The Fox and the Apple Tree

August 24, 2016 § Leave a comment

Written because Jess asked me for a story about a fox and an apple tree that won’t bloom.

Once there was an apple tree on a grassy hill, and as far as the eye could see were waves and waves of long golden grass like a great windblown sea, dotted occasionally with graygreen sagebrush. And this was great for hunting rabbits or prairie dogs or mice or pheasant, so it was paradise to the fox with the greygold coat who arrived on black stockinged paws to the wide sky-crowned plains.

The fox crept through the grass, ate well on too slow mice and an occasional vole and sometimes a rabbit or hare. And as the season wore on and the plains turned to all shades of ochre, the fox knew it needed a home to hide and stay in before the winter snows arrived. So the fox found a hill with the only tree visible as far as the eye can see, a gnarled apple tree with low crooked branches as is often the way of apple trees.

The fox thought, “ah! This is perfect! Apples will draw all kinds of tasty creatures, and sometimes I like a bite of fruit too. The tree will shelter me from the storms and the roots will support my den and protect it from caving in.”

So the fox began digging and digging and digging with its sharp clever paws and pointed black tipped snout rooting around in the earth.

But the tree was already asleep although its leaves had only just begun to flame with autumn colors. So the crooked apple tree simply dreamt a quiet dream of scratching fox paws and a wet cool nose against its roots, of soft fur and a hollow place where solid earth used to be, of cradling rather than being cradled as it was used to. The tree’s fading crisping leaves whispered with its sigh, though no one would be able to say if it was the kind of sigh that comes with furrowed brows and discomfort or concern, or if it was the kind of sigh that comes with a settling into comfort and satisfaction.

Winter came with its cold winds and blowing snow. The fox huddled in its cozy new den lined with fur and sage and prairie grass, cradled by loam and apple roots. The fox hunted across the fresh snow blanket, listening with pricked ears and tilted head for the quiet scratching sounds of mice tunneling beneath the white, pouncing with its tail streaming behind like the streaks of golden sun at the gray stormy dusk.

Spring dawned slowly, the sun thawing the ground into slick mud and soft loam. The prairie awakened into pale green grasses tipped with white so that the wind rippling the plains looked even more like a foaming sea. The crooked apple tree stretched to the crisp blur of the sky and yawned its creaking-branch yawn and sprouted tight-curled green shoots of leaves and new twigs growing slow.

And the fox leapt about with pent up energy. Soon there would be treasures of pheasant eggs and barely-furred rabbit kits if only its clever nose could sniff them out. The fox had grown lean of body but lush of coat in the winter cold and now it was time to eat eat eat until it regained muscle and fat and glossiness. Spring! Spring! Spring!

“Oh,” groaned the tree in sluggish waking startlement. “Oh who are you who has dug a hollow beneath my rootbones where solid earth once supported me? Who are you who yips and scratches and snores against my hidden skin?”

The fox paused, because it had never been talked to by a tree before. The trees of the wood it came from were busy talking leafy gossip to one another, or the aspens who lived as one connected root system and sang deep harmonies among their roots and melodies in their tinkling gold-coin leaves.

“I am Fox,” it said, “sharp of ear and quick of paw, pouncer and leaper in the snow and grass.”

“Leaping Fox,” creaked the apple tree, “why do you disturb my roots?”

“I needed a home and you are the only tree as far as my sharp eyes can see. Trees are excellent for burrow dens. And the birds and rabbits and mice will come eat your apples, and maybe I will too, and it will be excellent easy hunting.”

The tree shuddered against the sudden stillness of the air. “Pouncing Fox,” it said, “do you see any sprouts from appleseed children, or nest-remains in my branches? I do not flower and therefore I do not fruit. I am barren and if you stay here you will be barren too. Nothing feeds or shelters with me. None disturb my dark places, except apparently sharp-nosed foxes.”

The fox thought about this. “Still,” it said, “the grasses are rich in meat and only the coyotes and sky-hunters compete with me for it. You are the only tree around and you are excellent shelter. I suppose the lack of apples isn’t too terrible.”

