Some When

The paint was peeling on the old doors, but there were no plans to fix it. In the eyes of the caretakers it was a sin to change things from the original. That was the paint that Ebenezer Crimmins put on those doors, lo, those 127 years ago. Yes, they knew exactly how long it had been. They kept track of all of that, and even more. Every tiny detail was documented and filed in triplicate for posterity. It wouldn’t do to have something forgotten.

Sure, they couldn’t see the pattern now, but they had faith that it would surface later. Everything made a pattern one way or another if you sorted it right. Sometimes it was the focus you put on it – duration, frequency, type. Sometimes it was interval – how much time between. They knew it had to surface somehow, but only with enough data and the right person or computer to do the sifting. But now was not the time. Now, nothing made sense except to save everything, change nothing. Who knew what would be the final clue to unlock the mystery? Not them, not yet. But they knew enough that some when, someone had to find the solution.

For shortly after old Ebenezer Crimmins painted that door marking the completion of the house, he disappeared. Not went away. Not was kidnapped. No, nothing as easy as that. Simply disappeared, as easy as you please, fading away to nothing as the paint dried on the doors. He put the paintbrush down and had begun to remove his paint spattered overalls and it just started happening. Passersby thought it was a trick of the light, being odd as it was on that late December day.

It was a rare sunny day, and warm for a change, that December 20, the day before the solstice. The light was slantwise that day, all shifty and strange. Most people didn’t take note of it, but Ebenezer did. He didn’t trust it, no sir, but the door needed painting before the rains came. It wouldn’t do to have the bare wood unprotected. All that work on the house would be for naught if it wasn’t protected.

The house was like every other house in the village, small and squat. The walls were thick, made from the local clay, fired in a kiln built on site, purpose built just like for every house in the village. There was a kiln as part of every yard – they all stayed. Used to fire the bricks to make the house, then afterwards to make whatever pottery the residents needed. Some had small stoves built adjacent, to take advantage of the heat but not mix the materials. It wouldn’t do to get the clay mixed into the food.

All the houses were built by the community as a gift to the new inhabitants. They were not expected to construct their own house, or even to design it. Each house was made for the family in accordance with its needs and the prophecy determined for it. Manys the family of three that were surprised to move into a home with six bedrooms, only to discover they were more fertile than expected or in-law had to move in because of illness. Likewise, manys the family of eight that had to squeeze into a house with four bedrooms, only to discover tragedy came soon after.

For families were not allowed to move once they were in their own home. Once built, you were there for better or worse. Children could move away only upon marriage. There were no apartments, no dorms. Everyone lived with their family and never alone, even in the case of death. If a spouse died, the member returned to their homestead. Houses stayed in the family for generations, until the family died out or the house deteriorated. Sometimes the two happened at the same time.

But this tradition had come to be questioned by the very people it excluded. The loners, the misfits, those alienated from their family – they wanted to live apart rather than endure living together with people who didn’t understand them. Yet there was no place for them – not until this house. Constructed quietly, without council oversight, it had appeared almost overnight and remained empty, with no official resident listed. The villagers who built it had worked quietly, unofficially, and were known only to each other. Only Ebenezer would be public in his actions, finishing the paint job on that fateful day.

After 130 years, the villagers finally understood what had happened to him. He disappeared because they chose to not see him, to pretend that he was not doing this thing. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t spoken aloud. They just looked away, out of embarrassment perhaps, or consternation. They didn’t know what to think about what he was doing, so they chose not to think about him at all.

So he disappeared, slowly but surely, and soon there was nothing left of him. Nobody ever stepped foot in that house, for fear the same would happened to them. Nobody ever tried to build another home for singles either.

It took all that time to develop a pattern to see, truly see, what had caused the disappearance. It would take a dozen more years to learn where, or rather when, Mr. Crimmins had gone. For he’d not just faded from their sight, he’d faded from their timeline. He’d gone nearly 150 years into the future, many times the normal period of reincarnation.

It took 49 days for Tibetans to reincarnate, which was a comfort in that culture. There was no need for a protracted grief. You knew your loved one was alive again, and soon. There was no need to wait for the resurrection – it was happening all the time. Mr. Crimmin’s culture had no such consolation. The resurrection happened just the same to them, but they didn’t know it. It wasn’t like anybody had ever come back and told them. Until now.

