by Ignatius Aloysius
My wedding ring is twenty-two years old. This is special to me in more ways than one. But here’s a fact: My ring isn’t affixed to the fourth finger on my left hand permanently like some folks wear theirs throughout the day or night, even when the ring apparently presses into their flesh, like a waist belt will do after a successful meal or Indian buffet. Let me explain—I am light-boned, with tapered hands and elongated fingers. A piano player’s hands, a guitar player’s hands. I got those, and play guitar mostly these days. But in 1994, I didn’t want my wedding ring to be made with a tight fit, because I have noticeable knuckles the ring must slip through first, and my left hand seems a bit more sculpted than my right hand, with fingers that are slightly narrower and closer together. A ring that fits on one hand does not suit the other equally, and I hadn’t paid attention to this dilemma before. My wedding ring will come loose if given half a chance, for reasons also related to my poor body weight and the effects of time and diet on my conscience and pocketbook.
My wife Cynthia and I designed our rings at a private jeweler, and I insisted then on having a wedding ring I could slip off or switch out when I slept at night or did heavy work, although I’ll admit that heavy work isn’t exactly my thing. I am a writer, designer, and musician not prone to high activity, but I face the responsibilities of a homeowner. Who, I ask myself, will lift those paving stones or haul my music gear?
So, the wedding ring. It’s a simple and solid band, not thin, and made with white and yellow gold. It feels heavy at times for my finger; and, looking back, I cannot understand why I designed a thick ring, although it is beautiful with its stark simplicity and single leaf on top. It matches my wife’s more elaborate ring that has little diamonds around her band. The better-looking ring. Of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Before my marriage, I regarded any ring on my finger as a novel idea, and did not wear rings until I reached adulthood. I’m often at a loss to explain precisely why that is so or what that choice meant to me, except to admit that I once associated these symbolic and sentimental objects with the adversity of my childhood, growing up destitute for too long in Mumbai, India. You see, my parents sold their wedding rings early on to put food on our table, to pay their growing debts, and perhaps to even covertly serve my father’s vices. May god rest his unsettled soul.
Cynthia and I took a much-deserved summer vacation to Kauai in 2007 and made a beeline for beautiful Poipu Beach on the garden island’s southern coastline, a popular destination for tourists. We liked to visit friends on this Hawaiian island as and when time and money allowed, and we both agreed that a visit to Kauai might do us good and help us turn our attention to living and to our mutual wellbeing. We are teachers. Work and life started to weigh us down, and we’d begun to feel the strain on our marriage. The decade turned out to be anything but stellar up to that point, with death, and personal and financial struggles that tested us and made us question our commitment to each other, and yet we held out as a couple for a light on the horizon and some unstated promise of advancement. We deserved this vacation.
More than anything, I experienced a period of emotional darkness, coming from ongoing news of my parents’ continued indigence in the homeland and then the sudden loss of my father around 911. He and I had not been on speaking terms for ten years before that, and I did not get a chance to see him before he left.
My wife and I got off the plane at Lihue airport, still tired but spurred on by our arrival on the island at last, and we picked up our rental car then drove southwest on the only two-lane highway skirting the island. We checked into a rental garden apartment we’d booked ahead of time in the neighboring town of Koloa then settled in for the evening with a simple meal of poké, rice, and haupia (a coconut milk dessert resembling flan), which we purchased on the main street in town, an area buzzing with tourists like us. Shops sold food, clothing, art, and goods. Historic attractions informed us of the town’s once-thriving sugarcane industry.
We made a plan to visit Poipu beach the next day, hoping to glimpse the occasional seal or two basking ashore as we enjoyed the warm air, sand, and saltwater. More than anything, we also wished to locate the small memorial on the lava rocks at the beach that our Chinese friend Susan had made to honor her ex-boyfriend, Kaui, a skillful and kind local fisherman, who worked as a lifeguard at the popular waterfront of Poipu Beach Park. He’d died suddenly in his apartment from a weak heart after a day of hand fishing just a few months before our arrival. Susan had met Kaui there and they fell in love with each other, and she left Chicago to be with him. Everyone respected Kaui and liked him, she said.
Wearing light clothes and flip flops, Cynthia and I drove to Poipu Beach Park around eleven the next morning, after a light breakfast of rolls, coffee, and fresh fruit with lime, and we went looking for Kaui’s memorial on the porous lava rocks right away. We saw no seals on the blonde sands, and crowds from Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club and neighboring resorts hadn’t stormed the stretches of sand yet, an area shaped like the rounded bottom of a lowercased ‘w’. Just ahead, at the center point of the w-shaped beach, black lava rocks came up from the water’s surface a foot or more in places, and, my guess would be, about a hundred feet from the curving shoreline. The rocks made a shape like a large triangle and behaved like a natural breakwater, rising gradually from the sand and more evenly at the corner closest to the beach. Visitors to the beach often waded through clear, waist-high seawater to approach this mound of rocks to look for shells and other beach finds. Two opposing but non-threatening currents faced off there, pushing the sand up high enough between this beginning corner of the rocks and the main beachfront, making it possible for visitors to wade across both points of land without difficulty. Even children went through in the warm water, watched by accompanying adults. Like everywhere, blonde sand cupped this eastern point of the rocks that faced land.
Little else grew in this triangular expanse of hardened lava rocks, with the exception of small crab, crustaceans, algae, and baby fish inhabiting pockets of trapped water. The rocks spread west about two hundred feet in a bubbled mass and looked like an old worn down brick-paved street in some historic mainland town. Susan had the location for Kaui’s memorial planned well, because we could not find the memorial easily, and perhaps she’d intended this to be so. We eventually located Kaui’s plaque and shells near the remote areas of the bubbled mass, far enough west so that visitors wouldn’t tamper with her work. We held our silence there, and called Kaui’s name a few times, asking him to acknowledge that we had come and that we thought of him and missed him. Then we turned around and took our time walking back. I felt at peace with the world, with the knowledge that we had said our goodbyes. We faced the curved shoreline and absorbed the sound of hissing seawater as it rose and fell between the rocks and around us.
