the true stories
People who go to sleep with empty stomachs rarely have nightmares. There have been times in my life when I was able to sleep quite comfortably on the floor or the bare ground without my flat stomach hurting me a bit. A ditch on Highway 99, a rocky beach on Honshu, a cliff in Spain, a Greyhound seat and a mat of pine needles up Jackass Mountain have all been beds to me.
Much is made of dreams and I have had some very important ones in my own estimation. I have learned to categorize them, however and there are many which are just dandelion fluff. Like a computer needs to flush its buffers, so does the human brain. I have noticed that the common anxiety dream is often triggered by nothing more than one too many slices of pizza.
I have never followed the logic of mankind, wherein people eat to excess in order to give thanks for having enough food. Feast is the handmaid of famine in my storybook. I also don't believe in hoarding vast quantities of anything, other than patience. To me it is like demonstrating that in spite of one's professed beliefs, that they just don't trust that their mother will see that they have enough to eat or to wear.
In ancient Egypt some of the first research was done into human nutrition. It was worked out over time exactly how much calorie intake of precisely which foods would yield a days work building pyramids, preserve basic health and not leave enough energy at the end of the day to cause any trouble to the boss but just enough to make more baby slaves. While the Pharaoh ate and drank copious quantities of imported delicacies and lay down to dreams so contorted that they would cross a Rabbi's eyes, the workers munched bread, salt, onions, a bit of fish and a beer or two before settling in to a dreamless sleep.
This history was not lost on me as I watched products in the grocery boast less and less of all nutrients and charge double for the lack. I look for salt, sugar and fat when I go hunting among the shelves. Don't mix any of those three with flour and you will have a shiny coat, lots of energy and a proper blood chemistry.
I was sleeping just now and in the clutches of a Kafkaesque dream. I had shown up at a new postal station for work in a strange part of town and when I got there I was informed that I would have to do some pipe-fitting instead. This was made difficult as I hadn't brought any of my tools and furthermore I was clad only in my bedroom slippers. I tried to make the best of it and William Shatner and I set off for the job in an old truck. The truck died and we walked the last few blocks.
Bill had never done sheet-metal before but was a quick wit and able to imagine the sort of tools one would need to actually conclude the assignment. I was intent on connecting the pipes to the appliance before us although it was anyone's guess what the contraption was. It had some pipes from prior to my birth and some that were of a technology beyond my ken. To further complicate the issue, my ex-wife showed up and began the most annoying and distracting behavior. As I tried to get Captain Kirk organized putting on the transition to the plenum, she began to lick me! It was nice at first when she confined herself to my arms but when she moved up to my face, I simply couldn't work any longer. Her tongue was like a belt sander.
In a stark instant, I snapped my eyes open and was confronted by Dusty Bones' deep eyes where he loomed over my chest playing with my necklace. A look to my right showed that the correct wife was breathing softly beside me and I was in the proper dream I have chosen to dream on this side of life. In an instant I knew it was the bionic chicken breast and mound of ampalaya she had fed me hours before and the half box of Windmill cookies I had polished off while watching Star Trek VI on the DVD that were the real authors of my discomfort. After a hot cup of chicory and a plug of halfzware shag, I was good to go.
The kitten's object of interest started me musing. It is a gold stylized rendition of kokopillau, aka kokopelli which I wear on my neck as a wedding token. I took the design from an illustration in a book about the Hopi I had read. A German anthropologist had taken rubbings from rocks he had found scattered from the Arctic to Tierra Del Fuego and from the Eastern seaboard to the coast of California. I have since seen many stylized versions of kokopillau but I prefer the most ancient.
The creature is actually a magical katydid and thus is supposed to look insectoid, not the humanistic version usually seen in “Real Indian” gift shops. I have drawn the little design for over forty years on all my correspondence and as a mark on many of my possessions. In Hopi myth, there was three worlds prior to this present one. Each was destroyed and in each case a remnant of mankind was saved from destruction and told to try a little harder to get along properly. A friend of mine said yesterday that if mankind was created yesterday at 9 AM, all the same color and language and culture, that they would be warring by noon.
In the last instance, the remnant emerged from underground shelters into what is now British Columbia. They were instructed by the Creator to travel to the North, West, East and South extremes of the continent and then to meet back in the middle of this cross. That rendezvous point is the Hopiland of today. Indeed, petroglyphs of kokopillau have been found all along this route. The journey was to take many, many generations and was only completed in fairly recent times.
The little being, it is told, felt sorry for humans and decided to go along as a helper. He had a magic flute and each night as the people camped, if seeds were put in a pot they carried, he would cause them to grow, flower and fruit in a matter of hours by playing music. The first mountain range they had to cross was guarded by an eagle. The eagle made the people agree to a challenge of their bravery before allowing them to pass. Kokopillau stepped up to take the challenge. The task was to stand without blinking as the eagle thrust an arrow point at his eyes. As his insect eyes were unblinking by nature, he passed the test.
