I grew up as an only child. When I was very young, before starting kindergarten, I spent a great deal of time playing by myself. I was either a natural born introvert or I adapted to that circumstance early on (there weren’t a lot of playmates around) and was perfectly happy amusing myself. Current science on introverts

says it’s probably in our DNA. My mother was a real extrovert, but my dad was a solitary brooder. He could fake extroversion if he had to and I appear to have inherited that ability—but I am unquestionably an introvert. However, I only brood some of the time.

We lived in a strange little house on a vast lot. It consisted of four beach cabins (those turn of the nineteenth century changing/camping cabins that sat on the sand) which had been strung together to make the core of a small house: two bedrooms, one bath. Add-ons on the back gave it a kitchen, a laundry room, and later a den. Because of its origin as beach cabins the front porch sported four front doors which confused the heck out of salespeople and first-time visitors. The backyard was enormous, taken up by a huge vegetable garden on the northwest side and on the southwest side by a tumble-down pair of shacks referred to as “the garage,” though no vehicles ever parked there. Mostly it held my father’s vast collection of tools and whatever odds and ends of junk he decided to hold on to.

On the front of the lot sat a giant California bungalow style house where our landlady lived. Sandwiched between these two houses was a smallish “front yard” which I loved to play in, especially in a tight little corner (maybe ten feet square) on the northeast side where the two houses were closest to each other. This alcove had a fence on the north holding a massive cascade of yellow climbing roses and against the west side a thick growth of calla lilies underneath my bedroom window. My alcove was shaded by the proximity of the two houses and the fence, always cool in the summertime, and protected in winter. The grass seemed softer there, somehow, and hugged by the houses it was a cool, quiet, secluded place for my imagination to run free.

It was during these solitary play dates with myself that I developed a strange “ability.” I was maybe three or four at the time. I came to believe—though what magical thinking led me to this conclusion is lost to time—that if I jumped into the air with a certain attitude, a kind of unqualified belief mindset (though I could hardly have categorized it that way to myself at the time), I could float in the air until I chose to come back to earth. I used to “do” this frequently. I clearly remember this feeling of my feet leaving the ground and me hovering—usually a few feet above the ground—floating but still me, still in my body. But one day I jumped into the air and felt lighter, more insubstantial, and I just kept going up. I remember floating past the roof line, up, up until I was maybe fifteen to twenty feet above it. I looked down on the shingles in shock. Then I looked up. I could see my father in the backyard working in the garden and that made me scared. I dropped back into my body with a thud. It was the only time I’d felt like I’d been out of my body, and I stood in shock for a minute then ran inside the house to hide in my bedroom. I don’t remember doing my floating trick again after that. In fact, I forgot all about it, as young children often do. Years later when I was eight or nine I suddenly remembered that I used to do that trick and tried to recapture the mindset but I never could. I jumped and jumped but inevitably came right back down to earth.

I’ve wondered, looking back as an adult, if during that extraordinary high air float I was actually astral projecting or having an out of body experience (OBE), but who knows?

The only other time I’ve felt something like that was when I was nineteen or twenty. I was going to college during the day and working night shifts (about thirty hours a week) in West LA at an answering service. I usually got off between 9:00 and 10:00 but this night due to a cock up in scheduling I didn’t get off until 11 or 11:30. I was exhausted. While driving home along a very familiar route that I could do in my sleep I guess I literally did it in my sleep. I was stopped at a light and realized my head and shoulders had floated through the roof of my VW Bug and was staring out at the street from a couple of feet above it. When I realized this the shock sent me plummeting back into myself with another thud. I was wide awake and adrenaline fueled after that.

Waking dreams? Astral projection? Overactive imagination? A Mystic mumbo jumbo combo? I can’t say, but those “memories” are so vivid. According to science,

one in ten people experience OBEs in their life. Some people even try to induce these experiences on purpose. But not me. Whatever I experienced was so deeply unsettling I’ve never sought to repeat it.

