"I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with the nonhuman world and somehow survives...Paradox and bedrock."-Edward Abbey

28 February 2011

Winter's Coils

Wind, chinook in bearing, gusts through the valley. Atop my personal Kilimanjaro, snow devils, colossi of ice and snow and mist form a chorus line across the summit, doing the can-can before being blown into the stratosphere to disappear into phantasmal vapor along the jetstream. Around the house, patches of khaki grass and dirt appear through the drifts. I know along the eastern wall, under the snow, the crocus bulbs make ready to push to the surface.

The river had frozen over with the first Arctic cold snap, shortly after the solstice. Over the last few weeks, fissures have began to appear. Once more, moving water can be seen, trundling down toward the flatlands. Late at night, when letting the hounds run and taking in the majesty of the cosmos, it's almost possible to hear the ice cracking. I imagine it sounds like whalesong, but, other than documentaries and tales told by travelers, I've never had occasion to hear a whale sing. Perhaps someday I'll remedy that. Maybe someday I'll finally make it Africa, where all the stories began.

If winter could be likened to a constricting serpent, I would be willing to wager its coils are loosening. The air is not as cold, even when it snows. Some of the subtle omens of the approaching season begin to manifest. The cast of light has softened from deep winter's harsh glare. A feeling of mutual excitement can be seen upon faces. Collective cabin fever is perhaps coming to an end.

According to the calendar, the vernal equinox is twenty-one days away. This means little more than the days are getting longer, and one of them will be of equal light and dark. It's possibly winter could hang on another month, perhaps two. Be that as it may, the constricting coils of winter have loosened. Sooner than any of us think, but later than we hope, it will slither away entirely, and it will be spring once more.

22 February 2011

The Equilibrium of Geography

Sabina and I were still dancing with the dead for money when we first moved to the mountains. In order to have our dream of Kashmir, we decided it was worth it to commute back down below to the greater metroplex. One way, this was a drive of fifty-seven miles. There was a drop-off for public transportation in a township thirty miles east, in those borderlands of the front range foothills, but it ran banker's hours and not on the socially constructed weekends, which would not work for when we danced with the dead for money, because neither of us were allied with the powers that be.

So, the commute was part of the price to be paid for living where we wanted to live, and all things for a price. That's the deal. I firmly believe it is only cheap things that can be purchased with folding paper and jingling coins. The currency of the cosmos has very little to do with the economics of humanity.

Sabina got out of that gig before me, leaving me to make the trek alone. During the year from when she stopped traveling down below with me to dance with the dead for money and my own release, my resentment for the greater metroplex grew. I had already fallen out of love with the place back when Sabina and I had discover and decided a funky little mountain township ten miles away from the Roof of the World was our Kashmir. The fact I was having to still deal with the place out of obligation was metaphoric salt in a proverbial wound. And as my resentment of the place grew and festered like maggots in an infected wound, it's pretty well a given there was resentment toward me.

If you hate the city, but love your fucking mountains so much, why don't you just stay there and never, ever come back? That was the implication. Even from some of my oldest and dearest friends. Looking back, I cannot say I blame them.

Of course, some of it may have been a sense of betrayal. The fact I had come to the metroplex from the badlands of eastern Colorado a full ten years before to find my fortunes and became so immersed in the ways of the urban, only to quite suddenly decide I was over it and was fucking off back for the in-between places, only this time where the terrain pointed up instead of being flat, was probably more than a little jarring. There was a time I would try to find an explanation. A rationalization as much for myself as anyone who might have asked. Here and now, I find that to be a waste of time. It happened, and cannot be made to unhappen.

I can remember when I was eighteen, and decided that one day I wanted to live amongst the monoliths of downtown and be published. It started then; my resentment of the badlands, of wild places. The slightest thing about the geography would irk me, giving me further reason to hear the siren's song of the city. When Sabina and I found our Kashmir, the same thing began to happen with the greater metroplex; every little thing that ever bugged me, but I dismissed because I was living my city dream, became unbearable.

My father did the same thing when he decided he could no longer stay in the Rub 'al Khali of the badlands, with my mother's phantasm hanging like cobwebs and badlands dust in every shadow and corner, but with no tangible presence. Everything he despised about that far-flung place grated on him, where as the part of the metroplex he ended up moving to bordered upon paradise. Cats I've spoken to who have decided to leave the Sahel speak in similar tones of an area I believe houses my place in the world. This just tells me my reactions of geography are far from unique, but instead, validation for those grand leaps we all make from time to time.

