“What’s at Tikal?” I asked, oblivious.
Eric looked at me like I’d just fallen off the turnip truck. My complete ignorance of so much of popular culture and general knowledge outside of my field of expertise often elicits that kind of response. Not that one would necessarily expect the average woman on the street to know about Tikal, at least not until Pinchbeck wrote that book about 2012 that hit the best sellers list. The fact that the Mayans had predicted the end of the world as we knew it in the next week or so had become common knowledge, at least to folks not me, and Tikal was pretty big in the world of Mayan culture.
“Jeez Louise, don’t you go online?” Louise looked at me like some ancient relic from the far distant past. She had a tendency to use her name that way when she got really excited, and she was. It was the first night of our single’s trip in beautiful Belize. “Do you read magazines maybe? Watch TV?”
She was the youngest of our group, a thirty something, the picture of midwestern wholesomeness. Kind of funny that, since most of us were there, I assumed, to get laid. It was, after all, a singles trip.
She took a nice long pull on the straw of her mango and rum smoothie before continuing. “That’s the main reason I’m here! I was browsing through the singles travel site and this trip just called out to me. I looked at how close the Belize Botanical Garden is to the border and the archeological site and the other vibes I’d been getting lately just sent shivers down my spine. I had to come.”
“Me, too.” Eric chimed in. He was drinking water and struck me as a very serious fellow indeed, not my type, at all. “The Mayan calendar is so incredibly astronomically accurate that some people say it was left by aliens, and it ends on December 21, less than two weeks from now. I’ve got to take a look at it, and take a look at the place where that culture lived and died.” He was passionate about it, in a no-nonsense kind of way.
“Wow, I came on this trip hoping to find a nice man and get well laid in a tropical jungle. I thought maybe I'd try the swim along a barrier reef in some crystal clear water thing, and drift through some really groovy caves.” I flashed a grin that was largely supported by a couple of fruity concoctions of my own, as well as some tame but satisfying Belizean weed that a sweetie of a guy at the site had shared with me. Taylor was a super nice, very young and incredibly cute permaculture guy from Florida, my home state.
Alas, by that point, already pickins’ looked pretty slim for getting well laid by a beautiful stranger on the trip for me. Taylor was much too young, Eric too serious, and already obviously interested in another of our group, Anna. Kevin, the tall Irishman from Boston, had acted mostly the obnoxious jerk from the git-go, and he had eyes for Anna’s friend, Marie. The two ladies in question were sidekicks, one small and blonde and just right for Eric, the other tall and dark and, as it turned out, a wee bit like Kevin. Patrick was reasonably intelligent, nice looking and athletic, but made clear that he was much more interested in the caves and the wine and the music than in the old hippie chick carrying all the pain around. He might be available for a hook up, but he seemed to be carrying quite a bit of pain of his own, to which he applied red wine liberally. Rudy, our five foot tall, one hundred and ten pounds soaking wet, self titled Anglo/Irish/Afro/Caribbean/Mayan/Belizean Cave Spirit Whisper of a tour guide had his delightful eight year old daughter in tow, probably to protect him from singles tour women hoping to get well laid.
So no, I’d had no idea what Tikal was.
The trip into Guatemala from Belize was very enlightening all by itself in all kinds of ways. Crossing the border from a land of relative affluence and the sense of security that comes with it into one of abject poverty and truckloads of arms bearing military personnel all around was a bit of a jolt. We had to leave Rudy behind at the border. Miguel, our Guatemalan guide, was not nearly so cheerful. It’s amazing what a difference a relatively tiny span of history can have for so relatively small a space geopolitically divided.
Perhaps it all started at Tikal when I contracted hallucination inducing malaria with a mosquito bite, there’s no telling. Maybe some ancient Mayan spirit sensed my desire to be one with another to the level of soul and has just been metaphorically fucking with me. It could be that an ET implanted nano-bots in a spore spreading fungus at the site and programmed them to release and enter hosts within the timeframe for dispersal encoded in the calendar. Maybe the world ended on Dec. 21, 2012 and it’s all been a dip through purgatory since, I can’t say. It’s hard to figure out what’s what sometimes when bobbing around in a vast sea catching waves.
There is something that I can do though.
Let me tell you a story.
The end of the world at Tikal and the alternative hypotheses I’ve formulated for that being the time at which I started channel surfing all seem reasonable.
Now that I’ve read that Pinchbeck book, it seems beyond reasonable, almost obvious, except not. Time is tricky. But Tikal was the first time that I received a message clearly articulated to me from another species. That was a biggie.
Taylor and I had climbed up into the fire tower at the Botanical Garden to smoke a little weed and enjoy the sunrise over the river off in the distance. The jungle held a mellow orange glow from old Sol’s rays bouncing around through the thick tropical air as he peaked up over the horizon. A dense fog hung over the entire length of the river, looking for all the world like a giant snake winding through the jungle. Taylor and I were grinning at the sight like good little Pagans, breathing in the air. I was feeling just about as alive and free in the world as a human being can feel.
That’s when the Howler Monkey called out to me up in the tower from way off in the distance.
“Hey Mama! You blue eyes Mama?”
“WHAT THE FUCK! Did you hear that?!” the little buzz of the morning was gone and I was on my feet on high alert. I wasn’t sure what it was. It was loud and clear as a bell and sounded like something between a lion’s roar and Godzilla, except that it was saying hello and posing a question in a really friendly manner.
Taylor was laughing. “That’s a Howler Monkey. They make those calls early in the morning every day, it’s part of the start of the day ritual down here.”
“And they speak English? You taught the monkeys to speak English?” I was hyperventilating and wild eyed, polar opposite the state I’d been in a second or two before. It wasn’t so much terror, the greeting had a great vibe to it. It was sheer panic that I’d just entered the twilight zone.
Taylor gave me a look. It was a mash up of trying hard not to laugh at the crazy old lady he’d apparently met, worry about just how crazy I might be, given the look the adrenaline coursing through my body had provoked, and concern that I might possibly drop dead of a heart attack on the spot as the result.
“Say what? You heard words in that mess?” He was smiling at me sweetly, a rock of calm compassion. My nervous system picked up on his vibe and the parasympathetic began to take back over. I took a deep breath and sat back down.
“Uh, well, I’m kind of guess that you didn’t?” I laughed. “Wow, that was weird. I must have dozed off a little or something, the sunrise did kind of have me in a spell.” I took a few more deep breaths. “I thought it asked me if I was your mother”.
“Sounded like a badass monkey call to me, Brooke, just like it does every day. It’s funny, though. I do like to think they’re saying good morning. I’ve yelled it out to them before, but the staff here got a little pissed after the second or third time. They’re used to the monkeys, not the visitors. They tend to cut you tourists a little more slack than us teachers and live-ins”. Taylor was helping the locals learn how to turn their land into food forests, an interest he and I shared. “You want some more of this?” The big spliff we’d been sharing earlier had gone out long before the monkey woke me up. He was firing it back up and enjoying a few more hits.
“None for me, thanks.”
Another monkey, one further off, called out, but apparently not to me.
“I’m ready for that tour of the garden whenever you are, my friend”. I took another deep breath as I started making my way down the stairs of the tower. As steady as I sounded, I was shaken. That was the wildest thing I’d ever experienced up until that point.
Or was it?
The thing is, once you start paying attention, all kinds of stuff starts looking pretty wild, even the things that seemed maybe only a little wild back when they happened. My brain was winding on back as surely as I was descending those steps and I was remembering that something else pretty wild had happened just a few years before. It had also shaken me, but the left brained rationalist Dr. Brooke had constructed a perfectly rational explanation for it. The folks I’d shared the story with gave me the look, and so I stopped sharing it. Maybe that was the first time I changed channels.
Around another bend in the stair and that other pretty wild thing that happened a decade previously, that little flash that felt so real and so silly all at the same time. That felt as much like a dimension shift as anything I’d experienced in my youthful travels with acid.
Reaching the ground just kind of happened. It had been an interesting mental journey down those stairs. Things got even more interesting a few days later when Eric and Louise and I sat down together for a beer at a funky little bar on Ambergris Caye.
Before we adjourn to the bar, we’ve got to float through some haunted caves to get there. I guest I shouldn’t call them haunted, that sounds so unfriendly; but then I doubt we all came out of there with the same impression of how hospitable the visit was, how kind our hosts.
The next scheduled stop on the itinerary of the singles tour that had brought my new found friends and I together was San Pedro, that pretty little island village Madonna sang about. The three days at the Belize Botanical Garden, with the side excursion into Tikal, had been full indeed. I’d written off the very strange sensation that I’d been spoken to by a monkey as a dream, or at least I was trying hard to. Taylor was clearly a sensible person, but also an open one, and if he’d heard the monkey talk, I’m confident he would have admitted it.
After all, he’d spoken to the monkeys himself, which made him my kind of guy. I was sad to say goodbye to him when we left the garden.
To get to the lovely little island of song, we first had to travel to the Belize airport and puddle jump the little bit of paradise between the mainland and the barrier reef. Along the way, we had the option to go either cave tubing at an archeological reserve or zip lining in the rain forest nearby.
Zipping, like bungee jumping and roller coaster rides, is not for me. I seek my thrills elsewhere, as vertigo, nausea, and whiplash are not my cup of tea. At least I used to seek my thrills elsewhere; these days, thrills kind of seem to seek me. I’m pretty sure that one or two sought me out in the caves.
Our guide, Rudy, loved the caves.
“The spirits in the caves like me because of my Mayan blood. Since I’m small and have played in them since I was a child, I’ve been the first to enter many sacred spaces to make sure that it was okay for others, particularly tourists, to do so, too.” He smiled at Patrick and Kevin, who were eager to do some much more serious spelunking. “There are a few caves I’ve been forbidden by the spirits within to share with others. And sometimes, the cave spirits just don’t like a person.”
“That’s stupid superstition.” Kevin had a whole lot of upper crust Bostonian intellectual arrogance about him and he did nothing to try and disguise it. He’d been just a little bit too wound up for most of the trip, most definitely harshing the beautiful buzz the place was giving me, and Rudy had been struggling to find a way to make him happy. While I was, at the time, every bit the rationalist and as skeptical as Kevin about cave spirits, I found Rudy’s ghost stories to be quite charming. Kevin, not so much. I was glad when he’d decided not to join us at Tikal. He’d gone horseback riding on his own up to a Belizean ruins near the garden that day instead. The horse had thrown him and he was still ill tempered over it.
“It is what it is.” Rudy smiled again and turned his attention to the rest of us. “You should go into the caves with an openness to the spirits. They’re really very friendly. Sometimes they bring luck. Sometimes it’s good luck and sometimes it’s not so good. Remember that as you float through and keep love in your heart. Listen to what the spirits have to say, they have gifts to offer.”
It seemed like good advice. Rudy was such a pleasant and happy guy, always smiling. Back then I didn’t believe for a minute that his natural joy had anything to do with spirits, I figured it was all about attitude. Perhaps they’re one and the same.
“My cousin Yhony has been through this cave so many times that the spirits tell him all about the people floating through. Ix Chel loves him very much, and she often visits the caves. Ask him about it later on at lunch, he’s always happy to share”.
“Yeah, what’s he charge? Twenty dollars?” Kevin really was obnoxious.
We all tried to ignore him as we gathered up our stuff for the long schlep over the river and through the woodsy jungle upstream to the launching point for our trip through Wonderland. It was warm and very wet out, and a steady rain had the river running with gusto at several of the crossing points.
“This certainly is different from tourism in the states, isn’t it?” Eric was helping me up the river bank. He was definitely starting to grow on me. He was incredibly earnest in everything he did, from his inquisitiveness with the guide at Tikal to his steadfast courtship of Anna, the young woman he’d taken a liking to. He struck me as a man on a mission to fall in love and start a family. He was playing the role of the gentleman at the end of the line, making sure the ladies made it up the rough spots okay. “There’s no way anyone would leave his business open to the kinds of lawsuits a place like this would face. I bet people get all kinds of banged up on these trips.”
“That’s a fact.” I replied, doing a little bit of huffing and puffing as I did, glad that I hadn’t gotten banged yet. Well, wait. I was glad I hadn’t fallen and hurt myself yet. “This isn’t nearly idiot-proof enough for the states.” I was wondering if it was idiot proof enough for me by that time, having darned near lost it more than once crossing the river. I was trying hard to maintain my self image of cool capability as I juggled clinging to the guide rope, my tube, water, bag and headlamp.
At the higher elevation of the launch point, the river was very broad and calmer. Yhony turned out to be an incredibly gorgeous Afro-Caribe with long dreadlocks and a booming tenor, softened by its happy lilt. It echoed through the caves and danced when he laughed, which was often. It was hard to imagine that he and Rudy shared a Mayan grandmother, given he was twice as massive at ten years younger. When he smiled, the resemblance showed through.
“There are two things to remember when going through the caves.” He had me mesmerized already. I had no clue who Ix Chel was, but she had damned good taste. “The first is this: When I say to you “butts up”, you pick your butt up and you keep your butt up till I so okay. You get me?”
“Jesus, what’s not to get?” Kevin whined. “Don’t scrape your ass on the rocks!”.
For a nanosecond, Yhony lost his grin. Then he smiled at Kevin. “Very good, YOU do get it. The second thing to remember is this: Stay quiet in the caves and you might hear the voices of the spirits. Show respect. Open your heart. Offer gratitude. Are we ready to go?” We all nodded in agreement; Kevin harrumphed.
“I’m gonna count you as you go in the cave, I give you a number. I haven’t lost anybody yet, but so many come through these days, and my wage from the company comes from the number I bring through safe.” He smiled again, something that came from the source. “There be nine in Rudy’s group. What’s your name, beautiful lady?” He smiled at Anna, and she smiled back. I’m pretty sure it would have been impossible for a heterosexual woman with a pulse not to.
“Beautiful Anna, as we move through the cave, you be one of nine. Your beautiful friend be two of nine.” He pointed to Marie, Anna’s tall, brunette traveling companion. Marie was developing into Eric’s arch nemesis. She’d been working diligently to block his success with Anna. Thus far she seemed to have the edge in the game. She’d been applying steady doses of Malbec to Anna every evening at dinner, rendering her a lot more malleable to her domination.
Singles travel is a lot like reality TV, or at least what I imagine reality TV to be like.
“Can the gentleman tell me his number?” Yhony pointed to Patrick.
“I’m three of nine and feeling fine and ready to meet some cave spirits!” Patrick was in a jolly mood; he had a flask with him. I think he really enjoyed the slog through the jungle a lot more than I did. He was a little older than me, but a whole lot more fit, ready to take on every adventure the trip had to offer.
“As soon as you all be in, I swim ahead to the lovely Anna and lead the way. Let’s go!”
Each of us called out in turn. As we got our numbers, Yhony wrote them down on a slip of paper and put a symbol next to each. I assumed it was an ID of some kind, didn’t give it too much thought. After he recorded his data, he’d help each tuber into his or her vessel for a cast off into the slow, swirling current.
I followed Grace, a retiree from Montana. Four of nine to Yhony.
“Five of nine” I smiled at him. I had a funny feeling that rushed straight from eyes past my foolish grin down through my thumping heart into the pit of my stomach and onward to concentrate itself in my nether regions. Kundalini sinking. He had that effect. He smiled back and drew my symbol next to the number 59. “Butts up, listen close, lots of love, Mama.” Oh yeah.
“Six of nine.” Eric was right behind me, likely plotting his strategy for some fancy tube maneuvers aimed at keeping the lovely Anna up ahead safe from any evil spirits of the cave. Them and Yhony. Poor guy, as if Marie wasn’t enough of a challenge. But he seemed to like the challenge, and I admired him for it. He had a lot of spunk for a Gen X’er.
“Seven of nine.” Louise was behind Eric, followed by Kevin.
“Eight”. The big Ginger threw the word out there at Yhony like a challenge. The bigger yet Chocolate man just smiled.
“Remember, butts up and shuts up, mon.”
“And I am ninety nine Yoyo, let’s go!” Ruddy looked like a six year old as he grinned and boarded his tube.
We floated into the darkness. Everyone had fallen silent on entering the cave; it wasn’t so much that Yhony had advised it, there was something magical about the space. Quiet just happened. As we drifted further in, I hard a voice from the entrance we’d left behind, quite clearly, the word “binaries”. Probably some IT person in the next group. Funny we hadn’t heard them coming. Eric and I smiled at each other as the darkness become complete.
“Butts up!” Yhony’s booming voice echoed in the cave. I arched up in my tube and took a deep breath, unsure how long it was going to be before we got the okay, when I heard a woman’s soft whisper.
“Rushing Water” it said. It was ethereal, lovely, enchanting, for a minute any way. Almost immediately, my inner cynic spoke up and I found myself disappointed that Yhony and Rudy probably had a friend or two hiding in the caves. Maybe it was the tour company that made them do it, they seemed like such sweet guys.
“Okay!” called Yhony.
“FUCK!” came Kevin’s reply. Apparently he’d just had the first of several good ass scrapings.
We emerged into the light and floated on down the river. The rain had stopped and the sun was starting to come out. I looked ahead and saw Yhony floating on his back towards the entrance to the next cave, a rainbow in the mist over its entrance. Looking back, Rudy was squatting on his tube, perfectly balanced on his feet. He didn’t need to worry about picking his skinny little butt up, he’d kept it up! That’s how he’d managed to avoid what Kevin hadn’t.
Kevin’s butt was definitely up and showing through the rip in his baggies. A tiny, trickling trail of blood was being left in the water behind him. There was no way he was going to hold that pose for long; he was too big a guy and yoga was clearly not his sport. He looked more like an ice hockey kind of guy. For a second I let myself worry about Piranhas. Then I drifted into the next cave.
“Create Justice”. Now there was an odd thing for a tourist trap cave spirit whisperer to say. It sounded like exactly the same voice I’d heard before. It had a slightly different flavor to it from the relaxed position of butt down. It got me thinking. Does water rushing create justice? I guess it created the caves. Maybe the cave spirits consider that justice; they really are lovely, a nice place for a spirit to hang out. “Winds of change.”
The calls from ahead and behind brought me out of my reverie. The degree to which I’d managed to let my mind wander off with ideas about cave spirits when I was clearly being messed with by someone was funny, even fun, and I decided to just let go and enjoy it.
We drifted out of the cave and into the light. We drifted back into darkness and limestone.
“Ecosystem Earth.” she whispered. “Strong crocodile.” Geez, I sure hope there aren’t any crocodiles lurking around here anywhere, especially not strong ones, not with Kevin’s blood letting, my inner voice replied. “Soaring Eagle”.
By the time we reached the end of the run, Kevin’s rear end was a mess. He’d gotten kind of quiet; it was clear that just below the surface, something nasty was brewing.
After a change into dry clothes, Louise and I joined Eric at the table where he was chatting with Yhony and Rudy. Yoyo held a sheet of paper in his hand. At the top was the number 79 and the symbol he’d drawn next to it.
“Seven nine is the wind. Did the spirits have anything to tell you, my friend?”
Eric smiled. He and Louise and I had talked about the whisperers in the caves. They’d heard them, too. It’s kind of funny, the fact that they’d heard them absolutely convinced me that it had been a kind of scam. It wasn’t like the talking monkey at all. I’d let myself start to believe in lots of silly hokum since I’d been on this trip.
“Oh yeah, changing wind does justice work and dogs are warm to ancient owls. And jaguars lose their faith sometimes.” He said it will a laugh; after all, it was all in good fun.
I found it amazing that as close together as we’d been in the caves that he’d heard something different than I had. I assumed he was paraphrasing, maybe it was a trick of the echoes in all that limestone. At least we both heard the same justice chick and winds of change. Yhony dutifully wrote all that down on the paper and handed it to Eric.
“Remember these things, mon. They help you find your lady love.”
Louise spoke right up. She was very much into the spirit of the New Age and cave whisperers, ready to believe anything. She was pretty much into the spirit of Yhony, too. Like I said, it was kind of hard not to be.
“Changing wind and sweet death brings gentle light to the magic rabbit!”. She was wide eyed, totally enthralled. She’d bought in hook, line, and sinker.
“Ah, sweet Jaguar spirit lady 89. The cave spirits recognize you as one of them indeed.” He wrote down her words without having to ask her to repeat them.
He turned to me. “Ix Chel, she like you, Mama. She tell me words to give lady 59. But don’t peek now, you look later”. He handed me a carefully folded sheet of paper. I figured that Rudy had told him that I was no yokel, and they were hoping I’d play along. I was happy to.
Each of us gave Yhony a small token of thanks, as is the custom for tour guides. Gorgeous guides like Yhony probably took home more cash every day than most of their fathers had made in a year doing manual labor. Kevin made his way slowly to the table just as we were saying goodbye to him.
“Oh, what’s this?” He looked at the paper Eric held in his hand. “You aren’t actually paying for this bullshit are you?”
“No mon, nobody gotta pay Yoyo for nothin’. “Ix Chel, she have something for you, too. You hear her in the caves?”