From my understanding he was never worshiped as a deity, rather he embodied a connection to things magical or beyond our normal range of perception. This perception has waned in most humans with the passage of time and to their detriment. I am fortunate in this regards. It is in this spirit of understanding that I adopted kokopillau as a personal talisman of sorts. You could call him a helpful wanderer with a touch of mojo. How did he get to be around my neck? Therein, dear listener, hangs a tale.
When I was a young buck, I worked at a truck stop in the Fraser Canyon. On my time off I used to climb Jackass Mountain to sleep in the rocks and pines and watch the summer lightning, the trains and the moon. Once, I was sheltered in a rock overhang and saw a bolt strike a pine nearby. It shot down the trunk in a black streak and some smoldering pieces flew off in my direction. I went in the daylight to inspect and saw that it had a most curious shaped branch.
It was actually two branches grown together, then separated, then rejoined, then separated yet again. The shape spoke to something very deep inside me and I took the design as my own. It has formed part of my legal signature ever since that summer night so many decades ago. I revisited the tree throughout its life only to discover that it had been repeatedly struck and finally toppled. I still have a piece of the pitch-soaked wood blasted away from one of the strikes. In Cherokee medicine as well as in Chinese lore, this is very powerful stuff and to date I have never had a reason big enough to utilize its properties. The tree eventually went to earth but I was able to get a picture the second to last time I ever stood over it.
I had a relative in East Texas before I was born who was a wanderer. Felix G. Landers traveled on foot to points unknown and was always accompanied by two dogs. He was born in 1859 in Harrison County, Texas. He had three brothers and seven sisters. They grew up on a farm in Hallsville, Texas. He never married. No one knew where he went or what he did. From time to time he would show up at different relatives' farms to have a feed and carry on. He would eat and sleep on the porch with the dogs. He had a long gray beard and carried everything he owned in a backpack, save for a trunk which he left at one relative's house near Farmersville in Collin County. That trunk was never opened by anyone except him and no one knew what it contained.
It happened that he passed through one winter that was a particularly harsh one for this part of the world. He took up shelter in a cotton warehouse in a rare blizzard and his frozen body was discovered several days later by local farmers. The story made the local Texas papers and once I found a copy that a relative had sent to my mother which she had used as a bookmark in a book I had lent her.
Here are the two newspaper articles:
“Tuesday, 21 Jan 1930
DOG REFUSES TO LEAVE HIS DEAD MASTER
Loyalty of a dog to his master was described by Lansing citizens who reported to Longview, (Texas) officers today that they had found a dead man in a cotton house in their community Saturday morning. The man, Felix Landers, a wanderer, was frozen to death Friday night during the severe blizzard. He had started to Marshall, (Texas) from Longview, (Texas) and took refuge in the cotton house when the blizzard struck. Friday morning some farmers heard a dog barking in the cotton house, they investigated but the dog, a large collie, would not let them enter the shack. The men had to kill the collie before they could remove the man's body. Those who have known Landers said the collie was his best friend. They were inseparable at all times. Landers would not accept a ride from a motorist unless the dog was given the same privilege.”
“Friday, 14 March 1930
LANDERS APPEARS IN MARSHALL TO DENY HE IS DEAD
Felix Landers, like Rip Van Winkle, has returned to deny that he is dead. But unlike Rip, he found that nothing had changed, only the weather being a little warmer. The following article appeared in today's edition of the Dallas News under an Associated Press credit line. Furnishing a belated and unexpected denouncement to one of the many pathetic stories of Texas' extraordinary blizzard of January, Felix Landers, aged wanderer, came to Marshall, (Texas) Thursday expressly to deny he was frozen to death near Hallsville, (Texas) on 18 January. Since announcement of Mr. Landers' death, a number of relatives have tried to ascertain definitely how the rumor originated. They could not find their kin, but were told hundreds of times that he was dead. A report from Marshall, (Texas) this morning said Landers appeared at the sheriff's office yesterday, shook hands with Mr. Sanders and other officers, and told them “I am not dead.” A few minutes later he and his dog resumed their journey and were last seen on the Jefferson Road.”
The day I received the returned book from my mother by mail, I was busy researching the symbol I had taken from the pine tree so many tears ago. I had wanted to see if the form existed outside of nature, such was its resonance which never waned over the passing of many of my years of its use. I was using Google and after many hours of shooting in the dark, I came across an exact match! It was a bas-relief on the front of an ancient cotton warehouse in Northwest Cairo on the Nile Delta at a place called Sais. The building was thousands of years old and still standing in my lifetime.
