Thursday, August 11, 2016
Low self-esteem will make you do the most ridiculous things.
The stupidity of all this didn't mean it didn't hurt. Golly gee whiz it hurt. I was quite sure I was dying. The only way I could think to ameliorate this condition was to go down to the water park and lie there like a dead dog in the lagoon.
Oh, I could have been more active, climbed to the top of the water slides and such, but whenever I did that, I'd just end up scanning the horizon, wondering where he was. Or, there was a chance that I'd see his 1968 Dodge Dart tooling around the streets below. Possibly with another girl.
Nope, it had to be the lagoon for me, floating in my inner tube of anguish. When droplets of water hit the rubber, they sizzled like bacon grease, but so what? There was the sound of people laughing as they splashed around, and Graham Parker on the radio. At least they hadn't rejected me. Well, not explicitly.
The food stalls next to the lagoon gusted delicious frying smells across the water. Cheeseburgers. Churros. Funnel Cakes. Regardless, I was unmoved. There's nothing like a bad romance to kill an appetite. Probably I didn't eat another bite 'til October, but that's beside the point.
The point is that I went down there again today, to the food stalls next to the lagoon, and I thought damn, what do you know? After all these years, fried food still smells like heartbreak.
image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Funnel_cakes#/media/File:Funnel_cake_2
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Thursday, July 14, 2016
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Romping with the dog on the lawn...
|She's recaptured the ball by this time and has no intention of giving it back. That's why she's smug.|
Or pretending the tree fort is a pirate ship...
An evening drive to the robo-wash
|Because who doesn't love the robo-wash? When I say simple pleasures, I really mean simple.|
To the ultimate July third destination, the fireworks stand on the edge of town
"It's like a candy store with explosives", says Middle Son. gleefully.
Middle Son needs a haircut, but he's growing it out for a cancer charity. Anyway, have you ever tried to shear a 15 year old against his will? Good luck with that. :p
Every time Youngest Son went down the slide from his tree fort, he'd shout "diabetes!" When I (naturally) asked why, he said it means he has a really great idea. I can only surmise this means diabetes is the new eureka.
Monday, June 27, 2016
Divination is something I've been interested in as long as I can remember. Not that I believe that the future is set in stone - far from it, actually - but the methods used are fascinating.
Since I don't believe in a predetermined future or fate (in most cases), one may wonder why I have such an encompassing urge to go around reading arcane signs and symbols everywhere. But that's the answer, isn't it? Because they are arcane symbols. Not only are they beyond language, but often go where our conscious minds can barely reach. They tell us what's in the hidden parts of our psyche, the things we already know without knowing.
It's a bit like throwing dust into the wind. It makes the the invisible visible.
Given this, it's only natural that I prefer forms of divination that employ meaningful symbols. Tea leaves and tarot are probably the best known of these, but charm casting falls into this category, too. In some ways it's even more so, as one can choose whatever charm seems personally relevant to represent a situation.
For instance, a bird charm can symbolize happiness to one person, industriousness to another and gossip to someone else. The important thing is to know what each charm means to you, specially. No good getting meanings out of a book, unless you happen to be in complete agreement with the book.
If you're anything like me, you're always collecting odds and ends and shiny things. Potential charms might turn up in the bottom of your pockets. your jewelry box or your junk drawer (unless you're one of those crazy neat freaks who doesn't have one). The best charms are the ones that come serendipitously, just when you need them. Some of the charms I use were found, some were given to me, a few I made myself - not very well, but good enough to get the message across.
Charms can be cast and read whatever way you like, but my preferred way is to make a basic (and in the example below, a very bad) sketch of the astrological houses. I don't bother with the more detailed meanings of the houses here, just a truncated version that tells me what's going on where.
(Seriously, what was going on with my ability to draw a circle here? I blame the cheap chalk and the rough paving stone. :p)
After giving the charms a good shake and tossing them into the circle, we read where they fall.
So what of this fortune? Well, first of all, the charms representing the evil eye and jealousy are not in play, so that's a hopeful sign. Second, the 8th and 9th houses are empty, so death, taxes, sex, philosophy and religion are pretty much not happening right now. On the other hand, luck, spirituality, stability and secrecy/privacy are in the 1st house, the house of self. Longevity, personal power and information are in the house of material possessions. I suppose that means "hang in there, things will get better"?
Memory, energy and protection are in the third house - that's communication, so that makes sense too, but betrayal is in the 4th house (that little green thing is a coiled snake, by the way) and that's not so good - even though I know who it is. Gossip is in the 5th house, with deception just creeping in, but peace is there, too. This also makes perfect sense, for reasons better left unsaid (since I don't want to add gossip to gossip) and theft is nearly in the 5th house, but - mercifully - in the center of the circle, so I don't consider it to be a factor at this time.
Love, marriage and social life are in the 6th house, representing health and physical labor (too true) and transformation and money are in the house of marriage and partnerships. This could mean my husband will be paid for his work (*update* yes!) but that's also the house of enemies. Let's hope it's the former.