Because Mr. Ebenezer Crimmins came back, looking exactly as he did when he left. He got to pass go and collect $200. He won the game and lived to tell about it – really. He was so thankful the town had archived his life so he had proof he was who he said. Otherwise they might have locked them up or cast him out. Because that was what most cultures did to people who spoke truth that seemed better than they could believe. 

A quick resurrection wasn’t what they wanted.  They were programmed for death, and guilt, and waiting, and never seeing the other side any time soon.  So they didn’t like the idea of this walking ghost, this man their grandparents knew, standing among them telling them it wasn’t like that at all.  They didn’t have to fear death. They all would get a second chance, and a third, and a 27th.  He might as well have told them that they didn’t have to worry about money, or sickness either. 

Are you ready for Christmas?

People say to me, “Are you ready for Christmas?” and I wonder what they mean. This is a very stripped down Christmas this year. Cards are sent. Watching A Christmas Carol. Tree is finally up (no decorations). Gifts have been given (handmade). Less is more, I’m learning.

Jim Carrey says “No holiday should manipulate you to the point where you’re going into debt just to show someone you love them.”

People of the Sand

Christopher and Lois Helfman loved their children more than they could express, but they understood that not everyone could accept them. They were fraternal triplets – two boys and a girl, born one bitter December morning five years ago while Papa was on maneuvers with the Royal Marines. He’d not even gotten to see his wife bloom into her pregnancy,having just one home visit a year at that point. His wife joked that he made the best of his time while he was at home, but she wasn’t laughing when she was told it was triplets she was expecting not long after he returned to the lines.

How would they ever manage three babies,  , and then corrected herself. Why ever did she think they would do anything? It would be all her doing, as it was for all the women in her time. Women had always done it all – all the cooking, all the cleaning, all the child raising. They did it because this is how it was. There weren’t other options as far as they knew.

Lois sent her husband a letter as soon as she was sure the pregnancy was viable. It wouldn’t do to get his hopes up for nothing. Because it was triplets, she waited an extra month just to be sure. So when the letter finally reached him he didn’t have a lot of time to adjust to the idea he was going to be a father.

Of course, they wanted children. They hadn’t planned exactly when, just leaving that particular to God. That was the best practice anyway, they finally realized after years of struggle. So many years of trying to do things their way and plans not working out. Why would they?Plans of mice and men never measured up to a hill of beans.

But the babies had been born early, too early for the happiness of the nurses at the village clinic. Doctors were in short supply, what with the war and all. They had been sent to the field to tend the soldiers. Civilians had to fend for themselves. Their needs were much less. It was quietly understood this was one of the many sacrifices they’d have to make to win the war.

And who was the war with? Desert dwellers, the People of the Sand. They’d finally ventured out of their domain and discovered the delights of temperate climates. No longer did they have to settle for the arid lands they’d been born in. No longer did they have to settle for a nomadic life of tents and beasts of burden. Now they knew there were choices, options other than a life of wandering from campsite to campsite, from bad pasture to only slightly better pasture. The herds were growing gaunt with all the work it took to forage for food, and so were they. So when they saw these new people, these fair skinned layabouts who didn’t have to fight the land for food, they knew they had to take over.

At first they sent sentries, spies, to move into and among these newfound neighbors. No weapons among them other than walking sticks and knives for butchering their supper meant diplomacy was the order of the day. They never had to fight anyone before and hoped not to now, but they weren’t above it. Their ancestor, the great Mahd had firmly said that violence was acceptable if peace failed. The survival of the People of the Sand was paramount. It would not do for them to be erased in the same way that footprints were in their landscape.

A life of shifting terrain shaped people into never settling down, never feeling stable. It made them suspicious of outsiders, of intermingling, so they clung to their traditions all the more.  It was the only thing holding them together. It was who they were as a people –not anything material but all in manner. How you acted was what marked you as a member of the People.

War finally came inch by inch and day by day, until suddenly there was fighting in the streets of the Helfman’s little village. Unrest had come to the town in dribs and drabs, two different cultures mixing like oil and water. There had been attempts to integrate. There were evening classes at the local library to teach both languages, but they were sparsely attended. If only they had asked the people what hours they were available – or even if they were interested. There were other barriers too -where there were misunderstandings and confusion. There were little arguments over use of the community center for worship services. The newcomers didn’t understand the denial wasn’t personal – they didn’t allow anybody to have services there of any sort.

