This morning I was dwelling for a bit on the fact that we have not done anything for Halloween this year. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, as it’s an American holiday anyway, not an Australian one (though that seems to be changing), but still. A lot in me is saying that this kinda sucks.
Patriots beware: I’m going to put on my American-expat-living-in-Australia hat for a second here. And I might even get to sounding a bit gripey, though I don’t mean to :-)
So, as I was saying, we haven’t even carved a pumpkin this year. (The photo above is from last year, when we were in the States. The really cool-looking one with the graveyard scene was done by my artist brother.) We’ll be down in Sydney on Halloween night; we’re driving down early that morning to spend the day cleaning out a garage. I wonder if the kids are going to do anything, and I also am curious to see if there are any trick-or-treaters. There weren’t any when I first moved to Australia, thirteen years ago, but times have changed, and the stores are now pumping the Halloween merch like never before.
I remember the first time some would-be trick-or-treaters showed up. I think it was back in 2011 or so. There was a knock at around 4:30 in the afternoon, and at the door were four or five kids. None of them wore any sort of costume; most were still in their school uniforms. No one said “trick-or-treat” at first, either; they all just stood there, looking very unsure of themselves. I was actually about to ask what they wanted, thinking maybe they were there to see our youngest, even though I hadn’t ever seen any of these kids before. That was when one of the older ones, a girl, piped up with a half-hearted “trick-or-treat.”
I said, “Oh. But it’s November 1st….”
Since then, we’ve had a few knocks on the door at Halloween in both places we’ve lived—never more than one group of trick-or-treaters per year, and not every year, but still, there have been a few. Most times they have worn costumes, unlike that first group, especially in recent years. I hear the ghoulish American tradition has caught on more in some densely populated neighbourhoods in big cities like Sydney. So, Halloween is here now, I guess.
But it just isn’t the same. I can’t put my finger on it.
Maybe it’s because there’s none of the thrill of wandering around in the dark, with half-imagined spooks lurking about. Maybe it’s because here, it’s basically only become a holiday because for-profit stores are pushing the commercial products so hard. It’s just another commercial event. It’s all about buying costumes and props, and getting candy. There aren’t any (or many) Halloween parties for adults, or haunted houses, or homemade costumes. Or caramel apples. Or that obnoxious health-conscious adult who always gives out something lame like toothbrushes instead of candy, every year, but you’re too young and hopeful to remember which house it was, so you knock anyway. Maybe it’s the lack of understanding that if there are no treats, tricks WILL be done. Or the older brother and his friends driving around while you are trying to trick-or-treat in your cool capes and swords, looking like warriors out of some epic fantasy novel, and them throwing little packets of skittles at your head as they drive past and laughing as you fall in the ditch to get out of the way. Maybe it’s a lot of things.
Speaking of temperature, at least the weather this week is cooperating to make it feel a little less un-Halloweenish. We’re in spring here, of course, so there’s none of that lovely rotting leaves smell that makes Halloween feel so wonderfully Halloweeny… but a cold front has blown in, and here in the mountains at least, it’s gotten very chilly and rainy. If I close my eyes and pretend, it feels almost like autumn.
This will be our first Halloween since we moved to Katoomba, and I must admit to feeling a bit bummed that we won’t be here. There are not a lot of kids in this neighbourhood, so I wouldn’t expect many knocks on the door anyway, but there is a little girl across the road, so that’s something. And like I said, they are marketing the hell out of the Halloween merch this year in the grocery stores (they actually started back in early August!). I’ve even seen proper orange, North-American-style pumpkins for sale (for exorbitant prices, of course). So who knows? Maybe if we bought one, carved it, stuck a candle in it, and were going to be here on Halloween night, a few little sweet-toothed ghouls and witches might just show up. Candy is an international language, after all.
Er, um, lollies, I mean.
What is magic?
That electric anticipation of a kiss:
The parting of lips,
The flow of breath,
Into interweaving rhythm.
It is that touch of a father’s hand
To his son’s shoulder,
Wise eyes on the horizon,
Patiently silent through the younger man’s sobs.
It is dawn,
Exploding through the clouds
In colors never seen,
Drawing song from feathery throats
And delivering myriad minds awake
To new possibilities.
It is the smile in a mother’s eyes,
The amused set of her jaw;
It is her poise at the picknick table,
Chin propped in age-spotted hand,
As her daughter searches through modern lenses
For that perfect shot.