Random quote of the day:

“When people are very different from ourselves, it’s easy to believe they’ll believe anything. We may often misinterpret the things we hear, choosing readings that make that culture seem more exotic and different. [Perhaps] scientific explanations that try to account for some ambiguous indigenous concepts that are hard to understand can actually end up inventing whole belief systems for indigenous peoples that just aren’t real. Not all fantastical sounding language is magic; sometimes it’s just ordinary.”

—Chi Luu, “What We Lose When We Lose Indigenous Knowledge,” JSTOR Daily, October 16, 2019
( )

“The Legend of the Firewolf. Maybe.” ( )

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Desus and Mero, Beyoncé, or the Marine Corps Marching Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Most witches don’t believe in gods. They know that gods exist, of course. They even deal with them occasionally. But they don’t believe in them. They know them too well. It would be like believing in the postman.”

—Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Desus and Mero, Beyoncé, or the Marine Corps Marching Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Please note that I have capitalized Skepticism. I am referring here not to healthy skepticism, which any reasonable person must apply to dubious claims, whether of the paranormal or elsewise, but to the sort practiced by the Skeptical Inquirer, various magicians, Richard Dawkins and others who have made Skepticism their one true religion. Pseudoskeptics, in other words. These Skeptics use sometimes very sloppy science to bludgeon experiencers into submission, have been caught in out-and-out suppression of genuine inquiry, and when all else fails fall back on tropes without evidence to counter claims of the paranormal. For them, no evidence—no matter how good—can ever stand up to their “it must be faked/hallucination/lies” counterargument. All, of course, expressed in the most pompous and mocking tones.

Dishonest Skepticism does not achieve its most desired goal: the extermination of all belief in the extraordinary. In fact, it encourages people to disregard what these Skeptics are saying because it’s so easy for most people to see through that kind of dishonesty. Worse, it encourages people to disregard skeptics and experts of all sorts. It’s not a very long leap from disregarding a dishonest Skeptic to questioning the veracity of immunologists during a pandemic.

Yes, reasonable people will still use their brains in those matters, but the doubt begun with dishonest Skepticism grows in the dark and spreads like a cancer. People who are credulous, who have had the experience of their own eyes mocked or disregarded without sincere investigation, are more likely to believe well-told lies. Once they’ve bought any of the lies, it’s easier to sell them the next lie. Very soon, the fact-based, science-backed words of the genuine expert can be dismissed as “that’s just his opinion.” (Something I’ve actually heard hoax believers say about the COVID precautions urged by Dr. Fauci.)

Maybe the spirit of one’s dead mother didn’t appear beside the bed to say she was happy and not to worry, maybe it was just a comforting dream. Maybe those weird lights in the sky were just a misidentification of something natural, although they did perform in very unnatural ways. Maybe that immensely tall hairy manlike creature didn’t stand in front of you ten feet away before loping off into the woods and disappearing. Maybe that was just…well, very hard to rationalize that away without falling to the fake/lie/hallucination trope—but you get my drift. The thing is, a healthy skepticism would say, “I don’t know what it was you saw. It may be exactly as you say, or it may have had a rational explanation, but I don’t have one right now.” A Skeptic, on the other hand, would not rest until the experiencer was mocked into submission, hiding away in the dark corners of the internet where the Religion of the Lie can take root and spread.

Do I expect the Skeptics to rethink things and shut up? Of course not. This is their religion, after all. True believers never reconsider their positions. They know the Ultimate Truth and will go down in flames to defend it. Just like those who believe lizard people have taken over the government and are eating babies in the basement of the Capitol building. Unfortunately, these two extreme fringes of discourse threaten to take the rest of us down in flames with them.

Belief has always been experiential in nature. I suppose, healthy skepticism is non-experiential in nature. Skepticism, on the other hand, the unhealthy variety, strikes me as a bone-deep existential terror that the Skeptic may not know the answer to all things and that there may be more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in their philosophy.

Random quote of the day:

“Make up a story…For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.”

―Toni Morrison, The Nobel Lecture In Literature, 1993

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

I got a weird “spam” call the other day. I don’t usually answer numbers I don’t recognize, but I did this one. An older-sounding man said, “Hello. My name is Joe. We have so much bad news these days that I wanted to give my neighbors some good news.” “Okay,” I said in my skeptical I-don’t-know-who-tf-you-are tone. He continued, “It says in the Book of Isaiah—” At which point I hung up.

