Archive of ‘sisters’ category

Sister-Spirits, Glittering Hearts: The Extraordinary Bejeweled Creations of Flannery Grace Good (& a special giveaway!)

FG Bleeding heartsAs a young girl it was my dearest wish and highest aspiration to swan about in glittering piles of jewels; to own an actual, honest-to-god treasure chest, full of glowing pearls and shimmering gems and all manner of rare, sparkling baubles.

As an adult, not much has changed and I am well on my way to this goal (I’ll get that treasure chest for it all one day, mark my words!) but I have found that in my vast array of frips and finery, I really only wear a handful of things from three or four of my favorite jewelers.

Flannery Grace Good is one of these artists.  I originally learned of her work a few years ago through another beloved artist, Meredith Yayanos, who praised Flannery as “…a phenomenal maker of bespoke, commissioned pieces,” and I have been utterly enthralled with her creations and her unique, beautiful vision ever since. I vowed right then and there that I must get to know this brilliant human, and that one day I would adorn myself with her jewels.

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I learned immediately that to collaborate on a custom piece of jewelry with Flannery is to trust your heart and guts and sketchy ideas with a fabulous human who is not only a consummate professional, but a genuinely empathetic, compassionate and infinitely creative soul who has the ability to craft tangible, magical works of art from your most nebulous, ridiculous dreams.

This custom ring possesses an eerie stone, a picasso jasper, that reminds me of an autumn forest at dusk. The mysterious moth lady is a fever dream of Flannery’s own creation, based on a bit of preliminary correspondence we had.

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My second custom piece that Flannery dreamed up for me was a stunning moonstone necklace with lunar phases engraved on the back.

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This is a custom night vision “monocle” designed to help one see in the dark, with translucent white banded agate and topped with an electric yellow sapphire. I can’t quite recall how the idea came about, I think I was beating myself up for not seeing something or something for what it was, and the idea of a talisman for which to see in the dark was born! We chose the stone because it looked like an eerie, milky blind eye; more specifically it reminded me of that iconic image of the creepy blind woman in Fulci’s The Beyond. Etched on the back is “et vident in tenebris” my best approximation of “to see in the dark”, in Latin. (If I got it wrong, don’t tell me.)

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If you can dream it, Flannery can coax it to life in her own, inimitable style. (Which, if pressed, I would describe as one part mystery, one part whimsy and all heart.) And that’s not just hyperbole–if there is any artist I know who pours her entire heart and soul into each and every one of her creations, it is without a doubt, Flannery Grace Good.

Born on the day of the dead at the instant of moonrise, Flannery Grace Good has integrated these facets of her persona into the narrative of her creations; in her hands, these eerie instances take fantastical form as one-of-a-kind rings, earrings and pendants, cuffs and bangles, incorporating astonishingly gorgeous hand-picked gems in every hue of the spectrum. Often these works are imbued with extra bits of symbolism and magic, inscribed with emblems and enchantments, sacred scribbles and divine doodles.

Having entered her 20th year of making jewelry just this summer, Flannery shared with me a bit of her history and experiences with the craft. After some initial lessons and silver experiments with her beloved uncle Bubba in New Mexico, she attended college in Colorado to continue her education and training, where she graduated in three years and was valedictorian.

To finance a solo show she is currently working on and which is scheduled for 2017 (“I went looking for you”, dealing with themes of mental illness and addiction, loss and grief) Flannery opened up an Etsy shop this past autumn where you will find all manner of magical adornments, all of them ready to ship!

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Pictured above is one of the Spirit orb necklaces; this particular creation is is handmade from Argentium silver and set with a AAA quality labradorite. On the back of each setting is a hand carved symbol found in the Tigris-Euphrates area. It is an ancient symbol that is believed to be a map of the known cosmos at the time. It was drawn in Babylon either around 2300 BCE or 700 BCE.

And if you can believe it, we are giving away this breathtakingly gorgeous necklace! For the opportunity to win, please comment on this post and share a bit of magic with us. Whether it is a story, a spell, a bit of wisdom, a recipe, a poem–whatever kind of enchantment you want to pass on ! You don’t necessarily have to like/share either of us on Instagram, but why wouldn’t you? I mean, we are pretty interesting people! But for the purposes of this giveaway, leave a comment below and a winner will be chosen at random, one week from today, on Friday December 23rd.

