Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Nothing like the Sonoran Desert at dusk. Everything becomes so sharp and clear. So three-dimensional...or more. Feels like home with the hard red earth under my feet and the glow of sunset in the big, big sky. 

Tonight the moon rose like a huge piece of butterscotch, just above that dip where the Rincons and Catalinas seem to come together to shake hands and say howdy. So delicious looking. The full moon, I mean. The mountains, too, I suppose. Later, clouds moved beneath the moon like a shaman's misty dress and the light rayed out of the moon, upward, on the dark sky, like one of those rayed pictographs and petroglyphs I've seen on rock paintings all over the NW and SW. 

D.H. Lawrence said New Mexico was women's country. I'm not sure whose country this is: The desert is all, even when you can't see it. It thrums beneath the concrete and you know that one day it will out. I find reassurance in this fact when the sky is ruddy with pollution or the traffic goes on forever. When I know all that is wrong is temporary, too, suddenly I feel as if we are in this together, looking for adventure in all the wrong places, finding encouragement—isn't that what enlightenment is, essentially?—in all the right places. 

No dream has come to me. No flash of insight or story yet. Just cleaning. Fixing. Nesting. 


Things have already started shapeshifting. I looked over by the huge palo verde near the front of the house earlier today, and I saw a coyote watching me. 

It was nearly the same spot where I had seen the bobcat seven(?) winters ago. When she turned toward me back then, I didn't know what she was, and in the setting sun, I remember seeing her ears and thinking she must be a fairy. Until she looked at me, with the sun as her pupils, and I knew what she was. She was the wild in a bobcat. When she got up to leave, I followed her into the wash to see what I could see.

Today I saw a coyote in that spot watching me. But then I realized it was too big for a coyote. It was a wolf. I blinked. It couldn't be a wolf. I shook my head. It wasn't a wolf or a coyote. It was the palo verde tree apparently having fun with me. Or preparing me. Maybe both.

Time will tell. It always does.

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Signs Along the Way

Friday, December 13

We began as we always begin: holding hands and whispering to the earth, the sky, to all that is Visible and Invisible, and then we are away, crossing the Bridge of the Gods after a slight delay. A raven stands on the bridge railing—a raven! Rarely seen in these parts. Like a harbinger of what is to come: seeing into this world and that one?

We follow the Big River into Stumptown and beyond, hurtling down the road with the others until—boom!—we all run over a dead hawk, its feathers flipped up like some strange discarded headdress from an awful party. The first time we headed down to the Sanctuary—ten winters ago—just as we were coming up to the T-curves, we saw a car on fire. It was a conflagration, I tell ya. We watched the flames *engulf* the car. The automobile never had a chance. For a few moments, I felt like everything was going in slow motion, like a scene out of a movie. I said to Mario, “If I believed in signs…” Three hours later we were in a car accident, spinning out of control, me mewing like a frightened cat as the car spun around, as my hand went up to the window to hold myself in place, to save myself. I just wanted it to stop, to stop. Stop. To know if we would survive. Finally it stopped. We survived.

We got down to Arizona that year, eventually, sans car.

Now I watch for signs. I wonder what the raven and the dead hawk mean. I stay alert. At a rest stop, three young men throw snowballs at each other. They laugh. I wonder if they’ve ever seen snow before. A homeless man plays a flute and flies the sign near the restrooms. A modern day Kokopelli? I never hear the flute music, though Mario points the man out to me. I see the sign, I see him pull out a pack of cigarettes and sigh. I hurry away from him.

My three day (four?) day headache throbs, and I want to cry. Instead, I tell myself it is only temporary. It too shall pass. But I am tense. Grumpy.

We stop at a gas station near Ashland, just before we start up over the mountains. The sun is out, but it is cold. I look out the window, in a daze after driving for six hours, and I see a man hunched over, sitting on a stool or a milk box just beyond the gas station. He looks so miserable. What is he doing? I get out of the car, inexplicably drawn toward the man. He is older, wearing a black watch cap and a flannel jacket that doesn’t look warm enough over his t-shirt and jeans. An old green pickup with a small camper is parked directly behind him. As I get closer, I see he is surrounded by rocks: mostly crystal quartz. I grin. I put my hands in my pocket so that I don’t touch every single stone. The man looks cold and miserable. 

“Are these from Arkansas?” I ask.

He nods. “Mostly.”

Some are big, some smaller. The prices are quite low. The man looks vaguely tortured. 

