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Ascribing Cause by Alan Levine
 

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  • Was there first a subtle creak sound? A heaving subsonic moan? A giggle of a playful poltergeist?

    Whatever it was, as I was fiddling with the door to go outside, the subsequent BOOM in my kitchen made me turn quickly.
  • Five minutes priorm I was standing in front of the kitchen cabinet, lifting dry dishes from the wash rack, placing them in their proper spot. A task I have done countless times. Looking at the 9:30pm digits on the wall clock, I thought, "Oh why bother, I can finish in the morning."

    So I walked eight feet to the right, thinking about going outside to fetch an item I had left in the truck.

    And I thus, by moving, I avoided having my kitchen cabinet full of dinner plates, desert plates, soup bowls, glass serving bowls, a ceramic dish that was a wedding present (now divorced), salad bowls, salsa serving bowls, glass mixing bowls... fall on me.

    Instead, it hit the slate tiled floor, a heavy glass bowl from the top shattering into pieces I would find underneath the couch across the room.

    I rationalize the why- this cabinet was part among original ones installed in the mid 1970s by the family that assembled this kit home. It was attached to the wall studs with straight nails, and I can see where the weight of the cabinet pulled those nails right out of the wall. Nails loosened over time, a cabinet weighted with dishes, add some gravtiational attraction. Boom.

    That it fell makes logical sense.

    Except.

    It's the When I find curious.
  • Earlier this evening I was at a friend's house for dinner. One woman was telling us about her process of getting over the death of her husband a few months ago, sadly he was another cancer victim. She talked about his fascination with birds that gathered outside her home. Lately she had noticed a singular red bird, constantly returning, that stared at her through the window.

    "I know it's Marvin."

    Another woman shared her experiences of moving into a house after a new marriage, and how she felt the presence of Frank's ex-wife by items that seemed to always fall from shelves and doors that never stayed closed.

    A silent, palpable, group consensus about the existence of forces from beyond our rational mindset.

    My own rational mind chafes a bit. Correlation is not causation.

    But, I see in my mind... butterflies.
  • Some time after my Dad passed away, Mom came across an article that relayed an idea that butterflies represent the returning spirit of someone that had died. She attached significance when one flew by her as she worked in the yard, she would call it by Dad's name. Her home slowly accumulated butterfly paraphernalia. She shared this story with everyone. Listen to her voice.

    One one visit her, she handed me a present, a coffee mug. Its exterior features gray butterfly shapes, like silhouettes, like memories of butterflies.

    "Thanks Mom."

    But then she boiled water on the stove and filled the mug. The butterflies burst into dazzling colors. "Aha", goes my scientific rational mind-- :it is heat sensitive material." Where is the emotional mind that should say- "That's just like you, Mom"?

    So I regularly drink coffee from Mom's mug. I marvel at its colors. I marvel at her gifts to me. And I worry about a future day when I accidentally drop it on my slate tile floor.

    A day I will cry.
  • There was no value in my explaining to Mom that with hundreds of millions of butterflies in the world, the odds are in favor of everyday encounters. Especially in Florida. But what value in there "being right"? Much more is hearing her comforted by the idea. She deals with the loss of my Dad, she retells her own internal story of her life with him, of which I only know but a portion.

    I share this story at my friend's house. Silent approving nods.

    And when I see a butterfly anywhere, I cannot help but to think of mom. It's like.... she is there. Here.
  • It takes more than two hours to sweep and vacuum, and re-sweep and re-vacuum all the debris- blue glass, clear glass, plate shards, bowl shards, even the fragments of the obsidian wind chimes that had hung from the side of the cabinet.

    I cannot shake an eerie sensation.

    What might this incident mean? Is there a cause? Have I done something to anger an invisible spirit? Have I been bitter, hurtful to someone? Why would I, rational I, ascribe forces to entities I cannot see or hear? It is just old construction. Nails pulled out of the stud. Simple physics, the force of gravity on a mass.

    And yet.

    Yet.

    Something compelled me to move out of the way, five minutes before a cabinet full of dishes and plates fell from the wall directly in front of me.

    I am left wondering, without answers.

    Without dishes either.
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