When I go released from dancing with the dead for money it was a mixed blessing. Sure, I no longer had to commute. But I had to find a new way of acquiring money. Still, I was no longer so obligated to the greater meteroplex. My only reasons for going down there would be for family or friends. One of my friends even speculated that, given time, my ire toward the metroplex might fade.

It has been close to a year and half since I danced with the dead for money and I do find I can think of the greater metroplex now without a growl and an almost Tourette's-like compulsion for some potent intoxicant. In recent hops, I've even found a certain sense of nostalgia. It seems time, distance, and lack of obligation have allowed for a peace to be cultivated.

The last time I was down was for the memorial. There I saw cats of whom I'd neither seen or spoken to in years. Some, since when I stopped visiting vampire dens to monkey watch, and others from when I moved. We embraced and talked, as is the custom at such events, but there was something unspoken, which passed between all of us that was in context of my being there; it's been years and we've all moved on...we can only progress from the here and now.

"It's weird seeing all of these people," Lee commented at one point. Like me, some he'd not seen in a few years.

"You're telling me," I said.

He shot me a look as if to say with me it was a given, seeing as I'd fucked off for the pointy lands and the Sahel. The look I gave him conveyed the fact we were, effectively, at a funeral, and it's to be expected to see ghosts at a funeral. Although, not all specters are cloaked in grave dust and rattling chains, and those are the ghosts I tend see with more frequency and endeavor to make peace with.
Perhaps it was being in the presence of all those phantasms that gets me to realize that one friend's speculation just might be spot on. My thoughts of the greater metroplex are no longer the stuff of murder thoughts and tirades proudly sponsored by the letter fuck. I get nostalgic for the greater metroplex in the same way I do for my university days or living out in the badlands or, even sometimes, my time down south; the type of nostalgia I must temper with reptilian objectivity, being mindful to scrape away all the rose-tint, both good and bad.

And I can admit, in a recent moment of nostalgia for the greater metroplex, there were certain aspects I missed. But it's not my Kashmir. It never was. Just a stop along the way. For all the aspects I miss, I cannot go back there, although that's a given. Along the flow of the dynamic, one can only go forward.      

19 February 2011

Requiem for a Friend

"I'll never find someone
quite like you again-
I'll never find someone
quite as touched as you..."-VAST 

It is the day of the memorial. I sip a hot cup of Moroccan mint tea before making breakfast, trying not to think too much about the auspice of the day. With a mind that never seems to shut off, such a task is rather difficult.

There will be things said. Sweet things. Funny things. Poetry. I really have none of those. I can only offer the truth. Because of that, whether I get speak this becomes irrelevant. This is supposed to be a celebration, as the social construct of reality dictates. A dog and pony show for the living to feel they've done right by the dead. I place this here along the spider's web as my own little testimony, so those who happen by might take note. Whether or not I read it aloud at the memorial is a roll of the bones...


I might advise those of weak constitutions and conservative mores to perhaps go outside for some air, for I find I can only speak in truths; and the truth is rarely soft, flowery, clean, well-pressed or conservative...

For those who were not aware, or in denial, Rachel had what conventional society might term as problems. Me, being the honest friend that I was, and quite the bastard at times, really had no inhibition telling her she was fucking insane. She would laugh, sometimes even going as far as to say I might not be anywhere near as sane as I said I was. Sometimes, I would see a writing of hers where she would mention she was crazy and part of me worried her stating that was somehow my fault.

There was once she did feel quite suicidal, but had the presence of mind to check herself in. I was taken into her confidence over the incident. In fact, for a month after the fact, I made sure she got proper, and not toxic, doses of her medications. That time, outside of blood relatives, I was one of the few to visit her. When she got out, I took her out for a porterhouse. She would recall that as the time when I got her drunk on red meat.

She was someone I referred to as family by neither blood or marriage. We were that kind of close, and for me, that is a hard thing to admit to. There are only handful of individuals who I share that sort of intimacy with. I loved Rachel more than anything...only not like that. And once it was established the amore was not like that we had an amazing acquaintance.

Here was the friend who when I was searching for a girl was willing to drive me all over the city to find her. And when things went sour with the same girl, was willing to do any and everything in her power to make sure I was all right. We swapped jokes and books. There was this one chicken recipe, which I just loved, and though she told me the spices, I doubt I could duplicate it. During a bout of depression, I carted her up to my house in the mountains to give her a few days to decompress. When I got news my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and posted it online, I received some very compassionate responses from my friends. Rachel called me, saying this was not something to just fire off an online reply about. An hour later, I would come across an online posting of her grandmother being condemned to dementia. When I called Rachel to express my condolences and bitch her out for not telling me when she called she simply said;

"I wasn't calling to talk about my problems tonight."

