Surrounding Communities (Towns and Pueblos) (194)

Tuesday, 20 December 2016 08:23

Pueblo Animal Dancers

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Friday, 14 October 2016 15:27

The Wizard by Raven Q. DeVille

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The Wizard

by Raven Q. DeVille

There are still magical people in the world today but they are often disguised to look like everyone else.

This was probably the introduction to the magical part of the journey, moving aside the thick green leaves of the trees as they hung down over the sidewalks. Each brushing of the branches released a perfume of pine and mountain air that wafted downward, like the anointment before a ritual.

I had dreamed about visiting a wizard but the setting was different. It was by the large secluded area below the sacred cliffs of Black Mesa in the northern half of New Mexico. The trees had been cottonwoods, not Pines and Elms like the ones that lined this street in the city of Los Alamos. Funny how this residential neighborhood had such a neglected bit of greenery among all the finely manicured lawns and bushes. But the dream feeling was the same and the overgrowth of this particular neighborhood block had reinforced the imagery for a weird feeling of deja-vu. Since the day he left town around 1975, I would never notice the foliage again. It wasn’t like it had been cut down. It was like it had never been there at all. No dips or lumps in the ground, no tree stumps—nothing. But how familiar it was that day, because I had done all this once before in a dream.

Yes, I had dreamed of the wizard and somehow knew of his existence, before ever seeing him.

He was an ugly man.

He weighed three hundred and forty unhealthy pounds and had long, dark, greasy hair. He wore thick, coke-bottle glasses. I first saw him sitting in a restaurant with his wife. I was between high school and college and working as a waitress, out of necessity for the money. At the time, I was convinced that I could do nothing more in life than menial labor and that I should expect nothing more. I hated the job but had to smile and pretend to be happy, after all no smiles equaled no tips. I would be doing this for the rest of my life. I guess I was thinking this (it was a common thought). I stood there taking his breakfast order among the clinking of dishes and the murmur of dozens of conversations within the room.

“We’ll each have the French toast,” he said, handing me the menus. As I took the menus from him something odd happened in the next couple of seconds. His hand went over mine, a subtle gesture, hidden from the view of his wife by the size of the large menus. The heat from his hand actually touched me before his flesh, and the feeling from it was the drug to which I have since been addicted.

He said, “Things change, you know. Other things are waiting.” An awkward silence followed.

“Why don’t you do her horoscope?” a female voice whispered to him. It was his wife. She was blond and stylish and I wondered why she was with him. Apparently, his clandestine hand touching was not such a secret to her.

“Yes, that would be a good idea,” he said. “Why not?”

Of course I was flattered and blurted out my birth information. All this, before I finished bringing out their breakfast. It was a rush of sudden escapism—from the drudgery of anonymous work and aching feet to the personally mystical and unexpected.

I had hungered for many years to know more about astrology and all the new revivals of ancient wisdoms. I had tried to find as much as I could in bookstores, but not nearly enough had yet been printed. In the early 70’s, there was precious little reading material and even that was vague and simplistic in description. Every week I would steal away to the bookstores in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, but so very little was on the market then. Since I was sixteen, I had been studying astrology on my own but was so frustrated at the lack of meaningful books and resources on the matter that I had almost given up. Nothing existed but silly books about generalized sun signs and love matches. In those days there was a severe drought of information on the subject and I often had to order books from Albuquerque. Mostly I found the best books and information from California and New York. Many phone calls later, I had ordered only a few of the books I needed.

But right at that moment, there was this live intelligent man who obviously had experience and subject knowledge. I have heard that anyone would sell their soul to the devil if they got what they wanted. Well, I hope I am never desperate enough to deal with the devil but specific knowledge is something I crave out of all proportion to other things in this world. I felt as if I had won the lottery that day.

A lot of my first impressions of him changed before they left that morning. He was certainly nothing to look at, but when he opened his mouth, liquid gold flowed forth. He was skilled in social contacts judging by the number of business people and politicians who would stop by his table and shake his hand, but he was also traveled and erudite, he was impossible to ignore. He had that skillful edge of blasé boredom that nibbled at the edges of conversation, labeling him a person from another place. His clothes were nothing impressive, just the usual uniform of the computer nerds at the local Lab. Dark pants, white shirt and a pocket protector for a variety of pens and pencils. The small round gold earring he wore was almost invisible, given his proportions and that awful greasy hair that was too long—even for 1972. Nevertheless, the more I looked at him that day, the more I decided there was really something unique and interesting about him. He was compelling, because he seemed so comfortable with himself and who he was. More athletic men would always be initially attractive, but their beauty soon wears thin as their lack of gray matter begins to show and their insensitivities came to the surface. With Thomas, it was just the opposite. His beautiful wife seemed to adore him and some of the other women in the room would give him a little pinch on the cheek as they passed his table. He would delightfully groan as they walked away.

