House of Rose, 9

 

As for myself, I had to stop and catch my breath, forcing a few last hacking coughs.out. I stood and breathed. The air was, indeed, very fresh and cool. The rising sun was, by now, clearing away the mist which had covered the long, tall grasses, but some still lingered. I touched a blade of grass, golden at the sharp blade, deep green at its base. condensation covered it; my hand withdrew cold and wet. It was the kind of detail that makes you feel alive. I put my fingertips to my lips and felt the coldness there.

As I followed the path winding around a small, gated, pocket garden on my left, hopping on the worn pavers and slabs of limestone that were scattered upon the mowed path, I felt suddenly that I’d been in this exact spot before. But as I tried to focus in on the feeling and cultivate more details from my mind, the feeling dissolved, and I stopped, perched on a  piece of limestone lumpy with fossils, feeling puzzled.

I approached the fence around the garden, a simple one made from a waist-high row of crooked sticks and fuzzy rope woven about them. I leaned and peered over it. Inside it was an extremely crooked-branched tree with large, floppy, emerald leaves. Suspended from the branches were blown glass orbs, a variety of sizes and colors. The risen sun sparkled on their surfaces, making them look like gleaming jewels.

There were other ornaments in the garden– a royal blue gazing ball, a crumbling, moss-covered bird bath, an arching, knee-high terra cotta sculpture. Broken bits of stone formed an irregular path, overgrown with moss and ground cover. A big spray of lavender poked tendrils through the fence on the far side.

With the faint smell of lavender, the feeling of familiarity came back, but only as a ghost, and only for a fleeting moment.

I glanced again at the spun glass orbs suspended from the tree branches. They looked so beautiful, gleaming in the sunlight. A deep emerald-colored orb a little bigger than my palm caught my eye. I could have sworn I saw something– a tiny light– just the faintest glow within. Intriuged, and totally distracted, I pushed open the balky gate made of thin slats of wood tied together with twine, and stepped into the small garden. The emerald globe was just above my eye level, and I stood on tiptoe.

The glass was very clear, but deeply green, and I peered into it for long moments. Finally, I made out tiny form at the bottom of the orb, and was trying to focus my eyes even more sharply to make out details, when the faint, green-tinged light blinked from the form, wavering.  The form was of a tiny woman. The faint light shimmered on her gossamer wings. The light died away. And a word embedded itself in my mind: trapped.

Riding a surge of panic, I thoughtlessly grabbd the orb in both hands, and with a yank, broke the string that bound it to the branch.  But there was a cool enough part of my brain that I noticed how the figure, the woman, lurched when I moved the orb so abruptly, and I stopped myself from dashing it against a stone to free her, which had been my first inclination.

I looked into the orb again, and this time I fancied I could see a tiny, scowling face. “Sorry, sorry,” I muttered, and set the orb carefully into the rich, exposed loam, and scanned the area for a rock small enough to pick up. I would have to bash it open– unless– I crouched and examined the orb again, trying to breathe normally and take my time. But I could see no opening, not even a crack in the surface.

“Look out, “ I said, and hefted the chunk of rock I’d found. I gave the orb a rather experimental tap, and I regestered fine cracks moving across the suface, and things happened rather quickly after that.

A blaze of heat and light threw me backward to land on my backside. I struggled upright to a sitting position, desperate to see what was happening. A faint glow of green illuminated everything. Hurricane winds lashed the branches of the crooked tree, sending leaves flying. A vibrating, tear-producing hum filled the air, building, until–

Every glass orb swinging in the wind shattered into bright glitter. The winds died suddenly, leaving stillness, but I hardly noticed– I screamed as tiny shards of glass shot into the side of my face, my shoulder, my hip. The sting of them doubled as they grew hot, boiling away into microscopic green streamers. It was agony–

And yet, the pain had barely begun, and it was gone, and in its place was warmth, comfort. A deep sense of well-being filled me, and the strange stillness of the garden was interrupted by small animal rustlings and the singing of birds.