I was the misanthrope she would delight in thrusting into social situations, just to see my reactions. She would laugh when I coiled up and growled at someone, and laughed even harder when I'd say something snide to her after the fact. But she also had an intuitive awareness of when I needed to be left alone, be it by friends or strangers.

She was the social butterfly. My ongoing joke with her was everyone knows and loves Rachel, because there was nowhere we could go where it didn't know at least five people. Chances were, she might have even dated one or two of them. She would tell me she was, at heart, as much of a recluse as me and I'd call her a filthy fucking liar. Sometimes the look she gave me, though, seemed to speak of at least wanting a little more solitude.

It's almost funny; many of my friends, Rachel especially, have referred to me as a storyteller. The perception being I am somehow gifted with words. And yet, when it comes to my beautiful friend, any time I try to speak of her, as with now, I find I am tongue-tied. All the tales, all the jokes, all the little things...for all the power I may or may not possess with language, I discover I cannot articulate. It seems so cliche', and ham-handed, but here and now, I realize I can only speak in truths:

I miss you, mon ami...

16 February 2011

The Ghost of Anxiety Present

The bruja showed up on the stoop quite unexpectedly. Her long red hair, in an amalgam of dreads, and thick wavy locks, cascaded from underneath a purple kerchief. She was bedecked in a simple earth-toned skirt and a flannel button-up tied over a plain t-shirt.

"Pseudo-Russian farm girl look?" I inquired flippantly as I invited her in.

With her was the colonel. The had decided to go on a roadtrip, Kerouac in fashion. They were heading west, deeper into the American Maghreb, bound for nameless places and far-flung locals of which there may have only been apocrypha about. But before they truly struck out, the bruja had wanted to swing by the House of Owls and Bats to have a cup of Moroccan mint tea with me.

Despite my memory, one which she has spoken of in tones of both admiration and annoyance, I cannot recall what we spoke of. I know we laughed. There was probably some remark about me having relations with her mother. Well and repeatedly. Inquiries of mutual friends down below. Then, as unexpectedly as she had shown up, it was time for them to go. The bruja gave me a strong and long-lasting hug.

"Don't worry," she said. "I'll be back in time."

...In time? In time for what? And the bruja? Being punctual? Really, now. Here was someone who embodied the term Pagan Standard Time...

The answers to my unspoken questions hit me like a two-tone heavy thing, nearly knocking me to my knees...

In the rising and setting of three suns is her memorial. The public one that seemed to be such brain damage to bring together. An event I have composed a requiem for, though I do not know if I will get a chance to read it there, what with a combination of shyness and so many others wanting to speak their peace. A shin-dig that had the gypsy and Madam Lung not gotten involved, probably would've turned into some kind of dysfunctional Burning Man affair, which, though I recognize that was as much of a facet of her existence as my friendship with her, I'm not sure I could attend without wanting to murder everyone in there. Even the children. Especially the children.

I watched the colonel help the bruja into their vehicle. The two of us did not speak during the visit. I might've found that odd save the fact we never really got to know each other that well. I watched them drive away. Up above was a perfectly clear turquoise blue sky. To the west, toward the Roof of the World, was a growing wave of tar-black clouds. A slight breeze stirred, and I could feel a marginal phantasm of pain along my twisted spine, one of my shoulder muscles starting to twist itself into macrame knots. There was a storm coming.

Fucking perfect...

I awoke a little earlier than a usually do with spasm along my left shoulder blade and the sound of the bruja's voice still in my ears. A slight growl issued from my thin lips as I pulled myself from the warmth of the bed and pulled on some clothes to start the day. Whilst Moroccan mint tea might have been a more contextually correct infusion for the mourning, I opted for simple jasmine instead. Perhaps I was being defiant. It used to be said that hot jasmine tea could fix anything, even that, which is not broken. I have learned firsthand the bittersweet lesson that is not always the case.

Ten-pence dream analysis speaks to the obviousness of anxiety at my friend's impending memorial. Not like it would take an aleinist or psychic to solve that riddle. In the rising and setting of three suns I will be involved in the burying of my friend, at least by virtue of metaphor. I do not know if I will get the opportunity, or, even if said opportunity is presented, if I will pluck up the courage to read the requiem I've composed for her. When I think about it, I find there is a swarm of gypsy moths fluttering about in my gut.