“No, Quick of Paw,” said the tree. “I do not want hollows in my roots or chatter on my hill. Go somewhere else.”

“But I have made my home here already, and you are alone. I am good company, I sing well and have soft fur and bright amber eyes.”

“A tree is no company for a fox,” groaned the tree, “and there are no other foxes here. You will become lonely and leave, for I am a crooked barren apple tree who bears no apples.”

The fox was confused and also annoyed at this point. That den took a lot of work to dig and this place was an excellent spot. Also the tree was talking nonsense. “You are still a perfectly good tree, smelling of apples in your wood, providing storm shelter with your trunk and gnarled limbs, and your roots are very strong and deep. Besides, if I get lonely I can find another fox and bring them here and then the hill will be merry with singing and there will be playful kits and we will dance beneath the stars and your branches.”

The tree shook and protested a third time. “A fox is no company for a tree, and there are no other trees here. You cannot break my loneliness with your dancing and red yowling, only disturb my rest and remind me that I am alone. Then my heartwood will break and my roots will rot and you will be disappointed or harmed or devoid of shelter.”

The fox circled around the tree and circled around its own tail. It looked up at the crescent moon and down at the greening grass. It listened to the creaking branches and sniffed at the messages the wind brought. It thought very hard, which foxes are not good at doing because they are impulsive creatures of feeling and action and in-the-moment cleverness, not of planning and contemplating. That sort of thing is more for wolves and grasscats, you see, who are rather less successful than foxes overall.

“You want me to leave,” the fox said slowly, ears laying back. “You want to be left alone. You do not like fox songs and moon dances and soft fur in your roots. You would rather the distant chime of stars and whisper of grass and nothing warmer or closer, and certainly nothing nestled into your roots.”

The tree was silent for a long long time, until the fox began to think it had imagined the tree ever talking at all; after all, trees normally only talk to other trees, and sometimes to birds and worms and bees. And the occasional ivy or fungus, to scold it.

“I… might like fox songs and moon dances, eventually. I might like soft fur in my roots. I would not like an empty hollow that you dug so inconsiderately; I went to sleep with solid earth beneath me and awoke with a hole filled with a fox. If you leave or die, it will be an empty hole and I can’t move to fill it in. There is little else that lives on the hill to replace a soft furred fox, and an empty hole in my roots is a terrible gaping weakness.”

“Ah,” said the fox, beginning to understand. “I see. Foxes live ever so less long than trees who live for many lifetimes, and sometimes we are impulsive and follow the moonsong to new places and different homes. And you are a tree who cannot follow wind or moon.”

“And I do not flower nor do I bear fruit. I am visited by neither bee nor butterfly to bring me whispers from other trees beyond the sight of the hill. Nothing would come to replace a fox who reminds me how alone I am by tricking me into conversation and companionship.”

The fox thought a while longer (and remember that this is very hard for foxes). It really liked its den on the hill in the rich greengold plains with a single tree for shelter and shade. It rather liked the lonely gnarled apple tree, even if it didn’t bear fruit or flower, and really that was a blessing for a fox den as fewer prey nests meant fewer bigger predators and less to eat the kits.

“I will travel to find a fox friend who will dance the leaping fox dance with me and sing the song of stars and amber moon. I will return and we will make sure the hollow beneath your roots will always be full of warm soft fur. Sometimes there will be no kits and we will both be hunting and the hollow will be empty for a time but then we will return and fill it again. And you will shelter us with strong crooked branches and deep holding roots.”

So the tree agreed, and the fox went away under a path of silver moonlight and windswept grasses until it was swallowed up by the prairie sea and the rolling distance. And as the tree waited, it was keenly aware of the hollow in its roots where once cold solid earth had been. And it missed the warm fullness of soft graygold fur and a sharp black nose. It felt lonelier than it ever had before because now it knew the emptiness of dark earth and a claw-carved hollow that once held a fox. And the tree became sad and scared and angry all at once. It never asked for an amber eyed Leaper to dig out a place in its deep solid roots. It is a barren apple tree who not even the bees visit and it had lived just fine like that for many years. What right had the fox?

