October 12th, 1974.  12:50 PM

 

I had no preconceived notions of what Moondagger might look like, I’d just imagined he’d come off as highly eccentric.  But he wasn’t as over-the-top as I’d expected.

            He was in his mid-forties, and except for a well-trimmed horseshoe of hair around the sides of his head, he was completely bald.  He wore horn-rimmed glasses and a cotton robe tied to resemble that of a Tibetan monk.  I immediately felt a tinge of jealousy for whoever had supplied him with his jade beads.  Even if they were fake, the salesman could have made a hefty profit had they been sold by the pound.  Each green bead was a different size and shape and separated by a small gold sphere.  (Not until he came closer did I realize each sphere had a zodiac sign etched onto it.)  Dozens of these beaded chains in varying lengths were draped around his neck and strung about his wrists.  In his left hand he held a worn paperback copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

            His features were as perfectly balanced as his spirit reputedly was with the universe.  A completely unremarkable man, really.  If it weren’t for his dress, surroundings, reputation, and 10 fingers, he could have been my seventh grade shop teacher.

            Moondagger raised his arms as if expecting a chorus of trumpets, but when they didn’t come he didn’t seem too disappointed.  He then held his hands out toward my companion and spoke in a soft, pleasant voice.

            “Sage, my Sister of Light, so good to see you again,” he said.  Coming from anyone else this probably would have made me laugh. But from him it sounded like the most natural, normal, thing he could have said.

            “Moondagger!”  Sage said excitedly.  “I want you to meet my friend, Sammy.”

“Sammy, wonderful to have the opportunity to greet your spirit.”  He bowed his head, holding his palms together, and then sat across from us in the ostentatiously decorated folding chair.  He cleared his throat loudly before continuing.  “First, even if The Universe does not decide to assist us in the way we would like, it is still only fitting to start this congregation by giving thanks.”

            I clasped my hands together and lowered my head in a moment of silent gratitude as my family used to do before each meal.  Sage did the same.  But before a second had passed, Moondagger spoke again. 

            “I meant, to me.”

            “Oh, I’m sorry,” I said.  “Thank you, Moondagger, for…” for what, exactly? I had no idea. 

            “For allowing All That Is to use you as a vessel in dispensing The Ultimate Wisdom,” Sage chimed in, saving me some embarrassment. 

            “So, who would like some tea?” he then asked.  “Hmm?  It’s green tea, very tasty.”

            “I’d love some,” said Sage, and my response mirrored hers.

            “Lovely, then,” Moondagger continued.  “Lovely.” 

            He took a small bell from the folds of his robe, held it high above his head, and rang it daintily – complete with raised pinky finger.  A few seconds later, Lenny K. came out of the van having thrown on a robe similar to Moondagger’s – though it was made from a bed sheet covered in cartoon ducks.  Lenny K. had also tried to mimic the style of his mentor by wearing several strands of beads, but they were not as aesthetically pleasing as those displayed by Moondagger.

            “My guests and I would like some tea,” Moondagger said, and Lenny K. bowed slightly and disappeared into the van once again.

            “Now to your problem, Mr. Sammy.”

            “Just Sam,” I said back.

            “I notice you’re not well, Mr. Sam.  You seem to have a hole in your aura.”

            “I thought it was a dent,” Sage offered.

            “No, it’s a hole.”

            “What’s the difference?”  I asked.

            He thought longer than he probably needed to before answering.  “A dent is something that is pushed in, whereas a hole is something that’s been taken out.”  He pointed a finger to accentuate the first part of the sentence and then made a fist and pulled it toward him to emphasize the second.  The beads around his wrist clacked loudly as they swung to and fro.

            “I mean, what’s the difference as far as my well-being is concerned?” 

            “I haven’t the slightest idea.”  Though it was a rather silly thing to say, he seemed so confident in saying it that it sounded like a learned response.          

“Is it a bad thing?”  I asked.

            “A hole in anything that is not meant to have a hole is always a bad thing, don’t you agree?”  

            It was hard to meet Moondagger’s gaze after his response, as it seemed so obvious.  So as I nodded an affirmative, I looked down at my mood ring, which was still the dreary color of lead.

            “A tire, a balloon, a sock.  So why not an aura?” he continued.

            “Touché,” was my response.

            Just then Lenny K. exited the van.  Moondagger’s acolyte was holding a teapot in one hand, and a tray with three of the smallest teacups I’d ever seen in the other.  After serving Moondagger, he poured a splash for Sage and me.  The tea was weak, almost flavorless.

            “Good, isn’t it?”  Moondagger bragged.

            “Mmm, really good,” I lied.  “So, back to this hole.  A hole in a tire or balloon makes it flat.  Is that what’s going to happen to me?  A flat aura?”  Just as I said this, I realized it probably sounded like I was making fun of him, which I wasn’t.  Thankfully, that’s not how he’d taken it.