Further hours of research showed the symbol to be one of the emblems of a female deity named Neith. A huntress and warrior woman much revered at the time and in that place. I had just re-filled my mug to ponder this when the mailman dropped the book through my door-slot containing the story of the cotton warehouse in East Texas thousands of years and an ocean away. I have had many days like this and though I am accustomed to it, I draw much inspiration and energy from contact with the numinous.
When I married the first time I made rings from hex nuts. When I could afford it, I had a sister-in-law make two rings with the motif from the pine tree on Jackass Mountain. Mine was lost in an attic while working as a gas-fitter in North Vancouver. The marriage didn't last long and I never found the ring in the blown-in insulation. My second set of wedding rings were custom-made and mine suffered a similar fate as did my second marriage. I lost that one in a crawl space doing gas-fitting. It had been made from a piece of my grandfather's ring. His fingers were of such a huge circumference that two rings and a further piece of jewelry were gotten from the one portion of gold.
My third set of wedding rings were store bought. I have big knuckles and slim joints close to my palms. Alas, to get a ring big enough to clear my knotty knuckles, means a loose fit on the other side. This ring was lost in another attic, that of my landlord at the time and I could not find it in the morass of fiberglass and vermiculite. My wife also worked with her hands all day and preferred to keep her ring in her pocket for fear of losing it down a drain. Thus we went about our daily affairs with no rings on.
I have never liked rings, watches and jewelry. I do not like the connotations to the ring in the bulls nose that is placed upon the married man's band by the unhappy husbands of the world. I don't like the ancient connections to Saturn, symbolized by the ring and the black square hats used by university graduates. Saturn was an asshole who ate his children. As Nisa and I are bonded like newly welded valve-flanges on a submarine, we do not feel the need to bother to wear physical reminders.
It has been clear to me for some time that one of the secrets of life is that of satisfaction. This simple principal escapes most of us for the best years of our lives and many of us do not comprehend it ever. What I mean is, if a person can accept their own reality of the time, place and circumstances they live in and hold this picture up against the totality of the world and all time at large, then and only then is one able to discern which times, events and places are the sweet times of their life. Thus, they are able to recognize a good situation and actually revel in it as it is happening, rather than look backwards with bitter tears of regret at the memory of what they now recognize as the good times.
When I was a letter-carrier, I had a lot of terrible routes and horrible assignments. One day at a Station called Mountainview, I bid on a new route. After the first day of sorting and walking it, I realized that it was the best I was ever going to get in my career. It had an AM portion that began across the street from the station at an outdoor gear outfitters store and did all the businesses for three blocks of a half-dozen streets. After a home-cooked lunch, which was taken in the station, I had six blocks of two streets far away next to the apartment where I lived. This portion took about an hour to complete and I would simply walk home.
At the time I had created a web-site of my writings called Follow The Lynx (pun intended) and was in the process of translating it into French, German and Spanish. This took many, many hours and several years to complete. I soon discovered that I could do my morning portion, go home for lunch, work for six hours of translating and then burst through he PM portion near my abode as a break from sitting. It was the cat's pajamas and I knew it! I enjoyed every mile of it and used the precious free time to further my own endeavors.
Over the years I had routes that took me progressively South on Cambie Street from the bridge downtown to 49th Avenue. The worst route I ever had was along this Avenue. One of my calls on Cambie Street was a jeweler's shop. The proprietors were a charming couple. The man was a German and his wife was a Swiss woman. She did the business and he made the jewelry. I got to know them well.
They had met as teenagers in Malaysia or Thailand as young travelers. After meeting, they decided to travel together and subsequently fell deep in love. Along their way, it happened one day that they were riding a motorcycle in very heavy chaotic traffic. An oncoming vehicle passed at high speed and part of its bumper swiped off the German boy's leg at the knee. The girl stuck with him in the sweltering filth and got him to treatment and eventually back to Switzerland where he received the very best care available at the time.
Her father, a jeweler, took the young man under his wing and told him that he had to get up off the bed, learn to walk on his plastic leg and learn a trade if he wanted to marry his daughter, which he very much wanted to do. The man taught the boy and he became an accomplished designer and maker of very fine jewelry. They were married and have been together everyday since that time.
One day as Christmas was approaching, I got the idea to forgo ever having a wedding ring to replace the one I had lost for the third time. I would have a piece made for my wife and one for me that we could wear around our necks. I talked to the German and gave him a drawing I had made of kokopillau. A few weeks later, he proudly placed the two pendants in my hand while his wife beamed goodwill from her eyes. I have never taken it off since and plan to be wearing it on the day I die. The design and the hands that made it carry a lot of power.
Copyright © 2019 by Michael A. Hawes. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.