As the gulf between her dreamtime ghost and awakes widens, and I sip my tea, I can still so vividly remember her voice. Her laugh. The tight warmth of her embrace and her scent. The look of bliss she cast toward her colonel and her happiness over having a simple cup of Moroccan mint tea with me. These are things I can never, ever have again. Never get back. Well, not within the realms of the flesh. So it goes.

I have dreams. I have stories. I have memories. Perhaps this is one of those times where my memory, one that has been said to make an elephant cry with envy, is more of blessing than a curse. 

15 February 2011


I have found myself meditating upon stories and those who tell them as of late. The tales that make you laugh. Get you to cry. Feel anger or abject terror. I am a sucker for a good story. Sometimes even a bad one, if the opening words are strung together just right. I get curious. It may be said that curiosity can kill cat, but I have no feline in my biology, and, aside from that, if a cat has nine lives, why should it fear one death?

There is a story in everything. That's the way, it seems. Some stories never get to be told. They are the ugly shadows and the undertow. The monsters that hide in closets and under beds. That metaphoric elephant, which everyone sees, but no one likes to talk about. The stain in the memory and upon the psyche. That nightmare, which whispers to you in the dark late at night when the demons come to tea.

Other stories can take years and lifetimes to coalesce. For the right words and puzzle pieces to slide together. The threads to be woven just so, like a spider spinning its web. To be able to tell the tale correctly. It might become buried under the layers and strata of other memories and tales, but eventually, when the time is right, it resurfaces, begging to be told, buzzing like angry hornets bursting forth from their hive.

I have been accused of being a storyteller once or twice, but there are some I have encountered, both in the realms of the flesh and across these spiderwebs of cyber, whose divinity I cannot begin to even touch. Once upon a time, I told someone I merely get words stuck within the walls of my skull and if I don't purge them out than I might go insane. Upon reflection, that might be an interesting metaphor, but it can also come across as being a tad melodramatic.

There are so many stories locked away in this maggot's nest I call a mind. And still so many more to find. One would perhaps require the lifespan of a star to tell them all, but then again, perhaps forever is not long enough. So it goes. 

And I sit in awe of those storytellers I admire. They are masters and I am a student. I do not aspire for their divinity, though I admire it. Why try to cash in upon another's uniqueness? I might find right and wrong, good and evil to be point of views, but the theft of another's magic is something I cannot abide. Instead, for good or ill, I might just try to get my own mojo working.

12 February 2011


By her own confession, Lady Pictureshow is a product and victim of her own construct. Well pressed and immaculate. Not a hair out of place. A Voodoo mask of warpaint make up always done just so. Every movement choreographed, like something out of a rock video.

It could be said it was bad luck she became friends someone who decided to look under the surface. Peel back the Voodoo mask to poke at the worms underneath, just to watch them squirm. It's what's beyond the facade, which is always infinitely more interesting.

Quite a bit of time has passed since we first shook hands. And it took a few years before she spotted on that the remarks about her having to always be cleaned and pressed with sterilized organs were a bit of a jab. I was trying to teach a lesson. A facade is just that. An illusion. Clinging to it can perpetuate suffering.

On our rare occasions of hanging out, I've noticed the slow changes. Not trying so hard. Subtle changes in dress. Kicking back when I mention a stereotype, sighting she's trying to change.

I have asked her if was because of me. It is the way of chameleons, changelings, and other manner of shape shifter to try and fit in. If they want the continued acquaintance of someone, they'll change form to be that cat's perfect friend/lover/ whatever. Fascinating and sad. By her own confession, Lady Pictureshow is a recovering chameleon. I may have had some influence on her, but she wants to believe she's getting past that for her own benefit, and not for some strange looking creature she sometimes talks to in cafes.

But I do press and jab with the stereotypes to make sure. I want to make sure she's not lying. Whether or not she lies to me is irrelevant. Women lie. Men lie. Monkeys lie. I could be lying right here and now. It's all true, even and especially the lies.

I want to make sure this cat isn't lying to herself. Those are the worst and most damaging kind. If Lady Pictureshow is indeed recovering from being a chameleon, I want to make sure she's being honest about it. Even and especially with herself. Another lesson to teach; when it comes down to brass tacks and bedposts, the only one someone has to own up to is that monster in the mirror. By way of comparison, everyone else is a detail, and a trivial one at that.

It's not a project and it would be cruel and not true to say it's something I do for entertainment when we encounter one another. I'm just this odd looking creature found over the occasional cup of coffee who brings up facades and constructs are for suckers. A signpost along the way. Whether or not I'm even listened to is open to debate. For all I know, Lady Pictureshow just wears a different Voodoo mask when she sees me. It doesn't matter.

