The Crush

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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He was the only boy in high school that I wanted.  He was the star of the class of ’69.  He played tennis in his white shorts.  He played varsity football.  He was in all the Advanced Placement classes. (So was I.)  But he thought fast and critically and spoke up a lot.  I rarely said anything. It was still the days when boys ruled classroom discussions.

I wanted his attention from ninth grade through twelfth. I wanted this rising star to want me by his side.  He was broad-shouldered, dark of skin with dark brown hair.  He was hairy.  He was student body president. Of course.

Whenever he was near, I talked louder and laughed more.  He appeared not to notice, but, knowing the way high school society works, I bet people told him I “liked” him.  He liked the slim girl with the thick, long blonde hair.  She was also in the A.P. classes.  She had a wide smile, a sprinkling of freckles and was quiet but smart.  She became a flag girl.  I was friendly to her because it brought me closer to him.

And then in my senior year, my mother’s cancer and the treatments forced her to stay home.  The high school grapevine probably passed that news around as well.  My seventh-period teacher often let me go home early.  On the way home, I’d sometimes walk by his house.  I don’t think I was much help at home that year.  I did do the grocery shopping.  I did cook–sometimes.  Mostly I nursed my crush, played the guitar, and listened to Donovan records in my room.

But sometime before graduation, he called and asked me out.  After accepting quietly with great self-control, I hung up the phone and shrieked, “Daddy! He asked me out!”

The date was for a show at the L.A. Music Center.  I can’t remember what performance it was, a play or a concert.  I fussed about what to wear, but I don’t remember what I wore either.  I know that my father waited up for me, and when The Crush walked me to my door and we paused at the top of the stairs, my father turned on the porch light and opened the door.  So much for my longed-for good night kiss.

When I look back on that evening, I believe it was a pity date.  I imagine his mother saying, “Your father is too busy, and we have these tickets.  Why don’t you take Kim? She’s having a hard time right now. I’m sure she’d like to get out of the house for a while.”  It speaks to his kindness that he asked.

The summer before college, I went to summer school at U.C. Santa Cruz.  I took to wearing Mexican blouses with no bra, and ragged bell-bottom jeans.  Let my hair go curly-frizzy.  When I came home in August, he called me.  Or maybe I called him?  I went to his house, and we made out on the basement sofa.  He was a lousy kisser (by now I had some basis for comparison).  All spit and sloppy lips.  And when I wouldn’t go further, he complained about blue balls and how uncomfortable he was. 

In the fall, I went to U.C. Irvine.  My mother died in November.

He went to Harvard.  Got a law degree like his dad.  I knew he stayed on the East Coast, but just last week, I googled him.

He never practiced law.  He wrote a book or more, and he writes a blog of political commentary.  He went bald.  And he voted for Trump in 2016.  I’m still affronted.  How could I have had a crush on someone who would vote for Trump?

Dog Dreams

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are better

than daydreams

Even though

dog dreams

are limited in scope:

a ballsy rabbit

someone else’s pee

or poop,

a panoply of scents

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Daydreams tend toward

unfulfillment, a lack of

or deep need

Sometimes awash in

memories, sometimes

rehearsing the future

reimagining the past

They float the dreamer

away from now

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Dog dreams

anchor to the present

a sprightly chase

after quarry that is

possible to catch

Nought

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

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Once I was a nun

And more than once

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Once I lived

in a wattle hut

and heard Her voice—

not the harsh voice of

the one who pushed

with impatient hands—but

a bird-sweet voice of comfort.

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Sent to the convent

as soon as allowed

subtract one hungry mouth from home

the youngest postulant

I lived out my days between stone

scrubbing, peeling, sweeping,

never colder or hungrier than in the hut

keeping the ember of Her love.

Prayer, silence, obedience

until a grave pestilence

took me to earth.

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And once again I was a nun

choosing the cloister over

an abhorrent marriage

with no regrets, no longings

for tapestries, brocades, or roast swan

Oh, the freedom to revel

in great books, spirited discussions

and the solitude of

my own bed.  The silence,

the discipline,

the peace.

