"The glacier knocks in the cupboard, The desert sighs in the bed, And the crack in the teacup opens A lane to the land of the dead."

-W.H. Auden

Monday, April 23, 2018

Echoes


Much of my childhood was spent in the dimly lit netherworld of movie theaters and skating rinks. One of the theaters my brother managed had a rather eerie atmosphere. These pictures are modern - the building has undergone quite a bit of renovation in recent years - but it gives a hint at least of how it looked back those days. Despite any resident ghosts, the place was a sort of safe haven for me, a place of endless Twizzlers and SweeTarts and fizzy orange soda. 

I originally posted the tale of my experiences at another site, which I've reposted here:

Back in the 80's, my brother was the manager of a movie theater. It was a huge old building, built during the age of the silent movie palace. I spent a good chunk of my childhood there - bro would put me to work cleaning the auditoriums between shows and making popcorn at the concession stand. The rest of the time I'd roam the place, which was full of nooks and crannies. It was a bit maze-like, so that was pretty fun. I was quite fond of the place.

Probably all theaters have a creepy feeling after hours. When my cousins would visit, we'd listen to what my cousin Nancy called "theater echoes" - those sort of faint, disembodied voices you hear in a place like that. I suppose it's the acoustics that cause it, I liked to imagine it's some sort of trapped sound that just bounces around for years and years. Anyway, that's probably not too unusual in a place like that, but it did add to the atmosphere.
Sometimes I'd get the distinct feeling I was being watched, but I put that down to the cranky old projectionist - he'd been working there since the 1920's and I was forbidden to go into his booth (which was covered in nudie pictures the times I did sneak a look!) But some other things weren't so easy to pass off.

One was the thing we called "the bat" It wasn't a real bat (though occasionally one got in) because it would have to have been huge, able to move at warp speed and disappear from even an enclosed space instantly. The thing we would see was a large black shape like a wing that would appear in the corner of our eye. Turn to look at it, and it would appear in the corner of our other eye. I recall sitting on the stairs one day for ages, intently watching the thing flit through my peripheral vision - I was determined to look at it properly, you understand. But no luck.

This wasn't scary at all, just weird, and I thought it was just me until one day the staff were standing around and started talking about it - same large black shape, same peripheral flitting.

Then there were some nights, at 12 or 1 in the morning, my brother would be up in the offices finishing the day's paperwork when we'd hear distinctly human sounding footsteps slowly pacing the roof of the building. I recall bro saying that this happened all the time, and not being especially concerned about it. The roof wasn't flat though, so it couldn't have just been someone taking a stroll up there.

the basement
What was somewhat scarier was the basement. That's where the marquee letters were kept, and we'd have to go down there late at night when it was time to change the sign. The basement had a dirt floor and was always cold. Some of the older staff members attributed any haunting activities to this place, because years back one of the workers, a janitor who'd been allowed to sleep there, had died of a heart attack. I tried to stay away from there, not the least because the basement door was inside the men's restroom - the horror stories practically write themselves.

But the thing that really, truly convinced me the place was haunted were the candy machines. For decades, there'd been a couple of candy machines in the lobby, selling gumballs or candied peanuts for a nickel. Probably these machines has been used thousands of times over the years, but while my brother was working there, they'd decided to remove them. Still, after hours when everything was quiet, you could still hear them loud and clear - non-existent coin going into the slot, turn of the invisible crank, immaterial candy rattling down the chute. Over and over, clear as a bell. Everyone who worked there knew the sound.

This is probably the most harmless and innocent of all ghostly manifestations, but very convincing to me. 

Looking back, I think this place wasn't seriously frightening because any hauntings were strictly of the Stone Tape variety.

Edit - I've just looked it up and found an article claiming the theater is haunted - but blaming all the haunting on the ghost of the pervy projectionist! Silly. They should have asked me. Although I'm sure his shade is still hanging around.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Caduceus

At the medical center in Victoria was this imposing caduceus sculpture.  It always struck me as a little strange. Victoria being such a conservative place in general, it seemed even less likely that the medical center would be possessed of such a flight of modernity. Especially one verging on a sort of Pagan spookiness.

It was one of those places where the dullness of Victoria had cracked and weirdness leaked through.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Heart Shaped Box

My son, who is 16, was listening to Nirvana's Uplugged In New York on the way to school the other morning. I thought to myself, it must be coming around to the anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death soon. 24 years ago. How time flies.