When war came, Mr. Helfman had volunteered straight away, knowing that if he waited to be drafted he’d most likely get a less than desirable position. Not like any position in a war was desirable –but some were better than others. He became a captain in the Signal Corps because he had worked in the village radio station for over a decade and had a ham radio license. Sending messages back-and-forth across the battlefield without the other side listening was his forte, and he relished his role. It was important, essential even, and he didn’t have to worry about getting shot.Well, that wasn’t exactly true. He’d been trained the same as everyone else in the unit how to handle a gun. This was war, after all. The time for talking was over. Diplomacy had been exchanged for destruction, and may the best side win.

And yet he still held out hope that they could work something out. The good Lord didn’t put these people on the earth – and especially in his village – for nothing. But there were so many barriers! The culture was unusual, that was for sure, but the language – that was a real stumper. They didn’t even use the same alphabet, just a bunch of squiggles and dots. It didn’t make any sense. So he began to test the limits of his radio technology. Perhaps he could get it to translate the sounds it heard while he was intercepting their signals. If his phone could figure out what song was playing by listening, surely he could rig up a way to get some sense out of their language.

He’d always done well with the belief that if he could imagine it, it was possible. Surely the Lord wouldn’t have put such an idea in his head if he didn’t want him to try. Now, plenty of folks took that the wrong way and turn God’s dreams into nightmares. They focused the signal on themselves, not on others. Christopher Helfman had been raised to serve others,so his experiments always worked out for the best. It wasn’t long before he had worked out a translator, and within months every person in the battlefield had a portable version.

They’d left ones for the People of the Sand in conspicuous places, knowing that if they simply tried to give them away it would be met with suspicion. So they waited, and were wary. But the experiment worked – they started using the translators! A few brave souls talked with each other across the lines, sharing words and not bullets for a change. An agreement was reached and more of the devices were handed over. Before long, the war was over because they could finally, truly, understand each other. The devices didn’t just translate words but feelings and emotions as well. The full range of meaning was conveyed, and the two sides discovered they had more in common than not.They decided to share their resources, creating a whole new kind of community.

And that is how the masks came to be on the heads of the Helfman triplets. Born too soon, their lungs weren’t fully developed.They were prone to allergies and asthma, and nothing seemed to soothe them.That was, until the village got a People of the Sand doctor, who decided to try something new. These people had long relied on their unusual and somewhat intimidating face masks to survive in their arid desert home. Now that many had relocated to the village, they had no need for the cumbersome devices. Thankfully,many kept them out of nostalgia, so several were available to the doctor. He decided to try one on the children after the usual tricks had failed. Unusual was the order of the day in the village at that point, what with the two cultures openly blending and sharing, so the children didn’t stick out too much.

Hits the spot

A world bloomed in her mug. A forest emerged, complete with a circle of ravens to welcome the dawn. Perhaps this blend of tea was more magical than advertised?

Bergamot, hyssop, and a dash of hinoki oil were the listed ingredients, but she was sure there had to be some surprises. There always were. No cook gave away all her secrets. They were like magicians in that way. Revealing just enough but not too much … any more and the gig was up and you’d be out of a job.

People paid for secrets. They paid to be surprised. People paid to suspend their disbelief if only for an hour. It was how writers survived – this compulsive need for lies of all sizes and shades. White lies were still lies after all,still less than the truth. But the truth was too much for most people. Little white lies kept the wheels of society greased.

But this tea might take some serious adjusting to. Was she tall enough for this ride? She’d gone to this tea blender for several months now but this was the first time she’d considered that the mix wasn’t for her. Perhaps it was for another customer? Or perhaps the blender (more alchemist than anything else) had over estimated her needs this time.

For this was no ordinary tea shop that she found. The tea resided in dark brown glass jars, with handwritten labels. Some were blends, but most were raw ingredients, ready to be whisked together into the need of the day. Patrons didn’t even tell the clerk what they wanted. That wouldn’t do. They could not be expected to be objective enough to know what they really needed, after all.So they came in, waited their turn, and then sat before the clerk who observed them. Sometimes s/he would take their pulse. Sometimes s/he would ask the patron to stick out their tongue. But nothing more – no medical history, no list of prescriptions or supplements written down or spoken.

