June 14, 6:15 am
When our friend Chris died, about four years ago, I was heartbroken. More so than Richard, to be sure, although we were both really fond of him. The weeks after he passed were difficult, but the thing I remember most, these years later, is how desperate I was to see some sign of his presence. I wanted to have some proof that he was still with us. And so when I saw a red cardinal the week after he died, to me, that was the sign I was looking for. It told me that Chris was okay, and he had sent the bird to let us know.
Richard, of course, thought my need to find signs and portents was silly, but he indulged me, the way he always did. He told me when he saw an eagle in Parley’s Canyon later that week, and just smiled when I told him that that too was probably Chris, coming to remind us he was still around.
I guess it’s just in my nature to look for signs and portents. Just as it was in Richard’s nature to dismiss them. To Richard, the only things that seemed real and important were things that were scientific and rational. He dismissed my need for signs as just the thing that humans did to make sense of a universe that seemed (to him) to be a carnival of mysteries, even at the best of times.
He understood that human impulse, but he didn’t share it.
Richard always approached life like an anthropologist. He was more fascinated by humans than he was interested in actually being one.
Now that Richard is gone, I guess I need the comfort of those signs and portents, just as I did with Chris. But now, the need is more existential, more desperate. I need to feel Richard near, whether or not he really is. I need the magic to be real, simply because without it, the darkness of his loss is too terrifying to endure.
Even as I write this, I can imagine Richard listening to me, all the while just smiling and nodding. “You need your magic, Baby Bear,” I can imagine him saying. And he would be right. If the magic didn’t exist, it would force me to create it.
Which I guess really begs the question: Does the magic find us, or do we find the magic? Is there indeed a hidden realm of spirits and angels that are amused to communicate with us in our times of need, through signs and portents? Is the magic always all around us, like a sea we swim in, but one we never notice until grief or passion opens our eyes and asks us to look and see?
Richard would ask: “If the angels are out there, trying to comfort us, why send a red cardinal and ask us to interpret the sign? Why not materialize from the air and pull us into their arms instead?” And maybe the answer to that is… that it just isn’t how it works.
Richard would tell me that’s a cop-out. And once again, he’d be right.
Okay then, so how does it work?
The red cardinal doesn’t really provide an answer. It comforts without explaining. The hawk over the trees doesn’t point the way. It just exists.
Perhaps the Buddhists have it right: Stop wanting to know. Stop needing to put the puzzle together. Instead, just revel in and be grateful for those pieces you pull randomly from the box. Find joy in the mystery of that red cardinal, no matter whether you ever find where in the grand picture it fits.
I think even Richard could appreciate that.
The Last Handful of Clover is a supernatural thriller by Wess Mongo Jolley. Thanks for reading! If you are enjoying this story, please consider supporting the author on Patreon.
For more information (including maps of the story’s world and a contact form) visit the author’s website.
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Copyright 2021, Wess Mongo Jolley. All rights reserved.