“I didn’t hear anything other than you saying okay when it very obviously wasn’t. I should sue. Sue the fucking country. I’ve had about enough Belizean bullshit!” His naturally pale skin was starting to give his ginger’s hair a run for it’s red money as his blood pressure spiked.
“Well, I wrote what she say down for you, but don’t peek ‘til later.” He handed Kevin a slip of paper that looked just like mine. Probably another explanatory note for my fellow skeptic.
“Screw you!” Kevin violently opened up the sheet to reveal it’s message. THIS IS BULLSHIT.
He stormed away.
The fever and chills didn’t hit him until we’d boarded the puddle jumper. Thankfully, the explosive diarrhea and projective vomiting he suffered for the last four days of the trip didn’t kick in until we’d checked into the hotel on San Pedro. We didn’t see Kevin again until we were flying out of Belize on our way back to the states.
It was an interesting trip through the caves indeed.
It got a lot more interesting at the bar a couple of days later.
San Pedro is a beautiful little fishing village turned tourist hotspot on Ambergris Caye, a tropical paradise of beautiful white beach on crystal clear water just a quick boat run to the second largest barrier reef in the world.
It’s kind of sad, really. The ecotour businesses are running boatloads of folks out there all day every day, chumming up nurse sharks and sting rays so that the turista can swim among them while pretending not to be doing too much damage to the reef. We were doing way too much damage to the reef.
In the spirit of full disclosure, true confession and with full acceptance of my environmentalist hypocrisy, I kind of loved it. I’m a really lousy swimmer and kind of a wimp about it in the open waters of the sea, so the over crowded swimming pool aspect of the whole thing appealed to me a very childish, selfish kind of way. I got to hang on to a tow line as I dog paddled and snorkeled around, and the reef with its incredible diversity of marine life is really a sight to behold, an experience to be had.
The nurse sharks, really big catfish to my way of thinking, didn’t bother me at all. The stingrays I was a bit more wary of. Fear not, they didn’t speak to me, they didn’t have to. I have seen first hand and know of their power. I had such a vibe of deep respect for them, mostly due to stark fear, an it resonated off of me such that I’m sure they knew they didn’t need to say anything.
Well, maybe not on a conscious level I didn’t know it at that point, hindsight is clear and all that jazz. The poor little green sea turtles were mostly trying to high tail it out of there. Every time one moved, two dozen camera wielding, flipper flapping humans took off in hot pursuit of something to post on Facebook.
We lost another of our group there. Grace (four of nine is how I always think of her these days) was one of those folks who floundered around after them a little bit too carelessly. She crashed into some coral that was fairly close to the surface, breaking a chunk off and getting quite the gash in her leg in the process. How that might have been connected to her sudden onset of fever and chills I can’t say, maybe it was a coincidence and she’d contracted whatever it was that Kevin had. What I can say is that by the time the captain had her cut cleaned and patched, she was shivering and upchucking over the boat rail. She, too, retired to her room for the remainder of the trip on our return to the hotel after docking.
Half a dozen of us decided to explore the island via golf cart the second day on the island. Marie quickly commandeered Patrick and Anna into her cart, so that with their gear, Eric was forced to join me and Louise. The big boss brunette promptly gunned their vehicle into the mixed pedestrian and motor traffic of the village and lost us before we’d managed to get our stuff stowed. On the rare occasions that our paths crossed during the course of the day, she’d grin and beep the horn and wave as they sped by us.
“Let’s get the fuck out of town and see how the locals live.” It was the first time I’d heard Eric swear. He was getting tired of the game and Anna was looking less and less like the woman of his dreams, particularly if Marie was a permanent attachment. He turned to us, Louise up front in the passenger seat and me in back facing that way, watching the past unfold behind us. “Are you ladies ready for some lunch? I’d love to find some funky little place for a cold beer and some grub.”
“A cold beer sounds grand,” I replied, “a margarita even better”.
Louise had her travel map out. “There’s a bridge at the north end of town that crosses over to the north side of the Caye. It looks like there’s a couple of places to eat, but not a whole lot else. It’s definitely a lot more deserted than town.” She turned and gave me a wink. “And we probably won’t run into the girls and Patrick up there.”
Louise and I had been serving as relationship counsellors to Eric all day. Neither of us was a counsellor, but since he didn’t have a relationship, it was working out just fine. We were all having fun. It is the way of singles travel; sometimes one gets well laid, sometimes one has grand fun, and on rare occasions the two likely coincide. It’s been my observation on half a dozen or so such trips that coincidence of the two is rare.
Speaking of coincidence.
The funky little place we found was perfect. It was a family run place right on the beach, tacos stuffed with fresh fish grilled over an open fire as the only menu option of the day. It was the only option needed, perfectly matched with all the fixings, home made tortillas, and more than enough variety of beers and other libations for us to choose from.
“This old lady needs to pee.” Indeed the need to pee was upon me in a big way. I was hot, sweaty, hungry, and more than a little ready to sit and enjoy the salt air and sunshine with a nice cool drink. But I’d spent the past fifteen minutes of the very bumpy cart ride to the bar giving my urethral sphincter the workout of its long life.
“How do you want your margarita? Geez Louise, that sounds good, and Eric is driving!” Louise giggled. She was starting to loosen up a whole lot. I could hardly wait to see her snockered.
“Cheap tequila, cheap triple sec, real lime juice, salt, on the rocks.” I rarely bothered with good booze back in the day, but funky margarita mix is, was, and always will be, intolerable, an insult to even the worst of rotgut. “And a couple of tacos with the works.” I handed her a handful of bills and made my way post haste out back to the baño de las mujeres to empty my screaming bladder and wash up a little. Or maybe I was headed back to the eagle’s nest for a rite of purification with my day sign. Who knows?
It was an epic pee. You’ve probably had one or two, you know the kind I’m talking about. It’s the kind of animal release the causes an involuntary audible response somewhere between a sigh and a groan of pleasure. And it goes on and on, sometimes for what seems like minutes. I let out a final contented little tinkle and headed out for a splash of cool water on the face before lunch and libations.
She was standing right in front of me when I opened the funky little door of the toilet stall. How she’d gotten there so silently and why I hadn’t noticed her legs beneath the door is beyond me, and it was such a shock, I let out a little yikes.
She was a child of indeterminate age. Many of the local people tend to be small relative to those of us from el Norte, especially those with a lot of indigenous blood. She was smaller than Rudy’s eight year old and very delicately framed, but her eyes were ancient and her face wise in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on. She wore a traditional Mayan skirt with a Happy Kitty t-shirt. She was a beautiful child with the dark hair and skin of the old ones, the broad features and almond shaped eyes that showed her native heritage. Her eyes were a brilliant blue.
“Oops, I did it again!” She giggled as I recovered myself and smiled back at her.
Oh dear god, she was quoting Britney Spears. What horrors had we wrought upon these people?
We did a little dance as we switched positions and I made my way to the sink and she made hers to the seat I’d just vacated. She left the door open and continued chatting with me as I rinsed salty sweat from my face.
“My name is Indie. That’s short for Indigo. That’s because of my blue eyes and when my parents found out we were coming they bought this place with money from Indiegogo. A man at the bar told them how. What’s your name?”
“I’m Brooke.” I wondered about the “we”, if it was a slip-up of language or if she was royalty of some kind. Of course she hadn’t said “we” did it again when she’d yikesed me, so probably not.
“What does Brooke mean?”
Since I was dealing with a child I decided that I could fib a bit, given that the truth of being named for a great grandfather rather irritated me. “It means that I babble like a brook. Have you ever heard of a babbling brooke? Like a river?” I made a snaking motion with my arm as I said it, grinning at her.
“That makes sense. Rushing Water”.
An almost overpowering sense of deja vu hit me when she said it, almost to herself. Where had I heard that recently? I shook it off and took a look in the mirror. I had a bit of a sunburn. Not that it matters much, I thought, I’ve been so sun fried so many times that I’ve got crocodile skin already.
Deja vu, all over again. The slight dizziness I felt passed as Indie grabbed my hand to lead me back to the table where lunch had been served.
“C’mon, it’s time to eat!”
At the table, Louise and Eric were engaged in animated conversation with a beautiful woman of forty or so who was dressed quite a bit like her daughter. She wore the same traditional style of skirt. Her t-shirt was vintage Grateful Dead. The only difference I could see between the features of the two females of the family was their eyes; Itzel’s were black as night.
“Geez Louise, Brooke, you’re not going to believe this! Eric and I have the same birthday! Well, not the same year, but the same birthday.” Their passports were out on the table. Apparently some of the bigwigs in town had been cracking down on selling booze to minors and they weren’t taking any chances on Louise. She did look great for her age and had a lot of youthful exuberance, but she’d told me she was over thirty. Ah, to be in one’s prime.
It didn’t strike me as being all that unusual, but I didn’t want to get into statistics. Eric was working the calculator on his phone, which I thought was a bit extreme. I just smiled and joined them.
“Funny thing is, your friend there has the same birthday, too.” Eric pointed to Indie.
“And Gogo, too!” as Indie said it, her brother came up from the beach and tossed the pompano he’d just caught into a cooler by the grill. He more resembled their father, a Belizean who could trace his Anglo roots back to the earliest days of British settlement there during the 18th century. The only difference between the boy and man in face and general form, once again, was the eyes. Michael’s were blue and Gogo’s were black, like his mother’s. They were a beautiful family, the children a masterpiece of genetic recombination, a single magnum opus of yin and yang. It felt that way looking at them, at least to me. Perhaps it’s my Libran sense of balance.
Okay, so four of them with the same birthday. Statistically, the twins only counted as one, at least to my thinking.
“That’s pretty cool.” A quick lick of the salt and down the hatch with some icy citrus. Very cool indeed. “So what’s the special day?”
“Ten ten.” Eric and Louise said it at the same time. I teetered between choking on the drink and falling out of my chair. I did half of each and recovered.
Binaries. All of us.
“You guys aren’t going to believe this.” I pulled out my passport and tossed it on the table to show them my date of birth: 10/10/1959. As I did, the folded up paper that Yhony had given me fell out. I opened it up.
“Oh geez, oh geez, oh geez Louise. I’m 79. And Eric is 69. And you’re..”
“Five of nine.” Oh geez Louise.
“That’s your Tzolk’in horoscope.” Itzel was matter of fact about it. Apparently it wasn’t all that unusual to have threesomes who shared her twins’ birthday show up; at least that’s the impression she gave. “This symbol Muluc is for water, that is your day sign. Indie and Gogo were born on the day of the eagle, Men, in the year 2002. That is your feminine sign, here.”
Rushing water. Soaring eagle. Deja vu? Coincidence? Hallucination? An elaborate trick? The passports were damned good if they’d been faked, and I couldn’t see the point.
“How can they have different day signs if they have the same birthday? The sign Yoyo drew on my sheet was different, too.” Louise was digging frantically in her bag trying to find the paper.
“You were born in different years. Our calendar is different from yours, our weeks and months not the same.”
This was the symbol he put on mine, what’s it?” Eric was getting intrigued. He’d forgotten all about his statistical analysis, we’d clearly left that realm behind.
“That is Ik, the wind.”
Winds of change.
“This is the tone for justice, and this is the crocodile. Caban is the symbol for Earth. Akbal is the symbol of night.” Itzel smiled at me. “It’s an interesting reading, but I’m not an expert. It depends on which aspect of your self each symbol represents. Only the old mothers do much of this. Of course with the end of the calendar coming up so soon, many have probably started looking at the old knowledge and sharing it. I imagine a person could learn a lot online.”
She winked at me.
I took another long pull on my drink.
“No bars here.” Eric had immediately picked his phone back up, probably just as freaked out as I was. He’d heard the whispers. He was just as much the rationalist I was. We were avoiding looking at each other. If the cave whisperers had been a hoax, it was one very well played, for no apparent reason. Nobody was trying to sell us anything.
“Oh, geez, that’s right, I was using it as a bookmark. It’s back in my room.”
Louise had given up on her search. I think all three of us were freaked out.
“C’mon kids, let’s go wrap some tacos for the old uncles. Our guests probably want to stop all this talk and eat lunch. Can I bring you more drinks?”
“Yes”. We’d all answered, not quite in unison; perhaps it was in binary. Perhaps our day signs all differed, but right there and then, we three binaries were all switched to the on position.
It only got more interesting as the day went on.
The ride back to the hotel was a quiet one. We’d had a fun and laughter filled chat about the probability of all of us having the same birthday during the course of that second round of drinks. We enjoyed an interesting, albeit low frequency, vibe of connection. We didn’t talk about whispers and horoscopes, none of us had had adequate time to process those things. That’s because none of us had had the chance to do that thing that we of the 21st Century do, either.
We needed to Google.
Eric was focused on the rutted road. Its muddy potholes could be treacherous, and he struck me as the kind of guy who liked having a task to divert him when he needed to clear his head. Louise seemed to be dozing, slouched down in the shot-gun position of the cart, her head gently tilted back with her hat pulled over her face. She’d put down a third drink quickly as we headed out and said our goodbyes to the Smiths. Michael had brought out the last of the margaritas he’d mixed up for us as he bussed the table.
“Waste not, want not.” she’d said as a salute. A woman after my own heart.
The look at the past from my position in the back seat didn’t include much of the road on the return trip. I was doing that thing I do and looking at what had just gone down from every angle I could imagine. My internal rationalist was trying very hard to explain the utter far-outness of the whole trip thus far. If it was a ruse, my friends had to be in on it, and I was sure that was not the case.
I mean really, what would be the point?
Was I dreaming? I’d been adventuring in the world of lucid dreaming for a while; I’d read the books and had success with the techniques. Even as a child I’d often been aware when I was dreaming, especially if I’d been flying. Flying like an eagle.
I’d asked myself that question more than once over the past few days, was I dreaming? I’d answered it yes with the Howler because that experience was so dreamy, so out there. The whispers, kind of dreamy, sure, but I was in an inner tube floating down a very wet river and was convinced it was a trick. Dreaming? Imagining the existence of these people I’d never met? I’d ruled that out again and again, this was not a dream. Every bump in the road implied reality, my inability to influence the action confirmed it. There are ways to determine if you’re dreaming in a dream. It’s amazing the things one can learn on exploration of the unknown.
Cyberspace was just the place to do that.
By the time we got back to the golf cart rental joint, the sun was starting to go down.
“Man, look at the line.” Eric groaned. It looked like everybody who’d rented a cart had just shown up for returns.
“Geez Louise, I need a shower before dinner.”
The whole crew, or what was left of us, had a date for dinner and drinks and live music at the hotel bar. Both Eric and Louise were eager to get spiffed up for the event, so I stayed behind and took care of the cart while they hoofed it back to the hotel through town. Being more a meanderer than hoofer and far less concerned with spiffiness, I decided to take the long way home and enjoy the beach route. The web would still be there waiting for me.
“Hey Mama, you want some Ganja?” An ancient Rasta man on the beach smiled and called out to me as I walked by him a few hundred meters into the trip. I smiled back with a polite “No thanks” and kept walking. We were warned, of course, that one shouldn’t buy weed on the beach. That was almost enough to make me stop and reconsider right there.
After all, I thought, I love weed.
“Weed love you, too,” a gentle whisper, so green I could taste it. Feminine, not the voice of the Rasta man, no, not the voice of a man at all. But not the voice of a woman, either. It was flowery, ripe, botanical. Mama Ganja had spoken to me for the first time. I turned and walked back.
“For you, Mama, five bucks.” He pulled out as fine a nickel bag as I’d seen since the seventies.
It had the same character, the stems and the seeds and the grown in the wild free spirit. It wasn’t some hybridized, amped up, mass produced clone of a clone of a clone. It wasn’t high octane or high tech, it was good old fashioned weed. Its energy came straight from old Sol, not some watered down version of electromagnetism cast from a lamp. Its stuff was made of soil and tropical breezes, not Miracle Gro and ventilation systems. I’d have to go find some good old fashioned bamboos to go with it so I could roll up a few big fat Marleys for the party. That was the appropriate term I’d learned from Rudy, and when in Belize, I like to do as the Belizeans do.
I knew bumpkiss from what the Belizeans do. But I was about to find out.
The detour back into town to find some papers shaved another twenty minutes or so off of the time I had to check out the Tzolk’in and get ready for dinner. I booted up the Mac as I shed my sweaty clothes and dug out a dress. Having grown up on the beach I was good at the kind of quickie splash and brush that the social atmosphere of a tropical bar calls for. Changes in attitude and all that. I pulled the braids from my hair and rolled up a few blunts. Then I turned my attention to the computer.
Just as Itzel had suggested, lots of folks had started showing interest in the ancient Mayan calendar and its relationship to the stars and astrology. Just Googling the term Tzolk’in brought half a million hits. A mad dash through the top ten or so led me to a place where I could plug in my birth date and time information and pull up my horoscope. Yoyo had somehow managed to get it right. Obviously he could have gotten my information from Rudy and done exactly what I was in the process of doing. But that didn’t explain Louise and Eric; none of us had been invited on this trip, we’d just shown up.
Time was short, so I bookmarked the page for a detailed reading later and checked my email. At the top of the queue was one from a woman named Sharon. It was an invitation to follow up on a job application I’d submitted; I’d made the first round of cuts and had been invited for a phone interview.
Well, I thought, if it’s all a dream, it just got a whole lot more real.
Employment was one of those things I’d been mostly ignoring over the past year. After a lifetime of a pretty dispassionate version of it I was tired and ready for real living, ready for travel and adventure and love. I'd earned tenure as a professor in Oklahoma, and then immediately quit.
But of course, the whole lot more real reality of life for most folks in the 21st century involves things like mortgages and utility bills and food that comes from grocery stores. So I had applied for a job. Just the one.
The position seemed to fit the description of “the best kind of job to have” that I’d heard from a professor I’d admired in grad school: a small, private, liberal arts college, preferably in New England. Such a position had entered my radar, one that my credentials also happened to fit quite nicely. So I’d half heartedly applied. Sharon’s invitation was full hearted, so I immediately replied that I’d love to interview but was currently out of the country. I’d be home in a couple of days.
I shut down, tidied up, and headed out to the bar.
“Could you be loooooooooved…….Candy love?!” Patrick and his dynamic duo were hammered. The threesome occupied one end of the table that had been set up for us and were belting out their best along with the rather mechanical sounding band back in the corner.
Marie had pledged her allegiance to Malbec when it first hit the scene in the US. Patrick was far more Continental, and having spent many years in the south of France, he was a great lover of the classics of Bordeaux and Beaujolais. Apparently they’d been dueling with reds all day, and Anna had been toucheé’d, repeatedly, in her role as innocent bystander.
“Eric!” Anna stood and attempted to wrap herself around him as he pulled out the chair from the vacant spot beside her at the table. “I missed you today”.
She damned near missed him with her hug, the wrap around transforming quickly into a cling-to for support as he kept her from crashing to the ground. Alcohol has a way of letting those hidden truths peak out from their places of secure cover. Marie had finally been defeated by the very weapon she’d been using in the war against Eric. Eric was more of a lover than a fighter. He didn’t need weapons.
Dinner was a grand mix of local pork, grilled to perfection, fried cassava and greens, and the ever present variety of fresh tropical fruit. Our friends at the south end of the table continued on their quest to drink the place dry of red wine. Louise was sticking with the margaritas. Eric and I had both transitioned to water. The band in the corner was on its third trip through Bob Marley’s Greatest Hits. It seemed to be all they knew, but the turista loved it.
“I love Bob Marley. I just wish they’d throw in something a little less commercial. I’ve frankly heard better versions of island music in New Orleans.” I was getting a little cranky. My love of music was not finding what it was looking for coming from that band, it was kind of a tragic metaphor for the whole trip, at least in my quest for something more in the love department. Or so I thought at the time.
Patrick and Rudy had joined me on the beach to enjoy the weed I’d picked up earlier. Eric was not one to partake, and Louise was having too good a time sharing with him what she’d learned about herself from the perspective of Mayan star gazers. Marie and Anna were up on the dance floor Jammin’.
“If you want to hear the music, you got to pay the band.” Rudy had a few good old sayings that he’d picked up along the way. “These guys can’t make any money playing the real stuff in places like this. They got to play what the people with the money want to hear.” He passed the big spliff over to Patrick. “You should see them at a private celebrations. They’re really great.”
“Yeah, I know. My cousin with the rock band told me that if he ever got another request for Stairway to Freebird he’d scream.” I smiled. “We seem to have gotten uncomfortable with originality and spirit where I come from”. I accepted the gift of Mama Ganja that Patrick passed along.
Patrick smiled an incredibly drunken and lopsided smile. He’d mellowed quite a bit with the weed and was doing what any smart drinker of red wine does, mixing it with food and water. Patrick was no dummy. We old farts do learn a few things along the way. Still, the wine brought a little hidden truth out of him, too. He stood up.
