Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Story of Witch & Rabbit

What you are about to read is 100% true. It happened in the late Autumn of 2008. I wrote this shortly after it happened while it was still fresh in my mind. Today, as I was working on another writing project, I thought back fondly on this experience and realized exactly how much it affected me, and exactly how much my friendship with my best friend, Jason, means to me. I pondered the incredible influence he’s been on my life, how often he’s been there for me when things have been awful in my little world, and how much we’ve leaned on each other. This is not the only thing I’ve ever written on the subject. In fact, I’ve written thousands and thousands of words about Jason over the years. But today, this story in particular came to mind simply because the conversations we had during this experience and the events that took place, many of which did not make it into this piece, were such that I came home and changed my entire outlook on life, the direction in which I wanted to go, and the goals I wanted to achieve. Jason, thank you so much for everything. I wouldn’t be half of who I am if you were not a part of my life.

Witch and Rabbit

There is something mystical about the air in Kauai. Maybe it’s because upon my decision to fly there to be with Jason I had put aside every other thought and concern in life, but for some reason, breathing that air, everything about my subconscious was open and ready to accept whatever I was presented with. Jay had asked me to meet him there, having flown out from LA to “get away from it all” following the final shattering of his marriage. Jason was my best friend; if he needed me… I was going to be there for him. So, I’d booked last minute flights, thrown a few things in a bag, and dropped everything to be by his side. I landed at Lihue Airport, where Jay picked me up in a rental car. He looked exhausted, a little frightened, and utterly heartbroken.
As we sat at a tiny outdoor table at his favorite vegan restaurant, the fresh air and Jason’s hypnotizing blue eyes set me in a state of utter Zen. Whatever would be would be – I had no expectations, I had no agenda, I had no idea what was going to happen over the next several days – and none of it mattered. I was simply there because he’d asked me to be. And what a paradise it was. There were flowers and lush greenery everywhere I looked, and the atmosphere was light with breezy, sweet humidity. It was nothing like I’d ever felt. Warm and cool at the same time, with the fragrances of tropical plants and chamomile tea settling into my soul.
After our dinner, Jay drove us back to the room he’d rented. It was a large, sparsely furnished space, with a bed, a small table, and lots of large windows. I’d been traveling for nearly 20 hours, and Jason offered to rub me down. He asked me to smell some oil he had, to see if I liked it, and then used it to knead the tension out of my shoulders and back. After that, he asked me if I’d wrap around him – spoon him – just for a few minutes. We talked idly… and he said that he was pretty sure he’d end up walking across the street to the beach once I dozed off, and spend the night on the sand, listening to the ocean and breathing the night air. I must have fallen asleep almost instantly. Before I knew it, he was up and out of the bed. He told me he’d see me in the morning.
After he left, I looked around the room. I was in Hawaii. How had that happened, I wondered? It was all so last minute… yet I was more relaxed and calm than I had felt in years, and something in the night air coming through the open windows made me feel as light and carefree as a person possibly could. I’d be here for a while and it was rather exciting – but for now… sleep.
Somewhere in a dream… a picnic table… larger than any picnic table I’d ever seen, sat before me. On top of the table was a rabbit. It was white, and had a black, geometric pattern of zig-zags all over it. The pattern was fascinating; I’d never seen a rabbit like this. Knowing that the rabbit spoke my language, I tried to approach it to speak to it. But as I stepped forward towards the table, the rabbit became terrified and backed away, eventually leaving all together. I felt frustrated. I had no dark intentions – I would never have hurt it, I just wanted to talk to it. Again the rabbit appeared on the table, and I attempted to approach it again. Again, it became terrified and backed away, leaving this time, for good. I became angry. Why would the rabbit think I meant any harm? I only wanted to talk to it.
I woke to the sound of two of Kauai’s feral roosters having a nasty cock fight in a parking lot outside the front door of the room. It wasn’t even light out yet. I got out of the bed, went to the window and peered out into the darkness. A large, full grown rooster was being taunted by a very small, juvenile one. The noise would normally have made me really mad, as I am not a morning person and hate being rudely awakened, but the roosters were positively hysterical and I went back to the bed and layed down. Each time I heard the roosters screaming at each other I laughed out loud. They seemed so incredibly silly to me, it just struck me as hilarious and I couldn’t stop giggling.
