Friday arrives, the day mom agreed that I could step back into a semblance of my normal schedule and I get up and dress for a day at the store, only making one stop along the way…
I ease my car into a space and watch the vultures as they gather in groups, vying for a spot closest to the door. Bright expressions stretch their faces. All are eager for the hunt to begin. I lock my car and hurry to the growing line wishing I hadn't taken so long to get ready.
As I approach, conversations quiet and the focus of the group shift to the clank of metal and the jingle of keys. The doors open and I join the line as it presses together and slides forward, flowing under the boldly lettered, “Half-off everything!” banner.
I grab a basket as I pass. Then rush to the stacks where others are already ogling the colorful covers, touching pages, tracing spines, reveling in the scent of clean, freshly inked pages. A small journal catches my eye and I take it from the rack and toss it to my basket. A fat woman in a floral-print dress wedges herself closer to me as I choose a scrapbook and a sketchpad. Behind the sketchpad, I see a small volume, its cover sparkling with transparent beads. I snatch it from the shelf and I dart around the corner scanning the shelves as I pass, the handbasket heavy on my arm.
Two rows over, I spy my friend, Larry Spiegel, hunting through the hardcover fiction. I offer him a wave and a smile. Larry is the manager of the Barnes and Noble closest to my mother's store. He is a kind and patient man who has helped us out of many author events gone awry by tracking down and supplying us with much-needed stock at the very last minute. In return we provide him with access to our authors. He too is loading up on treasures. I glance in his basket. It is filled with back titles of Lee Child, Michael Connelly, John Sandford and Daniel Silva, no doubt first editions for author signings later in the month.
“I’d like to see Lee Child again. Planning another dinner?”
“No, this time it’s just Q and A session,” Larry tells me.
I nod. “Mom gave me our new calendar to post. I'll have it up by tomorrow.”
“Anybody I might have an interest in?” he asks.
I shrug. “I haven't really looked at it yet, but I'll email you a copy,” I promise.
“Thank you, Rachel. Say hello to your mother for me.” Larry, like many in the local bookworld, has a lingering crush on my mom. I give him a nod and make my way to the checkout line.
The crowd is quiet, a general melancholy affecting us all as we stand in line, the realization dawning that soon this place will be no more. The poor economy has been felt by all and now this beloved bookstore on the Waterfront, my refuge, the place I often dithered away my lunch hour was closing.
A space at the counter opens and I plop my selections down. While buying closeouts did not allow for returns, if done correctly, could add a hefty percentage to our retail profit. Yeah, so I too am one of the vultures. I can live with it. While we are still managing to pay all our bills, money is tight and our little shop needs all the help it can get to ride out this downturn.
The clerk ogles me when I present a business Visa card. “Um, okay, I just need to see some ID, please.” Her voice is polite but the turn of her mouth reveals her skepticism.
“No problem.” I've been an authorized signer on the store account for a couple of years now. I fish out my wallet and hand her my license.
She quirks her lips as she studies it. “Yeah right, seventeen and you already have a business Visa?”
I look her up and down and gauge her to be a year, or maybe two older than I am. I refrain from saying anything snide and only shrug. I run into age discrimination from time to time but usually it’s from gray-haired types. She narrows her eyes but returns my ID and swipes the card, and eventually, bags my purchase. The skeptical expression she gives me when she hands over the receipt makes me laugh. I know I have a huge goofy grin on my face as I gather up my bags and carefully tuck the slip away for John, our financial manager. I was trained early to turn in every receipt.
Ten minutes later, I pull up to Liminal Landscapes and park Victor, my old blue Volvo, in his usual spot. It is a glorious, April morning and I delight in the soft breeze that flutters my hair as the gentle sun warms my shoulders. These are the magical days when life swells around us. Too soon the summer heat would turn the city into a wasteland, driving every creature to hide in the shadows.
I pick up the crust of my mostly-eaten breakfast sandwich and toss it to the pair of sparrows foraging in the rocks of the parking divider. Then I gather up my purchases and head through the receiving door. Inside the stockroom, Mom is chatting with Jay, the UPS driver. She gives me big eyes when I come in. Jack and David are working at the receiving table, packing the mail orders. They pause to interject occasional comments into the conversation about spring training. I duck by them unacknowledged, but substitute the current event, and this is a daily scene as Jay drops off and picks up our mail orders everyday but Sunday.
I head to the back of the office and deposit my stuff on the desk I share with my mother. Then I begin sorting through the books stacking them by price, before removing all of the stickers. Mom appears at my elbow. She is playing it cool but the way she keep glance at me, looking me over, is pretty obvious. To her credit she doesn’t give me any trouble but instead turns her attention to the books I’m sorting. “Looks like you found some nice additions to our stock. Have you received them yet?”
I shake my head.
“I'll do it from David's desk,” she tells me. “What I need from you is a blog on next Saturday's workshops. The paper missed us again and we need to get the word out.”
“Okay, I'll do it right now,” I reply as I slip into the chair. She mostly leaves all the social networking to me. I write up a blurb and post it on all the sites before I email the newspapers. Then, as promised, I email Larry our coming events calendar. “Okay, what's next?” I ask.
“That's all I have.” She gives me a smile and a knowing wink before she adds, “For the moment.”
“Then I'll be in my room,” I tell her as I open the desk drawer and retrieve a bag of candy. I step out of the stockroom and cross the breezeway. Bells softly jingle as I push through the double doors into the store. The air is fragrant with Nag Champa. The smooth heady scent soothes my spirit as I glance around.
Cordelia is manning the counter with the phone tucked under one ear as she logs an appointment in the booking calendar. Stephani and Rose Ellen are at their tables reading for clients. I pause at the counter to fill the dish with the brightly colored candies, my daily offering.