The female figure and the deer are in the 10th house, status, and it's anyone's guess what that means. My status is of a woman who is shy and vulnerable? That I'm a woman who protects the vulnerable? Or that I'm simply a woman with a lot of deer visiting her yard? Well, all of these could be true, but the meaning is not clear. This is the only one that has me a little worried because it is hard to read.
The house charm is in the 11th house, community and groups, and since we are still considering moving to a new community, that fits as well. That's also the house of ambition and goals, and since that little pink house technically represents my "dream house" (literally a house I dreamed of, here ) that's also appropriate.
The 12 house, the unconscious, contains the symbol representing the world at large and the one representing attack or aggression. Well, one only has to open the newspaper to see the world is in some kind of crazy flux at the moment, that a raging undercurrent of something is at work. The collective unconscious must be in a right state about now. But the attack, aggression - whether that's something else in the undercurrent or something more personal remains to be seen. The 12th house is also the house of hidden enemies, so time to be on guard. Let's hope there are no other foes coming out of the woodwork
So, in essence, this fortune could be read as, cheer up, things could be worse. Also, beware of snakes and gossips. Well, that's good advice for anyone. ;)
How ever these charms fell and however accurate they may be, do I think that this is the work of an invisible hand? Not very likely. (Not saying it's entirely out of the question, just that it's not likely). No, I think what I'm looking at are the inner workings of my own mind. Those things, thoughts, ideas, and perceptions bubbling away unawares, potentially bursting into reality for good or ill.
If you think about it, the idea isn't that much stranger than the concept of unseen forces intervening in our lives, which is a common belief worldwide. The universe is mysterious but so is the mind. The mind, I believe, is about as mysterious as anything could be. And I do love a mystery.
Especially when it's got a great plot.:)
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Saturday, June 11, 2016
We named it the house sprite because we didn't know what else to call it, but Genius Loci is probably more fitting.
The first time I recall noticing it was the morning of my third birthday, when I got out of bed and found the house empty. It was so quiet, the only sound was the humming of the fans. I was still small enough then that the house seemed big and mysterious, something wondrous to be roaming around alone. I wandered down the hall, past the open bedroom doors which suddenly seemed to have a strange significance. It's beyond me to describe it now, but there seemed to be a presence there, something unseen that seemed to vibrate with delight. It was my birthday, so I was full of anticipation of course, but the giddy otherness seemed unmistakable.
When the family began to drift back into the house from wherever they'd been, the presence disappeared and I remember being disappointed. Still, the presence (if we can call it that) would turn up again and again.
Often it would be lingering in the kitchen when I'd sneak in to grab an illicit snack. That was the most common way to find it, but it wasn't confined to the house by any means. Sometimes you'd find it slipping around corners or messing about the flower beds on sunny afternoons. It gave me the impression that it was giggling.
Simple enough to understand this as a childish whimsy, some externalization of my own nature. After all, the presence did seem somehow female and a little mischievous. Perhaps the sort of Family Circus type "Not Me" character that robbed the cookie jar when no one else was around. That said, it's not something I thought about much. It was just something that was there, a sort of mood or feeling that would crop up at odd places around the house. There was nothing to see or hear, and it certainly wasn't scary, so there was not much cause to wonder about it. Or mention it, either...you learn early on you aren't supposed to talk about things like that.
So it was in the years after I'd left home that it rarely entered my mind. It wasn't exactly that I'd forgotten about it - it figured heavily in memories of the Summer mentioned here, for instance - but what was there to say? Every place has its own mood and atmosphere, and it nearly always defies description.
It was certainly far from my thoughts the day I came back to the house where I grew up. My original family had been irreparably changed and broken by then, and the sadness was overwhelming. So imagine my surprise when I walked into the kitchen one morning and found the bubbly presence there, just like it was 1981 and no time had passed at all.
Since time had passed and I was an adult now, I was curious. What caused this odd little sensation? It was not like a ghost, not something that made you feel watched or frightened; but it did seem to have identifiable movements, places where it definitely was or wasn't.
While going about my duties, mapping its rambles became a cheerful distraction. Given the unhappiness in the house, it wasn't hard to notice these pockets of delight. It most often hung about the kitchen and hallway, though it might turn up in the bath or utility room as well. It was almost never to be found in the front rooms, and outdoors it preferred the back or the side to the front garden as well. Perhaps it was something about the weather conditions that caused it. The handy thermometer / barometer on the wall and reports from the weather station helped keep track. It was an interesting idea, but alas, there was no consistency between its appearance and any weather conditions that I could find. Back to the drawing board.