It reminded me of the summer when I was seventeen and fell in with a bad crowd. This all came about because of a super huge crush I had on one of my classmates in high school, and because I was graduating and not entirely sure of my direction, and because I was an introvert who wanted to feel part of something, and because of music. Lots of fun music and riotously fun Tuesday night rival-like meetings at a local church where they had gigantic, rollicking singalongs and talked in tongues and laid on hands and all that jazz. So I spent the late spring and summer of my seventeenth year on a journey of attempted indoctrination into the cult-like world of the Evangelical Christians. This was also the summer my BFF and I volunteered at the La Brea Tar Pits working in the labs there. A weird science/religion combo if ever there was one, but I was confused and exploring my options.

I won’t mention the particular sect I got involved with because I don’t want to paint an entire group of people with a broad brush. It all began with my crush, a newly minted born-again Christian, talking to me at lunchtime about Jesus. I had not been raised in any religion. My mother had always encouraged me to listen and make up my own mind about things. But I had “sampled” many of the Christian churches of my friends, both Protestant and Catholic, and I had been enchanted by the occult from my early teens. So I listened politely to my crush, mainly (if I’m honest) because he was cute and I liked the attention. Sometimes my BFF would join us in these lunch discussions. She was always more skeptical, asked more questions, had more objections to blanket declarations than I had. I suspect my crush had a crush on her. At any rate, he invited us to a Christian coffeehouse with him one Saturday where they played Christian-themed folk-rock and it was something to do for two introverted girls, so we went along. It was actually a lot of fun. The music was good, everyone was friendly, and there was a dynamic young long-haired preacher from New Zealand who made the rounds talking to the kids. (And he was really cute—with a dishy accent.) Things at the coffeehouse usually broke up about 11 and afterwards we’d pile into my crush’s car and drive all over L.A. and into the canyons to look down on the lights of L.A. and go to the all-nite eateries—all innocent, good clean fun. It was a blast, so it got to be a regular thing. Me, my crush, my crush’s BFF, and my BFF. Kind of like dating, except not.

The young preacherman at the coffeehouse would come around and chat with groups of kids. He was quite charismatic and emphasized over and over again how we needed to stop random people on the street and start quoting scripture to them because even if they resisted the message and scoffed, you could be planting a seed that would allow God into their hearts and save them. I won’t even get into how dangerous that would be for young girls to do on the streets of L.A., but regardless, I wasn’t about to do it. First of all, I was far too introverted to even contemplate such a thing, and second, I couldn’t help thinking that if God was such a mighty being why did he need my pissant help to open somebody’s heart? Seemed like he could do that on his own if he was into forced conversions. No, what the preacherman was talking about was a human need to spew scripture, a way of proving something to the same human doing the spewing. Like, I don’t know . . . that they were holier than thou? Or maybe, as I suspect was the case with my telephoning Bible spammer, something that made them feel like they were taking positive action in a world that was confusing and often terrifying and often felt like it was spinning out of their control.

But I won’t say that I was unfazed by all this, especially by the really cute preacherman and the sincerity of my crush (even though it became clear as summer waned that he wasn’t interested in me in that way). I was enchanted, to a certain extent, and briefly felt part of something larger and there was. . . fellowship. I can’t emphasize enough how powerful the draw of fellowship was to a questing, confused little introvert like I was then. (That’s how cults get you.) That enchantment even went so far that I allowed the preacherman to convince me that I needed to burn my tarot cards. Yeah, I know. (And for anyone who might be justifiably horrified by this, please know I would not do anything remotely like this now, but it was a weird time in my headspace.) I’ve regretted that so many times I can’t even tell you, but I was caught up in the moment.

Preacherman wanted to burn them with me present so I could be “released from Satan’s bond,” but I declined. I was already feeling uncomfortable about the whole thing and they’d been a gift from my two best friends who had pooled their resources to buy the deck for me, so I was feeling like a foul betrayer of their friendship and thinking I should just call the whole thing off, but, I mean, like, I’d already brought them there and everyone was staring at me expectantly . . . In retrospect, I realize the preacherman wanted that audience of kids to watch me watching those cards burn, hoping my reaction to being “liberated” would play into their acceptance of his message, but I didn’t get that at the time. I just knew I didn’t want to be part of it. Those cards did liberate me, but not in the way the preacherman anticipated.

