Sarabande bled on the leading edge of the Angel Wing while the moon was dark. The grey-green rock at the summit accepted her flow without complaint. Yesterday, Gem said sky wasn’t a fit place of renewal: dark woods and tents served best for bleeding. “Tccch,” she said without finesse, “why expose yourself on that strange spur of rock at the high end of the valley? You’ll catch a cold sitting on unforgiving stone above that cold glacier.”
My muse, who is named Siobhan, is a Huna practitioner from Hawai’i. She’s almost a real person, perhaps more real than I am. She’s appeared in several of my books. So it is that in her opinion when she dares me to write a novel, I more or less have no choice. (Never cross a Kāhuna sorcerer.)
The problem: Sarabande is the novel’s protagonist and the story is told from her point of view. She first appeared in The Sun Singer which was told from protagonist Robert Adams’ point of view. That’s normal: a male writer writing a novel from a man’s perspective. Writing from a woman’s point of view is tricky for a man, especially when that woman is attacked and abused–more than once.
Sarabande lives in the universe next door where The Sun Singer is set. Robert Adams saved her life there. Now that she’s having trouble with a magical ghost, she comes to our world in search of Robert because she believes he’s the only person who can help her. Finding him proves to be more dangerous than she suspected. Ultimately, Robert agrees to return with Sarabande to her alternate universe where they find the challenges are almost beyond his ability to circumvent.
Finding Sarabande’s soul and her voice were difficult. I read a great number of “women’s journey” books before I was ready to write. Perhaps Siobhan served as a guide because it seemed more often than not that I was writing on instinct. So the best compliment I received after the book was published came from a female reviewer who said that she had to keep reminding herself that the book was written by a man.
This is, perhaps, my favorite novel, though saying so is about like looking at your children and saying “I like that one best.”
Years ago during one of the new age tidal waves of enthusiasm for all things psychic, spiritual and otherworldly, I took a course in one of the disciplines of the day that promised to show me how to improve my psychic powers. The course did what it said it would do.
While the course followed a set lesson plan everywhere in the country where it was taught, those of us in Bob’s course probably saw many phenomena and discussed many ideas that weren’t on the agenda elsewhere. Quite simply, the reason was Bob and his enthusiasm for everything that might tangentially be related to the course’s core ideas.
Bob had the kind of vision that would have made a university’s doctoral dissertation committee proud, for he was forever “surveying” the literature and finding new associations to ideas most people would have lost track of in the more obscure footnotes. The downside, however, was that if he were writing a new age doctoral dissertation, he would never finish it because the data about practices, techniques, theories and methods was, of course, open ended and could never be compiled into a definitive research paper.
Keys to Everything
During late-night, after class discussions, Bob was forever saying “if we can just find the key, we will finally know how everything in the psychic world works.” This was, of course, what we wanted to hear. But, once again, there was a downside to this approach because it meant that every time Bob came across an ancient (yet newly discover) system/book/method, THAT was suddenly the key to the world–in his view. We went through phases on new keys and newer keys. Certain principles of Yoga became a key, followed by an in-depth study of Huna mysticism, and then some of the deep secrets being channeled by discarnate entities.
Bob’s enthusiasm led us to discover many new ideas (new to us, though often very ancient) and to consider that there are many approaches to new age techniques that, in fact, are more related to each other in substance than might initially be obvious. People talk about the same things with different words and/or enhance what they’re doing with rituals that make the object of their work appear alien when, in fact, it’s similar to something one already knows.
I don’t know if Bob ever found his master key because those of us who were the mainstay members in his courses moved away over time and lost track of each other. In some ways, Bob couldn’t stick with each new thing long enough to totally understand it or to see if it could be totally integrated into the techniques we were already practicing. Sadly, many of us started to become a little jaded about some of the new ideas Bob brought into the classroom because we knew it was a matter of time before they were proclaimed as the new key.
But what about last week’s key and the key from the week before that?
My thoughts in those days–and since–have probably traveled down many roads I never would have seen had it not been for Bob and his preoccupation with keys and the idea that something miraculous was always just around the corner. Then, as now, I believed that we create our own reality and that whatever we perceive as keys and miracles are our own creation. Bob didn’t believe that and we had many debates about whether or not he was creating clues (without consciously knowing it) and throwing them out onto the road ahead for him to find later.
While we never came to a common ground on this subject, I’ve carried his scatter-shot enthusiasm with me for forty years because it keeps me young, open minded, and willing to look at alternative ideas. Perhaps we all need a Bob in our lives who can’t stick with anything long enough to fully know it but who serves as a catalysts for the rest of us.
