Missing Rowley

He was one of the missing children, one of the many thousands who disappeared every year. But Rowley (if that was his real name) wasn’t like those children. Nobody was looking for him.

He’d disappeared that Wednesday afternoon, one of those wet and blustery days so common in January. The sun had been gone for so long that people simply forgot about it, simply forgot it was something to miss.

The same is true of Rowley, a boy who was shorter than average, surlier than average. If people didn’t overlook him unintentionally, they overlooked him on purpose. He wasn’t a pleasant child to deal with, and there was little hope he’d grow out of it.

He’d been a latchkey kid, a forgotten child. He could go missing for days and nobody noticed or cared. His parents (if that’s what they were) neither spoke to him or about him. He might as well have been a piece of furniture handed down from an eccentric aunt. He wasn’t wanted, and he knew it.

But then the circus came to town. It wasn’t like he ran away, so much as he was recognized. The high wire performers noticed him at the corner café, quietly pocketing leftovers from the tables about to be cleared away. It wasn’t like he was stealing, not exactly. The food had been paid for, just not eaten. It was headed for the garbage. He figured he was doing everybody a service, mostly himself.

The aerialists followed him out, not so close as to spook him, but not so far as to lose him. He knew they were behind him, how could he not? That sense was well honed in him. It kept him safe all these many years. If necessary he could make himself invisible without even leaving the area. It wasn’t running away. He knew that didn’t work – that just called more attention. It was more like he imagined himself invisible, made himself see-through to anybody who was looking. He’d had plenty of practice at the sad excuse of a home he had.

But turning invisible didn’t work this time, because the circus performers knew how to do that trick too. It was the opposite of performing. The bright light they shone from themselves when they were in the ring could be switched off just as easily. It was second nature to them. It was a skill that bonded them all into a strange sort of family, a wandering caravan of vagabonds and misfits, who somehow discovered how to jigsaw themselves together into this unexpected troupe.

The lack of a fixed address wasn’t a problem for them. They were traveling entertainers after all. It was expected, necessary even. Everybody in the circus was legitimately homeless. They’d discovered the one way it was socially acceptable. Perhaps it worked because they sang for their supper. They performed and sold tickets instead of begging. When they held a hand out, there was a top hat at the end of it. Somehow that made it OK. The public doesn’t like to think it has been deceived, but it does like to be entertained. And so they gratefully gave money to them, rather than grumbling about charity.

The two called out to Rowley, gently enough, to let him know they meant him no harm. They knew what was going through his mind. They knew because the same thing had happened to them all those years ago. This is how many of them came to the circus.

Many if not all had gone missing on purpose, because they were never noticed it home. Joining up with the other invisibles made sense. Together, they created a new sort of family, where all the rules went out of the window. Maybe it was because there were no windows in the circus. Trailers and tents were the order of the day, and even if they did have windows they were covered up with curtains or aluminum foil. This was one group that understood the value of privacy.

Radio set

The lane was quiet this afternoon. Quieter than normal. The November mist had started its slow, funereal march earlier in the day and had apparently chosen to stay. No rays of sunshine dared to burn this final fog off. It sat, like an uninvited guest, curled around door steps, sprawling over topiary.

Paris in the spring was a glorious thing – a delight to the senses, a reason to celebrate being alive. Paris in late autumn was another matter. Once the glory of the oaks and maples in Père Lachaise had passed, the city resigned itself to the slow hours of decay and toil that were the hallmark of winter in the City of Light.

The name was a mockery in this time. Dull gray – all of it, all the time. The only relief came during those rare snowfalls, where the snow reflected what sun there was like a billion tiny mirrors. This was not one of those days. This was a day to retreat to my studio – not to paint or sculpt or knit but to curl up with one of the many books accumulated in piles like stalagmites around the dusty space. Perhaps the electricity was working today and tea could be had as well. If not, no bother. Mrs. McGillicuddy, the ex-pat neighbor would be by shortly to ask if I wanted for anything.

This was my secret space, my true home. Others – my friends, my spouse, thought it my folly – a studio to focus my attention on artwork as work and not play. Too many years of trying to create at home had taught me better. Home was much too comfortable, too cozy. Naps lead to snacks lead to futzing around on the Internet lead to a day wasted and nothing to show for it. Here was different. No distractions. A careful, considered focus. Here there was nothing to do but work on art  in one form or another.

Yet here too was the safety deposit box. That one – the one that required two slim keys but one lost all these years. I’d inherited it from my paternal grandmother, and I knew what was inside. There was no need to open it. It still worked even if I couldn’t see inside of it.

Inside was a pure Galena crystal and all the fixin’s for a radio – no battery required. All I had to do was hold this box in both my hands and it received a clear pure signal from beyond, or behind, or within. I wasn’t sure and Mama wasn’t clear about it. Maybe she didn’t even know. Either way, I could hear the messages clearly that way, sure as you please. No guessing, no having to interpret images and feelings and impressions. Sure, I could get messages without it, and did all the time. This was different. This was special. This was the best Philosopher’s Stone, the true magic, the real deal.