We soon found a good place to sit on the small head of sand at the onset of the lava rocks. Seawater lapped the area gently and at our feet, inviting us to settle in. We applied our sunscreen; I slapped on my SPF 45 generously and wished I’d left my wedding ring behind in our room, as the lotion threatened to loosen the ring, which turned around on my finger. I had nowhere to conceal the ring safely now. I’ll watch it, I thought under the intense afternoon heat. I’ll keep an eye. It isn’t going anywhere past my knuckle.
By now, tourists and locals settled on the beach. Many swam, a few paddle-boarded, snorkeled, and surfed on thin boards. This irresistible shore. Cynthia and I let ourselves down in the wet sand, so the warm, shallow water touched our bodies, our clothes. We leaned back with knees up, content and glad we came. I sat to her left, on the inside, now between her and the beachfront. We faced east and took in the direct sunlight and heat as we propped our bodies up with our arms behind us, palms pressed in the drenched sand. Heavenly! We wore hats and sunglasses. Spectacular, smart! The seawater lapped about us, moving the sand casually and allowing us to sink into it a little bit more, so that we cooled off as we enjoyed getting wet but not soaked. Such a pleasure. What a treat!
I’m not sure how much time went by. I’d say we sat there for nearly twenty-five to thirty minutes or so appreciating every second in the open together. My mind drifted, light as a wisp of salted air. We remained oblivious to the cries of children playing nearby and to our left. Adults talked, we could hear them, too; and few people passed behind us as they waded between the shore and rocks, but we paid them no attention. Despite my anxiety about wild, deep waters, I appreciated the profound beauty and power of the seascape. My feet touched ground, and this calmed me. Nothing else mattered.
But then in our silence, I suddenly remembered my wedding ring, and moved my left thumb under water to feel the ring on my fourth digit while I kept my arms locked behind me. No ring. No longer on my finger. Gone. Gone? How could this be possible? I know I kept an eye on it, I know I did! And yet I doubted myself. Did I really? Then I felt an alarming rush of panic cut through me for my carelessness and forgetfulness. Do such things happen to most people? Where did I put the ring? I thought I had it on when I put on my 45 SPF sunscreen, but I could not be sure now. I should not have applied so much lotion. Did I experience heatstroke? Did I leave the ring in the room before we arrived at the beach? Where did the ring go? Had I drop it somewhere else by mistake? I checked the pockets of my shorts. Nothing. I felt a shiver, like something I often experienced in a Chicago winter, and I could not think a straight, good word nor could I speak it correctly. I pushed my sunglasses over my head and opened my mouth to speak.
Did I give you my ring? I asked Cynthia. Did you take it from me before we got here?
No, she said, turning her head to face me. I’m sure you did not give it to me. I’d know it if I took the ring from you.
It’s not on my hand now! I said.
Then I dug my fingers in the wet sand all around me, desperately hoping that the water’s mild current hadn’t hauled it off like a clever airport pickpocket. By now, my panic and searching had breached all the peace I maintained until then, and my body caught fire as I became more excited and agitated. Did Cynthia notice my unease? I suddenly resented being out there in the hot sun. Where did my wedding ring go? Where did it go? The questions frustrated me and I became visibly upset, searching, searching uselessly, disturbing the sand.
Cynthia stirred. She pulled back her arms and sat up. She moved her left hand underwater in my area to help me, but even she did not locate the ring. And I felt a shadow of defeat move about me and through me with a message that I had done the unthinkable that day. This expensive wedding ring, and the consequences? I could never forgive myself, I thought, failing to imagine what she had to say in the next hour, or later, after we’d given up and gone back to our apartment without the ring, declining lunch. A vacation spoiled, for sure, even as it just began! I might blame my fatigue, but did this moment presage our marital future?
Cynthia suggested that she ought to look to her right, just for the sake of doing a thorough search, and I began to argue—I argued with stupid logic!—that the shallow, calm water didn’t have enough strength where we sat to carry a heavy ring off like that. It couldn’t go anywhere but sink in the wet sand near my left hand. Why did she not listen to me? In any case, she dropped her right arm into the water beside her and dug her fingers in the sand as far as they would go. Brought up a fistful, water pouring out from between her clenched fingers. Then, as I looked, unbelieving, she opened her hand with the tight wet sand in it, and she loosened the sand carefully. And there, right there within her palm—the very ring I lost!
I simply could not believe it! How could this be? Her first attempt. The opposite side, no less, the improbable side at her right. I remained dumbfounded. This inexplicable movement of power and energy coursing through unconscious time. How could such a thing happen? I believed in miracles, I did. I’ll confess, I once served as an altar boy in our Catholic church in Mumbai and attended regular services and novenas, but I’m less religiously inclined these days as an adult, believing more in the faith of spiritual goodness and otherworldly possibilities. Something extraordinary happened here, I knew it. Something truly extraordinary, a miracle!
Kaui, I said, It’s Kaui. Cynthia took off her sunglasses and looked at me, and our eyes locked in acknowledgment, as if enlightened, as if she too recognized some mystical and spiritual sign from beyond our understanding, a sign of grace and assured bewilderment far superior to our human logic. And she raised her eyes to the sky, the clear blue sky, and spoke without raising her voice, Thank you, Kaui. You know we’re here. You heard our prayers and now you’re speaking to us.
The shame, awe, and relief I felt at that moment of realization. At once, all seemed well with the world again. We might yet enjoy our vacation, but I knew this incident marked a unique moment in our relationship, fueled by my panic and the pleasant outcome of the adventurous wedding ring. A memory, a hiccup etched in time. We sat there by the lava rocks saying little until hunger moved us, and then we got up and waded through waist-high water to return to the beachfront. We stayed on the curve of wet sand to the right, and there about thirty feet or so in front of us, two large blubbery seals had pushed ashore beyond our view. They rested and dried off next to each other in absolute beauty, nostrils rising and falling, their weary eyes oblivious of the three children and a pair of adults who stood around them, talking away as if they stood in a living room. And like Kaui would likely have done were he alive, the lifeguards of Poipu Beach Park ran blue caution tape around the protected mammals and dropped a warning sign in the sand near them. I stepped up to the tape and Cynthia came and stood beside me. Kaui returned my ring, I thought, and now he brought the seals to us.
