Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Feather Beds

There’s nothing like sleeping in a freezing room snuggled under a feather bed. When I was a child visiting my grandparents and great-grandparents on my mother’s side in Hallein and Oberalm, Austria, respectively, it was cold, especially in Winter. Their apartments were made of granite quarried from the Alps and heated by wood-burning stoves. Each apartment had only one stove and those were in the kitchens which doubled as the communal living space. Bedrooms were not heated and only occupied at night.

At bedtime, you’d rush into the bedroom, rush into your jammies and rush under the thick, poofy feather bed. The windows would be open because you expelled poison gases as you slept so airing out the room was necessary for your health. The air turned your nose, forehead and cheeks red if you dared poke your head out from under the covers. There was no getting out of bed and fooling around. It was just too damn cold. I’ve never slept so well as I did in those freezing chambers.

In the morning, you flung back the heavy covers, slipped your feet into felted slippers and ran, hell bent, to the outhouse that hung off of the side of the building on the second story. Then, just as quickly, you ran into the kitchen for a wave of warmth and some scalded milk. You might need to pluck a tiny feather that had escaped its casing from your hair.

I’ve tried using down comforters in our heated homes and they were always too hot to sleep under. Even with the thermometer turned way down like we have it, sometimes set at 62 degrees, it’s not the same if the windows aren’t open. And I’m not keeping the windows open at night and invite murders to come kill me while I’m dreaming.  

My favorite pillow was an Army issued down pillow, made of blue and white striped Army duck fabric. That pillow went everywhere with me all the way through college. It was perfect: always stayed the right temperature - never getting warm because as you all know, a pillow should stay cool on your face - and it squished into any form needed to get comfortable. I finally had to get rid of it because it just stank.

I must have a thing for feathers. I see them everywhere. I’m sure they are everywhere for you, too, but do you notice them? Dove or pigeon feathers are always in my path around my neighborhood. I collect them and tuck them into books and notepads. I think the predatory birds we have in the area are feasting on the pigeons. “Squab.” I have a few red-tailed hawk feathers that would make great quill pens if I could bring myself to use them in such a dishonorable manner. Instead, I keep them in a pen holder near my ink pots and pretend.

Last Friday was my birthday and my husband gave me a card with a feather in it (not because he knows I have a feather fetish but because I still tickle his fancy.)

Monday, October 05, 2015

Rumble, Roar and Clap

nothing stays the same
monotonous hours thunder
across my bed sheets

Many people I know, some closely related to me, are afraid of thunderstorms, .

There’s a story in our family about my uncle who had a dairy farm in Beech Flats, Pennsylvania. An outdoor man, his face wind-kissed, his hands as work-worn as his denim shirt and pants, he lived in a cotton candy pink house. He spent most of his days on the rolling, green mountains or in his shadowed barn. Except during a storm. One such time, he was sitting on the toilet, doing his number two business when a thunderstorm reared its ugly head. A strike hit the ground, entered the water pipes and shot his ass out through the open bathroom door and across the house into the livingroom. It split the throne in half. My mother claimed to have witnessed the incident.

We were forever forbidden to go potty in a thunderstorm. And no talking on the phone, either. My mother’s fear of lightning was pathological. She’d call us at the onset of the meteorological event to warn us of impending doom and spend thirty minutes telling us to stay safe.

I have no such fears. In fact, I love savage storms.  

One exciting night, I was in a Freightliner tractor in a thunderstorm in New York City. The truck was not tethered to a loaded trailer, so it rocked and bucked in the wind as bursts of current flashed around me. I tingled from my toes to the ends of my hair.

I spent many of my formative years with my  Oma in Hallein, Austria. Her apartment sat along the Salzach river at the base of the Dürrnberg. Like so many buildings in the town, it was built from the stone of the surrounding alpine massifs. Walls were eighteen inches thick. Window sills were more like seats.