Advertisements

New Year’s Rulins, 2016

015

So, it’s a brand spanking new year, time to take a closer look at the ourselves and our journeys…if we are so inclined.

These are my guidelines, fuzzy goals I’m going to try to keep in my awareness, not things I use to make myself feel bad later. If it turns out that any of these are not right for me in the coming year, or I completely lose interest in pursuing them, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to let them go without a fuss.

1. Move away from Facebook and toward WordPress, Instagram and Insight Timer (an online community exploring meditation, spiritual growth and Buddhism), if I absolutely must have social media.

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, but what it boils down to is that I spend too much completely non-constuctive time with it. My blogs need attention, and if I can channel some of that energy into actually writing, that will be very cool. And I might even catch up on reading other blogs that I like. I’ll still post an inexhaustible stream of photos of my dogs and my Daily Cup, I’ll just do it on Instagram and my blogs, Animal Dreams and Puddle Dive.

2. Re-commit to a cruelty – free lifestyle.

I’ve been committed to this for a long time now, but I’ve noticed lately that I’ve gotten a little sloppy and lazy about it. Chicken stock in the soup? Leather on these boots? Oh well…

I’ve been a vegetarian who eats seafood (pescetarian, such a cool word) for 23 years now. I’ve eaten chicken occasionally, but no red meat. Lately, I’ve been thinking again about the impact factory farming–even of fish, because that’s where most of our food fish comes from, and it’s destroying some of our coasts– has on the environment, not to mention the constant fear, pain and misery the animals live in, and I find it sickening. Literally. It makes my stomach hurt. I don’t want to participate. Or, at least, as little as possible. So, I no longer want to eat any animal, ever. No more fish for me (I’m  not even going to mention that the FDA just approved a GMO salmon…).

And I want to make sure that the animal products I do eat/use have been produced humanely. I’ll continue to buy only products not tested on animals, also, because that’s just freaking horrible. I’d eventually like to make sure even the food I feed my pets has been produced as humanely as possible, but that’s more complicated (and expensive). That’s part of what ahimsa– a guiding principle of yogis and Buddhists– means to me. It means causing as little harm to all beings and the earth as you possibly can.

3. Establish a formal, daily meditation practice, and continue a daily yoga practice.

To start with, I’m committing to 40 days in a row of mantra meditation with my mala. I’ll go from there! I already have a daily yoga practice, but it can’t hurt to re-commit.

4. Commit more time to yoga/Buddhist/dream work/self-growth, reading, practice and study.

Pretty self-explanatory– devote more time to things that are totally gratifying, but now inexplicably takes second place to goofing around on Facebook; so this one will hopefully work in conjunction with #1.

5. Be more social.

I let a lot of relationships that I care about stagnate this past year. It was just what I needed to do, to keep all my energy for my own ailing self, but I feel better now, and I miss people.

[It’s been a few days since I wrote this, and I’m waffling on this, because I still don’t have the energy to go out even when I really want to, (and I still dread phone calls), but I don’t expect that to last all year, so I’m leaving it on the list.]

6. Appreciate the little things that make me happy.

It makes a real difference, on a lot of levels. It goes hand in hand with paying attention, because if you’re not paying attention to the little things, how could you appreciate them? It makes me feel happier all around to acknowledge little things; it helps me remember how lucky I really am. Maybe I’ll designate a day a week on Puddle Dive to write about the little things I’ve noticed and appreciated.

Here’s to 2016. Namaste.

New Year’s Rulins, Revisited

North Rim 094

2015 New Year’s Rulins:
My Year in Review

I didn’t have the greatest year; much of it was uncomfortable and some of it downright painful. But there were bright spots. We bought the house next door and doubled our backyard. We adopted Louis, a pit bull type dog, from a rescue. He turned out to be a lot of fun; he loves his people (us!) more than any dog I’ve ever known. I began my yoga teacher training, truly the start of a journey of a thousand steps.

Anyway, it’s time to take a look at my 2015 New Year’s Rulins, Woody Guthrie’s term for New Year’s Resolutions. Nobody seems to make them anymore, and I even read an article on Facebook specifically saying they are bad and harmful and you shouldn’t do it. But whatever. I like doing it. I think the key is not getting attached to the outcome. They are signposts, not commandments.