Thanks for the ideas, Bob, and for showing me so many real or imagined doorways.
“Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey” is the story of a man’s spiritual journey through the mountains of Pakistan, the swamps of North Florida, the beaches of Hawaii, the waters of the South China Sea and the ivy-covered halls of an Illinois college as he attempts to sort out the shattered puzzle of his life.
In this excerpt, David Ward’s significant other, a woman well-practiced in the old Huna magic of Hawai’i, is ready to discuss the clues, if any, she found in his journals about who has been trying to kill him.
David sits on a fence post, a comfortable, familiar spot, and looks across the creek to the house. The creek is the same; the house has shrunk with time. Too perfectly symmetrical when it was new, the structure’s roofline, doors and walls have aged randomly and grown more natural into the place.
Complacent while Siobhan keeps the Komondor puppy inside, the remaining Dominique chickens peck at the hard path between the kitchen door and the clothes line. The path turns west into a gravel road that leads to an old house lying down in weeds and ruin where his grandparents lived until one became too frail and the other became too psychotic to be left alone, where they said that his mother was born on a cold January night in 1914, where lies and truths were sown and bore hybrid fruit.
Along the road between the houses, grey sheds linked by fences lean into the earth. Dry and empty, like old nooks and crannies and secret places, they were always the first full focus of spring–humid and rich as sea fog, dripping with the juices of birth and new life. Jayee’s timing was as precise as nature allowed. Today he would be moving the last of the lambs from the jugs to the bunch pen if he was on schedule, or the first of them if nature wasn’t.
From this vantage point, David sees the pros and cons of dreams; he views his visions from the other side, and—remembering everything that has happened between then and now and then and now and then and now—must decide how much of history is too broke to fix. Siobhan refuses to tell him who tried to kill him and why because he’s not ready to hear it, much less re-live it; Sikimí will take them back to the scene of the crime soon enough.
She steps out the back door carrying old notebooks, an envelope labeled remnants, and grandmother’s blue-on-white eight-pointed star quilt. The door slams, stirring memories. She smiles and her pony tail dances when she nods at the circle of box elders where she heads at a brisk walk.
In her khaki cargo shorts and light blue sleeveless crew shirt, she radiates a well-toned athletic health that sings of perfectly managed energy conceived in Aries fire and transformed into infinite zest down through her well-developed shoulders and sun-browned legs. Siobhan is Wind’s daughter. Grandmother would love her for that alone. It’s a matter of breath control, he thinks. When Siobhan is open to the world, she inhales those she meets into her presence, pulling them in with her smoky eyes and the fluid caresses of her hands. At such times, she drags out the first syllable of her name in a shhhhhhhhhh of light breezes. David heard that endearing shhhhhhhhhh when she ran into him like a pro-football lineman on the day they met. When Siobhan is closed to the world, she exhales those she meets outward beyond the reach of her hands. At such times, when there is no still escape from her eyes, she clips off the first syllable of her name into a harsh shh that shushes even the most determined people into quiet.
She flips the quilt out into an even rectangle and sits in the centre of it surrounded by Blue Horses and Silver Bears, knowing Katoya stood on that very spot in the tall bluebunch wheatgrass 33 years ago and told him the secret of the universe before they watched the stars rise into the sky. When he stops at the northern boundary of the eight-pointed starry night lying across the grass, Siobhan looks up from an open composition book as though she’s surprised, but pleased, to see him there.
–I’ve finished reading almost all your journals.
As he takes off his boots, he’s enveloped by the scent of her lavender bath soap. He shrugs. What is there to say? He feels naked in spite of her smile which is so unwaveringly natural it seems to be borne up out of the grass.
–You know almost everything, then, and you’re free to run for the hills, he says.
Siobhan frowns and looks at him with her eyebrows raised about as high as she can get them. She waves an older Blue Horse in his face.
–Talk like that chased Anne Hill away, didn’t it?
–It seemed a logical thing to say at the time.
–How logical does it seem now? she asks.
He sits next to her and studies her face while she watches the noisy water of the creek bunching up at the base of the limestone bedrock.
–Hell, I was looking for reassurance.
She turned toward him now and her breath was warm and sweet on his face.
–No need and you know it, she says and kisses him. When he starts to speak, to say some inane self-deprecating thing, she kisses him again. Shhhhhhhhhh, she whispers, Anne is Anne, Siobhan is Siobhan, and you and I are the yin and the yang fitting precisely together.
She hugs him, wrapping him snugly in lavender.
–I see what you mean, he tells her. This hug could easily lead to more, much more, but I think you have things to say.