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  • Azy’s grandfather is a man in his late 60's. He speaks English but just. My history with Azy is little to none, but short and sweet is how I've always liked it. She and her husband Emerald live between his parents house and her parents house. Their beautiful baby always in tow.

    Azy's grandfather is a kind man. He has a python slithering around in his garden in the back yard and a cobra in the very front left room of his house living under the termite ridden boards. I know that sounds absurd, but everything and nothing makes sense in this part of the world. While a sun bear used to live out back as well, it no longer dwells there. I'm in Kuching, Malaysia on a visa run and I'm finding out anything is possible.

    The house looks like it was once glamorous. Large glass mirrors take over the entire west wall of the living room. A gold chandelier hanging above and beside it. The electricity has been cut off and there are too many holes to count in the ceiling where light from the late afternoon sky comes pouring in along with rain. Gold threaded curtains hang on every window and there is handmade art taped on the inside of bookshelves covered with glass.

    Over 5,000 deer husks have been collected by Azy's grandfather since 1964 and on over wall and staircase there is a display.

    “I do not kill the animal. I buy right from the jungle. From the people. They kill the animal but not for sport. Only for meat. I buy it from them to preserve the husk. If I don’t buy it, then the husk will be created into this,” He held up a walking cane with a husk on the end. "When the husk is destroyed the spirit is misplaced. Each deer has a spirit rider. The spirit rider always holds on to the horns of the deer." When the deer is killed and the body is removed from the horns, the spirit stays with the horns because it's hands were holding on to the deer horns at the time of death. If the horns are ruined, broken up and such, the spirit is misplaced. It is lost. It becomes almost like an angry orphan. Azy's Grandfathers work is to look after the spirits. And it turns out the spirits look after him. In the past years too many have tried to break into his house to steal the deer horns, but mysterious things have happened and these greedy, no good people, bolt with shock and fear in their eyes.

    I learn the history of each deer horn. One was 100-hundred-years-old, another 300-years- old and if you can't grasp 300-years-old you would be able to grasp it if you saw the magical horn that sat in front of me. It looked like it had come out of a Hercules movie. Each had it's own tag, it's own story and it's own vibe. There is a well labeled book with a photograph of each horn, it's number. Where and from whom it was bought. I sat down and listened to Azy’s grandfather my ears straining to make sense of his English as he picked up one after the next, explaining in full detail the history of each mounted horn.

    “This one here,” as he showed me one that had deformed points, “is considered to be special because it is different. It is deformed and so it is very, very important. Very special.” I thought how fantastic that belief would be in our own culture when children or animals were born with deformed limbs or brains and the likes and instead of labeling them as disabled we honored them with importance. As gifted. As special. Not special or gifted in a belittled way, but in a way that honors them with utmost respect.

    I then watched him as he pointed to a display above the door entrance, “Come Katie, look at this one.” And so I walked over and saw a tiny deer horn coming out of it's skull above the eye socket. “The tiny horn? That is rare, yes?” I asked. “Yes. When my wife was pregnant with Azy’s sister, my wife laughed at this skull when I first purchased it. She said, ‘oh look at this, this is so funny.’ When our daughter was born she had a very large and long mole coming up from where her eye was, in the exact same spot here,” he again pointed to the eye socket and the little horn, “the doctor had to remove it. The long mole was full of very long hair.”

    I listened to story after story. Some were so crazy the only thing you could do was to believe in them. The Sarawak State Museum will soon have a wing dedicated to the entire collection. They are currently buying off horn by horn and Azy's grandfather will be curator, as who would be better than the storyteller himself?

    Borneo is full of magic. Magic that I was so eager to learn of. Magic I will some day create in children's story books. Magic that I believe still exists if only we have the eyes to truly see, ears to truly listen and hearts that are open, enough, to truly believe.
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