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And once again I was a nun,

living the vow of poverty

among the tenements

with the old and the sick

hanging rags on clotheslines,

scrubbing vermin from scalps

until the fever found me

I was but flotsam when it left

palsied, blurred eyes,

but able to sing the offices.

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And this time round

I am not a religious,

having detoured into a maze

of mandates first 

a childhood void of catechism

older, but no wiser

a lost seeker somehow turned

to a life of service

no wimple or habit needed

to surrender

December 4th

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Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

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On a coffee wind my mother sighed

wreathed in the smoke of small fires

Tart orange was her voice

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Peppermint and Chanel Number Five

A kiss of red lipstick rubbed off

Light comes in through bamboo shades

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Danish modern table, ladderback chairs

the Sunday crossword falls to ash

Coffee wind swirls around her head

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Beneath a blooming lemon tree

eucalyptus leaves shaped like dolphins

spin along the ground

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The cremated genie hides in her bottle

Her eyes were never more hazel

than reflected in coffee at dawn

When I Write

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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his eyes crawl up my back

probing, asking, pulling

I am pinioned by want

tacked–a common insect

stuck through the thorax

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all that is, I am

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driven further inside

by this ever-present audience

avoiding the vacant stare

keeping my eyes on the screen

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through me, for me, as me

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a kind heart beats

while a mind fades

eyes watch what moves

he asks for little

he needs so much

The Body Shop

(reposted from December, 2020)

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Photo by Kevin Bidwell on Pexels.com

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I found this in my blog archives. A little humor in dark times.

Last week my wrist wasn’t working right, so I took my arm to the Body Shop.

            “What seems to be the problem?” Dr. Scott asked.

            “It hurts when I start in the morning.  Sometimes it just locks up completely.  I’m having trouble lifting things and opening jars.”

            Dr. Scott manipulated my wrist. “Hmm, I’ll need to get in there and have a look,” he said.  “We’re kind of backed up here today.  One of the techs called in sick.  Can you leave the arm until tomorrow?”

            “Uh, not really.  I kind of need it for holiday cooking.  Can you give me a loaner?”

            “Sure can, but this is all I’ve got left,” Dr. Scott said.  He reached under the counter and brought out a man-sized arm.  It was covered in curly black hair.  The underside was tattooed with a skull and lightning bolts.

            I eyed it with distaste.  “That’s all, huh?”

            Dr. Scott shrugged.  “Yeah, sorry.”

            He helped me snap the arm into my shoulder socket.  My sweater barely stretched over the bicep. A few inches of hairy wrist stuck out below the cuff.  I had planned to stop at the deli on the way home, but decided to avoid the embarrassment.

            At the house, my husband was reading in his recliner. 

            “Well, did he fix your wrist?” he asked without looking up.

            “Not today.  He gave me a loaner.  Look.”

            “Whoa, that is some heavy duty arm you’ve got there,” he exclaimed.  “Cool tattoos.”

            “Not cool,” I said.  “I’m off-balance.”

            “Hey, let me see you flex that thing.”

I obliged with a scowl.

He grinned.  “Wow!  That’s some bicep! I bet you could help me replace the bathroom faucet,” he said, pushing out of his chair.  “Let’s try it.”

            Sure enough, the loaner arm had more than enough strength to loosen the rusty bolt.  We fixed the faucet.  Then I hefted three forty-pound bags of water conditioner salt from the car into the basement.  I poured one bagful into the tank. After that, I carried the thirty-pound frozen turkey from the basement freezer into the kitchen. 

            “I don’t know, honey,” my husband said, “that arm is pretty useful.  Maybe you should keep the loaner.”

            “Right,” I said.  “And I bet this arm can strangle a spouse pretty well, too.”

Faerie Folk: Selkies

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The Selkie Legend

I am a man upon the land.

I am a silkie on the sea.