“Did you pick them?” I ask.

“Some of them,” he says. “Others we got from people.” 

“I like ‘pick’ better than ‘mine,’” I say. I don’t know why I say this. Maybe because I’m afraid he’ll think I’m ignorant: that I don’t know where crystal quartz comes from. Just one of those inane things we say. 

He seems to understand because he nods. After a while, he says, “You do healing work?”

I look at him. Squint. Not something someone usually asks. Not something I usually answer.

“Yes,” I say, surprising myself by the answer. “But mostly I just love rocks. Have since I was a kid.” I pulled out the crystal I have in my coat pocket and holds it up. “I have rocks in the car, too. I just take them with me. Do you do healing work?”

He says, “She does.” He nods toward the truck, and I see a woman sleeping in the passenger seat. I don’t see her right away. I have to look and blink. Ahhh, there she is. 

“I do some meditation, things like that,” he says.

Mario comes over then. The man says he can give me a price break if I buy two. His cellphone rings, and he stands up and winces. I see the cane next to his chair now, and when he walks, he limps. He’s in pain. That’s why he looks tortured. I glance at the sleeping woman. Can’t she fix him? He excuses himself and walks away, knocking on the truck first. The woman jerks awake. A moment later, she gets out. I give her money, and I take the two crystals I’ve chosen—or the two crystals who have chosen me—back to the car. I am almost giggly with glee. 

And my headache is gone.

I put the rocks in the back of the car, and we start off again, heading toward the mountains. The headache comes back, just a bit. As we head toward the Siskiyou Pass, going up and up, I say, “This is where Emily and Mr. Em came. Only they were on horses.” (From The Monster’s Daughter.) I see it like a memory. Mario smiles at me. We reach the summit quickly, surprising us both, and I say, “And this is where Emily got off her horse and left an offering to the mountains.” Mario pulls over. 

I get out of the car, step into the snow, and I sing as trucks roar past us. I thank the Mountains and I leave a shell and a pinch of tobacco in the snow. As I look at the rocks in front of me, I feel as though I am looking at a painting: like when I’m in New Mexico and suddenly I feel like I’m seeing the landscape as Georgia O’Keeffe saw it. I get back in the car and say, “This looks like a Bev Doolittle painting.” Mario nods.

We go up and over the pass.

My headache is gone. 

I see Mount Shasta. She rises above the pollution that hangs over everything like a dirty fog. We stop, and I sing to the mountain. I sing to the dragon. I am giddy. I feel like I’ve stepped into The Monster’s Daughter again, just like last year. Emily and Mr. Em are all around me. It’s not surprising since I believe the mountain gave me the story in the first place. And I am so grateful.

Soon enough Mario and I make it to our lodgings. It is called a spa, but we stay here because it’s green: It was built sustainably, using sustainable materials, and they don’t use chemicals or pesticides. It costs the same as other hotels. The young woman at the desk greets us, takes my driver’s license and credit card, and says, “And how was your day today?” as she checks us in. I say, “Fine, and how was yours?” She keeps looking at the computer and doing something, and then she says in the same cheerful robotic voice, “And how was your day today?” I almost start to laugh. Instead I say, “Do you know you just asked me that?” This time she almost looks at me but doesn’t quite. “I’m sorry,” she says. Mario and I get our keycards and hurry away. Once we’re outside, we look at each other and laugh. Welcome to Stepford.

While Mario unpacks, I stand outside and whisper to the directions. It’s just polite to introduce oneself to a place. I leave a shell and tobacco, along with my song. We’ve been here many times, so I’m hoping we’ll be welcomed as friends. Of course last year, we got a flat tire, and I left my favorite coat here. Not exactly friendly. 

Mario makes me dinner: a microwaved Amy’s frozen dinner with our veggies and rice. Yum. (While on vacation, we do occasionally use a microwave oven, it’s true.) Then we walk around the place and watch the swans. The first year we were here, Mario was so excited to see them. Then I told him, “They’ve probably clipped their wings so they *have* to stay here.” He looked crushed. “Poor things,” he said then.

So every year we watch the swans and feel a mixture of regret, pity, and awe.

When we get near the pool, I think I see a person by the fence, and then it looks like a mermaid. As I walk toward it, I start laughing. “Hah! I thought it was a mermaid, but it’s a life preserver!” Somehow, given who I am, that seems quite apropos. I snap a photo of my “mermaid” and then we head back.