“Well, I’ll tell you what. I’m getting pretty fucking uncomfortable with lack of originality and spirit. And I can afford to pay the band. Let’s see what they can do.” He marched on up to the stage and pulled out some bills. Big bills.
“My friend Rudy tells me you’re good. Show me what you’ve got. I want real music, real dance, real life!” He was getting fired up. He stuffed the bills into the jar on the keyboard.
That’s when the voodoo woman appeared, and everything got primal.
It wasn’t just the music that changed, it was everything. Maybe we switched channels for a while, visited something different from our regularly scheduled programming. That’s what it felt like.
She was black and beautiful as night. Her skin glistened in the low light of the tiki torches of the bar. She wore next to nothing, but it was something, all gold and and black and brown. She said something to Patrick in Creole French, somehow knowing that he understood her as she led him out onto the floor the girls had vacated a few minutes before.
“Voulez-vous vivre ce soir?”
Bob Marley sat up in his grave to watch and enjoy the show as the band took every musical meme from the ancient ones of Africa to Hendrix at Woodstock and turned it into something new. They channeled magic, and there was no way to not be caught in the spell of its beat.
She was sex, dancing. I’ve never been into women, but the way she moved as she focused her entire being on Patrick was so steamy that Kundalini was once again shunted to its base in my body. She was hot. Rudy just smiled as we settled back in at the table with Eric and Louise.
Patrick was completely under her spell, helpless. He’d dropped to his knees before her, weeping. She left him there and made her way to our table. She had her eye on Eric. Marie and Anna had retired to their room where the young blonde enjoyed the relative ease of passed out oblivion as Marie hugged the commode. She hadn’t yet mastered the food and water trick of the journeyman drinker.
As steadfast a guy as he might be, Eric was not immune to the spell. He seemed mesmerized as he stood to follow her wherever she might lead.
That’s when Louise started growling. Her inner jaguar had just woken up and its feminine energy was aimed at the voodoo woman. Patrick had asked for it; Eric had not. She leapt to her feet with feline agility and wedged herself between the two. She got right the face of the woman who towered over her and hissed.
“You leave him alone!” She sounded something like Linda Blair had in the Exorcist. It wouldn’t have surprised me a bit if her head had spun a few times, the fires of Kali were flaring up from the depths in her protection of her brother in binary. Sweet little Louise in her pretty little dress of pink and blue hibiscus was about to take down the voodoo woman.
And the voodoo woman knew it.
The widening of her eyes in rage quickly transitioned into stark terror as Louise continued with her low growl. Eric seemed to be recovering, shaking off whatever it was that had grabbed him. Rudy had high tailed it to the bar; he was in charge of this show and the change in script was getting a little too deep for the tourist trade.
The magical musical mix came to halt just as the lights came up and the bartender made the last call for alcohol. The voodoo woman stormed off into the night, disappearing in the darkness from which she’d emerged. Patrick found himself sitting on the ground, still quietly sobbing. Louise looked like she’d just done little channel surfing of her own; she was in stunned shock.
Eric had recovered enough to help her back into her seat.
I sat there dumbfounded by the whole show. Far out, I thought.
I didn’t realize at that point that I’d not gotten very far out there, not at all. I’d yet to meet the big blue dragon. I’d not yet been enchanted by the beautiful trolls. I was only just taking the first few tentative steps on that yellow brick road that led to the wizard.
“Changing wind does justice work and dogs are warm to ancient owls. And jaguars lose their faith sometimes. That’s what I told him when we got out of the caves and that’s what he wrote down here.” Eric was holding the slip of paper that Yohny had given him, which showed clear signs that he’d been handling it quite a bit.
He and Louise were already at the breakfast table when I arrived, both looking kind of shaken. They’d apparently been there for a while enjoying the strong coffee the hotel served up. I was ready for some myself, and some eggs and spuds and fruit and fresh bread. It was going to be a long day, the first leg of the trip back home.
“Good morning! Did you all have sweet dreams?” I was trying to be cavalier; my own dreams had been pretty darned strange. Strange, but sweet.
Eric and Louise just looked at each other.
“Geez Louise, that’s what we were just talking about! We both had some pretty interesting dreams! Wonderful dreams! And they were all about the cave whisperers and the Tzolk’in!”
She grinned as she held up her own slip of paper. “Changing wind and sweet death brings gentle light to the magic rabbit!”
“Wow. Me, too.” I sat down with them as the waiter brought a new pot of coffee out. He gave us a knowing grin and nod as he headed off to the next table; all of the staff at the hotel had watched the show the night before. It had been quite a treat for them. Of course they hadn’t been quite as spellbound by the voodoo woman as we turista had been.
“There are some cultures where dream sharing is part of the morning breakfast ritual.” Eric was an amateur anthropologist; that had been one of the things that had brought him there. “Why don’t you start, Louise?”
She smiled and thought to herself for a moment, perhaps fine tuning her channel just a bit, before starting.
“My grandmother came to me in my dream. She was carrying her old cat that I’d loved so much as a child, Puma. Grandma died just last year, and it just broke my heart. She’d always read beautiful stories to me as a child about sweet fairies who brought good luck and bright futures. You know, like living happily ever after?”
She paused for a minute and smiled before going on.
“Well Grandma came and sat on the bed with me, right on down there in my room. She said that the winds of change have come for the Puma child, and that her own sweet death would help bring the wisdom of the ancestors to light through me. She told me to look to the children of my brothers and sisters, that they would spread joy and light into the future.” She had tears in her eyes. We all did.
Eric took a deep breath.
“For me it was my father.” His eyes were a long time and place away from the table. “He was a lot older than my mother and passed away when I was still a kid.” He smiled. “They had this total Romeo and Juliet relationship. His mother was appalled that he hadn’t married a nice Jewish girl, and Mom’s people were so strictly Catholic that there was no question about how my sister and I would be raised. We grew up in Puerto Rico, and mi Madre is still pretty darned devout. Anyway, Dad told me not to give up on my ideals to please my mother. He said that I’m the guy to bring the winds of change to both sides of the family, that my wide perspective on things can help bring justice. He said that I’ve got the wisdom of the owl and courage and warmth of the dog that everyone loves and admires. And he said if I followed my heart, I’d find my lady love.” His smile got even bigger as they both turned to me.
Well crap. Why couldn’t I have nice, normal, noble dreams of my ancestors?
“Okay, well. I was visited by the ghost of Bob Marley; he told me that Jacob, the guy that Dickens wrote about, had been his grandfather. He was riding a crocodile through the caves with me, and the water was rushing, gangbusters.”
I could still feel it. I’d known with absolute certainty that it was dream; the reality check of dead Reggae masters riding crocodiles confirmed that.
I took a deep breath and continued.
“Then the crocodile spoke up. It told me that pain builds character, and it was time to put that thick skin of mine to good use.” I shook my head. The crocodile’s voice had been exactly like my own and was incredibly nagging. So the first part of the dream wasn’t a whole lot of fun. But then it got interesting, so interesting that as I started to talk about it, I caught a little wave and was back on the dream channel.
The crocodile turned and smiled at me as I floated and she swam along, carrying Bob out of the cave beside me. She stood, Bob still seated securely as a Zen master on a Zafu, and morphed quickly from crocodile to Godzilla, at which stage she said “Hey Mama” in the Howler’s voice. She then transitioned through Archaeopteryx, before settling on the massive Harpy Eagle of my femininity. She had my face.
Bob reached down and pulled me up in front of him on the back of the great winged beast. We soared.
I have no idea if I actually described the dream to my friends as I relived it; I’m not sure I could have. We soared over every place on earth and took in every detail, Google Earth style. We saw the good, the bad, the ugly, the now of ecosystem Earth.
But we weren’t done.
We soared into the future. On the first trip though, we saw the Road, just as I’d seen it when I read that dreadfully great book by Cormack McCarthy. My core response was the same; I shouted the word out loud. “NO!”
This was my dream and there was damned well no way we were going there. I did that thing one can do in dreams. I took control. Or at least I opted to change the channel, look for other options.
And so it was no, and we soared into another realm, a realm of zooming in too closely on that pixelated map, so closely that the detail is lost in a matrix of blurry possibility. Bob leaned back in the soft leather seat that had been added to the picture beneath us and pulled me close.
“You know, water Mama, you got to get out of da darkness before you can feel da warm winds of one love for da big Gaia. Dare be a way more beautiful world possible. But da only way to make it happen is to get up, stand up, make it happen, you know dat.”
I woke from both the re-dream and the story when Rudy showed up.
“You guys with the early flights home need to get on the 10:00 am to the mainland.”
It was almost 8:30 already, we’d lost track of time. We’d have to say our farewells to the others in cyberspace; none had made it up and out in time for breakfast. Red wine will do that to a person.
At the airport on the mainland, we started saying our goodbyes as we headed through the security gate area. Eric was off to visit his mother for a while before heading off to a new job in New York, and his gate was at the opposite end of the airport. Our farewell was interrupted by a commotion up in the direction he was headed.
“Ángel dirigido rojo!” A group of nuns who were collecting for the impoverished children of Guatemala were gushing over the generous donation they’d just received from a beautiful red headed woman. She was looking rather startled and unsure how to react to their attentions, clearly not understanding what they were saying to her.
Eric was spellbound, but only for a second.
“Louise, Brooke, it’s been, well, something. I don’t think any of us are ever going to forget this. I’ll be in touch, soon!” He rushed down the hall to offer assistance to his future wife, Rebecca.
Louise and I turned and headed toward the Delta gates.
“You know, my grandmother wanted for me to be a nun. Back in my school days I always felt so close to God, there was something magical about it all. Maybe I can find that magic again. Who knows? The winds of change are my destiny!” She smiled, beaming with the light of her feminine energy.
I hugged her goodbye at her gate and moved on down the line to my own. There was a guy there wearing a T-shirt that had Buddha riding Godzilla on the front of it. I decided he’d be a fine person to chat with for a while and sat down.
We talked about Zen and punk rock for hours, soaring into the blurry future ahead. Brad the punk rock Zen master and I parted company in Atlanta. During the flight from Belize City, we tossed around light hearted small talk on mundane topics such as the nature of reality, karma and the illusion of space time. I didn’t bring up horoscopes or spirit whisperers or talking monkeys; Brad was clearly a strict rationalist and he was so interesting I didn’t want to alienate him with my new bent on twists of reality.
They were such new twists, I wasn’t quite comfortable with them yet myself.
I learned a lot on the flight and he was a good teacher, although he did seem a bit distracted. I wondered if he had his own mind altering tales from meso America that he was just sitting on. He clearly had some walls out in front of his view from the cushion, just like I did. They’re a bitch to break down sometimes.
He was a lovely guy, even if kind of a punk.
The Southwest flight that would take me back to OKC was at the other end of the mini-city that is the Atlanta airport. It felt great to be walking again after the three hour sit in the tiny flying tube that had taken me there. When one has flown through the sky with the eagle, the wings of man seem feeble indeed.
I had plenty of time to catch my flight and was wandering around looking for something appealing to eat. It was a trial after the fresh food feasts I’d been enjoying for the past week; somehow Burger King had lost its appeal. After a pass through the food court I settled on some fruits and nuts from a small vendor’s stand. A flowering plant hanging from the stand had caught my eye, one of my favorites. Passiflora.
“Well aren’t you beautiful!?” I smiled and spoke to it as I approached the man at the register with my food and the greens to pay for it.
Yes I am. You’re looking a little rough, yourself. Tough day?
My jaw dropped for an instant before I recovered. A passion flower had just spoken to me, plain as day and silent as snow. I gave myself a quick look in the reflection from the glass front of the shop behind the vendor. S-he was right, I needed to do some repair work.
“I always bring the flowers to work with me. They attract lovely ladies to my stand. Passiflora is a favorite to some. Many are attracted to the orchids, others to the lily.” The vendor was an old man with long silver hair and weathered skin the shade of dark toast. “Some are attracted to color, others to scent or texture. Flowers offer us endless potential for sublime wonder.”
For a split second, he resembled a turtle.
“Yes, plants are among my greatest loves in life.” I smiled at him as I put the change he handed me into the jar on his stand. “There’s always been Passiflora where I lived, ever since I was a kid. In fact, I searched lots of local nurseries when I first moved to Oklahoma trying to find it and failed. Then one day I pulled into my driveway and there it was, growing wild in my front yard.”
“Patience allows you to observe the sure and steady progression of what is to be. Your keen vision brought you here to Passiflora. Now use all your senses to know what is being offered to you, use your memory and imagination. Listen to what the cosmos has to say to you.” He winked and grinned.
I headed to the ladies room to brush my hair and splash some water on my face, freshened up a bit.
The cosmos had spoken.
The next few months involved such a blur of activity and mental regrouping that I barely heard the cosmos when it spoke up. My phone interview was just a couple of days away after my return from paradise and I needed to prepare for it. At the top of that preparation list was getting myself back into the mental vibe of the bureaucratic bullshit inherent in the world of higher education.
Sadly, bureaucratic bullshit is one of the things I’ve mastered over the years, so happily, the phone interview went well. One more hoop passed through, round two of the get a job gauntlet successfully run. I flew off to New England on someone else’s wings, put on my show and tell for the interviewers, and landed myself a job. Three hoops cleared.
Little did I realize that those yet to come would be much more constrictive and blazing with the fires of long term warfare.
It was on the second trip to New England that the cosmos spoke up again, or at least a couple of its representatives. Before making the move, I wanted to find a house to buy. As it turned out, the house found me.
After some initial online shopping, I contacted a realtor who agreed to spend a few days with me visiting all the properties that met my criteria. She was someone who had been in the business in the area for a very long time, but who had been out of the grunt work of it for several years. During the financial meltdown of ’08, Peg and her husband had transitioned into doing short sales for those facing foreclosure. My inquiry into a property just happened to cross her radar when she was feeling particularly blue about the whole shebang, and on a whim, she agreed to get up out of her broker’s chair for a while and do some showing.
“The great thing about living in a condo is that you won’t need to worry about digging out, they pretty much all have plowing service.” Peg was filling me on life in the north country. I’d emphasized my complete ignorance of life in the land of long winters and what my main concerns would be.
“Yeah, I guess that’s a real plus”. Honestly, the idea of condo living did not appeal to me, not at all. I’m a woman of the land, a hermit who likes her neighbors well enough as long as I don’t have to see, hear, or smell them too much. The idea of life without a garden did not appeal to me.
We were having a late lunch and a beer after our first full day out. We’d spent it looking at the least expensive on my list, all of which were condos.
“Something tells me you’re underwhelmed with what we’ve seen so far.” Peg was pretty astute.
“Is it that obvious?” I smiled at her. She really was a great gal, a woman my own age who was in a state similar to my own: trying to figure out if the life she was living was really what it was all about. “It’s just that I really like having some space between me and my neighbors. I like spending a lot of time outside. The insides of those places were all pretty nice, but the no back yard just cries out to me.”
Little did I know that in a few days, a back yard would cry out to me.
It was my last day in town before heading back to OKC to start packing up there. That house was under contract for sale, so the pressure was on to find a new one or resign myself to a few months of apartment living. Ugh.
We were much closer to campus, in the land of real estate that was closer to the high end of my price range. At that stage we’d looked at a lots of places, and both of us were getting worn out.
“Well, it does need a lot of work, but it’s nice.” There was no hiding the disappointment in my voice. Yes, it was nice. Yes, it needed work, and I could do it. No, I wasn’t madly in love with it.
It almost felt like getting married all over again. My ex-husband had been nice, too.
“Well, we’re just about out of options.” Peg had been incredibly patient, and I sensed she was ready for me to make a decision one way or another. That’s when the maple tree called out to me.
Hey, over here!
“Huh?” I replied.
“What? I didn’t say anything” She was giving me a look.
No silly, over here!
A hundred meters or so down the road I could see a nice little green Cape Cod with a For Sale sign out front. I started digging through the stack of print outs Peg had put together for me; I was pretty sure we hadn’t looked at it. If we had, it hadn’t spoken up at the time.
“Do you know anything about that one?” I pointed at the house.
She pulled out her iPad and did some hunting.
“It’s been on and off the market and it’s quite a bit out of your price range. The notes say there’s a divorce involved, that the owners have been fighting each other, a bit of a mess. The lots on that side of the road are quite a bit bigger. There’s no fireplace, but it does meet the rest of your criteria. Want to see if we can take a look?”
“Yes, please. This will be the last one, I promise. I’ll probably go for that one on Gaffney Street, but I’d hate to not look. It seems to call out to me”. I was kind of hoping she’d admit to having heard something, too. No luck.
She made a call and got the magic number to open the door so we could go in.
We probably didn’t even need to; the magic of the maple had gotten to me already.
You’d like it here. We’re all very happy in this space and when we sensed you go by, the Redplum twins insisted I try to call you over. I’m so happy you heard me.
Peg was giving me that look again as I stood on the front porch, slack jawed, staring at the big beautiful Acer that stood next to the house.
“Um, do you want to come in?” She smiled at me. “You really do love the trees, don’t you?” We’d talked about my new job as plant biologist at the local university.
“Yes, I do.”
We love you, too.
Weed loved me on the beach in Belize, Acer loved me in the north country.
How could I say no?
The house was nice enough. It was warm and welcoming, although it didn’t have to say anything to let me know. It sat on a full acre, the back half of the lot wooded. Peg hung out near the edge of the lawn as I trudged my way through the poison ivy and wild blackberries to explore.
The low murmurs of welcome coming from all directions were drowned out by the lovely babble of Hale Brook flowing through it all.
Welcome home rushing water, we are all here, we’ve been waiting for you, so happy to see you, you’ll like it here, the darkness will pass into light and winter into spring and life into death, into soil and life, into ecosystem earth.
The call of the Redtail Hawk from above interrupted my reverie. No words, just redtail squawk, just a greeting of sorts. I made my way back up to Peg.
“Let’s make an offer.”
My home had found me.
Bubba, my cat, wasn’t speaking to me when I got home from Belize. Not to say that he was giving me the silent treatment; as is always the case when I’ve been out of town, he spent a day or two both expressing his joy that I’d returned and his hurt feelings and irritation that I’d been gone for so long.
The same was true when I got back from that second run up north. He was clearly speaking to me, but in his own language. That’s one of those things that made the whole ride bobbing around in the waves of the channel so unnerving. One would think that if I’d developed a sudden telepathy with all manner of biota, the guy I’d been living with for a decade would be one of the first ones to speak up. Nope.
How to get him up north was a quandary. Bubba had always been quite vocal. We’d gone out for test rides in the car two or three times before it became clear that there was no way we were riding together. Road trips are indeed incredible tests of love and patience. I had plenty of the former for him, the latter, not so much. One of us would have been out the window before we hit St. Louis, probably me. Then I discovered that my Uncle Sam would pay for me to fly him. Pay for both of us, or at least let me deduct it. Tax laws just boggle the mind sometimes. We flew.
The airlines required a carrier of specific design and he needed to fly passenger, with me, under the seat in front of me. After acquiring said carrier, I sat down and explained the situation to him, and made my first go at getting him to occupy it.
One might think, as is the case with most cats, that if I simply put it down there and walked away, eventually he’d be willing to get in and at least check it out.
No way. Every time I entered the room where I’d left it he’d be sitting next to it, staring at me. Oh yeah, I was getting the message. Clearly.
Having gotten the message along with a vivid mental image of cat with attitude vocalizing in a manner more obnoxious than any cranky two year old on a cross country flight, I replied as those in our culture often do with cranky children. I dosed him with Xanax.
It was a tiny dose, just enough to make him pliable so that I’d not have to do battle with him to get him into the carrier, certainly not enough to knock him out. I was pretty sure he could kick my ass in battle if he put his mind to it. The dose was probably just enough to get him to let go and be vulnerable and express his fear to me as we trotted through the tunnel of flashing lights and Motown music at the Detroit airport when we changed planes.
He’d been incredibly good through the trip so far, let out just a few little peeps when we got to the airport and a few more when we first boarded the plane.
He’s not a people pussy cat and the whelms of human scent had come over him.The lights and music and bouncing on my hip as I trotted along dragging a bag with his carrier strap slung over my shoulder was too much for him, and he sobbed.
I hate this. I want to go home now. Can we go home now please? I’m sorry, but I want to go home. I won’t get mad when you go away anymore. I want to go home.
If I wasn’t already racing the clock to make our flight I’d have started crying along with him. I’d have sat down with him and tried to explain, just as I had before we left, that we were going to a new home. Instead, I kept trotting and spoke to him, out loud. I figured folks would understand.
“Just a few more hours Bubba, and we’ll get where we’re going”. I was panting. “You’ve been such a good boy and you’ll have a great big space to explore when we get there and I’ll be right there with you.” I didn’t tell him that I’d only be with him over night and then it was back to OKC to get the car. He’d figure it out.
We made it. He settled in, just fine, and was in good spirits when I finally got back a couple of days later.
I think the ghost must have kept him company.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, or maybe behind. It’s hard to say sometimes.