But it missed the fox, and its branches creaked angrily about that too even as its leaves rustled with sadness. It never got to see the moondance or hear the yipping fox song. And the cold constancy of star chimes and grass whistle was not the same comfort anymore.

What if the fox never returned and never meant to return? What if the fox didn’t find a foxfriend to bring home, or the other fox convinced Sharp Ears to stay with them? What if another apple tree flowered and bore bright sweet red fruit and made a more appealing den?

The tree was alone and the loneliness was far more unbearable than before.

Or what if the fox died a short sharp fox death out in the wide world beyond the sight of the hill? There are grasscats and hunting hounds and wolves out there after all, and foxes are impulsive things.

What if the fox forgot the tree?

What if, what if.

The summer heat unfurled the tree’s leaves and singed their edges, because there was no company of trees to share shelter. The summer sun turned the greenwhite grass to amber like the fox’s bright eyes, and still no fox arrived.

A family of rabbits moved into the hollow, and their fearful pitterpat hearts and stamping feet were a different company than the fox. But at least the hollow had warmth and fur, even if the rabbits gnawed with their sharp hard teeth on the tree’s deep roots, and licked the sap that bled, and let the insects burrow into the wound.

Maybe there are many hills with a single barren tree atop them, aching with the hollow in its roots.

On one hill, the rabbit warren grows and grows and they dig a hundred hollows beneath the roots and chew the taproot for its bark and sap and the tree has no more nutrients to reach and cannot support such hollows though it tries, for at least the furry bodies are warm and fill the hollows they dig… but there is not enough solid earth and it collapses as its heartwood rots.

Or a small child comes with snares, or a coyote pack with hunting jaws.

On one hill the rabbits are killed and eaten, or they move on when they realize the tree will not give them apples to munch on, and the hollow remains but bigger and with some wounded roots, and the tree heals, and someday the hollow collapses and the tree is rooted enough to withstand it, and the fox never returns.

One hill’s fox is eaten, and one hill’s fox is tempted away. One hill’s fox is trapped, and another loses its way.

But on this hill, the hill of our story, our gnarled apple tree waits and bears the pain of rabbit warmth until one day, as summer gold cools into fall ochres, there is a flash of red fur and a flash of grey gold amidst the sagebrush and plains grass.

There is a Pouncing and a Leaping. There are rabbit screams and blood on the hill. There is contented munching and black stockinged paws scratching to reassert the den to its proper foxy hollow.

And there are generations of foxes forevermore to fill the hollow with warm fur and pointed black noses. And the tree is never alone for very long again.

Heat and Dryness, Cold and Moisture

July 12, 2013 § 2 Comments

I noticed two major things upon moving to Denver from Cleveland.

First: the altitude. Denver is called the Mile High City for a reason, while Cleveland is at sea level. The unacclimated visitor (or new resident) finds their breath going short and harsh with even such minimal exertion as walking up a flight of stairs. The air is thinner here, and even just a mile’s difference leads to unexpected complications. Water boils at a lower temperature. Yeast works oddly, such that baking bread is an experiment in frustration even with high-altitude flour (yes, it exists). Go high enough into the mountains and you can’t even cook rice properly – the liquid boils off at too low of a temperature, requiring a closed system. Even down at Denver’s altitude, rice can be tricky.

Over time, though, you acclimate to the altitude. It’s fun going back to Ohio each year. The air tastes thick and rich at sea level (last visit I was sick with it, dizzy and lightheaded, drunk on oxygen for the first two days), and you feel like you can run for hours and never tire. Nowadays I only notice the altitude when I go up into the mountains – 8000 feet, 9000 feet, and that’s just the foothills, not even proper snow-capped fourteeners. Denver’s height no longer affects me.

