Meet my alter ego, Olivia Hardy Ray. She’s a bit off, as any alter ego should be. She helps me to see things in the dark that aren’t there. She insists I’m not crazy when I talk to ghosts, when I walk in time and when I actually do away with Jack the Ripper (But that’s in the sequel). Olivia applauds my pious puritan soul and yet takes so much pleasure in the devil’s demise. She’s a naughty girl, always insisting I go out on a limb and tell people how I swung by my neck in Salem yet live to walk in centuries of my choosing. She whispers in my ear constantly, but I always listen, for she talks to me of spirits and God and how the devil can be beaten and time is an endless moment of now. She preaches, sometimes, but gives me handsome heroes and despicable demons, androgynous women to taint my life and priests to save my soul from the pits of hell. Thank you Olivia, as I now write the sequel to Annabel Horton, Lost Witch of Salem, thank you for being so daring and so bold and so completely oblivious to the natural world.
Reading is the ultimate relaxation, an entryway into fantasy land and the opportunity for compassion and connection. Reading is like religion because it transcends you, removes you from your narrow world into the lives of those who live on the edge, even those who live beyond the realm of reality. Reading is spiritual and provides an expansion of the soul, it is like school because it teaches you to dive deeply and survive the waves. Reading is a vicarious thrill as it gives you a peek into passion, a scourging spin with adultery and a tearful loss of love. Reading provides a spellbinding journey into the lives of people who have become your friends, who elicit emotion from you as easily as turning a page. As you read you plunge yourself into the emotional upheaval of characters you feel you know but don’t, characters you fall in love with even as they leave you as quickly as the pages of a new book seduces you. Reading opens the imagination and expands awareness. Reading is when you find out how human you are, shedding tears over the lives of people who never before touched you. Reading provides you with larger than life heroes, with psychological insight Reading allows you to be beautiful, royal, evil, handsome, and when you read you are the book, you die beneath the sword, you thrive in an era of hardship. Never turn your back on a good book. Words of wisdom are not written on the wind, they are written in a book,
“Friendship is so fragile. It shatters the heart with a word, it’s so difficult to maintain … it can vanish over time, as if it were never there.” Vivian picked up her glass and toasted Susie with it.
“It’s only friendship, Viv … friendship that hides it’s head in the sand for a bit, and then, pops up and gets an ‘all clear’… so it comes out again and lies in the sun. But, then, the rain comes purging down and friendship gets mad and says ‘I’ll never come out again.’ But then, it does … because someone stands over it and says ‘please, I need you.’ ‘I miss you.’“
Some words from my novel Faith Among Friends that will be published in a few months. The book is a bit nostalgic, based on the wispy sketches of old friends. Once I was in the theater and life was quite a drama and love was forever painful and sex was an obsession. That’s pretty much what Faith Among Friends is about – Lies that were never necessary and loyalties that shifted like the wind and memories that bubble up and burst back into time so softly that they can no longer be seen but they tickle you still. Memories that are softened by years of gaining too much, losing too much, finding too much joy without recognizing it, knowing too much grief without showing it. I miss being young when it all hung out and I did not censor myself and my friends looked deeply into my eyes and wondered who I was. If I were to fall into the icy streams of upstate New York the whispers of my old friends will remain, gentle wind songs of memory. I cannot decipher the words so I invent them. I cannot interpret their meaning so I rewrite them as love songs. And If I were to fall into the icy waters of upstate New York my songs will carry me home. There was a time when friends read my Tarot cards, believed in the ghosts of my past and kissed away my illusions and my misconceptions. I miss being young. I never thought I would lose anyone or anything. I believed you were your word. I believed this glorious time would be forever. I knew my friends were the substance, they were the life line. So if I fell into the icy waters of upstate New York I would not perish, I would not die. I would remain in the foolishness of youth and I would be held afloat forever by the bonds of days gone by.
2017 was not a year to remember for me. It was just as bleak and cold as this photograph. Slapped in the face by mistakes, not just in the year but also in my life, the sting was brutal. It’s not that I’m a stupid person; I’m a naive person who simply doesn’t see dismal outcomes or recognize monstrous people. I am at heart, an artist, a creative being who is simply meant to sit in a chair for most of the day and tap into my imagination, stir up my sweet genetic memory and come up with characters who all resemble me in some fashion, and are all very much snippets of people I’ve known, my way of loving them back, remembering.
This dissociation from my true self is rooted in fear and a lack of confidence. I actually went out into the world at the age of fifty and pretended to be something I am not, pretended to enjoy what I hated. Where’s the satisfaction in that? How long has it taken me to realize that I can make money as a writer, that I can live in my head all day and fine-tune a skill I love? We are all meant to be doing what we love. We’re meant to be happy, not to live in a whirlpool of regret licking our open wounds of failure.
To know ones self early in life is a blessing. It wasn’t mine but those who know me know that I am not one to stop growing or fighting the great fight toward self satisfaction no matter how many notches of years I’ve got on my belt. I’m not going to make any resolutions because they morph into broken promises at some point. I’m not heading into the New Year with a bunch of rah rah goals like getting thinner or smarter or richer. I’m meeting the New Year on a note of change, renewed ambition and gratitude. The gratitude is for the people in my life, my dear Marianna, old friends and new. The gratitude is for my insanely good health, a mouthful of good teeth and a love for the finer things in life that I refuse to give up because I don’t believe I can’t afford them – not an option. The angels or Gods or ghosts, whatever you wish to call them have been good to Marianna and I. We must appreciate the luck that has materialized in our path like some miracle, some pot of gold and we must trust that those Gods or angels or ghosts continue to guide us in our misguided choices and completely myopic decisions. That cold snow in the photograph will melt to water at my feet and spring will come. The creek still flows under the ice and gardens of flowers will bloom while the road a head curves, and the landscape changes
My father hid presents under whatever he could find, a new bicycle behind a chair, games and clothes under couches. My mother hid dolls in very creative places, under mattresses, in shoeboxes, maybe once under the sink. When I was a girl Christmas was the incredible smell of my Grandmother’s gravy, someone’s Jean Nate, one of my aunts no doubt, and the gentle ribbing from my Uncle Tony. Christmas dinner always took place in Brooklyn on Freeman Street where Hungarians dressed up in brown suits and velvet hats, because everyone had to look their best for Jesus, who hung from a cross on Java Street where the old Catholic Church rang its bells.
Christmas also took place right off Park Avenue where I lived with my Mom and laughter rang out and my cocker spaniel chewed my shoes and my mother’s mink fell over the armchair like some glorious cape just waiting for the shoulders of a Queen. Jesus didn’t live anywhere near us on Park Avenue but he sure hung out in Brooklyn because my grandmother loved him. I think my father probably did too. My mother only liked Saint Jude because he was the saint of sinners and she was the Black Irish beauty who loved to live loud. Oh, there was the Buddha, the big bronze one in the living room and his belly smelled like pine. I’m sure she loved him as much as my grandmother loved Jesus.
Only the memories remain to sweeten my senses now, it’s been so long. Winter always means Christmas and forgiveness and new beginnings to me. I am no longer a girl and haven’t been for many years. I go into the depths of winter these days carrying summer in my soul; my transitory snow prints vanish like dust to the wind, like so many of the people I’ve known, so many of the friends I’ve lost. My journey is neither long nor short, it’s simply unknown. When I was a girl summer teased me forward with a promise of surprise and the future was enormous then. But now the beautiful cold white winters and the long stark barren trees take me back, back to the laughter, the loss still stinging, no, never a memory the years can cover, never a memory lost.