In 2014, I looked back at them halfway through the year to see how I was doing, but I seem to have neglected that this year. So, today’s the day. And then, make new ones!

 

New Year’s Rulins, 2015
(Mere guidelines.)

1. Actively rejoin my Misfit creative group.  I miss the people there terribly.

Yes, then no. Then yes, then no. This is a familiar pattern with all of my creative endeavors. All I really can do is bring my awareness to it. You CAN change your patterns, but it’s pretty damned hard.

2. Clean up my eating habits and maintain physical health better in general.

Not to sound negative about it, but my eating habits were fine this year, my health just sucked. I did what I could. Lots of mindful rest, walking in nature when I could, sitting in the sun,  meditation, yoga– all things I tried to maintain. Plus a good attitude, although I kind of lost that for awhile right before my surgery.

3. Develop a basic routine, however loose it needs to be, and follow it instead of bouncing around like a pinball.  Will be easier when I’m able to give Indi her regular walks again.

Well, no. I can establish a routine for a week, tops, and then I do something else. It may well be that this is something I need to just accept about my nature. Except, I did re-establish a daily yoga practice, both after my herniated disk healed enough, and then after my hysterectomy. And I have a limited morning routine: make coffee, let dogs out, feed them, sit still and mindfully drink a cup of coffee, take Bob coffee if he’s home, spend time with the dogs, working or playing or just petting. After that, it’s anyone’s guess what what I’ll choose to do. For awhile, I did Yin yoga right after all that stuff, and it seemed to be a good thing.

4. Continue Yoga and Buddhist practice/study.

Yes, actually. I could certainly do more, but what I have done has been pretty beneficial.

5. Follow my own creative path. Process over product.  Meditative art.  Release attachment to outcome.  Enjoy it.

Yes, I made a lot of progress here. Hopefully, it will create a good foundation for creating more lasting work. The two endeavors I did most was the meditative Zentangle drawing/painting (I have stacks of them) and writing sections of my meandering Gothic dream serial, House of Rose. Writing badly is really hard, but it has a lot to teach.

6. Work on balancing screen-related activities.  Better yet, less screen (Candy Crush, I’m looking at you, Baby), more  other stuff.

A little. I’m starting to think I have a real problem with Facebook, though.
7. I hesitate to put “write” on here.  But I hope it’s in cards at some point in 2015.

A couple poems, House of Rose, a few personal essay type things for writing exercises, long-winded Facebook comments about dogs. So, some. Not nearly enough, but some.

There you have it. 2015 in review. Thanks for reading.

House of Rose, part 8

A great hush surrounded me. The house– its halls and nooks and empty rooms and galleries were filled with a silence that seemed to have actual substance. And yet, it seemed to hold such potential for laughing voices, for music. I could hear the rustle of my every movement.

Like a homing pigeon, I went straight to a pair of French doors set in the stone wall. I could see light and greenery through the panes of glass. I unlatched and opened the doors, and as I did, a noise finally made it to my ears– the barking of a dog close by. I walked out onto a small porch of fitted stones, surrounded by plants and trees. The rich, full scent of lilacs filled my nose– one of my favorite– but glancing around, I saw no trees in bloom. The landscaping around this small, comfortable porch had once been intentional, but had not been controlled at all for some time. Verdant, leafy tendrils crept over the low,decorative iron railing, and tufts sprouted cheerfully out of cracks in the cement and stone.

I did not stand there for long. I spied steps leading down from the porch and headed for them. When I was a almost to them, a small, black, furry shape raced up them and began dancing around me in a circle, yipping and barking in what sounded like pure joy. I smiled and dropped to my knees. It was the little shaman dog with three legs. She licked my face, then dropped back and regarded me, her jaws wide open and her tongue lolling out, the very picture of a happy dog.