It was a simple affair, but one that required over a decade of training, and that was only after a rigorous testing just to be considered for the role of student. Students had to be impeccable in their words and actions,diplomatic, and able to raise all the funds for their training upfront. There were no scholarships. There were no loans. The entire tuition had to be fully funded from the start. The teacher wished for each student to be able to serve her whole-heartedly upon the completion of their apprenticeship (not graduation, for they would never cease to learn) so the patrons could be served without distraction or hesitation.

So this had to be what she needed, but was she ready for it? It tasted like no other tea she’d ever had. Was that a woodpecker call she heard from her mug? Did she see antlers? She’d never hallucinated before, college being at a private Christian school, but she suspected this was what it must feel like. And feel was the right word – she didn’t just see the trees and animals in her tea, she could hear and smell them too. They were there, but in miniature, in her mug.

Well, there was nothing to it but to do it, so she took a sip. The forest stayed horizontally oriented, the birds continued to fly, and the still hot tea tasted like earth and moss and stone as it slid down her throat.

Strangely, it was exactly what she needed.

The bones of the matter

She’d asked for a dog but they gave her an alligator instead.Or maybe it was a crocodile? She wasn’t sure and they weren’t telling. They never told her anything anyway. Just gave her chores to do and no instructions and there was hell to pay if she didn’t do it right – whatever that may be. She never knew because they never said.

And yet, somehow, at her tender age, she’d sussed it out.Without training or guidance or even an instruction book she knew how to do it,whatever it was, in spite of them. Were they trying to test her? Or were they simply evil, hoping for her downfall, wanting an excuse to yell at her for not doing well?

Was this how they were raised? Was this how they thought they should treat others? What goes around comes around, after all, and people can’t treat people like how they want to be treated if they don’t know any better.

So she suffered from these teachers, these guides, these “superiors”who left her a box of materials and not even a picture of it go by for what she was supposed to build. Sometime she built whatever she wanted. If they didn’t watch it, she might build a rocket launcher. It would serve them right.

Right now she was training her reptilian companion to fetch,but soon would start the real training. He had sharp teeth and a surprisingly strong tail. It would be easy to teach him to attack on command. It was part of this nature, after all, to grab a victim and pull it down under the water,thrashing and turning until he could bite down a few more times. Puncture wounds usually took the fight out of anything rather quickly.

She didn’t want to resort to that, having spent more time in Sunday school than she cared to consider. Perhaps that was their plan all along– make her docile, unwilling to fight for her rights, unwilling to follow her own nature. Humans were selfish creatures once you got down to the bare bones of the matter, and religion was nothing more than a way to civilize them, make it possible for them to live together in close quarters.

But that wasn’t who they really were, all that forgiveness and “turn the other cheek” hooey. What person in her right mind would give away her only coat, either? And yet they’d done it, mostly, had trained women to be passive, to apologize for speaking their minds, to forgive even when the other person hadn’t apologized. Maybe this was why women were majority of those who suffered depression and anxiety attacks. The dissonance was unbearable.

She started to wonder if maybe she wasn’t truly female, at least all the way. Maybe she was just female on the outside. She didn’t feel one way or the other on the inside, but she had nothing to compare it to so she didn’t know any better. But she did know she wasn’t swallowing what they were trying to feed her. She wondered how all her classmates and friends could stomach this madness, this meal of compliance and conformity. It tasted bitter to her, and bare. It tasted of bones and bile, nothing nutritious, and certainly nothing to benefit a growing girl.

Maybe that was their point – to stunt her, to slow her down.Maybe their treatment of her was for the same reason a horse was handicapped –to not give it an unfair advantage, to level the playing field. Maybe they were afraid the other children would feel low around her, so they brought her down to their level. But when ever has dimming a light helped those in darkness find their way?

It was time to shine.

But first, she was going to train her pet to do some tricks they didn’t see coming. They needed to know it wasn’t right to mess with nature.


She nearly slipped on the moss covered cobblestones. How long had it been since someone had used this hatch? And yet the planter near the gate had a tiny plant in it – trimmed, healthy, not unruly and wild as cultivated plants went. This was being tended – but by who? And why wasn’t s/he using the door? Why come all this way to keep this plant in a pot alive? This corner of the farm wasn’t exactly on the way to anything you needed. There weren’t chickens to feed, horses to comb over here. And yet someone had been here, and recently – within the week at least.