The way I see it, though, is as long as she's honest with herself about whether or not she's really changing and recovering from being a chameleon, then I've helped. I've done the right thing. Maybe the lessons I present are slowly being learned.

09 February 2011

And the Storms Broke

Snow devils dancing upon the summit of my personal Kilimanjaro... 

For just a little over a week, I could count the days it had not snowed, not even the slightest phantasm of flurry, on a single hand, having several fingers and a thumb left over. All told, it looked as though we got an additional ten to twelve inches on top of the three to six inch base coat of snow that appears around the beginning of the long dark and lasts until around the vernal equinox. Perhaps I could have been glib, calling the succession of storms a sort of deep winter Arctic accented monsoon, but I might be the only one who would see the humor in it.  

I was greeted with a bright, sunny day. Although the mercury read single digits on the fahrenheit scale, the sunlight gave an illusion of warmth as went about shoving walkways through the drifts. The wind, barbed gusts, kicking up snow devils along the peaks, mountainsides, and snowpacked roadways quickly dispelled this facade. I could feel the cold air lashing what little skin I allowed to be exposed, giving me pause to wonder if I'd not be tattooed with talon marks from the frozen breezes.

Still, it was the type of bright crisp day that one would expect naturalists and wildland eccentrics to prattle on about endlessly. You know the type; those cats who all but masturbate to Thoreau, all the time either unaware, or unwilling to acknowledge, how he would supposedly visit his mum for cookies and Emerson's wife for a little fucking when he was supposed to be all outback like. I might just be too cynical for that sort of thing. After all, most naturalists and wildland eccentrics probably don't go renaming the geological features around there areas after locals in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia because they see said area as a bit of everywhere and nowhere all at once. Be that as it may, I did catch myself admiring the righteous ascetic of the day.

A little over a week of near-constant storms can lead to a bit of cabin fever. Even if there are ample books, a full larder, and plenty of tea. There comes a point where you can find yourself being a little punchy. The feet itch to step out for more than scuttling to a vehicle or calling in the hounds. Whilst a full-fledged walkabout might still be a few days off, getting out for a bit certainly seemed in order.

So, Sabina and I bundled up to go get the post. Our funky little mountain township, this living ghost town, which sits oh so comfortably within the shadow of the mining days, was possessed of the silence that only comes in deep winter. A sort of tentative quiet as the sun shines down upon the freshly fallen snow. If this place was possessed of a personality, one could almost wonder if it wasn't trying to decide if it was okay to wake up a little now that the storms seemed to have broken.

Our walk was quick. Those gusts and snow devils did not encourage a prolonged stroll amongst the ancient buildings. I had visions of a steaming cup of earl grey and perhaps something spicy as a lunch. Still, it was enough to help abate the symptoms of cabin fever.

"I still want to go on real hike," Sabina said as we walked back.

I almost started on about how some schools of philosophical thought question the nature of what is real. There is always discourse on quantum physics. I decided against it. She was making a simple statement, and sometimes, that's all it is. The cigar being the metaphoric cigar.

"It's supposed to warm up over the next few days," I said, siting meteorological prophecy. "Even above freezing."

"Don't you believe it," she said with the sort of resignation one can get in deep winter after a little over a week of steady storms.

Part of me couldn't blame her for her pessimism. Meteorology in general seems to prove the chaos theory, making the likelihood of an accurate prophecy, beyond a few days, about as likely as hitting Alpha Centauri with a rubber band whilst standing at the lowest point in the Mariana Trench. A folk saying in Colorado is if one does not like weather, just wait five minutes. In the mountains above nine-thousand feet, ten miles from the Roof of the World? Doubly so.

It's true, prophets do not know everything and oracles can be dead wrong. I know this. Better than most, but not as well as some. Still, after the storms broke, I was willing to put a little bit of hope in the ten pence guess of meteorological prophecy. But perhaps I was being just a little Pollyanna, just far taller and with different anatomy.

"Tell you what, Mi amore," I began. "In two days, we'll see which of us is right. If it's me, we'll go on walkabout and you'll owe me a kiss."

"You got yourself a bet there, Mister," Sabina said with a smirk.

07 February 2011


My grandmother has been gone seven years now. By late mourning, I'd pulled out the compilation of swing music she gave me, paying special attention to Bunny Bergman's interpretation of I Can't Get Started. This little memorandum served to remind me of a simple and inescapable fact; she's still dead and I still miss her.

