I have so much to tell you that I do not know where to begin. The Equine, the food, the atmosphere or my state of mind. It has only been three days since my arrival here in the mountains but I feel the experiences of a lifetime have already been squeezed into this time.
I will begin with my introduction into the culinary aspect of this amazing place since this has been the focus of my visit here and flavors all occurrences thereafter.
Nikolas and I ate together on my first full day here, sitting down to a sample menu prepared by his team. I had never experienced molecular gastronomy and it was more similar to watching a science experiment being conducted than a meal preparation. Each selection featured a native ingredient as the focal point, manipulated and deconstructed to enhance the Equine influence on the material. I have been using the local sage for my Equine interpretations but Nikolas uses this ingredient in a whole different way. It is the centerpiece for one of his gastric starters and was the first item brought out to our table. Large blue-green leaves the size of my out stretched hand were stacked on a plate and laid on the center of the table between us. The food engineer then stood before us with a shallow dish full of billowing white clouds. Nikolas explained that the dish was full of liquid nitrogen and was specially designed to keep the gas to liquid conversion to a minimum for the duration of the first course. The sage leaves were then laid flat in the dish for several seconds before they were removed and placed on our plates. During their brief stay in the cloudy dish, the sage caused the vapors to take on the color of the leaves producing a vibrant turquoise waterfall cascading over the rim of the dish and flowing across the table. Small savory tidbits were arranged in a semicircle around the table in stone bowls by a second assistant and I was instructed to choose any combination I desired to top my sage leaf. The leaf had become a thin crisp platform for the variety of morsels to sit on and when I bit into my creation the flavor from the sage infused every bite. It did not overpower the other items but enhanced them. Urging my taste sensors to open up and experience the food on a new level they had not previously been capable of. There was a total of seven demonstrations and I can not say that any one was more amazing or better than the others. Normally the food engineer gives a full explanation for each stage of the meal but since I had the head chef at my side Nikolas gave the narrative himself. It was a wonderful way to end my first day here since I had worked up quite an appetite during my activities earlier. I know it is strange to narrate out of chronological order but the meal was such a core part of the rest of my experience here that I had to set the stage in this way. The Incredible aromas encircling the dining room are still vivid in my memory even several days later as if they still linger just out of range of my senses. I will now return to a more timely narrative.
From my first encounter with the area designated the Monolith of Contemplation I was enamoured. It was the first location I visited when I awoke the first morning and was a wonderful way to begin my adventure. The view from the high platform has no comparison at the complex. It was built exclusively to emphasize the Equine experience and create the ideal atmosphere to enhance the spirit connection with the creature . The entire area is of monochromatic construction using only the dark blue agate stone native to New London. The high polished platform is encircled by a dropped outer ring allowing a person to stand in the center of the inner circle and have the illusion of an eternal drop to the rainforest below with no support structure visible. The outer circle is invisible from this vantage point and allows for an area of private contemplation without interfering with the upper activities. Around the outer ring, stone meditation seats carved out of the same blue stone are arranged to allow quiet undisturbed study. I spent an hour on one of these couches, gazing at the triple layer scene in front of me. The green of the rainforest below flowing into the blue of the sea and the misty Equine in an azure sky above. I was entranced by this vision. I most likely would have remained there till darkness fell if the attendant for the tea ceremony had not been sent to collect me for my session.
Once she had gained my attention the woman led me on to the higher platform and sat me directly on the stone in the center of the circular space facing the Equine. There were no seats or any type of obstructions present and I could look out across the surface of the polished stone floor and see the reverse reflection of the creature with no interference. It gave a mirrored infinity effect as the reflection of the Equine stretched to the edge of the platform and met the actual Equine suspended above, forming one continuous image. The attendant placed a small copper kettle ensemble in front of us and took a seat to my left. The apparatus stood a little over a half a meter high with the kettle resting on an elaborate stand constructed of silver metal. The filigree of the stand was intricate, bent into many different shapes and symbols. Another woman brought a small black cube a few centimeters square and placed it under the kettle in a small fitted niche. Fine white cracks and fissures ran through the entire structure of the cube creating a marbled effect on its surface. The second woman then placed a small pitcher of clear liquid and a glass flask of water next to the stand before leaving us alone on the platform. The ceremonial attendant then introduced an herbal mixture into the top of the copper kettle and added the clear water from the flask. She then took the pitcher with the clear liquid and slowly poured it over the embedded cube. I watched the device for several moments before I noticed the cracks in the cube begin to change from white to a deep ruby red. Vapors rose from the cube as the applied liquid evaporated and the black form took on the appearance of a mottled lava bed. It was mesmerizing to watch and I felt myself pulled into the pulsing flow of colors moving below the kettle. A strong scent of jasmine infused the air around us mixed with a tinge of burning cedar wood. The smell pulled me out of my trance and I could now see the steam escaping from the kettle as the attendant removed the vessel and poured out equal portions of the now golden liquid into three cups. She placed one in front of me and the second by her. The third was place in the center of the Equine reflection. The third cup sat on the stone, steam rising up to envelope the vision of the Equine above adding to the already misty vision of the creature. The attendant then welcomed me with a raise of her cup and indicated that I should drink. We drained our steaming cups in one swallow and then sat for several minutes watching the third cup dissipate its heat. When the final wisp of steam left the chalice she picked up the third cup from the stone platform and poured the cooled tea on to the reflection. The liquid was immediately absorbed into the stone as if the polished surface was limestone deep within a cave parched from its long dry existence. After several minutes the woman arose and thanked me for the opportunity to share my Equine experience with her. She then left the platform allowing me to enjoy my remaining time in quiet meditation with the creature. If you ask me to describe the taste of the tea I could not. Only the scent of the ceremony and the vision of the Equine are all that remain of my experience. It was the first time I have seen anyone make an actual offering to the creature. I used my remaining time focusing on my meditation practice of Hermeticism, attempting to capture the full experience and remain in that single moment in time.
As my session ended and I exited the platform I saw several visitors lounging near the steps waiting to ascend. Before midday the top of the platform is reserved for the welcoming ceremony and private contemplation. After that it is open access to the visitors as long as respect for the other occupants is observed. I realized I was the last ceremony of the morning as I stumbled down the stairs a little dazed from the experience.
I will continue tomorrow with my narrative. The description of the meal Nikolas produced for me deserves a letter all on its own.