Maybe it had something to do with negative ions - these are supposed to encourage a sense of well-being. I experimented here too, examining places and things that contain them, and while they were very nice, it just wasn't the same feeling at all. Water pipes? Perhaps, but the presence was inconsistent with the plumbing lines. Anyway, I'd never felt it out at the well. EMF waves? Maybe, but aren't these more consistent with seeing ghosts? There was no obvious explanation for something that must have been ongoing for 30 years or more. Assuming it wasn't just my fevered imagination, that is.
A few months passed, and one day my son - then about 11 - walked into the room.
"Something must be about to happen" he said '"because that feeling is in the kitchen again."
"What feeling?" I asked.
"You know, that feeling that something's about to happen. Like you get before a storm. It begins with an A. An...something"
"Yeah, that's it. It's in the kitchen right now, but it moves around the house."
Yes, that was it. Anticipation. That's exactly what it felt like, the purest sense that something exciting was about to happen. It was also the first time anyone else had ever mentioned it to me - confirmation that it wasn't my own imagination.
We talked about it a bit, and it seemed that my son's experience was pretty much the same as my own. Although after so many years, I'd learned that it really never seemed to herald anything in particular - even if at times it seemed to be egging you on.
At the end of that Summer, my husband moved up permanently. It didn't take him long to notice what my son and I had; it was he who named it the house sprite. He also pointed out that it didn't just appear in the house and grounds, it turned up in specific places around the neighborhood too. The corner of next road over was a favorite place, as well as the dry creek 3 blocks away. Which was accurate, I realized.
He had no explanation for it either, but was happy enough to have this little non-ghostly presence spreading good cheer. Heaven knows we needed it. Every little bit helps.
The house sprite hasn't been around too much this Spring, but tonight it's been hovering round the kitchen window for hours. The air nearly trembles with laughter we cannot hear. It's a mysterious thing.
It's almost enough to make you believe in fairies.
As this is a time of potential changes for my family, I thought I'd break out the trusty Russian Gypsy Fortune Telling Cards and see what's ahead for the month. There had already been a few good omens (several synchronicities, a crane flying overhead while I prayed to Quan Yin) and the Chinese fortune sticks had also given a pleasant forecast, whatever way we choose to go. I was curious as to what these cards would say.
For posterity, here is the reading, in short version:
Apple, second position - a pleasant unexpected occurrence, a present.
Clover, second position - happiness, slightly clouded by a misunderstanding.
Handshake, first position - a strong friendship will support you your entire life.
Lily, first position - a happy life full of meaning.
Branches, fourth position - tears, an offense.
Pig, first position - purely a happy and prosperous year.
Anchor, third position- disillusionment with the ideal, doubts.
Bear, third position - you will get you want, though not in the immediate future.
Final card, synthesis -
Crayfish, fourth position - too much haste often defeats the business.
Scales, third position - if you maintain your balance, you will come out whole from a predicament.
Fisher King, fourth position - in a difficult moment, you won't sink but will rise to the surface.
House, third position - beware of people surrounding you.
Final card, final outcome-
Crayfish - having made too bold a step, you will back off.
Scales - in your fate, good will outweigh evil
Fisher King - fortune, especially on the sea.
House - you will enjoy success in all affairs.
All in all, I was quite pleased with this reading. It went along very well with the others, and while a couple of cards were less than fabulous, they make perfect sense in context of the situation.
I do have to wonder if it means that we will put off our changes for a little while, until the time is just right. But there's this feeling that the choice will be ours to make, either way.
Who knows what will happen? But as of this moment, that's the lay of the land.
Yes, I know the fish card is not officially named the "fisher king" but that's what we call him and it's a lucky tradition these days.
Sunday, June 5, 2016
Since my youngest is currently obsessed with birds, this video of baby wrens leaving the nest is his favorite viewing.
Toward the end of the video, as the second to the last, and then the last bird fledges, it occurs to me that this is the perfect illustration of loneliness. That particular sort loneliness one might feel after all the guests have gone, a friend has moved away or any other situation where you are suddenly left alone with only your thoughts for company.
When I was young, this was a dreadful feeling. It seemed such a terrible thing, to be left behind. How I envied those who had gone, off on some great adventure (or maybe just life) without me. This was before I accepted that I was essentially a lonely person at heart, that loneliness - or my loneliness, at least - was an internal condition, a state of mind that no amount of companionship could ever reach.
I feel much different about these things today. Now, whenever I'm left standing on the edge of solitude, I recognize it as an end to whatever has gone before and a signal that something new is about to begin. The loneliness is only the peace that goes in between.
Friday, June 3, 2016
These aren't necessarily the books I'd consider the best - if I could even decide upon such a thing - but the ones I've picked up again and again over the years, whether because they are simply enjoyable or are interesting on some other level. A few are geared toward younger readers, but I continue to enjoy them as much (or more) as an adult.
