An Uncommon Request

She was serious as she approached the counter. Her voice was soft and low. “I need to know”, she said.  Then, hesitating a little, she asked if I could tell her about the dragon. Her eyes never met mine.

I know dragons, and I know people, but once in a while, they both surprise me.

She entered my shop during the winter slump. It was the week after all the tourists had gone, and the locals were at home preparing for the ill weather. She took a small flask from the shelf and filled it halfway with dragon tears from the spigot in the back.

Dragons don’t cry, making this a rare and expensive item. I watched her. I know every customer by name. She was new.

It was an uncommon request. No one cares about dragons. People think they know everything they need to know about dragons. Most of what they know is wrong, and when you try to tell them differently, they get angry. They stop listening. They walk away and never return.

“This one lived alone, as most do,” I told her. “The tears were extracted while he slept. He was suffering from allergies, which meant a runny nose–and tears.” I found her curiosity refreshing.

“Thank you,” she replied. “I will put these to good use,” she assured me.

I was silent. She continued, still staring somewhere behind my left ear. “Did this dragon have a hoard? He must have. How much were they able to take, seeing that he was sleeping?”

I was beginning to get nervous. Shop owners are sworn to secrecy. Was she a spy? Was this a test?

Something about the way she stared into the empty space behind my head, and the way her eyes were puffed and pinkish around the edges, softened me.

“He had a hoard of books,” I said. I explained how unusual this was, and how unappreciated. Unrewarding for dragon hunters, except for the tears.

She straightened, seemed taller. I wouldn’t dare ask why she needed dragon tears, and it turns out I didn’t have to. She began describing her life. Her loves and her fears. And how the one item she was forbidden to truly enjoy as she wished was a good book.

I had heard of forbidden dancing, forbidden drinking, forbidden love, but I had never heard this in all my years.

But then, no one had heard of dragon tears either. Or a dragon that hoarded books. That was even odder than the tears themselves. Odd, and, to most, disappointing.

”I have been waiting for these a long time.” She smiled. It was a half-smile, but a smile nonetheless.

Hidden

Magic could be defined as a sort of knowledge. It’s a knowledge that is unknown. Or not understood. Unseen. Hidden.

It also has certain connotations, both good and bad, depending on what perspective you are coming from. I’m a writer and a Christian. As a human I find the concept of magic to be morally neutral. It’s just is an aspect of existence in our universe. You can’t see it, or measure it, or prove it, but it’s real. However, I also believe that certain expressions and manifestations of it in this world ought to be treated with caution and even avoided. Maybe when you see it the way I see it you’ll understand why.

A nightmare I had last night is a good illustration of this concept. At the time I woke, I had some nausea and was frightened. I recorded it immediately. This is what I wrote:

General folk wisdom recommends that you don’t draw faces, especially certain faces. If you do, it conjures evil spirits. Everyone knew this in my dream world. I didn’t.

There were rules too. Certain things you could not talk about. Or think.

Mother breaks one of these rules. I try to warn her, but it’s too late. A mysterious stranger appears.

A conflict ensues. She is knocked unconscious.

I must fight off the stranger alone. I manage to elude him. I hide.

The rule is: I must not think about my hiding place, or I will no longer remain hidden.

The trouble with magic is that even when you don’t know the rules, they still affect you. Life is all about these hidden rules. Some are called science. Others are called morality. True magic is not created by humans. It is discovered. Harnessed.

Gravity is a hidden rule. So is falling in love. And even more so unconditional love.

Just as ignorance of the rules cannot save you, knowledge of them is no guarantee of safety either.

What I’m Reading {December 2017}

It’s day sixteen of my 21 Day Writing Challenge. Today’s prompt is reading, specifically, what am I reading right now. In the past month, I haven’t done much actual reading, but I have given it more serious thought than ever before.

My typical method of reading has been to pick up whatever book interests me at the moment. In the not so distant past, I would need to get up early in the morning to avoid disturbing anyone. In those days, reading or writing was not an activity I was encouraged to do or had all much time to do.

Since then, circumstances have changed, and once again I have the opportunity to read as freely as I did in college. There are only two differences between now and then. One is that I have far less time. I have a newfound awareness of its brevity, and the need to manage this limited resource a whole lot better.  The other is direction (the simple complex decision of what to read). So many books, so little time. It’s a cliche because it’s true.

Most of my reading lately is focused on spirituality, psychology, and self-help. It’s been a difficult year. I am in transition. My choices these days are Psalms and Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton.

I spent some time this month adding and organizing my books on Goodreads for the first time ever. It’s daunting to see people with hundreds and even thousands of titles on their virtual shelves.

Last night I spent hours rereading my personal journals for this year, reflecting on what I’ve learned and on my progress.

In the upcoming year, I hope to read more poetry, memoir, and certain books in the magical realism genre.

Other books I’m slowly but surely working my way through:

–Necessary Losses by Judith Viorst
–The New Diary: How to use a journal for self-guidance and expanded creativity by Tristine Rainer

Books I’m thinking about reading soon will possibly be:

–No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters by Ursula K. Le Guin
–The Penguin Book of the Sonnet

And, of course, I also read poetry blogs.