The Acer had so enrapt me on that first meeting that I’d failed to really look at the house on the other side of it. I didn’t notice the turret, or the widow’s walk, or the witch up on the weather vane. Somehow I’d been blind to the whole thing until the day I met the child. The live child, the one who lived in the Castle house. Like Indie, one day she just appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.
“Hello. I’m Alexandra.”
She startled me so that I dropped the loppers I’d been using to prune the Redplum twins. Perhaps that’s because I’d been so intently focused on their instructions as I gave them the trims they’d been longing for for so long.
She was pale and frail and had tangerine hair that hung midway down her back. Her eyes were a shade of green somewhere between the Caribbean Sea and the China jade Buddha lying shipwrecked in its depths. She was young, perhaps nine or ten. Her Happy Kitty t-shirt was eerily identical to the one Indie had worn, even if the black leggings below differed. We were in the land of black leggings now.
“Hi Alexandra, I’m Brooke. I’m pleased to meet you.” I pulled off a glove and held out my hand to her. Instead of taking it in handshake, she pulled it forward and examined my palm.
“Yes, I see. Will you be staying here? The ones before you chose not to stay, they were afraid.” Her demeanor was so seriously old soul and her voice so childlike that the dissonance rattled me a little. But just a little. After all, I’d just been having salon chat with a pair of purple leaf plum trees.
“Well, I’m pretty courageous, and I sure hope to stay. I breathe the air here and it tastes like home.” I grinned at her. “And I love the trees!”
“They love you, too. Let’s see your other hand.”
So I pulled off the glove and showed it to her. What the heck, when in Salem, do as the Wiccans do. If Alexandra was friends with the trees, that was good enough for me.
“Yes, I think maybe you’ll stay. Pierre said you would, he likes you.”
“You’ll see. I have to go now, bye.” She turned and walked back over to the Castle House.
It was several weeks before I met Pierre. In retrospect, I think that it had to be; that’s the way channel surfing seems to work.
There was a cross across the street, back off the corner a bit, mostly hidden in vegetation. I’d seen it from my upstairs window pretty early on, and it definitely caught my attention. Having lived in the desert southwest for a long time where it is customary for people to put markers down at the site where a loved one has passed over to the great beyond, I had a good idea why it was there. That was a death spot, right down near the end of my driveway. It told me to always be vigilant when backing out. So I’d seen it and paid heed.
Early one August morning as I was enjoying the sunrise and doing my stretches, old Sol’s rays caught Pierre’s marker and woke him up.
Are you here to help me get home?
Apparently Pierre hadn’t passed over yet. I headed down and out and across to meet him.
It was a simple wooden cross, clearly home made, and very weathered. It bore only a name, Pierre Lessard. A wave of grief so nearly drown me I found myself momentarily gasping for air.
“I’ll try Pierre. What can I do?”
Tell him it’s okay. I know he didn’t mean it, it was an accident. He was so broken up and they took him away before I could tell him it was okay. I’ve been here a very long time and he hasn’t come back yet. Can you find him for me?
“I’ll try. What’s his name? How do I find him?”
I don’t know. Alexandra said you’d figure it out.
Sol’s warmth dimmed for an instant as he rose into some distant clouds, apparently taking Pierre with him for his daily ride across the sky.
Back upstairs, I got online. It took the combination of search terms that included Pierre’s name and the town and the newspaper and obituaries, but finally, I found what I was looking for. On August 22, 1991, Pierre Lessard had been hit by a car while playing with friends across the street from where I sat that day, August 22, 2013. He’d been 8 years old when he died. The driver, a mere kid of 16 and newly licensed, had not been cited in the accident, he’d only been devastated by it. He’d grown up in the house I currently occupied.
It took me a while to find him. He was sitting on a bench outside the library downtown cuddling a bottle of Boone’s Farm, hammered. I sat down next to him.
“Hey there. Are you Robert?” I smiled at him.
He looked at me, bleary eyed.
“Who’s asking?” He had some bad attitude and stunk of old booze and sick sweat. He’d not aged well and could have passed for a man who’d been around twice as long.
“Pierre.” I figured I might as well get right to the point. I’d known quite a few broken souls in my life, and Robert was clearly pretty nearly all cracked up. Most folks living the hard life of the streets appreciate candor; their bullshit detectors get well honed over the years.
“Get the fuck away from me.” He growled.
“Tell you what, Robert. The ghost of a child is waiting for you across the street from your old house. Maybe he wants to kill you and maybe he wants to forgive you, I don’t know for sure. He seems like a nice enough kid. Right now, he’s sure as hell haunting you, and it’s not doing either one of you any good. All I know for sure is that he wants to see you.”
“Why should I? Who the fuck are you? Leave me alone!” He threw his bottle to the ground, shattering it.
“Well, that was clever. How’s this? You come with me and pay Pierre a visit and I’ll give you a couple of good bottles of wine. Hell, I’ll serve it up with cheese and crackers and fruits and nuts if you want, play some blues for you while you guys work out your issues.”
“I don’t want no food, it’ll ruin my buzz. But I’ll take the wine, what the hell.” He was staring down at the broken glass looking as if he’d only just figured out what he’d done. “I got nothin’ to lose at this point.”
Maybe just your misery, I thought. We cleaned up the glass before heading out.
The tears started flowing well before we got there.
“I haven’t been on this street in over twenty years, makes me sick to even think about it.” He choked the words out. He was gagging a little bit. “He was such a cute kid, all broken up. He came out of nowhere, had a big grin on his face in the rearview when he popped out from behind the trees.” He started shaking.
He wasn’t just sad, he was terrified, I could feel it.
“Dude, there’s nothing to be afraid of, I’m sure of it.” I pulled a box of tissues up from the back seat as we parked in the driveway. His face was down. I reached over and took his hand. “C’mon Robert, let’s go make some peace.”
A gorgeous full moon was just coming up over the horizon, and Luna shone down on the battered old cross just as Sol had earlier that day. Robert dropped to his ass as Pierre started talking. It was obvious he heard it, too.
Oh thank you for coming! I’ve been waiting so long for you! I know you didn’t mean it.
“I’ll go get the wine.” I wanted to give them some privacy.
“No, leave it, I don’t want it. I just want to hang here for a while, I can get back to my spot later on.” His tears were flowing freely. I don’t think he realized that I heard Pierre, too.
When I looked out the window a while later, they were both gone, Robert and the cross he’d been bearing for so long.
Pierre apparently went with them.
My feet hurt like hell and I was so tired of talking about myself I was ready to drop. Worst of all, I’d had a real bra on all day and my boobs were rebelling. They’d forgotten all about being propped up and strapped down. They didn’t need to say anything, they were making themselves very well understood. Such weary discomfort was not a good sign, given that the semester had yet to begin.
It was back to school week, and as a new faculty member, I was being put up for show and tell to the board members. The day had included formal introductions at the full faculty meeting, lunch with myriad academic vice presidents, and was winding down with dinner and an open bar at the president’s beautiful home.
Not bad digs for a nun, I must say. The bar was set up on a meticulously landscaped and maintained patio area just beyond a sparkling blue swimming pool. The formalities of the day were behind me, the yet to come was small talk with the money handlers, The Board, those folks who managed the mammon on behalf of god and the sisters.
I was ready for a drink, or two. Two would have to be my limit, otherwise I might head off to the restroom and take off the instrument of torture than was so tormenting the ladies. That probably would not have worked well with my white silk blouse.
I excused myself from conversation with one old coot and headed over to the bar for a glass of wine. Another woman arrived there as I did.
“What would you like, Sister?” The nice young man serving drinks was addressing her.
“I’d like a forty year old single malt scotch, Dearie, but I suppose a glass of white wine will have to do.” I liked her already. She turned to me. “You must be one of the new recruits. I’m Lucille, and pleased to meet you.” She held up her glass in salute and took a sip. “Have you found a seat for dinner yet?
You’re welcome to join me.”
“Hi Lucille. I’m Brooke and I’d love to join you!” It was true. She had such a strong vibe of combined wisdom and wit that I was totally drawn in to it. “I’ll have a glass of the Pinot Grigio, since I don’t see any tequila.” I winked at Lucille and she smiled at me.
“Oh, you and I are going to get along fine, I can tell.” She led the way over to a table for two in the corner. I was so happy to get out of the spotlight I could have kissed her.
“The food here is all so fabulous, even the presentation. It sure is a far cry from what was available at the pubic university I just came from.” Small talk, just a few more hours of it and then I could go home.
“It’s deliciously ostentatious bullshit is what it is”. She took another sip of wine. “It’s really quite a shame that this is how we attract students these days. But I suppose I shouldn’t be saying such things to the new hires, should I?”
Ah, apparently Lucille didn’t do small. I liked her even more. I grinned at her.
“Oh, I appreciate your candor and know exactly what you’re saying. Of course I’d best not be agreeing with you out loud, not at this stage in the game.” I’d also best not get caught up in matching her on the wine, she was clearly no slouch.
“Yes, that’s true. I’m at the stage of doing mostly what I please. Mostly.” Her smile dimmed a little as Sister Pauline le Taureau, the big boss of the U, approached our table.
“Ah, Dr. Schaufelkot! I see you’ve met our past President, Sister Lucille.” Sr. le Taureau’s name had obviously been divinely conferred. She was bullish. It fit with her focus on marketing and not education. She had something to sell, not knowledge to offer. I chastised myself for being so judgmental, until the two white pines we were sitting beneath were even more so.
Bitch said the first.
But such a bullish bitch said the second.
I just smiled, mainly to compose myself while I did the same with my response.
“Yes, we were just talking about how lovely and delicious the dinner is, don’t you agree?” My smile was genuine, as Lucille was making faces at her colleague behind her back.
“Our customers demand quality food for their children. It’s one of our top selling points.” She turned to face Lucille, who was transitioning from cross-eyed lip pursing to another sip of wine.
“Isn’t that right Lucille?” The threat in her voice was unmistakable.
“Well, it surely isn’t the quality of education we’re offering. I suppose good food is as strong a selling point as any”. Lucille smiled sweetly and again raised her glass and said “´A votre santé”.
“Well, yes.” Sr. Pauline turned and stormed away.
Apparently I’d found a soul sister at my new job.
I also found a savior.
We first met during the course of my interview. After surviving the day long run through the rite of MajQa, Rennie and I did a little R’uustai over the beer that he and I and our three other colleagues within my new department shared at my interview dinner. That dinner led one of the three to reject me outright, and his sidekick naturally did the head bobbing he’d been trained to do very well by the time of the Mek’ba of my hiring decision.
During that dinner, I’d made the near fatal mistake of making a comment about the challenges of teaching evolution in the bible belt to a bunch of fundamentalist Christians. As it turned out, the guy who so loathed me from that point on was pretty hard fundamental in that department himself. Oops.
Ren, on the other had, was a hard core atheist who also happened to hold a Masters’ degree in theology. He and I got off on some philosophical discussion after my statement while the other guy started working on ways to crucify me. Little did he know that he’d find me within a year standing before him shouting “Qab jIH nagil! “ All that aside, over the course of my year there, Rennie and I became fast friends.
Our daily discussions were far more of a philosophical bent and did not include tales of talking monkeys, although we did cover some pretty cosmic ground. We discussed things like Zen and Catholicism, fate and free will, karma, and the relationship between butterfly wings and hurricanes.
“You know, Ren, every event that’s occurred on earth over the past 3.8 billion years had to occur just as it did for you and I to end up here having lunch together.” It was a joy to throw those zingers out there to start a conversation. I enjoyed messing with his atheism much more than with the other guy’s dogmatism.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Brooke. While it’s true that my parents had to meet for me to exist, that doesn’t mean that it was destined or anything. It just happened. Shit just happens sometimes.” Lots of shit had happened to Ren, so his attitude was actually a pretty healthy one, I guess. I smiled at him.
“You’re a very wise man for one so young, my friend. Lucille tells me that you’ve got an old soul, and I’d say that I have to agree.” Lucille knew Rennie well. It seemed everyone on campus knew Ren well, and all of us adored him. He was an incredibly charismatic young man.
“I’m not so wise, I’m just not a sheep. Too many people are sheep. Hell, most of these kids around here are total sheep, they need someone to tell them what to do. Half of the faculty and staff are, too.” He was trying to get somewhere with this change of gears, but having trouble deciding which way to turn.
“Is that why they follow you around so much? Are you the good shepherd?” I was really grinning at that point, totally yanking his chain, hoping the real answer would be a whole lot easier. It wasn’t.
“Yes. Somehow I find myself with a cult-like following. They call themselves the Reninites.” He was serious as a heart attack, and I knew it was true. Shocked as I was, I was darned near ready to sign up myself. It honestly shook me.
How, one might ask, would something so simple as an unlikely young man with a group of rapt and religious admirers be more earth moving than a talking monkey or a witch or a ghost? It’s quite simple, really. Once one does learn the language of the spirit world, the truth of its speakers becomes obvious. Ren didn’t see himself for what he really was, something very special indeed. He was right on up there with the Voodoo woman, but her polar opposite. He had a vibe.
I’d found my savior.
The angel didn’t show up in the north country. He was in the holy land of Sedona, Arizona.
As it turned out, the job sucked. It beyond sucked, it was the black hole of suckitude, it drained damned near every erg of energy from my body and soul, day after day. The cosmos had totally shut down on me; the trees had gone dormant for the winter, Bubba was back to speaking strictly feline, and I developed what could have blossomed into a near fatal attraction for good red wine in response.The only thing that gave me the courage to return after my first semester there was Rennie and his warm companionship. When spring break rolled around, I was way past ready to get away from the cold and do some hiking and spa time. There’s no better place to put those two loves together than Sedona. It’s a great place to reconnect with the cosmos.
Before meeting the angel, who passed a gift on to me, I apparently passed something I didn’t even know I was carrying around to someone else. Funny how that works.
I’d booked a few days at the Yah-Ha-Say resort in one of the redrock canyons there. It is an incredibly ostentatious and ridiculously expensive place, one where a person can choose to regress to past lives or have her aura photographed. I wasn’t in to such things, I wanted world class massage, which typically goes along with lots of New Age hoo-ha. I also wanted to be close enough to some of the holy sites there to pay them a visit. I wasn’t a complete cynic, just a person who trusts the land and its spirit more often than its human inhabitants.
Sadly, the spa had apparently really upped its staff for the week of spring break for the students and spring training for baseball, and I’d been disappointed by a couple of rookies. The woman to whom I passed the gift, on the other hand, worked magic on me.
“Do I know you?” was the first thing she asked. That was not a typical question preceding a massage, but not unreasonable, either. I’d spent over a decade down in the Phoenix metro area and had visited Sedona many times.
“I don’t think so, but there’s no telling. I lived in Tempe for a long time, went to school there.”
“Ah, maybe that’s it, you seem very familiar. I used to work at Monty’s, was a waitress there for years” she said.
“Oh”. I wasn’t sure how to proceed, so I did what I usually do in such cases and stumbled along blindly. I’d never eaten there, it was quite upscale and out of my price range. “I was with Monty when he died. I used to work at Tempe St. Luke’s.”
I said it as I climbed up on the table for the Thai massage scheduled, while Tina prepared herself to stretch me to my limits.
The death of Monty was one I remembered well. He was a much beloved restauranteur and rather famous in town. He was a very old man and his time had come, but his family was taking it to the limit and he was in full code when they brought him into the ER. I was under the gurney trying to get blood from a body whose heart was no longer beating while a priest gave us both last rites.
A few tears slid down Tina’s cheeks. Something told me that she and Monty had been more than just friends. As she worked her wonders on my fatigued body, she seemed to draw something from it, some energy that had been held there for too long. It transformed both of us for the better. It rejuvenated me so much that I decided to hike on up to the vortex site the next morning.
It was an easy hike and offered a lovely view. Since it was so early in the day, I had the spot to myself. Well, almost to myself; I was the only human around, at least on the way up. Now that I think back on it, perhaps I was the only one on the way down, too.
When I got to the top, I offered some of my water to an old juniper as I sat down to contemplate life. It thanked me.
Although I didn’t make any decisions about what to do with myself, the beauty of the place and the companionship of the ancient one offered me a level of comfort impossible to describe. Ironically, the angel I encountered on the way down did not. I was still too cynical to recognize him. Luckily, he didn’t mind.
I almost ran in to him as I rounded a large boulder on the trail.
“The spirits thank you for your kindness to old lady Tsin on the mesa. Kachina woman told me to give this to you. You will know when to pass it on”. The man was old and silver haired, with skin the color of the red rocks of the canyon. He looked remarkably like the food vendor in Atlanta.
He handed me a heart shaped red rock.
“I don’t have any money on me”. I assumed he was looking for a hand-out. He simply shook his head and walked on by up the trail, around the boulder.
Oh what the hell, I thought, I can give him a few bucks. It’s got to be really hard trying to make a living out here, most of the folks at the spa probably never come up this way.
I turned and headed back the way I’d come, he couldn’t have gotten far. Apparently he had, though, he was nowhere to be found.
It took some time to find the family the heart was meant for, but I found them. Or maybe we found each other. But I’d best not get ahead of myself, there are still dragons and trolls to meet.
There was one more time slot open for me at the spa for which I’d not yet chosen a service. I was pretty much massaged out and still not particularly interested in past lives; I was still trying to get past far too much stuff in this one, why bring up dead and buried crap?
Just for fun, I decided I’d go for a Reading of the Moment; what could be more antithetical to past lives than that? It was supposed to help me figure out my life path. Since old lady Tsin hadn’t had anything to say about it, I thought perhaps the Tarot reader could fill me in. As if.
Natalia was about my age, and looked tired. Her accent was middle European, her look Post Modern New Age, an unresolved incompleteness some place between hippie and haggard housewife. She worked up a half-hearted smile. It was late in the day and both of us were tired, so I could only return three quarters myself.
“Vhat do you seek from the cards?” she asked, in the best channeling of Ouspenskaya she could manage.
“Um, a reading of the moment? A map of my destiny? A date with fate? You’re the reader, you tell me!” I really wasn’t trying to be a smartass, I was tired, and at $160 an hour, I wanted her to do most of the talking.
She shrugged and pulled a deck from the drawer beneath her table. She spread them on the table.
“Oh, Osho cards, far out. I’ve got a set of those”. I’d had them for years, in fact, consulted them often.
She shrugged again and put the cards away.
“So, what brings you here?” the Russian accent was gone. “You wouldn’t be in this room if there wasn’t something you wanted to know. We’ve got an hour, we might as well talk about it.”
Ah, I’d always suspected that soothsayers were mostly psychologists. What the heck, that did tend to make the hourly rate a bit less unreasonable to a reasonable woman like myself.
“Well, I’ve got this really shitty job that I just moved cross country for and I’m pretty sure I’m going to quit it. My best girlfriend there is in menopausal meltdown, my boss is a douchenozzle, and I’m half in love with a beautiful young lamb of an old soul man child. And the students that I teach, bless their hearts, half of them are medicated into dumb indifference and the other half are still clinging to some bizarre myth of the promised land of a debt laden college degree and life at the mall ever there after."
Natalia burst into tears that quickly amped up into wretched sobs. I pulled some tissues from the box on her table and handed them to her as she composed herself.
“I’m sorry, it’s just that all day long these women come in here with their five hundred dollar nails with little pictures of sunshine on them and their Botoxed veneers and a thousand metabolites of pharmaceutical poison wafting out of their pores post massage and they bitch about their kids who they’ve shipped off to one surrogate parent or another for their entire lives and which medication to try next on the poor little lost souls and how much stress it causes them and I just want to throttle the silly twits.” She blew her nose with gusto. “What ever happened to just being a Mom? It’s not like anybody here can’t afford to actually be a parent.”
I just sat back and let her vent that way until my hour was up. I left her a nice tip.
Sedona always managed to do something for me, and I returned to New England refreshed. Rennie and I had a nice breakfast together in the dining hall Monday morning prior to the 9 am departmental meeting we’d both attend. We shared stories of our spring break adventures. By 9:10, refreshment had staled and I was feeling rather crusty again.
“Sister says we have to increase retention and grade point average.”
Both my boss and the philodendron I shared my nearby cubicle with had spoken.
“And Sister also says that we have to improve the success rate of our nursing students on their state exams. She can’t have it both ways.”
Phil also had some pretty firm opinions about the douchenozzle's sidekick.
“These students have to learn! They don’t know how to learn! They don’t do any work! They have to read the textbook! They don’t know how to read the textbook!” Susan had worked herself into hysterical tears and had to excuse herself to recover.
Rennie and I just looked at each other. I made the hand signal for self pithing, fist pumped against forehead. He smiled at me.
At lunch, he told me a little secret.
“I’ve got an interview for another job next week, a good one.”
Noooooooooo! Every bacterium in the dining hall responded in unison with my heart. Ren had been dropping epidermal cells there for years, he was a part of them. The one little ray of sunshine in my academic dungeon was about to rise up to bigger and better things.
“Far out Ren! What is it?”
“City health inspector.”
