The pale scent of sanitized vomit, sex and beer could be detected in the upholstery of the limousine. Bridget Lynn, my sister, had chartered the car and driver for my “Menopause Party” so we could stop and receive “blessings of Gaia” from each of the four main spiritual vortexes around Sedona, Arizona. I had learned just this morning the Sedona approved colloquial plural of vortex is vortexes, not vortices. As a visitor, I try to meld with the local color. As a sister, I endure things like “Menopause Parties”.
I was thankful that Bridget Lynn was fully clothed for our trip. She and her group of four middle-aged women friends have demonstrated a propensity for nudity, but this morning seemed content to throw blessings, crystals and individual Tibetan prayer flags to pedestrians at each stop light while fully clothed. In between standing up through the sun roof, they briefed me on the significance of each spiritual vortex.
“After visiting the Feminine vortex, my karmic allergy to semen was cured and my nurturing spirit was inflated with cloud spirit energy,” squeaked one of the shorter women named Charity. She was a follower, quite the Milquetoast by all accounts, and looked to the others for guidance.
“I was able to love and show compassion again after my 3 day prayer session in the balancing vortex,” said the swarthy, perpetually angry looking Grecian woman. I never really caught her name; it sounded something like Aisa or Ashley. She scared me. She had a two inch toenail on the big toe of her right foot with some kind of witchy symbol marked on it. I also noticed ‘this little piggy that stayed home’ was green from the cheap toe ring she wore. The collection of four Guatemalan fanny packs that hung loosely from her waist made me nervous. One was leaking.
“The masculine vortex connected me with my inner phallus. Most people find it strengthens their ability to stand up for their beliefs.” said Faith, a slight woman of medium build and unremarkable features. Faith would make a perfect spy, I thought. Unless she was speaking directly to me, she seemed to sink into the background – overlooked. I noticed this earlier while using the bathroom with some embarrassment.
“Energies in the all-encompassing vortex are like amplified to 11 or 13,” said Hope, a leathery faced woman with feathers and pine needles worked into the filthy dreadlocks that fell from her head to the small of her back. She had a faded pink dancing bear sticker rubbed into the fibers of her woven satchel. Fumes of old patchouli and curry haunted her words (and made me want to sneeze) when she spoke. I think if pine needles and feathers made my eyes that red, I wouldn’t use them as hair accessories.
I nodded to each as they spoke, trying not to send any body language signals with raised eyebrows that might be interpreted as a request for more information or enthusiasm. I really just wanted to get this menopause party thing over with and take a long shower. Bridget Lynn is a bit of a bossy-Flossy and her idea of going natural is not, in my opinion, natural or hygienic. A person should be allowed to bathe in the morning. Before I could work myself up into a stew over Bridget Lynn dragging me all over the country side, the limo approached the Sedona Airport and the site of our first destination – the Masculine vortex.
“We’re here!” Bridget sang. I tried not to roll my eyes as we exited the limo. Bridget handed out pamphlets to each of us as a jet began approaching for landing. I started reading the pamphlet, skipping the mumbo-jumbo and just trying to get to what I could anticipate.
Unexpectedly, a man and woman approached us in the parking lot. The man was rather plump and seemed to have hair that was bleeding a rusty-brown color. From my own experience with hair dyes, I recognized the condition – new dye sweat syndrome. The younger, busty woman accompanying him was dressed in an aqua stretchy jersey dress that barely contained her orange colored body. I don’t care for orange and aqua as a color combination. It looks cheap and dated, especially in direct sunlight.
Apparently Charity, the mousy quiet one, was the soon to be ex-wife of bleeding hair man. They were having an argument as the orange lady snapped her gum and looked at her watch. I don’t think it’s proper to stare or invade others space. Bridget was giving instruction to the limo driver, so I turned to Hope to get her thoughts on our adventure thus far. I felt pretty safe doing this since it looked like the next airplane was preparing for approach. I wouldn’t need to talk to her very long before being drowned out by the noise. Unfortunately Hope was slipping into a van with some other dreadlocked hippie types on the other side of the parking lot. I guess she met some people she knew.
I couldn’t find Faith until she spoke to me, startling me half to death. She and Scary Spice (Aisa), had something to say that from their expressions seemed urgent. I caught part of it in pieces.
“You need…your sister muffling…great moss” they might have said. I nodded like I knew what Faith and curly haired Lilly Munster were trying to tell me. The argument between Charity and her husband distracted me from asking more.
