I Believe In Magic

I believe in magic.

And moonlight.

And the witchery that is womanhood — the BEING of a woman. I’ve seen it written that “we are the granddaughters of the witches they forgot to burn,” and I sometimes wonder why (women) — why (I) am so overlooked, so talked over, dismissed, talked about, told I intimidate, told to tone down, told I’m too much, had my words — which I weave out of and from the magic in me — the magic that IS me — taken, consumed, and used, to transform (his) very world, and then witness the credit for said total transformation claimed by a him and not the potion my Love brewed and which he guzzled down, while his eyes consumed me. 

I believe in magic.

And moments.

And with meaning, I stepped onto the North Carolina coast at midnight on May 27, 2021, and there she was in full view, the oceanic pull of her splendor casting its luminosity on me was instantaneous. Overcome with her beingness, of being in her presence, of my Self awareness in all of my own beingness, I burst into tears. And my tears mingled with my bigness, for which my Being is the sacred container holding all of Me.

Moonlight is magic. 

I believe in magic. 

And the magic of a seed, planted in a row, underneath a taut string, stretched from pole to pole, stretches beyond its original container and grows and grows, giving greenness and good-ness, and the garden glows with the abundance of what started in a simple and small buried shell. 

I believe in magic.

And in Me. 

And the bigness of my Love, of my container and my capacity to hold not just for and as Me, but for all those who have, and have yet, to pass through the magic of my Loving, of my Knowing, of my Holding. What does this magic of Me feel like? 

My magic is me no longer overlooking my Self, no more staying silent while words and worlds are being discussed over and around Me; I will not dismiss my own inner witch or her ways; if I am to be talked about, it is I who will do the talking, and “intimidation“ is yet another iteration of the age-old hunting and burning for that which you are incapable of experiencing. Tone up, not down. My muchness IS my magic.

To experience the moonlight, just step with intention onto her shore. She is here to flood and to cover you with every shimmer of her splendor, illuminating beautiful You. 

I weep at the potency of my own spells. 

Planked Awareness

The aged wooden planks beneath my sandals reverberate just enough with each step to ignite my almost anticipatory sensory system, which is apparently the factory default setting in this body of mine. Sounds, smells, every leaf brand new to me as if for the first time, although I have been walking this same boardwalk plank through this ever-shifting bog garden for at least as long as many of these trees have been stretching toward their crowded skyline. 

I lean over the edge of the railing, putting as much as possible of the presence of the boardwalk behind my direct line of sight, minimize other visitors whose presence is audibly known, and initiate a manual fade on that feed line taking more concentration against my already-bogged sensory system. I’m looking for the knobby knees of the Bald Cypress trees that have gathered here, collected themselves into their own community amongst the ducks, the almost-always shallow side swamp to the larger but still-connected lake of some collective committee’s making, and down-stream and almost hidden from the other deciduous, but dirt-dwelling trees. 

I smile out loud and my laughter bounces off the nearby bamboo, dense in the aggregate knowing of its usefulness amidst any negative (and obviously completely false) rumors that sometimes get dropped by a passing robin too self-absorbed with his own shade of red to be bothered by what his beaked notes might mean to the wide-open ears of the bamboo below.

Next to me (and invited into my self-constructed cone of connectivity) on the elevated boardwalk, as I lean into my lean (those cypress nodes are consuming all of my attention), Curt points to a beautiful tree above my head and asks whether I know its name, his tone clearly indicating he is not asking, he is teaching. I do not recognize what appears to be a beautiful evergreen foliage, delicately interlacing her way through the intricate and interconnected branches of the treetop she calls her own. 

His grin immediately fills all seven acres of this luscious green garden space as he announces, “It’s the Bald Cypress!” 

