I was reading Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale on the train coming into Manhattan when I reached the end of the tale. The story merged time and space together in the snow-filled mythic city of Manhattan with its darkness and white lights. Those who had passion to punch through time had a pursuit that spanned through space and somehow the mechanism that produced the New York Sun had something to do with it all. The New York Sun, the popular newspaper founded in 1833 was a central part of the story. The main character, Peter Lake was The Sun's master mechanic at the turn of the 20th Century and he is there again a hundred years later bringing back life to the old press. His obsession to stop time and bring back the dead plays an important part in the story. I was thinking about The Sun when I departed the train and walked through Penn Station. I wondered what it would have been like to work there in the 1800's. Outside the station, the air was crisp, the sky was gray, and the smell of chestnuts roasting tugged at the memory of the novel I had just finished.
Ending a book is like living in a remnant of where I just left, the author's world created in my mind. I stay there for a day or two as I go about my reality.
Once I left the station, I decided to stroll through Macy's on my way to work. I longed to continue my nostalgic sense of Christmas. I passed the men's department, climbed the stairs to the heart of the store, then moved swiftly through the perfume counters with their fragrance hucksters, and swept through jewelry, making it to handbags and finally the Broadway exit. Perfect, I could see the windows. And there they were entertaining tourists and fascinating children. They were dedicated to "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." Macy's "Believe" theme was based on the popular front page story printed in The New York Sun in 1897. There it was right in front of my eyes, the newspaper! One of the windows showed the editor, Francis Pharcellus Church composing the piece at his desk in the office of The Sun. The remnant of Winter's Tale merged with my reality, the two worlds collided, just as it had in the book. The Sun was the connection. As I stood there mesmerized, something came back to me. I could hear my Uncle Al's voice from a Christmas Eve long ago as he recited "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." It was a magical night as the winds howled, and the snow fell. I am the only one left to remember that night since my family is gone. Just like in the book, they must exist somewhere, I am not that different from Peter Lake who only wants to stop time and bring back the dead. Tears filled my eyes as I studied the windows and thought of my sentimental state at 34th Street. But hey, I can give myself a break to be nostalgic, after all, I thought, "Yes, everyone, there is a Santa Claus," and at that moment a Michael Jackson impersonator passed the windows and waved to us with his white glove.
Michael and I attended a destination wedding in Jamaica. Long after the festivities of the reception ended, I sat outside our room on the deck to breathe in the sea air and dream. That's when I noticed the fake owl perched on the tree across from me. The owners of the establishment probably thought this would be a nice addition to their guests' experience and you know it actually worked. I sat there for the longest time trying to let my mind wonder but I felt compelled to look straight ahead and into the eyes of the creature before me. The person who carved this thing took such liberty with the proportions of the eyes. I know that owls have large eyes but these were exaggerated, a caricature of an owl. It also had unnatural colors of orange, yellow, and red. It was made of wood just like those parrots that sit on perches in novelty stores. I found myself locked in a staring contest with this inanimate object and just as I thought to quit, the damn thing flew away. I was dumbstruck!
I the fool "whoo" I was could have caught ten flies with my open mouth as I sat there realizing this was indeed a real owl and one that was watching me for a very long time. This turned out to be the best part of my trip since I have never seen an owl, not even a brown one back up in the Northeast.
Six months later when I was at Barnes & Noble shopping for Christmas presents, I stumbled upon another owl, "The Little Owl," a small white one in a box. He was my present to our home for Christmas and he sits atop our stove. I stroke his head often for good luck.
At the same time I was discovering owls so was my friend Peter. He found a vintage crystal owl pitcher that sits across from his sofa. When I visit him I find myself staring at it and making wishes. Recently Peter brought home some more owls. He put the crystal owl in the bedroom and replaced it with a lamp that has a base of three brightly carved wooden owls. These guys look exactly like my buddy back in Jamiaca. Our friend Linda asked if he got it at an "owlet." Actually it was his trip with David to Maine where they shelled out two bucks for this incredible find.
Did you know that in some cultures owls are viewed as evil? Most cultures view owls as wise. This is probably how you think of an owl. The reason owls are considered wise is that for centuries they have appeared in images of the Goddess Diana, the wise huntress. Wise through association. I get that, that's why I like to hang around smart people!
Owls may not be wise but the one I saw in Jamaica was. He actually knew that the woman sitting across from him was real.