Who was this guy?

He called me when he finished my horoscope but it took me a long time to screw up enough courage to go over to his house. Almost a year later I found myself knocking at his front door.

He greeted me at the door dressed in a stunning purple wizard’s robe with gold stars, planets and moons that were silk-screened on the surface. It would pass for a man’s lounging outfit for after work but I’m sure that Thomas would know that I would get the message. I was impressed. He introduced me to about four of his seven children (the older ones were out for the evening) and his wife and I spoke briefly. I gave him a small painting as a gift (no southern lady goes without a gift to a first visit), which he carefully tucked behind what seemed to be a stash of similar tokens that had also (obviously) been offered to him.

We sat at the round little table in his kitchen and talked about everything under the sun and beyond the universe. His wife sat in the living room, watching television while she knitted. About five of the kids would quietly pass into the other side of the kitchen fixing themselves snacks and saying their polite “hellos.” It was a perfect little family house of harmony and tolerance.

He interpreted the details of my horoscope in wondrous and horrible ways. Never had anyone paid such close attention to the sensitive details of my nature before. Never had anyone cared. I was only the big ugly girl with the black hair—that was how people usually described me. The first impression people have of me—is usually on the same level as my first impression of Thomas.

That was not his real name, by the way, but it is what I will call him. He was descended from the mysterious Basques and he could often read minds and tell what would happen in the future. He was good friends with the local witch in town and knew many secrets of local residents, which he delightedly shared with me. The most unnerving moments were when we almost didn’t have to talk to each other. He answered my questions before I verbally asked them and was always three steps ahead of me in any direction. Of course it was not controllable—this peculiar gift of clairvoyance.

“You have it too, don’t you?” he asked.

“Well, sometimes, but of course I can’t control mine and it doesn’t happen very often . . .”

“It becomes stronger with age,” he said. (And it did).

He then described the bracelet I had bought for my best friend a few months before. She lived in another town and I never saw her wear it, so I knew he had no actual knowledge of it.

I tried to be brave as he relentlessly exposed the chinks and weaknesses of my psychological armor. As usual, I did not believe anything good he had to say about me, because I was sure it was a lie. But now I wanted to believe that I could actually fly and soar at greater heights, they way he said I could. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all his clever assumptions about my persona were true? I mean, what if I was as intelligent as my chart portrayed me to be? And the adventures that were to happen, what if they really did wait for me in the future? But then that would mean all the other things—would also be true. My life would be filled with many things, but never love or children. Friends would desert me and frustrations would overwhelm me. What if he knew what he was talking about? What if he could predict my life? A slight tremor welled up in me because I knew deep down he was hitting right on all the things I knew to be true about myself already. Perhaps he was only reading my mind. His thoughts were almost clear to me, and apparently my thoughts were very clear to him. Maybe he was just one of those trick mind-readers like they have on television and in Las Vegas. Maybe I was being naïve.

A breeze came in through the open patio door and my horoscope flew off the table onto the floor. Thomas said “Oops,” laughed a little and started for it but it was closer to my side so I bent down to get it from under the table. When I retrieved it and came back up to the sitting position in my chair Thomas had the most horrible look on his face, as if he suddenly saw something he didn’t like. His thoughts were suddenly shrouded from me, as if a heavy curtain had dropped.

Suddenly, a large black mass of feathers hopped into the kitchen behind Thomas. It was a raven as large as a German Shepherd dog. It clacked out a metallic sounding noise and crooked its head to look at me sideways. It was like we almost knew each other. It kept staring at me with those strange blue eyes. Ravens don’t have blue eyes.

In the next second or two, thoughts flashed through my mind, “Do these people know that’s a wild scavenger?” I stupidly thought, “They might not even know it’s in their house!” Although I was trying desperately to remain calm, there was this basic primal urge telling me to get out of the way of this huge monstrous thing that could not possibly be a bird.