I knew it not because of my memory - which is good for this sort of thing, yes - but because of the feeling in the air, the deathly smell of Spring.

It's understood that Spring is the season of rebirth, but those of us who tangle with despair know the other side of it - that beneath all the new green is the sickening smell of decay. There are terrible things down in the leaf mould and humus, things that don't bear thinking about if you know what's good for you. It makes sense to me that suicides increase when the growing season begins.

My son wonders what it was like back then, when Nirvana were the big music act and grunge was the thing. I tell him, there was a reason we liked our music so aggressively, appealingly* glum. It was relevant. It was the mood of the time.

Case in point - on the day Cobain died, I was visiting my neighbor Kathy and her brother Darren at their parents house, up at the lake. They were house-sitting while their folks were away, and for my part I was just glad to be out of town. The change of season had done nothing to ease the damp chill of my apartment or the dark pall inside it. There was a lot wrong in my life - Kathy knew this, I think, that's why she'd invited me - and I desperately needed a break.

Diary entry, April 5, 1994

Pain is measured in dols
Triptych - a three panel painting
Gold - Au
Paroxysm - a fit
Sibilant - hissing
Apocryphal - mythical
Alfred Nobel invented a number of explosives

A creepy, creepy day. Cold and humid and dark. I woke in the night and thought "winter is coming" and was filled with dread, as if it really were Autumn and it would all be to do again. The eeriness I feel is so big it's beyond describing.

....

Of course, on the the 5th of April, none of us knew that Cobain was dead. We only knew he was missing. There was some concern though, and there were updates on the TV news. Only a month before, he'd been in a coma, and things had seemed iffy for a while. I commented to Darren (no doubt sounding more callous than I'd meant) that if Cobain had passed away, he might be considered a legend, like Morrison or Joplin or Hendrix had been. I wasn't thinking about it so coldly, really. I was just pondering the strangeness of such a scene, in which one went from being a "troubled rock star" in the here and now to being something quite different in memory.

A few days later, I was back in my dismal apartment when the news broke that Cobain's body had been found. While I hadn't necessarily been convinced before that moment he hadn't just been hiding out somewhere, suddenly it seemed obvious that he could have met no other fate. Suddenly, it seemed that the anguish in his voice had contained a certain foreknowledge of doom.

But then, a downward spiral is always easy to see in retrospect.

I had no personal attachment to the band besides owning their albums; I hadn't even seen them live. Still, that day I felt something shift. It was subtle and nameless, but it was there. The song Heart Shaped Box played on the radio again and again, not that it had ever been away for long.

By then the weather was hot, as humid as steaming wool. I went for a walk among the warren of streets on the other side of Main. The leaves and grass were unfurling in a grotesque display of fecundity and the scent of decay was overwhelming. "The day was bright and shiny like a mirror" I wrote in my journal later, "but the underside of the mirror is death."

Indeed, half hidden under the overgrown shrubbery on Market street, I'd come upon a dead rooster in the gutter; his iridescent feathers shining blue and green. It seemed telling somehow that no one had bothered to retrieve the broken corpse. A terrible knowledge gnawed at my unconscious, and to this day I'm afraid to walk down that street. I have the uncanny feeling I might meet my own ghost.

This is how it was back in those days; It's hardly even symbolic. It was the mood of the time. Anguish and apathy buzzed like fat flies in the sodden heat. Hidden things festered out of sight. For a long time, a raw nerve had been thrumming in the background of the country.**We all felt it, we all knew it was there, but Kurt Cobain had helped give it voice.

How much all this would mean to my son, I don't know. It would be nice if it didn't have to mean anything. It would be nice if his generation had no need to deal with raw nerves and corruption and things hidden out of sight. But it seems that this will not be the case.

This Spring, the landscape has burst into greenery like I haven't seen since then. Pollen blows in waves, water drips from weeds. I feel shaky, remembering the dead rooster and my own ghost left on the side of the road. I'm middle-aged now. I tell myself I've been around, there's no need to be afraid. It's only Spring. It always passes, if you wait long enough.

I tell myself this, and hope this year that it's true.
I keep watch and wait for Summer to come.

*We were depressed as fuck, but we still grew up listening to Abba and The Knack.
**For further reference re: my claim that something had been wrong in the background for a long time, see the article Kids In The Dark by David Breskin. The relevant point to me here is not the Satanic Panic angle or even so much the murder itself, but that a whole community of teenagers kept silent. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Portents

Driving down to the shop tonight, I saw a screech owl drop to the ground from the trees. I slowed to look at it; It turned and raised its wings and stared.