Also, in keeping with the "not hard" spirit of this post, the books in that photo are truly random. I picked up a couple of armloads of books without looking and plunked them down. They aren't even arranged, because if I'd started doing that, I would have had to coordinate them by color or size or alphabetize them or whatever, and I ain't got the stamina for that. If there's anything embarrassing in that stack, it will just have to stay. :p
The list (in no particular order)
1. Fire and Hemlock - Diana Wynne Jones
2. The Boyfriend School - Sarah Bird
3.A Dark-Adapted Eye - Ruth Rendell as Barbara Vine
4.Lolita -Vladimir Nabokov
5.Jazz - Toni Morrison
6.Journey To Ixtlan - Carlos Castaneda
7.The Willowdale Handcar - Edward Gorey (this is a picture book, but it counts as far as this list goes.)
8. The Romance Reader - Pearl Abraham
9.Paradise - Elena Castedo
10. Wild At Heart - Barry Gifford
11.Howl's Moving Castle - Diana Wynne Jones
12.The October Country- Ray Bradbury
13.Ficciones - Jorge Luis Borges
14. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
15.The House With A Clock In Its Walls - John Bellairs
16. Dandelion Wine - Ray Bradbury
17. The Mothman Prophecies- John Keel
18. Tales From Gavagan's Bar - Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague de Camp
19. Archer's Goon - Diana Wynne Jones (a close contest with A Sudden Wild Magic, by the same author)
20. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
There are a few short stories that are favorites, as well. (Actually there are a lot, but I want to keep this list short)
1.That Evening Sun - William Faulkner
2.Elvenbrood - Tanith Lee
3.The Vampire Lover - Tanith Lee
4.Simon's Wife - Tanith Lee (probably should have just made a Tanith Lee section, eh?)
5.High Mysterious Union - Ruth Rendell
Rest assured, this is not my only reading material (I've read more than half of The Telegraph's "100 novels everyone should read" list, and plenty more that's not) I read history, philosophy and scholarly works. I'm not skeered of books, even big fat ones with double columns. I'll even cheerfully (after a fashion) take on post-modernism. But I suppose, for good or ill, this list signifies my literary comfort zone.
...even when it's uncomfortable
Note: I took that photo of the Dark-Adapted Eye cover detail like 5 years ago, and have been looking for an excuse to work it into a post ever since.
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
While wandering in a nearby town, we passed this charming old movie theater. While it's not disused as such, I think it's now only used for special events. At any rate, it was empty at the time we were passing by.
I'd seen a few movies here in my youth. Mostly it was my cousins who hung out here. It was their preferred spot for date nights. As for me, though, I don't have any particular memories attached to it, besides seeing one of the less-impressive Indiana Jones films a long time ago.
And as for my husband...well, he's not from around here, so he'd never seen the place before in his life.
None of this mattered when we walked by and felt what we could only call the atmosphere (or maybe the ambience) of the place. We stopped and breathed it in. We compared notes.
"It's almost creepy, except it's not," said husband.
"It feels energetic, alive" said I.
"It feels as if there are a hundred theaters here, all existing at once"
At which point I again ran into the problem of not having words to describe such a thing.
Thinking about it later that evening, I realized part of the problem is that I'm a more of a visual person, so these feelings often come with mental imagery. Most of which would sound stark-raving insane if spoken aloud. But I did hit upon the idea of trying to use a collection of images to convey what it was that I felt there (I also discovered my computer no longer has a program to make a photo collage. Grr.)
So here goes. Some of these may be obviously related to movie theaters, some less so, some extremely not so, but it's near as I can get to what was going through my mind when standing outside the doors, in no particular order:
There is already quite a bit of anthropomorphic food in that lot, but apparently not enough, because there was also this:
No, don't ask me to explain it. The Fig Newton guy is the haziest memory for me, more like an infant dream than anything else. Yet while standing in front of the theater, this is what comes into my head. I don't know why this would be, but I do know that when someone asks you to describe a feeling, "like a giant fig is dancing in your kitchen" is not an appropriate answer.
I asked the hubs what he thought, if these images reflected what he'd sensed outside the theater.
"Pretty much," he said "though I would have added cars. 1940's era cars."
Middle Son hadn't been at the theater with us, but I thought it would be fun to get his opinion anyway. I asked what this collection of images suggested to him.
"Pure 1950's" he said.
"Even though some of these images are from the 70's or later?"
"It's the color scheme. It screams 50's."
He was right about this, although the 60's and 70's had been in my thoughts as well. It does seem, in a way, like a version of "a hundred theaters all existing at once." Maybe a hundred layers of pop culture, consumer culture, existing all together.
Perhaps decades of happy movie-goers lining up there had left their echo. Always looking forward, always optimistic. A bit like that atomic-age architecture, reaching for the sky.
I did some research on the theater the other night, and discovered it's said to be haunted. I don't doubt it. After all, there's really no good reason a haunting can't be happy.
Sunday, May 8, 2016
Just about a year ago, on Kentucky Derby day, we were watching TV in the living room, waiting for the race to begin.
Suddenly, there was a frantic ringing of the doorbell. We opened the door to find a figure dressed all in blue. It jumped up and down a few times and did a little dance. Then it ran away, but not before graciously posing for this picture...
