Saturday, March 30, 2013

The gift of enchantment

Fasten your seatbelt for a lurid tale of animal magnetism.

     I have a farm in Creemore, Ontario, where I went last weekend from my home in Toronto. On a freezing snowy day that was brittle with blue skies and relentless sunshine, my friend Judi and I were driving down our remote dirt road where there are only a few isolated farms. Suddenly  we saw what looked like a hitchhiker who was waving us down. As we got closer, Judi, whose favourite book is  Worst Case Scenario Handbook ( She has all the editions),  said, "Keep going.  He wants you to stop the car so he can  murder us.” As I slowed down I saw a tall thin man in a pink wig and pink rhinestone cowboy hat. He had a pink boa jauntily swung around his neck. (He presented as a trashier version of Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy.) Seriously this picture below was the guy.

 As I was coming to a complete stop, Judi shouted, “Haven’t you ever read In Cold Blood? They were at a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. Does that ring any bells?” I told her that when you live in the country you have to stop for someone I distress. A person could die of exposure and according to the Creemore Echo, our local newspaper, it happens every year. People go off the road and even if they’re alive they can’t find help and die of exposure in unpopulated area. It’s not called Northern Ontario for nothing.
      I ground to a halt, and Judi reluctantly rolled down her window to address the apparition. When I looked in his face in front of the nine foot snow banks, I wondered if he was a transvestite. He was  six feet tall but  lanky. The man leaned inside saying his car had gone off the road about a mile south and he was trying to find Sue’s Clothes Closet in the town of Payner. He was referring to a tacky women’s store in a tacky town where I often sink to buying summer duds.  I have been known to be decked out  in a new outfit from Sue's and proudly ask my Creemore friends "Guess where I got thee duds?”  They always reply in unison, “Sue'e Clothes Closet, of course, because it is hideous and you need a fashion intervention.”
     It was odd since the tall man  was miles from the clothing store. I said, "Well get in and we’ll take you to our car." Then he said, “Thanks”. The way the androgynous being pronounced the flat A in the word thanks tipped me off to a Buffalo accent. Since I grew up ‘in the queen city’ that flat A has been branded on my brain.
Suddenly time stood still. I sensed danger. Why was there a man from Buffalo going to Sue's Clothes Closet in Northern Ontario in the depths of winter on an isolated country road in a pink wig, a pink cowboy hat, and pink boa with no car in sight. It finally dawned on me that  Judi was right. (Let's face it; most  pessimists usually win the day.) This was all a scam to get into our car. I looked again and was about to drive away and suddenly my heart began racing and my mouth was as dry as the Sahara dessert.  I began involuntarily screaming  so loud I had no operational vocal cords for three days. It dawned on me that I was looking at my best friend from childhood, Louise Greenberg. ( For those of you who have read my memoir After the Falls, she was the very tall friend whom I named  Leora.) We were inseparable from grade seven right through high school and we are still in touch. She now lives in Boston and does medical research. I screamed “Louise—Oh my God why are you here?” She said she just felt like a visit and wanted to freak me out. Well, she succeeded.

 Then the three of us pulled into our farm’s long driveway  with trees on either side. I suddenly saw something, almost subliminal out of my peripheral vision. It was a red flash. Was it a red fox leaning out from behind a tree? It was like a fox-human or something from a William Steig book, half human and half animal like Dr. Desoto where the dental patient is a fox.

Then an animal came out from another tree with yellow tufts and blue forehead.

 It looked like something from Cocteau’s 1946 film of Beauty and the Beast, when the beast began to look part human and part beast. 

Then a black feathered creature one came out from behind the lilac bush with a white feather mustached  mouth. This phantasmagoria looked like it had  been  taken from the fairy tale The Seven Ravens –at the exact moment when the brother was changing into a raven. He was half raven half human. On it went. Some other creature rose from the pond. Finally one danced across the frozen landscape near our pond.

 Judi said, "Well I hope you now realize we are being robbed. Those creatures are humans in masks. They didn’t expect us to be up here on a weekday." Louise asked why robbers would be hiding behind trees as animals unless this was a Grimm's fairy tale The musicians of Bremen  which was about animal robbers. Then four of the animals popped their heads out  as they stood on one another's backs.  

 Finally a mask blew off and I saw standing before me my friend Anne.  Then all the masks came off and there restored to human form were my female friends from all over the world. They all screamed “Happy birthday”. I collapsed and banged my head on the car door. 

We had a birthday party from Friday at noon until Sunday noon. So don’t think when you have your 65th birthday, you have to wear support hose and eat bridge mix.  I cried several times which is very rare for me, particularly in public.  Why was I so moved? All of my friends took trains, planes and automobiles to get to the party and gave it their all. Now everyone knows that we all have way too much stuff. Especially at 65 your stuff is getting moldy and really piling up. George  Carlin says it best in his video on TOO MUCH STUFF.

     My friends knew that what mattered the most to me was adventure. They presented me with more than adventure. These friends gave me a day of enchantment.  Enchantment is a word that is hardly used anymore. It is tied to fairytales as Bettelheim says in The Uses of Enchantment. The word actually is defined as "a captivation: a feeling of great liking for something wonderful and unusual." 
I will never drive in my driveway without thinking of the magic of those half multicoloured animals coming out from behind trees. Real love is when friends sit down together and say, “No matter how much work it is,  no matter how long it takes, no matter if we have to freeze our asses off behind a tree in twelve inches of snow on the windy top of the Niagara Escarpment for an hour, Cathy is worth it. That is what  real friends do and I love them for it.

Guess who?