haven’t forgotten the earth, either. Roses appreciate this.’
Waking up to the moment
When they returned to their stools, Zeynep Hanim said, ‘Now, Diana, I’d like you to go to that fountain over there, wash your head thoroughly and then come back here.’
‘But I washed my hair just this morning.’
‘I can see that, dear. Now please go and wash your head.’
Shrugging her shoulders, Diana walked across to the fountain. The water was ice-cold and she couldn’t avoid splashing her clothes. As she shivered in the cool morning air, she felt glad she hadn’t come there in winter. After wringing the water out of her hair and combing it through with her fingers, she returned to her stool like an obedient schoolgirl.
‘Now, Diana, I’d like you to go to that fountain over there, wash your head thoroughly and then come back here.’
For a minute Diana felt as though she were experiencing déjà vu. It wasn’t just the words that had been repeated, but the expression on Zeynep Hanim’s face was also the same
as before. Diana sat glued to her seat for a minute without saying a word.
Unable to resist the stern look in Zeynep Hanim’s eyes, she went back to the fountain and washed her head again. As she headed back to her stool, she feared the possibility that Zeynep Hanim might again ask her to do the same thing.
‘There you go,’ Zeynep Hanim said. ‘Now that’s done, we can begin. Oh, before I forget, if this lesson goes well, I have a surprise for you in the next one.’
‘What kind of surprise?’
‘Didn’t I say it was a surprise?’
‘I see… By the way, am I allowed to ask questions in the garden?’
‘Of course you are. Only I should tell you that you don’t need to understand the reason behind everything we do in the garden to achieve your goal. If you don’t forget what you experience here, sooner or later, all your questions will be answered.
‘During our time in the garden, you’re both the student and the teacher. You already have all the answers. As I said earlier, at one time you even had the ability to hear roses. I’m just here to remind you of the things you’ve forgotten, that’s all. Hearing roses is easy. Very easy. All you have to do is either recall what you’ve forgotten, or forget all you’ve been taught.’
‘But I still want to know why my hair had to be wet!’
Planting the seed
‘Every question in the garden is like a seed, Diana. In time, it grows roots, stems and buds, and finally blossoms.
I can assure you, you’ll never forget for the rest of your life that one cool morning you had to wash your already clean hair twice. Once something is lived it can never be like it was not lived. And the experience of having lived it will sooner or later give you the answer you’ve been looking for. But this time, let me answer your question for you: I wanted you to wash your head because that head belonged to Diana.’
‘But I am Diana!’
‘Didn’t we agree to wipe out the résumé?’
‘Well, why did I have to wash it the second time then?’
‘After the first time you were freed of Diana’s hairstyle. But the mind that gave your hair that shape was still there.’
‘Oh, so by washing it the second time, I stopped thinking like Diana, is that it?’ she asked with a sceptical smile. ‘I don’t mean to judge, but all this sounds too formalistic.’
‘You’re right; you can’t cleanse the mind with water from a fountain. But it’s a symbol. Silent at the moment, but if you don’t disregard it, one day it’ll speak to you. A print placed in your heart. It may not be apparent now, but when the right time comes, it’ll be manifest.’
‘When is the right time?’
‘Perhaps the day you finally realise that the things you know can no longer help you. Or perhaps when you realise that awareness is like a ladder and in order to climb higher,
you shouldn’t retread the steps you’ve left behind.’
From The Missing Rose© 2012 by Serdar Ozkan, published by Rider.