The second thing is the dryness. I don’t think you ever fully adapt to it. Lip balm, a water bottle, and hand lotion are utter necessities, as this is (essentially) a desert. Winter is the worst. I can go without hand lotion sometimes in summer, but in winter my knuckles turn red and cracked and chapped, requiring frequent hydration. It’s easy to keep to the recommended eight-cups-a-day of water here, necessary even; if I get less than three large water bottles of H2O each day, I feel dehydrated. I have oily skin, but since moving to Denver I’ve had to use facial moisturizer daily, at least in the winter.

You become keenly aware of fire and water. I never thought much about water before moving to Denver, never really took notice of its presence or use; northeast Ohio is rich in it, thanks to Lake Erie, the broad deep rivers, constantly cloudy skies with regular rainfall and snowfall. Here, though, water is rare and precious. There are lawyers who make their careers specializing in water rights. In particularly dry years, some counties set water use restrictions. Others simply set costly fees if you use more than a certain amount of water in a period.

We don’t quite have the four seasons of a classic temperate climate here. Spring is short, desperate, and late; fall is crisp and beautiful but equally short-lived. Winter is regularly broken with days or weeks of sun and warmth; summer is unpredictable and storm-ridden but with little rain. The growing season doesn’t last long enough to support much agriculture even if the soil and moisture levels allowed for it, which they don’t; livestock is far more viable here, cattle roaming the prairie like a more domestic echo of the once-great buffalo herds.

It’s easier to think of the Front Range’s seasons as “dry” and “wet”. Our wet season is January through April; we get an occasional snowfall before that, brief and pleasant, but the real snow – all the blizzards – are in January, February, March, and sometimes April. The bulk of our water comes from snow. It’s most valuable in the mountains, renewing the streams that flow to the thirsty urban valley. March sees some rain. April sees a little more. In June the storms come like clockwork, summer squalls sweeping down the mountains each evening across Denver for a brief downpour before sailing off across the high plains.

Then – it’s dry. Dry and windblown, which is worse. June, July, August, September: this is fire season, though it seems to begin earlier with each passing year. This year has been abnormally dry. March is usually the snowiest of all, but this year it’s the driest on record – and the fires began yesterday, fueled by hurricane-force winds. 100+ acres in Jefferson County, south and west of central Denver, turning the skies gray and brown until you could smell the smoke even in Denver proper. The fires aren’t improved by a beetle epidemic in the foothills, killing the pines and reducing them to tinder; it’s not gotten cold enough in years to kill them off like it once did on a regular basis. Climate change in devastating action.

In the dry season, fire bans are posted everywhere. There’s a joke that if you kill someone, all you have to do to get pardoned is put a gas can in their hand. It’s a black sort of humor because it’s not far from the truth – we take fire very seriously around here. It was a surreal experience to visit the Midwest again and see a towering bonfire in the middle of a grassy field, practice for local firefighters. My heart made it into my throat before I remembered how much wetter the ground was out east.

There are actually several upshots to the dryness, though. Heat is more bearable without the thickness of humidity. The temperature drops the moment the sun sinks behind the mountains, and a shaded spot is noticably cooler than a sunny one, with no moisture to trap and distribute heat. The arid climate leads to fascinating adaptations in the flora, creating a land defined by textures: cacti, sage, juniper, a waving sea of prairie grasses. It means sunlight, too, more days with sun than most of the country; seasonal affective disorder is so much more muted and bearable here than in wet, cloudy Cleveland. Lack of moisture means deep blue skies, vibrant and unobscured by clouds; it means spectacularly starry nights, especially in the foothills and mountains – you can even see the Milky Way with startling clarity when you’re 8000 feet up. The dust and dryness and altitude make for fantastic sunsets against the silhouette of the Rocky Mountains.

It’s not just grandeur and splendour – there are little mundane advantages too. Hair dries at an astonishing rate. With my short, fine hair, I never use a blow dryer anymore. Mildew and mold are rarely concerns. Towels and clothing dry within an hour or two. Mosquitoes are short-lived and sparse.