Why can't I control my premonitions? Why do I have to accept that my head is like a radio and I have no control over what comes through, what channel to play, or when to turn it off or turn it on. This is what I was thinking on my way to play the Mega Millions at the store on Park Avenue near my office.
Before I played the lottery, I stopped by Gregory's coffee shop to get a short dark roast with room. As I was at the counter adding milk, a very hyper lady stood next to me as she added sugar to her cup of unnecessary coffee. Brother, the last thing this woman needed was caffeine. A sedative would have been more in order. She had a raspy voice like a life-long smoker and she spoke to me about something mundane. I remember thinking that she was the kind of person that would be good on a sinking ship...rough around the edges but she would save people, you know the heart of gold who would get the job done.
I continued to my destination where I played the numbers Michael had dreamed the night before. Maybe his premonition would work. He had six numbers written down that he saw clearly in his dream about a drawing that played on television.
As I was filling out the mega millions card the same lady from the coffee shop came into this store and was standing next to me again. This time she was asking for a pack of cigarettes. She looked at me and said, "Are you following me?" I laughed and said, "you caught me."
I was walking back to the office when I thought that if I would see this woman again that meant I would win the lottery. I arrived at my building and stood outside hoping I would see her among all the passing bodies but I knew it was next to impossible. Just as I was about to push the revolving door I heard that raspy voice. I turned around and there she was standing nearby talking on her cell phone and smoking a cigarette. She recognized me and ended her phone call. She said, "you again." We introduced ourselves to each other and shook hands. Then I went into my building and she continued to walk uptown. This was a sign!
The next day I eagerly checked online to see what numbers were the winners. I had three of them, two plus the mega ball. I was excited to see what it rendered... how about a measly three dollars? I guess I could say I did win the lottery, a buck for each time I saw that lady!
It seems that most premonitions are warnings about death, illness, and disasters but once in a while it can happen that they point to financial gain. I am going to keep trying and I will let you know when it really works.
I had a half-hour before the train arrived at Trenton to take me to New York. A cup of coffee would be fitting as I lounged around the station. But then I thought water would be better to drink. I found myself daydreaming and as my mind drifted I focused on the image of water. I imagined a clear pond, still and reflective. I thought of a waterfall and its hypnotic rhythm. I imagined breathing in the ionized air. How clear my thoughts were and how relaxed I became. I remembered learning from a woman who taught a class called, "Brain Gym" that water is a great neutralizer. She believed that taking a sip of water between mind exercises cleared the palette of our brains.
"Yes," I thought, "I will drink water instead of coffee!"
I got up from the bench that had become my meditative sitting area and I walked over to the Dunkin' Donuts portable cart where the bottles of water were stacked in the fridge adjacent to the hot coffee dispensers. Slowly I reached in to retrieve a bottle. Then I walked to the counter to pay for it.
"Don't I have a right to be happy?" the young woman behind the counter said as I handed her my money.
"Excuse me?" I said.
"I can be happy too, don't I deserve that?" she continued.
I hesitantly replied, "yes, of course you do," not knowing what I was saying and wondering what the hell was wrong with her.
"You don't know what I am talking about, do you? You don't know the spirit. You only think about what you have to do and where you need to be."
"You have no idea who you're talking to," I replied. "I am a very spiritual person and in fact I was just thinking about the principal of wa..."
"You don't know anything!" she exclaimed with her eyes ablaze and full of hatred.
Then she gave me my change.
I moved away in a confused state and wondered if I was witnessing someone having a nervous breakdown and soon an ambulance would come to take her away.
I stood to the side of the cart in a spot that was close enough but not too conspicuous so I could watch what she was going to say to the next customer.
When the man paid for his coffee, she said with a sweet smile, "have a good day."
I watched her with more customers and there was no hint of that previous venom I had witnessed. She was back to normal.
I've been to that cart often since that day and she waits on me without any hint of what happened between us. Sometimes I buy coffee and other times I get water. Once I gave in and bought a chocolate glazed donut. But never again will I meditate in a train station or any public place for that matter. I guess that's why the yogis tell us to sit in a quiet, safe place when we want to clear our minds.
Who knows what we could conjure up when we have our guard down?
Maybe there was "something" hanging around the Dunkin' Donuts cart that day, like a nasty spirit with a sweet tooth.