There is a certain type of person who attracts the magickal; who is around perfectly ordinary events, but in their presence the mundane takes on a different sheen, a more ethereal quality, a certain mystical mushiness. Sometimes I wonder whether all writers are somehow a little bit magickal. Creating worlds, relaying events, telling stories and creating folklaw all seem like pretty magickal things to me. That is not to say that a person can’t lose their magick, throw away that glow, and scuff the shiny surfaces of their ability to relay the ordinary in an extraordinary way.
I’ve seen it happen. These people shrink. They reduce. Their voices lose that resonance, their words fail to glitter, they retreat into their shell, emerging later as an entirely different more weasley character than they were before. What was once a brilliant blue exotic set of ragged claws filling up the space within the blood and flesh and sinews, transforms into a pale, anaemic parody, edges filed off, pincers taped. Magick gone. And you know what, that really is ok. Sometimes I think they are happier that way, rather than living life in technicolor splurges of preternatural aliveness. Sometimes it is for the best.
I am not saying that some of these people who live life on a knife edge, walking the rainbow, dancing in the rain, are not enhanced or altered by their various habits. Everyone has their fuel. There is a certain creepiness that is earned by extreme use of hallucinogens. These people who have broken the doors to perception open, cracked the code and walk around with a head full of bottled sunshine find another level. It does not take imagination for them to see the cinematic quality of life around them. They are the cartoon. They live in the movie. Heck…some of them even direct the radio show and rule the airwaves.
However it is done, in whichever way it is achieved, by dedication to mind expansion, or else an inbuilt insanity, life would be so much less enticing without these creatures. You might look out at two men rolling around in a field, wrassling and punching in the mud and the blood and the burrs, and wonder whether to intervene in their personal battles, but to at least one of those men, he is sparring with The Great Goatman of the High Desert. Those spiky burrs get everywhere, attaching to your clothes, spiking the soles of your feet, having found a way into your shoe and past the puny defences of your socks. The Goatman eats entire buds of un-decarboxylated weed and declares it famously good for the intestines. The Goatman keeps a herd of good goats, and lives in a shack where he boils water for coffee on a small woodstove that belches out fierce heat. He hates most people, but if you can wrassle him he might soften up and impart his wisdom, and perhaps sell you a cheap ounce of his sun-grown grass.
Life sometimes gets cinematic. To outsiders we were a strange family, one old man his middle aged girlfriend, two children, no dog; living and travelling around in a beat up old camper. Pitching tents under trees, stringing up tarps and collecting wood and kindling to make our fires. Driving through the decidedly mundane Reedsport, a nasty little town if ever there was one, full of the kind of people that sell unironic chainsaw statues of Trump holding a golf club and an eagle, I was hit by one of those cinematic moments. The light hit the road just right, half blinding us as we drove. The children were silent. Marquee Moon played on the CD player.
We drove past a diner that advertised award winning pies. The children and Billy had tried a pie from there once. It was not award-winning: elderly soggy crust, canned filling and whipped dairy style cream. The look on their faces was palpably disappointed. The famous pies of Reedsport, something they had talked about, lionized, dreamed for and salivated over, imagining juicy pears in tender pastry, gently simmered apples and cinnamon under a cobbler crust and the finest slightly sweetened chantilly cream turned out to be something that Walmart would be ashamed to sell for a buck.
I can’t eat pies so in my mind the famous pies of Reedsport remained magickal. The children and Billy swigged cola and made funny faces at each other. My magick remained intact. Sometimes that is not so much of a blessing, but driving that old 101 back in those mid ‘teen decade days, watching suns come up and suns go down, hugging the cliff face and walking the trails, living life on survival mode I had to have something that made it all possible. Perhaps my mind shattered. Perhaps it shattered a long time before that. Maybe what seemed like a glow in those days was just the fiber of my psyche trying to cope with extreme stress. Perhaps it is just a case of being the kind of person who smells the wildflowers and doesn’t wallow in seasons which alternately flooded and burnt the landscape. Maybe I have a little spark of magick in my bones. Hey, I have to have something…I have precious little else.
Sometimes when things are overwhelming I shut my eyes and try and concentrate on where I am and when I am, and who I am. I remember these instances intensely, as if the action of shutting my eyes and trying to calm down after some terrible blow or beautiful place takes the breath out of me. Unfortunately the Piper always demands payment on those borrowed moments of loaned calm in middle of terrible or intense events. Kissing my daughter on the cheek and taking a letter from her hand. Holding my infant son as my husband takes another swing at my jaw. Standing on the Ome Kaido in the fierce July Tokyo heat, just before any hint of the rainy season comes along for some wet relief, wondering if it is even possible for me to make it to the United States and Billy. Sitting in the middle of my tatami room in Tokyo while the world shook so violently I thought I was about to die in a natural disaster with both my children and everyone else in the damn city. Halfway up the Forks of Salmon’s 10,000 ft climb, holding a bunch of wildflowers pressed into my hand by laughing children, cutting the top off a sprite can to form an impromptu vase. Who it was and what it was, and all the elements that conspired to make all those different scenes haunt my dreams.
Now when I shut my eyes I get transported back to those moments where previously I forced peace onto an unpeaceful situation, and the tears I didn’t cry then, come flooding out in those quiet moments alone in the dark laying in the bed in my front room of my perfect little apartment in San Francisco. I feel very inch of the fear I pushed down all those years ago. I feel the horror. I feel the pain, the joy and the deep longing for things to either stay the same, or change dramatically. There is nothing in between. There is no middle road for me. It is either a need for total change, or else for absolute stasis.
There is nothing else for it but to embrace the magick, to hold onto the craziness of existence and acknowledge the fact that my life has been crazy and it is not going to be fixed overnight. I have come a long way since my years hiding out on the road with Billy and the children. I took a risk, and a friend put out her hand and hauled me with what and who remained, into safety. I make no apology for the fact that I feel safe here in San Francisco, and that says an awful lot good about this city on the Bay. I appreciate and love this state and this city.
I believe in the magick. I believe in survival. I believe that there is good and there is bad and that the good wins out, even if the bad forces losses that are too much to bear. Life gets wasted as if it costs nothing, as if love is worth nothing, as if those nighttime feedings, motherly devotion and family bonds are meaningless. In the end, that is all I have – my son. In the end that is all that ever mattered. My son. In the end that is the only reason I get up and fight. In the end, that is the only reason I try and nurture the little bit of light I have left. I just wish the world was beautiful and kind for our children, not this ridiculous situation being bullied by a tyrant who is ending his life and doesn’t mind taking everyone else with him.
The photos flash before my eyes. My own personal little tragedy. My own pain, so sharp I can barely look it straight in the eye. The years put more space between me and those I lost, and that is not comfort but terrible reminder that we mostly get forgotten in the end. That love has an expiration date. It is a good job that we have the crazy people, the mad people, who can draw the moment, write the moment, define the shape of time and love and loss. Without them all of it would be lost forever. Without the writers nothing lasts, no record is made of the love that was. In that case, how are we ever to make sense of the love that will be, without them and their insanity and magick?
Here’s to the writers, the madmen and women, the crazy light shiners and the fighters. Here’s to the damage that forces us to recognize the fact that we still live. Here’s to the fight and the freedom and the road. Here’s to me and here’s to you…and here’s to us all. We are all just looking for a slice of the (award winning) pie, and a seat at the table. I’ll have to content myself with watching y’all eat. There is magick in that too…..