Oh, I know they live around here, I hear their eerie trills in the woods at night, but they are rarely seen. To see an owl is rife with portents. It causes a shiver down the spine. It's an uneasy feeling to be caught in the gaze of those predatory eyes.

But I've had them swoop over my head before and hoot outside my window, and nothing in particular came of it. Regardless, superstition is not so easy to dismiss. I had a  dream once, years before I came back here, about seeing owls in that self-same creek.

I suppose if there is a meaning to be drawn from this, it's a reminder to be alert and aware. Polish your aura, cast out your devils and hope the fates are kind.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Sunday

Last night, my youngest son and I made made his Easter nest for the bunny to fill with eggs in the morning. Because of all the hard freezes this Winter, there were not so many colorful wildflowers this year. We did have these nice irises, though.
The bunny provides. (The bunny was hard at work before sunrise, by the way)
The results of our family-wide cascar├│n war. Much like last year's chalk war, we all won.  It's said that having a cascaron broken over one's head brings good luck. If this is the case, we are all set for the year. Now If I can just convince the others that cleaning up is just as lucky...

I confess that this Easter I have felt a bit solemn. My youngest is 7 and it's suddenly clear that after all these many years, the clock is ticking on these old Easter traditions, for my own children, at least. Then I will have to wait until they have children of their own before I can play Easter bunny again. 

In the meantime, I will make the most of it. 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Girl With Hearts On Her Pockets

Last night's dream was an unsettling one. Not a nightmare really, but unnerving somehow. I am still unsure what it means.

A winter storm was coming, a blizzard the likes of which we'd never seen. It hadn't arrived yet, but everyone was warned to be prepared. I was at home, alone. Where everyone else had gone I've no idea - it didn't seem to matter. You know how it is in dreams.

I looked around - the house was dark, and not warm, but the walls were sturdy and I figured I'd be all right if I chose to stay. At the same time, I'd had an offer - who knows how it came - from a group pf hippies who had set up a tent site on the edge of town. They were nice tents - more like yurts, really, specially insulated and heated - in which to ride out the storm.  There were 200 tents, the hippies said, and they had one for me if I wanted it.

I was doubtful at first. I didn't even know these people, and maybe it was best to keep to myself, but the hippies convinced me it was better not to be alone, especially in a storm like this.

The tents were set up in a field below mission hill, all of them bright white. All the people were dressed in white as well, although there was no obvious reason for this. It occurred to me that when the snow came we'd all be camouflaged, invisible to any predatory eye, though whether this was intentional or not, there is no way to know.

I was shown to my tent, which was indeed very nice, and put on my warm white clothes. I then went out to wander among the people in the field. All of them were strangers, and as usual I was feeling shy. Starting conversations has never been my strong point.

After making a few nodding acquaintances, I was surprised to be introduced to someone I already knew, a woman named Lori.

Stop. Wait a moment. You'll have to bear with me because here I must digress. It's not enough to just say Lori. There is a whole tale behind Lori. Well, for me, there is a tale behind Lori. For her, I do not figure into her story much, if at all.

It's the curse of being the one who remembers.

I met Lori in second grade. Probably I don't even have to describe her, because there is a Lori in every school, every class, most likely. Think back to your own schoolroom, or your children's schoolroom, and you'll see.

These days they call such girls "natural leaders" or somesuch, but to me at age 7, it was an ineffable power, a mysterious ability to control the social order simply by existing. Well, being the prettiest girl with the best grades and the nicest clothes helped, but even if I could see some of the mechanism, I couldn't see all of it. Whatever quality it was she had, I didn't have it, and I knew it.

This fascinated me.

I don't recall envying her so fiercely at first, but soon it was gnawing at my very soul. The searing pain of comparing oneself to others and coming up short.

Our characters were very different, Lori and I, but being a child I tended to see this in simple material terms. The school took a dim view of classism, but not so my family. 'Her parents are rich," my brother said, bluntly. "You can never be like her."

The type of things Lori owned that I could never have - her snoopy watch, satin jacket, spotless Keds and ribbon barrettes among them - took on even greater significance after that. And then there was the thing that I envied most of all, the point around which all my envy had begun to coalesce...her Luv It jeans.