This year, this journey feels different. And the same. Every year the trip is difficult, and it is wonderful. I am always exceedingly grateful, and I always—at some point—wonder what the hell I am doing. I was wondering that about three hours into the trip today. But still, I do feel different this year. More here. Or something.

To bed soon and then off to the City of Angels in the morning. First The Bridge of the Gods and then to the City of Angels. All on the road to the Old Mermaids Sanctuary.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

In Fairyland With Lissa

(This post was one that people seemed to like quite a bit when I put it up on Facebook, so I’m posting it here, too. One of the neighbor children comes over fairly often, and we make fairy things or look at books or have tea parties. I enjoy her company, and we have fun in the imaginal worlds. I write about our doings quite a bit on my private Facebook, and people seem to enjoy these posts. I don’t put up any photos of her (unless she's unrecognizable in them) or use her real name—to protect her privacy and her family's privacy. Before I left for my annual writing retreat, I tried to make my departure easy for the little girl. But sometimes that road was a bit rocky. This Going Away Tea Party took place two days before we left.)

Welcome to the Old Mermaids Tea Shell. That’s what the sign read that I taped to the front door, low enough so Lissa could see it. I’d planned this tea party for weeks, and yesterday I spent the entire day preparing. I had a nasty ass headache, but I couldn’t cancel. I couldn’t do that to Lissa just before we were set to leave for a month. I decided next year if we still were friends and we still went away for the winter, I would not do this! Still, I had fun thinking about how she would react to everything as I got ready.

I set about to transform the kitchen into a fairyland. I figured we’d have our savory foods in the living room. That would be the first part of the tea party. Then we would go to fairyland for dessert. Mario hung a sheet over the entrance to the kitchen so that she’d have to make an entrance to fairyland and couldn’t see anything ahead of time.

The first layer of the fairyland was a blue and white quilt my dad had made for me. I found blue and white cloth, too. Plus Mario got tea lights. (I hope whoever invented tea lights is rich and happy. They’re so fun.) I looked around the house for anything related to Solstice/Christmas and Old Mermaids (that fit the color scheme). I put boxes under the cloth to have variety in height, like a landscape. I got big shells and blue, clear, and white marbles, along with amethyst and crystals. Then I covered the windows with more quilts.

It was getting late, so I hurriedly made a Tea Shell menu on homemade paper. I misspelled Mermaid Marble Eggs so that it was Hermaid Marble Eggs, but I never noticed it! We were serving Coyote Laughter Tea and Hummingbird Joy Tea and Fairy Cups of Magic. I’m afraid my imaginative powers were dulled by pain. Mario came took an early lunch and came home and did the dishes and helped everywhere he could.

So I was dressed and ready by 3:20, barely. Lissa should have been there by 3:30 at the latest—because she usually just runs over after she gets home, but she didn’t come. I called; no one answered. Finally I put on my winter stuff and went over to the house. The sitter said, “I told her but…” This was very odd. I went back home and Lissa soon came over. She didn’t seem particularly glad to see us. She had been coloring with the babysitter while we waited for her! This didn’t seem like her at all. She barely said a word to us as she ate and drank her “tea.” She didn’t say anything about the marble tea eggs. She ate them—well, she ate the white part. But that was eat. It was as if zombie child had come to our tea party!

Finally it was time to take her into the fairyland. I had her close her eyes, and I led her into the kitchen. Then she opened her eyes. She looked around like she was seeing blank cardboard. She had no expression of surprise or delight or anything. She looked around at the fairy cakes and said, “You said there’d be cheesecake.”

I was stunned. Lissa wasn’t usually like this. Mario had to leave, so Lissa and I sat at the fairyland table, alone, and I served her Old Mermaids tea. As I sat there, feeling like a dope for doing all this work, I thought, “Kim, you just shouldn’t do this kind of thing. Too much expectation.” Even though I was very hurt, I kept my mouth shut. I was not going to guilt her. Whatever was going on was perplexing, but I wasn’t going to guilt her.

She ate the fairy cakes, but she didn’t seem to enjoy them. She didn’t look around at anything. I tried to talk to her about what was wrong, but she kept saying all was well. (By this I mean when I asked, “Are you upset about something?” she said, “No.” “Are you mad at me?” “No.” Etc.) 

Well, this was a bust for all concerned, I thought. I just wanted it over. I went and got her presents. She didn’t seem excited or anything. In fact, she opened one and said, “Is this a coloring book like you got me before?” With a tone that indicated she had not liked that book. (It was a fairy sticker book.) What????

