The south is a vista of tall oaks, Spanish moss and shadows that blow along the ground like curious inhabitants from another world – a far cry from the desert to which I have grown accustomed. Voodoo shops in New Orleans seem familiar somehow, and one of the handmade dolls created to snare tourists into a frenzy of souvenir buying winks up at me from a basket of otherwise lifeless brothers & sisters. Of course I purchased the little fellow, stuffed him in a bag of other items collected along the way, and will undoubtedly place him on a shelf somewhere to be forgotten, just one more haunted relic, a macabre curiosity to be commented upon long after I have faced the eagle. Folly manifested.
The odd thing about New Orleans was that as I walked down Canal Street with Wendy at my side, on our way to one of those touristy tours to all the famous haunted sites in the French Quarter, I found myself suddenly overwhelmed by the presence of an ally. And as I stood looking in a storefront replete with thousands of strands of Mardi Gras beads, tiny figurines in the shapes of jazz musicians and alligators, an androgynous voice whispered in my mind, “So… you’ve finally come home.” Interesting, since I had never been to New Orleans before that day.
I have no belief in past lives as the concept is commonly understood. Instead, what I have come to see is that at that level of ubiquitous consciousness, where there is the interconnectedness of all energy, some element of Now connected strongly and deeply to some element of Then, and a door opened between the two worlds. It would be possible, of course, to say this is simply the way things are everywhere… and yet I’ve never had an ally welcome me home to Albuquerque or El Paso or Atlanta. Why New Orleans? Who’s to say?
|Courtyard of our haunted hotel in the French Quarter.|
In Florida, the rains come as soon as we cross the state line, like someone throwing a switch. Windshield wipers rattle an irregular yet monotonous rhythm as we drive through the night, sandwiched between 18-wheelers pushed along by grinning phantom drivers and a produce truck bearing the badly worn hand-painted lettering: “Bubba’s Auto Repair. Cars Fixed Cheap.”
My mother, well into her 80s, insists there is a devil. Not “a” devil, but The Devil. She tells me this as she fills out her tithe envelope to take to church in the morning – a tithe she cannot afford, given to an inanimate entity, a building, a mere mortal man who claims to be a messenger from heaven. Perhaps there is a devil after all. Perhaps, as Orlando has often said, the devil’s greatest trick was convincing the world he is God.
|The property as it appeared in 1961... now little more|
than a shadowy, vine-covered bit of isolation,
existing only in memory, at the edge of
The Twilight Zone.
A little shiver passed through me, and for a moment I was 17 again. Knowing I would be leaving the following morning for Miami, probably never to live on that ground where I had grown up ever again, I sat at dusk with the spirit of the lake, listening to the water lapping at the side of a rowboat that was half-filled with stagnant water, a relic sinking back into the earth. My back was pressed against the rough bark of my favorite tree, and somewhere in the distance, somebody was playing an old guitar. Nothing ever seemed to change in that place, and so I closed my eyes and promised the spirit of the lake that no harm would ever come to her. No rich socialite would build a mock-plantation on her shore. No McDonald’s would spring up next to her. No one would ever despoil her beauty, I told her.
And at that time, in my 17-year-old teen-angst of moving away from home for the first time, I meant it.
Allies and phantoms and devils, oh my! What a long, strange trip it’s been.
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