What had been a one way argument of bleeding hair man speaking in very harsh tones to Charity suddenly changed into a two way shouting match. Charity went full on ballistic. I remembered that the masculine vortex is supposed to help in standing up for one’s self and beliefs. I think when a soon to be ex-husband brings his new vagina to one of your social events, that might have an impact on one’s temperament as well. Bleeding hair man seemed taken aback and was clearly losing ground. More streams of dark sweat were running down his neck and discoloring his shirt collar. People were starting to record the interaction on their cell phones.
Faith and Aisa (or Ashley) took up positions on either side of Charity and calmly lead her away from the fray. Bleeding hair man and his orange lady friend took off across the parking lot, visibly shaken. I made a mental note to never post my daily schedule on Facebook like Charity. Bridget, who had rejoined the group, hugged Charity tightly and performed some kind of blessing. It seemed to calm the situation. Charity wanted to go home, so we found the limo and piled back in.
We dropped off Charity, Faith and Aisa at Charity’s place and headed back to Bridget’s house. Bridget Lynn and I didn’t talk much on the way back. Bridget seemed deflated and quiet, not herself at all. I chalked it up to the sun exposure, Charity’s public imbroglio and a lack of sleep the night before. Looking back it was probably more than that. I was really looking forward to a shower.
The hot water sluicing over my body was deliciously reviving. Clean and smelling of apples, I tucked my wet hair into a turban and slipped on one of Bridget’s robes. As I was laying out my clothes, I remembered a pair of shoes I left during my last visit. I wondered where they were and padded into the kitchen, only to find Bridget speaking in hushed tones on the telephone. I decided to find them myself and not interrupt.
Bridget has a beautiful walk in custom closet. For a hippie dippy spiritual guru, she has clothes for every occasion that take up a good two thirds of the space, leaving a third for Walter’s suits. Walter is an unobtrusive soul that endures Bridget Lynn’s goofiness in a way that makes him beloved by our family. I looked over the shoes, just as the overhead lights popped and went out, leaving only the dim light from the open door.
Surrounded in semi-darkness I noticed a lighted keypad, flashing what appeared to be an air temperature reading of -10°F, on the built in storage unit that stretched a good seven feet along the floor of the closet. I didn’t recall seeing this on previous visits, so it was a new addition. Most of Bridget’s shoes were displayed on the glass top like solemn soldier guards. I was pretty sure I knew what was inside.
A few months prior our favorite aunt passed away, leaving her favorite niece an exquisite full length sable mink coat that had been smuggled out of Russia long ago by some unnamed relative. Handcrafted by a master furrier, this coat was a thing of ethereal beauty that transcended fashion. The lining was a quilted jacquard that had the appearance of Chinese cinnabar lacquers with no repetition in the storied pattern of warriors and dragons, a love gained and unrequited. I coveted that coat. Bridget Lynn vowed to avenge the death of those ancient minks by burying it in the desert like an old squirrel hide.
I was both angry and secretly thrilled she had this storage unit constructed for the coat. There was little doubt she built the climate controlled fur-midor to preserve this precious piece of family history. I waved off the shoes covering the glass top and hit the lighted button on the keypad that conveniently had a helpful outline of a light bulb. What I saw made me shriek and jump back.
Walter, Bridget’s now perpetually silent husband, was displayed in state.
I remember few details of the moments after my gruesome discovery. I remember going through the F.A.S.T signs of stroke with Bridget.
* Face: Look for drawing or sagging when the person smiles.
* Arm: Look for drifting of one arm lower than the other when extended in front of the body.
* Speech: Listen for slurring or odd speech patterns.
* Time: Note the time and call 911 immediately.
Even though Bridget Lynn had worked only as a wet nurse, she felt confident I was not having a stroke. She was remarkably calm through all this.
I began to understand why she kept such strange company with the four middle-aged women. Without the grace that comes with Christian belief, the daughters of wisdom and fate become strange playmates and counsel in times of crisis. Faith goes unnoticed and like pain can only be directly experienced. Hope is subject to flights of fancy and can become addictive. Our mortality is scary and tempered only by love and compassion. Charity is dependent on faith, a hope for better times and the mortality of our existence.
Perhaps strengthened by our short visit to the masculine spirit vortex, I prayed with Bridget Lynn in the cadence and rhythm of our Appalachian roots. I’m glad we did this to prepare for the multi-cultural, varied faith family gathering that would take place for Walter’s funeral.
Walter’s last wish was to have his remains shot into space.