                                                –The Great Silkie (Childe Ballad #113

                                                                        Sung by Joan Baez on YouTube

            The Selkie myth arose hundreds of years ago in the northern isles of Europe.  Stories about selkies (also spelled silkies, sylkies, selchies), or Seal Folk, originated in the folktales of the Orkney and Shetland Islands, Ireland and the Faroe Islands.

            Selkies can be male or female.  They are shapeshifters who can change from seal to human form by shedding their sealskin.  This ability of human beings to transform into other animals is called therianthropy.  The most famous therianthrope, or shapeshifter, is the werewolf.  Unlike the werewolf, selkies are said to be gentle souls, and attractive in appearance.

            In the selkie legends, the male selkies transform into handsome men who come ashore to seek out and romance lonely women.  Like Simead Nair in Ripples of Magic, the selkie is often bound by rules restricting how often he may turn human.  Male selkies belong to the vast variety of faerie folk, and have the magical ability to charm women using their faerie glamour.

            The most well known tale about the female selkie is the version I used in Awakening Magic. In the traditional story, the female selkie comes ashore and transforms into a human to bask in the sun or dance on the beach.  A fisherman or seaman steals her sealskin.  By possessing her sealskin, he traps the selkie in her human form and forces her to bow to his will.  She remains a prisoner until she can retrieve the hidden sealskin and escape back to the sea.

            The children of a selkie and a human union may have webbed fingers, like Demara in Ripples of Magic. It is said that selkie children are drawn to the sea, and that they will never drown.  True fact: The people in the MacCodrum clan of the Outer Hebrides Islands have webbing, called syndactyly, between their fingers.  They claim to be descendants of a selkie/human match.

Resources:

https://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/legends-selkies-hidden-germs-sea-mythology-006409

http://www.orkneyjar.com/folklore/selkiefolk/

http://www.realmermaids.net/mermaid-legends/selkie/

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Demara is the protagonist in Ripples of Magic, Book IV of the Karakesh Chronicles. She is the child of a union between a selkie man and a human woman. She feels like an outcast, not fitting in to either world, yet she longs to be a selkie like her father, and live with him in the sea.

excerpt from Chapter 2, Ripples of Magic:

            By age twelve I was all too aware of the oddity of our family arrangement.  On market days in the village, the children I met sometimes spoke about their fathers. I kept silent.  Many fathers were miners who worked the day or night shift. There were farmers and craftsmen, bakers and tradesmen.  Some fathers were drunkards, and a few were absent entirely.  But none, none at all, were selkies who came out of the sea for three-day visits at the full moon.

            Freyla was my best source of comfort and information.

            “What am I supposed to do with these?” I asked her more than once, showing her my hands and feet.  I spread out my fingers and toes to reveal the thin webbing of skin between them.  “The village kids call me ‘Ducky.’” I wiped away a couple of loose tears.            

“Those are your faerie badges of honor,” Freyla said. 

All five books of the Karkesh Chronicles are available on Amazon and from Handersen Publishing

Fantastic and Legendary Creatures: The Kelpie

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The kelpie, a water spirit in Scottish legends, lives in streams and rivers. Some sources say kelpies also haunt lakes and seas.  The kelpie is a shape-shifter who can appear as a beautiful horse or a lovely woman.  In her horse guise, she lures people onto her back, and then dives deep into the water, drowning the rider. 

Kelpies warn of approaching tempests by wailing and howling, and continue their chilling cries throughout the storm.

One can only tame a kelpie by taking possession of its bridle.  Then the kelpie must submit to the owner’s will. Kelpies are strong, and can do the work of ten horses.  However, capturing and mastering a faerie spirit like a kelpie is a dangerous undertaking. I wouldn’t recommend it.

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In Book V of the Karakesh Chronicles, Bimi Lightfoot takes pleasure in teasing a kelpie.

Growing Magic, Chapter 2:

All this thinking about my real mother made me so angry that I walked as far as the sea caves.  Gerran or Lunila couldn’t shout loud enough for me to hear them there.  Inside the first cave, I stood on the narrow path.

            “Queen of the sea, come to me!” I called to the kelpie.  There are a lot of scary monsters in the sea, but she’s one of the scariest.  I called again.