Funny how wildflowers never needed attention,but everything else did. Maybe it was time for people to start valuing things as they were and stop messing with nature. Nature knew best how to stay alive.

But now she was in charge of the farm. It washers, to have and to hold from this day forward, until she died. She hoped it was for better, not worse, but you never knew with these arrangements.

The country had offered this unique real estate plan for 30 years or more now and it was working out well. If you promised to improve the property and to never sell it, you could stay there for free. It was a great way to deal with the homeless crisis and abandoned buildings at the same time. Two birds, one stone.

Once a minor government worker had put the pieces together it was so obvious a solution that the bureaucrats almost didn’t act on it. It was so simple that they thought there had to be a hitch. Where was the profit? How could they benefit – in tax revenue, if nothing else? Once it was explained that they no longer had to pay the police to chase off squatters, they started to warm up to the idea. Once it was explained that they also wouldn’t have to spend any money on the homeless, they cottoned to the idea even more. And yet they still were wary – were they simply letting the squatters win? Was this another liberal trick?

There were background checks. There were interviews. There were tests. There were forms – God were there forms! That alone weeded out the illiterate and the impatient. Only those who made the time to wade through all that folderol were up to the task after all.

Plenty of people who won the challenge moved in right away, bringing their whole family with them – aunts, cousins, dogs, the lot. They had learned in the interview process that it would require many hands to make light work of all the farm chores. Others, lacking in blood kin,scouted the neighboring villages – the farm houses often being isolated affairs– and hired the very people who had been ousted as squatters the weeks before in the transition.

Those people knew the patterns of the farms – where the animals huddled in bad weather, where it was dry and where was wet. This knowledge would help speed things along. Plus – they were often grateful to legitimately live where they had spent so much time. To get paid in bed and board at a place you’d stay for free was a real blessing. The farms ended up like a kibbutz – a collective, where no profit was expected and hard work was understood.

But this little doorway – with its rough hewn wood and antique door lock – what was it guarding? And how long since it had been opened? Or had it ever? It was entirely possible that the door had been created just to keep something in forever, or at least as long as it was alive.Otherwise why have a lock? If it was something that needed to be forgotten, it could have been walled up, with no sign to passersby that there was anything of interest beyond.

So she found someone on the farm who could pick locks, and away they went into the hatch, just the two of them, but prepared at least with a pitchfork and a hoe. There was no telling what they would face.

Inside they met a mirror monster, which greeted them with suspicion and curiosity and a bit of entitlement. The two humans felt that this was their home and everyone else needed to leave – in the mirror monster felt the same way. It was only showing them what they showed it. It was nature, at its most basic, and it had stayed alive all this time because most of the people who encountered it were comfortable with the foreign, the alien. They saw it as a friend they didn’t know yet, rather than an enemy to be defeated.The mirror monster lived in this field – had as long as memory and longer. It roamed its land and never strayed.

A century ago or more a landowner had marked off the monster’s land, declared it sacred and special, because he felt whole there. This was his special place to remember who he really was – not scattered and divided, but complete and calm and centered.

If he’d been of the religion bent, he might’ve told the local rabbi or vicar about this place and let them enclose it further, building tall walls and a roof to further mark the space as sacred, as set-aside, but he wasn’t, so he didn’t. He felt it was important to leave this area for anyone who needed it, rather than seal it up only for those of that one faith tradition and only open when they felt like it.

It was his ancestor who watered the plant near the hatch, but she did it secretly. It wouldn’t do to call attention. Her forefather, the one who built the walls but not the door, had been ousted by someone of a different ilk, a darker bent. That person had come to visit but had jealousy in his heart. He saw the flourishing farm and wanted it for his own.

He used the law to his own advantage, not as it was intended.Instead of the law being a shield to protect the innocent, it was used as a sword to cut and divide. Within a few short months the farm changed hands.

When this interloper, this usurper, entered the field, the mirror monster struck with full force, meeting energy with energy as was its nature. Faced with his own ugliness, his own greed, the new owner put up a gate with a lock to ensure he never accidentally walked in there again. If the farm were smaller, he’d have torn down the walls and dug up the field, attempting to eradicate the spirit. Not like that would have done him any good – the force occupied the space, not the land. It was beyond the material, beyond what you could see and touch.