Luv Its were the skinny, straight-legged jeans worn by the popular girls in school. Usually they had puffy satin appliques on the pockets, in all sorts of designs: hearts, stars, peaches, lipstick, ice cream sundaes like the ad above. Sometimes the less popular girls would wear cheap knock-offs but you could always tell. That little Luv It tag (with the red heart with a bite out of it) conferred great social capital in that time and place.

Having spent spent many hours sitting at my desk behind Lori's, staring at the row of satin hearts on her pocket, it was clear to me that I needed whatever power those jeans could manifest. If there was no way to swap myself out and live another person's life, it seemed the jeans might be the next best thing.

My mother nearly did a spit-take when I told her how much they cost. "24 dollars!" she shouted, appalled. "you must be crazy." It was the same conversation many unpopular girls were having that year.

I did eventually get a pair of Luv Its, though I'd have to wait until the Christmas I was 9. They had 4 stars on each pocket, like so:
I adored them, don't get me wrong, but the moment I put them on, I understood that I would only ever be an impostor. The jeans did not confer Lori-ness. I was still just a nobody wearing Lori's jeans.

...

After changing schools, I didn't see Lori again until we took driver's ed together the year we were 15. By then, Lori was busy doing the sort of things that upper-middle class girls do to prepare for the future. Rainbow Girls, Junior League, twirling lessons - you know the drill. By that time, I was modelling for a punk rock hair salon, so it was obvious to anyone with eyes that we were on different life paths. Lori would chair committees and be president of the PTA, and I would be...god only knew.

But still. I remember standing outside the temp trailer, listening to her talk about Days Of Our Lives when a sort of shudder went through me. All that potential, all of that golden light, channeled into being perfectly, sensibly and competently dull.

Perhaps that's too harsh. I'm sure people who do such things get something out of it, that there must be some worthy achievement there. It's just that I've never understood it. Garden clubs, museum boards and the like always seem to be filled with well-dressed ladies with manicured, venomous claws. But then, since that elementary school experience, social maneuvering has always left me cold.

Anyway, it does seem Lori's life has turned out just as she planned. I haven't seen her in years, but one hears things, you know. Married with 2.5 children and dog. A lovely home in a tony suburb. President of the parish council and indeed, the PTA.

So you can imagine she was the last person I'd expect to turn up among a bunch of hippies in my dream. Dream? Oh, yes, that dream I was telling you about....

I shook the now grown-up Lori's hand and said "I don't know if you remember me." She said, "oh, of course I do" and I replied "well, we have known each other since the age of 7."

Just then, though, my hand began to bleed, ghastly red dripping all over our clean white clothes. I apologized, although I couldn't quite explain it. "It's no problem" Lori was saying, but by then I had noticed that the blood had run into the lines of my palm - the left palm, the lines that mark the potential with which you were born.

That's when I woke up.

...

I still don't know what it means, though the blood in my fate lines is a probably a clue. But it seems awfully late in the day to mourn something that I never was. I've long ago given up the poisonous  envy that marred my childhood, if that was the point.Then again, perhaps I'd suddenly become stigmatic, which would mean something else entirely. And just what was Lori doing there, anyway? Unless the dream was saying that the storm we were waiting for would come for us all, junior leaguers and hippies alike.

It remains to be seen. I'm keeping my eyes open.

*It would be disingenuous to say I never had any of the things in the link above. I did manage to accumulate many of those kinds of things but it was later, after my teachers started saying I looked like Brooke Shields and suddenly out of nowhere I had some value.

Black Witch Moth

The black witch moth likes to lurk in dark doorways at night. In Mexico, its appearance is seen as an omen of death, but in the United States, it's more often a sign that money is coming. In Jamaica. it is called the duppy bat, and is the embodiment of a lost or restless soul. 

Whatever meaning you might give it, if you should startle one on your way home in the dark, it can give you quite a fright. 

Legend of the Easter Fires

The Easter Fires of Fredericksburg, Texas are said to originate in local history, but any pagan can see shades of the Beltane tradition of old.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Some People Say...

...a little tiny whirlwind of dust on the ground is a sign of a ghost's passing.

~Maria Leach, The Thing at the Foot of the Bed

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Crow Moon Rising

On the night of the crow moon, I came out after sunset. It was later than expected and there were eerie, red-rimmed clouds in the west.