By now, she'd have been eighty-eight. Given how my great grandmother, her mother, had slipped into elderly madness somewhere around eighty-three or eighty-four, I cannot help but wonder if my grandmother would've suffered a similar fate. Of course, that is one of those mysteries I'll never be able to solve and I must accept it. Sometimes, I do a better job of that than others.

Upon waking, starting mourning tea, and letting the hounds out, I was greeted by snow. Soft flurry flakes, which danced upon the air currents like fireflies of frozen water. It was fascinating to watch, I do confess, but part of me did chuckle ruefully at a perceived meteorological irony. See, it snowed quite a bit whilst my grandmother was dying. Mostly, on the really bad days. It snowed the day of her funeral.

Of course, it snowed a fair amount when my mother was dying too. In fact, that day I was off on walkabout before my mother died, we'd dealt with a whiteout at one point. As I recall, it snowed a few times around my great grandmother's death, twenty-five years ago now. My grandfather, who died three days before the Christmas of my ninth year, had an aneurysm, which dropped him quickly on the steps of the courthouse he served as commissioner at in soft fluffy snow. It was snowing the day I got the news the bruja's shell joined her ghost in bardo.

The common thread to all this is not so much the snow, but the fact these deaths all occurred during winter. It happens to snow during the winter. Even and especially in this part of the world. Sometimes, to the degree you might find yourself wondering whether or not we are standing upon the precipice of another ice age.

For awhile, I rather hated the snow. You can spare pointing out I live the wrong geographic region if I dislike snow, because I've heard it too many times to count without removing articles of clothing. From that period my grandmother was dying to two and half years later, I would blame my ire toward snow on her death. Certainly, it made that particular form of precipitation less than enjoyable, even of it was just an effigy.

Truth be told, I think I lost that child-like exuberance for snow once I had to actually drive in it. Suddenly, snow days were not nearly as fun or exciting. In fact, since it seemed to become remedial day on the roadways, it became just plumb annoying. Most often, the most vicious of storms seemed to coincide with when I most wanted to go and do something. I know full well it was just roll of the bones chaos, but in a younger and more foolish frame of mind, I occasionally wondered if there wasn't some sort of meteorological conspiracy. It took me years to get past that little bit of self-importance.

I think it was in my mid-twenties that, as penance for getting older and having a twisted skeleton that sometimes seems to be held together by little more than bubblegum and bailing wire, which often creaks and groans like the foundation of an old, old house and brittle bone-dried black widow webs, the cold began to sometimes become painful. Oh, I know there are those who can and do hurt worse than me when the barometer shifts, but that's hardly a comfort when poison painkillers suddenly hold the same appeal as dark chocolate. When the first real snow of the season would come, I would grit my teeth against the pain I knew I'd be feeling in varying degrees for the next few months.

It was because I wouldn't move away, and don't think it wasn't suggested. The paradox being the fact I rather dig Colorado. It's been my home for all but three and a half years of my life. Winter, the cold, the snow, was just the price of admission, and all things for a price; it is only the cheap things can be purchased with folding paper and jingling coins.

There was also the fact my daughter was still here after her mother and split up, making it, to my mind, that I couldn't leave...

Sometime two and a half years after my grandmother died, the gypsy made a remark about things being wonderful once the snow started to fly. That was during a time of transition and for the first time since I was probably seventeen or eighteen, I found myself truly looking forward to the first flakes. That first snow, the pains I get in the joints of my twisted skeleton was not so bad.

Although things did not turn out as expected, that's okay. Wonderful things did end up occurring. I know, better than most, but not as well as some, that expectations can lead to disappointment. When one does not hold expectations, it does prevent disappointment, and, on occasion, one can find themselves pleasantly surprised. An aspect of the Tao of Chaos. Needless to say, it was a catharsis of which I still have a hard time finding the language to describe.  

When Sabina and I decided our Kashmir was up in the mountains, there was a fair amount of concern expressed at the fact it can be winter up here for nearly nine months. Friends and family knew I was not a fan of such things. The cold and snow can be painful. I reminded all of them of the nature of the deal. The price I was going to have to pay for Kashmir, for my place in the world, was long winters and a fair amount of snow. Perhaps it added to the growing supposition that I might have gone at least slightly mad in my decision to jump off the twilight end of the world, but I was at peace with it.

Oh, I still can get burned out on winter. Neither of us ski or snowboard, preferring to hike. Although, a snowshoe once or twice a season-at least-is fun. Just because I've made peace with the inevitability of winter does not mean the pains I sometimes feel within my twisted skeleton has suddenly, miraculously gone away. The novelty of shoveling out of drifts can wear off rather quickly no matter one's position of love or hate on the snow scale.