My delight and my shock startle the birds in the branches above. I am immediately aware that this anticipatory sensory system I call my own has failed to focus on the two necessary parts of one self-sufficient ecosystem. The Bald Cypress’ knees so captivated me I did not overlook, but actually under-looked the very creation of this majestic multifaceted dweller on earth or underwater achiever. I am internally brought to my own knees, my sensory system recalibrating in real-time, coding my newly-propagated desire to always look in as many directions as the cypress stretches itself: up, down, around, under, and over me. I shift my lean back into full-standing alongside the Bald Cypress, my sandals exit the boardwalk planks; I leave only the remnants of my laughter to contribute to the aging of the planks.  

The Great Alone: A Fringe Reader’s Review

Kristin Hannah is a very popular author. I tend to read on the fringe of that popularity awareness spectrum. I do not typically navigate the same reading trends and lanes as all the other people out there reading. And by “all the other people out there reading” I mean most of the people, and would include in that list all of the people that I know personally. I stumbled across a much-recommended historical fiction novel — The Nightingale — set during World War II. Admittedly this is my weakness, the kryptonite of reading genres for me. I downloaded the Audible version and was transported so quickly to 1939 France that I barely had time to grab my head scarf to avoid detection from the German soldiers as they descended on the countryside. 

Yesterday I finished reading my second Kristin Hannah novel, The Great Alone. Is it historical fiction if it’s set in a time inside of my own lifetime? Strange consideration. Let’s say this one is NOT historical fiction. It’s just set in the 1970s in remote Alaska. Spoiler Alert: there’s a murder committed. Bigger spoiler — because I’m not writing any of these meandering and meaningless thoughts to protect you from the fictitious plot of a book whose reading I will never get back my time — the murder of the man is committed by his wife. There that’s out, now let me tell you some more details.

Said murderee is a Vietnam vet with severe PTSD. He beats his wife like no rug should have to tolerate and blames his erraticism and bad behavior on things like the weather and yeah, that’s about it. The weather.

The murderer is his wife and the mother of their only child, a daughter. Never ever, not once, in their probably 20 years together does she resist, complain, fight back, or even leave. Until the day she kills him. Two shots with a rifle into his back.

Why? What triggered (intentionally used that word for dramatic effect) her to suddenly explode (another intentional entendre) and very deliberately kill the self-proclaimed love of her life? 

Kids. Am I right? A mother’s love — there’s nothing to compare it, except of course, only all the mothers’ love on prominent display daily, from the Grizzly watching out for her cub to the beaten, trodden-down, misunderstanding love mother in this made-up story that could be as real as you and me. Her husband was beating her daughter in front of her. Why? Beating her because she said out loud she was pregnant. Love caused that. This is a love story, no doubt, any way you peel back the chapters or pile them on top of each other. Love keeps showing up like it’s the through-line giving oxygen to the very pages on which the story is written. 

Love: the messed up and completely impossible to understand abusive kind.

Love: the fill your whole heart until it spills over and leaks into your every corner for your child kind. 

Love: the young, tender, sweet passing notes in class and sneaking out at night for a breath of you young and innocent kind.

Love: the fierce and large wrap you in my arms because my heart is big enough to hold this whole town kind.

Love: the no matter what you say or do I will always love you kind.

Love: the weathered and wisened and regret-filled rear-view awareness while looking at what’s right in front of me after all these years kind. 

Love: the I can’t explain what or why you behaved in the ways you did but I forgive you kind. 

Love: the natural ebbs and flows of that which surrounds, protects, and provides kind.

And I am here for love. Always. So there’s that endorsement from me.

But Kristin, I am no longer here for your storytelling, for your doom and your gloom, for your foundation of, and dependence on, grief, hardship, tragedy, death, despair, and darkness to turn every page. Seriously. No relief. And it got to be comical. Can we even end the story without another maddeningly dark plot twist at the eleventh hour? No, apparently we cannot. So with approximately one chapter remaining, our heroine — the surviving daughter whose life was saved by her mother’s murder of her father — is thrown into JAIL for a late-life confession by her DEAD mother for the killing of her also very dead husband. 

Was it murder? Yes. Justified? Also yes. In the end did I even care? Not a damn lick because I just wanted out into the real world where Love lives in, as, and through me. 