This would have been the case had a shrine been built there too – the place didn’t make you better or worse. It just made you more of what you already were.

These mirror monsters were everywhere, and many’s the temple that had been built over their domain. And many of the sacred sites had good people as well as bad visit. The place could serve as a challenge to the unsettled, the suspicious – where they suddenly had a choice. Continue feeling unsettled, fearful, or start feeling curious and open. They had a choice to stay where they were or become someone else – someone open and hopeful.

But now she thought – what to make of this place? Or did it need anything done to it? Not everything needed to be “developed”. Some things are perfect as they were, unspoiled, naturally alive. There is a wisdom in the unspoiled, the as-is. Where did humans get the idea they were improving land –that their way was better than God’s way?


The forest had grown up around the archway, twisting tendrils and vines into and over and through the rough hewn stones. It would be impossible if not foolish to cut away the foliage now – living plant and dead stone had merged into one being now, inseparable.

The founders of the garden had no idea this would happen, but they and their plans were long forgotten by now. What had been the centerpiece of the village had become an afterthought, a ruin. It was a century later this treasure was rediscovered during a push for more housing. The forest that had grown up was now seen as expendable, extra, not vital. Some politicians even preyed on people‘s fear and said that dangerous animals lurked within, or that the forest harbored criminals or immigrants.

So now the garden has been found again, and now the people learned it was built as a sanctuary for peace, an embassy of healing. This was created as a “breathing room” for anyone who needed it – a sanctuary of stillness and calm where people of all walks of life could refresh and recharge their souls.

However they’d forgotten the need for this, forgotten they had to tend the soil of their hearts in order to bear fruit. Forgotten, to their peril and loss.


She looked out of the small window in the door, her only connection to the outside world. For over two decades she’d been kept in this tiny apartment, alone to work. It would be nearly another decade before she would be released, her job done.

It wasn’t quite imprisonment, but there was some truth to the monastic term “cell” that was used to describe her place. It had the basics –toilet, tub, and a kitchenette, along with a bed and a desk. Just enough and not too much. It was hers and hers alone.

Only that which could fit through the tiny window in the door could be given to her or from her. That was fine because she made most of what she needed from raw materials – fabric, grain, it made no difference to her.She had the time to sew or bake as the occasion warranted. She learned it was useful time – it didn’t take away from her writing. When she felt that the well of words was dry, she filled it up by being creative in other ways. Plenty a solution was found when her hands were busy making.

It looked dark in there to outsiders but that was to dissuade them. It wouldn’t do to have people want to follow her in this life. It wasn’t easy or for those who had no discipline. It was a quiet life, with tiny pleasures that came when they wanted to. There was little glory in it, but there was a lot of grace. Here she learned the value of patience and of practice – the slow sure path to the only kind of perfection available on this side of eternity.

In her cell was all the light she needed, provided by the Light of the world. Every day the Spirit of God would descend like a September cloud upon her chest of drawers, between the two angel candlesticks. No one else ever saw this. No one else would ever believe it either.

Her bureau wasn’t just a place to keep her clothes. It was also the Ark of the covenant, the site of the mercy seat. Plenty of folks thought it was lost, but that was because the trail had gone cold all those centuries ago. God knew it wouldn’t do to keep such a thing around. Even then it had become an idol, a stand in, a replacement for the One who visited there.So God hid it from people’s minds, making it lost to those who sought it.

It had been in Jeanne’s family for a century or more. Her great-grandfather found it in an antique shop in Normandy and knew right away what it was. A modest price, and to the casual eye it was just a chest of drawers and nothing else. Certainly not a holy thing, the holy thing.

It hadn’t been brought to Normandy. Truth be told, the shop owner was surprised to see this item when Jeanne’s ancestor asked for help loading it onto his wagon. But she was always misplacing things in her labyrinthine shop anyways. Maybe her partner had brought it in on one of her rare days off. Perhaps it was time for a real vacation, she mused, but how to find the time? The shop wouldn’t run itself.

Jeanne’s ancestor could see the Ark for what it was because he wasn’t in a hurry to be anywhere else. It appeared to him, showed him what it truly was, only because he was content in a way that the world didn’t teach.He wasn’t in a hurry to be anywhere else, be anyone else. So when it came time to pass it on, he did nothing. The chest / Ark would find the right person, or it would leave the family and go somewhere else. Wasn’t that the way with the Spirit? It made no sense to assume the mantle of glory would pass on to the next generation. It wasn’t hereditary like a monarchy. The only monarch was God, not a human. It was only logical that God would crown any one of his children – or none at all.