            “How long has it been there?” he asked.

            “I have no idea.  Sage noticed it about a week ago or so.  It could have been there for years, or since just after I walked into her shop.  I really don’t know.”

            “Had you noticed a change in your life in any way?”

            “Not that I’m aware of,” I answered.

            “Loss of money, friends?  Perhaps an itchy chakra?”

            “I beg your pardon?”  I was certain that in my life up to that point that was a question I’d never been asked.

            “Your spiritual center,” Sage said, coming to the rescue once again.

            “Oh, no itchy chakra, not at all.  Though I have had a string of bad luck lately. Could that be…?”

            Before I had finished, Moondagger clapped his hands, slapped his knee, and leaned forward sticking a finger straight at me.

            “That’s it,” he said.  “Bad luck, yes, yes, that has to be it.  And just like the hole, it will spread.”

            “It hasn’t been that bad,” I started to explain, but then remembered flat tires, blown head gaskets, fireballs, irate bikers, a beautiful woman with a penchant for stealing purchase orders while using the ruse of purchasing beads.  “Well, yeah, pretty bad,” I conceded.

            “We need to solve this problem,” Moondagger said with confidence.  “Or at least be sure that we definitely cannot,” he continued with much less.

“How could it have happened?” I asked.

            “Let us find out.”  Moondaggers head began to sway back and forth as if his neck had grown weary from holding up a vessel full of so much knowledge of the universe.  He moaned softly, and then started speaking.  What language he was speaking, if any, made absolutely no sense to me.  Then he raised a hand and motioned me towards him.

            I looked to Sage, and she nodded, telling me to walk up to him.

            After I approached, he put a hand on my shoulder and pushed me down to a kneeling position.  He started making gestures that seemed familiar, and even though I couldn’t understand the words he was saying, I had the sensation I’d heard them before.

            At first his voice sounded happy and light, then it became more serious and he waved a finger at me.  He then held his palms up and made circling gestures, and smiled once again.  Then, with his next moves, I knew I had seen this before:  he held one hand over his eyes, and tilted his head up, speaking to the pleasantly cloudless sky.  Whatever he was talking to, his voice was pleading, and he then put a hand on my chest.  After a moment, he looked into my eyes and clasped his hands together once more.

            His head then fell forward, as if whatever he was telling me had now been completely told, and none too soon, for he was exhausted.  He waved his hand, giving me permission to go back to my seat.

            Once there, Lenny refilled my teacup.   

Then, as if struck by lightning, I suddenly remembered where I’d seen those gestures and heard those words before.

            “Do you speak Balinese?” I asked.

            “I speak many languages,” he said.  “Some have been invented by Man, and some have never been heard by him.” 

            My mind was abuzz.  I felt he knew something he wasn’t telling me.

            “How did it happen?  Where did this hole come from?”

            “Holes don’t come from anywhere, they’re evidence that something was there that is no more.”

            “What I mean is, how did that part of my aura leave and create a hole?”  Moondagger’s exhibition had impressed me, but I still was not fond of his semantic games.

            “Someone, or something, took it,” he said so matter-of-factly I wanted to clench my fists and groan. 

“Can you be a tad more specific?” I pleaded, trying to hide my frustration.

            “There was an energy around you, it latched onto you, onto your being,” he said, as if explaining the obvious to a child.  “But you pushed it away, you abandoned it, and it took with it that part of you it had connected with.”

            “I haven’t abandoned anything, or anyone for that matter.  Maybe it left on its own.”  Though I had no idea what we were talking about, my argument seemed quite plausible.  Moondagger shook his head.

            “No,” he sighed.  “If it was connected to you so strongly that it would take part of your aura, it wasn’t anything that left on its own.  It wouldn’t have wanted to go.”

             “Can you fix it?”  When Sage asked the question, there was more concern in her voice than I felt comfortable hearing.

            “I don’t know.”  Moondagger took a pack of cigarettes from another of his robe’s folds and patted the pack several times before slowly taking one out and lighting it.  The actions were nothing more than a dramatic pause, but they were effective.

            “You see,” he finally said.  “I’m a poet first and a spiritual healer second.”

            He then leaned forward, put a hand up to his mouth as if he were telling me a secret, and continued.  “Actually,” he said in a voice just loud enough for me to hear.  “I’m a plumbing fixture distributor first, then a poet, then a spiritual healer.”

            His self-effacing humor put me at ease.

            “If you can’t fix it, can you at least patch it?  And if not, could you tell me what it was that I lost?”

            “No,” Moondagger said sternly.  “But you already know, even if not consciously.”

            “What does that mean?”  I asked honestly.  I wasn’t being combative.

            “Sit back,” he said, his voice even more calming.  “Relax, let your muscles loosen, close your eyes.  The answer will come to you.”