In the meantime, find Flannery Grace Good: Etsy // Facebook // Instagram // Website

Summertime Adventures And Going Home Again

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It’s been a strange summer, full of the sort of things that are done before you know they’ve started, as well as the hurry-up-and-wait type of scenarios. My grandmother pulled through her last health scare, but now she is totally bed-bound. She continues to perservere, however, and is generally cheery and good-natured about it all.  She’ll hang out until she’s ready to leave. I think we are all prepared, as much as one can be…so we are just going to enjoy her until she departs for her next Big Thing.

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Image credit: muttermuseum.org

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Image credit: muttermuseum.org

I took a whirlwind trip to Philadelphia to visit my darling Best Good Friend, who has been spending a great deal of time up there for work-related purposes. Unfortunately I did not get a lot of photos, but maybe that’s a good thing: enjoying time with a loved one without the constant compulsion and distraction of documenting everything.

It was a lovely, relaxing time of shopping and food and shopping and food and catching up–which I think is exactly what we needed. We visited the Reading Terminal Market and walked from there to the Mütter Museum (where they don’t allow photography anyway) and saw the soap lady and the Hyrtl Skull Collection, among other things. We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Grimms’ Anatomy: Magic and Medicine, a special exhibit in honor of the two-hundredth anniversary of the publication of The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, and which shows real-world examples of gruesome and grotesque fairy-tale bodies. Fascinating!

Of course we could not leave without a trip through the gift shop for all sorts of macabre goodies–the main goal of course was to snag a few bottles of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s “Umlaut“, which was created exclusively for the Mütter Museum. It’s a resinous, musky vanilla that BGF observes smells like a feminist bookstore, probably this one. Which is to say we think it smells pretty amazing.

We also stayed in and ate nearly an entire bag of Herr’s Jalapeno Poppers one night, which, if you don’t know, Herr’s Jalapeno Poppers are basically the best junk food ever.

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Speaking of junkfood, in July my sisters and our significant others met up for a trip that’s been a long time in the planning–a visit to our hometown in Milford Ohio, as well as a stop to see our baby sister’s new home in Indiana and visit with some other family in the area. It has been 30+ years since we moved from Ohio to Florida and I had never been back. I wasn’t quite ten years old when I left, so I was prepared to recognize absolutely nothing, as kids don’t really pay attention to much in the way of driving routes at that age.

After arriving at the airport and being picked up by my brother in law and my other traveling sister, we drove straight to Milford, stopping at a Skyline Chili to stuff cheese coneys in our faces. (I remember after having moved down to Florida and seeing chili dogs on the menu, my excitement rapidly turning to sadness–instead of the monstrous piles of shredded cheese that I was longing for…it was…squirty cheese! I had never been so offended in my young life.) The cheese coneys I had last month tasted exactly like I remembered them–cheesy and oniony, and the weird taste of the Cincinnati chili— and they were totally worth the issues they caused in my now 40 year old guts. NO REGRETS.

In driving to the house where I lived until I was 10 years old, a funny thing happened. The closer we got to it, the more I recognized little landmarks and certain traffic lights…the same used car lot with the funny multicolored triangle flags was still nested in the corner where we made the left-hand turn on our street, for example. It was so surreal. Stranger too, to see a car pull up in our old driveway as we walked toward the house. Two rambunctious young men exited the car and entered the house, so that was that as far as our pressing our faces against the windows to see inside. The driveway was so small!  I recall all the worms that would wriggle across its surface after a rainstorm in the spring…it seemed so immense at the time…

Afterwards we drove by our grandparent’s old place. It’s at the very end of the lane and it looks like developers have still not touched the woods beyond, which made me inordinately happy. It is still very much as I remember it, save for all of the junk in the front yard. Tools and toys and clothing and lawn chairs…it looked as if they might have been having a garage sale. Except…I don’t think they were selling anything. It was kind of weird, actually.

