Tag Archives: Santa Cruz

O is for Occult


by Lillian Csernica on April 18, 2016

As fond as I am of folklore and mythology, part of me is always on the alert for signs of magic or the occult in cultures I’m visiting.  I was born and raised in Southern California, so I come from the land of the free and the home of the New Age.

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During the summer trip to Ohio when I was thirteen, my father took me to visit his older brother, my Uncle Dean.  This visit stands out in my mind for two reasons.  First, Uncle Dean gave me a brick of fireworks.  That’s right, a whole brick.  I couldn’t believe Daddy let me accept them.  Second, I met Uncle Dean’s next door neighbor, who told me she was a witch.  This woman was young, pretty, had a cute little boy, and in every other way seemed to be your typical American housewife.  She got her degree in witchcraft through a mail order course.  Uh huh.  This was thirty-seven years ago, so such a claim was more than a little bizarre.  I investigated the mail order course, and it really did exist.

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My travels took me to New Mexico once.  I’d met some people at an SCA event, the Estrella War, and later paid them a visit at their home in Albuquerque.  The Southwest is where you will find the Pueblo Indians.  The occult event that happened to me had little to do with First Nations medicine.  It involved a mirror and a candle.  With all other lights out, I sat in front of the mirror with the candle behind me.  What was I supposed to see?  The record of my past lives.  I saw seven faces, three male and four female.  Did it work?  Or was it just a matter of the power of suggestion and my overactive imagination?  I’m not sure.

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On my trip to Maui with Mom, I was looking forward to seeing signs of the menehune, the Little People of the Hawaiian Islands.  Some people believe that when you see those cairns or pillars of stones by the side of the road, the menehune have made them.  Do not disturb those, and don’t ever take any of the rocks from the Big Island.  Legend has it that Pele the Volcano Goddess will hunt down such thieves and punish them.  Something must be happening, because the forest rangers in charge of the national parkland there tell stories of how often they receive packages from tourists who have been to Hawaii and picked up a pebble as a souvenir.

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And then there’s Santa Cruz, California, home of all the weirdness you could possibly desire.  From the schizophrenic homeless people who live close to downtown to the occult supply shops just waiting to accept those tourist dollars to the amazing mixture of cultures and beliefs found within the city limits, we’ve got it all here, folks.  (Santa Cruz does contain the Mystery Spot!)  I  know several practicing Wiccans, a few ceremonial magicians, at least one curandera, and a few of those folks who insist on taking the salad bar approach to their spirituality.  Pentacles, Thor’s hammers, dream catchers, and more can be seen in the jewelry and the tattoos worn by the good people of Santa Cruz County.

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California Dreaming


by Lillian Csernica on February 13, 2016

Today was an absolutely gorgeous day in Santa Cruz.  The Titans of Mavericks surfing competition is underway up the coast a bit near Half Moon Bay.  I grew up loving the seashore, with a big brother who once tried to teach me how to surf.  When I woke up this morning I had no idea I’d soon be visiting the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum and seeing some of the most spectacular waves I’ve ever been lucky enough to witness.

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I live in the Pacific Coastal Redwoods, just twenty minutes away (in good traffic) from this surfer’s paradise.  California really is a great place to live.  Santa Cruz County has been really good for me and my family.

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Filed under Family, home town, Lillian Csernica, nature, travel, Writing

A Visit to the Normal Zone


by Lillian Csernica on June 25, 2014

Measured against a typical day around here, today was positively Normal.  I do not use that word lightly.

I had an appointment in San Jose today.  Since I’d be in that area anyway, I called up the pediatrician’s office and made an appointment for John.  His blood pressure has been running high lately.  This is a concern for all the obvious reasons, with the added worry that his medication might be contributing.

We don’t see the pediatrician that often these days.  When Michael sees a doctor, it’s usually one of the specialists.  When John sees the doctor, which is maybe twice a year unless he gets really sick for some reason, he’ll see either the pediatrician or the neurologist.  Our usual pediatrician wasn’t available today, so we got to meet one of the newer members of the medical group.  New to us, anyway, given that the two main doctors there are a married couple who were recommended to us by the OB/GYN who delivered both Michael and John.  That makes 18 years total we’ve been going to this particular doctor’s office.