By this time, I was ready to send the kid home and cry myself to pain-free land. She wanted to call her mom to come over for the tea party which was fine with me. Her mom came over, and she fed her mother and showed her her presents and completely ignored me. I hadn’t realized I could be so hurt by a 7-year-old—and I kept telling myself that’s what she was.

Her mom had to leave to get her hair cut. Lissa was so clingy with her mom that I suggested she go with her. I was surprised when she wanted to stay. I was ready to wrap it up. I had gotten her a magnet set of mermaids. There are 50 magnets, and you can dress the two mermaids in all kinds of tails, clothes, crowns, etc. We couldn’t see very well in the kitchen, so we took this in the living room. I sat next to her on the couch while she played with it. One mermaid was her and one was me. 

At one point she got cold, so I put a quilt over her. She put her legs over mine, which was the cue for me to rub and tickle her feet, which I did. She put her head on the pillow and relaxed, and I rubbed her feet while we listened to Christmas music. We talked about some things.

Finally when she was relaxed, I said, “You know what I think? I think you’re kind of mad at me because I’m leaving.” She nodded. Finally! “Are you afraid you’ll be lonely?” She nodded. “What else is going on, darlin?” 

She said, “Nana died. Mommy is always working. Daddy is always at meetings.” And my house was practically the only place she got to go. I said, “That’s just because it’s easy.”

I said, “So you feel like everyone is deserting you?” She nodded. I said, “You know I’m not leaving to get away from you. Do you know why I’m going?” She shook her head. I realized then I’d never explained why I was going. “Well, we go down and work. We just spent all day working and walking in the desert.” “But you can work here.” Ah, yes. “That’s true,” I said, “but I get a little sad in the winter, so I like being down where it’s warm and sunny. Plus I get to be with my family. I get to see my daddy. I don’t get to see him any other time. And my sisters.”

I started talking about the Christmases I remembered as a child. About going to midnight mass. Then afterward gathering at my grandma’s house, all 50(?) of us. I told her how beautiful our house looked with the lights off and the tree all lit up. We’d come down in the morning when it was still dark, and there’d be presents everywhere. As I was telling her this, I started to cry. Maybe it was the headache. Maybe it was the stress of the crash-and-burn tea party. Maybe it was because I miss those Christmases past. As I talked, tears streamed down my face.

I said, “I don’t know why I’m crying.”

“Is it because of your mom?”

I nodded. “Probably. And I miss my family. You know, when I was a kid I wanted all kinds of presents, but, darlin, I don’t remember a single present. What I remember is being with my family—and the Christmas tree lights!”

She seemed to be contemplating this. She was either thinking, “How profound, Kim,” or “Dude, that’s because you’re old and you forget everything.”

After a while, I said, “You know, sweetheart, I’ll miss you, too. Tell me how you’d like me to keep in touch with you.”

She sat up and said she wanted Facetime and cards. And presents. I just laughed when she said “presents.” I told her I would write; I’d send photos on email; I’d call, and we’d try to do Facetime or Skype. 

She was her old self now, excited by the tea party, fairyland, and everything. She got the mermaid magnets out again, and we dressed the mermaids. She said excitedly, “I could play with these every day!” 

It was nearly 7:00 by now, and it was time to go home. Past time. I asked her if she wanted me to show her on the calendar again when I would be gone. She did. I showed her, and then I pointed to the full moon on the calendar.

“The full moon is in a few days,” I said. “After that full moon, watch for the next one. We will be home not long after that.” Her face brightened at that prospect.

Then we looked at fairyland together one last time. I told her she could take something from it to keep until I got back. She picked a piece of amethyst and a white marble. I would take another white marble and another piece of amethyst with me, so we’d both have something to remind each other of each other. I packed up one bag for her and one bag full of presents for the other children. (She was happy that her bag was heavier!) Then I knelt next to her as she was zipping up her jacket. She had a brilliant smile on her face.

I said, “Remember, I love you.” She put her arms around me, and we held each other. I said, “I’m very glad we are friends.”

I walked her home. As we parted, I said, “See you later, gator.”

“After while, crocodile.”

“Tootle-loo, kangaroo.”

Then we looked at each other and laughed. Neither one of us remembered what was next. “We’ll have to practice that,” I said.

“Bye, bye!” she said.

“Good-bye, sweetheart.”

Then I turned around in the dark and walked back to fairyland.

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All work copyright © Kim Antieau 2008-.