“Well, let’s go, then,” I said, and moved toward the steps. She jumped to her feet, quite agile for having only three legs. She hopped to my right side, and we descended together. I could see now the source of the lilac scent. The steps were worn stone, but very little of it showed– the entire flight of stairs was a an untamed flood of lilacs, low, heavily-laden branches sprawling across and down stair steps. The dog and I had to pick our way carefully. At first, I loved the smell, and took in huge, lung-expanding draught of it, but by the time I got to the bottom of the steps, I was coughing. The sweetness of the scent felt like it was strangling me. I sped my footsteps in order to clear it and find some fresh air.

The dog seemed very encouraged by my speeding up, and responded in turn, which spurred me to a trot in spite of my cough. The black dog raced ahead, turned on a dime, and came racing back. I couldn’t even tell she was missing a leg when she ran like that.

As for myself, I had to stop and catch my bretah, forcing a few last hacking coughs.out. I stood and breathed. The air was, indeed, very fresh and cool. The rising sun was, by now, clearing away the mist which had covered the long, tall grasses, but some still lingered. I touched a blade of grass, golden at the sharp blade, deep green at its base. Condesation covered it; my hand withdrew cold and wet. It was the kind of detail that makes you feel alive. I put my fingertips to my lips and felt the coldness there.

There was a cleared path through the grasses, which were about to my waist and much varied in color and texture. Some had fat parcels of seed clinging to them. I set out upon the path, the dog running ahead and disappearing into the grass. She had no need to stay on the path.

Rose, part 7

Chapter 3: Secret Garden

Dawn light the color of pearls lay in oblongs on the dark oiled floorboards, where it bled in through the multi-paned windows that the shaman had swept the drapes from.  I approached the massive windows and looked out: the mist had returned, tinted lavender and gold from the rising sun.  I lay my fingertips on the smooth glass; tendrils of fog clouded the glass where they made contact..  It was chilly, and made me aware of the warmth having returned to my fingers.  I felt bemused, a sort of a inner analogue to the mist outside, covering my memory. Vague shapes bulked out of the inner fog, with various angles of shadow and different muted hues, but they seemed to have very little context.

I saw a lithe, dark figure  outside walking across the grassland.  Even from this distance, I could tell she was looking for something.  Then, with a start, I recognized the characteristic lean of the shoulders and the way the figure had a light-weight scarf draped in a cowl around her head and neck.

“Gigi!”  Her name burst from me, as if she could hear me from up here, behind thick window glass.   I had a sudden piercing longing to speak to her.  It seemed ages since I’d seen her.

I looked wildly around me.  With the morning light streaming through the exposed windows, I saw much more of the room than I had before.  It was indeed an enormous space, with much stone and polished or oiled wood, more drapes, the now-familiar fireplace, chairs and table.  I saw the chaise, and a vague, stumbling memory of creeping fearfully in pitch darkness came.  It wasn’t at all as far as it had seemed from the comforter-draped chaise to the fireplace as it had seemed before.  Though the memory was gauzy-thin, it seemed that I had walked far more than just ten feet or so, my bare feet fumbling over cold stone, vibrant wood and exquisite rugs.

The thing that gave me pause, even through my frenzy to find Gigi, was the shelves and shelves of books that lined  each wall: serious, heavy cherrywood shelves held volume after volume, all shapes, sizes, colors and (I would assume) content.  It actually made me suck in my breath a little.  But then, I spied a door and trotted toward it.  I might have sprinted, but I gave up on sprinting years ago.

I paused at the threshold, peering into a long, gloomy hallway.  I felt a frigid fear rise in my chest and throat.  This place was safe.  The hall was obviously not.  Although light should have diffused into the hall from the undraped windows in the library, very little did.  Only a few feet beyond the threshold, in fact.  The rest was filled with almost substantial, blood-freezing black shadow.  Waiting.

I gripped the smooth stone of the door frame with one hand, and lifted my other to the still-warm sun disk around my neck.  I surrounded it with my fist.  My hand felt warm and dry, like tinder about to be set ablaze.  It buzzed and tingled.  I lifted it, and saw that my fist was glowing faintly scarlet, as if I held a smoldering ember.  I trembled, and then opened my hand wide, letting the medallion fall back to my breastbone with a thump that reverberated through my ribcage.