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We spent a good portion of the trip in Bloomington, at my uncle’s beautiful home, far out in the country. Like, far, faaaaar out in the country. The driveway was maybe a quarter mile long and I honestly did not even know where the next neighbor was. The back yard, such as it was, had been turned into a bit of a butterfly and hummingbird garden, and beyond that there was what looked to be miles and miles of wooded area. It was a little eerie at night, imagining the house lit up in the darkness, and someone in the trees watching us intently.

In between visiting folks and dining and chatting, I knit on a sock and I finished reading Kindred by Octavia Butler.I cannot believe it’s taken me this long to read any of her stories, but now I want to devour all of them

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We then: visited a cemetery beautiful old cemetery down the road // met up with our cousins for dinner at Bru Burger Bar in Indianapolis, where we waited two hours to be seated // got a driving tour and history from my baby sister of the beautiful homes of Broadripple // visited downtown Indianapolis // ate all the french fries and all the dipping sauce at Brugge // visited Half Price Books and found the art of Marci Washington for $8

That was a lot of stuff to do in the three days that we were there! And I have promised I will be back in fall of 2017 to do all of the Autumn Things with my sister, as for the past ten years she had been living in California, and had previously spent most of her life in Florida, and so she is going nuts at the prospect of fall activities. I can’t wait.

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The complicated wallpapers of grief: The Midnight Swim

ms6Sometime last year  I became aware of a film which instantaneously piqued my interest…and, as unfortunately happens quite frequently with me, I promptly forgot about it. Later, in trying to recall the title or even what about it I found so compelling, I could only offer, “…well…it was about some sisters…and their dead mom. I think there was a lake.”

Scoff if you like, but I will have you know that was just enough vague information to find the film again. Directed by Sarah Adina Smith, The Midnight Swim is summarized thusly:  “When Dr. Amelia Brooks’ three daughters travel home to settle her affairs after she disappears in Spirit Lake, they find themselves drawn to the mysterious body of water.”

The Midnight Swim is told in found footage, faux-documentary style and takes place mostly at the estranged sister’s mother’s lake house in Iowa. I’ve seen it labeled everything from horror to fantasy to sci-fi, but I wouldn’t classify it as any of these, really.

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I suppose you could say it is a bit of a character study in the aftermath of a loss. Annie seems to be the oldest and the dependable one, Isa is a bit of a woo woo free-spirit, and June, the youngest, is mostly behind the camera, filming the sister’s homecoming and dealing with their mother’s disappearance (and death, we are to assume) for a documentary–one which I think is mostly in her head. June, as we find out later, is troubled, and suffers from unspecified mental issues.

You could perhaps also say that it is somewhat a mystery, for the mysterious atmosphere is pervasive throughout the film, and an ominous tension begins to build after the sisters, recalling a bit of local folklore, attempt to drunkenly conjure a spirit from the lake–one of the seven sisters who supposedly drowned within many years before, each unsuccessfully trying to save the other. Strange things begin to happen: dead birds turn up inexplicably on the doorstep every morning, time lapse footage of the lake is found on June’s camera with no one admitting to having filmed it, and throughout it all, the shadow of their absent mother looms uneasily and mostly unspoken.

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There’s not much in the way of a plot here, nor is there a conventionally satisfying resolution (which is not to say that I did not enjoy it.) What I did enjoy immensely was the sisters’ companionship and camaraderie. They rekindle their connection almost effortlessly, even though it’s obviously been some time since they have all been together, and if you have sisters whom you adore, this is a particular joy to see.  Even the uncomfortable moments, the sullen, weighty silences and the heated arguments–there’s such vulnerability and love there. This, to me, is the most enthralling and captivating aspect of the film.

There is a specific scene wherein the sisters and their neighbour (who seemed an unnecessary addition to the film, in my opinion) are playing in their mother’s clothes; dressing up as her and acting out her eccentricities and idiosyncracies.  Annie takes a “goodnight, children” scenario a bit too far–no doubt fueled by some traumatising memories and re-living that very situation from when she was a child–and the effect on the sisters is heartbreaking and no doubt triggering for many viewers. I have encountered and probably even instigated this moment with my own sisters in the wake of our complicated grief surrounding our own mother’s death, and no doubt we will re-live this scene again, and again, and again.