As I stepped onto the lawn, a small dark shape streaked past, low to the ground. Cat, rabbit, fox? It seemed the wrong size to be any of these. I looked back only to see it dissolve into nothing. Strange.

My teenage son comes up the path and says, mother, there's some odd stuff happening out here. Like what, I ask. He says, well there's owls hooting in the trees, and weird creaking sounds, and a rock just came out of nowhere and hit me on the shoulder.

He showed me the rock. It was light, but big as the palm of his hand. I said, well, squirrels will pelt people with objects, maybe owls do, too. I didn't mention the dissolving dark shape - no reason to add to any flights of fancy.

I sat down near the oleanders to watch the rising moon. On the road I saw someone walking, though in the blue dusk I could see little more than a man-shape. I peered into the road, wondering if it was someone I knew, but as I looked it also dissolved into nothing.

Two dissolving shadows, I noted privately. Uh-huh. You should never trust your eyes at twilight, it's notorious for playing tricks. The eerie sky and night noises might be causing our imaginations to play up. Of course. But when you're a born witch (or a viewer of Twin Peaks) you know that owls, or anything else for that matter, may not be what they seem.

I didn't feel anything was too awry, though, nothing I couldn't handle, so I went back to watching the moon.

Teen son sat down beside me to watch, too. The crow moon rose, in a lovely silvery light.
We sat and talked about cheerful things to dispel any unease. I took some photos. It really was a nice night, breezy and warm. Suddenly, son jumped up. He said, mother, come in the house with me now, please.  I asked, what's wrong. and son says, mother, come in the house with me now.

Indoors, he said he'd felt something cold touch the back of his neck and a female voice had spoken right into his ear, "Go back inside."

He was really spooked, but I told him there's no reason to worry, no reason to assume it was anything nasty. Maybe it was just nerves, maybe it was his intuition that he happened to perceive as a voice. Of course, if your gut - one way or another - is telling you to get the heck out of Dodge, then it's generally the wise thing to do.

And anyway if something sees fit to pelt you with rocks, whether it's squirrels or Sasquatch or vengeful revenants, it's always best to move along.

I felt a bit bad, though. I should have been more alert. My mistake was in thinking I could dispel anything by distracting with cheerful talk. All I did was distract myself.

Later that night, when there were no more sinister shadows or a sense of unease, what my dad always called a buttermilk sky appeared.
We went out and lay on the ground to look up at it while the cats studied us, wondering what the silly humans were up to. All was at peace now. The luminous sky had become a shelter, and all was well as the crow moon shone through the clouds.

Not Afraid Of You

I always did love those hidden picture puzzles a child.


Will O' Wisp

A will o' wisp dancing over a field.

More information about will o' wisps here and here.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

In the Evening

Evening was coming on when I waked down the road to look at the mountain laurels. The blossoms have finally arrived in full force. 
The proper name of the tree is actually Texas mountain laurel, 
Dermatophyllum secundiflorum, otherwise known as Texas mescalbean, frijolito or frijolillo.
There must be a dozen trees growing wild on this street alone. Their grape soda scent hangs heavy in the air.  The effect seems slightly surreal to me, and indeed, it's said that Native Americans used their seeds as a hallucinogen.
As a child I was intrigued by the red seeds that littered the rocky ground and took a lick of one. It made  me feel very strange. Mind you, I wouldn't do that today. Apparently all parts of the plant are quite toxic.
The color is lovely, though. Shades of twilight in a flower.

Lost In The Aisle Of Mirrors

Well, not so much "lost" as distracted while shopping for paintbrushes. Even the most ordinary shops may contain a portal to Wonderland.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Saints

Thank you, Saint Expedite
For nearly two weeks, we'd been in need of car. We'd gone to a used car lot to look around, but immediately I knew this wasn't right. I knew what we must/should/would have instead. It would be a former rental car, not too old, of a certain make, model and color, low mileage, low price. I'm not a car person, I know nothing, basically, but I knew this in my bones.

It was a tall order though, a very good, very specific car for cheap when student loans have decimated your credit. My husband didn't hold out much hope, but I urged him to start calling the rental companies anyway.

It was during this period that I had the mysterious experience with Stella Maris. I'd asked for help with this problem, and was given a sign, which I gratefully received.

Later that day, the rental company approved our loan, and what do you know, they had the car. The exact car, the one I knew we'd have. The manager said "it's so strange you asked for this, it just showed up out of nowhere a couple of days ago. We almost never get cars of this type."