But if you’re looking for a good World War II recommendation I will hook you up.

The Summer of 1997

It was the summer of 1997: cash in-hand was money; the prolific use of debit cards didn’t exist; CDs were being ripped and sold on the black market (I definitely bought from that market); Celine Dion and Whitney Houston were still singing to us;  Bill Clinton was at the start of his second term; Princess Diana would die at the end of this summer; DVDs were brand-new technology; the internet existed, but only just — access to the World Wide Web was limited to your dial-up connection and google had yet to be coined a verb.

In June of this year I moved back to Russia for what would become a summer never to be forgotten. 

My US-based company had a teeny-tiny satellite office located in Moscow, Russia, employing two or three Russians max, plus one American expat and his wife, who were in their mid-20s like me and my husband. We all spoke fluent Russian. I was sent over to train the teeny-tiny office staff on some data entry work our US office wanted to delegate and we allowed three months in Moscow for that very purpose. The American expat would make arrangements for our housing while we were in-country and I just needed to show up, passport and work Visa in-hand, ready to work.

Having lived in Russia previously, although never in Moscow, I arrived with  my rose-tinted glasses of loving everyone firmly perched on my nose and completely oblivious to the harsh fear-based system of what life in Russia actually looks like. 

Newly-arrived in our rented for the summer apartment I was surprised to see the rooms literally bulging with the landlady’s belongings, as if we had a key to someone else’s home but I didn’t want permission to be there. Had they left in a hurry, carelessly cramming their personal effects underneath the mattress believing my lying on top of their pile wouldn’t disclose their secrets in full view? The lingering layer of grease atop every single surface in the flat belie their claims to cleanliness and order. Unpacking meant keeping my suitcases open and accessible because there was no space, nook or cranny available for my belonging or belongings. 

Where to place my computer monitor and the beast of a tower needed to operate it? Plugging in to the local landline in order to connect, patiently, with the office nine hours behind me now required planning and hope that the phone here would be connected, dependent on a real life operator deciding my worthiness of connection. 

And so it happened on a summer’s eve that we went for a walk, exploring our neighborhood, hoping to find a street vendor selling some of our favorite tasty treats and we realized we were walking distance from Gorky Park, known back in the heyday of the Soviet era as an amusement park and gathering place for families. 

Our excitement quickly turned to disappointment and then concern as we found ourselves in a desolate has-been space, not kept up or even safe for after-dark strolling. Deciding quickly we would rather be in the grease-filled apartment figuring out supper than here in the middle of Gorky Park uncertain as to who or what we might encounter, we retraced our steps back to the flat where all of our possessions were locked behind two doors and five keys. 

Placing the first of our five keys in door one, lock one, it was immediately apparent something was wrong. The door was locked, yes, but from the inside. Someone was inside the apartment and we couldn’t get in!

Knocking and banging on the door from the inside out to us we could discern the voice of our landlady and her husband — yelling at us that they would not let us in, they were calling the police, what was ours was now theirs and they knew what we were up to!

What in the actual HELL was happening?! 

Remember, 1997. I’m in the middle of Moscow, Russia, where the KGB and the Mafia are interchanged for one another as seamlessly as tit for tat. This is the land where an American goes missing and no one blinks because they don’t even notice. 

Heart pounding, I plead through the door for her to please open, please talk with me, please explain what happened, why is she upset? What is her concern? Can we discuss this? 

No! The operator at the phone company called her, told her how frequently I’m plugging into “that computer thing” and “I know what you’re doing here! I know what you’re trying to do.” 

Dear god, what is she talking about?! 

“I have already called the police! They are on their way. You will be arrested. I am confiscating your computer.”

No discussion. No earlier call. No indication that this was coming. What is she afraid of? Accusing me of doing? Having me arrested for what?! 

My heart is pounding louder than my thoughts.