The sun disk blazed gold and scarlet, the light swinging, waxing and waning, flashing indecipherable messages into the hall, wavering and flickering on the deeply textured stone walls.  The shadow substance paled in its glare, taking on the hue of ashes, of twilight (the loneliest time of day), and  of drying mud.  My arm fell back to my side, and I walked out into the hallway, a human flashlight.  I turned right, which should, along with another right turn, take me to the expanse of grounds I’d seen from the library window.

The hall went on for a very long time, and I felt light, almost as if I were floating along.  Bit by bit, I left even the last limp, gray shreds of the shadow-substance behind.  From doorways which stood open along its length, shafts of daylight knifed in through the dusty gloom.  Motes of dust danced in the air where light touched them.  Sometimes, it seemed there were other, larger, slightly more colorful things flying around in those shafts of light, but I felt an urgency that made me unwilling to stop and take in the details.

Finally, I could see the end of the hallway; it dead-ended in a very bright, sunlit space.  Whether it was glassed in or open, I couldn’t yet tell. I was losing my breath, yet still I hurried to the end of the hall.

A marked change from the rest of the mansion– what I had seen of it, anyway– the gallery that the hall opened into was all long, gleaming strips of wood, rich red-brown in color, and massive sheets of glass. Thin, delicate, pearled silver and gold light flooded through the window. The wood ceiling of the gallery soared several stories above my head. I felt almost like a dandelion seed– light, dry, fluffy, floating on the mercy of any breeze. The space was clear, open, empty of all but air and light.

I ventured across the vast expanse of flagstones floor, to a window, and I was struck dumb when I saw the panorama of one entire side of the island– the gray pebbly lakeshore, a thin silver line of water, and closer in, long wide belts of thicket and grove, all green and silver and gray-brown. I saw gardens laid out, both formal and wild, and to my left, a massive gray stone like a small mountain, covered in snarled growth.

And then–!

I saw a tiny figure, black-coated and purple-scarfed, disappear into a gap in the trees. She appeared to be opening a gate and stepping through, but I was far away and I couldn’t see quite clearly. I looked hard at the scene for a moment, trying to fix in my memory the angle of the light, the direction of the shore, which particular dense mat of trees she’d disappeared into. I”d never be able to catch up with her.

My heart and my frame sank a little as I realized there was no way to follow her, to catch up with her. But I could go out there, out where she was, and try to track her down, or perhaps even run into her without my tracking paying off directly.

So this is what I decided to do.

The beautiful wooden gallery was up on a second or even third floor, so after poking around its periphery for quite some little time, I found a narrow, angled, dark stone stairway– doubtless a hidden back stairway and not the main one, which by rights should be very grand.

As I carefully navigated the shallow stairs, I noticed that I was no longer wearing my sandals. Instead, I was wearing knee-high, soft leather boots, almost like moccasins. They did not lace up like boots I was used to seeing, rather they were lashed about and around with a strong sash. The boots were ash-colored in the dim light of the stairway, the sash a rosy pink-purple. Strange. Yet even then, I did not continue to examine my new wardrobe, but cast it out of my mind and continued down the stairs.

Rose, Part 6

I picked up the bottle and worried the cork out of it.  No mean feat– it was really wedged in there.  The dog looked at me uncertainly, having finally fallen silent.  Once again, I assured her it was okay.  This time, I believed it, too.  I became sure I was in control of the situation, now.

I put the bottle down and lifted the jug.  The neck of the bottle was narrow, and this would require care.  I didn’t want to spill it.  Carefully, slowly, I poured the contents of the jug into the bottle.  Lumps floated in the cloudy gray-black ichor.  A fetid smell reached me as I poured, like rotted meat, and I heard the dog growl again. I didn’t dare take my attention from the thin stream for one second, to look at or reassure the dog.  I kept pouring, and finally, the last drops slid in, filling the bottle to capacity.  I hammered the cork in, twisting it.