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What does any of this have to do with wallpaper patterns? To be honest, I don’t rightly know, but they caught my eye throughout the film and it somehow became entangled in my mind with the idea of absent mothers and complicated grief.  From the opening sequence, with June staring moodily in her childhood bed against that robin’s egg blue paper with the multicolor florals to that more modern feeling beige with white floral silhouettes–I don’t know, I just feel like it’s all there for a reason.

The film is currently streaming on netflix and is also on amazon, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find.

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#catscatscats

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Have I ever shared with you guys the tumblr that my weirdo brother in law has made for my sister’s cats? One is grumpy and curmudgeonly and pines for my sister endlessly and the other has an unnerving glassy-eyed stare and is just generally kind of an idiot.

I guess he’s been documenting their goings-on while my sister is not around, and it’s generally both hilarious and pitiful.

Please to enjoy! Mallory & Megan

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Dream a little dream… (of nocturnal attacks and sleep paralysis)

Henry Fuesli, The Nightmare

Henry Fuesli, The Nightmare

{This was originally written for After Dark In The Playing Fields,  in 2010.}

I struggle, but I am tied down by that dreadful feeling of helplessness that paralyzes us in our dreams. I want to cry out—but I can’t. I want to move——I can’t do it. I try, making terrible, strenuous efforts, gasping for breath, to turn on my side, to throw off this creature who is crushing me and choking me—but I can’t!

Then, suddenly, I wake up, panic-stricken, covered in sweat. I light a candle. I am alone. – Guy de Maupassant, Le Horla, 1887

When I was 11 years old, I shared a bedroom with my younger sister. We had a tiny, crowded room in a small ranch style house, on a quiet street in a little town on the east coast of Florida. Nothing much ever happened in our lives at that age – one day was very much like the day before and the one after that was not likely to be different.

In spite of our mundane existence, however, we were a very imaginative group of sisters; given to flights of fancy and outrageous story-telling, and if left to our own devices –which we often were – worked ourselves into quite a state in the absence of calming, more rational adult influences.

I do recall at that age I was enthralled with terribly lurid horror novels and more than likely regaled my sisters with gruesomely detailed synopses of the things I had read. We were also influenced by our mother’s gentleman friend who rented several horror films a week for us at the local video store, which we would gather round the television and watch, white knuckled and peeking over our pillows, late into the night during the summer months when there was no threat of school the next morning. I am sure that all of these things contributed to the particular evening’s events of which I am about to relay. Although this was not something I myself observed, I was party to the occurrence and to this day it perplexes me and causes me so small amount of unease.

The air conditioning was not working very well that summer; the ceiling fans did little more than stir the close, humid air of the hot bedroom, and we did not sleep with the windows open to let in a breeze from the outside. Our bedroom doors were always kept shut while we were sleeping, as well. Fire-prevention, my mother admonished, in the convincing-though-not-entirely-logical way that mothers do.

This night the room was stifling, though it was moonless and dark, and we eventually fell asleep. I am sure my sister and I talked about this, that, or the other thing before drifting off, as is the wont of two siblings very attached to one another. At that age, I was a very light sleeper; the slightest noise would stir me, and I was usually up and out of bed several times a night. I recall nothing unfamiliar of that night, no ominous, languid feeling stealing over me, if anything, it was heat-induced lethargy. I fell into a deep and dreamless sleep and did not wake again until it was light, my sister shaking me and crying piteously.

Even now, 20 years later, what she proceeded to impart to me chills the blood in my veins, and sends a shudder right through me “After I fell sleep” she said, “I had a bad dream which woke me up. I can’t remember what it was about. I tried to turn on the light, but I couldn’t move. I called your name over and over, but you wouldn’t wake up at all.”

She continued her tale, detailing how, as her eyes darted frantically around the room, she glanced at the door, which was standing wide open…despite the fact that this night, like every other, we had closed it tightly. In the darkened doorway she saw the shadowy outline of someone –- or something -– looming, standing stock still. As her gaze traveled upward, her terror reached a fever pitch when she saw that the intruder’s eyes -– a baleful, glowering red -– were fixed directly upon her own. At this point the story end, more or less. She cannot remember anything after that, and must have fallen back asleep.