This was worth the eight kilometer walk from my home. Normally I’d have hired a cab, but they weren’t running today. Was it the weather? Or a strike? Or a civic holiday? It wasn’t worth the bother to find out why. It wouldn’t change the fact that there were no cabs to hail that gloomy Wednesday afternoon.

And it wouldn’t do to keep the box at home. It might get lost in the piles of stuff that accumulated like driftwood or snow banks. Or it might get accidentally picked up by the wrong person and they’d blow a fuse in themselves.

No moving parts in this special radio – but plenty in people. It took a lot of training to be able to hold the box without harm to yourself. Sure, some of that was natural ability, but the rest? Practice. All those magic tricks my grandmother taught me? Turns out she was training me how to use this receiver. It wouldn’t do to let it get in the hands of an amateur. They might end up catatonic, or worse.


It was morning, and the child was gone. Tenement halls and alleyways – empty. No sign of her, not even a whiff of her perfume like a ghost in the air.

The apartment was an afterthought, almost an accident. It wasn’t meant to be. It was built between the brownstones, the rowhouses, the three-story walk-ups. It was just enough for Millie and her mom when they moved, father long dead or so she’d been told. That little lie was enough for then. Later she’d learn the truth, when she was older and stronger. By then it would make more sense. But he would have to do the telling.

Had he left? Not really. He’d never been there at all, not as far as Nancy Malig knew. She’d had dreams of a lover for three days in a row, those 10 years back. Now she had a nine-year-old daughter and no husband to show for it.

It wasn’t easy raising a child without a father around, but few people raised an eyebrow. It was so common. Little did they know how uncommon this situation was. Or maybe it wasn’t. Maybe she wasn’t an anomaly. Maybe many others were ghost babies, dream children, and they just weren’t saying. Maybe they didn’t know, because maybe there was a guy around – a husband or boyfriend, a one night stand. He got the blame or the credit and there was nothing to it but to go along, like cuckoo bird.

But now Millie was missing. Had been since Tuesday. It was normal for her to spend time by herself, so it might’ve been hours that she’d been gone before Nancy noticed.

She was an unusual child, bright for her age. She seemed to know things without being taught. After a while her mother gave up and didn’t try to teach her anything because it was a waste of her time. But now she was missing. Now it was serious.

Little did Nancy realize that Millie was with her Dad, slipped between the dimensions, shoehorned in like their shotgun house. She was 1/2 ghost, 1/2 human, or fully both depending on her mood. Those times she’d not been noticed? She was there, in that space between the atoms. She’d done it all her life and never thought anything of it because that was her normal. Why would she? It was the same as you not thinking about breathing, or walking.

Millie was at home here in this in-between space, more at home than she’d ever been in her house. The space between was part of who she was, part of how she came to be. Her father had Seen this alleyway before it had been sealed in, and he knew down to his core the future of it. He could See in his mind’s eye the need for more housing than the city had space for. He could see the builders appealing to the codes department, changing zoning laws, density allowances. He knew before they knew. He always did when it came to buildings. That was his particular gift, specialty sight.

Some empaths could See it all and went mad with the knowledge. He was grateful, now, for his limited vision. He’d initially been frustrated, thinking he’d been cheated, short-changed. But instead he’d been spared. Limited vision is better than total when it came to sanity. Those who could see everything – the when, the why, the hows, the who – they didn’t last long. The mental hospitals were full of them – lives cut short by knowing everything, all the time. Some could barely keep up with the time, much less the day. “Alert and oriented x 4” was not a test they could pass. In the absence of family who could cover for them or friends who could take care of their daily needs, they were institutionalized.

Millie’s father knew the survival of his trait depended on him being free and remaining off the radar. He paid in cash everywhere he went. He owned very little. He took public transport. He was friendly enough to be nearly invisible. When he saw Nancy he knew she was ideal. She was strong, independent, and educated. He liked that in a woman. It was unfortunate he could never marry, but that was the price that had to be paid for talent like his.

He first saw her when she got on the bus to go to her job at the college. He smiled and made room for her on the bus bench. They made small talk. He learned she taught intro level college English classes. She was working on her PhD at the same college and needed income that was also a foot in the door to getting a “real” job there. They saw each other almost every day for two months on the bus route. On the last day he shook her hand, telling her he enjoyed getting to know her but it was time for him to move on. That touch, that skin to skin contact, was enough. He looked her in the eyes, squeezed her hand one last time and the deed was done.

It was after that Nancy started having her dreams. Every night in her dreams for three in a row she was embraced by a lover so completely that she regretted getting up in the morning. Every morning she hoped it was real.

What he’d done was all energy transfer. That was how Mary became pregnant with Jesus after all. Everybody had the ability to do this, they just didn’t believe hard enough. The radical thing was that they didn’t have to have sex to have children. But they thought they did, and they thought they wanted to, so they did. Sometimes they did it to the point of getting sick, emotionally, physically, spiritually.

A child was created at every joining – of every kind. Some were physical. Some were spiritual. The best were both.  Some were children in the usual sense. Some were inventions, collaborations of a different sort. All involved communication on the deepest level.