The Old Man Who Heard My Boyfriend Thinking
by Julie Lively
In the late 80's, I often flew from Phoenix to Laguna Beach on the weekends with my boyfriend to visit his dad. One day we were waiting for the light to change at a crosswalk on the main beach drag there (I can't remember the main street name). When the light changed giving us the right-of way to cross the street, we passed an elderly man who said aloud to my boyfriend, "You look pretty cool too."
I asked Chris what that was all about, and he said while we were waiting at the crosswalk for the light to change, he saw that man all the way across the busy street also waiting for the light to change. He had thought to himself, while waiting for the light to change, that the man looked pretty cool.
How I Helped a Guy Find his Tribe on St. Patrick's Day
by Maria Scileppi
My friend was hosting an event at a surfer lifestyle store in Venice, California. I showed up mostly to support her, plus fulfill my social quota, but when I arrived, I was immediately glad I did. An all-girl band named Deap Valley was playing a set. They were amazing; the drummer was 81/2 months pregnant. A guy approached me with familiarity. We met in Chicago, he said, and I gave him his favorite St. Patrick’s Day ever. He was good-looking younger guy. I didn’t recognize him.
He told me his memory: We met four years ago at a multi cultural job fair. I was the Director of the Chicago Portfolio School at the time, so I was in the job booth talking to students about career paths in commercial art. He wandered up, as college seniors do, and after a short chat I invited him to come check out a class that night. He arrived promptly and I introduced him to the instructor, then left.
I didn't remember this, nor did I remember hearing anything about the outcome afterwards.
Four years and 2000 miles later, here he was at a surfer lifestyle shop, remembering me. Apparently, that night at the Chicago Portfolio School was one of the best nights of his life. He befriended everyone instantly and, since it was St. Patrick’s Day, they all went out after class. In that one day, he said, he made many close friends. He never ended up enrolling in the school.
I just love the serendipity of life. What are the chances our paths would cross again, and what are the chances we'd recognize each other? Left up to me, we would have missed this moment of connection.
Best part of the story? His name was Chance.
Let Me Help You With That, Rachel
Rachel and her ex husband had tense relations at best. When he died, she was surprised to encounter his presence several times, especially because their personalities had clashed so severely when he was alive. At first, the idea of life after death interaction with him confused her. Had they been in love, or at least sympathetic companions or cordial ex companions, she could better understand the idea of feeling his presence or hearing his words. But they weren't close. In her words, their communication was "sketchy at best" for over 25 years. Listen to Rachel tell her story here.
Saying Goodbye to Cecil
Jessica was overseas when she got a call from the cat sitter with bad news. Cecil, her elderly cat, was not doing well. It wasn't welcome news, but it also wasn't surprising. She had been conflicted about leaving him to travel for an opportunity to study in Paris. Now, with such a huge distance between them, it was difficult to comfort Cecil in his time of need. She asked her cat sitter to put Cecil on the phone. She started to talk to her cat, telling him it was okay to let go. "Cecil, it's okay. It's okay to let go. You can let go." Though she was met with silence on the other end of the phone, an overwhelming surge of energy moved through her, followed by a visceral release. The cat sitter got back on the phone and said, "That was incredible. He just let go. He really, just, let go." Listen to Jessica tell there story herself.
What Happened Just Happened to Happen
By Patrick Henry
[In Dr. Seuss’s The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins], King Derwin’s Wise Men (not to be confused with the ones who visit Bethlehem in Matthew’s Gospel) are stymied by the mysterious appearance of hat after hat on Bartholomew’s head.
[The Wise Men] are something of a joke when they appear in the book, but in the end they prove to deserve their title. The final word will be that what happened “just happened to happen,” and had no parallel in “all [the] kingdom, in all the world beyond, or in all other worlds that may happen to be.” I said earlier that science fiction has been an aerobic workout for my imagination. Actually, the workouts started when I was a child and read The 500 Hats. Seuss was limbering me up for the occasion, many years later, when I would hear a good friend, the eminent Roman Catholic theologian George H. Tavard [who was alive when The Ironic Christian’s Companion was written, but died in 2007, at age 85], describe, in detail and with deep emotion, his encounter with other worlds that may happen to be.
[Here is George’s story.] It was one evening in winter—December or January—in Columbus, Ohio, around 9:30 p.m. I was quietly reading something, and I felt a sudden urge to look outside. I went out the front door. Right in front and above, beyond the house across the street, there was a shape in the air. The shape must have looked like a rectangular box standing upright, with very bright lights or lamps on each side, with orange-like and green-blue lights of a shade I had never seen anywhere. My first reaction was to say to myself, “I am not afraid!” As I looked at the thing I had a very vivid feeling of being observed. After some time (seconds or minutes? I do not know), the thing vanished, though I did not see it go away. One moment it was there, the next moment it was not there. I looked up the newspaper the next few days, and I read that there had been several reports of UFOs on that day in the region of Cincinnati. Whether these were connected with mine I did not attempt to find out.
The question, “Do you believe in UFOs?” is for me an unreal, abstract question, slippery from too much handling by “experts.” “Do you believe your friend who says he’s seen one?” is a question that I can handle. It is much harder for me to disbelieve George Tavard than to believe in UFOs. King Derwin’s Wise Men would understand what I mean.