Suddenly, there was a frantic ringing of the doorbell. We opened the door to find a figure dressed all in blue. It jumped up and down a few times and did a little dance. Then it ran away, but not before graciously posing for this picture...
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Almost any memory, I suppose, can create an air of importance if it's intense enough. Even hard times can acquire a sort of mythos, the status of a personal legend.
It was four years ago now that I packed up my children, pets and anything I could carry, and drove away from my home. My partner stood on the brick walkway, holding one last box of his belongings. He was waiting for us to go before he began the walk to the place he'd live until some indefinite time in the future.
I felt for him. How lonely it must have been, that walk. I had a long drive ahead of me, and the children and pets to occupy my thoughts. He only had the sidewalks and the stars and the gibbous moon waxing overhead. I tried to keep this mental image at bay as I pulled onto the road. If there was regret, for the children's sake I kept it to myself. I would have loved to turn around, prolong the inevitable goodbye a little longer, but despite my tendency to get lost in the past, I don't like to turn back once a decision is made.
The sky had rapidly sunk from twilight into navy blue. Small details came into focus, the way they do at times like these. The little man on the crosswalk sign that never gave you quite enough time to cross; moths and June bugs flittering around the street lights. Through the windows at the Coastal mart, I could see Velma working the register. I thought that I should have said goodbye to her at least, but guessed my husband would probably stop in on his way. He'd buy a bottle of water and a pack of Malvita* biscuits, and maybe not mention that his whole family had just moved away, because who knows what to say to that. I'd be right, but wouldn't know that until later. At the moment, there was nothing to do but drive on.
We turned onto Rio Grande street, then Main. We searched for music to keep us cheerful. The kids rejected Stereolab as too gloomy and French, they would rather have The Pillows instead. We drove out of town, pretending like it was some great adventure when really we were just sad.
At the truck stop on highway 90, we took a break, unwinding ourselves from the boxes and crates to take the dog out. The kids bought snacks and I bought a coffee and a pack of spearmint gum. The coffee was the consistency of motor oil, but I'm not complaining. It was comforting, somehow.
We hung around for a while, watching the traffic pass. So many cars coming and going. I wondered who else was making a difficult journey. I wondered how they would cope with what was ahead of them. The parking lot was a sort of limbo, I suppose. The florescent lights marked out a sacred space where time didn't exist and all options are - theoretically, at least - still open. When you aren't looking forward to your future, spending eternity in a truck stop parking lot doesn't seem so bad.
Back on the road, I tried not to think about the line of falling dominoes that had lead to this point, but such things are easier said than done. There had been plenty of signs that things were going wrong. We'd watched with some trepidation, then outright anxiety, as prospects dimmed all over town. We told ourselves that things might get better, we'd keep hanging on, but I'd managed to put aside the thing that would eventually lead to this night drive - my mother's deteriorating mental state.
Well, she'd always been a piece of work, you know, even when she was younger. There was a good reason I'd hardly been back since I'd left home. Not my problem anymore, I'd said. Until the day came when it was. By then, there was no one left to deal with it but me. The least-favored, most ungolden child.
But isn't that always the way?
There was a storm brewing in the West as we wound our way through the countryside. We could see lightning in the distant clouds. Had I been better with metaphors, I might have seen this as symbolic, but instead it just seemed like Spring. Or more damned crappy luck.
The storm broke a couple of hours after we arrived. It was short-lived but the lightning was fierce, the likes of which we never saw in Victoria. Another thing I'd forgotten in all the years I'd been gone. Mother had forgotten things too. When she talked about her children, she seemed not to remember that I'd once been one of them. It was fitting enough, I suppose. My future was unclear. Now my past was in doubt, too.
Maybe it's because of this that I become obsessed with fixing all these details in my mind. Perhaps this post should be called the persistence of emotion instead. Memory fails, but emotions remain, attached to even the most hazy recollections of color, temperature and light. It bothers me that I can't recall what shirt I was wearing the night I left. Everything else, yes - DKNY capri pants, black ballet flats, a forest green cardigan - but what shirt? It hardly matters, except it does. How did I let this detail get away from me? How many more will go when I'm not looking?
I can tell you what we did, the kids and me, as we tried to adjust to our circumstances. Navigating the new parts of town that had sprung up in my absence. Buying shoes and extension cords.Walking the dog. I can tell you what we did, but I can't make you feel how it felt. I'm not clever enough. I'm no Robert Coover or anything. The best I can do is try to anchor these emotions to a specific place in time, lest they escape and run amok.
There is no way to describe how at sea we were, doing those things. Who the heck remembers buying an extension cord at Home Depot? Oh, but I do, and also, since when is there a Home Depot here? And this street? Why is the sunlight so white** and who are all these people? What am I going to do about my mother? The most ordinary things return with a pang. Wandering the lonely aisles at Walgreen's. Rainwater swirling at the bottom of hills. And my son and me, in this sort of sleepless underwater haze at 5 AM, watching Popeye cartoons, because we knew his dad in back in Victoria was watching too, and for that hour at least we felt connected.