It is dragons
It is melody in a canoe beneath the stars
It is strolling hand-in-hand
It is clarity
It is memory.
Magic is forever;
And forever and always,
Magic is real.
In the end, life is quite short. What you leave behind is your legacy, and for an artist -- that is his soul poured onto canvas, sculpted into clay and stone. - Vadim Bora, (1954-2011)
I lived in Asheville, North Carolina for a couple of years. It was on a cool afternoon in the early spring of ’99, at an outside table in front of Old Europe coffee shop, that I met Vadim.
I had gone there a couple of times to write, people-watch, and stare into space over a cup of joe, as I often do, and had already become acquainted with a handful of regulars, including a guy named Rico (who worked in an office upstairs, and with whom I ended up designing websites for a stint). It seemed a friendly place, and was located on one side of the Flat Iron Building just up the street from the French Café.
Not long after the sun set that day, a middle-aged man with a well-trimmed beard walked from the coffee shop’s entrance over to our table. After he traded a few good-natured barbs with Rico, the latter introduced us. The man named Vadim said hello in a Russian accent, smiled a very infectious smile, and gave my hand a firm friendly shake before lighting a Gauloises and taking a seat.
He had with him an old backgammon board, very worn from years (decades?) of use. Over the next couple of hours, I got my ass whooped over and over, and by the end of the evening, I owed a bottle of vodka—and it wouldn’t be the last! (Although, to be fair, over the next couple of years, Vadim would occasionally pay for the bottle of whatever-we-decided-the-prize-for-winning-would-be, just so that I wouldn’t have to all the time—for I rarely won, as he was quite a master at the game, having grown up playing it. I recall his telling me that backgammon is one of the most ancient games in the world.)
Vadim Bora was born in 1954 in Beslan, Russia, in sight of the Caucasus Mountains. After living in various places, he settled in Asheville in 1993. I must have met him when he was forty-five, or thereabouts.
I just realized I’m now older than he was then.
That’s really hard to believe. Okay, I need a minute to ponder that….
…Back now. Wow. Life and time are crazy, eh? Anyway.
Vadim was an artist, in the truest sense of the word, and is quite well known internationally for his work—from jewelry to sculpture to painting—all of which I find utterly amazing. I’m just posting a few examples of his work, pieces that I recall fondly, but there are heaps to look at; at the end of this blog post, I’ve included a link to his studio-gallery.
Obviously, he was exceedinly talented. To me, though, first and foremost, he was a friend. I happened to meet him during a time of my life when I was in great need of one; I was rather lost, to say the least. In retrospect, Vadim was also a bit of a father figure for me, and over many a late night conversation up in his studio, usually over a cup of alcohol or tea or coffee while sitting next to his various works in progress, he gave me some invaluable insights and perspective which were of great help in leading me through the bramble-clogged thicket of my mind. Vadim was always welcoming and patient, and never too busy for me. I will always cherish those memories.
In our conversations into the wee hours, or while shooting the shit over a game of backgammon, Vadim and I did talk about his art and my music occasionally, or of world events etc etc. But our friendship, brief though it was, transcended beyond those things. He was simply a friend when I needed a friend, and I will forever be grateful. I just hope I was one for him as well.
Sadly, I moved overseas at the end of 2000, and therefore didn’t get to spend more time getting to know him and his work. I returned to Asheville for short visits over the years, usually to play music with friends, and I always looked Vadim up and at least found time to poke my head into his studio or the coffee shop to say hello—but it just was never the same as it had been back in the days when I lived in town and could spend some unhurried hours, deep in a tobacco haze conversation, with nothing overly pressing to do in the morning.
I am happy that my wife got to meet him during one such visit, brief though it was, at a concert I was playing which Vadim attended (he was always very supportive of my creative efforts), and then over a rather rushed cup of coffee at his studio the next day while he was preparing for an art show. That was the last time I saw Vadim; alas, a few years later, he passed away very suddenly and while still quite young.
Vadim left behind his wife Constance (to whom I am very grateful for giving me permission to use these images of his artwork! Thank you!), son Georgi, brothers German and Felix, in-laws Ken and Irene Richards, and many friends, colleagues, and admirers of his work.
I will always remember his wonderful generosity and his down-to-earth perceptiveness into human nature, not to mention his charming humour. Vadim Bora was one of a kind.
Thank you, Vadim, for all that you were and are, and for everything you taught me. I will never forget you.