By Cassie Guy
I took my two children, August 3 and Frances 1, to Kent, CT to fill the void of the last week of August leading up to the start of school. To keep us busy, I decided to take the kids to a local dairy farm to get some milk and eggs and to let the children see some dairy cows and chickens. On the way, we stopped for a quick hike at Kent falls and on the way back to the car I told the kids we were headed to the dairy farm and that we may see some animals, at which point my son said "and we are going to pick raspberries." I thought it odd as my son had maybe only eaten raspberries once and from what I remember, did not care for them. I said, with certainty, that there were no berries at this farm but he kept insisting. I think I went so far as to explain they were not in season anymore. We had picked blackberries on Shelter Island the month prior so I finally, to be nice, said, "well, maybe they will have a blackberry bush there like the ones on Shelter". At this point, he got angry with me and was stomping his feet and saying "No, there are going to be raspberries!" To avoid a tantrum I think I finally said something like, "Ok, well, let's go see if they have any raspberries but don't be bummed if there aren't any." And I promised him if there weren't, we could maybe go blueberry picking the following day, as I was certain those were in season. For most three year olds, disappointments can be catastrophic so I was doing what I could to dampen, what I thought, would be an inevitable disappointment.
We got to the dairy farm, got our milk and got our eggs and took a little stroll to see some chickens. One of the lady farmers approached us to say hi. They had a bunch of new chicks, she told us, if we like to see them. "It's a short walk down this road," she said. It was drizzling, but the thought of tiny chicks was too much to pass up. We followed her down a path to the chicks. She told us all about the different breeds. She seemed to like us and our interest in her animals. Suddenly, she turned to my son and asked, "Do you like raspberries?" She pointed to an enormous patch of brambles and said to go and help ourselves to as many raspberries as we wanted.
In thanking her I was still shocked and said, "The weird thing is, he told me we were going to pick raspberries here. I kept telling him no, but he was right." She said, "Oh, I have one of those. My daughter who is now 9 is very intuitive and reads my thoughts as well." We had a brief but natural conversation about our intuitive children. I suddenly felt like she was an old friend. We thanked her and went along and picked possibly the most delicious raspberries I had ever eaten. My son loved them this time around.
as told by Cathy Husid-Shamir
I received three photos from friends in the last 24 hours of their sleeping dogs. Now, my friends know I love their dogs, but they don't send me photos every waking moment. The first one was from my friend Melissa. It came in on my phone, this picture of her delicious sleeping dog, Raina, and as I'm showing my husband, boom, in comes a photo of my friend Andrea's dog, Cowboy. It was getting late, so I shut my phone off and went to bed early. I got up the next morning, and the first message that comes in is your photo of Angel, tucked under the covers, snoring away. So I'm just kind of thinking about this in a fun way, wondering what the message is. I think, okay, my friends think of me when they see their dogs sleeping. Maybe I need to take more naps? I go about my day, thinking about it and then sort of forgetting about it. That night, we were watching Tyler Henry the Hollywood medium, and afterwards, while I was in the shower, it occurred to me that tomorrow would be Peavi's birthday. Peavi was my cocker spaniel who would have been 27 this year. When she was dying, I visited an Animal Communicator. Whether or not we believe what the Animal Communicator said, she told me something helpful at the time. That Peavi stayed in the spirit world because her job was to help other doggies transition from this world to the next. She's sort of a saint, working both sides, helping people. As I'm remembering this in the shower, it starts to make sense. I think, oh my goodness, of course I am getting these photos today. It's Peavi telling me, "I am peaceful, I am resting at peace. I am happy." Because every time I looked at those friends' pictures, I felt happy. There is nothing more delicious to me than a peaceful, sleeping, happy dog. I think this insight was very true to our relationship. Peavi would give me these wonderful gifts of joy.
Whether it's true or not, I'm keeping it.
by Jean Eisenhower
Tree-hugger. The term drifted into my mind as I walked on a trail up Humbug Mountain (really) on the Oregon Coast, surrounded by 600-year old Douglas Fir trees, each one easily four-feet across, with vines creeping tangled around the bases of their trucks, with dolphin-size roots plunging into the earthen sea. So different from the southwest desert where I lived. My husband and I were bicycling down the Washington, Oregon and northern California coast after having attended the 1987 annual Round River Rendezvous of Earth First!, the radical environmental activists I would come to think of as “my tribe.” There I’d overheard a couple young men, one in dread-locks, another with short hair and a workman’s cap, ribbing each other with this term they’d obviously been called and taken to heart. Tree-hugger. I wondered: Did anyone ever really hug a tree for some purpose? There were people in this movement, a minority for certain, who acted – what I thought then – strangely. Some conducted “medicine circles” and sang New Agey songs. They were a definite minority, strange and not embarrassed to be so strange. I’d dropped in on one of those events when invited, but snuck away shortly after it began. Now I imagined the leader of one circle hugging a little white-barked birch tree, and found the picture ludicrous. Nah, I thought, concluding the subject.
Why don’t you try it? I heard, and staggered as my feet momentarily froze while my body continued forward.
The voice had come from the trees, and didn’t have a quality I could remember – it hadn’t been audible – but was clearly there, in English, no less!
I’d been trying for the past year to articulate an intelligent explanation for what other people called Spirit. I’d determined, after leaving the Christian Church in my twenties, that I didn’t want to arrive at any conclusion by argument or reason – so I’d enforced on myself a ban on spiritual reading and tried always to avoid using any jargon I’d heard. I was in my thirties then, and had been open for years to the idea that, if Spirit existed, it would make itself known to me. Otherwise, no argument or reading could convince me. Nothing had convinced me, yet. Everything others got shivery about, or intuitions for, or seeming answers to prayer, I assumed were simple perceptions of subtle energy from atoms and light, nothing unusual. If anything was special, I thought, we were – we probably had more subtle perceptions than were currently recognized. I called it natural, not supernatural. This reasonable conclusion, even to me today, did not, however, inspire me to try to develop my subtle perceptions. I didn’t want to risk contaminating my quasi-scientific inquiry by getting my imagination involved. If Spirit was going to speak to me, it was going to have to come to me. I wasn’t going to it.
Meantime, I’d had a few anomalous experiences, but stubbornly refused to acknowledge them.