Was she dreaming the entire time? Or was it perhaps a form of sleep paralysis with accompanying hallucinations? Or…was something sinister indeed lurking in the threshold of our childhood bedroom?

Nikolaj Abraham Abildgaard, The Nightmare

Nikolaj Abraham Abildgaard, The Nightmare

I’ve given this quite a bit of thought since then and I’ve come to the belief that she suffered an episode of sleep paralysis – a “brief state of being unable to move ones body upon either falling asleep or waking up,” and is “usually accompanied by an ominous feeling that there is some kind of ghost or demon in the room, or even visual or auditory hallucinations.”

Research indicates that sleep paralysis is a natural state of the body. In deeper states of sleep, the brain stems engage in processes that block out certain neurotransmitters in order to stop one from physically acting out their dreams. Occasionally an individual will wake up “before their brains have completely de-activated the induced paralysis, and experience hallucinations which are thought to be either vestigial dream fragments or attempts by the brain to reconcile the waking state with the otherwise unexplainable muscular paralysis.” This hallucinatory element makes it even more likely that someone will interpret the experience as a dream, since completely fanciful or dream-like objects may appear in the room alongside one’s normal vision. Some scientists have proposed this condition as an explanation for alien abductions and ghostly encounters.

J. Allan Cheyne of the University of Waterloo speaks thusly regarding initial studies on the phenomena and how we view it today “In 1876… an American Civil War surgeon, neurologist, and writer of historical fiction, Silas Weir Mitchell reported a curious malady, which he called –night palsy, during which soldiers reported a temporary but terrifying nocturnal paralysis. Although the phenomenon was subsequently reported in the medical literature under a number of different labels, the term coined in 1928 by Samuel Wilson, ―sleep paralysis, finally stuck.” It is worth noting that this was right around the same time Guy de Maupassant wrote Le Horla (see opening quote, above).

Nightmares and sleep paralysis, or nocturnal attacks have been closely connected to myths and monsters spanning across time and cultures, language and geography. Anecdotal reporting, shared stories, etc. shows how incidents of sleep paralysis seem to manifest itself in culturally-relevant terms and mythologies; whereas today we might attribute these occurrences to aliens or alien abduction, our grandparents might have seen ghosts, and their ancestors might have chalked it up to a demon attack or a witches hexing.

Cultures around the world have their own myths and folklore surrounding this phenomena. In Newfoundland & South Carolina, when one experiences waking with a feeling of terror and being crushed, and is unable to move, one is referred to as being “hag-ridden”. (The ‘Old Hag’ was a nightmare spirit in British and also Anglophone North American folklore.) In Chinese culture, sleep paralysis is widely known as “鬼壓身/鬼压身”, or “ghost pressing on body. In Vietnamese culture, sleep paralysis is referred to as “ma đè”, meaning “held down by a ghost” or “bóng đè”, meaning “held down by a shadow”. In African culture, isolated sleep paralysis is commonly referred to as “the witch riding your back”. In Malta, folk culture attributes a sleep paralysis incident to an entity in Maltese folk culture that haunts the individual in ways similar to a poltergeist. As believed in folk culture, to rid oneself of this one must place a piece of silverware or a knife under the pillow prior to sleep. (more examples of sleep paralysis across the world can be found via Wikipedia)

An interesting bit of information provided by J. Allan Cheyne through his research is that “first episodes of sleep paralysis typically occur to adolescents”; my sister would have been right around that age, maybe a year shy, when this occurred. But although his data indicates that many people have more than one episode – some report several times in a lifetime or several times a year, one large group reports monthly attack, but weekly or nightly attacks are rare – as far as I know, this never happened to my sister again.