The door to the room opened and Jay entered. I wished him good morning and asked if the roosters had woken him up, too? He said no, all he’d been able to hear was the crashing waves – not even the traffic on the main road between the beach and the Hostel penetrated the sound of the Pacific. I told him about my dream. He said that he had a set of Animal Medicine Cards with him, and we’d look up the meaning behind it. For now though, we wanted food.
After a shower and a quick discussion about leaving the Hostel and going to a more traditional hotel, we packed up and Jay drove us to Hanalei for breakfast. The scenery was mesmerizing. On our right, brilliant turquoise water, swaying palm trees and soft white sand. To our left, volcanic mountains covered in lush green plant life and shrouded in ever-present mist. Amazing, it was as if you were in two completely different environments at once. To me, a Gemini, duality of this sort felt as natural as breathing. Yes, it was safe to say, less than 12 hours after landing; I was in love with Kauai.
We had a wonderful breakfast and then sat at a table that would become our morning chat spot and talked for quite some time. Jay had a lot on his mind. He was confused and hurt, feeling like the proverbial carpet had been ripped out from under his life. After he’d had his fill of talking, we returned to the rental car and headed back towards the Hostel, where Jason was going to have to tell the owner that we’d decided not to stay the originally booked number of nights. He was stressed about it, and didn’t really want to deal with it. I told him, “I’m an administrative assistant. I make peoples’ calls for them all day long. Why don’t you just let me handle it?”
He agreed, and after settling up with the owner we drove back north to Kilauea, in search of our new place. As we tried to follow the driving directions, we became mildly confused when we arrived at a construction area where no cars were allowed to pass. Jay wondered aloud if the street on our right was where we were supposed to turn, since there was no street sign. I looked up to my left, and saw a sign that read “St. Sylvester’s Catholic Church.” I smiled.
“That’s the street.” I told him.
“How do you know?” he asked.
I pointed to the sign. He read it and, accepting that this must, indeed, be the place I was destined to go, said “Oh, yeah, ok.” And took the right. Naturally, it was the correct street. The house we rented a room in was only a few steps from the Church.
We unpacked, and after Jason got into the shower I decided to walk over to St. Sylvester’s and check it out. As I rounded the corner by the sign, the octagonal church sat high above me on a mound. Under the eaves of the church sat a massive, larger than usual picnic table. I stopped in my tracks, almost expecting to see a geometrically patterned rabbit sitting on top of it. But no, there was no rabbit. Just a picnic table larger than any I’d ever seen in my life.
The church was closed up, not a soul around, so I went to the table and sat down. The view of the tiny Hawaiian neighborhood from the church was pretty. I felt more at home sitting there than I did in my own house. I felt like sitting in that spot, God would hear anything I said to him. At that moment, I realized that we were staying there for a reason. (Each morning, before Jay and I got going, I walked to my church and sat on my picnic table. I asked God for many things. I won’t reveal them here, but I will say, each and every thing I asked Him for was granted.) I headed back to the room to tell Jason what I’d found.
He opened his Animal Medicine book and read me the story of Rabbit and Eye Walker, the Witch. As the story goes, Rabbit and Eye Walker were friends. Rabbit was thirsty, and Eye Walker used her magic to give Rabbit a drink. Rabbit drank, but said nothing. Then, Rabbit was hungry, and again Eye Walker used her magic to give Rabbit food. Rabbit did not say anything. Then, Rabbit was injured, and Eye Walker the Witch used her magic to heal him. After that, Eye Walker lost contact with Rabbit. Finally, after a great search, she found him and asked him why he was avoiding her. Rabbit replied that he was afraid of the Witch, afraid of magic, and wanted nothing further to do with her.
The book went on to state that if you are presented with Rabbit medicine, you must confront your fears. Jason asked me what it was that I was afraid of? I told him I wasn’t afraid of anything. He insisted I must be afraid of something, but I was not. “How are you so sure I’m not the witch?” I asked him. Seeing that this discussion was getting us nowhere, we went to dinner.
The next day, we went for a helicopter ride out of Lihue airport. On the way there, Jason said he felt like he was getting sick – the flu, maybe. Indeed, he looked pale and had started coughing, and we agreed that after the one hour ride, we’d go straight back to the room so that he could get some sleep. After the helicopter ride, Jay became visibly upset. At first, I attributed it to his not feeling well. Then, as we drove back to Kilauea, he said to me, rather threateningly, “You may have to find a way to entertain yourself while you’re here, because I’m feeling like I really need to be alone.”