Still, I no longer curse the snow as an effigy of my grandmother's death. Although, part of me finds bittersweet humor when flakes fly on the anniversary of her death. It might be ironic, but I know it's not intentional. With a rueful smile and swing music playing as the backbeat, I raise my tea mug to the window. I'm toasting my grandmother's memory. I'm toasting the snow.

04 February 2011

Marrakech Cafe

When the afternoon call to prayer came, he would sometimes walk to the sidewalk cafe for a cup. Though his beliefs were farther to the four directions than the land of Mohammad, but he always liked hearing the sound. It was then, he would go to the cafe, sometimes seeking out other infidels and heretics to engage in a game of chess. Sometimes, he would just read a book.

The old, old clerics were there, drinking minted tea, and making quiet note of his passing. Alla knew of their love, faith, and service, and no longer expected them submit in the mosques. It was simply understood.

There were unspoken greetings as he walked by, because they did sometimes talk to him. Although, they found him odd. His skin was the color of chalk, beaten copper, and faded olives. Upon his body was a mark, which might have denoted him as one of the dark ones that bled smoke, but no one was ever brave enough to ask or find out. When he spoke, his accent was unlike any other anyone had ever heard. He wore no cologne, but carried the scent of another world entirely. His eyes, the color of flawed jade, seemed to take in a devour everything. When he wasn't talking, playing chess, or reading, he was writing in black India ink in alien symbols on what may have been paper in handsomely bound notebooks. Some of the cafe patrons wondered what it was he saw with those strange eyes. Others wondered what he wrote in those strange books.

With his cup of coffee and a hand-rolled cigarette, he sat down, taking in the cafe. Young lovers and students, sneaking away whilst their parents prayed. Non-believers and travelers, relaxing in the afternoon quiet, when the devoted went to mosque and the music was turned whisper low. The old, old clerics, retired and exhausted now, talking quietly amongst themselves, sometimes joined by old, old priests and rabbis- people of the book-at which time they would discuss the ten-thousand names of their god, silently wondering if he really was the true one.

There was no one to play chess with and he wasn't in the mood to read. A handsomely bound notebook and pen filled with black India ink rested inside his satchel, eager to come to their master's hands if he so beckoned. He waited. Listened. Watched.

As he sipped his coffee and took in the cafe, it's sights, smells, and muted sounds during the call to prayer, he contented himself to the moment. Sometimes, when not reading, writing, or playing chess, he might engage a patron or stranger in conversation, but that was not the case this day. This day, it was enough to listen. This day, it was enough to watch.

02 February 2011

Ghosts of the Frozen

At one point, the mercury read negative thirty-two on the fahrenheit scale with a windchill of negative forty-seven. Not a fit night for monkey nor beast. All of us huddled in the parlor, near the fire. Tendrils of ice curled along the bottoms of the windows and the polar air seemed to seep through the thin, one-hundred thirty year old walls and floor.

It was still warmer than the coldest I'd ever been. That was when I was seventeen. My father had already secured us a house in the badlands of eastern Colorado and was waiting for us out there. My grandmother had come to help my mother, sister, brother, and I move out from the rural south after a three and half year stay, which had felt like some sort of cruel and eternal exile to my mother and I. We set out in a caravan with the kennel and house dogs, the cats, and my immortal box turtle, Bilbo, across the American Empire.

On the second day of our journey, just outside of Saint Louis, one of those great labyrinthine midwest cities, we encountered the storm. My grandmother observed it was the winter solstice and how appropriate that was. Driving at the time, listening to my rock and/or roll musics, I had a hard time appreciating it. At one point, although I can no longer recall the actual temperature, there was a windchill of negative sixty-five. We were in Kansas at the time. The cold caused me to have an asthma attack.

Twenty-one years later, the memory of that cold gave me a context, although it wasn't something I ever really had any burning desire to repeat. Around the witching hour, having finished my dessert chai and with an exhausted burn behind my eyes, I opted to go to bed. Sabina was catching up on correspondences and said she'd join me in a bit.

The cold made sleep difficult, despite several blankets and layers. I thought of the stories of mountaineers on Everest, shivering and oxygen deprived. Torturing themselves for the distinction of having reached the world's highest point. Some tales spoke of feeling a presence of another out there in cold thin air along the world's ceiling tiles, although it was probably the lack of atmosphere turning the climber's brain to tapioca.