That morning, as I listened to her tale and attempted to assuage her fears, I remember being terrified, myself. Whether or not it was real, I thought, it was awfully real to her, and if something like that could happen to her, well, couldn’t it happen to me too? Whether deeply slumbering and caught in the depths of a powerful nightmare, or trapped, immobile, by your own body and helpless against the tricks your own head is playing on you –- either way the shadowy intruder, or the ghost, or the alien is something conjured from the darker corners of your subconscious…and how can you possibly hope to escape that?

Hello, goodbye

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Not long after my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in December of 2012, she converted to Catholicism.  I can’t speak to how devout she was and it doesn’t matter to me – I believe the idea of faith and the trappings of belief and ritual gave her great comfort during her last year – so who cares if she never made it to church or attended a single mass.

And so what if she collected blingy rosaries alongside gorgeously rendered gilt-edged tarot decks in her final days- can’t a soul have room for more than one set of beliefs, more than one way for communicating with the divine? Or maybe she was hedging her bets, who knows.  Her relationship with her creator and her spirituality were no business of mine.

For as long as I can remember my mother cultivated a strange system of beliefs.  I recall, at the age of six or seven, sitting silently in a kitchen chair across a ouija board from my mother, my small hands on one edge of the planchette, her slim fingers on the other, and a phone cradled between her ear and shoulder as she chatted with a friend at the same time we were attempting to make contact with spirits.  At a very tender age I learned that my mother just didn’t do things the way other people did, I guess.  I imagine I grew up thinking if you weren’t carrying on conversations with both the dead and the living at the same time, you were probably doing it wrong.

Books on astrology and mediumship were always stacked precariously on our kitchen table; I can picture my mother’s face through a haze of smoke over breakfast as I picked at my Wheat Chex, while she thoughtfully read the paper and drank her coffee, a dangerously long ash from her cigarette dangling over the cover of a Linda Goodman title on Love Signs or perhaps something by Louise Huebner.

I grew up thinking that in every house there were hidden chest of tarot cards, that every stray slip of paper was a piece of an astrological chart, that candles and incense and yoga circles were every family’s Wednesday night. This was a huge part of the curiously fascinating, terrifyingly intense woman that my mother was in life, this yearning for hidden knowledge and a connection to a plane beyond our own.  So it only made sense to my sisters and I to honor that facet of her personality in death: with a visit to a medium, almost a year after her passing.

Welcome Center at Cassadaga

Despite the fact we had been bandying the idea back and forth for almost a year now, we were ill-prepared for this.  We realized we didn’t even have a code word.  As in, I suppose, some absurd word or phrase or inside joke that only we would understand, and we  would recognize immediately if the medium in question was the real deal if he or she were to utter it.  (Since then we have all come up with individual code words and phrases. If you intend to communicate with your loved ones from beyond the veil, I suggest that you take a moment or two to mull it over and do the same!)

Furthermore, we really didn’t even know how to go about finding a recommended spiritualist. We were terrified we were going to get a dud.  You know the kind: “I see a color…a number…a man! …or maybe a woman!” OKAY THAT’S $250 NOW SCRAM”.

Fortunately for us on the day of our intended sojourn, one of my sisters recalled a medium she visited a few years ago in Cassadaga.  “She wasn’t …too bad…?”, she offered doubtfully. And with that, we decided that not too bad was just good enough for us, and proceeded to make an appointment for later that afternoon.

I am really not sure how to talk about the afternoon that followed.  Much of it – two thirds of it, really – is not my story to tell, and that ventures into sharing -details-that-are-none-of-my-business-to-share territory. I can, however share some of my impressions of the reading.

Our medium/psychic, Birdie, lived in a small, unassuming house at the edge of the spiritualist camp -you’ll recognize it by the “Spiritual Garden” sign outside, beside the small dirt driveway which guests can park in.  The rickety screen door, wood-paneled walls and crocheted throws seemed to belong to any other older Florida home, and as we took our seats around a small desk at the rear of the house, I could hear Birdies’ husband mowing the lawn or doing related noisy things in the backyard. It was perfectly ordinary and absolutely surreal all at once.  As if on cue, the three of us giggled nervously.