He took them out to the parking lot with a group of followers (they didn’t want the fire marshal to come down on them for burning something inside the club) while I stayed inside. He was out there for quite a while and when he came back he was flushed with victory. He started preaching about how those cards of Satan had really resisted the flames. He kept lighting them and Satan kept putting out the flames but he prayed and prayed and finally they caught fire and burned with a great, bright fire. And all the while I’m thinking, “They had a protective coating on them. That’s why they resisted the flames. And that’s probably why they burned so bright afterwards.” The preacherman’s house of tarot cards collapsed in my mind at that point. It wasn’t the final final straw, but just about. I couldn’t help thinking that if he was full of shit on that count, what else was bullshit? I eventually came to realize it all was.

So a deck of Smith-Waite reproduction tarot cards—and science—saved me from an Evangelical cult. Something inevitably would have, I think, because I was never a true convert and my BFF had already called bullshit and I was much more accustomed to listening to her than preachermen (even really cute ones). But those cards were the catalyst. I still regret the loss of them, and I kind of wonder if maybe that’s why I can never get decent readings from Smith-Waite decks. They are almost always overwhelmingly negative. I can’t say I blame them for holding a grudge.

Random quote of the day:

“Confronted with the impossibility of remaining faithful to one’s beliefs, and the equal impossibility of becoming free of them, one can be driven to the most inhuman excesses.”

—James Baldwin, “Stranger in the Village,” Harper’s, October 1953

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.


Because I have an abiding love for folklore and all things odd, because I create art out of the liminal aspects of the world in which we live, I can’t very well be in the business of passing judgment on stories of the strange. Folklore is a living, breathing thing, a constant new creation from the imaginations and the deep psyche. So if someone tells me a story of a personal encounter with fairies, or about the ghost they saw, or the strange lights in the sky, I treasure these stories as a peek into the spontaneous eruption of spirit and imagination in the world. As long as human beings roam the earth, new beliefs and tales of the marvelous will erupt from the aether. This is the wellspring of creativity, the fundamental food of imagination.

By necessity, this food is always going to come at us from the fringes of society. It will never be found in the dead heart of academia because by its very nature it is the antithesis of academia. Academia is about cataloguing and studying that which is; folklore and the folk imagination is about creating new from old and old from new, and it is a rich source of spiritual replenishment. Academia has many important functions and I demand that it stay rigorous because we need the rigorous walking hand in hand with the fanciful. Both functions make society cohere.

I don’t buy into everything with one hundred percent credulity. Healthy skepticism is a necessary function of living in both complex societies and less complex. I grow impatient, however, with those who have taken up skepticism as a replacement for religious belief. Their skepticism is as sweeping and dogmatic as ever any organized religion. Theirs is an unhealthy skepticism. The marginal, the liminal, the odd, and the fanciful enrich the world. The more skeptics try to suppress it, the more creative ways the underworld finds to rise to the surface. One of the best analyses of the liminal I have ever seen is The Trickster and the Paranormal by George Hansen. Mr. Hansen uses exhaustive detail and thorough analysis to show why it will never be possible the suppress this underworld.

Yes, we all know about the excesses that beliefs of any kind are prone to, the persecutions that arise from the bonfires of unquestioning faith. That is not what I’m supporting here, what I’m cherishing, because that is not about the spirit. That is dogma—and I do judge dogma. If academia is the antithesis of the creative upwellings of the psyche, dogma is the antithesis of the spiritual. The silly stuff, the stuff that stretches credulity is as necessary to the health of any society as skepticism; it is the breath inside the lungs of culture. The danger comes from the other side of society’s fringe, the extremes of belief, the codifying of the spirit, the hardening of the arteries of fancy.

Judge not lest ye be judged. Judgment, sorting out the good from the chaff is healthy; judgment, the trumpeting of one belief system over another, is a form of societal death. I open my arms to extreme possibility, not to the extremes of judgment.

