Category Archives: magic


English: Proxima Centauri, the closest star to...

English: Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth other than the Sun. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wasn’t sure how to approach this thing [Follow the Leader, a blogging challenge I’m participating in on another site] as a writer, rather than a spectator, but this one’s a gimme. Biking and making up stuff, that’s what I do anyway. I thought I’d bike to the store and back, see what there was to see, and take it from there. Maybe the person who drops all the banana peels on the sidewalk of the bridge over the Starkweather is conducting a cruel experiment. Maybe the person who carefully picks up their doggie poo-poo, wraps in a plastic bag, and then leaves it lying there has some interesting mental illness.

But nah, turns out I found about a hundred pages of somebody’s journal down by the lake. They were soaking wet and squished together, intermingled with the pages of a microscopically printed New Testament. It’s in the oven now, drying out while I put away the groceries. Haven’t read any of it yet–the handwriting was too small for me to read with my contacts on. So, let’s see what’s there.

– A list of stars, in order by their proximity to Earth. The nearest, Proxima Centauri, is 4.3 lightyears away.

– Bible verses copied out, some in Greek, with MEM in big letters at the top of some. Whoever wrote this has memorized a good portion of the Bible.

– A list of all the known moons in the solar system, with their stats.

– In big letters: Remember our Mother Earth She’s just as important (Interesting observation, for a litterbug.)

– A list of all the James Bond movies.

– The ingredients of air.

– A poem. [first two lines are illegible]
…the same deeds he saw all a similar path
an itching of a few centuries
the socks are warm and softly pleasant
soon ice will form in a week or two
certainly the way to the throne
his itchings are in the innermost particles
the outmost form the dome of pinpoint light
the tranquil base where the eagle landed

– More information about Van Allen radiation than you really want to know.

– Notes about sermons, either his or someone else’s.

– A handout about a free Thanksgiving dinner at a church.

– The Athanasian Creed.

– A bunch of other really boring stuff about church history.

– A list of every Wisconsin regiment that fought in the Civil War.

– A list of all the moon voyages, including the names of the astronauts and the lunar features they explored.

So, tons of data–more like a notebook than a journal. A lot of work went into it, so you’ve got to wonder why somebody left it behind. It could have been stolen from the person who wrote it, maybe along with his wallet or briefcase. Or maybe the writer gave it up as a voluntary simplicity thing. Or maybe he’s got a terminal illness, and is casting off all his worldly possessions before he dies.

You’re right, that’s not what I think.

I think he often came to sit by the lakeside at night, enjoying the light of the full moon on the water and pondering the stars. Then, last night, they came for him.

Stranger than fiction

Every year Madison has a downtown block party that coincides with the end of the University’s semester, officially called the Mifflin Street Block Party, and unofficially Drunkfest. Students start drinking in the morning, then walk around the downtown area all day visiting house parties, bars and restaurants, getting progressively drunker.

During Saturday’s festivities, a few of them came into the store. The female drunks are nice enough, wide-eyed undergrads in short-shorts and ripped Bucky Badger t-shirts, who just hang around trying on rings and stuff. Not that many of the guys come in, but the ones that do can be trouble. I thought I was doing good to answer a few of this one guy’s obnoxious questions (“Why don’t you have statues made of real ivory?”) before shooing him out the door, but just as he was on his way out, his friend was coming up to the counter where my boss was standing, saying, “How about a little kiss?” (Diane is 62, BTW.)

But the other pair that came in were the real troublemakers. Diane was in the bathroom taking a confidential phone call at the time. The fat sunburned kid just kind of rolled around the store, picking stuff up, but his friend stayed by the necklace spinners. I was all set to stand right there by him, but then the phone rang–someone who needed to sign a couple people up for readings with the out-of-town medium who comes through every month, the kind of call it takes five minutes to work through, scheduling and taking their credit card number for the deposit and all that. While I was in the middle of the call, Diane came out of the bathroom, so I wrote PURPLE TEESHIRT on a slip of paper. Purple Teeshirt was, by this time, hightailing it out the door. By the time she opened the door, he was out of sight.

A couple minutes later, she happened to be outside again, and there he was, showing off the crystal and garnet pendant he’d stolen to some friends. She got it back, and told him she wouldn’t call the police, but that he was never to come into our store again. Happy ending, right?