            Nothing happened. 

            I got tired of waiting for her so I jumped in the water.  Then I splashed around as if I couldn’t swim.

            The kelpie plunged into the cave, making the water dark and rough.

            She raised her horse head out of the sea.  Seaweed twined in her silver-blue mane.  She fixed her wild, evil eyes on me.  I shivered.

            Oooh, I loved teasing the kelpie!  It was such scary fun!

            I let her get really close.  Then I scrambled up the rock steps to the path.

            The kelpie snorted and bared her big horse teeth.  She was really mad.

            I knew that if I touched her, even with one finger, I would stick to her forever. She would pull me into the deep water and I would drown.  She turned and lunged toward the open sea, splashing a wave so high that it almost knocked me back into the water.

            When I came out into the sunlight, Gerran was waiting for me.  He grabbed my arm.

All of the Karakesh Chronicles are available on Amazon and from Handersen Publishing.

Legendary Creatures: The Bunyip

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Book I of the Karakesh Chronicles

Chapter 29: In which Agatha is attacked by a bunyip:

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Agatha stared at the water flowing along and gave a deep sigh.

 “What is it?”  Malcolm asked.  “Are you thinking of our parents?”

“Always,” she answered as she studied her grimy fingernails.  “But it’s not that.  I don’t want to seem shallow, but I’m tired of being filthy.  I’m tired of eating snails and undercooked fish.  Most of all, I want to wash my hair.”

“Again?” Malcolm said. “We are not stopping at an inn.”

“No, that would be foolish,”Agatha agreed.  “Would you be willing to give me an hour to wash at the river?” she asked.  “I promise I’ll be quick.”

“You go ahead,” Malcolm said.  “Take Carl with you.  I’ll make a fire and catch some fish. I promise to cook them well.”

With a much-improved mood, Agatha hurried off to the riverbank with Carl. 

Agatha was standing up to her knees in water, rinsing her hair, when she heard a noise that sounded like the barking of an owl mixed with the shriek of a woman.  Then something huge and dark lunged out of the water and grabbed her leg in its teeth.

Carl went flapping and squawking for Malcolm.

“Help!” he called. “It’s got Agatha! Hurry!”

–from Tangled in Magic, Chapter 29

The bunyip is a creature from Australian Aboriginal legends. Its name means “devil” or “spirit.” According to legend, the bunyip is a water monster that lives in rivers, swamps or billabongs. The early Aboriginal drawings depict the bunyip as a beast with a horsetail, tusks and flippers.

Said to be nocturnal, the bunyip comes out of the water to snatch and eat all kinds of animals, including women and children.

The bellowing cry attributed to the bunyip might also be the call of another animal, a koala or a barking owl. Is the bunyip real or imaginary? You decide.

Read more of Agatha’s adventures as she and Malcolm plot to retake their ancestral estate, Hawk Hill, from the evil warlock, Santer.

All books are available on Amazon, or from Handersen Publishing.

Growing Magic: Book V of the Karakesh Chronicles

Holiday gifts for Middle Grade Readers and Up

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Bimi Lightfoot’s faerie mother gave him away when he was a baby.  But who is his father?  Someday, Bimi promises himself, he’ll seek out both his parents.  That day comes sooner than Bimi expects, when his faerie cousin, Liri Flare, sweeps him into the sky on a mission to steal a horse.  Once away from his adoptive family, Bimi sets out to find his mother and learn the truth about his father.  He gets help from some of the magical folk of Karakesh, but other encounters are downright life-threatening.  Does Bimi find what he seeks on his quest? 

The Hissing Swamp

Growing Magic is Book V of the Karakesh Chronicles. Magic and fantastic creatures make travel in the Kingdom of Karakesh a mysterious, exciting, and often dangerous undertaking. The adventures of Bimi and the others who figure in the Karakesh Chronicles offer readers a world of enchantment.

Start with Book I, Tangled in Magic, to join Agatha in her quest to find her brother, Malcolm. Or jump in anywhere in the series.