To learn more about Vadim’s life and work, visit his studio here:
All images used in this blog post are © Vadim Bora Studio-Gallery. None may be used for any purpose without express permission. All rights reserved.
I’ve been reading a novel called The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling. I’m just over two thirds of the way through it, and while it’s been a very long, slow build, at times frustratingly so, the wait is definitely beginning to pay off, and I am riveted :-)
I won’t give too much away here, but the story takes place in a cave. Okay, that’s all I’ll say, because I absolutely hate spoilers, and wouldn’t want to subject you to them!
But this novel takes me back. I grew up in middle Tennessee, which is basically part of one giant limestone shelf (or perhaps a series of shelves? If any knowledgeable geologists are reading this, feel free to correct me in the discussion forum!). In our late teens and early twenties, my brother and I did quite a bit of caving—from exploring the little hole in the side of the ridge up the street from where we grew up, from which water would gush after a big rain, to camping out in vast, winding caverns that seemed to never end. There were muddy wet slogs through subterranean creeks, dry gravel crawls under enormous, claustrophobia-inducing slabs of rock with bats zooming straight at our faces, gorgeous stalactites and stalagmites, blackness blacker than the blackest night, and utterly awesome silences.
It was a very dangerous pastime, in retrospect, and one I cannot recommend, but our parents had taught us to respect the wilderness with caution and meticulous planning, and my brother and I extended this level of prudence to the friends we took with us on some of those excursions by not tolerating any rashness or frivolity while underground. What we did above ground was another matter; I have to admit, we did some pretty stupid things! But those are stories for another time.
Again without giving anything important away, there is a reference in The Luminous Dead to sensory deprivation. When you’ve been underground for a long time, and your sense of time is all out of whack and the world of the surface starts feeling like a distant memory, it's amazing what your mind starts convincing you that you are seeing (and hearing!). The author of the book certainly got that part spot-on! When all the torches/flashlights are out and there is no possible source of light anywhere, and you are supposedly all alone in the cave, your imagination can really go to work. It could get downright scary, especially when we were spending the night inside a cave, and we definitely got ourselves nice and spooked with many a ghost-story-telling session in the pitch dark ;-)
Speaking of lost sense of time, I once went into a cave with a couple of people in the late afternoon, spent three or four hours inside, and then came out—only to discover that it hadn’t been three or four hours at all, but more like eight hours; the stars were out and it was after one in the morning by the time we returned to where we’d deliberately left our watches (on the insistence of one of my companions) at the mouth of the cave. The place was called the Grutas de Lanquín, down in Guatemala. It was the summer of 1992, and I was hitchhiking around southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize for a month. In Guatemala, I’d met a guy named Kellan (Kellan, where are you? What was your last name, anyway?? I hope you are well!) who happened to be going in the same direction as I, so we’d become temporary travelling companions.
After wandering eastward from the highlands near Huehuetenango and Todos Santos (which back then was a very isolated little village), we found ourselves at the end of a bus line in the tiny town of San Agustín Lanquín. There we bumped into the only other gringo around—well, gringa, technically—an American girl named (doh, can’t remember her name) who was stationed there as part of the Peace Corp, helping the locals with various engineering projects. Anyway, she was gracious enough to let us stay at her place (because back then, there was no accommodation in the area—we could have found a place to pitch a tent, but were more than happy to take her up on her offer of floor space in her spare room and a shower with actual hot water!), and during conversation over lunch, we learned of the nearby caves. So that afternoon, flashlights and ropes and candles and snacks and extra water in our packs, we walked the kilometer or so over to the entrance.
Picture a mountain. Now picture a big fat turquoise river flowing right out of the side of it. Not a creek; a river. This thing was big. And the water was lovely and cool; we took a dip (me paranoid about snakes, until I eventually relaxed). To the left of where the turquoise water flowed out of the mountain was a hole not much taller than an adult human. Rita? Greta? Martina? I think her name might have been Martina—anyway, Martina told us we needed to hurry, because it was nearly dusk, but wouldn’t let on to what exactly we were hurrying to see.
She had me and Kellan stand in the entrance to the cave, with our arms outstretched. Then she just told us to wait. We were extra patient (probably because we both thought she was extra pretty), and did as we were told. After a few minutes, a bat came whizzing out of the cave, and we both freaked out because it flew so close to us. Martina laughed, and told us, “Okay, don’t move; the sun’s going down. It’s starting.”