In that state between awake and asleep, I saw ghosts. Phantasms from other times when the air was composed of icy barbs. My great grandmother, on her eightieth birthday, dressed in her fox fur coat, chuckling when my father told her she had to be old now that she was eighty. Six years later, her mind gone by what we called senility, but might  have very well been Alzheimer's or dementia, she died in some barely visited room, not recognizing any of us anymore.

The bruja and I having a cup at the coffeehouse she worked at one winter. It was the last cold snap of that season. Upstairs, an adolescent couple had convinced the owner to let them use the space to copulate. The bruja and I tried to discreetly hurry through our coffees and have a conversation whilst trying not to notice the occasional sounds we'd hear. She wouldn't let me shout up the stairs to keep it down. Dear friend or not, she could sometimes be such a killjoy.

My grandmother and I arguing across the snow-blasted far-flung badlands of the American Great Plains, a place that during the nation-state's antiquity was called the Great American Desert. The move was one of my first real roadtrips in which I got to drive. My grandmother did not care for my choice of music and was constantly offering...suggestions...on my driving. At seventeen years old, I already knew everything, including how to drive, and I didn't need someone fifty years and one day older than me constantly butting in.

It was all so real, so vivid, I could not help but wonder if I was somehow hop-scotching down rabbit holes of quantum. There in the cold dark, shivering under blankets and layers, between awake and asleep, I found a strange comfort in seeing those phantasms once more. The last was of my mother.

We were in the canteen of the last hostel on the last day of the move before we made that last push. We were having hot drinks and talking quietly, hiding from my grandmother and siblings. Both of us wanted to kill her. Slowly. The cold was making us punchy.

"Hang in there," my mother said. Strange, how years later, that opening statement became something of a mantra for me to say, because it's okay is a bunch of who shot john. "We're almost home"

It was then Sabina came to bed, and I curled into her. One cold night, she told me we fit. I scoffed, and then she leaned into me, as if to demonstrate. It did feel quite right, and though I found it curious, I decided to forgo my usual questioning nature and just run with it. Once, she described us a tangled puzzle pieces, and more than one cat has echoed her sentiment that we somehow fit together. Maybe that seems silly, but in the moment of curling together, partially out of amore and partially for shared body heat on a frigid night, I didn't think so, and, suddenly, sleep was not so difficult.

01 February 2011

An Ode to the Snow Queen

Once, years and lifetimes ago, I knew this girl who said her moods were linked to the weather. She claimed one could tell her state of mind by how it was out. This little bit of trivia was related to me during a particularly long and cold winter. She said she was the reason why. To this day, whenever the weather is particularly somber, I wonder if she's going through a dark time.

The story goes that Yuki-Onna, the Japanese goddess of winter, the Snow Queen, is an incredibly striking and beautiful woman. Like all succubi, this is a facade. She is cold and unforgiving. More than willing to leave one in a blizzard to die if it so suits her whim.

It is said if a man catches her fancy, she can become obsessed. Boiled bunny rabbits in a kitchen does not even begin to cover it. Gods and bodhisattvas, or whatever voodoo mask you put upon the Divine, have mercy on the poor slob if she even thinks she's been spurned.

Another storm, Arctic in bearing, has swept across this part of the world. As I stepped out into the cold mourning with the hounds, I mused the Snow Queen must have been spurned. The man was probably a right asshole, because he was indeed a man, and the social construct of reality dictates it's always the man's fault, even when it isn't. The man is always the bastard, that's the deal.

He probably didn't appreciate her. Couldn't see the beauty of Yuki-Onna's icy features. Understand the warmth that could be had in her coldness.

Dig this; I have met Yuki-Onna. We had occasion to share a tea ceremony whilst listening to to bad haikus, like there are ever any good ones. Her very presence was painful. My joints creaked and groaned like the floorboards of an old house. My muscles twisted up in ways that made a good drawing and quartering seem preferable. She might have been one of the most beautiful females I have ever laid eyes on, but I made it plain she was not my type. Thankfully, I have no charm, and she forgot my name the moment I walked away.

I have met Yuki-Onna and I know she gives as good as she gets. If she is indeed spurned, certainly, the man was the bastard, because that's the deal. Still, it begs the question; how far and how hard did she push him? What did she do to make him too cold for even the Snow Queen?

One might ask me where I get off asking such questions. It's no secret I'm a bit heretical and think the social construct of reality is for suckers. Besides, when one blessed and cursed with a curious and questing nature, and whispers about it into the dark oh so late at night, when the demons come for tea, it is only natural that these sort of inquiries are raised.