The Long Strange Golden Road by Courtenay Pollock - Chapter 9 - The Persian Affair (Part 3)
We had arrived at the country residence, snow still lay down in the valley. We entered the house, which was frigid that time of year, and went into the grand drawing room. The servants appeared and were rather taken aback at our abrupt and unannounced arrival. We seated ourselves at a low table called a Korsi. The low table had an insulated blanket spread over it that covers the lower part of your body as you sit with your legs under the table. We were ensconced on comfortable low velvet seating with big cushions that we could recline against. The servants brought a brazier which is a brass tray full of hot coals, covered with a brass filigree lid, and put it under the centre of the table. That was the source of our warmth. The Korsi confined the heat to our lower bodies and we sat with our pustins (a Persian lambskin coat) that kept us cozy and warm while we settled in and the servants brought wonderful food.
This is the traditional way to dine and relax amongst the high houses and it belays the bitter winter cold. After a fine repast and humorous conversation, the inevitable opium tray came out. Ali had brought some sticks of the very fine ivory coloured opium but the servants were offering their black tar opium from their own personal stash which was so kind. Lord knows how they could afford it. After the ritual of opium smoking, we were brought the wonderful sweetened Turkish coffee and now I was charged up and ready for anything when Ali announced that they were leaving! He said, “Well you wanted to stay in this country for a while”. Ali needed to return to his opium stash. Victoria had to return to her husband and child. And her sister Patricia went back with Ali. I was left to the comforts and administration of the family of servants. Well, this was an unexpected turn of events!
My quarters were grandiose and comfortable. The bed was warmed with a long-handled brass brazier with hot coals and the comforter was thick, heavy, and warm and I slept on the clouds of opium. Ardath, the head servant, woke me at dawn with a wonderful steaming cup of chai. I was still a little uncomfortable being served but I understood that they felt it was their privilege to serve and so after a traditional breakfast of yogurt and bread I ventured out into the gardens where the cascading terraced pools were still frozen.
The road ran alongside the estate and divided it from the mountainside. I took off with my hiking boots tightly laced and my down jacket well zipped and headed straight up the mountainside which was stark and rocky with a lone old tree like a sentinel above the valley about half a mile up. On that first day exploring the mountainside I didn’t venture very far beyond the tree but I sat under its shade and I visualized Victoria’s duties and commitments all dissolving and in my mind’s eye I saw her getting in her car and leaving her estate and navigating her way toward me. From my lofty overlook, I could see down to a turn in the valley and by my internal clock I looked up to that point to see her car coming around the bend. I walked down to the road and met with her as she pulled up. We spent a beautiful day together as lovers do and she ventured up the hillside with me to the lone tree and expressed an interest in taking LSD with me. She said she had so many appointments and duties that she probably wouldn’t be able to come the next day but the next morning I went up to the tree and I did my visualization again, and as I looked up toward the end of the valley there she was, heading toward me.
We had a traditional lunch and then ventured up the mountainside beyond the lone tree up into the higher reaches of the unknown wilderness. We found a comfortable rocky escarpment and enjoyed the experience of the LSD that we had taken with our lunch before our climb. When we decided that we should probably come down before the daylight faded and the chill crept back in, we were a little shocked to see a convoy of army trucks come down the road and stop at the bottom of the hill. A phalanx of armed soldiers spread themselves out along the foot of the hillside and on command from their officer moved up the hill towards us. I said, “What’s going on?” Victoria said “Oh, Courtenay, they come for me, actually, they come for you, but I tell them to go back” The officer kept beckoning for us to come down as he proceeded up the mountainside. We beckoned for him to come up to us. Finally, after twenty minutes or so, hard climb, he was there in our presence, kowtowing before Victoria.
She told him not to worry, I was her trusted friend, we will follow you down to the tree overlooking the estate. “Everything is well, you may take your soldiers home,” she told him. Of course, the conversation took place in Farsi but I got the gist of it. I asked her “Why did they come?” and she said, “I think I was followed, my husband sent out spies and then the army”. The officer left us sitting at the lone tree while he gathered his men and the convoy returned down the valley.
The following day, when I understood that Victoria truly wouldn’t be available to spend a day with me, I went adventuring up a canyon valley that climbed up towards the high ridge of the mountainside. I had taken more LSD but still didn’t notice any effects. I was in pristine wilderness without any vibrations to deal with. After a few hours of climbing, I came into a blind canyon, and as I progressed into the canyon and saw bones strewn all around and as I got deeper into the canyon towards the cliff face. The piles of bones became massive. Some powerful predator was bringing big prey down here to eat. I realized it was probably a snow leopard or other big cat. (Upon recent investigation It would appear most likely to be a Persian Leopard which is Caucasian Leopard. They average 102” body length and weigh about 140 lbs.)
I climbed the face of the cliff at the end of the blind canyon and there in the snow at the top of the cliff were giant cat prints the size of dinner plates. And so I set off in pursuit. I tracked the cat higher and higher towards the top ridge and I saw where it crossed the snow bridges and where it spread its weight across the snow bridges so it didn’t fall through. I mimicked its actions and spread myself out across the snow bridges. In this way, I navigated all the way to the top ridge which took hours.
It was a spine with a scant rail along the top made only by animals. I peered over the side of the ridge and it fell away thousands of feet into an abyss of deep unknown reaches. Storms and lighting below me boiled down there and was rapidly ascending. I realized that a great storm was bubbling up from those depths that would fall over me and into the valley I had come from. I started back down with some urgency. Backtracking, slithering across the snow bridges, and navigated my way back down. I didn’t realize how far I had come up, many hours had passed, and I was still wondering when I was going to get high from that LSD!
There was nothing up there to disturb the equilibrium and the perfection of the wilderness, not a plant, and after a number of hours of the descent, I finally came within sight of the valley floor and the first vegetation. And at that moment, all that verdant life just invaded my sensibilities and I was shocked into the realization that I was higher than a kite! I sat under the lone tree until dusk descended and I had to go in. I made my way down to the gardens and sat by the pools. It was now fully dark but I couldn’t go inside yet. Ardath came out with a tray of chai and some sweetmeats and offered them to me. I understood her Farsi perfectly without understanding a word. I said “Please don’t trouble yourself, Ardath, thank you for your attention” She replied in Farsi but as clear as day by her actions and her hand movements “You are the moon, I serve you”