The sun was indeed well behind the mountain, and had been for some time, casting the valley in shadow. Another bat whizzed out, this time right under Kellan’s arm. He yelped in surprise and I laughed at him. Then a group of three or four bats winged out, banking around us, nearly flying right into our faces. Just then, my nerve began to waver, but I held my ground, as did Kellan.
The bats kept coming. Within moments there were hundreds of them, and over the next few minutes, hundreds became thousands, and then tens of thousands. We both nearly shit our pants, but once we realized we weren’t going to get bitten or anything, the exhilaration took over, and we were yelling and laughing as the little sonar-guided beasties streamed around us. They flew in droves, like river currents of leathery wings and tiny furry bodies—under our arms, around our heads, even between our legs. For lack of a better word, the experience was intense.
After the bats had passed and we'd gathered our jaws up off the ground, Martina led the way into the cave. We paralleled the river for the first half hour or so, but then the main passage took us up and left, and after a time we found ourselves in a dry cave full of amazing, beautiful formations. There was one room with enormous, pipe-like and fin-like stalagmites which resonated with different tones when we beat our hands against them. This delighted Kellan and me so much that we declared a dinner break right then and there, dropped our packs, and set into an impromptu percussion session that lasted who knows how long. The tones and harmonies seemed otherworldly. Spent, we ate some food and drank some water, and then pressed on.
A couple of hours later (which didn’t seem that long at the time), the passageway narrowed, and then ended in a low-ceilinged room with a big pile of slabs at one end. It looked as though there had been a collapse of some sort, eons ago. Martina thought this was where the traversable part of the cave ended, but stubborn me scrambled up the pile and found a way down the other side that led into a very narrow tunnel. I hollered for them to follow, and we spent the next several minutes carefully navigating a dusty, circuitous passage.
Eventually, it widened out into a tunnel large enough to stand vertically and walk three abreast, and several meters farther on, it ended at a ledge. Kellan had the most powerful flashlight, so he shone it into the darkness. Below us, about ten meters down, we could just make out a floor covered in deep dust that stretched off to the right and around a misty bend with diagonally-leaning column-like formations that looked like ancient supports from some dwarven ruin. And that passageway was utterly huge; if I had to guess, I’d say it was half as wide as a football field, and longer than that as it disappeared around the bend, and there’s no telling how tall. To the left the wall curved around, but then it vanished; both above us and straight out from us, the light could find no purchase. It was too far away; the cavern was too vast. So enormous we couldn’t see the other side.
But what I’ve described so far was just what we could and couldn’t see. That wasn’t the most astonishing part.
What absolutely blew my mind, and what I will never forget, was the sound: A very distant, low roar, almost like wind in trees. But more like water on rocks, I thought, and that was when my imagination exploded with the realization of just how absolutely vast this cave was. We were hearing the river, far far away, deeper in than we could possibly go, and still sounding every bit as big as it had looked several kilometers downstream where it flowed out of the side of the mountain. This cave was huge. And we had only seen a tiny fraction of it.
We did have a rope, but we also were sensible enough to comprehend that we’d gone as far as we could safely go, so after gazing into the blackness in awe for a while, we headed back out. When we exited the cave, the stars were out—not a cloud in the sky, the Milky Way scattered bright and colorful over our heads. I do believe I discovered the existence of magic that day.
Last year my wife and I took an entry-level pottery course three times in a row. For both of us it was our first time doing anything artistic with our hands like that since primary/elementary school, unless you count helping kids with school projects. Each course lasted six weeks, and took place at the Old School Farm just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. We learned heaps and had a ton of fun.
We went into it not knowing at all what to expect. Chris, our instructor, wore a red beard and a very stylish hat, and was absolutely brilliant. That first class—our class was always Monday evenings, 6:00-9:00—he began by showing us how to use the wire to slice off a small chunk of clay from the clay blocks we’d purchased. He then told us just to take a few minutes and play with it, feel how it felt in our hands; squish it, roll it, kneed it, whatever, and not worry about trying to make any sort of shape yet.
“It’s... so, it’s almost... well, just play with it and get used to how it feels. Yeah, like that.” He showed us how, and we dove right in. “For now I just want you to get familiar with it. Relax; enjoy how it feels in your hands. Remember back when you used to make mudballs when you were a kid. Do that.” (That isn’t a direct quote – sorry Chris! – but he said something to that effect, and that advice is what made me fall in love with clay.)