I walked on, ignoring “what could not be,” eyes on the trail, the trees earning no more attention than what I gave from the corners of my vision. I didn’t believe in things like this. I’d joined American Atheists, just for the card to prove I was a rational empiricist, not someone with spirals in her eyes.
Then I sensed the trees’ disappointment. And I thought (and my heart sank with this idea): A rational empiricist had to consider the evidence, even if she doesn’t like the apparent corollaries or conclusion. To wit: I had to hug a tree.
I’d long said I’d consider the evidence if Spirit ever talked to me. But I didn’t want to. What if my husband, ahead on the trail came back down and caught me? Or a family from the campground below? I’d be mortified. I stopped and turned toward the forest, scanning the trees with my eyes. Nothing seemed unusual. No faces in the bark. The world still seemed perfectly normal. I would do it, or berate myself ever after for not having the guts to test out a theory. I’d never be able to feel honest again about my beliefs.
Sending up a quick (ironic) prayer for privacy, I forced myself to approach a tree, but soon discovered the roots were all so large and descending at such steep angles from so high on the trunks, it would be impossible to stand near any. I was saved! Just like Abraham with Isaac, I thought (sunday school lessons still surfaced), the sacrifice didn’t actually have to be made, so long as I was willing. Having learned my lesson, not to be so sure of myself and reality, I could now get back on my way. Turning to go, directly in front of me was a tree I’d just passed, with a root that made a right angle from the trunk, at a perfectly comfortable stair-step height. Had this tree shape-shifted?! (Tony Hillerman novels were my only education on this concept known to Native Americans and others with shamanic knowledge.) Re-resigning myself to the task, I stepped on the trunk and wondered how long would constitute a fair test. Checking myself, that I still felt in possession of my normal rational faculties, I realized: even if I think I hear something, it won’t prove anything. I might only go the rest of my life wondering whether I’d imagined it.
But I’d do the test. Since I was there. Wrapping my arms around the tree, I leaned in my chest while my fingertips searched out crevices into which they might dip.
Letting go a breath to relax, I was immediately stunned by something that seemed like a beautiful cascade of light that fell through the crown of my head and dispersed all agitation from my body. I felt as if I’d had a radio tuned to static inside my body my entire life – and the radio had just been turned blessedly off. I never felt so good – literally, ever. Stepping off the tree trunk backward, two steps without taking my eyes from this tree, I raised my hands in a classic prayer pose and slowly nodded my silent thanks.Would people now see me with pinwheels in my eyes?
Afterword: In the intervening 26 years, I spent seven years living alone in the Arizona desert as a hermit, during which time I experienced many more anomalous events and came to feel that I understand the basis for most religions - though not all of their contemporary practices. Back in society again, I feel that I walk between the worlds, the mundane and the multi-dimensional, and I'm very grateful.
Nancy Called To Say Goodbye
by Kris Young
The Lady in the Restaurant
by Patti Neuman
Other People's Visions
by Audrey Ellam
I entered a temp agency in London back in the early 80's. On walking through the door the woman behind the desk who didn't know me from Adam, reeled back in her chair and said, “OMG, you are going to live overseas somewhere, the States or maybe Australia" She said she saw me crossing large oceans of water.
“Huh,” I replied. I was thinking, “that’s nice, but do you have a job?”
I moved to the States six years later and have been here ever since.
Oddly, about ten years later, I had a vision experience similar to hers when going to see a horse for sale in England (I was in the States at this point). When I first peeked a patch of the horse's coat through a hole in the stall wall, I suddenly and quite naturally saw huge ocean with waves rolling on and on, over which I was travelling at jet speed not more than 20 feet above. Like I was galloping. I felt the ocean spray on my face and had to squint my eyes, rivulets of water poured down my face. The wind tore through my hair and my mouth tasted the salt. It was wild, it was exhilarating and it all happened in a nano second as I apparently didn't miss a second of my next moment in real time. Needless to say, the horse was perfect and went overseas, back to the States with me.
There have been many such experiences. I learn to trust them as I get older and they are becoming more frequent.
By Terra Mortenson
My husband and I were traveling to the EU in 1997 two days after Lady Di was killed. On our layover in Ontario en route to London, we started talking to two girls our age who looked cool. Turns out they were from Atlanta, not far from where we lived in Birmingham. When it was time to go, we boarded our plane, a HUGE 747, and found we had seats beside them. We talked for six straight hours in flight and agreed we all had to get in and out of London before it was overtaken with mourners. We planned to meet in Munich a month later at Octoberfest on 10/3 at 3:00 under the town square clock. Tim & I were surprised but happy to see them there, and had a great time. We planned to meet in Prague a month later, but when the time came, we were late, and so were they. After waiting a while, we left, and figured we'd never see them again. A few days later, we literally ran into them walking around in Prague. We agreed that the friendship was meant to be. We exchanged home phone #s (this was pre-cell phone and email) and went separate ways, promising that we'd get together in the states in a few months. Tim & I changed our return flight go home a couple weeks early. Michelle's money was stolen so, unbeknownst to us, she also had to fly home early. Our flight was delayed something like 4 hours and we missed our connection in Paris. We were walking though busy Charles de Gaulle when we heard our names called from across the crowd. It was Michelle. Such a strange coincidence, it still gives me chills. We declared we were platonic soul mates and vowed to go back to Prague the following year to live, which we did. Fast forward to 2013: We've all moved around the country some, but have settled in our home towns, about 2.5 hours apart. Last year Tim and I shared out 15 year "friend anniversary" in October with her and her husband. I have never had a girl friend I love more or have felt such a connection to. If I believed in God I might say s/he was puling strings, but I'll settle for luck and serendipity.
Guided by Mary
by Lisa Taylor
It all started on a two-week tour to Turkey with astronomers, belly dancers and feminine divine devotees. It all started because a plane was cancelled from New York City to Istanbul and I had to stay the night. I called a friend from Louisiana who I knew was in town visiting. He chose of all things to take me to The Cloisters, the beautiful gift of John Rockefeller. There I became enamored for the first time with images of the Virgin Mary. I had never been interested in religious icons particularly, but this time I saw something that provoked me. Some artists had created images of Mary as a domestic servant and others had created images of her as a queen mother. I noted the differences and discussed it a bit with my pal not thinking anything more about it.