Can I just have my stuff? My suitcase? Keep the damn computer; it doesn’t belong to me anyway. I swear I’m only working. I’m only connecting with my office in the US. Are you worried we won’t pay the phone bill? Is that what this is about?! Are the police really necessary? 

Where can I go? 

And then rushing up the stairs are my co-worker American expat and Sergei, the Russian who works with him. They received a tip-off phone call that something was going down at our apartment, that we were being used as pawns in the larger Mafia-played game of business in Moscow. 

Quickly, go down and get in Sergei’s car. Leave the premises. Don’t worry about your things. Remove yourself before the police arrive. The rest will be taken care of. Go. NOW!

And heart-pounding crouched down from the back seat of the dark car I watch the police storm the building, a long pause of time, and then Sergei carrying my suitcases out and quietly placed in the trunk, and with a tap on the roof of the car the driver takes me away, only turning on his headlights when we are three streets gone.

Is Big Brother still watching? He definitely was in 1997.

I’m Back

Something just came over me. I am no longer in control, but someone or something is definitely in control. My senses tell me enough to know I’m not, oddly enough, out of control; I’m just no longer the one in charge. I immediately wonder if I ever have been in control and wander down the philosophical rabbit hole that does nothing but distract me from right now. Damn. Right now. I’m back. 

Assessing my situation and feeling the corners of my mouth turn up into a smile remembering the Borg episode from Star Trek. Not so funny now but still one of my favorites. Was that from the original series? Or the Next Generation? maybe one of the movies because those are so well done. Benedict Cumberbatch as Kahn was genius. His birthday was a couple of weeks ago — same day as Lori’s — and it’s funny that still pops up on my annual calendar from how many years ago did my daughter place it there? Ten? Shit. I’m back. I’m back.

Who taught me that technique? Was I in a training program for this very situation? Do I know what to do? Geez — what if I’m like Jason Bourne? OMG was that series based on real life events? Clearly they didn’t screen me too well because can you even imagine me as an assassin?! Laughing over here. That’s really funny. I mean — not real, right? I couldn’t even punch David in the face when he was wearing full head gear, taught me how to throw the punch and TOLD me to do it! I CRIED. Good grief. Kill someone on command? Not too likely. Laugh, love, hug on command — definitely my vibe. Shit. I’m back. I’m back. Again.

Get your surroundings. Get some information we can use here. Where is here? Who is talking to me? Do you hear voices? I mean I’m full-blown having a conversation here. Who are you?

Who are you?

You know what? It doesn’t matter right now. Let’s all quiet and calm down. Take some deep breaths. Focus on here. Right here. Breathe? I can’t!! I can’t breathe! Oh, wait, yes, yes I can. Just not easily or through my mouth, or maybe it’s my nose. Dear God, do I have a face?!

Yes, you have a face. What do you think someone just took your face? Now I’m laughing.

Well, wasn’t there a movie with a face swap? I don’t think I saw it but I remember the title had something to do with faces. I’m not convinced it can’t happen.

Face swapping — pretty sure that’s only on your phone. Remember when you face swapped with the Pope?! OMG Hilarious!

Yes! I used his image from the Pope Pop I bought at the Vatican souvenir shop! We laughed real tears at that one. And I’m back. 

Still don’t know anything in this moment other than I now have a hankering for some bruschetta — screams Italy, doesn’t it? I should make some; I’ve got all the ingredients: fresh basil, fresh tomatoes, olive oil. Bread. I need some decent crusty bread. I don’t think I can pick a favorite — oh, yes, yes I can. The tomato salad in Agerola. I know it wasn’t technically bruschetta, but close enough, right? Is my mouth watering? What is wrong with my mouth? Shiiit — seriously guys (are you guys?) something is wrong here. Very wrong. I don’t think I can talk. Are we not talking? I am so confused right now. I’m back. I’m back. 

But where am I? Who am I? I know who I am. Do I have a face? What happened to my mouth? It’s dripping. Something is dripping. Is it my mouth? Am I awake? Can anyone hear me? I don’t think anyone hears me. Am I alone? What is that pressure on my arm? Why is my arm being squeezed? Who is touching me? I don’t want to be touched. NO! Don’t touch me! NO! I’m back. I’m back. Be here now.