We spent that first session just molding things by hand. First he had us make a “pinch bowl” – just a small bowl, formed with pinching motions (as opposed to being sculpted on the pottery wheel), and then he taught us how to make coils, which were basically just skinny rolls of clay rolled out against the flat of the table or between our palms. After I was done with my little (tiny, lol) bowl, I got very ambitious and attempted a salt shaker. To make it, made a bunch of coils and bent them around into circles, shaped them a little, and then mashed them on top of each other. I then made a top for it. The mistakes I made were to not leave enough room for the cork to stick out of the bottom, and, later in the process, to glaze over the holes (and that glaze is very hard; I broke a couple of drill bits trying to clear the holes!). After making our pieces, we set them on our shelves, covered in plastic, so that they would dry very gradually and therefore be less prone to cracking.
The next week, Chris gave us an introduction to the wheel. “Throwing”, it’s called, because you literally throw the clay against the wheel to help it stick. At least that’s why I think it’s called that. Anyway, after saying a few words about the basics, such as making sure we were using enough (but not too much) water to get the clay good and wet, teaching us how to use the foot pedal to adjust the rotation speed, and showing us how to center and stabilize the clay to that it doesn’t get wobble-sided (yes, I just said “wobble-sided”—thank you for that word, Mr. Whitaker!), Chris then told us to take a good long while... and just play with it... to get used to how it feels; to enjoy, and not overthink it. Either he or someone else (I can’t recall) said, “With clay, feeling is usually better than thinking.” And I am so grateful that my then racing brain just chilled out for once and let me do exactly that: Play.
You know; play. Remember playing, when you were a kid? I didn’t. Not really. Somewhere along the way to adulthood and growing up and all that Very Important Stuff, I had completely forgotten how to play. But over the next two and a half hours, I put my hands in that cold wet clay, felt it spinning against my palms, zoned completely out of my world of stress and worry, and did exactly that: I played.
I didn’t think or plan or consciously create at first; I just played. It was like my hands were remembering how to play in the mud, that fundamental childhood skill I’d long become oblivious to—and, perhaps most significantly, my mind gradually opened up to the very startling and, well, very grounding realization of just how much I needed to play. So I just sat there at my wheel and spaced out, fingers in the mud as it went round and round and round, and just forgot the world for a while. I highly recommend it.
That evening rocked me to my core. My wife and I learned many things from our instructor Chris over the next several weeks, but for me, that was the single most valuable thing he taught me: How to play again. And for that, I will forever be grateful.
We took three six-week courses total, back to back, and made a bunch of cool stuff (the first photo, with the pretty bowls and mugs, is of some of my wife's pieces; the other junk is mine):
I feel pretty confident that we learned enough of the basics that someday, after covid and once we’ve gotten our own place (with a dedicated pottery room and a place to build a kiln, of course!), we’ll be able to pick up our education where we left off last year, and shouldn’t take too long to recall those early skills that Chris, our other wonderful instructor Eric, and several very helpful fellow students taught us. I look forward to getting back into it :-)
Momma, I thought you said you don’t like watching humans because they make your skin crawl away.”
The many-armed witch goddess smiled and turned an amused eye toward her beautifully glowing son. “They make my skin crawl, yes; they do indeed. Always have, if I’m honest. And normally I don’t like watching them, you’re right... but... well, things are starting to get pretty bad down there.”
The boy nodded, still not understanding.
She pointed at the television screen. “Here, have a look. This one, with the orange hair -- see that man, standing there at the podium in the middle of the tv screen? See that corrupt piece of work who won’t shut up and let anyone else get a word in edge-wise? Well, that’s one human I probably should start paying attention to, before things come to a head.”
“Yes I see him Momma. Which head though?”
“Oh, it’s just an expression, my son. It means when things get out of control and something really bad happens.”
They watched the man with the orange hair shouting and spitting from the podium at a group of other humans who seemed to be vying for his attention, raising hands and trying to ask questions. A moment later, the man said something that made the witch goddess frown and shake her head. “That evil, bigoted, good-for-nothing sonofabitch!”
“What’s big-goated mean, Momma?”
She sighed, but not at her son. “Oh, it just means this human thinks he’s better than other people.” She considered for a moment, and then added, “It means he’s full of fear, and that fear makes him hate anything he doesn’t understand. And in his case, well, he doesn’t understand much, so he’s got a belly full o’ hate.”
“So basically it means he’s stupid,” the boy said.
