March 13, 2017
Ancient wisdom tells us that smoke is fatal to evil spirits. Have you ever burned sage to drive away negative energies? Ever burned the blooms of a Smoke Tree? The flame flies in wild circles. The scent, sweet and spicy. Christians burn incense to purify churches and altars; they scatter the smoke in all directions, hence the expression ‘holy smoke.’ Capnomancy is form of divination, a reading of the shapes of smoke as a sign of what will happen soon. I love candlelight and bonfires, watching the smoke curl into haunting shapes, light-winged, like an Icarian bird or …
Or like a firehawk …
Let’s get dreamy for a moment. Henry David Thoreau said “Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”
Come with me. Move into sleep, as through a veil. Let the dream do its dreaming.
Enter into a night journey where airy Smoke Trees grow.
Sit down beneath the fluffy grayish puff-blooms. Rest on their vanishing shadows.
Are you breathing a bit of smoke yet? Inhale the alluring scent and let it take you into the beyond.
In the distance is a cemetery garden. Do you see it?
Curling grass, ferns and flowers, flights of hawks are soaring.
Kip Livingston carried a jar of sea lavender through the cemetery paths high above the sea. Raymond Kera followed but kept several paces behind. Some of the headstones were scoured white from salt winds. Smoke trees interrupted the skyline with their frothy grey plumes and deep purple leaves—must have been twenty of them among the graves. Raymond remembered smoke trees from childhood when he was sent to stay with his aunt in upstate New York for a month. He had been permitted to pluck one bloom and spent the morning blowing away the seed heads one at a time. As they floated off, he saw them as little angel ghosts with glowing heads. He had chased the smokey ghosts all the way to the street, giving his aunt the scare of her life.
Just at that moment, he desired to yank down a plume and do the same. Ridiculous, but tempting.
He watched Kip approach a headstone and place the lavender on the grass right under the engraved name of her grandfather Achab David Ze’leim. She stood there all soft and flowing in her summer dress with the dull sun at her back. Her lips moved slowly; she fingered her necklace, cast her eyes down to the earth, tucked her head as if listening. Then suddenly her hand swung down like a broken paw.
Giving her plenty of privacy, Raymond sat on a nearby bench. He let the puffs of the smoke trees soothe him. He might have closed his eyes, if only to escape all of what happened that morning. That claw. Did she dismember the demon? Or was it another illusion? Or another dream of her evil firehawk? Are her dreams so powerful that when she opens her eyes, when she becomes awake, the images are realized?
Kip waved him over. “I was thinking of Aunt Agatha, just now.”
“Is she buried here too?”
“Her ashes are buried in the garden at Abasteron House. Aunt Agatha was the sweetest woman. She wanted to tell me the secret. But she said it would frighten me. So, she took it with her to her grave.”
“A family secret?”
“I don’t know. Admitting you even have a secret half reveals it, don’t you think?”
Kip slipped her hand into the crux of Ray’s arm and hung on to rest her face on his shoulder. “Grandfather died bravely, you know. He walked the beach every day at noon, even up to the last week he died. He especially loved the winter sun.”
Raymond gave a nod to be polite. Achab David Ze’leim’s headstone was a massive hewn square rock with a lion claw as a mounting at each corner. Simple lettering. Name, dates, and the old man’s last words: Every word emanating from God creates an angel.
“You think that’s true, Kip?”
He pointed to the epitaph.
“Why not? It’s from the Talmud. You believe in angels, don’t you, Ray?”
“You mean your demon?”
“It’s not my demon, Ray.”
“Well, it’s your dream.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Then whose dream is it?”
She looked away. “The dream is dreaming itself.”
“Why would you think that?” Thunder rolled over the smoke trees. The puffs on the trees didn’t look so angelic just then—more like dried up cobwebs about to crack.
Kip answered after a moment. “Grandfather.”
Come into the Night Sea Journey with Kip and Raymond. Walk among the cemetery smoke trees. Angels. Demons. Be awake in the dream as it dreams itself into reality.
An Eric Hoffer Book Award Winner, 2015.
U.S. REVIEW OF BOOKS “Stunning and absorbing plot on par with, if not better than, a Dan Brown novel.”
SAN FRANCISCO BOOK REVIEW ★★★★★ “NIGHT SEA JOURNEY is like reading a Dan Brown book with a wicked twist: it has real demons. Readers will be taken on a continual thrill ride, impossible to put down, a fast-paced thriller.”
READERS’ FAVORITE REVIEWS ★★★★★ “Marvelous, atmospheric and, oh, so very, very good. Profound, vibrant, and intensely moving. Highly recommended. Brava!”