Well, Goddesses work in mysterious ways.

We bought the car and went to Freddy's to celebrate, but it would be a couple of days before the car would be ready for pick-up. In the meantime, we'd have to take back the vehicle we'd been renting. There was only so much strain our budget could take. Still it wouldn't be long. We'd manage.

Alas, there were delays, and the delays were not just frustrating, but a hardship. That's the way it is when you live in the country and it's miles and miles to town. Getting to work and school was a real problem. It might be another day or two at least. What to do?

Well, one saint had already come through for me, perhaps another would, too.

I'd heard about Saint Expedite before; he's the one who resolves a problem with speed. I'd never consulted him, but maybe now was the time. I humbly (but with determination) asked him for help. Bingo bango, the car was ready in an hour.

Now the thing about Saint Expedite, they say, you have to promise him something, and you have to reward him with a flower and a piece of cake. And you had better do it too, or else.

We have our car. It's lovely. My husband said "what should we name it?" The answer was obvious - Stella Maris. It may not  be a ship, but it still needs a guiding star. And Saint Expedite, I promised him I'd write about what he'd done for us, so others might know too.

I'm going out now to give him his flower and cake. It's nice to know you have friends on the other side.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Stella Maris

In last night's dream, I asked the aether for the name of a goddess. An answer came back: Stella Maris.

I'm sure I must have heard this name before, outside of the Einst├╝rzende Neubauten song, but could not remember. After waking, I immediately looked it up. It's Latin for Mary, Star of The Sea.

While most Christians would object to describing any variation of Mary as a goddess, it's clear to me that Mary fulfills this role in her aspects of both maiden and mother. She's the divine feminine in spirit, and in this case, a guiding star.

I was pondering this while driving the morning rounds. Having pressing issues in my life, I decided the name must have come to me for a reason.

"O Stella Maris", I said "I'm not a sailor, but I could use your guidance."

No sooner had I said it than the sound of a boatswain's call pierced the air, what they call "piping the side," when a dignitary comes aboard.

No, I wasn't hallucinating; There was a story about sailors on the radio, but the volume had been too low to hear. The boatswain's call, however, was so loud and shrill it couldn't be missed.

Rational explanation, sure. but...when you call upon a Deity and they answer, you would be a fool to dismiss it. And, frankly, I'm tired of being a fool.

Welcome aboard, Stella Maris.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Mademoiselle

Blood Of A Virgin lip tint*
When I was a young girl, I lived and died by the fashion magazine. I eagerly sought out big, fat issues of Vogue and Cosmo and Mademoiselle. The dream-world of fashion editorials, for all their artifice, seemed like so much potential. That's the allure, of course. That this could be you, for the right products and the right price.

The articles I also absorbed with great fervor. A handbook, nay, a shortcut to sophistication. So what if you're 12 years old from the boonies, you could learn to manage your jet-set lifestyle while flitting from your cold water flat in the Village to your pied-a-terre in Monmartre. You hardly needed money, even. A pretty face was your best accessory. Just stick a pair of chopsticks through your messy updo and a swipe of color across your lips and voila, you were ready to go.

It's compelling stuff. Ridiculous, but compelling, especially when you're very young. Funny how things look from the vantage point of age.

There was one article in particular I remember, and that's what's on my mind tonight. It must have been in Mademoiselle, as they would occasionally print such a wistful, philosophical piece. The writer was a young woman who had run into her old lover unexpectedly, and had Feelings about it.

The lover was a sexy (it's implied) Englishman who was Far Too Old for her, so of course it could never work, but they happen to bump into each other at an understated yet glamorous cafe and so they have coffee and madeleines and talk about things. When their meeting ends, the couple again part, sadly and longingly but knowing it's for the best.

I'm dredging this up from 30 years ago, so details are fuzzy, but I'm pretty sure this is where I got the idea that eating madeleines was symbolic of doomed romance. Also, the article gave me ideas. It filled me with the sort of anguish one only feels as an adolescent, wondering if such a grown up thing would ever happen to them. Not only having such a lover, but having a past with that lover. A yearning, gnawing, hopeless affair. What was it like? There were so many experiences I'd never had.

What I never imagined was that I'd grow up into the kind of person who doesn't enjoy this sort of thing at all. That I'd have the kinds of relationships that were so difficult to extricate myself from that no trace of wistfulness could remain. Or that when a man would break up with me, I'd soon regard our relationship as akin to a bout of food poisoning. When he would return, he'd be surprised to find I felt about him no differently than a bad muffuletta from the deli; why on earth would I want another bite?