When thunderstorms hit, I looked out the unshuttered window towards the mountain and the sound would vibrate all around, coming up through the ground and entering the building, finding affinity with long-lost bits torn off over five hundred years ago. The air moved from the noise and the river would fill up with brown, churning, violent water. The wind smelled of ozone and mud and I lost myself in the awesome violence.

I saw the lightning as an assault of light and color. Flashes of white would form as streaks of rainbow color on the inside of my eyelids. The sky and my retina’s canvas were washed in deep, pulsating purples so dark they resembled an oil slick sliced by the abrupt up stroke of electricity zig-zaggy its way from the ground into the heavens. I shook and vibrated, my mouth filled with the metallic flavor of blood and my nostrils flared with the tang of ozone.

Ironically, the noise did not register. I didn’t hear the crack of a whip or shot of a gun. I never had to cover my ears with my hands. Instead, the echoes traveled from rocky peak to granite tower, rolling down slate slopes and swollen streams to disgorge boulders and jolts where I stood, quivering and trembling.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Do You See the Monster Hiding in the Grass?

The world is still a weird place, despite my efforts to make clear and perfect sense of it. ~ Hunter S. Thompson

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Things Could Be Worse

Reincarnation is a popular idea in some circles. I've written about past life regression before, most recently back in July and further back in 2006.

Just a brief reminder: I read Tarot cards. One of the things I can do in a reading is explore who you were in previous incarnations. I've done this for others and myself, coming up with stories of lives lived in other bodies and places. We can change gender and culture and time periods.

We break away an essence of ourselves from the collective soul or spirit when we need a certain experience. We manifest a body, test our fortitude and then go back from whence we came.

Unlike so many people I've met, I was never Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth or King Arthur. People like to think they are special. It seems I've never been famous or important although I have thrown a wrench in other people's plans.

In dark age Britain, serfs were tied to the land. They were born, lived and died in the same small place. A serf's role in life was fixed and ridged and people knew where they stood. You did what your father and his father before him did. If your grand-father tilled the soil, you tilled the soil. Very few people broke the mold.

Around the year 900 AD, in Saxon England, I was a male serf born to a family of cow herders. While my grandfather and my father milked cows, father flaunted tradition by naming me Nod. Even so, I milked cows. I herded them to their pastures. I followed the plan until I saw the falconer at work when I was eight. From that point on, I got in trouble for ignoring my tasks in favor of watching the falconer. I even managed to assist him on occasion. I had a gift, a talent, with the birds.

Our Lord loved falcon hunting so much, that when the falconer died unexpectedly of a fever, leaving no son or apprentice, the Overlord raised me up. I was thirteen. I was in heaven.

Until three years later when I met the Lord's daughter, Leofflaed and we fell in love.

She, like most daughters of the time, was betrothed to an older man in furtherance of her father's ambitions. I was drunk on my success in rising above my station. I could do anything. I could save her.

We made plans to run away. Neither of us knew where exactly we would go as we had never been beyond the borders of our manor. We packed food and clothing and prepared to escape on foot. We left one dark night in June. We were quickly caught.

Since she was defiled, she was purged, then sent to a cloistered convent where she died in childbirth. My son became a rather important priest.

I was dragged back to the manor, strapped to a large log with a hawk caged on my stomach. I was pecked to death over the period of four days as an example to my fellow man.

* * *

LEOFFLÆD - f (Anglo-Saxon) Beloved beauty.
NOÐ - m (Anglo-Saxon) Bold, daring.

Friday, October 02, 2015


We have a ghost in our house. 

I kid you not.

I used to see and hear things all of the time when I was younger. I had imaginary and invisible friends. Of course, I had no idea they weren't real because they were real. Around the age of fifteen, I started ignoring the sights and sounds. I was deathly afraid I had schizophrenia. Denial is a perfectly good coping mechanism. They were always still there - I'd see them out of the corner of my eye as they traipsed through the room, or they would call out to each other when I was home alone. For the next fifteen years, I refused to acknowledge their place in the world but they refused to be locked away like your strange Aunt Myrtle.