A sigh of relief escaped me, and I felt my muscles loosen.  I wiped my face thoroughly with the sleeve of the white nightgown I was still wearing.  I felt slightly guilty wiping my sweat and tears and snot on the intricate crewel work of the sleeve, but I felt better having done it.  As I was staring at the bottle of cloudy liquid, contemplating what to do with it– it seemed dangerous just to leave it lying about, although for all I knew, this was as safe a place as any– when the clouds obscuring the sun moved away and light and heat blazed over me.  I felt a sudden surge of strength and confidence.

I picked the bottle up by the neck and hurled it into the valley as hard as I could.  It sailed through the air much further than I would have expected it to.  I did not hear it hit the ground, but when it disappeared into the valley, a huge, noisy flock of birds exploded up from the ground.

They took to the sky in a shifting, colorful cloud, singing and and squawking, the sun’s rays glinting on their iridescent feathers.  I watched motionless until they turned into distant black dots in the brilliant blue sky and then disappeared altogether.

I took a deep, inspired breath and stood up on the rock.  I could feel my feet rooted to its surface, and the energy of the earth surged up my legs, into my hips and up through my spine.  The sunlight was fierce on my face and shoulders.  I felt as strong as a mountain.  I do not know how long I stood there in the sun, only that it was a long time, and my mind was completely captivated by the light and the earth energy, and the active little rats of thought that usually scurried the corridors of my brain were still and peaceful.

When the light shifted and changed, and I smelled smoke and stone once again, my eyelids fluttered and opened.  I saw the fire blazing, and the little dog at my feet looked up, the tip of her tail wagging.  I smiled at her.

Then my throat caught, and I began to cough, long and hard, fighting for breath.  I clutched double handfuls of the soft, gray blanket, and the magic book fell to the floor with a thump.  A familiar old adversary, one that shook me as a terrier would a rat, this cough.  When it finally tapered off, my throat felt scoured and I gasped for breath.

Something felt different.  There was a heat in my chest like a tiny fierce sun, radiating heat and strength.  I raised my hands to my chest and felt something metal hanging around my neck.  I lifted it over my head.

I ran my fingertips over it wonderingly.  It was deeply incised; heavy, old gold.  A sun disk, from what ancient culture I couldn’t tell.  It didn’t even have to be one I knew about.  But, clearly a sun disk, and clearly extremely old.  It filled most of my palm, radiating heat still.  I folded my fingers over it, briefly, remembering the jug of ichor, the cloud of birds, the valleys unfurling below me, green.the fierce radiant sun burning through the obscuring clouds.  I remembered the surge of strength and confidence I felt standing on the rock.  They felt familiar, like old, forgotten friends that encountering surprises you pleasantly.

I stirred, and slowly pulled the pedant over my head once more.  The sun disk lay against my breastbone like an ember, and I lay back in the chair, just breathing.

Rose, part 5

I started to feel the heat of the fire intensely, then, baking on my forehead, cheeks, the backs of my hands.  I could no longer feel the book, and after a moment, I detected a change in the air.  The smell of woodsmoke, stone and dust was replaced with a warmer smell, one of fresh air and grass and dirt in the summer.  I was no longer freezing, and the breeze felt good on my face.

I opened my eyes in a completely different place.  I was outside, in the backyard of my childhood home, sitting on a flat, pitted black rock.  The rock had seemed huge to me as a child, and it seemed huge to me now.  I pressed my palms against it and felt heat radiate from its rough surface.  Just beyond my feet, I could see the grass, wild strawberries and buttercups growing around the rock.  Behind me was the peeling, blue-gray porch of the the house, but in front of me, instead of the rusty metal wire fence, garage and alley that should have been there, were rolling hills of long grass and scattered wildflowers, dipping and rising a gently undulating way down into a deep valley.  The tops of the hills met the sky in an intense, wavy line.  Trees on the hillsides made shushing noise as the faint wind shook them.  Fat cumulous clouds drifted.  Birds cheeped and warbled.