So it's with great regret I must inform my younger self that she won't be having sad madeleines with old Englishmen while looking winsome in her shades and cashmere coat. Or her pouf skirt and ballet flats, for that matter, marvelous lipcolor not withstanding. She won't even be drinking wine out a bag with Kevin or Bryan or Ben. The past is a county that's fun to roam, but ex-lovers lay behind a locked gate without a key.

Not even a hand of glory or the blood of a virgin can open it.


*I admit I stole the idea for the art, but at least I did use my own lips. 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Orion

4 AM and the stars were so bright, Orion could be seen among the trees.

Down In The Canyon

A while back, we went for a walk in a nearby canyon. It's a public hiking trail, but it was an uncomfortably eerie experience. We all felt it. Maybe it was being hemmed in by the narrow canyon walls. Maybe it was vibration, echoes, infrasound, or just being in the crevice of this long dead fault. I don't know, but here are some pictures.





Really it's just like a river of rocks, rocks and more rocks, but we kept getting dizzy or feeling a squeezing pressure on our eyes like we were in a fishbowl. Teen son said he felt the place was very negative, even sinister, but again, that could be down to infrasound...
 But I suppose one never knows.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Night Of The Katydids

It's come later than usual this year, but come at last it has, the night that the katydids first begin to sing.

Usually it's in the first few days of February it happens, on a warm, dry night that feels curiously free. That's when you know for sure Winter has finally given up its grasp. Even if the cold comes again, it will only be half-hearted. It is the true turning of the year.  

By this time last February, the mountain laurels were in full bloom. I went down to the creek today and saw not a hint of blossom at all. As it's been so often lately, the timetable of the year is a bit off, as if nature is adjusting to a new calendar, turning on an axis that's just a little different than it was before. I think about cycles of creation and decay; I see the signs all around, of a sort of falling-apart-of-things. I wonder if a clock is winding down somewhere. 

Even so, we still have this lovely warm night, just on the verge of Spring, when the Earth begins to come back to life. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine Bug


Flu shots notwithstanding, we've been brought low by the flu bug this Valentine's day. At least we had some pink heart-shaped cookies, though, and some adorable aliens as well...
Take the color where you can find it, on yet another grey and drizzling day.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Enchanted World

If three mystical references to 1987 weren't enough already, tonight I give you The Enchanted World.

I don't know for sure when these books first began to be published (even wikipedia dates them to a vague "the 80's") but for me they figure importantly in my memories of that year.

The Enchanted World series was only available through mail-order, and - having always been one to burn the midnight oil - I recall seeing the rather intriguing commercials in the wee hours of the night. There were several, but this was my favorite:
They were beautiful books which (alas) did not fit into our budget, but my cousin Anna's parents were more indulgent. The books were sent one per month, and by the the time I arrived at Anna's house that Summer, she had several. Wizards and Witches, Fairies and Elves, Ghosts, Night Creatures, Dragons, and Water Spirits, I think she had by then. They were Anna's prized possession, and of course I dove right into them.

They were utterly fascinating, not the least because they were chock full of art.
So much of this, to me, blended with the atmosphere of Anna's house, and of course the mysterious aura of Anna herself. We'd burn incense - Gonesh #6 Perfumes From Ancient Times (mine, bought from the hippie record shop*) or violet Spiritual Sky (hers, bought at the renaissance faire). In fact, the combined scents from all the incense we had stored in Anna's room made the entire hallway smell like a temple. Add in Anna's lace tablecloth cloak, her glowing-eyed anthropomorphic tree and Stevie Nicks' Blue Lamp  and you may start to get a clear picture of what things were like that Summer, down near the ocean where ghosts drift close at hand.

I don't know how many volumes of The Enchanted World Anna eventually collected. It was maybe 14 or so before she stopped. I was never able to order a set of my own, but happily, years later, my mother-in-law gave me her old set. All the favorites are there, with the exception of Night Creatures. It pays to marry into a family of bookworms.
Lacking Night Creatures, It's one of my hopes this year to procure a copy. Then one day I'll pass the books on to my own children.

Not quite yet, though.