Now, these things, these beings just are. 

When we bought this house, April 1, 2006, and moved in, I knew there was an old man who came with the building. I didn't really think anything of it. He was just there. He hangs out mostly by the front door and by the refrigerator. He's the originally owner who died in the house. He has wispy white hair, stubble on his chin and is dressed in well-worn denim work clothes, loose, baggy and comfortable. He doesn't speak so I don't know his name. I guess I could find out if I asked people in the neighborhood but its not necessary for either of us that I know what he was called when he lived here.

I had confirmation of his existence because my dog, Cody, would stare at the spots whenever he came to visit. My grandson has also expressed his awareness of the ghost.

While I find these experiences fascinating, I haven't yet figured out what good seeing and hearing things that aren't there is to anyone. No one asks me to send them on, even if I believed there is a different place to go. I know there's all kinds of places and times, but I'm not a Ghost Whisperer. And I think they are perfectly capable of going wherever they want. Existence is very flexible. And I haven't run into anyone filled with animosity for me, like they want to take over my soul or something. So, I've never been sure of what I should do with this information except to just know about it.

It has just dawned on me as I write this post that I have never tried to engage any of these beings. Like the wasps that buzzed around me as I played in the North Carolina sand, they were just there. They never approached me with their stingers drawn. Perhaps I should make an effort to speak to one of them. I wouldn't even have to perform a ritual to call one up since they're already here. I don't even know if they are all dead people or if some of them are like demons. I could ask. What's the worst that could happen? 

My ears hear: Spirit in the Night by Bruce Springsteen

Thursday, October 01, 2015

31 Days of Weird

Rabbit, Rabbit.

There's this thing called Write31Days where you write and post everyday in October based on some theme of your choice. I hesitate to make another everyday commitment as I've pretty much accepted the fact that I suck at that sort of thing. As soon as I say I'm going to do something everyday, the rebel rears its ugly head and you can count on the fact that it ain't gonna happen. Hey, but I'm nothing if not a sucker for punishment and soul searing disappointment. Let the fun begin.

I'm going to write on weird things I've experienced. I figure this will be a good theme for October. There will be no editing except for spelling errors, if I catch them. I'm shooting for a stream of conscientiousness kind of thing.

Maybe you will have experienced some of the things I will tell you about. If so, great, neither of us are alone. If you haven't and you think I deserve a white padded room, please remember I'm a writer and I'm lying.

I'm going to call these things essays. I like the idea of being an essayist. I don't really know what an essay is but like poetry, I find the concept romantic and I wanna do it even though I haven't a clue as to what's going on.

Since the bunnies in my drawing are dead from an arrow through their hearts, today's theme will be on one aspect of death.

My mother died almost a year ago (11-11-14 at 10:10.) While her passing has done many unexpected things to my head that I never could have predicted, it has highlighted to me with staggering force that we are not our bodies.

She was so uncomfortable and in pain before she left us. Air rasped through her. Her body was heavy with gravity, compressing into itself to the point where her physical self no longer even looked like her. She drew us to herself like a lodestone. She couldn't have been more of this world. And then she expelled and she was gone.

What was left in the hospital bed was so clearly not her. She wasn't in the room. She wasn't in her casket at the funeral home and she wasn't placed in her grave. She was gone.

On Tuesday of this week, she was back. She has stopped by several times since she went away last November. Around 09.30 two days ago, she stood just behind me, placed her hand on my left shoulder (out of character since we rarely shared good touch) and whispered in my right ear, "Just let it all go." (also, very out of character - if you knew my mother, she never let anything go.)

She has stopped by about a dozen times. If I knew I would write about this, I'd have kept better count. Her essence is materially with me and then quite clearly gone. Each time her message is the same: nothing here matters as much as I think it does.

My ears hear: Radioactive by Imagine Dragons
(pay particular attention to the 53 second mark)