“Caugh,” it sounded, “Popcorn. I want popcorn. Caw, caugh.”

Thomas turned around and smiled.

“Okay,” I thought, “it must be some sort of pet or mascot or something.” But now my main area of disbelief was that the damn thing was talking to us.

While I was doing the frightened fool bit (and with good reason I thought), Thomas got up from his chair and propped open the large kitchen door. The bird remained almost motionless in the middle of the kitchen floor but watched Thomas’ movements intently as he moved to the refrigerator and opened a pack of baloney. He threw a slice at the bird. The raven caught it gleefully in mid-air, hopped back out on the porch and flew away into the darkening skyline.

“You know, Thomas,” I said, “Those things aren’t supposed to be domesticated—they carry plague and rabies plus they can be mean.”

“Yeah,” he said, “We know all about the hazards but that bastard comes in through the dog door and raids our garbage. We found that if we just give him something to eat, he’ll leave peacefully and not tell his friends. That way, we never get mobbed by a bunch of hungry Ravens.”

“How can he talk like that, did you guys teach him?” I asked.

“We sort of inherited him with the house. The people who lived here before got so attached to him they had a vet do something to his tongue so it could be taught it to speak.” Thomas bent down to lock the dog door and only then did I notice his hand trembling a bit as he fastened the lock. “Sometimes the kids forget to lock up the dog’s door. They worry more about the dog exploding from not going to the bathroom for a couple of hours, than about that raven hopping around in here on the cabinets. The kids think he’s kinda neat.”

Thomas walked back to the table and sat his large and mostly unconcerned form back down in a comfortable chair at the round table.

“You know, you did give him baloney instead of popcorn,” I said.

“He may be able to talk, but that doesn’t mean he’s a rocket scientist.”

The evening carried on and Thomas continued telling me about loneliness and the desperation of self. He offered no consolation as he took my hand in the warmth of his and addicted me to the drug of hope. When the flesh of his hand pressed against mine, he spoke to me silently with his mind,

“Do it.” his thoughts said.

“What! Tell me!!” my mind replied.

In disgust, he released my hands and changed the subject. I wanted so badly to take his hand again and feel the warmth and press it against my cheek. It was not just him, it was something within him I wanted. I suppose I only wanted to be one of his children that night, or his wife so I wouldn’t have to go home. So I could stay here and talk with him forever.

He was a very loved man. His four-year old daughter with flaming red hair would stick her head in the kitchen occasionally and express her worry that her Daddy was up past his bedtime and he would look back at her lovingly. The television murmured in the room beyond the closed kitchen doors and the antique pendulum clock quietly ticked off the seconds during the lulls of our conversation. I felt so grateful that I finally had someone sitting in front of me who had all the answers to my astrology questions. Although he stroked my ego, his knowledge sent me on future ventures to find greater astrological truths within society, government, and well … everything. Life was now categorized in an understandable format.

It is almost laughable now because eventually there were whole buildings full of these types of books and even special rooms for different interests such as astrology, meditation, tarot cards and so on. Now we all have the Internet—but sometimes even it is lacking. When I studied astrology, I had to learn all the computation by hand, no automatic computers. That was a good thing—because now I can almost see in an instant if someone’s calculations are wrong. I have learned rule of thumb tricks for figuring out the first three parts of a chart in my head (without any electronic devices). It makes me look like a genius to my mathematical friends—unknown to them that I am a total mathematical failure. Finally, about midnight, I noticed everyone else in the house had already gone to bed. All the other human sounds were silent now and I was beginning to worry that I had overstayed my welcome. I stood up from the table and mentioned that I needed to be going. Thomas looked relieved. I gathered up my things and he walked me to the door. Poor Thomas, I know I must have worn him out.

“I dreamed I would meet a wizard like you,” I said. I knew this was a pretty wild statement to throw at someone who programmed computers for a living and listened to an FM station that played golden oldies from the 50’s, but I had to try anyway.

Thomas smiled, and pulled out an old wood cut from a drawer in a cabinet next to the door. Someone had given it to him as a gift. It was a stylized medieval depiction of a man in a long robe with a wand and wearing a conical hat. Moons and stars and comets swirled around the central figure—just as the symbols on his robe. It didn’t at all resemble Thomas, but the interpretation was exact.

