Phoenix Rising–The Changing Time
Her old bones jammed painfully against the rickety cart that hauled her slowly through the village. It was impossible for her to brace herself; her hands were tied with coarse cutting rope. Yet she remained standing and held her head high. The outsiders had declared her a witch, and yes, if healing her neighbors with herbs and fire and spells was witch craft, then she was indeed guilty. But so great was her fear, she could hear her own heart beating; she could feel the blood surging through her veins.
A small fire burned greedily, awaiting her arrival. The old woman gazed at it with fascination, she took in every moment: she wanted to live with every fiber of her being, live on her own terms as she had done these many decades. But as the cart moved closer to the center of the village, life as she knew it was no longer an option; the pain and torture of the witch burning was upon her. She was too old to run, to fight or struggle: but her mind, her spirit and her deep Earth magic, these things were hers and nothing could touch that. And yet she was about to die at the hands of the outsiders. She was to be burned alive in front of all the men and women she had cared for, all the children she brought into the world, and all her magic could not dull the terror she saw in their eyes, the terror screaming through her entire body. People wept, they called out her name, the cart creaked and the fire crackled but all she could hear was the steady beat of her will to live surging through her veins.
Rough hands of the outsiders dragged her to the dead stark tree that was to be her pyre. She was tied with her arms pinned down to prevent her from casting one final spell; how little they knew of her true power? In her last moments of existence, she chose her final act.
Eyes closed, she went deep into her inner temple, and there she found the eternal flame, burning steady and bright. All fear vanished: all that existed was the flame, it was everything she had ever loved and she poured every ounce of her remaining life-force into it. “I am Eilid, I am a daughter of the Earth,” she thought, “I own myself and my destiny.” Looking out onto the living world one last time, to the shock of all, she smiled and in that smile was pure love and absolute forgiveness. She held the gaze of a little girl in the crowd, a little girl with red hair. The child knew what to do, she turned and as she ran she turned into a dove. Triumphant, the old woman called out in a clear strong voice for all to hear: “The fire draws you and the light of it will show you the way!” She watched as a white dove disappeared into the ancient oak grove.
Of her own free will she ejected her living spirit out of her body. Her shell of a body simultaneously burst into flames like a phoenix rising above the known world. In her last moment, in her own way, Eilid had chosen life.
Note to Self:
Frankie landed hard back into her body and she woke with a jolt, gasping for breath. It was all she could do not to scream. She sat bolt upright in her bed, panting as sweat poured down her face and drenched her t-shirt. Instinctively she crossed her arms over her chest. “Control,” she whispered to herself, “correlate data.” Her body shuddered, yet as she felt her own arms and shoulders intact, she relaxed slightly. “What’s happening to me, Madame?” she whispered to the little grey cat sitting on a pile of books waiting to be packed. Frankie’s chest heaved a little bit longer behind the security of her crossed arms. She was changing, her body was changing, all at once it seems, but there was something else pulling her forward; like the moon pulling the tide out to sea.
The little grey cat gazed at her human, serenely purring as she winked slowly the way cats do. It seemed to Frankie that Madame Curie, named after Frankie’s favorite woman scientist, knew exactly what had just happened, that she had been in the dream with her.
Frankie thought, “Note to self: reference dream physiology at the new library in Ventura–the Library, the only stable and reliable environment in the Universe. Science, yes science will explain everything.” Madame Curie jumped onto the bed and climbed onto Frankie’s lap. Although not quite dawn, the desert air was already hot as the Santa Ana Winds blew in through the bedroom window. Through the comfort of her crossed arms, Frankie felt her body changing. Through the hot desert breeze, Frankie felt her entire existence changing. Staccato crickets and the coo of mourning doves summoned in the twilight beginnings of a new day.
She had many things to do today to prepare for her last day in the desert. She could hear quiet prattling noises downstairs: “I fell in to a burning ring of fire…” Dad was playing his Johnny Cash album and singing along to it; the house was already awake. Gazing in the mirror, she composed her face into a look of sleepy calm; put on a clean, dry t-shirt, then went downstairs to join her parents for coffee. With Madame Curie at her heels; the ghosts of her dreams momentarily slipped back into the shadows of midnight.