“Well, he ain’t exactly enlightened, that’s for sure.”
“Is that why he has orange hair, Momma?”
“No, darling. Remember orangutans? They have orange hair, and they’re plenty intelligent. No; with this human, it’s something else that makes him so angry and cowardly. But hey, speaking of color, part of his being bigoted is that he doesn’t like people who aren’t the same color as he is.”
“Oh.” The boy nodded sagely. He looked over to the little side table near his mother, eyeing the wooden remote control. “Couldn’t you just change him to another color then? Then maybe his goat wouldn’t be so big."
The goddess giggled merrily, turning again to appraise her son, this time with all sixteen flashing eyes. “I swear, child, you think of the darnedest things. That idea isn't half bad!”
She picked up the ancient remote control and twirled it in one of her many hands, wand-like, one fourth of her eyebrows arching as she continued to stare at the orange-haired human.
“How’s it work, Momma?” The boy asked.
She lifted the instrument and smiled. “Oh, it’s no different from other tools of magic; you just aim it at things and focus your mind on what you want it to do. Like this:”
The hair of the man on TV abruptly changed from orange to charcoal, and the skin of his face and hands from pale orange to a deep ebony. Several humans on the front row yelped, and the camera view suddenly shook out of place.
“Wow! That is so cool!" The boy trilled. They sat awhile in silence, watching the chaos ensuing on tv. "Is that gonna make his goat smaller Momma?"
"Probably not, but it might at least make him think some."
"Oh, I dunno, son. About the errors of his ways, mayhaps."
"Oh ok." He pondered this for several seconds, then eyed the remote control again. "And it always does what you want it to?”
“Coooooool,” he praised, jumping to his feet. “Can I try it?”
She considered for a moment, but then, with a twinkle in her leftmost, centermost, and rightmost eyes, she tossed the wand-like remote over to her son. Just as he was about to catch it, however, another of her many hands shot out and snapped it from his grasp.
“Hey!” he chirped, grabbing at it and laughing gleefully as she teased him and juggled the object from arm to arm, always just out of reach. At length, before her son could grow frustrated, she let go of the remote. It landed in his popcorn bowl, causing several pieces to scatter across his lap. “Momma!”
She just grinned at him and shrugged innocently.
The boy’s smile faded as he picked up the remote control and began to concentrate on the television. “Can I change something else about the man with the big goat?”
“You may do whatever you like, darling.”
“What else makes him big-goated?”
“Hmm, let’s see,” the goddess yawned. “Oh, I know: He’s always saying mean things about women.”
The boy nodded, narrowed his eyes, and pointed the remote at the man on tv.
Suddenly, the human's body transformed, leaving him with a decidedly female figure. People on both sides of him made as if to come to his aid, but then hesitated, utterly confounded. Somewhere off screen, a squeal of surprise turned into a muffled chortle. The boy guffawed, clapping his hands joyfully, and so did the goddess. “Good! You’re getting the hang of this magic thing, my son. That’ll teach him! Well done. Okay, let’s see now.... Oh, I know: he also doesn’t like people who speak other languages.”
In mid-sentence, the used-to-be man with the used-to-be orange hair began speaking fluent Spanish, with a central Mexican accent.
This little game kept mother and son entertained for hours. Afterward, she tucked the boy in and read him a story, and they both fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.
My brother and I used to freak each other out, intentionally. The more spooked we got, the better.
Growing up, our parents took us on many a road trip, often all the way out to Wyoming and back via Texas or St. Louis or both, stopping with relatives and car-camping along the way. I can’t remember what it was that we saw or read—a collection of stories somewhere? a show? perhaps my brother can recall—but whatever it was, it had us scared to the point of nightmares, and eventually inspired us to make up further stories along the same line. We called them the “white owl stories”, because a white owl figured prominently in most of them as a recurring motif. The owl was a herald of the unknown, the unfathomable, and impending fate—usually a doom of some sort!
When we were still small enough, we shared a big four-person tent with our mom and dad. It was very heavy, with thick canvas and a sectioned center pole made of solid aluminum (which back then was not exactly “ultralite” material, compared to the camping gear of today); this beast was not made for backpacking, but was comfortably spacious, and perfect for a KOA or state park campground. Later, as my brother and I got bigger, we were given our own two-person tent, which we shared for several years. That ended when we became older teenagers who wanted our own space, of course. I’m sure we probably bickered a lot while sharing the same tent, especially when tired and hungry, but all I really remember is the excitement of the road and the adventure of it all. That, and the dark of the woods at night, always fired our imaginations.