Jean was grateful the Ark had made it to her, but it wasn’t an accident. Her parents and grandparents in that line had been very centered and calm and had taught her how to live the same way. It was like a double inheritance, now that she thought about it – a calm presence and the presence of God. It was how she was able to be locked away in her cell all these years.And yet, she looked forward to the time when the harvest was right and she could teach the world all that God had taught her face-to-face.

(Written 10/8/18)


The house was built up around the doorway, not the other way around. Much like how paved roads developed from foot paths, it was easier to follow the path of least resistance, or the path that was most efficient.

That doorway had been an arch, a gateway to an elevated position. It worked a change in status, a never going back. Those who walked across that threshold were forever transformed.

Was it the place itself that caused the transformation, or the act of it? Was simply walking up those steps and under the arch enough of the sign – a decision made and cemented by the physical act? Or was there something to the years of bare feet crossing this threshold with the same firm intention, the same true heart? Like water wearing a groove in a river bed, the channel simply grew deeper and more sure, more able to hold true to its path.

For centuries there was just this place. No steps, no archway – and certainly no door or walls. Nobody questioned it. It was never used accidentally or irreverently. But then times changed. People moved away from the village. Customs were not passed down intact. Things that adults took for granted as fact were not taught to the children. They assumed they knew, forgetting or never realizing their own quiet and subtle indoctrination.

Ways of being together in community, the ways that marked each group as separate and distinct, weren’t automatic. They could not be presumed to be known. They required careful and deliberate teaching, but not the overt kind. You couldn’t teach someone how you lived together the same way you’d teach the rules of the road or a language. No, that teaching was hidden in the unspoken language, through tone, through how you held your body, through the look on your face. That was taught in the under-language, but it still must be taught.

Had the communication breakdown happened when the families became decentralized? New couples moved away from hometowns, in search of jobs or change. Both wife and husband worked instead of just one, because there were so many more things they had to buy. If they’d stayed put they could have gotten family to help instead of having to hire it out to strangers. Babysitting or home repair weren’t cheap, and caused a strain on already meager resources.

Or had the transmission of culture disintegrated because of the influx of others from elsewhere? While one group of couples left, another came to fill in the gap, both in search of greener pastures, not realizing that one person‘s trash was indeed another one’s treasure.

Perhaps it was a bit of both, or something more. No matter, the fact was a fact – and the fact was that the majority of the town didn’t know the whys and the wherefore of the village’s unique tradition. Rather than have someone accidentally be changed, the older villagers chose to enclose the area, to make it impossible to cross unless the initiate was truly ready. It wouldn’t do to have someone accidentally become something they weren’t ready for.

And what exactly happened at that gateway? What did initiates become? They were not given a new title or a new name. Their new membership in this unique club was never notarized. There were no meetings, fees, or dues. But there was most certainly a change that came over them, a palpable difference. Perhaps it was the lightness of the heart, or a twinkling of the eye, but they were different.

Once they crossed that threshold they ceased being alone. All fear left them, all doubt, all pain. Once they crossed over they were not the same person because they were more than just a person. They were joined, made whole, reunited. They were one with the Creator. It was Nirvana. It was heaven on earth. It was Zen. Sure, they still carried water and chopped wood. It wasn’t like they sat around all day thinking about God. They didn’t have to. Once they crossed over, they shared the mind of God, which was even better. There was no need to stop working, because work itself became a delight, a way to yoke action with thought – a way to bring forth God’s light into the world.

But why wall this up? Why put a doorway? Wouldn’t everyone want this bliss, this grace,? It turned out that the person had to be prepared and willing to accept this change. Otherwise it was like trying to move a dozen people into an efficiency apartment. There was no room for you to move around, no space to think or rest. Unprepared, a newly expanded person often went mad. Some had delusions of grander, when in reality they weren’t even adequate. Some thought they were God. Some thought they were Moses, or Elijah, or Jesus. The mental hospitals and homeless shelters in the big city begin to fill up with these lost souls, these broken vessels, because the people of the village shunned them. They didn’t know what had happened, didn’t know that these people had crossed through the gateway prematurely, unready, unknowing. All the villagers knew was that they suddenly had strangers in their midst, people who looked like their friends and neighbors but acted like aliens. They no longer fit inside their bodies or community, so they left, pushed out. A village this small could not function with people that broken. So to prevent further losses, the elders made the gateway into a sanctuary, a shrine, unlocked only on ember days and solstices. Those who had already become whole would wait inside on those days and welcome their newest members.