*Sundance Records In San Marcos, when they were in the little shop downtown. Where I'd once bumped awkwardly into Stevie Ray Vaughan (I didn't recognize him at first because he wasn't dressed like a pimp.)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Wicks And Sticks

Cyphre...first name Lou, I presume
Continuing with the theme of 1987, I have occasion to ponder this little oddity named Cyphre, for that is the year I brought him home.

The first time I'd gone with cousin Anna to the mall in Lake Jackson, she'd made straight for a candle shop called Wick 'n Sticks. She was deep into her Stevie Nicks phase at this point, so she was drawn there like (forgive me) a moth to a flame.

It was a neat little store, and the neatest thing was a collection of glass-eyed candle holders. Some were faces, like Cyphre here, or animals, or spooky anthropomorphic trees of different shapes and sizes. The eyes would change depending on the color of votive glass, so the display models flickered eerily in otherworldy hues.

Back then I was going through my Steely Dan-Voodoo-Breakfast At Tiffany's phase, but even so I found these enchanting. Eventually Anna talked her mother into buying one of the medium-sized trees. Myself, I'd have to wait. I never did have any spending money.

The trip to Anna's came to an end, but my interest in creepy candle holders did not. The next time I was in San Antonio, I discovered a branch of Wicks 'n Sticks at North Star Mall. Alas, my mother's generosity did not extend to a $30 anthropomorphic tree, but I could swing $15, and Cyphre was on sale.

I was a bit worried, though. My mother thought he looked like Michael Jackson, but being the sort of kid I was, I knew Mephistopheles when I saw him. Even if I hadn't been obsessed with the movie Angel Heart (watched surreptitiously on a friend's cable) I would have got the hint in his name.

Did I really want a representation of a demon in my bedroom? Was it not just asking for trouble? I was going to a Fundamentalist school at the time and was being warned of such things daily. No doubt this helped make my decision. I gleefully bought him and carried him home. As a hedge against bad luck, I declared he was a genie instead.

It's something I learned early on. We all fight demons in our own way.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Blue Lamp

Some months ago, I mentioned dreaming it was 1987 again. The dream ended, but the feeling somehow remains. There was nothing especially memorable about that year, yet the memories flit around unreasonably, like moths battering a window pane.

In those days, my cousin Anna was a huge fan of Stevie Nicks. So much so that she'd go around wearing her mother's antique lace table cloth and a pair of enormous boots. One of Anna's favorite songs was called Blue Lamp. This may seem strange to relate to 1987, as the song was released on the Heavy Metal soundtrack in '81, but of course we weren't allowed to see the film back then. Our brothers had the soundtrack, though (of course they did) and Anna's Stevie Nicks obsession gave the song a prominent place that year.

Now it's more than 30 years later, and for reasons unbeknownst to me, I've had the song stuck in my head for weeks. The lyrics have a poetic, mystical bent  - slightly tinged with anger - of the kind especially appealing to young girls.

"There was no message to be found anywhere in sight
Inside or out
I had looked everywhere but the only lamp left on in the house
Was a blue light"

While this lyric may evoke loneliness for some, to me it was always a comforting image. Perhaps because I thought - and still do - that the blue light was actually the message. I like this idea, that a light may be a message as much as any written word.

According to Nicks herself, the blue lamp is a real object, a Tiffany lamp that was gift from her mother.
Stevie Nicks and The Blue Lamp
In the song, the lamp is a concrete object, but has also become a symbol. As Nicks has described it, "a light at the end of the tunnel" as well as her mother's love.

While I can't relate to the idea of having a loving parent any better than I could in 1987, I can certainly relate to the idea of light as a symbol of hope, a sense of not being alone. Back then I was just beginning to come to terms with my chronic sense of solitude.

"Downstairs the big old house is mine
Upstairs where the stars still laugh and they shine"

While I honestly can't say what Nicks meant by this line, I know what it meant to me. The image of an empty house and shining stars meant freedom. I imagined being completely on my own, moving about under my own power. I could seek out any adventure. I would no longer need permission. And the stars would keep me company.

"And the light that shines through the shining night
Is the lamp that I carried from my mother's home
And the light that burns through the window pane
And the love remains"

The act of carrying a lamp becomes something bigger, weightier. A legacy or heritage, perhaps. Maybe a transfer of feminine power, or love itself.

I intuited this much in 1987, even if I didn't quite have the words for it. I still don't have the words for it, to tell you the truth. But there must be a reason the song is stuck in my mind after all these years. These things don't happen without reason.

There is still a lesson to be learned somewhere.