I’d known Jason for more than 20 years. I knew that tone in his voice. I knew that this was not out of the ordinary behavior for him, and I also knew that with what he was going through, this was somewhat to be expected. Still, I had flown half way around the globe to be a shoulder for him, and though being in Hawaii was amazing and I wanted to be there, I also didn’t want to spend all my time alone. We went back to the room and I took my book into the kitchen. I sat there reading for a while, but I was unable to concentrate and I thought… “This is silly. Something is wrong and I’m not going to pretend there isn’t an elephant in that room.”
I went into the room and Jay was intentionally avoiding eye contact with me, puttering around pretending to be busy placing books here, cell phones there… I sat down on the bed.
“Can I ask you a question?” I said.
“Would you be more comfortable if I changed my flights and went home?”
He spun around and looked at me. “What do you mean?”
“I mean: Would you be more comfortable if I called the airline, changed my flights, and left… went home… now.”
“Do I seem that uncomfortable?”
Jason stiffened. He looked me in the eye, and began telling me all manner of contradictory thoughts and feelings he was having about all kinds of things. About me being there, about him being there, about our friendship, about his marriage, and on and on and on. I sat and patiently listened. It seemed to me that more than trying to talk to me, more than trying to explain something to me, he was working through some of his own things out loud. We talked for quite some time. The conversation became deep, and deeply productive. He admitted to me that he was afraid of my being there. He was afraid of “what I wanted from him.” I assured him, I wanted nothing from him.
As it turned out, Jason had called each of his parents and asked them for help. He had even called his brothers. Each member of his family was either unable, or unwilling to help him. So I said to him, “Jay, you’ve asked God for something. You have told me time and time again that when you pray, God will answer, but maybe he sends you something slightly different than what you had in mind. You asked for family, you got me. I’m here. Now, what do you need help with?”
At that moment, Jay seemed to immediately let go. His facial features relaxed, his breath steadied, he wiped his eyes and said “If I had a wish list, this is what would be on it: There is an Ayurvedic Healing Center across from where we stayed the first night. There is a treatment they offer that I’d like to get.”
“Great. No problem, let’s do it, let’s get it for you.”
“Ok, and I’d also like to get the right foods, I’ll even prepare them, but I can’t keep eating in restaurants.”
“And I need an advocate… I have all these bills; all these bill collectors calling and I can’t handle it. I just need someone to look everything over and help me figure it all out.”
“I will absolutely help you with that.”
He heaved a sigh of relief.
The next day, we went back to Hanalei for breakfast. As we sat at our usual table chatting and working through his many painful issues, I pointed to a small, organic grocery store called Papaya’s behind him. “Do you want to go in and get your food?” I asked him.
At the cash register, Jay started to reach for his wallet. I didn’t even make eye contact, I simply said with solid determination, “Don’t even think about it.” I paid for the food, and as I tucked my ATM card back into my wallet Jason turned to me and said with great humility “Thank you, Witch.” I smiled and replied, “You’re welcome, Rabbit.”
Once Jason’s flu symptoms subsided, we decided to spend a day beach hopping. We went to Hanalei and I bought a bathing suit. I told Jay I’d run to the ladies room and then meet him at the car. As I washed my hands I realized that we’d forgotten to grab towels from our rooms. I went into the boutique beside the ladies room and asked the shop keeper if she had any beach towels? She said she had two left, and pointed to a basket on the floor by the front door. There in the basket, were two rolled up beach towels, each tied with hemp. One was covered with pink, orange and red hibiscus flowers and said “Hawaii” on it. The other towel, however, took my breath away. It was a cream colored background, and had a navy blue, geometric zig-zag pattern. It was the exact pattern on the rabbit in my dream.
I paid the shop keeper and walked back to the car. Jay wasn’t there yet. I opened the driver’s side door and placed his new beach towel on his seat. When he came back, he opened the door, saw the towel and said “Wow… it’s a really nice one.” He looked up at me and said “Thank you.”
We spent a gorgeous day on the beaches of Kauai, and when the time came for me to leave the island, I felt closer and more connected to my friend than I ever had before. Several weeks later, as I browsed a doll, toy, and teddy bear show with my mother, a handsome gray rabbit hand crafted out of antique fur coats looked at me. He seemed to be there for a reason, so I purchased him, packed him up, and mailed him to Jason for Christmas. Rabbit now sits on Jason’s shelf, a reminder not to be afraid of this Witch’s magic.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Writing Behind The Wheel… NOT!