It can be a little overwhelming, and I’m still in the process of creating a comprehensive list of what I’d like to read.

Bedside Table

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Christmas 2017

One peek at my makeshift, colorful bedside table is all you would need if you wanted to know my preferences and personality. It’s a big deal for me, a little space to call my own. More than special, it’s a necessity.

I’ve been in transition for a while now. When I set up a cot in my mother’s tiny apartment a year ago, I made it a priority to create a makeshift bedside table out of a plastic storage container. Soon after, I acquired a pretty, pink and white basket to put my important Stuff in.

Having a place for my Stuff was much more than practical, it was calming and comforting. It gave me a sense of ownership and control over my environment when I possessed neither. It spoke. It said, “These are the things that matter to me.” I carefully selected them. I chose them according to their practical, personal, and aesthetic value.

Books were central to the arrangement. My goal was to fit as many as I could, while still leaving room for other objects. I stacked them neatly, spine-side out, beside the basket. Then, inside the basket, I arranged as many as I could fit–covers outward. It was an ongoing process, and it largely depended on my current mood and interests. Spiritual, self-help, and psychology went inside. Poetry and fiction were outside. They were a constant visual reminder of what I was striving for– a life of reading, writing, growth, healing, and self-awareness.

I didn’t read the poetry and fiction as often as I wanted to. I got stuck on the self-help. It was a difficult year. But the others were there waiting for me until I was ready for them.

Because I had no space to write, my bedside table also served as a desk. I kept two containers for writing utensils. There was a decorative, etched glass which held my favorite colored gel pens. Love gel pens. The other was a tiny, blue-painted metal pail. It was for my markers, mechanical pencils, and twist-up colored pencils.

Later, I needed a place for jewelry, so I found a small blue and white bowl with a chevron pattern.

At the front and center was a small stack of writing pads. It included sticky notes and a to-do list pad with the words “happy thoughts” written across the top.

The final touch was art. Behind all the books, I placed a watercolor painting of a beach scene. I made it one day at my daughter’s place after a fun day at the beach.

This small piece of furniture turned out to be more meaningful to me than it had ever been at any other time in my life. I’ve since then dismantled it for what hopefully will be a permanent transition to my new (and first) home.

Reading: Preferences

One of my goals in the coming year is to read more and to make a daily habit of reading.

Deciding what to read has been a challenge for me.

I come across many book recommendations, but in all honesty, I don’t always agree with them.

I’ve always feared this was a liability as a reader, a writer, and an educated person.  However, I’m just now realizing that I don’t have to worry about feeling guilty about not reading something that just doesn’t interest me.

Sometimes I find a subject or genre interesting, but I don’t enjoy a particular author’s writing style, or their perspective is so opposite from mine that I have difficulty appreciating it. I do believe it’s important to be a well-rounded person and to be able to see the world from different points of view. However, I don’t think I’ll be reading much military fiction, romance, or young adult fiction in the near future. They’re just not for me.

I recently came across a free novel by Ernest Hemmingway. Even though I recognize his skill as a writer, I know I’m probably not going to enjoy Islands in the Stream. So I’ll be passing it along.

Preferences are something that I’m going to need to pay closer attention to if I want to succeed in my goal of developing a reading habit. As with any other choice that we must make about how to spend our time and energy, reading material is no different. I’d like to be self-aware and discerning, and I definitely plan on making more conscious choices in my reading selections this year. I am hoping this helps me as a reader, a writer and as a person.

A {Writing} Place of My Own

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Photo on Visualhunt
Having a comfortable place to write is important to me. It should have everything I need. It should be inviting, clean and pleasing to the senses.
 
That seems like too much to ask. Maybe I should learn to write in crowds, or at a restaurant, or on the beach. But I know I can’t. It’s a feature of my INFJ personality (extroverted sensing so my surrounding environment affects me), and it’s also because I’m a highly sensitive person(HSP).
 
If I’m surrounded by mess, or the temperature is too high or low…if the wind is blowing my hair across my face… if there are too many ants crawling on the picnic table… if there is a strong smell of smoke or perfume or garbage… if I’m hungry or thirsty and I’m far from refreshment… if television is playing in the background, or loud conversations or music is part of the environment… if there are frequent interruptions … or any conditions that might affect me in a negative way, it is nearly impossible for me to focus.
 
Today’s prompt suggested that I try writing from a different location. But I don’t have one right now. That happens to be one of the more annoying aspects of my current circumstances.
 
I write from a couch, which also happens to be my bed. And sometimes I write at work when I have the opportunity.
 
I enjoy nature. But a cold front has just moved into central Florida, and I’m not eager to go anywhere outside.
 
I don’t even have a clean table to work on. It’s not my house, and I’m not up to cleaning it right now.
 
I need a place of my own. I’m working on it. But I’ve been displaced.
 
I’ve never had a place of my own to write. I don’t know what that feels like.