I would say to my pagan friends the same thing I would say to my friends of any religion: beware thinking your way is the One True Faith. There are many paths back to the Source, but judgement and rigidity are not amongst them.
I’d start calling him President Cthulhu but that’s an insult to Cthulhu.
You know, I’ve supported Nancy Pelosi all this time but mostly kept quiet because I didn’t want to fight with people, often people I liked and admired. I’m a little ashamed of that, but oh well. I knew, you see, that Pelosi is one of the canniest and most experienced politicians in Washington and I knew she was holding fire for a good reason. Last week that reason became eminently clear: she was waiting for a smoking gun. One that these cretins couldn’t wiggle out of, one that the general American public could readily understand. It may be argued that the Mueller report was a smoking gun, but even Mueller himself obfuscated and demurred so much that it wasn’t something that could be easily conveyed to the larger public. But everybody understands the kind of brutish and heavy-handed strong-arming Trump attempted with Ukraine. It was schoolyard bully stuff and illegal and immoral as hell. It’s enough to start changing minds–except for his rabid believers, of course. Trump said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and no one would hold him responsible. What he was too stupid or arrogant to realize was that when he did give Nancy Pelosi an easy-to-hold gun of her own, she would have no hesitation in pulling the trigger. Good work, Madame Speaker. I’m sorry I didn’t defend you.
You know that overworked and ridiculous phrase in writing: “She (he) released a breath she didn’t know she was holding”? I’ve always loathed it in a work of fiction, but when the Ukraine news broke and with all the revelations that came out… I released a breath I didn’t know I was holding.
I used this deck quite a lot at one point in my life. Can you tell?

Fortunately, the cards don’t look as disreputable as the box. And after literally decades of using this deck, I just discovered that I had two Knights of Swords. I’m not sure what that means. I would probably have never known if they both hadn’t come up in the same reading. Reversed. And yes, I guess the day of that reading had been about being, “indiscreet, extravagant, and foolish.” I’ve been through the entire deck now and there are no other duplications and no missing cards. But I guess I’d better pay attention to that Knight, hadn’t I?
I was born in the last six hours of Virgo, just seven hours shy of the Autumn Equinox (West Coast time), so I have a hella amount of Libra in my chart. I was really feeling the effects of the new moon in Libra at the end of September. I tried to use that energy well. Balance and rectification. Throwing off the shackles of old bad habits that are holding me back.
One of the best parts of living alone is that when I’m not feeling well I can sit around and groan and not worry about driving anyone crazy with my drama queen ways.
I was watching one of those ghost shows on TV and the house owner was talking about how a ghost threw her cat across the kitchen. And there’s the cat sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor with its leg up cleaning its nether regions. He seemed very unconcerned in general. She took the ghost hunters into the bedroom to talk about what happened in there and here comes the cat to sprawl on the bed. “I ain’t afraid a no ghosts.” In fact, I kind of regard cats as a reverse ghost monitor. If they are there and not concerned they ain’t no ghost there.
Every time I watch the science channel I wonder if the people who came up with the SciGo acronym realized how close it sounds to “psycho.”
When the estimable Dr. Lucy Jones, eminent geologist, says that she fears climate change more than earthquakes one should really pay attention. I saw her state just that in a recent interview.
I may have finished writing something that seemed very much like the denouement of my current novel. Only the coda left, and that’s already half written. But it’s been a couple of weeks now and I still haven’t finished it. I can’t help wondering if this resistance is a way of preventing myself from moving on. Or knowing that once I finish that coda, I’m done with this world for the foreseeable future. I can’t see writing any more Dos Lunas stories any time soon–and I’ve lived there on and off for so long (since 2000), I may be reluctant to let go.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I like having mindless tasks to do, things that most people would never have the patience for. I suspect it’s a Virgo thing.
Oh yeah, that probably explains a lot about the last few months. I forgot until just last week that I have summer SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Somehow I manage to forget that every freaking year.

Random quote of the day:

“What people believe prevails over the truth.”

—Sophocles, The Sons of Aleus, Fragment 86

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

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