“And by the way, did you notice the omen of the night?” Thomas asked.


“The raven’s visit. He only pops in about once every few weeks. Your tocaya, in a way.”

“Oh,” I said, “Yeah.” I hadn’t heard that bit of Spanish culture in many years, but when someone else also has your name then you can call them your tocaya. It certainly seemed to be a piece of mystical serendipity.

“How did you get tagged with a name like that, was your mom an Edgar Allen Poe fan?” he asked.

“Everyone else in my family has lighter colored hair than I do. I’m sort of throwback to some of my French ancestors about 150 years ago. In fact, I somewhat resemble my Great-great-grandmother, only she was very dainty and pretty with big round eyes. She had this blue-black hair that some guy wrote a poem about. He compared it the plumage of a raven. She was pretty flattered by the poet’s comparison and even took it as her nick-name, Raven. So when I came along, my coloring made me sort of a good candidate to carry the tribute of our heritage.”

“What ever happened to her?”

“I don’t know, sort of a mystery. She disappeared without a trace when she was in her 30’s.”

Thomas then stroked my hair in an embarrassingly intimate fashion. Those wonderful hands with that strange warmth and magnetism radiating from them, surely they were magic things that healed and made things grow. No ordinary mortal appendages were these hands.

“Maybe she turned into a raven and flew away, “ he said.

I did not know what to make of his statement, but that strange rush of hope gushed throughout my entire being again. Even with the euphoric feeling of it, I hated it, because I knew my vague indistinguishable hopes would not be fulfilled, as always. It was that horrible drug of anticipation of unknown delights, whatever they were. No, life is not a dream, it is a grueling job of drudgery and labor—at least that was the way I saw it then.

We said our good-nights and his door swung closed behind me, dutifully clicking its tumblers to a final and heartless “good-night.”

The moon was fully round and bright and the night air was filled with the faint perfume of sleeping flowers and slumbering trees. The euphoria rushed though me again like a wave of water, for no real reason. It was again the drug of hope. I would be lying if I told you I believed in it then, but over the years I find I have but to remember the feeling as I walked down the stone steps of Thomas’s house into the richness of the night that I was changed, perhaps even born again into the realm of possibilities. To occasionally remember this night, is the opiate of my life.

I doubt Thomas ever understood how important he was to me and how much I had learned from him in those few short hours. He did not know he made me tremble with his knowledge.

In the safe, small town in which I lived, I took my time about walking home that night. I heard the talking raven above me on the way. I could not really see him, but I could hear his black feathered wings lift his heavy body through the air from one street lamp to the next. Great rushing sounds of air as he gracefully glided from tree to tree. He followed me almost to my door and perched on the roof of my neighbors house.

This would probably be a good place to end this little story, but it doesn’t quite end here. You see that particular raven, the talking one, is still around. I don’t know how long they live, but he still seems quite healthy and strong even now—over 40 years later. He doesn’t use human words unless no one else is with me, but he is always vocal. He has this thing for the color blue. He really gets excited when he sees I am wearing a royal blue color. He hops up and down on telephone poles and produces a caw that sounds almost like a laugh. About every two months he leaves me one of his black feathers (usually about 6 or 7 inches long) and something blue next to it on my front porch. Usually it is a piece of blue paper or plastic but I did once find a dangle earring with a blue rhinestone in it. I just hope the owner lost it and the Raven didn’t actually take it out of the poor woman’s ear—in midflight.

He does not like to gather with the other ravens in town and he can be quite active after dark, when he should be quietly roosting in a tree. He can be bothersome at times, flying by the house or hanging under the eaves and cawing loudly into my bedroom.

I’ve tried to understand why he stays with me and exhausting all logical explanations, I have decided that this must be a something unnatural. Perhaps he is not even a raven. Maybe he is a playful spirit instead. Maybe he is a guardian, or even a companion of sorts. Maybe he has even protected me from all sorts of dangers I was never even aware of. His existence is a puzzle.

However, it is the sight and the sound of him that sometimes generates my lust for my private goals. With each feathered sweep of his wings, with every brazen noise from his throat and every floating shadow of him that crosses me upon the ground, ... I am reminded of other, more important things, and then I am at peace, once again.

The raven clacks its bird-talk and then switching to human speech, in words I have never spoken, it calls softly down to me when no one else is listening,

“Tocaya, Tocaya, Tocaya . . .”


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