When John was little, the waiting room had a playhouse where he could climb inside and then slide out.  There was a big abacus on the bottom floor and a big clock with moveable hands up on the second.  Now and then another kid would get in there with him.  As John grew, that got to be a tighter fit!  So today I was startled to see the playhouse is gone, replaced by a moderate plasma screen up in the corner and a reasonable salt water fish tank against the wall.

John parked himself in front of the fish tank and proceeded to relate to the fish in the same way he relates so easily to cats, dogs, goats, horses, sheep, cows, llamas, and emus.  That was fascinating to watch, and kept both of us busy until John was called into an exam room.

I’m so used to the finer points of talking to Michael’s specialists that a doctor appointment with John is almost too easy.  The “new” pediatrician gave me quite a bit of useful information about both of John’s medications in the context of teenage patients in general.  That helps.   Like all special needs families, our world tends to be quite circumscribed, but within that world there is a whole other universe of specialized details.  It makes me grateful all over again for John being able to walk, talk, eat, and care for himself.

 

I’m happy to say that the pediatrician thinks John’s blood pressure is fine, along with his height, weight, thyroid, and general health.  That was a relief.  I’m no fan of blood tests, but I really hate seeing people stick needles into my boys.  When it’s time for the back-to-school physical, we’ll check on John’s allergy to peanuts.  It would be good to know he’s outgrown it, but as Dr. Whitney said, when you jump out of a plane, odds are good the parachute will open.  Still, there’s always the chance that it won’t, so it’s best not to jump out of the plane at all.  I agree.  Better to continue making sure John avoids peanuts in his food than to risk the need to use his Epi-pen against anaphylaxis.

On the way home we stopped at KMart to pick up a boogie board for John.  We just gave one to his best friend last weekend during Lucas’ 13th birthday celebration.  Now that John has his own, he and Lucas can go to the beach together and have fun with their boards in the surf.  The waves at the Santa Cruz public beach are not exactly legendary, but that’s all for the best.

At the moment, John is in the kitchen baking chocolate chocolate chip cookies.  Soon he will put his pajamas on and we’ll watch a movie while we eat the cookies.  The R.N. will go off shift and I’ll put Michael to bed, then kiss John goodnight.  The cats will curl up in their spots, I’ll back up my writing and editing for the day, and then I’ll watch Netflix or read before lights out.

I’m used to living in crisis mode.  Now and then I get to visit the Normal Zone.  Nice place.  I’ll have to come back again.

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Filed under autism, cats, chocolate, Family, Food, Goals, Humor, Special needs, Writing

K is for Keepsake


By Lillian Csernica on April 12, 2013

 

My family teases me because they think I have too many keepsakes. I suppose I do. Beach glass and seashells and a beaded lizard keyring and a little bean bag dragon called a “shishimai.” I have a pot holder from Santa Fe given to me by my Japanese teacher and some odd little toys from a friend in Germany. I even have a jade Kwan Yin pendant from a friend in Hong Kong.

I am sentimental. I have been to a lot of places and seen a lot of things, but best of all I have met a lot of people. When I went to the 2007 World Science Fiction Convention held in Yokohama, Japan, I took a blank journal with me. I had people sign it, leaving their email addresses and greetings and little reminders of the moments we shared. It was the best way I could think of to capture more than just the faces of the people I met on the vacation of a lifetime.

While I treasure that book and the photo album that goes with it, I think the most precious of my keepsakes is a little inkwell made of blue glass in the shape of a one room schoolhouse. The chimney is where the quill dips into the ink. A nice man named John ran a comic book shop in Santa Cruz. He agreed to host my very first book signing when I was promoting The Year’s Best Horror XX. Friends and family and my husband’s co-workers came, along with UCSC students and curious locals. We had a great time. At the end of the evening, John presented me with the blue glass inkwell. I have never seen the like before or since. It remains a singular treasure.

Most writers don’t make a lot of money. Self-promotion is hard, tiring work. Every now and then somebody comes along who appreciates what you’re doing and how hard you’re trying. Sometimes that appreciation takes tangible form in what becomes a keepsake.

I want to hear from you folks. Do you have any keepsakes related to your writing? Any trinkets or treasures that inspire you?

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Filed under Blog challenges, Family, Fiction, Humor, Writing