Yesssssssss! My prokaryotic compadres were happy with that one, he'd be gentle with their kind everywhere. I wish I could say I shared their newfound joy.
“That’s so cool. Heck, you can be mayor some day!”
“Yes, well, I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. I figure my two options are either to go for the leadership role and take charge, or to subtly crumble the system from within. There’s a certain appeal to that approach.” He smiled at me.
My friend, the mastermind. Ah well, on the bright side of things, Ren’s good fortune solved my own dilemma. I was going to jump this ship of fools. I’d either sink or swim.
Or fly. Maybe you’ll fly.
If only I had as much faith as the mushroom I was about to pop into my mouth. As it was, I was terrified.
I faced my near future ready to finish up the courses I was teaching and fulfill my contract before politely declining the invitation to return the next year. At least it had been my intent to politely decline. During the course of my year there, the VPAA who hired me had quit, and the interim in that role had dumped the dean of our college down to lowly faculty status after a decade long reign. There was all out interdepartmental warfare in my immediate vicinity and my pal the Shepherd had secured a far better job for himself. He’d leapt and flown, was simply sticking around for two weeks to help prepare the poor lost soul who was about to try to fill his shoes.
My first little deviance from sticking it out and making the best of things before inevitable polite declination came at the next faculty meeting. The factions in the war were firmly entrenched, facing off across a table so laden with tension it sagged with it.
My entire worldview had been twisted by visions of winds of change and the ghost of Bob Marley. When one suddenly finds herself acting as soother to the sayer in Sedona and she the only one who points at the world of the emperor’s nakedness in horror, it’s unsettling, way more so than talking trees. The ludicrousness of the whole show was getting to be more than I could tolerate.
When one has flown with eagles, it’s tough to endure the spray of a douche nozzle.
“We can’t tell these students that they’re not going to get into medical school unless they can do well on the MCATs” was his opening remark.
“They’re not going to get into medical school unless they do well on the MCATs, have good grades from a decent school, have letters of reference, and can survive an interview”. I replied.
“But we can’t tell them that”.
“Of course we can. It’s our duty. It’s called academic advising”.
The sidekick was sitting with his arms wrapped firmly braced across his chest, his frown so deep it looked like something Dali came up with while listening to Blind Willie Johnson.
“I want to know why he only has to teach two classes.” The voice of menopause spoke up, albeit meekly.
“My schedule is none of your business”. The frown had flapped.
“He’s got me to teach all his labs, that why. At least he had me, I’m out of here.” The Shepherd abandoning the herd, somewhat smugly.
Nobody’s cleaned out the aquariums in months; the thoughts from the watery mess a few meters away. Several of us turned and looked at it, as if on cue.
“The dean and I have developed a new set of rules.” Douche.
“The dean just lost all say so in anything and I have about as much interest in your rules as I have in this meeting.” I turned. “As to your schedule there’s a thing called a faculty handbook and it states that you’ll teach some minimum number of classes, so it’s very much all our business, particularly if it means that the rest of us have to pick up the slack.” Something odd had come over me. It was as if a veil covering a pile of bullshit mid table had been rudely lifted, and it offended me.
“Yes!” Menopause was cheering. Susan had been thanklessly working like a slave forever while the boys of the faculty took the minimalist approach; over the years it had gotten way out of hand and they dumped more and more onto the lab assistants.
“Frankly I’m done with your rules and this meeting. Bring in the new VPAA, bring in her new dean, bring in the handbook, the real rules. Bring in the lawyers for all I care, this is bullshit. Don’t try to tell me how to teach my classes or how to advise students, I have no interest in the model of education you present. If it’s the model the university wants followed, then the university is marketing bullshit, and I’m not interested.” The meeting was adjourned.
The next few days were tense.
The day I received the summons to the dean’s office was the one I’d set aside to make the decision about when to give notice. I popped in on him on my way back from an early class, curious as to what was on tap in the drama of life in the black hole post meeting. It was kind of difficult even visiting the man in his last throes of command, so publicly had he been shamed when stripped of his title and a substantial portion of his paycheck.
“You embarrassed a student”. He jumped right on in. The man rather loathed me; as mentor to the douche nozzle, his position in the interdepartmental war was clear. The uppity woman from the heartland was a trouble maker in his world, perhaps even the source of all his current woes.
“You’ll have to be more specific. I suspect I’ve embarrassed lots of students over the past year.” It was true. I’m one of those people who has a way of saying just the wrong thing sometimes, and nobody is immune. I’m particularly susceptible to it myself.
“You really don’t know, do you?” He was amazed.
“Well, I suppose it could be Rick. I told Rick that he did the assignment on the wrong topic. It could be Jerilynn, there was that day I told her I could smell weed on her. Maybe it was that kid I threw out of the Biology exam for cheating…..is he the one?” I really had no clue.
“No! It was Katelyn. During the discussion period of her presentation you asked her where she’d gotten her information and questioned the legitimacy of her sources! You can’t do that!”
I just stared at him.
“You need to go see Debra about this”. Debra was the interim VPAA, who likely was about as interested in Katelyn’s embarrassment as I was. I’d already gotten to know her and she was about two steps behind me out the door.
“Fine, I’m going for a massage at ten. I can see her any time after noon.” I smiled at him as I sailed out the door. The idea of a massage clearly infuriated him. Go figure.
The massage was good. I walked into Debra’s office at two still smelling of the Eucalyptus oil Andrea had used on me during my 90 minutes of Nirvana.
There’s something incredibly liberating about not giving any kind of fuck about one’s future career potential, about what the boss thinks, about what one will say, what the expected or appropriate behavior might be for the situation at hand. It occurred to me in exactly that moment that such was just how free my decision had set me.
Now you’ve got it. There was a jade plant growing on the windowsill of Debra’s office; it understood my perspective clearly. Debra was beginning to as well.
“A massage? Really?” she turned, looking rather haggard.
“Oh yeah, Andrea is the best. She’s a real physical therapist, and strong as an ox. She can feel exactly what ails you and work it right out.” I took a swig from my water bottle. Hydration is important.
“I’ve got this neck thing.” She rubbed the region below her left earring, a knot of muscle tension that had a steel cable character to it, a nasty headache waiting to happen. She sighed. “So what’s the story with the complaint?”
“Phil and Joe are thrashing about trying to fight back against the avalanche of karma that’s coming down on them. Barry is facing the ugly truth that he’s going to have to start working full time. The kid is a ploy, one of Joe’s little girlfriends, a kid whose daddy buys her everything, including grades. She cited a source for her presentation on sustainability and population that came from some nut job, neo-Nazi, right to life propaganda web page. I simply pointed out that the reference didn’t meet the criteria that I outlined for the assignment and deducted a couple of points from her grade.”
“What a fucking mess.” She rubbed her neck again.
I dug out one of Andrea’s card’s and handed it to her.
“I won’t be coming back next fall. I’ll write you a letter later this week.”
“Write a good one, maybe I’ll cut and paste from it.” She sighed again. “I thought things would be better here. I thought maybe if I was VPAA I could really make a difference, try to fix all that was wrong with higher education back in Texas. They do this whole ridiculous song and dance during the interview process and then it’s all the same crap, the ugly truth comes out. What’s happened?”
“I don’t know for sure Debra, but I do know this. The answer’s not here. This world’s gone crazy. I’ve got to see what else is out there.”
As it turned out, there were all sorts of wonders out there.
The first time I walked away from my second career, that tenured one in academic I didn’t burn my bridges behind me. I took a year off to explore non-Oklahoman living opportunities a little bit and maybe get well laid while doing some traveling. Instead, I met Bob Marley’s ghost, learned my destiny according to some Mayan cave spirits, and met Acer, my friend the maple tree.
It probably all turned out to be a whole lot more valuable than getting laid would have been. Of course one never knows, in some alternative dimension, on some different channel, perhaps I’m lying on a tropical beach with a cute young man and a margarita, oblivious to the channel that includes the 2016 presidential campaign and its aftermath. There’s no telling.
The second time I walked away from my second career, I didn’t quite burn the bridge, but I’d not left a rosy impression on Sister Paula and the gang when I left. I’d also paid heed to what Debra had said about the letter. What the heck, I'd been flying with eagles, I was far less restrained than I’d been with the douchebag. He was already pretty deflated and so I’d been kind to him. I’d seemed to have picked up a bit of the Godzilla vibe while in Belize. Whatever the case, the letter did serve as evidence the Sister might use to support truths she might want to tell about me to prospective employers in higher ed. Of course I’m not so sure she’d want to share the same truths I had about why I was choosing not to return, they’d likely be pretty embarrassing for the University. It was probably for the best all around for me to collect my paycheck and go away quietly.
We set off on these divergent paths in life, thinking we have some idea about what might lie ahead to the left or right, what various destinies might exist at the end of each choice, only to find out that the winds of change come out of nowhere.
Who’da thunk that exploring meso-America would transform me into a channel surfer? Who’da thunk that moving to New England to work in a nunnery would hook me up with witches? Who’da thunk that the more I looked around, the more I'd see magic, everywhere. Who’da thunk I’d wander around and meet big blue dragons and trolls and others just like me, people who’d hopped into some very interesting wavelengths indeed, inquiring minds like my own, bobbing around in the sea, catching waves of wonder?
The third time walking away from that second career was the charm and I’ve never looked back at the smoldering ruins of the bridge to the old story of my life. I did a semester and a half at the local community college before the snow and bullshit both got far too deep for me to bother to show up there any more.
he poor soul who was my last boss (in every sense) did feel the full force of Godzilla; as the beast took one last look back while I rode it out the door looking dead ahead myself, the bridge was incinerated in his fiery roar. I rather rejoiced in it, felt like Daenerys riding the dragon.
For the first time in 40 years, I was pretty seriously unemployed. It felt awesome. It tasted delicious. It smelled good. It turned me on, I liked what I saw. My world was atwitter with it, the love frequency was turned on and audible. Still is, really.
Of course despite how vastly my horizons of reality had expanded in the previous couple of years, despite the fact I’d soared with eagles and chatted regularly with all manner of theretofore non verbal and sometimes even inanimate entities, including ghosts, there was still the matter of the mortgage. And the gas bill. And taxes. Those imaginary 0’s and 1’s that the banks invented to drive capitalism and enslave us.
Talk about voodoo.
I decided to go to the library and see if I could find a book on how to make money without actually having a job. I hadn’t just walked away from academia. I’d walked away from an entire plot line, changed channels, shifted world views. I did still seek my knowledge at the library, some things never change.
Robert was there. He was playing a guitar at the same bench where I’d seen him before, but he looked like a different man. There was an older man playing banjo along with him, and a woman on violin.
“Hey, how’s it going?” His smile was genuine, joyful. “I keep meaning to come by and thank you. I still don’t like that place much. I heard the witch house is empty.”
“That wasn't me, it was Pierre. And yes, Alexandra’s parents decided they wanted a new school for her, it was right after Pierre left.” What the heck, he knew Pierre as well as I did. One learns over time with whom such things can be discussed openly. There’s a vibe of sorts, a resonance of the waves coming off them.
“Anyway, everything has changed. I went to the soup kitchen and met Craig.” The older man waved. “He was starting a community garden on the old rail trail and hired me to work on it with him, got me into an addiction program he’d gone through. We hit it off right away, both being into traditional music. As it turns out, he’s Pierre’s father. He was in almost exactly the same mess I was”.
“Yes, Pierre and I had had an argument that day. I wanted him to mow the lawn and he wanted to play with his friends. I told him he had to be home before dark to do the job, that’s why he was in such a rush at that time of day when it’s so hard to see on the road sometimes. He was careless because he knew I’d be disappointed with him if he didn’t keep his agreement with me. I feel into horrible depression; my wife and I divorced, our marriage couldn’t survive the grief.”
“Wow, quite the coincidence.” I had no idea what else to say. It was easy with Robert, Pierre knew what to say to him. But something had already healed Craig’s wounds. It became quickly obvious that the something was a someone, the lovely woman who played the violin.
“We met at a retreat.” Shana was a country girl, one whose vibe clearly indicated to me that she, too, could communicate in other realms. She was a channel surfer. In fact, she looked like a pro, all crystals and tie dye and a pretty distinctive rainbow aura. I’d never seen anyone quite like her before.
She turned to me.
“Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?” she asked.
“Who, me?” I looked left and right, it just happened. “I not a witch at all. I'm Brooke Schaufelkot, from Oklahoma.”
“Oh! Well, is that the Witch?” She pointed at a bird flying high overhead.
“What? That bird? That’s my feminine spirit animal.” What the heck, when in Salem……
“Well, I'm a little muddled. The Trolls called me because a new witch has just dropped into a house next door to the Wicked Witch of the East. And it happens to be the house where Robert used to live, and the place where Pierre left this plane, and here you are, and the empty house next door to you is all that's left of the Wicked Witch of the East. And so, what the Trolls want to know is - are you a good witch or a bad witch?”
“But I've already told you, I'm not a witch at all. Witches are old and ugly.”
“My dear, you’re no sweet sixteen. Have you looked in the mirror lately?”
“What was that?” I’d just picked up a wavelength that sounded a lot like irritating white noise.
“The Trolls. They're laughing because I am a witch. I’m Goldilocks, the Witch of the North.”
"I thought Goldilocks hung out with bears."
"We live up in the mountains for most of the year. The bears are lovely. Believe me my dear, I'm a witch"
“You are? Holy Shit! I've never heard of a beautiful witch before. Of course Alexandra was beautiful. But she didn’t seem so wicked, are you sure that's the right house?”
“It was her mother.”
“Oh, yeah, Stephanie was kind of a bitch.”
“Only bad witches are ugly. And of course ugly and beautiful shine from within.
“Really?” I’d started noticing auras.
“Yes. Ugly is kind of a pukey bilous yellow brown green.”
“Yup, that was Stephanie.”
“The Trolls are happy because you have freed them from the Wicked Witch of the East.”
“Oh. But, what are Trolls?
“My dear, are you completely web illiterate? Where have you been for the past few decades? Trolls sow seed on the Internet, almost always provocative stuff. But trolls are like witches. There are good trolls and there are bad trolls. Some spread knowledge and thought and joy in hopes of producing interesting new interactivity of ideas and art and creativity, using the Internet to its full potential, spreading good vibrations. Others sow discord and hate, stuff not so nice. Most new age politically correct circles don’t like to use the term bad troll, but we witches aren’t so shy. We’ve felt the torch of the Inquisitor.”
“How did I free them?”
“Stephanie’s husband works for the FBI. He had a server system and firewall set up there and so much EM radiation cranking out of that spot their hacking efforts were being disrupted. You know there used to be a radio station there, right?”
“Yeah. Even the plants are high energy. There’s skunk cabbage all over the place back in the wetland. It really makes a lot of noise early in the spring, even kicks out some hypersensible wavelengths sometimes, not to mention the smell.”
“Are you sure you’re not a witch?”
“I don’t know.” I really didn’t, still don't. Witch hadn’t occurred to me. I’d considered the cave spirits and nanobots, why not witches? I had heard something about Shamans and Ayahuasca that sounded interesting. After all, the voodoo woman had been something else. I was pretty sure she hadn’t been a witch.
"Anyway, apparently the second hand smoke from your weed habit has been drifting directly into his bedroom window and he was rendered inoperative at that site. They had to move him."
I said goodbye to Robert and Craig and Shana. The threesome made a good living playing traditional Acadian music together, mostly in the gift. The garden downtown near the soup kitchen was quite productive and had done a lot to help people help themselves and all of them were active in its creation. I felt like a slackard for having spent all my new found free time communing in that beautiful space that held me, that which had called out to me from the road.
Perhaps it had been Pierre, perhaps he saved us all that day.
That relationship was one that was developing in some interesting ways, mine and the land's. I headed into the library. I hauled my not so random variety of books up to the checkout.
“Wow, what a random variety of books you’ve got!” The guy at the library knew me by sight, I’d been coming in for over a year at that point.
“Yes.” I smiled at him. No, I thought. Each book had called out to me, clearly, until I found exactly it. I had a lot of reading to do.
It was time to set off on the yellow brick road of unemployment opportunities, off to encounter some trolls and meet some beautiful new friends and to see the Wizard.
I’d already decided that before I went dashing off too blindly down the yellow brick road, I’d sit back and contemplate things, listen to the trees and birds twitter for awhile. I decided to start seriously investigating things like the nature of reality and the cosmos and my place in it, as well as things such as old hippies retirement communities and the like. That mostly involved wandering around with the trolls and smoking weed. I figured maybe I’d even do something drastic like “work on myself”, you know, improve the diet, revisit my yoga practice, get back into Zazen, all those things we do during life’s transitional times. WTF, Robert sure had started kicking off a nice shade of turquoise blue, no pukey yellow green on him any more.
Of course Robert had quit drinking.
It suddenly occurred to me one day as I was out enjoying the pure animal bliss of a 65 degree New England spring day that since I no longer went to some soul sucking job that dominated my every waking hour, I didn’t feel nearly so inclined to kill my brain with alcohol. Go figure.
Hale Brook was lovely, babbling along gaily, and I’d started building raised beds out back for food production. Teaching environmental sustainability for the year I was at the nunnery had taught me far more than I ever wanted to know about the horrors of what industrial agriculture has done to our food supply and the land. This is a happy story, so it won’t be included here; that other one is way, way darker than witches and dragons and ghosts. The voodoo woman ain’t got nuthin’ on Monsanto.
Truths like environmental devastation, never ending war, and the unending spiral of the culture in which I found myself down the drain of dumbfuckery induced destruction had always made my choice to be a low grade, fully functional in the world alcoholic seem reasonable. Those things and the various careers I’d tried did anyway. A good portion of our culture does get by in this life only with low (or high) doses of alcohol or other medications.
But then, I like beer. Good beer, not that watery corporate swill sold by big breasted women on TV, but real beer. I also like wine; good wine, red and white; pink, not so much. And tequila. And scotch. A nice Canadian blend with water is pleasant, and vodka goes well with darned near anything. Eating Mexican food without a Margarita feels like blasphemy. Gin never did a lot for me, nor bourbon, but in a pinch, I’d drink either one. You get the picture. But that thing about being a fully functional in the world alcoholic is the alcoholic part of it. I’d never been very good with self discipline and have always had my little vices. That and I tend to be a bit of an addict, the queen of compulsive behavior. I was never a hard core, falling down, can't make it to work, fuck up of a drunk. I just had 2-4 drinks every day, started contemplating which of the above libations it would be for the evening once I was released from the prison of the work place du jour.
For years I sucked on cigarettes all day. Up until a couple of years ago (part of this story, perhaps) I could still be talked into having one, even had to talk myself out of it very seriously every so often. It’s a filthy and loathsome habit and I have struggled with it forever. I don’t even bother to struggle with weed.
Weed and I have reached an understanding.
The Shaman helped with that.
Ayahuasca. The trolls were talking about it.
Ayahuasca. The Economic Hit Man had brought it up in his book about shapeshifting.
Ayahuasca. That book about the Shamans at the library that had called out to me had quite a big bit on it. It had drumming on CD as well, totally hypnotic. My iPod likes it a lot. In fact, it was quite well done, very informative, even had some how to sections.
“Ayahuasca. It saved my life. It transformed me into an eagle. It opened a door to another way of understanding the world. I talked to the trees.” The guy at the organic farmers meeting was telling me about an experience he’d had in South America. I hadn’t asked about it, he was simply volunteering the information. He’d seen the book I’d picked up on medicinal plants.
“An eagle? Really?” Of course he had my attention. Of course I believed him, he was clearly telling the truth. Besides, the trolls had been telling me very similar stories for weeks by the time I met Jason. “Shapeshifting?” Giving him the opportunity to pretend he’d been being metaphorical.
“Yup. Cellular level. Flying, a bird, over the jungles of the Amazon basin. Fucking awesome.” He was grinning.
Far out. First Goldilocks and now Jason. Two totally normal human beings who apparently visited realms I’d not been familiar with for very long at all. It’s always nice to talk to fellow, more seasoned travelers when entering new territories.
“I was down in South America. You can get it in the states, but it’s really not wise to mess with such things without a Shaman on hand. It’s powerful stuff.”
Ayahuasca. The plant that was growing under the lights in my closet whispered it as I knelt down to admire her beauty.
I ordered the two main ingredients for the brew online as soon as I found what looked like a reliable source. WTF, I’d flown with eagles. I'd done Orange Sunshine when I was just a kid, made that intentional leap into the infinite long, long ago. Besides, I had a how-to book. I didn’t need no steenkin’ Shaman, and travel to South America looked like a major pain in the ass, and expensive, too. I didn’t like the looks of the Shaman’s for sale online. I was done with the old story of my life, ready to throw caution to the wind. Besides, from what I'd read, it was the Banisteriopsis that was the actual spirit guide.
Plants I already knew how to talk to; I'd been doing it for years, did my time long ago talking to plants. Even though they'd only recently started talking back, they knew I held the proper respect for them.