The hiker followed the dry river bed along the bottom of the storm wash. She paused for a moment to gaze at the horizon which disappeared into a kaleidoscope of hot, wavy air. “Good day for a mirage,” Frankie said to Madame Curie as she came to a stop near a broken sumac tree. She began to empty the contents of her heavy backpack: rocks, plant matter, an assortment of bones and a small cobalt bottle.
“After I am gone, no one will remember who these bones belonged to,” she thought as she arranged her treasures into a macabre sort of desert offering. She stood up and studied her composition.
The beige bandana she wore over her black frizzy hair was damp with sweat; she wore old army fatigues and a faded brown t-shirt, even her buff colored hiking boots blended into the surrounding. She was the color of the desert, she was invisible and she imagined that even the turkey buzzard circling overhead didn’t notice her.
“My best friends are bones and the ghosts that haunt them,” she sighed, “and today I leave them all behind.” Her clothes and lanky build gave her a boyish appearance, she told herself she didn’t care; she couldn’t and wouldn’t fit in here or any of the many places she had lived in all her young life. So, she chose to be totally invisible. No one will miss her; no one will even know that she was here. And yet even in this solitary mood she pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket and re-read what she had written:
The Bottle Village Lady
Outside the hot poofy dirt burns through my zories
The bottle village lady beckons me inside where it is cool
Sunlight filters through walls made of 7-up colored light
Through the years she rummaged,
collected and with a dab of cement
Turned the valley’s garbage into a sanctuary
of cool soda-pop colored sunlight
At the edge of the Simi Valley desert
the old lady who builds a village
One cast of bottle at a time,
Builds her own life like a wondrous work in progress
July 1967 to Grandma Prisby-
The boyish, colorless desert creature rolled up the poem, carefully worked it into the delicate little blue bottle and placed it in the center of her plant and bone arrangement. She knew that only one person would notice and understand what this was. Girl and cat turned and walked away, disappearing into the mirage. No one in the Simi Valley would remember quiet, androgynous Frankie who collected specimens in the wash; no one but an old woman, the only friend of an invisible girl.
FIELD JOURNAL ENTRY
F. Browning July 29th 1967
Final Desert Specimen Inventory
Keep and Pack:
Owl Pellet-contents presumed vole
Snake skin (shed) and rattle
Jaw bone fragment: coyote?
Return to Storm Wash:
Misc. decomposed plant matter
Sprig of eucalyptus w/pods
Small deceased bat-
Note: refrain from storing specimens in sealed glass jars!
*Elsa said I could keep 10% of my rock collection. She says that if I leave the surplus in the wash, that other people who aren’t moving can collect them. Mother is always right, no one can argue with Dutch logic!
Frankie paused as she sat at her writing desk and then continued to finish her journal entry. Madame Curie sat like the all-knowing sphinx watching her human closely.
Comment: Para-Normal Biology
The ghosts of Simi Valley were denizens of bone and dust and whispers; stories told in broad daylight while hiking through Oak Park or hunting fossils in the storm wash at the end of the street. I’ve collected desert legends in this journal like a pocket full of show and tell to share with anyone who had the nerve to hear. I’ve searched out ghosts on the trails of dust devils but I can’t quite find what I’m looking for, or what’s looking for me? Will I find it in our new home Ventura, the land of mist and orchards? What is to be found on the illusive Anacapa Islands: the moving islands that seem to float on the horizon? I feel the pull of something unseen, something compelling, pulling me forward as well.
I don’t know what to expect from High School. Elsa says it will be a new beginning for me. She keeps buying me Seventeen Magazine so I’ll know what to wear: i.e. tights or knee socks etc. One of my class mates here once indicated to me that my favorite color was plaid; that doesn’t make sense! None of the girls I know here make sense. All I know is that I dream about fire and when I wake up, I know something is out there!