As it turned out, that was the launching of a two-week trip that became all about Mary. I had thought my focus would be pre-Christian images, such as the one found at Catal Hayuk in Central Turkey. That was the reason I signed up for the trip. But Mary seems to have wanted me to get to know her instead.
My experiences on the trip were magical. I will limit myself to the most obvious examples of the serendipity that happened for me. Besides the great luck of having a friend conveniently in town who manifested my exposure to Mary at the Cloisters, I also feel that what happened in the tiny town of Ephesus, Turkey opened my soul in a new way. First, I went into the Chapel of Mary, which I knew nothing about. Turns out a German nun dreamt that Mary had been escorted to Ephesus and that she might have lived there. In honor of that dream, Germany had sent a beautiful wood carved Black Madonna to sit in the place of honor in the chapel. I happened to have lived in Germany so the myth caught my interest especially since the priest I asked was Maltese (where I had spent my last spiritual journey).
I happened to sit down in the chapel next to a gal who was known for hearing voices. Sure enough, she heard a voice as I was sitting there and she chose to tell me as she said the message had been directed to me. She said Mary told her to tell me that she had spent half her life in joy and half her life in sorrow.
I began to cry. For the rest of the trip, which included a stop at a Chapel for Mary in Istanbul that shows her life in the ceiling frescos, a ceremony in Vienna on Mary’s Ascension Day, and a final stop at Marianplatz (Mary’s square) in Munich, I cried at her site. I had gone through a divorce and was torn about the new man in my life. I had suffered from severe depression.
When I arrived back in Dallas, the first meeting I had was at the Cathedral Guadalupe where the largest image of the Virgin of Guadalupe I have ever seen is housed.
The message of half my life in joy and sorrow has taken effect.
Back to Life
By Frank Sadowski
The following extraordinary moment--an unexpected insight about his health-- is an excerpt from Frank Sadowski's book, Back To Life: A Bladder Cancer Journey.
[Dr. Daneshmand]'s receptionist told me he was interested in my case, and in fact had already requested that the original pathology slides of the removed tumor be sent to him. She explained that he only worked from the actual slides, not any other doctors’ third-party reports. She told me the slides were being couriered down to Portland that very day. She asked me how soon I could be available to come down to OHSU. When I answered, “Three hours,” she laughed and said, “Well, how about Thursday around noon?”
And so on Thursday morning I found myself driving down I-5 to Portland alone. My mind was all over the place, and I suddenly remembered an episode from about six weeks earlier that I had completely forgotten. I don’t particularly believe in the occult or paranormal experiences, but I do believe that sometimes we just “know” things. I had inexplicably awakened at about 3:15 a.m. and was lying on my back with my hands clasped behind my head staring into the darkness when Laura woke up and asked me if something was wrong. I answered her with words that surprised me as much as they did her, because I had not even thought them before they emerged from my mouth.
“There is something inside of me,” I said.
“You mean something in your mind?”
“No. Something is in my body. Something is wrong, and I have no idea what it is.”
We went back to sleep with no further discussion, and I promptly forgot about it until that moment in the car. It was obvious to me now that somehow I had sensed the cancer inside me, even though I had no physical discomfort or pain of any kind prior to the blood episode. A chill went through me as I tried to imagine what my next course of treatment would entail.
By Brooke Laufer
In the middle of March when we had our first warm day of the year, I felt inspired and put on my garden gloves to do some work in the yard. Almost immediately I felt a terrible pain in my finger. I whipped off the gloves and a bee flew out of the left one, fell to the ground and promptly died. It had stung me underneath my wedding ring.
My finger was throbbing and instantly started swelling. I iced it and took Advil. And I drank wine. But the next morning it still throbbed and my finger was huge. For the previous five years, since my first pregnancy, I hadn’t been able to take the ring off (a beautiful antique with diamonds and sapphires, chosen by my husband some 10 years earlier), and now that I had been stung, the ring was cutting off all circulation and I was losing sensation in my finger. I went to a jeweler and asked them to cut off the ring. They told me to go straight to the Emergency Room, which I didn’t want to do, as it seemed an overreaction and I was busy with work. So I called Robert, my Polish handyman friend, who came over with several tools. He worked and sweated over my finger for a while, the ring now embedded in swollen skin. I was in a great deal of pain and several times cried out while he cut at the white gold band, even though he worked gently. Finally the ring snapped in half and fell to the floor.
My husband was quite upset about what had happened. He thought I should have gone to the ER, and was hurt and miffed by how the ring was “hacked off so thoughtlessly”. I suggested he have the ring fixed as my birthday gift. He was insulted by that idea and we fought, as was so consistent for our marriage. The ring, in its pieces, sat in a ziplock bag in his desk drawer.
Later that year, as my 40th birthday came around, he surprised me by having the ring fixed and resized so that I could wear it again. The jeweler called me when the ring was finished and left me a message letting me know it was in their safe waiting for me. It took several more weeks before I finally retrieved the ring and put it back on my finger.
One week after I had gotten the ring back I was getting the kids out of the car, waiting for them to shuffle out of their car seats, I suddenly felt tremendous pain in my left hand as the car door slammed shut on it. I had to use my right hand to open the door again and release my left hand. It was my ring finger, with the newly repaired ring on it, throbbing and swelling fast. Again, I put it on ice and took Advil. And drank wine.
I went grocery shopping. Unable to use my left hand, the cashier asked me if I was ok. I told her what had happened. About the bee sting too. Her eyes widened and she told me about a book, Are you My Mother? by Alison Bechdel. There's a chapter in that book, she said, about how physical injuries are signs from our unconscious mind.
