Saturday, April 4, 2009


Photo of scene in snow where an owl hunted a rabbit
I ran across an old packet of incense someone once gave me, and I have lit a stick over my computer workstation here. The smell brings back the 1970s, and the small tendril of smoke has been fascinating to Dinah, who thinks it might be alive. Of course, she has additional reason for that delusion today. More about that in a minute.

I noticed, when I opened the incense box, that it was manufactured by the followers of Sai Baba. I have a long-time friend, older than me, who became a devotee of Sai Baba for a while, although I'm fairly certain it was not her who gave me this incense. She was a deeply pragmatic working-class Texan who had a gift for news photography. She also did reporting and was a DJ, before moving into sales because she was so good at reading people. When she took up Eastern religions, it was a bit unexpected but the humility and thrift actually fit her character. I made myself an interested listener, and loved the stories/slide shows she brought back from her pilgrimages.

Then, one day, my friend brought over a video of Sai Baba performing miracles at a retreat she attended. He wandered around, interacting with some folks but not others, and intermittently he "manifested" a string of beads or a small religious object into his palm, giving it away to the bedazzled person nearest him. The thing was, though, that it was patently obvious he was doing sleight of hand, shaking the things down from his flowing sleeves, and he wasn't even very good at it. My father was an amateur magician and he had more ability than Sai Baba. I looked around at my friend, waiting for the joke, but realized she didn't see the con. What she saw were miracles. I was rattled by her, of all people, being taken in. However, I had the kindness and grace to keep it to myself. If she needed to believe, who was I to demand my version of things?

My sleep these days continues to occur in inadequate chunks, partly for health reasons, partly because of my internal life. Bad dreams abound. Thus, I woke up early today and lay there for a few minutes trying to force myself back into slumber, to no avail. I had turned on the ceiling fan over my bed because it's getting up to around 80 every afternoon now. When Dinah realized I was awake, she appeared for arms'-length petting and a little chat.

So, I was awake when a largish black widow spider began lowering herself down a thread of silk from the central part of my ceiling fan. I spotted her when she was about 2.5 feet above me. I lunged to the side, as best I can with my current physical limitations, and scrambled to my walker beside the bed. Dinah initially froze in consternation -- quick movement is not something she expects from human beings, and she could read my anxiety. She looked around as if trying to decide which direction to run. Then she caught sight of the spider, who had stopped and was swaying gently in the air. Her pupils constricted and she went into a crouch.

I snatched up a spray can of a cleaner nearby, because I didn't have bug spray at hand, and aimed a jet at the spider. Dinah leapt to the top of my dresser, since I'd clearly gone mad, and divided her attention between me and the spider. It took a while for the spider to die. I actually like spiders, and even had a pet black widow in a jar for a while as a child. But I've also been bitten by them, and I now have a real fear of the pain they can cause. Eventually I was able to gather it up in a paper towel and bury it in the trash. Since then, Dinah has taken to watching open air for things which might appear, dangling, for her entertainment. If she could levitate enough to check out the sinuous plume of smoke from the incense, she would go after it.

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