They say that art imitates life. Well, for me, life seems to get into the way of my art. I often wonder… if I didn’t have a day job… if I didn’t have to spend 11 hours a day occupied by things that I “must” do … how soon would everything come bursting to the surface? I know it would be quick; so quick it might overwhelm me, but how sweet that would be.

Today was one of those days when I woke up feeling pretty damn good, and as the day progressed, my half-way decently happy mood was forced right down the shitter. Can I pinpoint specific things that happened to turn me into a negative, depressed, total downer? Yeah, I can… but you’d find it all quite trivial and boring and I’d have to give you all kinds of background information about each incident… and who wants to wade through all that? Certainly not I, after all, I already lived it once, I honestly don’t have the intestinal fortitude to rehash it all and attempt to make it witty and entertaining while I’m sitting here feeling like total shit. Suffice to say that events of the day all conspired to make me feel like God hates me, my life sucks, and I have nothing to look forward to except more of the kind of crap I experienced today.

Once, a few months back, I had decided that it would be a good idea to get Dragon software (despite my hatred of the idea of speaking instead of actually writing; I believe it will kill the art form eventually, but I digress…) so that when I was driving I could get my thoughts down. It seems like when I’m driving (I commute an hour each way back and forth to work) my mind seems to percolate with prose and when I finally get home every thought and brilliant idea I had is either gone from my noggin all together, or I just don’t have the same passion for the topic as I did in the heat of my road rage induced passion. A friend of mine was kind enough to get me the software for my birthday. Naturally, I have been unable to set it up and try it out thus far because my everyday life has simply not provided me with the opportunity to do it yet. So, tonight, yet again as I drove home trapped in a traffic jam of biblical proportions that turned my usual 60 minute ride into a 140 minute ride, my mind was filled with thoughts that I wanted so badly to be able to get into a Word document that I wanted to scream.

Now, here I sit, keyboard in front of me, opportunity to write it all down wide open, and do you think I can muster the passion and eloquence my mind was bursting like a volcano with just a mere hour ago? OF COURSE NOT!!! What does this have to do with my shitty day today? Ugh… see?! That’s just it. In a state of total depression and upset my mind seems to be a writer’s paradise… I get filled with the kind of angst and longing and soulfulness that I can only cure by writing; words pour out of me. Yet when the moment passes I can still recall what I wanted to say but the passionate desire to write it is gone and I find myself going “Eh…” and not doing it.

Tonight, in the deep dark shadows of what was a terrible experience well over a year ago, and the miserable, rotten events of the past 24 hours, a poem was bubbling to my surface. It was intense and raw and had I been in possession of a fountain pen I might have been compelled to write it in my own blood just to make real the idea of my heart bleeding out … but I had no fountain pen… I had no ballpoint pen… hell… I had no Dragon software. So where did that poem go? Where did the 10 paragraph blog post about liars, cheats, and selfish, toxic, disappointing people up and vanish to? I’ll tell you, my friends… those items and more… they never escaped me. They lie in waiting someplace deep inside me. They will return… it’s happened before.

No, that poem isn’t entirely hidden. I see it peeking at me from around the corner. I am not certain if I wish to play hide and go seek with it tonight. So much of me is reeling from the days drama and disappointments. Do I poke the emotional bear and bring it all to life by writing it all down… or do I force it to hide and declare in Scarlett O’Hara fashion “I can’t think about that right now. I’ll think about that tomorrow… after all… tomorrow is another day!” Hmmmm…. Let’s see what the night has in store.