Light the hall with braziers, wear only dancing shoes, and parade a thousand dresses with patterns to outdo the wallpaper.
I used to wish for banquets and balls. Sunken gardens and painting studios aglow with northern light. Woods to get lost in on horseback, libraries with shelves so tall that ladders glide along their lengths. I used to wish for long set tables and the sound of horse-drawn carriages on cobblestones. Long rows of cabbages and carrots, the gentle cluck of hens. Simmering pots over open fires and the click of silverware near smiling faces. Four poster beds and feather pillows.
Castles were color; prosperity; joy.
This was, I guess, before I knew that in their day, castles’ abundance came at the expense of starving peasants. That their inhabitants bathed but once a year. That many died of lead poisoning for the vanity of their powdered faces. That artists lived in hovels uncared for by their patrons and the northern light of upstairs rooms was reserved for the embroidery to which women were restricted.
Not so awesome, actually.
The life of castles was one of luxury and abandon, for the most part. A fire that burns bright and then goes out. What became of all the knights and ladies? Probably not much I’d care to follow.
And yet, there’s still something about those windows over the river. All that golden light, so much imagined laughter.
I guess I would still take one, if you offered. Is the heating bill included?
We could make something of castle, put its sturdy old beauty to good use.
We could fill a castle with little round cushions and people seated cross-legged. Maybe put Nagarjuna next to Maupassant along the library walls. Switch out the Sun King for Buddha Shakyamuni. It could be fun.
Not that we really need castles for the good work of the path. We can do it anywhere. It’s just a memory I have, even if a bit misplaced. Castles were togetherness and safety. Now they’re just museums, but the imagery remains. And I can’t help asking…
Is a banquet or a ball entirely frivolous, or can we still don dancing shoes from time to time, on the road out of samsara?