We drove a lot in those early days, while we tried to learn our way around. We searched through all the new radio stations. Victoria had always been short on radio. The song we liked the most was Miike Snow's Paddling Out.
It seems somehow fitting now.
It was four months later that my husband and I finally came to understand that there was not going to be a simple solution for my mother, that Victoria was finished for both of us, and this splitting of the family was far harder than it was worth. He packed his bags, and I left before sunrise to bring him back. I bought a Kolache and a coffee on the way out of town, and for that moment - a reverse of what had gone before - I was happy.
I'll always feel a bit glum about our life in Victoria that skidded to a halt so suddenly, and the rapid changes that beset our family. That life can only live on in feeling and memory now. The brick walkway does not belong to us anymore. We are all together, though, and for that I am grateful.
* typo, and it stays.
**it's the limestone, we eventually figured out. The sun reflecting off the limestone. On cloudy days, it's gloomier than Victoria could ever dream of.
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
We'd gone out to the grocery store, late, but not too late. It was only about 9 PM, but the store was much emptier than you'd expect, even at that hour. There was hardly a shopper to be seen.
Even so, there was nothing especially peculiar about this, nothing uncanny - it was a Sunday, after all - and we went about our shopping the way we normally do. We picked up bread and milk, and found a coupon for free barbecue sauce and White Wing tortillas if you bought a 12 pack of sausages. A good deal, but no sign that anything weird was afoot.
We wound our way round past the wine and cheese, down toward the produce, and it was then that the feeling of loneliness really became apparent, an almost aching sense of solitude.
I said to my spouse (who's used to this by now) "do you feel that?" He nodded and said, "yeah, it's like we're the last people on Earth."
It was maybe an odd thing to think about while staring down a bunch of carrots.
We continued to shop, carefully picking over the cherries and nectarines, but the feeling grew more intense, more haunting. Colors took on new vividness. The corners seemed to close around us in a silent, secretive way. In short, it was beginning to feel like that well-worn but still mysterious phrase, "the thinning of the veil."
Of course, this phrase is something one might associate with frosty fields on Halloween, or nature walks on Summer evenings. Grocery stores, not so much. But there it was. My spouse jokingly said as much as we walked out the door with our bags. "It doesn't normally seem like the produce department might be another dimension."
Outside in the parking lot, though, this strange atmosphere was everywhere. So quiet and lonely, with a tinge of something more nebulous. The cars in the parking lot might as well have been abandoned, all signs of life gone missing. Below the hill, the city lights blazed enthusiastically, so it couldn't have been that the whole town was asleep. It was not even 10 o'clock at night, yet it was just like - as my husband pointed out - 2 or 3 AM.
On the drive home, we speculated about causes. The weather was cooler, maybe, but no mist or fog. What was it that might have changed? We noticed that all the lights looked...different. Different how? Just different. We tried to put a word to it, some adjective, and failed. Just somehow noticeably, but indescribably, different..The Shell station shone like a beacon with this eerie light, and I wondered about the clerks inside working, and if they'd had been affected by the loneliness, too.
After we arrived home, we sent our 14 year old around back to put out the bins. When he came back in a while later, he pulled me aside. He said, "Mother, this might sound strange...but you know how they say that plants have feelings? Well, I got this strong feeling outside tonight that the plants, all the vegetation, are lonely. Call me crazy, but that's how it feels."
He'd picked it up, too, that loneliness. As for his theory, I could not really disagree with him. It was as good an explanation as any. It was May Day, after all.
It's not so hard to imagine that what we all sensed that night was the primeval force of nature, roving across the land, searching high and low for its May Queen.
Friday, April 15, 2016
July 27, 1993
As I was trudging home from the library, I saw a figure down at the corner of Magazine Street, talking to someone through the window of a red car. I noticed because he called me by name, but I didn't recognize him. I went indoors but soon heard a noise outside. I went out and found Chris. He was carrying a bow for some reason, but no arrows.
He asked if I'd seen Richard, who has apparently gone missing. I said I hadn't seen him in a week. Told him the last I'd seen was his pony-tailed figure wandering up the hill, into the setting sun.
A couple of notes on this entry -
1. Chris left the bow in my laundry room, where it remained even after I'd moved away.
2. As far as I know, none of us ever saw Richard again.
Sunday, April 3, 2016
His beauty is ineffably ancient and strange.
By xiquinhosilva from Cacau - 10552 - Rome - Bocca della Verita, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30177734
Sunday, March 27, 2016
Every Easter, the nuns at school would pointedly remind us that our egg hunting and Easter bunnies had nothing to do with Jesus' resurrection and were just a bunch of Pagan Nonsense. While we understood their concern, this had exactly as much effect as their admonitions about Halloween; that is to say, none.