Well, yesterday two other people came into the store, to give back the other stuff Purple Teeshirt stole. The woman said she really chewed Purple out for stealing stuff from us, because ours is one of her favorite stores. “Stealing from you guys, man, that’s just bad juju.” True enough, though we’re used to it. People will shoplift books about how to get good karma. Go figure.

The guy with seconded what she said, but he had a story behind it–one I remembered from half a year ago. He came into the store with pocket change and a badly infected ear; he’d tried to do a home piercing. Whoever was working that day sold him a tiny quartz crystal, which he stuck in his ear in place of a stud. He came in a couple days later to say the infection was cleared up. When he came in yesterday, he said he’d had no further problems with it, and thanked us again for the crystal.

Fairy Princess Moon Ring

Vacation! Whooppeeeeee! Nine days of radical staying home, mostly. I’ll take my usual morning run and buzz out to the Tuesday East Side Farmer’s Market, but other than that it’ll be writing and cooking and reading and playing house.

Before I left work last night, I bought the most out-of-character bauble. It’s the most fanciful ring, a marble-sized moonstone with crazy schiller, in a setting that looks like fifteen shiny silver root-fingers holding onto the stone. This is totally out of my usual jewelry mode, which runs to handmade art pieces and single-element rings. The only ring I wear full-time–washing dishes, in the shower, running, biking, the whole bit–is a slender band of hammered rose gold, which attracts no attention whatsoever unless I use it as part of a multi-metal ring stack. A lot of the time I don’t wear any jewelry but that one ring. I like pretty clothes, and to me a whole mess of jewelry makes a woman’s appearance too “busy.” Some women can pull off the Bold and Blingy Broad look, but it just ain’t me.

So now, I don’t know what I’m going to do with this big honkin’ ring. (It wasn’t expensive, BTW. This is the midwest, our store’s got good prices even for our area, plus I get a nice discount.) I can’t see working with something like that on, either at home or in the store. I’ll just have to save it for when I go out partying in Fairyland.

The Ledge Game

Here’s a funny little thought game I just made up:

Imagine you’re on a narrow ledge on a very tall cliff, with barely room to stand. In the cliff face is a door. Someone there explains to you that by nightfall you will have to go one way or another, either jump off the cliff or open the door and go through it. She will describe the choices to you, but cannot advise you in any way about which choice to make.

If you choose the cliff, she says, you will fall forever. There is no bottom, but your mind will nevertheless be filled with the constant fear of hitting the bottom. You will never experience any real pain, but you will probably invent tortures to inflict on yourself as you fall, both as a distraction from fear and out of sheer boredom.

If you choose the door, she goes on, it will lead to a land of peace and plenty. You will stay with people who will love you, and whom you will probably choose to love back. You will spend your days playing like a child, creating things and studying the world around you. When you get hungry, there will be plenty of good things to eat and drink, and you’ll have your own little room with a warm bed for when you feel like resting. When you give someone a gift, they will accept it with gratitude, but in turn you will be expected to accept gifts as well.

There’s no one there to help you decide, not Jesus or Muhammed or Buddha or your mother or your best friend or your therapist. You’ve only got half a day to think about it. Which would you go for, the cliff or the door?

What did you do in school all day?


Image via Wikipedia

I know it’s only early afternoon, but what the heck, the coolest events in the day so far:

– Leafed through Sister Wendy’s The Story of Painting. I love this book! Today I was looking for beautiful women, and found them–everything from Etruscan wall paintings of girls gathering flowers to Picasso nudes. If any of them were around today, they’d be rushing off somewhere, jangling the car keys and muttering, “I hate my thighs!” In some ways, if you’re looking for a gentler time to be a woman, the choices would consist of “any time but now.”

– The leaves outside the window are all being ruffled by the same wind, but they don’t look the same at all. The big leaves of the weed tree right outside the window don’t look at all like the jumpy, lacy ones of the fence line trees, and those ones don’t look anything like the pixil-ish, on-and-off pings coming from the branches way overhead. Queer.

– Somebody I don’t know at all read a bunch of my Yelp reviews and blog entries, and left comments just to basically say hello. Hello!

– Trader Joe’s Pizza Margherita with croissant-ish crust, for lunch. My-oh-my that was good!