Now I was getting curious about the connection between both ring finger experiences. I got home and searched my inbox for an email I had sent to my friend describing the day the bee had stung me, in search of important details I may have forgotten. In the search results was an email that had been returned to me from my mother with the subject line:
“A message I did not get”
That was an email I had sent to my mom months earlier, but it never made it to her, some strange email glitch. I opened the email and read my own description about how I was feeling better about my marriage in the past few days. I also mention how the bee stung me, how my finger was quite swollen and how I was thinking I’d get the ring cut off. I wrote how I was looking forward to having it cleaned and fixed, since it had been dull and damaged for a while.
From my current perspective, it was hard to ignore the connection between my damaged ring, and my troubled marriage. It was right there.
Later that evening I called my husband while icing my finger and drinking wine. I told him about my finger getting shut in the car door and the possibility I’d need to cut the ring off again. He laughed nervously and made a joke about throwing the ring in Lake Michigan. I laughed too.
We talked for a long time. He came home and we made love. The swelling went down that night. In the morning it was clear I would not need to get the ring cut off. It seemed I had found a better way to respond to my damaged marriage.
The Ten Percent of Me That Still Asks
by Alba Machado.
I laughed out loud at a woman recently. Like a bully. My cousin, Angie, and I, were at Walgreens, on one end of the refrigerated aisle and the woman, another shopper, was on the other end, easily twenty feet away from us. Angie dropped a box of ice cream bars and the woman said—from twenty feet away—“Oh, did I do that?” And then I said, “YOU ARE STANDING TWENTY FEET AWAY FROM US. DO YOU HAVE TELEKINESIS?” And then I laughed out loud, but, really, only like 90 percent of me was laughing. The other ten percent was asking, “DOES she have telekinesis?”
We’re more than 200 years beyond the Age of Reason but, still, we like our magic. We like to look up our horoscopes and make birthday wishes. When I was a kid, I loved it that my Mexican grandma put a raw egg in a bowl of water and left it under my bed so it would suck all the cold and flu out of me, and I loved it that my Cuban grandma left little cups of rum on the altar she built for her patron saint, Santa Barbara, saint of explosives.
And then, at fifteen, I found Jesus magic. This guy, he fed 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish, or maybe it was 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread—it depends on who you believe, John or Matthew—but either way, it’s impressive. Of course, you had to follow his rules, and there were a lot of them, and one of them was no other magic besides Jesus magic. For me, it was not easy to avoid non-Jesus magic. Not with Ouija boards and palm reading and Susie Castillo’s friendship bread, which was a Tupperware of dough that got passed around from friend to friend, each taking one-fourth of it, baking it, eating it, and replenishing the remaining dough with more doughy ingredients—a Tupperware of dough that really did seem like magic when it opened itself up in the middle of the night with a loud pop and you were not yet aware of how yeast worked. There was non-Jesus magic everywhere.
I even had a friend who called herself a Santera. Jackie Ramirez. I was at her place one day to tell her about Jesus and I really hoped she’d become a follower, too, because she, of all people, needed his kind of magic, not just because she practiced witchcraft, but also because she was a sixteen-year-old girl who had a two-year-old baby and a 25-year-old baby daddy—who was abusive. His name was George and she loved him. She told me that she loved him so much that just the day before she made him a big, fancy spaghetti dinner with a very special ingredient in the sauce: about two tablespoons of her menstrual blood. It was a love spell. As luck would have it, shortly after she finished explaining this to me, he appeared outside, yelling for her to let him in. “He’s drunk,” Jackie said to me. “He’s drunk and I never let him in when he’s drunk, because if I do he’ll just hit me, and then, later, he won’t even remember.” She told me that part of her love spell addressed just that. It was not only a stay-with-me spell; it was also a stop-beating-me spell. The shouting was joined by pounding and kicking and it all got louder and louder until there was a wail, a thud, and then silence. George was on the cement. We thought he’d just passed out from too much drinking, but, later, Jackie told me that he’d damaged a nerve in his leg and could no longer walk. He needed her to take care of him, so he wouldn’t leave. And he was confined to a wheelchair, so he wouldn’t beat her anymore. And ten percent of me was asking, “WHAT COULD I DO WITH MY MENSTRUAL BLOOD?”
And then there was Hector Barbosa. He was not a magic person. But for a brief, unforgettable moment, he helped to make me into a magic person, even though he came along well after high school, after it became a lot easier—and more desirable—for me to avoid magic, both the Jesus and non-Jesus varieties. Hector worked with me at a middle school on the southwest side of Chicago. We were both aides. He seemed nice enough at first; he was funny, he showed me the ropes, and most of the kids seemed to like him. I liked him. Until I didn’t. Until we were riding home from the Museum of Science and Industry with 70 fifth graders and I sat next to little Ahmad, who was doing his very best impression of a big boy, a boy who doesn’t cry, a boy who doesn’t tattletale, only I saw the shaking, the tears welling up in his eyes, and I asked him, I said, “Ahmad, sweetie, what’s wrong?” and after some hesitation, he finally told me that Francisco Garcia punched him in the face—because Hector told him to do just that. Hector. Grown-up Hector. The one whose job it was to do the exact opposite of telling one kid to punch another kid in the face. I comforted Ahmad the best I could, and then, when we got back to school, I pulled Hector aside to ask him what happened, and he said, “You know how it is. Frankie’s my boy. And that Ahmad kid’s a prick. He’s always following Frankie around, like—like a faggot. So, yeah, I told Frankie to handle his business.”
One of the things I loved most about Jesus was that, with his rulebook, you didn’t have to worry about whether or not your conscience was out-of-order; the book would tell you what was right and what was wrong. It was so easy. I could have told Hector, “Oh my god, your conscience is broken. You need this book.” But, then, the book might have been okay with punching people like Ahmad, since it was more than okay with throwing rocks at people like Ahmad—until they were dead. It’s a big part of the reason I wasn’t a fan anymore. Magic wasn’t going to help me now—or so I thought.