Not everyone crossed the threshold. Not everyone wanted to. Not everyone was up to it. Not everyone knew what it was. But for those who crossed, their lives were never the same again.

Written mid November 2017

Morning has broken

The mist lay over the land like a comforter smoothing away the edges. Sounds traveled less at these times, but few beings knew this. Those who were nocturnal were already snuggled down, deep in their burrows. Those who were diurnal had not yet roused by this time.

The chill of the October air swirled about the massive buck, and steam poured from his nostrils. They tested the air, flared a bit at an uncommon scent. Sharp, like fear, like the smell of anger. His ears perked up now, alert to this new concern. He could hear nothing amiss, but his nose had never been wrong.

No one had appointed him protector of the forest. This was a job he had inherited when the last old buck died. Every forest had one – a keeper, a protector. He simply knew to patrol the boundaries,to protect the sanctity of the forest. Nobody else knew his task. It was silent, secret. He insured the peace of the forest home for all the residents –animals and plants.

The trees were his wards too. When he marked them with his scent he was bringing special attention to them – this one needed healing by being noticed. Or this one needed to be left alone by the other deer.

The moose and bear weren’t the same – theymarked what they wanted, when they wanted. No rhyme and certainly no reasonthere. But they were asleep in many ways.

He had the burden of being awake, and being alone. This was a task that was best performed with full attention, or not at all.

It was time to check out that smell. It wasn’t going away and it felt like it would only get bigger. He walked towards it,carefully, slowly, eager to not make a sound. His tall slim legs deftly maneuvered around the branches in the forest, placing his hooves precisely, no sound created to alert others. While he was unwilling to call attention to his duty, he was also unwilling to alert whatever was making this scent – not until it was time.

It took nearly an hour to make his way there. By then his ears could hear the noise. And then he saw it – some huge yellow monster, with round feet and a huge single arm, grabbing at the dirt in massive, greedy grabs. Another yellow monster, arms wrapping around 40 foot trees and stripping off their branches as if they were saplings. His eyes grew wide – what were these beasts who were eating his home? They were the source of the smell, that burning, the smoke, the terror.

The blood that ran through them was from the remains of animals who died long ago – long before this forest was populated with his kind. It was from larger animals, ones that lived in warmer times. The blood of these yellow monsters was made from death, from decay. And yet, the breath from these immense yellow animals would bring about the change that made life possible for them again.

The dinosaurs were having their revenge, now, a millennia later. They had been reborn as the fuel that powered these machines that were destroying the earth for mammals – making it too warm for warm blooded animals, making it perfect for reptiles and larger-than-life lizards.These ghosts had possessed the people, making them crave oil, haunting them to create gasoline, pursuing them to make more and more, to destroy more and more.

The ancient stag knew madness when he saw it. It had stalked his forest in years past. He knew it was a force that was beyond reason.It was a hunger, an emptiness, a vacuum. It was an empty void that could never be filled. Things could never ever be enough – food, power, property. That kind of emptiness only lead to more cravings, not less. It was like scratching at hives – it only made you itch more.

The stag returned to the forest and thought about what to do. The machines could be destroyed, but the people would only bring more. A show of force from the bigger animals – the bears, the mountain lions – would only bring hunters with guns.

The next morning he knew. He went to talk to the trees in that area and explained to them how they needed to give up their spirits. The wood needed to be rotten inside and for that the tree spirit had to leave. Then the wood wouldn’t be valuable anymore. Then he talked to the soil around the area, to soften up to the two legged, to make it impossible for them to scout deeper into the forest. Not quite as bad as quicksand, but better than mud for grabbing it shoes. Enough of that and maybe the people would leave.

He had no way to ensure they wouldn’t come back in the future, but by then he would be gone. Another stag would have taken his place as guardian of these hills, his home. Another stag would have to stand against this incessant encroachment, this greedy grabbing.

(Written early October 2018) (inspired by artwork by Dan McCarthy)