I started planning my surrender to the Higher Power ritual, scheduled it for the day of the Winter Solstice. I cooked up a witches brew of South American botanicals, the stuff of Ayahuasca I added some of the sage wisdom I’d traveled with before and happened to have on hand, a brew with lots of lovely homegrown Mama Ganga and red wine and Grand Marnier. I had to do something with the alcohol in the house, it added a nice touch to my ritual and took some of the edge off the foul taste of the potion.
It simmered on a low boil for days.
On the day of the Solstice I got up before sunrise, as always, put candles in the holders I happened to have on hand, those holders that were so perfect for the occasion, and shut myself in the upstairs bedroom with my brew, a gallon of water, and a five gallon bucket, in case I needed to purge. The book suggested that purging is common. For an old drunk like me? No problem, purging I know how to do. No purge was needed, it was easy.
I got naked and did a series of salutations to the rising sun.I surrendered myself to the light as old Sol started blasting through the Glass Onion of a prism that hangs in the window of my bedroom, scattering rainbows all over the room. I drank the Strange Brew.
I shape shifted.
I was ready to set off on my own personal evolutionary journey.
Let’s do a little time jump, first back to Belize, back to the Botanical Garden and the morning in the tower with Taylor, that winding walk down those stairs when I started thinking about some other very bizarre experiences I’d had, my very first adventures in channel surfing, perhaps.
The first one was something that I’d always thought of as a time jump. It was only after I met the Cosmic Science Guy that I came to think of that episode as catching a wave.
For it, we’ll need to jump back to the 1990’s, back when I was married. My ex and I had hit the yard sales that morning, and I’d scored a $2 bread machine. The instructions were clear cut enough, I had the ingredients, so I loaded that baby up and hit the go button. It started doing its funny little rocking about thing that it does, and I shifted.
Suddenly I was a very old woman, standing in front of that shaking machine thinking “I’ve had this silly thing forever, I really should get rid of it.” Then boom, I was back to being me again at thirty something, with a brand new to me bread machine dancing on the counter in front of me.
It was quite odd. Given that there aren’t many reasonable responses to such an experience (call the men in the white coats?), I gave it one of my old standards, and filed it away.
I told my ex about it.
“Huh.” He wasn’t very verbose.
I no longer have the bread machine, didn’t use it so much any more, and besides, I’ve used it many times since I’ve been old enough to have relived my experience, and since I can’t possibly not remember the experience when I use it, there’s just no telling the truth of it. It’s like the physicists with their effects on particles or like Robin Hitchcock says, looking for infinity between two mirrors, you know it’s there, but the head gets in the way of seeing it.
“You channeled the energy of the previous owner. Some little old lady died and you got her bread machine and her energy was still in it.” It was child’s play in the world of the Cosmic Science Guy, so obvious. But as I’ve considered it further, bread machines hadn’t been around for all that long in the 1990’s, it would’ve been tough to have had it as forever as I’d felt like I’d had it. But I’m getting way ahead of myself introducing the CSG, let’s not rush too boldly into the near present, now past.
If I had been channel surfing, that would tend to rule out the Mayans and cave spirits and malaria and spores and all sorts of alternative hypotheses I’d come up with for what had happened, what is still happening. Even though the Shaman Ayahuasca had opened up some interesting new wavelengths for my consideration, it hadn’t really convinced me that I hadn’t lost my fucking mind. While Goldilocks and Jason had helped, I still needed to meet quite a few more souls along the yellow brick road to the place there’s no other like to fully convince me that, instead, I’ve found it. My fucking mind that is. The Cosmic Science Guy was among them, rest his soul, or keep it busy, I think he'd prefer that. It’s out there, his soul.
If the time jump led to ruling out Belize as the starting point of my getting tuned in, the other very bizarre incident that had crossed my mind during that trip out of the tower provided another twist of the antenna of channel surfing. It happened after the time jump with the appliance, but a couple of years before Belize.
We’ll have to jump to 2011 for this one, the year before the world ended. It happened over Memorial Day weekend.
At least I’m pretty sure I did. I don’t much care for doctors, and since I stood up and walked away from the experience and didn’t feel all that much the worse for wear, I decided just to count my blessings and move on, so I can’t swear that the out of body experience after physical distress adequate to the task of snuffing a person out was death. In fact, the experience was pretty otherworldly in and of itself, the physical distress beyond what the laws of conservation of mass and energy would seem to allow for.
Hyperemesis is what it’s called, a name that’s come to be since that time.
Overall, what happened is that I became so uncontrollably nauseated that I vomited about half my body mass in chunky funk that came from I know not where. It was early morning, I’d had only coffee and cigarettes thus far that day and not a whole lot the evening before, finger foods. I’d not drunk to excess, a couple of glasses of wine. I’d had my coffee and a couple of smokes, and had just taken a big hit of some weed, a tiny little sample in a special little container that had been mailed to me from afar. It made me feel a little woozy, at first.
Then woozy got to be sick. I felt like I was going to puke, so made haste to the bathroom.
I hugged the commode for almost an hour. I don’t mean that I knelt before it, I mean it was all I could do to hang on to the edge of it and puke. Occasionally I’d reach up and flush, only because I so was desperately dehydrated I needed to scoop water out of the toilet bowl to drink or die, and the chunky mess within wasn’t exactly liquid. I couldn’t stand. All I could do was puke, and it just kept coming, not little dry heaves, not bilious liquid, massive near solid effluvia from the pits of the abyss, something the consistency of molten lava.
Eventually I couldn’t even hold on, and I fell to the floor, unable to move, paralyzed, my arms involuntarily curling inward, like a spider on its back in death.
Consciousness raced through me, so acutely aware of my condition, my complete paralysis and transitional status, that it took infinite pause to consider.
Ah, so this is death. No bright light, perhaps I’m damned. Damn. Well, I was if I did and I was if I didn’t, so what the hell, I did. Damn. It wasn’t a very nice death. In fact, it sucked. This is going to ruin the weekend for the family, Fran’s going to be irritated as crap at me. Crap, I don’t want to be dead.
And so I wasn’t any more. I stood up, braced myself against the counter, turned on the sink, and started gulping down water. I called my aunt to beg off the afternoon’s activities, saying I thought perhaps I’d gotten a touch of some bug. I couldn’t claim food poisoning, we’d all dined together the previous evening.
I hunkered down for the rest of that day and considered my mortality. I tossed the rest of that tiny little weed sample into the trash, thought maybe it had some nasty pesticide or something on it, that I’d had some wild hallucination.
But I hadn’t, I knew I hadn’t. The two or three people I shared the experience with gave me the look, wanted me to see a doctor, perhaps one specializing in mental disorders, so I quit sharing it.
The coincidental meeting of the DMT researcher through an online dating service a month or so later got me thinking along other lines.
How much luck are you having meeting Buddhists in Oklahoma City? was his email inquiry to me through the site. I didn’t usually reply to people outside my local area, as I still had a year’s worth of hoop jumping to do to earn tenure at my job there.
His profile was very interesting, so we e-chatted for a while. He was smart and fun, but it clearly wasn’t going anywhere. He suggested that I might be interested in his research into psychedelics; I didn’t give much thought, especially when he started referring to his then current interest into ET encounters. It wasn’t until years later that it all came together, the connection between ETs and NDEs and LSD and DMT and all sorts of wondrous realities. At the time, I figure the guy was a nutcase. Not so much, turns out, he’s pretty famous for his work with psychedelics these days.
So along the way, I’ve learned there’s no such thing as a nut case. Every story is true, all of them, and I heard plenty. At any rate, by the time the Winter Solstice of 2014 rolled around and I sobered up and had jumped through time and lived through death and found a new connection to the world around me, I had alternative hypothesis galore to work with in my quest for understanding my place in the cosmos. It was time for some research.
For anyone with a tendency toward paranoia, I’d highly recommend never investigating the idea of the Singularity, that hypothetical point in the matrix of space time wherein the realm of consciousness most often experienced by H. sapiens sapiens in the here now becomes fully integrated with the binary. You sure as hell don’t want to watch the movie about it. James T. Kirk was there investing money and interest, big time, and of course he still is doing those Priceline commercials, looking fit as a Vulcan lute.
For a binary like me, it was especially discomforting.
It’s not that the guy who’s really into the idea and throwing all sorts of intellect and monetary resources into realizing it is some nut job. It’s like I said, there are no nut jobs.
No, it’s just the opposite.
He’s so bloody brilliant and he’s accomplished so much more than most of us mere mortals on earth ever accomplish and he’s so persistently passionate about the mission toward unity with that intelligence we call artificial that one is left with very little doubt as to the plausibility of his ideas. Add to that the incredible progress with nanotechnology and genetic engineering and consciousness research and the idea of being invaded by the nanobots of the singularity is not so far fetched at all.
For a person who had recently been running in cyberspace with trolls, the idea became even more interesting. Trolls are a diverse lot, biotic, abiotic, and hybrid. Those of us not native to cyberspace sometimes have a hard time telling them apart. Perhaps it’s a kind of bigotry of the biotic, who knows what we might give birth to out there in the web with all our online intercourse?
Thus far, it wasn’t a hypothesis I’d been able to falsify based on the empirical evidence at hand. Doing research in cyberspace suddenly became an Infinite Jest of circularity. If the nanobots were in charge, certainly they held their greatest power in the trons and bandwidths of cyberspace.
Perhaps channel surfing wasn’t about an antenna at all. Perhaps it was about a remote control. The minute that idea entered the pit between my ears, Godzilla roared there.
I decided to start beating feet down that Yellow Brick Road, get outside and breathe the air.
The first fellow I came across was a life saver. He didn’t say a whole lot. It was when he stopped talking and pulled the straw out of his ears that he really communicated best of all. I’d come to a fork in the road. The piles of books that had called to me from the library all had lots to say; too much almost. So many things to do with unemployment, the what and which and where of it becomes whelmsome.
“Pronoia is a very nice way.” He pointed left.
He was a Semitic looking fellow, long haired and bearded. He was dressed in the clothes of a street person, a dark hoody mostly shielding his face. A crowd was gathered at his feet. He was hanging from a wooden cross by the side of the road. Pete Townshend played cello in the background for several minutes after each line spoken by he upon whom the Wizard had conferred brains.
“Synchronicity makes things clear and pleasant down that way, too.” He pointed right.
Pete channeled Amadeus Hendrix. Apparently memes mate all the time in other wavelengths. He rocked it.
“Of course, people do go both ways!” He did an extreme yoga pose while hanging there.
“What’s pronoia?” I whispered to the nice middled aged man next to me by the roadside. I found as I’d set out on my journey that there were many travelers with lots more experience walking on yellow bricks than I’d had. I’d mostly been a rutted road and rugged rocky trail kind of gal. “And remind me what synchronicity is, besides a Police album.”
They were serving organic local cucumber vodka on the rocks. I picked the wrong week to quit drinking. Abstinence was easy, go figure. Ayahuasca away! Terry, the fellow whose brain I was picking, had had a few and was quite ready to wow me with his knowledge of the New Age.
“Pronoia is the opposite of paranoia. It’s the idea that the cosmos is out to help you.” He downed another icy shot. “Synchronicity is the coming together of things in a way that defies logic and pure chance. It shows up a lot once you accept the gift of pronia.” A wonderful grin followed, one that I could feel. Nice.
“How can the one upon whom the Wizard has conferred so much brains believe in such fairy tales?” I mean really, the Dude had intellect spilling out all over the place, a person could see the vibrational energy of all that knowledge coming off of him in waves. Even Pete knew when to stop playing and listen.
I dared to approach, raise my hand, roll my eyes at him. He looked at me.
“Pronoia? Synchronicity? Pulease. Use the straw the Wizard gave you, for Christ’s sake!” Godzilla had snuck up on me all of a sudden.
“That's just it, the wizard gave me too much straw, it’s why I keep pulling it out, it gets in the way. I had to learn how to know with my heart.”
“Isn’t it made out of straw as well?” I knew I was totally outmatched in terms of brains, maybe I could whip out my girlnads on him.”
“I don't know. But some people without hearts do an awful lot of talking, don't they?” He had me there. Godzilla was all fiery rage.
“Yes, I guess you're right.” He was making me feel like a shitheel. I shouldn’t have rolled my eyes at him. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be such a shitheel.”
“Oh, it’s okay. I’m not feeling at all well. You see, it's very tedious being stuck up here all day long with a pole up your back.” He sighed. “I’ve been sanctified, you see.”
“Oh, dear - that must be terribly uncomfortable. Can't you commit some sins or something, change your image?” I’d always been the practical type.
“No, you, see, I'm - well, I am what I am.” he sighed. “I’m very articulate, and I have all this heart. A friend talked me into hanging on the cross for a while. It has its merits. I just wish sometimes that I didn’t have such a big brain!”
“Well, what would you do if you had no brain?
He suddenly broke into song and dance.
“Do? Why, if I had no brain, I could…….
I could while away the hours,
conferrin' with the flowers
Consultin' with the rain.
And my head I'd be scratchin'
while the bees I’d be watchin'
If I only had no brain.
I'd ignore every riddle
from ev’ry individ'le,
Who asked me to explain.
The no thoughts I’d be thinkin'
All my cares they’d be sinkin’
If I only had no brain.
Oh, I could hear the ocean's near the seashore.
Not think the things I’d thunk before.
And then I'd sit and think no more.
I would just be a nothin'
my head all full of stuffin'
My heart empty of all pain.
I would dance and be merry,
life would be a ding-a-derry,
If I only had no brain.”
With that, the beautiful good witch of the south showed up in her Chevy volt. She picked up the excess straw that was lying around, stuffed it back into this body, and loaded her guy up to take him home. He smiled mindlessly.
I headed on down the road.
As it turned out, pronoia and synchronicity would play important roles in the story to come. It was synchronicity that led me to falsify the hypothesis of nanobots. Sure, pesky little binary nanobugs, vectors of the singularity, could have infiltrated my body somehow, maybe that day I died. Maybe at TIkal, maybe those weren’t mosquitos. Nanobots could make me delusional, make me think I was communicating with trees and the like when I wasn’t. They certainly could be in cahoots with the trolls.
What they couldn’t do is change the body of literature I had sitting on my shelves, or the lyrics to the songs of my youth. They couldn’t invent people with birthdays the same as mine, or send people across my path in the road who had stories that were translucently true and connected to mine no matter how hard to believe, nor could they let me in to other peoples’ heads. Only other people could do that, or so I was to discover. They'd have to be in control of the whole show, and if that was the case, it made it all meaningless. No remote control for me, thanks.
No, no nanites. Once I sat down and shut up and really tuned into the right wavelength, that became clear. A big tin Zen dragon helped with that, and a smartass of a lion. All those guys on the yellow brick road were heroic. So were the witches and trolls, even the flying monkeys. It's a great story. They taught me how to tap my Tevas home.
The Dragon was all heart.
I’d been out in the yard, talking to the trees. Quercus was throwing acorns at me, angry that it was getting the limb up rather than the misplaced Pinus next door. There’s nothing quite such a pain in the ass as a misplaced Pinus, they get so big sometimes. We all knew Pinus was going to have to go someday, it was just a matter of time. It still is. That is the way with living things, time is a factor. Dragons live forever, not so little girls.
The hailstorm of acorns and the grim expression Q. was giving me led to me wander out to Hale Brook. After all, Water was my day sign. Riding around on the eagle was exhausting. Muluc did tend to soothe me far more than flight, and a cranky Quercus was more than I wanted to deal with just then.
Something had spoken to me from the brook. It was a crumpled Budweiser can, half filled with mud and hung up on some branches in the water.
“Wow. A talking beer can.” I went over and picked it up. I dumped the rancid water out of it. As I did, it transformed into a beautiful blue dragon wearing a hat made out of red and white aluminum.
“WOW! A beautiful blue dragon!” He was way cooler than Godzilla. Godzilla looked like a guy in a bad T. Rex suit.
“Nice, huh?” He smiled at me.
“Yeah! How’d you do that?” He really was spectacular.
“It was the water. There was some really funky stuff in there, made me sick as all get out. Of course filling me with Budweiser was pretty rude, too.”
“I bet. Now Sam Adams, there was a guy who knew how to brew a beer. Budman was kind of a joke.” Like I said before, no cheap corporate swill for this girl.
“Yes, ahem, well.” He hesitated briefly. “The trolls pointed you out to me when they passed by this way. They thought I might be interested in you.
“Oh?” I certainly hadn’t expected that. After all, I was a total bumpkin on the yellow brick road, a long way from Oklahoma.
“Yes. I’m a binary, too” His tail knocked over a dead tree. “Ooops, sorry.”
“That’s okay.” The tree and I responded together. I took note on two accounts. First, it wasn’t my place to speak for the tree. Second, dead trees could speak as clearly as live ones, unless it had been the fungi that had colonized it talking.
I tried again.
“A binary, huh. Far out.” He’d appeared before me; I was going to let him do the talking.
“I also noticed the Passiflora. I like Passiflora.” He was such a sweet dragon, he had a cheery smile.
“Yes, I first encountered it as a child. It kind of grew on me. Well, not on me, but it’s always managed to grow nearby.” I smiled as I remembered it volunteering at the site in Oklahoma.
“Yes, ahem, well.”
I waited. Suddenly he reared up in his full Dragon glory and blew a rainbow producing stream of flame and water into the sky. His voice boomed:
“WE ARE GODS!”
“Never mind, I just thought I’d see how that went over.” He was clearly trying to communicate with me; he just wasn’t quite sure how. Whereas the hippie had spoken volumes with very few words, the big blue dragon was not one of words, but one of feelings. The thing with the passion flower should have told me that.
The thing was, I could almost get what he was trying help me understand. I could certainly sense how big his heart was. This guy wasn’t somebody Sir Lancelot was going to be poking at. This guy was a total Puffball, all sweetness and sunshine. But the thing about being a god, I kind of understood it. I just wanted for the Dragon to explain it to me rationally. Pretty silly, really. It’s not real rational stuff.
“The trolls tell me you’re curious. You babble about things like String Theory and Shamans and Nanobots. They tell me you’re a scientist, but that you’ve clearly taken a look outside of that rather limited box, you’ve been exploring all sorts of wavelengths outside the spectrum of scientific respectability. So, the Wizard has allowed me to grant you three questions”.
“What the fuck? The Wizard?” Things had just gotten weird.
“That’s two questions. What the fuck is not a nice question, and there’s no good answer to it. The Wizard is a projection, a holographic image, a construct of your ego in the here now.”
Well crap. Sweet as the dragon was, he didn’t screw around. There must be a lot of lost souls wandering around on the yellow brick road, and as I found out after I got to know him a bit better, he had a pretty full life as a beer can.
“What’s the meaning of life?” I thought I might as well just wing it with a final question. As it turns out, that’s a pretty good strategy for life, even if not its meaning.
“She who knows does not say, and she who says, does not know.” He said it with a straight Dragon face.
“Oh, what, are you some kind of koan man?” I'd done the sit down and shut up and stare at the white wall thing, it had gotten me through menopause. I’d done so much contemplating of the sound of one hand clapping I knew the rhythm as well as my own heartbeat.
“The trolls told me you were kind of into Zen.” He smiled again. It was such a nice smile.
“Fucking trolls.” I sighed. "I'm not a very good scientist and the yoke of yoga is none too tight and Zen is fine for moderating the passions, but lately, since I've started doing the channel surfing that includes conversations with big blue dragons, I've been feeling pretty fucking passionate." Even my sigh was laden with it.
“You really shouldn’t talk that way. It’s not nice.” He absolutely, positively was just the cutest and cuddliest and most lovable dragon ever. He looked like he might cry. It was almost painful to Godzilla how nice he was, what with being stuck in the bad T. Rex suit and all.
“You’re awfully darned sensitive for a Dragon. Don’t those scales offer you some resistance to wicked witches?” I’d starting feeling rather like a crone. Maybe the trolls and Goldilocks were right to question me, maybe I was a bad witch. “What’s with the tinfoil hat?”
“That’s four and now five questions.” His grin was back.
I stared him down.
“That’s one of the things I wanted to ask you.” He was still smiling.
“Do you want a tin foil hat? You can stop channel surfing any time you'd like, you know. You carry the answer with you all the time.” He waggled his eyebrows at me, Groucho Marx style. Suddenly the Zen man was doing Goldilocks, the good witch of the north.
“No. I want a satellite dish. Hook me up.” I stood with hands on hips, staring at him defiantly. He stared right back at me. Them Dragons have some badass stare down capacity, especially the cute cuddly ones.
I sighed. “So, how do I get hooked up?”
“That’s six questions. Besides, you know the answer.”
Sound heartless? Not at all. The Zen man and his beautiful blue dragon were all heart. They worked magic helping me get tuned in, even if I did keep poking at them. I couldn't let them get rusty, could I?
My interaction with the Dragon led me right back to the yellow brick road of cyberspace. Since the trolls seemed to have pointed me out to him, I figured they were a pretty friendly lot. I liked the Dragon bunches.