The small blond girl hovering in front of Cordelia watches as I choose one and tug off the wrapper. We only offer individually wrapped candies with the exception of the candy hearts we put out at Valentines because, for some reason, the staff will eat those off of any surface, even the floor, where most of them end up eventually.
I turn from the counter and head to the back just as Cordelia concludes her conversation. I hear the candies hit the floor and scatter and then Cordelia’s exasperated retort as she skirts the desk and begins to pick up the pieces. I turn to see the blond child cast me a smile as she offers up her outstretched hand to reveal a small red candy resting in her palm. I am still chuckling when I slip the key from my pocket, fit it into the lock, and open the door to my sanctuary.
The room is my space, my space alone….Well, it’s actually the old janitor's closet, but after our cleaning service started bringing all their own stuff, it sat empty and abandoned until I got Mom to relinquish it to me for a meditation room. I flip on the light and step into the room. The door locks behind me, instantly muffling the sounds of the store. Only the soft refrains of a flute float in. Low light fills the room with a soft comforting glow. I kneel on the oversized pillows, close my eyes, draw a deep breath and begin the process of relaxing.
Meditation is the cornerstone of my practice. Simply put meditation is the act of focusing and quieting your mind to achieve a heightened awareness of your inner spirit. The ability to reach a meditative state allows for the release of inner wisdom, giving a voice to the subconscious, allowing it to work with the conscious mind toward a common goal. That is my teacher, Omar's theory anyway. I do know that through the practice of meditation it is possible to improve mental clarity, achieve greater intuition, and open the channels to access your unconscious resources and abilities because that is what I use it for. And as I said before, meditation is the cornerstone of my practice.
I begin with a deep-breathing technique that leads up to running energy through all my charkas. Opening up your chakras to run energy takes practice but once you get a routine it’s like shining a spotlight on a dark path and I run though the workout effortlessly.
After the exercise, I quiet my thoughts and visualize my focus point, the empty lobby with the soft black couches. From here I can go almost anywhere. I sit on the edge of a couch while the details fill in. Soon black and white tile cover the floor. Across the room a mirrored elevator takes form. When a white marble staircase materializes, I get up and take it down, one step at a time, descending deeper into my subconscious, until I reach the most beautiful space I've ever entered.
The ceiling of my sacred space is high. The walls and the floor are made of natural stone. A huge bed dressed in green silks and decked with oversize pillows edged in green glass beads stands against the far wall. On the wall to my left gleams a large silver crucifix, a glowing ruby at its heart. On the adjacent wall stands a green glass vase holding a collection of iridescent peacock feathers. There is even a reflecting pond complete with koi and water lilies and lastly a floor-to-ceiling bookcase crammed with astonishing volumes.
I go to the large pillow on the ground beside the pond and settle comfortably. A brightly colored koi swims to the surface and I reach for the saucer of fish food that has just materialized at my knee. I toss a pinch to the fish and watch as he scoops up each particle.
“Tempting,” purrs a soft voice beside me, “too bad I just had my fill of salmon.” I turn to see a large, black cat sitting on the pillow next to me. Tufts of fur tip her ears and when she shifts her gaze from the fish to me I am stunned by the beauty of her face. Her large green-gold eyes rimmed in gold fix on me as small, pointed teeth flash in what I’m sure is a smile. “What a curious little bird you are. Why do you flit and fly all over?” I'm not sure how I should answer. I am relieved when she turns her eyes to the room. “I like this place. I would be comfortable spending time here.”
From my conversations with Omar, I am aware that the cat has symbolized deity, both protector and destructor, since antiquity so I offer a cautious response. Note—it is always prudent to apply caution to anyone or anything you meet while journeying. Often the things you encounter are not what they seem. I bow my head and answer, “I am honored but surely this is too humble a place for one such as yourself.”
“A true Goddess can find comfort in any space. Place my likeness there,” she commands as she lifts her chin toward the vase of peacock feathers, “and I will give you my blessing, and if it suits me, when danger is upon you, I will come to you in your dreams and perhaps even meet you here in this place.”
Okay, so she's a Goddess, perhaps even Bast herself? I've never met a Goddess before so I merely bow, placing both hands on the cool tile as I drop my forehead to the floor. When I rise, I find that she has vanished. I am alone.
I swivel around and sweep the room with my eyes. Everything is as it usually is. A soft breeze flutters the peacock feathers as I speculate what trouble might be heading for me. Then I catch myself and snort as I realize my folly. Meditation lesson 101: Worry never solves anything. I brush the worried thoughts away and recompose myself as I close my eyes, draw a conscious breath and let peace fill my being.
The afternoon passes quickly. I work the counter, ringing up customers and booking readings. I spend almost every weekend working here. I have for years. We have seven readers, and while I am well versed in the art of tarot, I don't read for the public but instead help run the store. It’s a dream job for someone like me. Okay, so my mom owns the place and she gives me a sort of cart blanch to work as I please. She even lets me use my own discretion when it comes to ordering, merchandising and manning the counter. But don't think I'm a brat. I work hard when it’s my shift. I'm a real team player and I can do everything from customer service to receiving and stocking the shelves. In a pinch I even host some of the author events, book clubs and workshops and I love it.
Customers steadily come through the door and the day flies by. It seems everyone wants to know what the future holds and we have readers who can tell them, readers who use everything from the Rider-Waite deck to angel cards and tea leaves. The tea leaves seem a bit sketchy to me but some swear by it. Anyway, my thoughts remain trouble-free, until later, when I fall into bed and the conversation with the black cat comes back to me as I'm slipping away. Then the whole night through, I am harried by troubled dreams.