Friday, August 24, 2012

On Ghosts

Many people who claim to see ghosts are usually dubbed weirdoes by non-believers. I have never visited a fortune teller (though I have had my tarot cards read), and I don’t follow my daily horoscope (though I do know all the signs of the zodiac). I have, however, always believed in the possibility of a spirit world. I am not so narrow-minded to believe that living beings are the only energy source in the universe. But until last night, I had never claimed to have seen a ghost.
First, a bit of back story:
In 2008, my cat, Pluto, died from a sudden onset of diabetes that ravaged his organs in one month’s time. He was only four years old. His sister, Isabel – a black-and-white like her brother but with longer hair and a whiter face – was left behind and eventually had to learn to tolerate a new sibling kitty. Although it took me a long time to get over losing Pluto (those of you who are owned by cats will understand perfectly), I’ve moved on.
Then came last night.
I was in the home office organizing things when I pulled out one of the computer chairs and discovered a shocking sight. There, lying beneath the desk was Pluto.
For what seemed a full second, we locked eyes; Pluto was that kind of cat who would look right into your soul. I saw his full form and remember hearing myself say aloud, “Oh!” as I thought, There you are. I was wondering where you’d gone. I distinctly remember seeing his short black hair and full black face.
But in that same frozen second in time, my brain processed reality and thought, But he’s dead. A well of tears filled my throat and I felt the pressure rise to my sinuses until the tears poured out my eyes.
I forced myself to blink, and then I saw Isabel. I saw her long hair and asymmetrical white mustache.
I backed up, disbelieving what I knew to be true; Pluto had been there. For one second last night, Pluto came to me. And then he was gone.
As I sat on the other computer chair and cried, Isabel came out from under the desk and tried to make nice to me, purring and begging to be petted. But I didn’t want to touch her. I wanted to figure out what had happened, what exactly I‘d seen, why my brain had played tricks on me. But I had no answers.
I can’t tell you that I suddenly believe I can see dead spirits, but I can tell you that what I saw last night was real. The image was vivid and the energy intense. So intense that it took me over half an hour to calm down. (Isabel, on the other hand, seemed undaunted at the notion of having momentarily been possessed by her brother.)
You may think I’m nuts, but I’m a writer…artists are supposed to be a bit insane, right? That kind of eccentricity is supposed to be charming, I hear. But I’m not sharing this story to be charming. I just feel it’s a story I need to get out.
Anyone else out there ever crossed paths with spirits? I, for one, will never say never when it comes to ghosts and the reality of what we cannot see.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On Touching (Or, Shouldn't you buy me dinner before polishing my nails?)

Yesterday, I let a strange man massage my hands and arms. Then I let him do the same to my feet.

Okay, so maybe this isn't so strange to those of you fortunate enough to afford manicures and pedicures, but this experience got me thinking...

It’s really rather personal. When we start a relationship, that first touch of the hands can be sensual and exciting as we feel the warmth of the other person’s pulse and the comfort of their grasp. The human connection is beautiful. But when physical intimacy is part of a business deal, all the rules change.
There I was at the Venetian Nail Salon, where a crew of nail technicians – both male and female – miraculously always manages to repair my nasty cuticles and make my hands look clean and professional looking. For that, I am grateful. But this particular day, as I sat there during the hand and arm massage portion of the manicure (and later the foot and leg massage), I realized how strange the moment was.
It wasn't my first manicure with this particular technician; in fact, I request him whenever he is available precisely because I like his massages. I wanted to tell him how good it felt; you know, offer positive feedback. But it felt wrong to say such words. I made sure not to breathe differently or sigh at all for fear of sounding turned on, which I wasn’t. I was simply relaxed and appreciating his amazing touch. But since he wasn’t a native English speaker and we, therefore, hadn’t had any conversation, I felt awkward. Our faces were no more than 24 inches apart, but our eyes worlds away from each other. No eye contact at all. He was professionally absent.
Yes, money changes everything. Not unlike prostitution, I imagine, the business arrangement turns intimacy into something technical and honesty into superficiality. Of course, if I hadn’t been paying for the service in the salon, I would have never let the nail tech massage my arms and legs in the first place. Still, the moment felt void of humanity, but I’m not sure what could have been done differently.

What do you think? Are you comfortable with such disconnected touching? Or are you relieved by it?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On Duende (Or, A dedication to what drives me)

If you are not a Spanish speaker, you probably don’t know what duende is. But if you are a writer or any other type of artist, you know it in your soul without even needing to have ever heard the word before. Simplified English translations will tell you duende is a magical elfin creature.

Spanish literature, however, describes duende as something beyond the comprehension of English limitations. It is as intangible as hope yet as necessary to artistic survival as air to our lungs. It is a potpourri of muse, magic, wonder, and fantastical creatures – that Je ne sais quoi or unnamed spirit or inspiration that moves people to great artistry and passion.
Duende is what I found during my time living in southern Spain and what settled itself so comfortably – curling up in a fetal position – deep within in my heart, helping to conceive my novels and continuing to feed the fire of my writing passion.
I give a thousand thanks, or mil gracias, to duende.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

On Vicarious Living

I always hear that vicarious living is no good for us. As parents, we should not try to live through our children and their accomplishments or adventures, which begs the question: Is bragging about your children and posting impressive photos of them vicarious living?

(Couldn’t resist.)
And the bigger question: As writers, are we vicariously living through our characters?
I believe we are, in a manner of speaking, and if that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.
I’ve now published five novels, all of which are focused on expatriate characters living overseas adventures full of romance and drama. I don’t have to be directly reminded (though I have been many times through unsolicited feedback) that I am living vicariously through these characters. But if I didn’t, what would my muse do? Sit around and torture me with grand ideas…that’s what.
So I follow my heart and listen to my soul’s voice as I write and write. So far, I’ve received very positive results and lots of wonderful reviews from readers who seem grateful for my passion. My day-to-day life holds its own wonders, but it is my writer’s life that offers a unique sense of fulfillment. For that, I say to all my writer friends out there, “Go on! Live vicariously. It is your art that feeds your soul. Eat it up!”

Monday, August 6, 2012

On Reconnections (Or, Where did everybody go?)

I've been gone for a while. Yeah, I know. This means I'm probably writing to the air now since nobody knows to pay attention to me. I had it coming; I understand that.

But tonight I reconnected with a blog friend and we had the most wonderful phone chat. I've never met Kathryn, but we'd always had a connection. Our chat motivated me to pop back in and read some of my favorite blogs, but much to my dismay, many of them are weeks or even months old.

I'm so happy!

Don't get me wrong; I love these writers and was looking forward to seeing what was new and humorous. But finding out that they're just as human as I am was deeply comforting. I also felt, strangely enough, MORE connected to them. There was a time back in 2010-2011 when we were all over each other's comments page, awarding each other with silly honors, and offering not-so-silly companionship in the blogosphere. Now, it seems many of my blog friends have, like me, gotten caught up in life. I don't begrudge them. It's as if we all shared a special moment in time together, but like all great things, it has come to an end. Or at least a pause. 

I will check back soon with the hopes that I'll find my old "friends". But in the meantime, I will think about them all and wish them well in their non-virtual lives, knowing we will always be connected.