Some creations were intentional. Some weren’t. It was readily apparent which were which. True empaths knew this was why it was so important to have an intention before they joined with anyone, before they shared energy. You never knew what horrors could happen otherwise.

Millie was happy here with her Dad, but she knew she had to return home soon. It wouldn’t do to get her Mom worried more than she already was. But could she return? She’d been here in this between space longer than ever before. Slipping back into the material world was more painful, more difficult than ever this time. This far gone, could she return? Did she even want to?

The material world wasn’t all that. Sure, there were senses to delight – pumpkin muffins, avocado toast, hot chocolate – autumn leaves to see / hear / smell. But only in the spirit could she truly feel, with all of her senses, all at once, often overlapping. Colors had taste. Smells had sound. In the body it was one or the other and often so intense it was addictive. In the spirit it was just right – an unimaginable wholeness unparalleled in the body. She’d long wondered if people who were stuck in the web of addiction would benefit from a sideways trip into their soul – to be temporarily free of the immature needs / cravings of the body’s senses so they could gain some perspective, to feel home in their bodies, in the world. But that was impossible for most. Most were so convinced that the physical was all there was that they couldn’t imagine any other way. Stepping back and observing life instead of reflexively reacting to it – you might as well ask them to levitate.

And just like that, she was back. She had spent so long musing on other people’s problems that she fell out of the rhythm of her breath, the rhythm that allowed her to be in the moment. And just like that she remembered what it was to be in a body, the dull pressure of her soul inside her flesh. It was like a hand inside a puppet. Remove the hand and no life was present.

Millie suddenly felt the nagging needs of her body again, its hungers, its fears. It always wanted something. Even at her tender age she’d learned not to let it have its way all the time.

She could hear her mother outside calling for her, trying to find her. She opened the window and called down to her. Perhaps this was the afternoon she would have the talk with her mother, to tell her where she had come from.

The red doors. Abandoned project #1


And tomorrow I will go into the smaller door, the lesser door. Always and forever the grand door, the steps leading upwards, but not to the light, no, never that.

You’d think so, with the wide entrance, the columns and the arch. You’d think so, but you’d be wrong. That is the way that leads to the world.

This world is the world of doing, of broken promises and prom dates and first kisses and grandparents who die. The whole ball of wax is there for the taking.

But the other door? The plain one, the one you can’t see in until you’d reached the top step, the landing? It isn’t for nothing that you have to take eight steps to get there. Too high for anybody in the room to peer in. It is the best kept secret after all.

Door not locked, not even there, even. Not even any hinges for the door. Never were. And that light! Warm and low, like a late afternoon in September, when the skies are clear and the summer heat is a memory.

No, that doorway you only go through once, because there’s no coming back, no backtracking – not as far as anyone knew. There could be a mind wipe, a re-cycling, an up-cycling, but we’d never know.

Yes, tomorrow it shall be.


(Photo from Pinterest. Bramham House, England. Copyright belongs to the photographer.)

Into the deep (part 2)

This is the full piece, but just the second layer. More to come. I’m documenting the creation of it.

The base of this was a generic painting background I did maybe a year ago. Yesterday, I was working on another piece and had some spare paint. I fished around the not-yet-completed stack of canvases and found this one. I decided to add some pages to it first because I like the look of words showing through paint. It is hard for me to remember what order things should be done, but I’m getting better. Rather than just gluing or painting on the canvas by feel, I’m trying to think about how I want the finished piece to look.

(top left detail)

Sometimes making art is about just going with the feeling, and sometimes it is about trying to say something. Sometimes it is a little of both.

(top middle detail)

I dug around my “to be torn up” pile of books and chose “The Silent World” by Captain J. Y. Cousteau.


(bottom right detail)

Tearing up books to use in art was a hard thing to get over, being a life-long reader and a library worker. I have about five books to do this with, and I got them all for free. I guess ideally I’d use different books for each piece, but I can’t justify trashing a book for just three or four pages.


(middle detail)

I pulled out random pages, and here are the chapter titles for the three different pages. I liked them enough to make sure that I don’t totally obscure them.

Drowned museum
Cave diving
Treasure below.

I don’t remember what the base coat colors are. The paint colors that are over the pages are – titanium white, cadmium yellow deep hue, Payne’s grey. I put blobs of them into a large yogurt lid and put some glazing medium on top. I blended them only as I went, using the brush. I was surprised to discover the mix ended up being a mossy green. It looks worn, like rocks with lichens. But it also looks a bit like bird poop. While trying to remove some of the paint from the pages so I could see the words, the paper tore. I liked the look, so I kept doing it.

I’m meditating while working on this about young people who are lost, who haven’t been raised with any moral foundations. They don’t know right from wrong because they weren’t ever taught. After a certain point, a person is too old to be taught this in any meaningful way. On the surface, they look normal, but deep underneath there is darkness. These people are the scariest of all, because they don’t even know when they have crossed a line.

This is a way to meditate and pray yet make something at the same time.