Anyway, it seemed a wee bit disingenuous, considering that right after class we'd run down to Girl Scouts in the church hall, where we'd weave Easter baskets and make bunnies out of pom poms. We loved ourselves some Pagan Nonsense in Girl Scouts. Even our Brownies ceremony smacked of something otherworldly.
In my own family, this Easter dichotomy between Christianity and Pagan symbolism wasn't a problem. While my parents claimed to be Lutheran, I never saw them attend church - though whether this was because they were irreligious or just too cheap to tithe, I don't know. Whatever the case, there was nothing to prevent the hedonistic thrill of Whopper eggs and marshmallow Peeps on Sunday morning.
Back in those days, Spring break almost always came at Easter week, and we'd travel down to the seaside to spend it with relations. If we were lucky, the wild flowers would be out, and the hills and fields would be sheets of bright color. The Indian paintbrushes were always my favorite.
Their house had a most magical feeling to it. There were two boxer dogs, polished wood floors, a piano and a clock with Westminster chimes. There was a rug made in concentric circles we could use for our space hoppers. There was even a ghost and a haunted mirror, because in our family, what else would you expect? It was all an adventure and great fun.
If perchance the weather was dark and stormy, we'd run about the yard with our pinwheels, in defiance of tornadoes or lighting strikes. The sky would be grey, the way the Gulf water is grey, and the wind would taste like salt. I liked to imagine (still do, sometimes) that there were fish up there, silvery or mackerel colored, a whole other ocean in the sky.
Come Saturday evening it would be time to make our nests. This was a tradition from the old country and one of our favorite things to do. We'd gather up grass and flowers to make a pretty place for the rabbit to lay his eggs, and scatter the rose petals all around. Then, instead of going to bed like we were supposed to, we'd stay up talking in the dark, while the Westminster chimes rang off the hours.
The next day would come the culmination of the Pagan Nonsense, the egg hunt. Of course I'm joking, but egg hunting (I've come to believe) is an inborn human instinct, or close to it. Didn't Helen Keller write that, as a small child with no hearing, sight or language, finding eggs was her greatest joy? It's a uniquely satisfying endeavor, especially for children. Whatever it was my cousin and I were really celebrating on Easter, whenever we'd pull a colorful egg from its hiding places, it certainly felt like magic.
And as always, late that afternoon, it would be time to leave, heading back inland away from the sea. We would usually cry a little as we waved goodby, because we didn't want the fun to end. I would stare out the back window of the station wagon, watching the fish jump in the Colorado and the bay, knowing that after we crossed Lake Texana there was no turning back. Soon enough we would pass through the fields of flowers, then the hills, and then back to boring old life at home. Dull as dishwater and dry as toast.
But there would always be next year, and when our childhoods were over, our own children to carry on.
Sometimes I wonder if Sister Angelita is looking down on us from Heaven with that pinched look on her face, as we indulge in our Pagan Nonsense and revel in the arrival of Spring. Maybe so. But I guess I'll have to leave that to the gods to sort out.
I hope they'll understand.
Friday, March 18, 2016
Misperception can be a funny thing. Under the right conditions, it can even be charming.
When I dashed out the front door the other evening, I was taken aback by the violet sunset lighting up the sky. What was even more surprising was the scent. A sweet, delicious smell hung over everything. It smelled just like the sky looked - like candy.
What I'd momentarily forgotten were the masses of pink jasmine growing around the corner of the house.
For just a split second, it had seemed like the sky had a scent.
As misperceptions go, it was quite a lovely one.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
Monday, March 7, 2016
Maybe this strange Autumnal weather is getting to me. The calendar says it's nearly spring, but something seems off. The days are hot, but there is the edge of a chill underneath. Sound travels for miles, low to the ground. The barkings of dogs echo the way they do in Fall. The birds are nesting and the wildflowers are out, and yet the greenish-yellow-orangey-brown foilage seems all wrong. The leaves are falling. It just doesn't look or feel like Spring.
The live oaks losing their leaves is normal in warm weather. I know this only because I checked with the forest service. It's not something I can remember seeing, masses of brown leaves whirling and fluttering down the road. So many you'll slip if you try to walk. In late Summer, maybe. Not at this time of year.
It might be normal for live oaks, but that doesn't explain the color of the maple tree in the yard, or the senna leaves turning orange in the fields. So orange it almost looks artificial. But it's not, and it's all over in the neighborhood. I checked on that, too, but this time there is no explanation at hand. The local variety of senna is remarkably sturdy. It has green leaves that fold up at night and puts out yellow flowers like clockwork. Drought won't kill it, animals won't eat it, it goes through its regular pattern year after year. Except this year. Maybe it's just El Nino, or La Nina, or whichever cycle we're in now. Maybe things have just been knocked off kilter for the moment.
