Tuesday evening I read up on “how to meditate.” Skimmed a bunch of stuff that was not useful to me in the slightest. A lot of New Age speak, which I might be gaining proficiency in despite my best efforts not to, but still way over my head. Mostly about the spiritual benefits of the attainment of a higher level of consciousness and the like. But in between all that, I did learn about breathing, how to do it and how to use it. Then I held my nose and jumped in.
Not unexpectedly, I didn’t immediately attain enlightenment status, and nobody would be hiring me as a guest speaker at a guru convention any time soon. But I set a timer for twenty minutes, and when it went off I was surprised. I considered that a major accomplishment. The other couple of times I’d tried meditating, I peeked at my watch every minute or two to see if we were there yet.
Wednesday morning actual sunlight woke me up. Well, sort of. I was having this doozy of a dream where Lacey was laid out across the altar and the golden-haired woman was standing there clutching this wicked-looking bronze dagger, waiting to cut her heart out and George was arguing that, no, that wasn’t necessary, he’d already made the required sacrifice, and then a bright sunbeam came through the clouds and shone right down on Lacey and lit the altar up and when I woke up there was the sunlight on my face (but unfortunately, no Lacey).
I was eager to get out to the island, but I had a fire laid and the coffee pot loaded and it could stand to warm up a bit first. So I went through my morning routine, adding another twenty minutes of meditation after my coffee was gone. There are much worse ways to start your day. (I’ve tried a lot of them.) The tide was in, the aroma of pinyon pine therapied my senses, the duality of the warmth of the fire and the chill of the morning was like thermal yin and yang. Yea, baby. Bring on Chai and her fancy lingo, I got something for you, darling.
I loaded the rocks into the boat and covered them with a tarp before heading to the boat ramp. Didn’t want to run into Joe and Ollie and have to answer a bunch of questions about what the hell I was doing? They’d pretty much accepted me as a harmless outsider; no reason to endanger my status. So of course it wasn’t the dynamic duo down at the ramp, it was Lucas. Fortunately, my backing the trailer was pretty much flawless, otherwise I’d have had to suffer through a critique.
“First morning it doesn’t rain in a week and look here, Rick Whittaker’s putting his boat in before nine. But he’s not carrying any fishing gear, unless he’s hiding it under a tarp. Don’t see an easel, so he can’t have taken up painting. Wonder what he’s up to? Wouldn’t involve a certain island, would it?”
I shrugged. “I’ve been there a few times, and for some reason I can’t wait to go back. Whatever it is that’s keeping you away, it affects me exactly the opposite.”
“Did you find where the fire was?”
“There’s a large clearing at the top of a pretty decent hill. But would you believe there isn’t a trace of a fire on it anywhere?”
Lucas scratched his head with one hand, pulling the cross out from under his shirt and rubbing it with the other. “And no signs of people, I suppose?”
For some reason I didn’t feel uncomfortable sharing any of this with Lucas. Well, if it was jealousy that others would visit my own private retreat that made me secretive, Lucas was the one person least likely to violate my privacy. “No signs of any recent visits. But people have been there, at least sometime. There are impressions where stones once stood in a circle on the hill. And I found what is most likely a Celtic divining rune.”
“I don’t know what that is, a divining rune.”
“I didn’t either until I talked to a professor who’s an expert on it. This one is carved from bone, about this long,” I held my fingers a couple of inches apart, “and was likely used a long time ago to foretell the future.”
“So you’re thinking these Celtics sailed across the Atlantic before Columbus, before Leif Erickson even, discovered America, erected some big rocks they’d brought along to stake their claim, and cast those what did you call them, diving runes?”
“Cast those divining runes, discovered that the future was a lifetime of stinking hot summers and sand gnats and hurricanes, so they packed up their shit and went home?”
I laughed at his wild imagination. “Sounds like as good an explanation as any.”
“And before they left, I suppose they sacrificed a black slave. Which is why I am repelled by the place and you aren’t.
“My friend Chai Fox speculates it’s because you’re sensitive to ghosts and I’m not.”
“If by sensitive she means I’ve seen one and once is enough, she’s right about that. So what are you hauling over there, or do I not want to know?”
“It’ll just cast it in concrete that I’m crazy, but here, I’ll show you.” I pulled the tarp back. “I’m building something called a sacred wheel out on the island.”
Lucas looked at the rocks lined up there in the bottom of the boat and just shrugged. “No crazier than the rest of it, I suppose.”
We talked a minute or two longer before he got in his boat and headed out. I wasn’t long behind.
I’d given a great deal of thought about the optimal way to install the wheel. If I made it the same size as George’s, it would easily fit inside the stone circle. That had to be the best way to align and amplify the powers. But I was afraid of getting too close to the altar stone for a number of reasons, the most prominent of which was that the altar was the locus of unparalleled sex and I didn’t want to screw that up. No pun intended.
Getting the rocks up to the top of the hill kicked my ass. I’d paid for over 300 pounds of rocks, surprised at the time how much it totaled up to. But loading 300 pounds in the boat was one thing; hauling them up the hill was something altogether different. I’d bought a couple of those reusable grocery sacks to tote them in; by the second trip, I was wishing I’d taken time to find something easier on the body. It took eight trips in all—it was all I could do to haul the five big ones up there all by themselves.
Plus it was cold up there. (I might once have said, “Colder than a witch’s tit,” but that myth had recently been proved erroneous.) The trees sheltered me from the wind, but up on top it had a pretty good bite. Not to mention I was pretty pitted out, which made it that much worse.
My subconscious came up with a pretty good idea: why don’t we build a fire? (I’ve discovered when you get too tired for your brain to keep pretending to be in charge, that happens a lot). And so I did. Left the stones piled up right there—outside the circle; wouldn’t have been right to just dump them inside—and built a fire. A pretty big one, considering there was only me to warm. Also outside the circle, right where I thought it would be on high feast days. Or maybe I’d dreamed about where the fire should be. And then sat there, warming myself, watching the flames, feeding more wood in when it started to die down.
Sitting there I had this really funny vision about Lucas seeing the fire during daylight for the first time. And that triggered a shiver of fear that my visits to the island might upset the order of things and there wouldn’t be any more fires at Samhain. But I was too much at peace to hold such doubts. I was filled with a deep sense of belonging there, grateful that I didn’t share Lucas’ repulsion.
My subconscious, pleased to have contributed, came up with another idea: why don’t we dance around the fire? OK, not all subconscious ideas are equally valid, and I had no trouble ignoring this one.
In the end, I didn’t do any more work on the wheel. Decided if the weather held, I’d bring Chai out here on Saturday and let her help. If she had her own ideas about how it should be laid out, it’d give me a chance to reestablish some of that natural male dominance we’re supposed to have.