If you would have seen me the next few days, all you would have seen was a pudgy woman sitting at a dingy, battered desk with five shelves of old textbooks mounted on the wall behind me, like always. The way I felt, though, I was a cowboy in one of those old Westerns, perched at a window with a stalk of wheat between my teeth and a shotgun in my lap, waiting for the bad guys to show up. Hector had been reprimanded for his actions. He was now on probation. He was now required to have another adult present while he worked with children, at all times. And, of course, he was well aware that he had me to thank for all that.
I expected him to barge in guns a’ blazing. But he didn’t. He took his time. He let a full week pass and then when he finally appeared, I was alone, and his movements were slow and deliberate, like a predator who knew his prey was trapped. I tried to seem unimpressed while I wished I had health insurance and wondered why I never invested in pepper spray. I mean, he had a boxer’s physique and I wore granny panties. I knew I was unmatched. But still, when he got four feet away from me, I placed my hands on the desk, palms down, so I could get up, look him in the eyes and tell him in my very best impression of a big girl, “I’m not scared of you.” But I never did get up. I never did say anything. The very moment I placed my hands on the desk, palms down, all five of those shelves behind me came crashing down with the thundering weight of bronze, plywood, 125 or so thick, heavy textbooks—and my righteous indignation. The timing was so perfect that I felt very much like I had done that shit; that was me; I HAD TELEKINESIS, MOTHERFUCKER. Just like that woman in the refrigerated aisle at Walgreens. Only so much cooler. And Hector seemed to agree. He gasped, threw his hands up in surrender, and took his useless boxer’s physique right out of my sight. He resigned not long after.
And it was magic. Not Jesus magic or Santera magic, or any kind of magic you can conjure up at will. It was maybe the only kind of magic that's real: synchronicity. Our universe is so huge and complex and has so many moving parts that, yes, or course, at times, the stars will align; the perfect thing will happen at the perfect time; a Tupperware container will pop open, a man will become paralyzed, and a series of wall shelves ail come crashing down. Or my dousing will drop a box of ice cream bars in the refrigerated aisle at Walgreens. And I will become a bully who then remembers a bully who once played a part in making magic real.
by M Romigh:
Almost thirty years ago, while we were making love, my partner found a lump in my breast. I didn't have insurance, so I ignored the lump and hoped it would go away. But it grew, and it became painful. Finally, I scraped together enough money and scheduled an appointment with a doctor who immediately took a biopsy. Waiting for days to find out about the results of the biopsy, I lived in a state of constant anxiety, convinced I had cancer and was going to die. Over the weekend, a friend drove me out to the beach for the day, trying to get my mind off the lump that was consuming all my thoughts. Coming back from the beach, as my friend drove, I stared out the window, wondering how many days of my life were left. We were on a curvy deserted South Carolina island road when I spotted a large, bright turquoise bag on the side of the road. As we drove past it, I had the strongest feeling that the bag was meant for me. I told my friend what I saw and she turned the car around and pulled over next to the bag, and I got out of the car to retrieve it. Inside the bag was a brand new MIsty Harbor raincoat with the tags still hanging from the sleeve. The coat was a 10 petite and fit me like it was made for me. Sewn into the collar of the coat was my message from the universe: "Wear in good health." When I saw the tag, I burst into tears. I knew I was going to be alright. I knew I was not going to die. When the doctor called to tell me the growth was benign, I told him I already knew that. The following Monday, I put an ad in the local paper trying to find the owner of the coat. The ad ran for three days, but no one ever called to claim the coat. I accepted the gift and wore the coat for many years, always feeling touched by something powerful every time I slid my arms into the sleeves.
by S. Dunifer
A number of years ago I was sleeping in on a Saturday morning. After turning back over for a bit more sleep I experienced a rather vivid lucid dream of being in Seattle. I was standing underneath the over hang of a parking structure for protection from pumice rocks dropping from the sky, the result of a nearby volcanic eruption that had turned the sky into a rainbow collage. The whole city was shaking and rolling from seismic activity. Not only visually dramatic but auditory as well - could hear the pumice rocks whistling asthey fell and crashing to the ground. After waking up, my first reaction was to say to myself, holy crap - left with the premonition that Seattle was due for a major earthquake within a few days. I told some friends about this, they were a bit skeptical. Despite this, I was rather convinced of what was about to happen. Their opinion changed as of the following Monday, however. That was the day that Seattle was struck by a major quake. Afterwards, several of my friends said that if I ever had a similar dream about the Bay Area that was to call them immediately so they could make a quick exit.
Dying in A Ditch
By Paul Chattenooga
I died. In a ditch. I was driving my truck and towing a boat in Florida, and I went over a bump in the road. The chain was too taut and the boat flipped up over the trust and landed on top of me, crushing the truck. Then the truck rolled over several times off the highway. I was in and out of consciousness, but I remember coming around and trying to lift myself up, but I had no use of my arms. Everything was broken on the right side—the shoulder, my ribs. There was blood everywhere. A fireman came, and then a helicopter. I don’t remember much—I had a hematoma on the brain—and I stopped breathing for a while. There wasn’t much likelihood I’d survive—I’d lost a lot of blood. The fireman brought me back to life. They told me this after. While I was out I didn’t see a bright light. I didn’t talk to God. I didn’t see anything, but I felt warm, like the warmest bath I would ever have, the most comfortable, peaceful, and content I had ever been in my life. I knew I was dead and I was okay with it. I felt no pain and no regret and no fear and none of the things you think you’ll feel when your time comes. When I woke up, the pain started rushing in. My head was split and my whole body was shattered. And I was furious. I was furious that I was out of the warm bath, back to a life where my body was broken and needed to recover. I had been ready to die, and I don’t know that I’ll be as ready the next time. I hope I am. The strange thing is, that hematoma that almost killed me—that did kill me but not for good—they couldn’t find any evidence of it after a few months. It showed up on the CT scans twice during my rehab. Once you have a hematoma they don’t just disappear. They remain and are often a recurring problem. The doctors said to me, “this just doesn’t happen. They don’t just disappear.” But mine did. I don’t feel all that different, except I’m a lot tougher now. And I’m a lot more careful with decisions I make and what I put my body through.