This is not a gentle land. It’s not fertile or hospitable. In the eastern parts of the States, the land feels tame, domesticated, fully turned to agriculture and small sleepy towns by generations of grooming. Here in Colorado’s Front Range, though, even the urban places don’t feel tame. The city has shallow roots, and the arid wild creeps in at the edges and through the cracks. We bow to the land’s demands in order to survive, rather than gentling it to our desires; there are too few resources for domestication to be a viable option. Fire reminds us when we overreach, and drought.

It is not a gentle land. It is rugged, sometimes brutal, and starkly beautiful in its own way. It’s an amazing place to live if you are willing and able to adapt to its nature – for the land here will not adapt to yours.

Loving a Wild Thing

May 30, 2013 § 1 Comment

If you fall in love with a wild thing, do not profess your affection with noise and flashy colors. She will startle and flee in an instant.

You must be patient and gentle. Do not lay traps; you may capture her presence, but  possession is not love, and you will not truly hold her heart or spirit. Snares, collars, and cages only distress and injure.

Patience and stillness, consistency and awareness. If you approach, she will back away. If you leave, she is unlikely to follow. Instead, sit in the meadow and meditate in silence, or speak softly of the stories you know, or sing your heart’s song.

Entice. Be interesting, yet not too threatening. If a wild thing’s curiosity grows more insistent than her caution, she will approach. Pretend not to notice, and she may gain confidence and circle closer, until you feel a soft scenting breath on your neck.

She may draw near and dart away at the last minute. Yet if you are patient and intriguing, she will come by again and again, lingering longer each time.

Then, perhaps, she will love you too. Yet she is still a wild thing, and her trust is as wary as her heart. Strike her, yell, or run away, and you will have to start over from the beginning, but it will be harder and slower for your betrayal.

There are other ways to court a wild thing, of course. They (we) aren’t all alike, after all. It is this:

Become a wild thing yourself.

Perhaps you are half wild already. Yet we all have wildness within us, hidden in the marrow of our bones and in the deepest shadows of our psyches. There is primality in the hindparts of our brains, in the reactivity of the limbic system. Even the most domestic of dogs remembers the wolf lying deep within the spiral dance of his genes.

If you fear and deny your own wildness, how can you accept and love the wildness in another without seeking to capture it and break it and tame it?

Touch the primal place within. Greet your wildness with savage joy. Become feral, and meet the wild thing you love as an equal. Meet as two feral hearts at the edge of a tame land, kindred spirits in the timeless dance of challenge and chase, hunt and quarry, courtship with claws and teeth.

Love your own wildness, and the wild things might draw near to court you.

A Way to Live

May 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

When I am old, I wish to say
in truthfulness and peace:
“I have lived a life of love.”

Let me live in such a way
that I can say:

I have lived with strength and passion,
fully with compassion,
connection and awareness.

I have sat with pain and loss,
the poignant pang of the world;
a container for myself,
a container for others’ truths,
to hear
to touch
to see.

I have danced joy and magic
to the songs of all humanity
and beyond.

I have loved
and loved myself as well as others.

Let me say
I have not slept through life
or wasted my days on work I loathe.
I have spent my hours on that which feeds my soul,
which nourishes,
which fulfills.

I have tasted the fullness of my meals
and truly experienced each day
however mundane,
finding the remarkable in the ordinary.

I have truly lived,
and noticed life around me,
felt the kiss of sky
and sun, and starlight
on my skin.

I have lived a story worth telling,
mythical and beautiful,
richly textured.

Let me live in this way,
that I may say at the end of my days,
“Yes, oh yes,
I have lived.

Seeking Beauty

May 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

You cannot wait, passively, for beauty to find you, if you wish to live with beauty daily.