I hear you. What? I’m sorry, what? It’s all over? What’s over? What happened? Do you remember that episode of I Love Lucy where she drinks the vitameatavegimin? I love that episode. I read her biography last year. Lucy’s. Listened to it, actually. Her daughter narrates it and I didn’t laugh as much as I thought I would. I cried, actually. Very sad. It’s hard. Being famous. Getting what you want. Maybe? Right. I’m back. I’m back. 

I do love Lucy. I really do.

Oh, hi Mom. We’re going home now? But I can’t drive myself. I’m definitely not in control. What are these? My wisdom teeth? 

Pink Walls and The Partridge Family

Sweat drips off my face, my heart is pounding, and all I can think about is that 4th of July we spent together in New Mexico three years ago — wrapped together in the big red blanket from the trunk of my car watching the fireworks light up Albuquerque. Ha! I can never not start singing, “Point me . . . In the direction of Al-buh-ker-ke-e-e. . . I want to go ho-oh-ah-ome. I need to get ho-oh-ohm.” I love hearing your laugh melt into those beautiful tenor notes joining me by the “I need to get ho-oh-ohm” every single time.

Do you ever wonder about the Partridge Family? I mean really wonder about the impact that family and their bus had on popular culture? I only wonder about it sometimes because I like singing “Al-buh-ker-ke-e-e” and also because my sister had a crush on David Cassidy and a poster of him hung in our shared bedroom for at least a year. Last week I saw an image of a young Partridge Family era David Cassidy gracing a wall clock on a shelf in an antique shop. It made me smile.

Did I ever tell you about the time I took a bite out of my sister’s 45? Okay, this is definitely worth repeating. I was probably four or five years old and my sister had boy crushes on lots of teen dreams from the 70s, David Cassidy among them. Anyway, she had a collection of 45s and her own record player, which strikes me as odd only because she was so young. I mean, how old were you when you were noticeably experiencing crushes for the first time? I can’t remember even being aware of boys at the age of 9 but whatever. She definitely had her own records and posters hanging on the wall and I know because we shared a room — geez that bedroom was my everything. Did I tell you the walls were pink, like Pepto Bismal pink, but please whatever you do don’t ever give me Pepto Bismal because it makes me throw up, which I think is kind of the point of it, but honestly it’s so disgusting. Anyway, we had pink walls and pink gingham canopies with matching bedspreads and pillow shams and curtains on the windows. There wasn’t anything in that room that wasn’t touched by pink and I loved every bit of it.

So my sister had her records in a little record box with a push-button latch on the front and mostly I liked to push that button and spring open the latch and then click it shut and do it all over again because I didn’t care much for records. But once I was playing with the lock on the record box and opened the lid just to look at the 45s lined up shining black in a row, covered in their sleeves, black shiny side up for easy access. And it was shining up at me so I picked it up out of the box and turned it over and looked at the picture on the cover of the sleeve and the little record slid out of its envelope and into my little hands. And it was slick and smooth and the grooves of the record going round waaaanted to be touched and I was so excited just to hold it and hug it close to my chest because I was too little to play with records because I might scratch them.

I wasn’t wanting to scratch anything. But the biggest urge to TASTE overcame me and I lifted that 45 up like a sandwich to my mouth and closed my lips on either side of the record and took a bite. Into my mouth fell a little semi-circle the exact shape of my teeth’s circumference, and I promptly spit it into my hand and brushed it into the waste bin, smearing my own spit as I wiped my hands clean of any evidence of guilt. I placed the 45 back in its sleeve, and the sleeve back in the box, and pushed closed the box latch, and put the box back on her side of the room, and skipped out of our shared pink room, closing the door behind me, remembering only one thing: vinyl records do not taste as good as they look and if I could choose a poster for my pink wall it would have been of the Partridge Family Schoolbus.