– Buddhas, man. I was trying to get started on an article about all the different types of Buddhas. We carry Buddhas in various poses in the store, and when someone comes in and asks for one by name I always feel like an idiot, because I have no freakin’ idea which is which. I started the article by listing whatever I could remember. Let’s see, Maryan-something, and Avilotesh-something, and, um, yeah, uh. . . that’s it! Actually, that isn’t anything!

Obviously I’m not a Buddhist, but I have a feeling that all those Buddhas carry the same basic message: “Be kind to yourself, to create at least the possibility of being kind to others.”

Missing persons


Image by anonymouse-slip-sliding away via Flickr

I have little games I play, smallish magics, in the hopes that I’ll gradually stop missing Kid A and Dan.

Kid A had a problematic relationship with the mice. He ate in his room constantly and left food lying around, so of course the mice liked to hang out in his room. Their little mouse bustling would wake him up at night. So he bought a BB gun and took potshots at them from his bed. Needless to say, no mouse has ever been safer. So he brought in the heavy artillery: Mike the cat.

I have an unproblematic relationship with mice. I don’t like them. I don’t like them digging tunnels and gnawing at things and leaving poo everywhere. The main reason I like to keep a cat is that cats kill mice better than I do.

Mike caught several, and was having a grand old time doing it. But he also got in the habit of knocking on Kid A’s door when he wanted to come in and hunt, and one time he got locked in and peed on the bed. At about the same time, Kid A decided mice were cute.

He started leaving food out for them.

Of course, when he went off to Basic a couple weeks ago, the first thing I did was toss the food and sweep up the mouse droppings. Mike lurked outside the closet door, but without any incentive to come back, the mice didn’t cooperate. Neither Kid B nor I leave food lying around, so the mice mostly stay down in the basement now. Either that or they’ve gone off to bother our neighbors.

The only thing left from the whole business is a lot of bright yellow BBs that have rolled into every corner of the house. After the initial sweep-up, I’ve allowed myself to pick up one BB per day and toss it in the trash. With the idea that, when all the BBs are gone, I won’t miss Kid A any more.

With Dan, it’s winter. He died in early December, just when snow was starting to be more probable than rain. I told myself I would try to miss him less once winter was past. Even though it was his idea to move to Wisconsin, he always hated winter.

I saw the first open forsythia blossom this morning, so it must be spring. It was not a happy flower. Yesterday the sky had a regular hissy-fit, and we got freezing rain, sleet, thunder, lightning, snow, smelt, spelt and I don’t know what all else. By this morning all lawns were white, but with half an inch of green poking out the top. That poor forsythia was giving the whole scene the gimlet eye and wondering why it hadn’t stayed asleep.

Not me, though. Any spring is better than none. Maybe when nature does its thing, and I’m no longer missing leaves and bugs and fresh peaches, I won’t miss my husband so much either.

Something familiar about Mike

I’ve had a few cats, but Mike is the first one who sincerely wants to be human.  With him, it’s easy to see how cats got a spooky reputation.  (And yes, he’s a black cat.  Some say they’re the smartest.)  He watches everything I do and then tries to copy it.

I can fill up a bowl with the freshest water in the world, but does he want that?  Noooo!  He’s got to drink out of my glass.  That’s magic water, from which I derive my powers.

After I cut up fruit, he likes to bat the knife around, and has no eyes for any other kitchen utensil.  And if I get out the broom, he knows it’s really magic time, because when I use it a mysterious wind comes up and pushes things across the floor.  Then I brush these things into the dustpan and. . . make them disappear!

He even thinks the vacuum is cool.  And pens, doors, purses, bowls of nuts, anything recently worn, my laptop–or my actual lap, for that matter.  All these are tools of my magic–magic he’s sure can be his, if he only applies his wits to the matter.  He doesn’t consider himself my pet so much as my apprentice.

This morning he watched as usual as I demonstrated my arcane kitchen knowledge–making breakfast and coffee, sweeping the floor, washing a few dishes.  He was especially impressed when I poured a little boiling water into a dirty cake pan and steam came out.  Oooooo!

Then he decided he was going to impress me with all he’d learned.  So he hopped on the floor and opened the bottom cabinet, looked over his shoulder to make sure I was watching, and then batted out an old potato.    After this accomplishment, he got into the cabinet and squeezed between some cereal boxes and watched my face, to see if I would react with awe.