Oh, sure, the climactic splendorous lovelies will find you in your passivity, and may do so in such a bright and brilliant way that even the most complacent can’t miss it: the most panoramic of sunsets like Midas touching the sky, or snow-capped mountains majestic and proud, or… Well, perhaps not. I’ve seen people ignorant of even breath-stealing sights like that, visions I’d thought impossible to miss, yet it’s easy to sit and curse the rush-hour traffic or endure tunnel-vision of getting from point A to point B.

You have to be aware of beauty, and open to it. Notice your surroundings: see, smell, taste, hear, touch. Engage. Feel. There are sights so classically lovely that they’re easy to spot, but it takes a closer look to find the little things.

There. A spot of green in the sidewalk crack, beaded with dew.

Or there. The crinkle at the corners of a smiling woman’s eyes.

Even there: the reflection of blue sky and scudding white clouds in the gleaming mirror-glass tower of a downtown building.

I am lucky to live in a place of great beauty. Denver is a lively, fascinating city full of art and a diversity of humanity, nestled at the meeting-place between mountain range and plains. I see mountains on my daily commute home, not far in the distance, a skyline that changes with the light. The high plains greet me as I leave my workplace, just past the parking lot, all rushing wind and gold-green ocean of prairie grass. Always, there is the sky: we’re closer here, higher up, less atmosphere to fog it up with gray, and the ever-present wind moves the clouds swiftly along to keep it clear, sunny, achingly blue until the sun sets behind mountains and dust. We have the most incredible skyscapes.

But there are people who say Colorado is only browns, unappealing, unlovely. Yet the brown bit, that desolate lonely beauty of autumn prairie and cactus canyons, is the part I love best.

You have to look from many angles.

There’s a serpentine part of me, fanged and hungry, that finds a scintillating pang of beauty in the tart coppery keen of human pain. There’s a fiery feathered part of me that finds equal loveliness in the constant struggle to be free, the transformation of the self, the soul’s tenacious fight to change and heal and live and grow… in our capacity for adaptation. I have been awestruck by the rare moments of illumination in a treatment center, those points of realization or breakthrough or fragile gifts of trust despite everything – made all the more precious by the grime and darkness and trials these moments grow in.

There is beauty in the things that frighten, in the things that safeguard, in things that hurt or heal or cry or sing. The entire range of emotion, experience, existence. The large things. The small things. The long-lasting things, the fleeting things; the ancient things, the brand new things. The bits in the cracks, refusing to quite fall through into obscurity. The cracked things. The cracks themselves, and the caulk that seams them.

Finding beauty is like finding myth, or magic, or the divine – though perhaps these are all the same things with different names. You have to see, and seek, and notice. You have to be open to it.

I am always happier when I remember to live in that open seeking mind-space.

Adolescence

May 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

there is a place in time –
your time, the ribbon of your life –
when it goes multicolored and chaotic
shifting, spinning,
fraying and remaking.

it’s terrible and beautiful,
full of wonder and full of fear,
but most of all,
full of potential.

do not believe them when adults say:
“these are the best years of your life.”
their memories are blurred with nostalgia,
colored by what they see in you:
your passion
your struggle to be free
your struggle to be you.

i remember hating that idea,
that this was as good as it gets –
high school, adolescence,
the shifting currents of identity
of social circles
of mood and thought and belief
the fight to rip loose of
parental bindings and
parental expectations and
the me that others wanted me to be –
because it’s awful.

it’s stress and chaos and pain,
the push-pull of
accept-me but let-me-be
let-me-grow, let-me-become
release me to breathe
but not too much,
needing support and stability more than ever
because nothing is stable inside…

later, not too many years later,
i found my adolescence laid out in bullet points
in the pages of a textbook.

It is not so bad a thing, this shared experience.
It means this: You are not alone.
You do not suffer singly
unless you wall yourself away
and shut yourself inside.

This is real:
your loves and hates, your feuds and friendships,
your hurts and your triumphs.

They’ll try to belittle that, too –
try to say “it’s just a phase,
you’re just a teenager,
you’ll grow out of this or that,
it’s just teenage hormones,
puppy love,
adolescent drama
” –

Don’t listen to them.