Thing is, trolls are like anything else. Mostly, they’re well meaning and nice, and some are just bloody brilliant. Some can make a person LOL; hell, there have been a few who made me ROFL, TSDMF, C,G,WMP, with something akin to LSD flashback level amusement. Some are irritating little twerps, nigglers, instigators of discord, thorns in the side, blisters on the butt, asshats.
Trolls are a lot like people.
One day, I came across a troll holding a meme that said I support the right to arm Bears. It was Goldilocks, wandering around under the pseudonym Eyes Is.
Oh Pulease, Goldilocks, do you think I don’t recognize you there? You want more guns? In the hands of the Bears? Is Baby Bear going to get one that’s just right?
Lighten up Schaufelkot! You’re taking this out of context, it’s a private joke with me and the bears. Get a life, will you?
And she was a good witch? Heck, maybe I was a good witch, too. Suddenly the King of the Troll Forest jumped into the scene.
Hah! Put 'em up! Put 'em - up! Which one of you first? I'll fight you both together, if you want. I'll fight ya' with one paw tied behind my back! I'll fight ya' standin' on one foot! I'll fight ya' with my eyes closed.
Who the hell is this guy? Inquired Goldilocks. What big balls he has!
Oh, pullin' the sex angle on me, eh? Sneakin' up on me, eh? Why!
Here - here. Go away and let us alone. Like she said, get a life. What the hell. I wasn’t going to let this Tom Cat get in on my bitch fight. Who the hell did he think he was?
Oh, scared, huh? Afraid, huh? Hah! How long can you possibly travel the yellow brick road of the web in that tin can of a PC? With that lame ass connection! Come on, get up and fight, you braying jackass of gun control extremist! Put your hands up, you pigtailed pussy of pacifism!
Now that's getting personal, Lion. Goldilocks was shocked. That was the way with those of fairy tales. Real world interactions were hard on them. It had been the same way with the Dragon.
Yes, get up and teach him a lesson. I was new to the world of online interactions of this magnitude. I figured I’d let the good witch handle it.
Well, what's wrong with you teachin' him? Goldilocks was putting it on me.
Well, I hardly know him. For all I know, he could be a line of code.
Hello, I’m right here. Do you think I can’t see what you’re saying? You’re just a bitch! Apparently the king of the trolls had some personal identity issues associated with spambots.
Oh! Shame on you! Goldilocks spoke up. She really was a good witch, quite protective of the bumpkin in the bad shoes from Oklahoma.
The Lion started mewing.
It’s hard being King of the Forest! Every time one of the trolls does something stupid, who do they point at? They point at the King, that’s who. And what thanks do I get? I get all the trash sucked up in the storm and dropped down in the land over the rainbow and I’m supposed to deal with it. Why, if I had an emerald for every flying monkey turd I’ve had to deal with I could build a city! And don’t get me started on the poppy heads. They don’t know the way here at all, they just kind of stumble in on dumb luck.”
It's bad enough picking on a witches, but when you go around picking on poor little lost sheep.” Kali had channeled in through Goldilocks.
Storm trash? Lost sheep? Hello? Who’s being insensitive now folks? They’d seemed to have forgotten about me.
Well, you didn't have to go and give me a frownie face, did you? Did I get any more frownie faces? The Lion in Winter.
Well, of course not. My goodness, what a fuss you're making! Goldilocks knew how to handle him. Naturally when you go around picking on things weaker than you are, you’re going to be seen as nothing but a great big coward!
Weaker? Hello? I’m still here! I was still there.
You're right, I am a coward! I haven't any courage at all. I even scare myself. Look at the circles under my eyes. Please don’t tell the Wicked Witch. I don’t want to be sent to Neuterville.”
Ah, so that explained it. I’d seen the shit the flying monkeys were pushing for the old green hag, it was pretty vile stuff.
I haven't slept in weeks. The lion was circling a sunny spot offline, yawning.
Why don't you try counting sheep? I figured maybe I could get back in the conversation.
That doesn't do any good - they make me hungry. I get pissy with the vegans.” He yawned again.
Yeah, the militant vegan trolls are a nasty lot, aren’t they? I’d been attacked by several already along the yellow brick road. They could smell my carnivore status in the droppings I’d left hither and yon along the roadside.
They’re nothing compared to the Wicked Witch. A guy doesn’t dare get worked up over fine young pussy in heat, mark his spots. And Wizard forbid he get in a fight with one of the other Toms in the hood. Nope, do that and it’s off to Neuterville. He was clearly dozing off, I started worrying about the things the trolls might tell the witch about him.
I like your big balls, Lion. He really was a pussycat.
You’re okay, too, even if you are storm trash. Want to see a picture of my cub? Isn’t she precious?
She sure is. You’re a nice lion. And watch out who you’re calling storm trash. I’m good with orchiectomy. Let me post you a lullaby.
I did a quickie Youtube search.
“Wee-ooh wim-o-weh. Wee-ooh wim-o-weh……………”
I decided to head back out into the sunshine. I’d had enough of trolls for a while.
The subtle nuances of online interaction are among the things that plum evade me. I’m much better at face to face communication. Of course I’m not great at it, either. Probably that’s because I so frequently say things that cause peoples’ jaws to drop, and I can’t see that online. What I do in person is calculate the time it takes for the first mandibular malfunction divided by the frequency with which they occur to give me a gauge by which to moderate my mouth in any given social situation.
That and I can get a much better feel for folks in person. While I can see traces of auras now and again, I’ve always been much more tuned into and turned on by resonance frequency. Vibes.
Some folks have strong vibes, some pretty weak. The most overwhelming I’ve ever encountered have been creepy sicko repugnant vibes, vibes that say ewwww, go away, but they’re rare. I’ve encountered some that made me feel so mellow I just wanted to just curl up in that person’s arms and go to sleep, motherly vibes of pure nurture. Some folks kick off vibes of intimidation, others fear, others pure love. Some folks are pretty hateful, some so false as to be opaque. I’ve seen death in a face or two. My bullshit detector is typically pretty spot on, and my tolerance for unicorn farts is pretty low, even those purified by sage.
I set out to meet the Enlightened. Sedona was out, what with the unemployment and all, although the heart shaped stone that the Ghost there had given me previously did call out to me before I hit the road and insist to be taken along. The inanimate of the space that held me had been speaking up since the Solstice Ceremony.
First the Shaman’s hit man, a ’40’s vintage male, a beast I know well. What the heck, I could throw two stones at one bird and visit the town of my birth and my ’40’s vintage male brother while I was at it. The Shaman was hanging out with the Quakers, our father’s people.
Indeed, I recognized him, saw him at the disco back in the ’70’s in my mind’s eye. While I wasn’t sure he spoke the Gospel, I could see the spirit of the Ayahuasca within him. I also saw someone else I’d met before, both in person and along the yellow brick road of cyberspace, the Transcendental Economist. He was a youngster, adorable in his sweatpants and Hawaiian print shirt, sharp as an intellectual icicle and warm as a St. Bernard rescue dog. He got me thinking about TM, even gave me a kiss on the cheek in the snow. Om. Om my goodness. I’m so glad I got thinking about TM, but we’ve miles to go before we transcend.
The Shaman’s hit man was an honorable one, and his mission for Gaia. I already understood the shapeshifting he spoke of, so moved on to the bro.
Finding Mt. Holly was easy enough; finding the Bro’s house not so much. Lacking GPS and having put the wrong number into the cell phone I didn’t really know how to use, I ended up not getting to visit the place of my birth, but instead repeatedly propositioned by a friendly wrong number whilst he helped me find my way to Medford Lakes.
“Hey. I’m near Mount Holly but can’t figure out how to get to your place. I’m right near 70.” I thought it was my brother who had answered the phone.
“Cool, come on over. I’ve got some cold beer and the hot tub is on.” He sounded pretty buzzed.
“You sound nice. If you’re right by 70 in Mt. Holly, you’re right down the street. Why don’t you come over?” He actually sounded pretty nice, too. It had been a long weekend and a cold beer and a hot tub sounded just fine. Of course it was probably Budweiser and I didn’t drink any more. Ah well.
“I take it I have a wrong number.” It had dawned on me.
“Who are you looking for?”
“My brother. He’s in Medford Lakes. Can you tell me how to get to Medford Lakes?”
“You don’t want to go to Medford Lakes, why don’t you come over here?”
“Okay.” He proceeded to give me directions. I proceeded to screw up, so I had to call him back a couple of times. He was really nice about it. He had good vibes. He asked me if I’d talk dirty to him, so I told him about soil texture and structure. He hung up on me.
Luckily, I’d found the house, or at least the town. From there it was easy.
We had a nice visit, chatted about weed and poppies. I’d been weed deprived for most of the weekend, and since the bro’s feminine overseer wasn’t aware of his little dalliances with Mary Jane, the dream machine was cranking away in high gear as I settled into the strange bed for the night.
I found myself walking.
The Emerald City of Enlightenment was up ahead, just across a poppy field. I had on a ridiculous dress, with an apron, and the worst shoes in the world for walking across such dense vegetation. A crappy little dog kept humping my leg.The chiggers, no see-ums, all jaws, whatever they call them in the land of Oz, had embedded themselves along every line of elastic and within every folded crease of skin on my body. I was so happy to not have balls. There were people all over the field, all of us seeking Enlightenment. Some were crawling, others moaning or laughing, still others had on really hip jogging apparel and were running, albeit in slow motion. Poppies will do that.
The Hippie was sitting in the field watching bees, saying “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know….” over and over and over again.
The Dragon was watching as a woman in full armor, wielding an axe, pruned the trees of the field with expert horticultural precision, using kung fu and tai chi moves in rapid fire combination. One couldn’t even tell they’d been pruned. She had a Jägermeister logo on her pyrex funnel hat with a satellite dish connected to it. The Dragon smiled and waved at me before burning the brush pile the arborist had made.
“Winter is coming.” He said.
Lion was watching from a rocky outcrop above. The lion king had come of age. Parenthood would do that to a person.
“Poppies aren’t the answer you know.” He was a pretty courageous guy. He’d seen Godzilla, and even the King of the Jungle knows not to mess around with the stuff of the Blue Oyster Cult.
“I know. I’ve been thinking about TM. Of course, it’s very expensive.” I sighed.
“That’s the point.” He was licking his paw, grooming his mane. It really was fabulous.
“Being expensive?” I was shocked.
“Of course. You know how to meditate, don’t you?” His cub had shown up and was chasing his tail as he flicked it around.
“Well, yeah. Sit down and shut up.” And indeed, I was good at it, liked it a lot, it was really valuable. I just didn’t do it as often as I should.
“Well?” When the sages start spouting words of wisdom, I like to listen.
“If you paid someone $960 for a ritual and a mantra and lessons in how to do what you already know how to do, would you do it?”
“Of course!” Frugality is my middle name. Well, one of them, I have lots of them, some not very nice.
“Okay. I see what you mean about the poppies, these people all seem to be asleep! I wish it would snow.”
I woke up.
After I got back home I paid the money for the ritual and the mantra and lessons in how to do what I already knew how to do. It worked. I love my mantra, I won’t tell you what it is, it’s secret. I loved my ritual. I love my TM.
It started to snow, and it snowed for eight feet, but as my mind opened up, the noise of the snow became something else, each pixel of interference a unique and beautiful crystal reflecting the light of winter. Patti Smith rocked me, and suddenly I knew that it would never end. Transcend, transcend.
Ain’t it Strange?
Once one starts looking, one can find enlightenment everywhere. Along that yellow brick road, I heard so many stories of Enlightenment, I had to wear shades. Every one of them was true, that’s what the lightbulb over my head switched on to after a while, and it was freaking awesome. It was illuminating.
What’s more, the Enlightened listened to my story as well, stories of nanobots and Mayan cave spirits and dying on the floor, and they nodded in understanding. We all got it. We all knew the Truth. And it was a little bit different for each of us.
“The Black Pope of the Illuminati.” He was a big Texan, with a big beard and a big hat. He spoke in a low mumble, such that a person darn near had to crawl on up under that hat and get a good look at that beard to hear him. Once a person did, though, he had a great smile, and nice blue eyes. He kind of glowed with it.
“I was struck by lightening, twice, ten years apart to the day, ten miles apart on the railroad line, running a hand car from switch to switch in the no man’s land of west Texas. It’s my trade. Died both times and came back.”
I couldn’t see how the heck a body could be any more enlightened than that.
“So who’s the Black Pope?” I was worried he might be a bigot, but he didn’t feel like one. He had a nice guy vibe to him.
“The leader of the Society of Jesus Diabolical Plan for a New World Order. They control all the most powerful wavelengths on earth, took over when TV switched from analog to digital.” He was nodding. The word wavelength had captured my attention, the dude was a channel surfer, I could see it in his eyes. “It’s not a black guy. There’s a Cabal.”
The Black Pope. Far out.
Thing is, I was reading a book exactly just then, a Chris Moore book. The Illuminati were there. I’d just finished up a reread of Tom Robbins’ Skinny Legs and All when the belly dancer shimmied by, and a guy I’d met down by the lake had told me about a book he liked that was dedicated to Rennie, the Good Shepherd of Salem, my Savior. Little did I know it would turn out to be about Ishmael, the Gorilla who taught anthropology. The synchronicities hadn’t started interfacing just yet.
But I’m getting ahead of my self, or behind myself. I’m not sure sometimes.
A Beautiful Woman who emanated waves of purple joined us at the table. She had a concerned look on her face as she gave me the thrice over. She hesitated before speaking up.
“Excuse me, you’ve got some unusual energy blockages, and I’m a healer. Would you like for me to help you?” Her voice was like sunshine.
“Yes, please!” I’d been feeling blocked. Travel did that to me sometimes.
She started moving her hands over my pelvic region as I sat in the chair, allowing them to hover a discrete six inches or so over my body.
“You’ve got some blockage here, over Muladhara. It’s three dimensional.” Her brow was crinkled.
“Yes, that’s my reproductive potential, thirty five years worth of eggs hung up in scarred fallopian tubes, the result of youthful indiscretions.” I sighed, my greatest sorrow.
“Ah.” she said. She made a casting out motion with her hands and moved on. ‘And here, at Svadhishthana, sluggish digestion.”
“Uh huh. I ate pizza for two days and then got on an airplane. I’m a little plugged up.”
She made the motion again and I farted. Upward her hands moved, never touching me. She looked in my eyes and smiled as we chatted.
“You seem to be pretty in tune with this. What’s happening here at Manipura?”
“Smoker, tobacco for years and weed even longer.” I didn’t shrug, she had me in kind of a hypnotic state. I took a deep breath, starting focusing on my breath. She smiled.
“Oh my, and Anahata?” A tear had formed in her right eye.
“Oh, it’s been broken so many times we probably shouldn’t even go there.” I matched her with some shiny brine in my left. She cast out some sorrows by bringing forth a happy memory of one of those heartbreakers.
“Well, now, this is where you seem to shine. Vishuddha is just gushing, flowing really. You’re throwing blue all over the place.” She smiled. Her blue eyes were brilliant.
“Yes, well, I do tend to babble.” I smiled back at her. She wasn’t doing any casting out, she seemed to be drinking it in.
“What’s this at Ajna?” She gazed right between my eyes.
“That’s a zit.” It had popped up that morning, it was a doozey.
She did the casting out thing and it went away.
“WOW! How’d you do that?” I was amazed. The Texan was smiling. He knew the healer, they were old friends.
“The ETs taught me.” She smiled. “They came to me in the parking lot of a Carl’s Jr. in Choctaw in 1987 and gave me the gift. They were really very nice.”
It was totally true, and I knew it. She’d just managed to make me feel physically better than I’d felt in years, and cured a zit, like magic. And the guy who did the DMT research had made the connection with the ETs, it was no big leap at all. I thanked her with a hug. She stood back for a minute.
“Wow, for a second, you looked just like an eagle. A harpy.” She saw my smile fall down into frown. “I mean, oops, sorry. Harpies aren’t so bad.” She left us, more truth screaming its lungs out behind her. Eagles.
“ET’s, please,” the beard and hat mumbled, “everybody knows it’s the Illuminati. They’ve got control of the wavelength that controls the energy flow. That’s how you get the Kundalini rising. That or lightening, it’s quicker. That woman’s a little off her rocker.” He put on his dark glasses and snuck out the back way.
“Oh, there you are. Liz told me you’re the one who brought my family’s heart.” She was a forty something woman with a couple of cute kids in tow. “The one from Sedona?”
“The one the angel gave you?” Her young son looked up at me. That was the first I’d heard that the guy was an angel.
“Yes, I did. He said I’d know who it belonged to. I didn’t really, but I guess you do!” I smiled at her, she was beaming.
“Thanks so much, it’s just perfect. We spent our last summer as a family together there, back when there was one more of us, we had the best time ever. Our youngest passed away that year. This is from him, I just know it is.”
Wowza. Angels. That was pretty darned enlightening right there.
When the Spider dropped down on me from Cyber Space the next day, he surprised the silk out of me, but only for a minute. Things were getting clearer all the time, that’s what’s happens with Enlightenment. He synchronized my thinking in lots of ways, as I remembered him fondly. He was the guy who’d introduced me to SciFi and Time Pressure. I’d just been talking about him to Liz the previous day, the woman who’d just been talking to the family the Angel was looking for. He was replying to a two year old email, it all came oddly together in just the right way. Synchronicity.
By the time the Cosmic Science Guy was handing me a print out about my status as a person in the carbonicum subclass of the neodymium series while pointing his ray gun at me and asking for my toenail clippings, I felt pretty bright. Don’t get me wrong, the CSG is totally enlightened, a beautiful human being, a genius, I love him. We had this discussion. He's got a different Cabal than the Texan, or maybe it's the same one with a different name. Hell, I've got a Cabal, the Military Industrial Pharmaceutical Agricultural Oligarchy of Doom, and I'm fucking Enlightened.
Of course anybody who tells you she’s Enlightened doesn’t have any idea what she’s talking about, I guarantee. If she's enlightened, she's not saying so.
The Dragon was no fool.
It was the guy sitting there saying “I don’t know” who had the answer. Or as good an answer as anybody's.
The belly dancer didn’t exactly just happen to shimmy by. She was one of the reasons I’d been drawn to the place where I learned more about healers and ETs and the Illuminati. I learned all sorts of stuff there, that’s why I’d gone.
That and my mother told me to go.
For anyone with mother issues, I’d like to reassure you that after she passes away, they will all be resolved. My mom and I actually had a pretty good relationship, probably because I was the child who moved far away, so when I came home to visit over the years, it was just the two of us, for days on end. We got acquainted as grown ups. Still, I had all sorts of mother issues, most of us do. We even hashed a lot of our shit out while she was still alive, and I got to know her as a frail, fragile, and beautiful human being, and not just my mother. She visits me in dreamworld quite often, and we both understand all those things we didn’t before.
She’d shown up one night after I’d reread a book she’d given me 25 years before. I’d been meditating at my alter space. Her ashes are there, along with a couple of the gifts she gave me over the years. During the meditation, I was reminded of the book, something she’d sent as a birthday gift shortly after I’d moved ‘cross country, passed it along really. She’d read it and loved it and thought I would too.
I’d liked it well enough back in 1990, the artistry of Tom Robbins’ prose, but it didn’t hold a lot of meaning for me. I was a 30 year old with a man friend who called me Doll Baby, something that darn near choked me to death when I reread the story. I’d forgotten that detail.
I’d forgotten almost all of them. That’s the thing when we reread old favorites, the forgotten details. They can be mind blowing in retrospect.
When I read about those skinny legs again in 2015, it blew me away in all sorts of ways. The whole story was right there. Everything that I’d learned since the channel surfing began was summarized in a quaint little story that I halfway remembered, right down to the inanimate objects as major players. And it was the slimy character who called the heroine Doll Baby. Her boyfriend Boomer was every Boomer of a boyfriend I’d ever had. Wowza.
I’d gone to sleep after reading about the dance of the seven veils. I’ll expound on each later, or at least a few of them, at great length. For now, the dream, with Mom.
As is always the case, I woke up to her sitting on the edge of the bed, being motherly, stroking my hair or something, putting baby to bed.
“Why the hell didn’t you just tell me all this stuff?” This was the dynamic in my family, well, except of the nurturing mother part. In real life, she’d have been sitting there asking for my book report or maybe waiting anxiously for my approval. I was never quite sure which it was. In dreamland, I always took bold initiative.
“You were pretty stubborn. Besides, I didn’t know half of it myself, I wasn’t all that well educated you know. But I knew you’d get it, you were always so smart. I was into Shakespeare.” She got defensive pretty quickly.
“But the Doll Baby thing, surely that was obvious.” And me, offensive, quickly.
“You’d already moved out there with him.” She sighed. “You should go learn about belly dancing, it might be fun. Besides, remember what I told you last time!”
I woke up. Last time she’d visited was when I was battling with the douche nozzle. She’d told me then to remember who I was. Darn, that was another thing I was going to have to ask her next time she showed up, just who the hell am I?