Though the agarita seems right on time with its blossoms and needle sharp leaves
But of course I'm just delaying what I've come here to say. Circling round and round the point, hoping to find some comfortable place to land. Even knowing full well there is no comfortable place.
Yeah, maybe the strange Autumnal weather is just getting to me. The way things just feel wrong. Maybe it's nothing, but last night, right after dusk, I heard a rustling in the hedge.
Well, that's no big deal, really. There are lots of things that can rustle a hedge. Birds, cats, skunks...there's even a little fox who comes around at night, sometimes. The thing in the hedge was bigger, though. Maybe the size of a deer, by the sound of it, even though I should have seen anything as big as that.
The whatever-it-was burst out of the hedge and raced across the yard, but even though I was looking,I could see nothing. Then, there was more rustling, this time from the rock garden behind me. I turned to look, but again, nothing. Suddenly the rustling came from the patch of grass just to my left. I was staring right at it. Still, there was not a thing to see, not even leaves stirred by the wind.
I was getting the impression it might be time to go inside, so I headed up the path toward the house. I began to feel slightly annoyed, though. What was causing these happenings around the yard? There was a mystery here, and it seemed remiss not to investigate at least a minute longer. I retraced my steps back to the driveway.
Down the road, a largish, light-colored animal was barrelling toward our end of the street. It might have been a deer, but judging from the awkward, heavy gait, was more likely an escaped goat. It was in a panic, by the way it zigzagged back and forth. It crashed into the neighbor's fence and bounced off the barbed wire and foliage. Then it was gone. Gone? How could it be gone, without a sound or any movement of the trees and brush? Nevertheless, it was. I stared at the spot where the animal had been, thinking that this must be the answer. As unlikely as it seemed, it must have been an errant goat crashing around making those noises. How I managed not to see it would require more thought, but that would keep for later
I turned to go back to the house.
The rustling rushed up behind me, fast. I could hear feet and claws on the paving stones as it ran and could feel it coming up on my heels. I jumped forward, immediately thinking of the neighbor's rottweiler, even though it's a sweet old dog that wouldn't hurt a fly. But it seemed so big and so fast, that rottweiler seemed the most logical conclusion as to what was chasing me.
Despite the surge of adrenaline zipping up my spine, a quick glance behind showed an empty pathway.
I climbed the porch steps and surveyed the yard. Now the rustling seemed to come from all around. It was in the shrubbery and the bushes and the flower beds. It was out there in the middle of the yard, where there was nothing, no visual to explain the sound. The sound was just there.
It occurred to me that maybe it wasn't a panicked goat that had caused the noise, but that it was something out there - the thing making the noise - that had panicked the goat. Perhaps some sort of damned thing- like creature was about to wreak havoc on the lawn. There's nothing like existential fear to inspire creative imaginings. But even so...
I recited the prayer for all sentient beings to be released from suffering and gradually the rustling stopped. Finally, I went inside and nothing else strange happened for the rest of the night.
Maybe it was nothing. Maybe it was my imagination, or some weird weather pattern stirring up odd breezes in hedges and making both goats and humans uneasy. I don't know. But to tell you the truth, I don't think I will sleep soundly until this false autumn is over and real spring comes at last.
Thursday, February 25, 2016
It's hard to remember now who taught me to play the game of signs. It may have been my sister, who - being annoyed with my childish pleas for attention - told me to go outside and look until I found something. Then again, my cousins would also play this game when they'd run out of other things to do. Since we'd all had the sort of parents who tended to give us withering looks and tell us to entertain ourselves whenever we complained of boredom, it may have emerged out of sheer necessity.
At any rate, being much younger than my siblings and there being no other kids in the neighborhood to play with, the game of signs became the solitary child's treasure hunt.
It's easy. First find an object. Any old object will do, as long as it catches your attention. Take this leaf, for example:
Which way is is pointing? Well, go that way. Keep on going until you find something.
Ah, here's a renegade marigold, growing out of place. How many petals does it have? There's five, so walk five paces (or five feet, whatever works). In this case, to the shrubbery, where a butterfly flits among the blossoms.
Following the butterfly (he was too quick to photograph, so you'll just have to trust me on this) leads us to a couple of twigs shaped sort of like a "t"...
What begins with the letter t? Tree, of course, so we must head over to the biggest tree in the garden and see what we find.
A feather, hiding in a crevice. Feathers mean birds, and the place to look for birds is a birdhouse.
In the grass beneath the birdhouse tree, there's a lost penny. Maybe that's our treasure? Or perhaps not. If it's heads, we stop. If it's tails, we'll go on.
Tails. So we must continue, but a nearby rock helpfully points out the direction...
where we find a heap of colored glass baubles. That fits my definition of treasure. Score!
Though when my five year-old plays this, his usual definition of treasure is bugs. Well, to each his own. You can find all sorts of things, when you play the game of signs.
What this is, really, is just some imagination and playing close attention to things, and when you pay attention, you are bound to find something.
It's one of life's little miracles.