This is real.
You are real.
Everything ends,
even this,
but that doesn’t mean it’s worthless
or should be dismissed.

Listen, listen:
you are incredible,
you are iridescence barely contained
and so few of you realize it.

Be angry!
It gives you strength
and often it’s well-deserved.

Be passionate!
You are more powerful than you know
and it’s this tumult of emotion and desire
that fuels your might
and sparks your wonder.

It stabilizes, eventually;
the chaos settles out,
you find a balance
and if you’re very lucky
it’s the one you need.

But first there is the transformation
you are all shapeshifters, half-formed.
This is when you form yourself,
this is when you shape your identity,
this is when you separate, thread by thread,
from the hard-carved grooves of upbringing.

Not everyone makes it.
So many remain trapped
in the patterns of their surroundings –
i’ve seen it, again and again,
where the wounds are cut too deep, too often,
roots bound too tight in shallow earth
to ever expand,
despite the raging
despite the fighting
to be free
to move
to live.

It can take a lifetime
even for the kindest of histories,
but now is when it starts.

Surrounded by Wonder

May 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

My life is full of magic, and too often I forget to notice.

This weekend I drove into the mountains, greeted fellow dreamers, and dressed myself in soft shining coppers and blues, something out of medieval fantasy. Horns on my head, long ears extending from mine; I became someone else, let the passionate emotional direct side of myself out to play, and stepped into another world.

One full weekend. Live-action roleplay at its worst is just play-acting, “let’s pretend” for grown-ups. At its best it is theater, it is magic, it is transformation: I am immersed in another world, everyone playing their part, and I am drowning in the magnification and characterization of an oft-buried aspect of Self. It is magic when I forget myself and become that character so deeply that I feel the rush of adrenaline, I am shaking in the satyr’s rage without meaning to, I am a hurricane of fury and pain barely kept in check. Let go, and be.

Once the weekend was over, my lover and I let our shadows out to play and dance and struggle. Immersed in a different world altogether, inducing fear even though we both know there’s no real risk of harm, fear on the edge of pain that bubbles up into my throat stretched bare by a hand in my hair, the pull burning at my scalp. Trapped there to flutter in panic, pulse like a living thing held in place by a tightening grip that knows exactly how far to go, when to pause, where to stop, how far to push without harm. And this, too, was magic; two shadows consuming and consumed in a dynamic tension.

This weekend, walking as a satyr brimming with emotion, I sat next to someone I’d met only briefly once before a year ago. He was a satyr too, though I don’t think that’s too far from his normal state – Mediterranean ancestry showing in angular features, curly brown hair, faun-dark eyes, mischief in his movements. There was something very familiar about him, and sitting next to him was comfortable, easy. I was just beginning to think of how he seemed so very familiar when he asked me if I, out of character, had been to these places, worked in those parts of town, something – because to him, I too seemed very familiar, like he’d known me for a long time.

Ah, well! Old friends I’ve never met, truly? Again, without calling for it, without wrapping my will around the tangle of lines in my chest and tugging? Magic. Connections never made this lifetime, only rediscovered.

A dragon lives coiled down the hall from me, dark eyes full of old knowledge and old pain. We share a bond older than our bodies and deeper than flesh, myth and memory braided so tight it’s hard to tell which is which. As if it matters…

I was reading through some writings, my perceptions of other people – poetry and rhythm, texture and imagery – and wondering at the amazing intense people in my life. Dragons walking in human skin, barely disguised, boiling with size and heat. Elves and fae, fitting better in their forms but burning there, consuming, spinning spirit fine as mist through their bodies and back out. Animal-folk with the wild deep in their gaze and feral movement, fur and feathers itching muscle.

And all of this could be mere story, mere archetype, simply myth – but there is no mere about it, for even without fact there is Truth here, mythic truth, mythos, and that is what feeds the soul. That is where the magic is, in the stories we tell and live and breathe.

Where Am I?

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