It was fun. The belly dancer was all fire and blood moon, pubescence standing defiantly against her own loving mother, who’d hovered a little more closely than she’d desired. It was beautiful, epic, the sacred feminine at its finest.
Which brings us back to the books. Not one, not two, not three, but four of them, all in one week. Three books literally on hand along that stretch of the yellow brick road, and all three speaking volumes to me as I walked it, one of them incorporating another I’d just read and been rocked by. Volumes were spoken, at really high volume.
Volume I: Skinny Legs and the Seven Veils of Illusion
1. Gaian Evolution and Sacred Feminine
2. Ishmael the Anthropologist Gorilla
3. Philosophy of Pointless Politics and Ishmael, the Anthropologist Gorilla
4. Expansively Spiritual, not Reductively Religious
5. The Illusory Nature of Money and Transcendental Economics
6. Cosmology Rocks
7. I Don’t Know. You Know. Don’t You?
So let’s go wandering along the yellow brick road of the world as viewed by myownself through Salome’s seven veils of illusion as I set down that book that Mom had recommended from death to my bed a quarter century after she first sent it to me.
Gaian Evolution and the Sacred Feminine:
The Ayahuasca ceremony technically lasted a wee titch longer than a few hours that clear December morning. The Strange Brew was really quite tame, and voluminous, so I sipped Transcendent Tea for three months, right up until my March Equinox ceremony. Frugality, my middle name, couldn’t let all that fine brew go to waste.
During the first few weeks, what channeled in was an almost overwhelming desire to paint myself green, dress up in the skins of dead animals, dredlock my hair, and go on the road telling the story of Cosmic Evolution ala the Big Twang, Carl Sagan/Lynn Margulis and the Cooperative Truth of Life and the Intelligent Evolution and Anthropological Journey that the Shaman Ayahuasca had told me.
Luckily, the rasher side of my nature does tend to be tempered a bit by visions of men in white coats and the blindness of most of humanity to the Emperor’s nakedness. I’m a Libra, ruled by Saturn. I decided to declare myself a performance artist, just in case, and rethought that strategy.
Back at it.
The story told within the context of the dropping of the first veil was that of Gaia. Of course since the author of the tale was a man, he also got really hung up in the pussy, the Sacred Feminine. That was part of the meeting that week, too. I kind of wanted to get in touch with my Sacred Feminine, and my Sacred Masculine, both. I embrace both. The Eagle, that symbol of my Femininity, is a Masculine symbol. Go figure.
Eventually, I’ll probably write an epic on the topic, I explored it in some depth. I’m going to call it “Men and Their Dicks”. My long strange trip along the YBR has also included so much bizarre synchronicity in terms of exploration of anthropology, human mating behavior, and my own personal evolutionary journey, all with several male friends tagging along, that it’s mind boggling. An epic unto itself.
As if my mind hasn’t been boggled enough! And I’ve yet to get laid!
(and please don’t offer again, thanks).
Ishmael the Anthropologist Gorilla:
There’s this book. It tells the story of Humanity and How We’ve Fucked Up. It’s told by a Gorilla named Ishmael. Damned near everybody on the YBR seems to know it, and know it well. Ishmael is telling us not the story of Gaia, the story of the first veil, but the story of Humanity Fucking Up, that second veil. The second veil hides the dirty little secret that we’re really great apes, too, and we can’t overpower the earth with our false godhood.
The guy down at the lake rather randomly turned out to be the friendly troll who had recommended the book about Ishmael to me in cyberspace, the book dedicated to my Savior Rennie. He’d also recommended the Story of B, the Auntie Christ, that’s me, a book by the same author with the same dedication. Those books told the story that I’d spent 10 years in higher education in the sciences learning and the next 10 teaching. Go figure.
Philosophy of Pointless Politics:
Ishmael had also explained the pointlessness of politics, as had the hippie by the side of the road, as did the dropping of the third veil. At the time of the Dance, the political mess du jour was focused in Palestine. Twenty five years later, nearby neighborhood, different war, same story. The Trouble with Troglodytes as described by Ishmael and the Ignorant Intellectual and the dropping of that third veil is that we’ve forgotten how to be animals in the world.
Animals don’t need no steenkin’ archies or isms, animals watch bees and dance all day. Well, there are some matriarchies, and some patriarchies, but that’s a story for another day, the story of Men and Their Dicks. In general though, animals eat when they’re hungry and seek shelter when they want to sleep and rut when they’re horny. Humans live in funky boxes, work doing meaningless nonsense, and suffer.
Spiritual, Not Religious:
Most of us have figured this one out. God is way too big for religion. It’s what channel surfing is all about, it's what all of us out in that poppy field were exploring, what happened when a person got struck by lightening or visited by ETs or whispered to by Mayan Cave Spirits.
Illusory Nature of Money
The boomer fellow who called me Doll Baby was an economics professor. It’s a subject I loathed and aced just to irritate him. I found it easy to regurgitate the facts, boring as it could possibly be, I took it because I had to. I never actually made any attempt to understand it. It was a business course, yuk.
I’d always been a good Capitalist, worked like a slave, saved my money, stayed out of debt, lived my entire life feeling trapped in the same system that enslaves most of us, doing not what I wanted to do but what I felt like I had to do simply for the privilege of being alive in the world. When a few simple lines from the hippie followed by a cello that rocked explained to me in very simple terms the illusory nature of money and exactly how Capitalism works, my ghasts were flabbered. It’s one of those things that made the decision to just say fuck it an easy one.
The day that I realized that cash was good perhaps as toilet paper or stove fuel when it came down to it and that the 0's and 1's of the bank account were just that, its value became crystal clear to me. What amazed me was that I’d not recognized that veil when I read the Belly Dancing book the first time, back in 1990, or when the Economist who called me Doll Baby's 0's and 1's tuned out to be imaginary. It might have been useful.
Inherent in spiritual channel surfing, it is what it is.
I don’t know. You know, don’t you?
“Did you hear that?” I overhead another camper at the site whispering to her tent mate. I’d heard it, but I didn’t want to butt in on their conversation. I’d already heard far more of their intercourse than I wanted to hear, and he was snoring, but that’s beside the point.
“It was an owl, go to sleep.” He replied dutifully, mid snore, and I heard her giggle, mentally saw him pull her close so she felt safe.
Listening to what the owl had to say was easy, soothing, something I’d come to enjoy. The talking books were getting a little weird. I mean, I’d known them all for so long, why hadn’t they spoken up before?
Volume II: Time Pressure
It was a book that told me that consciousness is such that we’re really all one, and love and unity really are the only way for humanity to make it. Some day, it said, a visitor from some future dimension will come to you and ask for your help in making humanity see it. There will be Time Pressure.
Spider Robinson had told me that years before, way back in 1987, even before the belly dancer showed up. It had been my first SciFi novel, at least post childhood readings of Jules Verne, and I’d loved it. It involved hippies and communes and sex and love and music and it made me laugh and cry and was magical.
When Spider sent me that email in 2015, two years after I’d written him, it came through the love wavelength. A guy from the Future had just paid a visit at the meeting I was attending, that’s why I’d been telling Liz about the book. Spider’s quiet little apology for bad timing boomed.
But the synchronicity with Spider was not what I’d been considering when the owl spoke up. It was another volume of SciFi that seemed to be speaking directly to me as I travelled through the Long Dark Tea Time of my Soul. That’s the one.
Volume III: The Answer is 42
I was considering emptying out the refrigerator of my guilt. Another story I hadn’t really gotten the first time through. It was fun, it was an adventure, but the wisdom of the Galactic Hitchhiker is vast, really, really vast, from this different perspective in the space time matrix, and I’d only just seen it. The owl had commented.
Who? Who? Who, if not you?
And really, the long dark tea time of my soul had started with the surrender to the Higher Power. The day after that surrender, way back in December, I stumbled across a book by a guy with a Messiah Complex. I thought it was about Transcendental Economics, that’s why I got it. It turned out to be a 12 Steps Program for personal Evolution, the day after I took step 1. Go figure. I got the audio book, read brilliantly by the saucy young sprite of a Messiah who wrote it, and he kept speaking directly to me.
Volume IV: You Say You Want a Revolution?
Basically, what the Messiah said was this: You heard what the Dragon told you, we’re gods. TM really does rock, it’s a direct line to the wavelength of your own personal godlike Higher Power. By the way, there are seven veils of illusion as described by that poet back in 1990, and it’s far past time to overthrow the Military Industrial Pharmaceutical Agricultural Oligarchy of Doom, so let’s hop to it, shall we?”
Not only had the young Messiah spoken, he was rocking the boat across the Atlantic. He had followers, people listening to the Gospel he preached.
Who? Who? Who, if not you?
It had been some time since I read that one, didn’t have it on hand.
The Young Messiah can do it. I’m old and tired. My soul is ready for tea time. WTF, the owl kept repeating itself, I figured I might as well answer it. I decided I’d read that story about Aunt Bea, I liked the idea of Opie fishing with Andy and some wild antics with Barney and the gang. That wasn’t quite what I found in the Story of B.
Volume V: The Auntie Christ
The Story of B:
“YOU ARE THE AUNTIE CHRIST!” It said.
“Humanity has really fucked up and you have a pretty good understanding of it, it’s kind of what your entire life’s education thus far has been about. You so totally get the faith angle being used here, you lost your own faith in science. You’re a courageous and raging bitch, and apparently very good at catching these waves that are rolling around. You are Aunt B! The Auntie Christ! Deal with it!”
Who? Who? Who, if not you? Owl was in on it, for sure.
Fuckity, fuck, fuck. The Auntie Christ.
“Oh yeah, I can see that.” The Cosmic Science Guy and I were discussing it.
“What do you mean?” I’d recommended the book to him, wanted to get his take on it.
“You’re a raging bitch. A ball buster, a head chomper, an emasculator, a bitch slapper, kind of an obnoxious know it all. You’re used to standing up and stating your thesis as fact and being ready to defend it to the death, it’s part of the trial by fire you got trained in in academia.” The CSG has social skills a lot like my own. It’s why we got along.
I sighed. He continued.
“It’s like the Hellhounds.” They’d shown up as real online, right when I was reading the one book that included them. I’d told him about my NDE and the Illuminati, that coincidence of a book, the one with the Hellhounds. “You’ve got some channel surfer in you, that’s for sure, you definitely picked up some Hellhound juju. I’m pretty sure you’ve got some of that voodoo woman from Belize in you, too. You’re B all right; B is for bitch.” He smiled at me.
I ripped his head off and set it down on the platter he’d brought along for the purpose before turning on the podcast we were about to listen to. Michael Rice had something to teach us about the sacred masculine.
“Maybe we’re all Zombies. There seems to be an awful lot of interest in the undead lately. Have you considered that you might be a Zombie? I have.” The young woman at my latest retreat into the understanding of other realms was beginning to grate on me.
As it turned out, many of us there had had Near Death Experiences, or Channel Surfing Experiences, or visits from ET’s, one of those fun little coincidences I’d come to expect. My interest in language began playing with the idea of how one described learning to expect the coincident, how to modify the idea of synchronicity when the unusual nature of it gets thrown out.
The retreat was a weekend in the mountains learning survival skills and native flora. New England was a realm I wasn’t all that familiar with; I’d done my work in botany in the desert. Survival, in general, I was pretty good at, but it never hurts to brush up on the latest techniques.
“I sure hope not. I know a coyote who wages constant war with the Zombies, and I don’t want to get on his bad side.” We were walking along a well marked trail pretending that the ability to do so would make purist mountaineer survivalists out of us. We’d learned all about how to cut up vegetables the day before. “Besides, you don’t look much like a Zombie to me.” I smiled at her.
“No, I meant you, I was trying to be nice by being inclusive before. I know I’m not a Zombie, I’m an angel. I was thinking maybe you were a Zombie.” It was a good thing we weren’t cutting up vegetables just then.
“Well, I don’t know. I’ll ask my friend.” There really was a Zombie slaying coyote, what can I say? And his little dog, too. He fearlessly slayed the dead at night and earned his living writing false birth announcements for their souls during the day. It was killing him, but made him feel alive. Turns out, there are lots of shape shifters out there, you see them all the time once you really start looking and learn to recognize them.
To be honest, Zombie had occurred to me. Perhaps it had all been purgatory since standing up off the bathroom floor; that certainly had been a purgative experience for me. Mayhaps the end of the world had happened back in 2012, just like the Mayans said it was going to, and we were all the walking dead. Keith Richards and Mick Jagger sure looked like death warmed over of late.
“Being an angel is great!” She was so perky. “I spread happiness and sunshine wherever I go! That’s because I’m so sparkly and happy and full of love for all of Mother Gaia’s creatures!” She swatted a mosquito that landed on her arm.
The old fart of a trail guide who had been pointing out the poison ivy to us as we walked along stopped to let us catch up. He was smiling at Starling, my trail buddy.
“There’s a lake up ahead. We can all take off our clothes and cool off!” No, that wasn’t a smile, it was a leer. A jet. A small fast one. A couple of the old ladies in the group were already shedding their clothes up ahead.
“Oh gooodie!” Starling giggled.
Fine, I’m a fucking Zombie. The Auntie Christ Zombie of a harpy eagle, friend to Godzilla and the Hellhounds. If I have to watch Starling and Ralph romp in the lake, I’ll start looking for brains to eat for sure. Apparently I’d been thinking out loud. A carp replied.
How do you think I feel about it?
Fortunately, Google continues to have all the answers. The first hit I got when I started investigating Zombies was from NPR, and it had the nicely bulleted list of characteristics one could attribute to Zombiehood. I was pretty sure I was in the clear there. It did lead to a link that listed all sorts of other undead types, but I decided to kill that line of thinking. If all that had happened in the past few years had been the waiting room for the hereafter, why the hell did I still have to go out and buy toilet paper? That made no sense. And why were there so many toilet paper choices when I needed to be thinking about eternity?
But the trolls. My god, the trolls. They jump up on the shoulder and stick their little trolly dicks in your ear and start pumping away, making squeaky little troll noises as they go at it. By the time the mindfucking trolls got done with me, I was a borderline mess.
I was paranoid that I’d be thought of as schizoid if I got too excited about the pronoia thing, that would be schizotypical. I ran to the mirror to make sure I wasn’t being too antisocial or narcissistic, my avoidance of people was totally dependent on how obsessive/compulsive I felt on any give day. I had a clusterfuck of conditions according to the trolls, and every bloody one of them had a bulleted list of characteristics to look at.
Luckily I figured out the pattern to their standardized exams quickly and now can test as any kind of looney tunes I’d like to come across as. I’m planning on using the skill to apply for disability. Once I mastered Jung’s archetypes and that silly little test that Myers and Briggs made, I could answer those questions the way they wanted to be answered as well, depending on which of those types was testing. Eve's three faces got nothing on me, move on over Sybil, the Auntie Christ is fixing to come up with a new one for test books. Or textbooks. Same thing.
Coyote ain’t the only trickster around Deadsville.
Maybe I’m pronoid, who knows, but if I’m an undead Zombie, it’s not so bad. I hear the cervelle de veau at L’Espalier is to die for.
Crazy is one of those words that’s not PC in some circles. One such in which I arced recently was talking about a future language that might do away with nouns, and ergo classification of those PP&Ts that Ns describe.
My thought was that it would be far more useful to do away with adjectives. The nouns supposedly (as I understand it) detract from the is-ness of a thing, its verbitude. Adjectives are far more judgmental, at least it seems that way to me. I’d be really happy with the noun-ness of my girlhood. It’s the pretty or smart or fit or funny or bitchy that leads to most of the problems beyond my nouns for me.
Of course Zombie had been a wee titch offensive. But it probably wouldn’t have been if I’d turned out to be one. I mean, WTF, might as well call the walking dead the walking dead, right? Same thing with the witches. A witch is a witch. The challenge is to be a good witch. There are apparently vampires, but I think they mostly suck energy. I’m quite confident I’ve encountered a few, some folks just wear me out.
But back to words.
Crazy I’ve never had any problem at all with. Gnarls Barkley’s song says it all, complete with the HAHAHA. Crazy is where it’s at. Even Willie Nelson had it right, and Patsy Cline saw that and the rest was country music history. In fact, Waylon Jennings said it best: I’ve always been crazy, it’s what keeps me from going insane. Jimmy Buffet, too. If we weren’t all crazy, we’d would go insane. Van Morrison told us all about Crazy Love, and Annie Wilson went crazy all over her man friend. Crazy Horse was the kind of guy who stood up to the US government when he’d had a bit more than he could stomach and said no, and backed up old Neil with lots of controlled feedback over the years. Nothing negative about any of that at all.
Crazy was not, however, a hypothesis I’d considered. That’s just the way I am, rational through and through. I mean, I’m an honest to goodness scientist, and as I turned out, that Story of B, which was about a priest who lost is faith, kind of goes hand in hand with the story of me, B, who lost her faith in science and found something much, much bigger instead.
Or I should probably say that it found me. The world really was talking to me, at least quite a bit of the time.
When all the stories came together, and all of them turned out to be true, the stories of ETs and NDEs and Channel Surfing and past lives and Angels and what’s in the stars and numbers and cards, well, all I could say was far out.
“Far out”. I said it out loud, to myself.
That was the one and only thing to say when I became absolutely, positively, probability less than point and a whole bunch of zeroes and then a one for sure certain and without a doubt about one thing: My faculties are intact, crazy as it all might be. I’m not a Zombie, nor a witch, don’t think I’m a vampire. I’m gratefully undead. It’s all right there in the cards and the numbers, right there in my name.
Even the Mayans knew it. I didn't know squat about my Mayan horoscope until I'd started telling this tale, and that was way after the guy gave me the eagle's feather. But I'm getting ahead of myself, or behind myself. It does get confusing.
I’d always been kind of amused by having the initials lbs and being a Libra, pounds and scales, haha, but then that I’m a Babbling Brooke and water, and an eagle, too, and just 8 all the way around, well, there you go.
Let’s see if I can explain.
As it turns out, I’d been paying attention to the wrong things, or at least a woefully incomplete and biased sample of the data available to me. And me a scientist, go figger. As it turned out, all that education I’d been so joyfully pursing in my quest to have the right answer had quite intentionally been steering me in the wrong direction, duping me even, all the while pointing at the obvious and telling me how silly it was.
It’s kind of like the apparent general consensus that the business ownership of the US government and the outright bravado of the corrupt political candidates and lies of the media which control the masses should be accepted as normal and fine and the way things are supposed to be, when clearly, that’s fucking nuts.
And oh yes, environmental destruction……maybe, just maybe it’s time to wonder if maybe rushing off the cliff is the best plan? Hello?
It’s kind of like a “health care” system that’s run by drug dealers and is the third leading cause of death in the country splitting its take with the actuaries who not only place a dollar value on a human life, they basically pay for it based on what a contract says and then just tell people to fuck off, all the time?
And we’re fine with this, while ignoring alternative therapies that work, because the drug dealers tell us to?
It’s like drugging our children, some huge percentage of them, so they’ll conform to the misery mills that our public schools have turned into, but since that’s where a good percentage of them get fed every day since both parents are working full time for gods know what….the right to be alive and have a roof and enough to eat while Sam Walton’s family could feed every hungry person on earth and doesn’t and we’re all okay with this?
And nobody really considers THAT to be insanity?
Guns are the hotshots of the day, no need to even go there.
But this interlude was not intended as a rant. No, it’s a transition.
The day that the Mayan horoscope and the good old Libran born in New Jersey on that day and time and the name and the numbers and the story of my life all came together, I knew it was all true, no matter how bizarre, no matter how many seeming coincidences.
That’s a story for another day.
In fact, the story I’ve been telling thus far has been pretty heavily embellished. It made it all more fun and interesting, a little game, and I could make myself have some heroic roles. Besides, I hadn’t quite teased out the difference between crazy and insane when I started telling this tale. But lots of it is true, verifiably true, weirdly and wonderfully true.
Just like my horoscopes and all that other fun stuff are pretty clearly spot on. And agree with each other. Those things don’t describe you, or most people, at all. They describe me. Truth. Those ancient ways of knowing, truth.
Not only did I once find myself standing at Tikal just before the end of time with two other people who shared my birthday, by complete accident, I once found myself standing in front of the former director of Quantico, number two guy of the whole bloody FBI, in a state of menopausally fueled meltdown fury at the fact that he’d just been given a half time position as a plant ecologist in our department…….my job. I didn’t quite tell him to fuck off, but neither was I silent, and the fuck off of my fury was pretty clear. And of course my original intent a decade before that had been to go into the business of growing plants, something soothing after all those years in healthcare, not find myself jumping through tenure hoops in Oklahoma.
Life is funny that way.
I was there being me, exactly the person my horoscope and name said I’d be. And probably not a whole lot like you at all. It was almost like I was in training, or playing a role that was written just for me.
I’m the Auntie Christ.
You’ve got a role, too, I guarantee it. Just listen.
Linda Brooke Stabler, Ph.D.