            I looked to Sage, who gave me a “why not?” look, so I closed my eyes and let my head fall back.  At first I felt kind of dizzy.  Then, after about 30 seconds, I just felt stupid.

            As if he’d heard my thoughts, Moondagger chastised me.  “Relax!”

            The spinning sensation stopped, then I felt light.  I was sure if I opened my eyes I would find myself floating several feet above the ground. Moondagger’s soft voice whispered to me from light years away.

            “Yes, relax, find the answer.”

            Then it happened, something from my recent past was trying to float to the surface of my mind.  It came slowly, but eventually I began to recognize it.

            It’s almost there, I thought, and I smelled an odd, but familiar smell. 

Birdseed.

            “Whoa!”  Sage’s exclamation took me out of my trance.  When I looked at her, she was staring at my hand, mouth agape, and pointing at my mood ring.

            It was emitting a faint light, changing color very quickly.  Clouds formed within the small, glass dome, and bursts of electric energy crackled beneath the surface.

            After a few seconds it went dark, returning to nothing more than the dull gray it had presented when Sage first slid it onto my finger.

            “Do you have your answer?”  Moondagger asked, sounding much closer than he had only moments before.

            “I think I may.”  Had I really smelled birdseed?  Instantly it seemed like it was only a dream, the specifics evaporating quickly from my mind.

            All three of us stood.  I walked up to Moondagger and shook his hand.

            “Thanks,” I said.  For what, I wasn’t quite sure, but I did have something to think about if Sage’s diagnosis and my bad luck were connected.

            After he released my hand, Moondagger threw an expectant look to Sage and coughed a weak, forced cough.

            “Oh, right,” she said, opening her purse.  “Sammy has a great flask for you.”

            “Yes, of course,” I said taking the kidney-shaped leather pouch and handing it to him.  He ran his hands over it, as if it were some long lost treasure.

            “Very nice, yes, wonderful workmanship.”

            Sage then took the handful of beads from her purse and displayed them in the palm of her hand.  He reached out cautiously and picked up an oval, pewter bead.  He held it up to the sun, like some learned jeweler inspecting a diamond. (The fact that the bead was completely opaque made me ponder why he had to hold it up to the light.)  

            “Wonderful, wonderful!” he muttered, and then handed it to Lenny K.

            Next he chose a Swarovski baroque pendant and held it to his chest.  He thought for a moment, then decided it was worth keeping.  After poking through the rest of the beads, clasps, charms and components – always looking as if he had decided on one, but then moving onto the next – he finally just took Sage’s hand, dumped everything into his own, and then into Lenny K’s. 

Without another word, he turned and walked to his van.

            “The Peace of All That Is Wonderful be with you,” Lenny K. said, bowing.  He quickly followed his master.  After the van door slammed shut, I turned to Sage. 

            “Huh?  What did I tell you?”  She said, grinning a youthful, innocent grin.  “Is he something or what?”

            “He is definitely something else,” I said as she took my hand and led me down the row of cars in search of anything else peculiar she could find.

 

October 12th, 1974.  10:00 PM

 

I was enjoying the concert and had told myself several times during the performance that Mary’s Painted Wagon was definitely a band that should be heard live.  Even with the best recording and playback technology the world had to offer, there was a certain presence emanating from the stage that couldn’t be captured through even the most expensive entertainment system 1974 had to offer.

            I was so entranced with the music I hadn’t even taken time to think about what had transpired that afternoon.  But during the 12-minute zither solo on their biggest hit, Day One A-Wanga! I took some time to reflect.  Had Moondagger slipped something in the tea?  It was certainly possible for a shaman like him to acquire a hallucinogenic – especially if he liked to hang out in the parking lot at Mary’s Painted Wagon concerts -- of that I had no doubt.  But the effects were too short lived – for both Sage and me – for that to have been the case.

            Maybe hypnosis.  Another possibility.  But even Moondagger had seemed slightly taken aback by the mood ring incident; like someone who had pretended to be in touch with the paranormal for so long, when he actually witnessed it he was more shocked than anyone else.

            And did I really smell birdseed?  And if so, what did it mean?

            In three days I would be flying back to Seattle.  I’ve never been a fan or a believer in man’s ability to conquer the skies, so all I could do was hope this bad luck had nothing to do with my aura, something lost, birdseed, or the whole Moondagger incident. 

            When the song ended, the audience erupted in thunderous applause, and in her excitement Sage threw her arms around my neck.  She hugged me so tightly and for so long, the band was well into the first chorus of G-Funk’s a-Comin’ before I could take in a good breath.  When I finally did it, it felt good, though not as good as the hug from Sage.)

I enjoyed the rest of the show.

            ......to be continued.

 

© 2006 Brightlings Beads and M. Robert Todd