There was a face once—had it belonged to that bearded truck driver we’d seen, glaring at us from the window of his cab as our father drove past, us in the back seat with our little arms pumping up and down to get the truck to honk its horn? Or had it been the face of someone we had seen behind the counter at a gas station somewhere, in denim overhauls with a belt-busting paunch? Or had it perhaps been something more sinister: the visage of an intruder to our shared brotherly subconscious mind, lurking and waiting patiently for us to let our guard down?—in any case, this face haunted us, and made its way into one of our late night stories.
The wild eyes smoldered beneath a pale, bulbous forehead, the scraggly beard tangled and lichen-strewn from years, perhaps decades, of wandering through mountain forests. This man, if man he was, wore a tattered brown shirt. It was not likely that that had been the cloth’s original color; here and there could even still be seen a right angle or two of contrasting shades, denoting plaid... but now it was a matted brown, from layer upon layer of dried blood. Using the trees as cover, he would pad silently, stalking, sneaking, eternally patient in the dim twilight. If, whether by accident or design, he happened to snap a twig, you might look his way—perhaps even stare straight at him—but all you would see, or think you saw, would be a lichen-stained boulder or mossy log, for he would shut his smoldering eyes and wait in utter stillness until you looked away. The thing—for if we’re honest, thing he was; an ancient thing, perhaps not in body, but at least in possession, with this simply being its most recent incarnation—would crouch in total silence, unmoving, and await that moment when its prey had decided the twig-snapping noise had most likely just been caused by an animal or perhaps branches stretched across each other by the wind. And as soon as that moment came, the thing would uncoil, leaping on top of you, its impossibly long fangs bared, and devour you raw.
No one heard this particular attack, or any other, for that matter, because the lost soul with the grizzled face and smoldering eyes and lichen- and shelf fungus growing in its beard had grown wise in the art of timing and in its choice of meals. It ate quickly, a brutal machine of extreme efficiency and discipline; and once sated, it crept back into the cover of wilderness to continue on whatever unfathomable journey compelled it.
In the clearing, all that remained of the young boys were a seeping pool of blood and two neat piles of marrow-cracked bones, still glistening in the light of the newly risen moon. Overhead, a white owl perched on a dead branch halfway up a tree, its wide, all-seeing eyes taking everything in. It continued to stare and stare, head rotating around too far the way owl heads do.
At length, the white owl spread its wings and ghosted off between the trees, vanishing without a sound.
Welcome to my online journal! I have decided to call it "Spinning Yarn" for now, and perhaps forever, unless I come up with a better name. But I might just keep this one, as corny as it might sound, because although it has taken most of my life to understand the exact extent to which this is true, storytelling is very close to my heart. I come from a long line of bullshitters... er, um, storytellers, I mean. My parents, their siblings and cousins and parents, and many other relatives, going back generations, all know and knew how to spin a yarn. Recognizing this now (finally), and also coming to realize that all my life I have been telling stories in some form or other, I have decided to embrace this tradition and do what I can in the time I have left in this world to honor my ancestors, as well as the many friends I have met along the way, by reiterating their stories and spinning some yarns of my own.
There are certainly a lot of stories to tell, and a lot of exaggeration to be done! Some of the tales I tell will undoubtedly be duds—especially while I am still learning the basics of writing—but I am hoping I'll at least be able to entertain you in the process. :-)
With that in mind, I welcome you to join me on this journey of storytelling and self-discovery. Most of the blog posts I'll write here on this website (as "D.G Post") will have to do more with magic than science, with the supernatural rather than the natural, and with the imagination rather than actual reality (though all that is, of course, relative!)--but no promises; I reserve the right to babble on about whatever I damn well please. I'll also be writing as "Gaines Post" over on the other website, www.gainespost.com, in the "Beyond Language's Reach" journal, which is oriented more toward science and real-world stuff and science fiction. There will likely be some crossover, but I want to try to keep the two pseudonyms separate so that you have a general idea about what you are getting when you come here or go there.
Thank you for visiting my new website! Check back weekly (if not more often, once I get going) to read the latest Spinning Yarn blog entry, and in case anything I write here inspires you to comment, then please feel free to do so here.
All content © 2020 D.G. Post. Plagiarists and thieves will be hunted down and destroyed.