I smiled, looking around.  I had a strange feeling that there was something I was missing.  I had been dropped into a lovely outdoor scene, mixed up with an environment of my childhood contentment.  There was a message, though, and I was not getting it.  I became aware of getting warmer and warmer, although the the sun was behind a cloud and not beating directly on me.

The warmth was soothing, and I could feel the heat of the sun-warmed black rock radiating up through my palms.

Before the heat could become uncomfortable, I felt an intense cold against my right arm, and I turned to see what was there.  On the rock was spread a tiny plaid tablecloth– more like an oversize napkin– like my mother used to give me for picnics on the rock, when I was young.  Standing on it was a smooth pottery jug, painted rather than glazed, with vivid patterns of orange and green triangles and incised lines against the terra cotta background.  Frosty beads of condensation covered it.  There was something I most definitely did not like about this jug.  Also standing on the cloth was an old-fashioned, thick glass bottle, square-shaped and corked.

Against my better judgement, I gathered my weight and rose into a crouch, reaching out my hands for the jug.  I felt I was being compelled to do so, but perhaps it was just my unfortunate and pervasive curiosity.  I gasped when I put my hands on either side of the jug.  It was so cold that it seemed my hands froze right to it, the way skin and metal will fuse in the coldest of winters.  I peeked into the jug, thinking surely that whatever was in there was frozen solid.  But it was not.

The liquid inside was black and shiny as ink, moving in a little whirlpool of its own.  Vague oily rainbows shimmered across the surface.  But it was not pretty, not at all.  In fact, looking at it made me feel a little sick.  Sweat formed on my brow, the back of my neck.  I felt dizzy, nauseous.  I could not look away from the slowly rotating liquid or pull my hands from the sides of the jug.  I was caught, snagged by this repulsive black stuff.

And then the images began.

I watched the images on the surface of the liquid, but they surrounded me as well, so that I was no longer aware of the sunshine, the grass, the hills and valleys, the expansive sky.  I was completely stuck, rooted to the spot, unable to look away.  My terror grew, as well as great sorrow.

A flaming, smoking wrecked car.  Dogs fighting viciously, fangs flashing.  Financial ruin. Intruders.  Madness.  Death in myriad violent forms, both mine and people I loved– my husband, children, friends.  Great fires and storms of full of destruction.  Loss and filth and decay and despair. Scene after scene, and I watched, helpless.

My breath came ragged, sobs forcing them themselves out over top of one another.  I remained locked in this terror and sorrow for what seemed an eternity.  I could not struggle free, could not tear my gaze away from the terrible things unfurling in the jug.

And then, dimly, distantly, I heard a dog barking.  The barks became louder and louder, penetrating through the grip the images had on me.  It was a loud bark, a distressed and fierce bark, punctuated by snarls.  I realized the sound was coming from right beside me, and I felt something loosen and give way, until I was able to turn my head the slightest bit.  I saw the little three-legged dog beside me on the rock, her lips peeled back to expose an impressive set of fangs.  Slobber flew as she continued to bark furiously.  The fur on her neck and shoulders stood straight up.

She was barking at the jug, not at me.  Little by little, I was able to transfer my attention from the jug to the dog.  My hands slipped on the pottery, no longer stuck in place.  I could feel the sides warming, and trickles of condensation flowed over my knuckles.  The liquid inside the jug was no longer moving, no longer gleaming or rainbowed.  It had turned cloudy and thick, parts of it around the circumference beginning to coagulate.  It looked disgusting.  I set the jug down, finally.  I sat back on my heels and took a deep breath.  I felt like I’d just run a marathon, or wrestled with a monster.  My face was slick and sticky with tears and sweat.

“Easy,” I said to the dog.  “It’s ok.”  She glanced at me but then looked back at the jug where it sat.  Long, low growls still ripped from her throat, but her weight was settled onto her back legs again, and she was no longer on the attack.I knew what had to be done with the contents of the jug, then.  And I had to act fairly quickly, before the junk solidified inside it.  I did not want to be scraping that stuff out with my hands.  The thought of it made me gag.