Birdie seated herself, turned to us, and without missing a beat, asked “why do I see bananas?” This threw us for a bit of a loop.  Why WOULD she see bananas? It then dawned on me that my mother despised bananas (as do I! wretched fruits.) and I offered that piece of information.  Birdie seemed to take this as a sign that we were indeed talking with our mother.  I wish I had thought to ask how this all works.  I mean, was our mother’s spirit there, like an ectoplasmic parrot on Birdie’s shoulder, whispering things in her ear?  Or was it more like a crackly, static-y connection to the next world and maybe our mother made some sort of collect call? Even if I had the wherewithal to ask…how do you even ask that?  Is that too personal, or some sort of spiritualist faux-pas?  I am still pondering this.  Feel free to weigh in.

I am not too certain that I should have been concerned about any hurt feelings though, as Birdie herself was not terribly diplomatic with the messages she delivered.  Maybe it’s a “don’t shoot the messenger sort of thing”, or how you can’t be terribly upset with a translator for passing on the unintentionally rude mumblings of diplomats.  An example of this: at some point during the reading she looked at my two sisters, and then me. “You”, she said, pointing at me “you don’t seem to think as much as these other two girls do”. Well!
But the funny thing is…she isn’t wrong.

But I am jumping ahead. One of the next things that happened is that she glanced at my youngest sister, who was wearing a tee shirt that said something about Indiana and asked “why do I look at you and see California? Does that make sense?”  I don’t mean to be stereotypical, but I don’t think anyone could really look at my sister and see California; she is pale and small with shocking red hair and a penchant for historical fiction and a love for rainy afternoons. However, she has lived out in the deserts of California for the past 7 years, working as a librarian.  Birdie was spot-on. How did she know? Weird.  We had not told her anything about ourselves ahead of time, and other than showing her a picture of our mother (it was actually a 50+ year old photo of a graduation), she had nothing at all to go on.

The next 45 minutes was peppered with those sorts of instances. Birdie asked if we knew a “Sandy or a Sandra”.  Our mother, she said, was apparently spending a lot of time visiting this person. Sandy was my mother’s best friend, and they’d had a bit of a falling out in the months before she passed. Aha!  Another question: “does the name Rose or Rosemary make any sense to you?  She’s with your mother right now.”  A chill ran down my spine when I heard this, for Rosemary Denise Kelly (or Kelly Denise, I can never remember which) was my mother’s much beloved, very pampered cat, who died many years ago. It sounds silly, but whatever other nonsense or baloney we heard during the session (and there was a fair amount of it), *this* was the small thing I had been waiting to hear.  Picturing my mother with that dumb fluffy cat in the afterlife was more comforting than I could possible explain.

Another thing that she said, that gave us all a laugh, and a profound sense of relief I imagine, was when Birdie asked “did your mother ….curse a lot? I get the feeling she swore like a sailor ”  Ha! Did she ever! That was such a huge part of who she was, and if Birdie hadn’t picked up on that, I think we would have been concerned.

Our time was up before long and we silently shuffled out and drove up the road for lunch.
Over a bottle of wine at the Cassadaga hotel we discussed our thoughts.  It was nothing like any of us had expected and yet I think, each in different ways, we found a bit of peace from something we had heard.

wine

I suspect that we were all hoping for an experience that was maybe a little more…atmospheric?  Swaying curtains and lit candles and maybe a cold spot or two, knocks on the walls, something to indicate the…presence of…something?  We’ve probably seen too many movies. I know I’ve for certain read Richard Peck’s Ghosts I Have Been too often; I was really hoping for a crazy Blossom Culp-like encounter.

Although not much changes from year to year – and I do visit Cassadaga once a year now, usually every October – we did take some time to walk around the town, to sort of decompress (it was rather nerve-wracking, at least for me) and to absorb everything we had been told and our thoughts on it. This was our first time visiting the town, all three of us together, and so we bought some tee shirts to commemorate the occasion, and I picked up a pendant that sort of looked like a cross between some far-off nebula and a really girly eye of Sauron.

Though I don’t know for certain how our mother might have felt in her final days about us consulting a medium, and if she would be able to reconcile that with her newfound love of The Lord, I do know beyond the shadow of a doubt that as a lifelong shopping addict, she would have approved of a few purchases and shiny baubles to end the day with.