Dancing Magicians
© 2013 John Caris
Chapter 6

The cool ocean breeze was invigorating, tingling her senses. Feeling vibrant, Rafé Courbet strode along Holloway Avenue toward her apartment in Ingleside Terraces. The afternoon theater workshop had been exciting. Her mind was active, examining her performance and the perceptive comments given by her instructor and fellow students. Today had been the first hurdle, presenting the seed idea and a preliminary outline of her act. It had been a success. Now she was ready to begin the next stage, selecting traditional stories and preparing actual routines for the magic drama that would be her master’s thesis. She turned on Alviso Street and walked to Urbano Drive. Her apartment was one of several in the large building, once a mansion in the 1920s for a wealthy San Franciscan family, at the corner of Urbano and Alviso.

Entering the two room apartment, Rafé set her bag on the couch, took off her jacket, and went into the kitchen area. She heated a pot of water and took a bag of green tea out of a basket containing an assortment of teas. After pouring steaming water into the cup, she carried the cup of tea into the social area and sat down in the comfy armchair facing the window.

From the view out over the neighborhood she could see the tall buildings at San Francisco State University. During the past year she had completed one stage of her life and started a new one. Rafé had received her BA with a major in theater arts in June. Now the real work and thrill of theater was only commencing with her enrollment in the MA program. Over the summer she had chosen the courses she would take and designed an outline of her master’s thesis.

Her future was bright. She smiled. Once she had proven herself with academic success, she had applied for a scholarship for the MA program. Her people, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Shawnee, Oklahoma, provided scholarships and fellowships for many opportunities. Shortly before fall semester began, a letter had arrived, congratulating her for fine academic work and notifying her of the scholarship. Pleased, Rafé felt secure, knowing she had firm support of her people. With money from part-time magic performances and assisting Ralph Garland with his shows added to her resources, she wouldn’t need to worry about finances but could concentrate fully on her studies and future career.

Another exciting change was her new roommate, Teri Rhodes. When her previous roommate Giulietta Firenze had received her degree in June, she had moved back to her home in Napa Valley where she planned to open a personal growth office. She thought the wineries and resort features of the region would provide enough people interested in her style of therapy and awareness development.

Now Rafé would share the apartment with Teri, who was a theater arts major in her senior year. Teri was a pleasant and quiet person, completely devoted to her studies and planning to enroll in the master’s program the following year. If they got along, Rafé would have a roommate until she received her MA.

Setting the empty cup on the side table, Rafé got up and walked over to the desk and booted her laptop. Opening the thesis project document, she reviewed the ideas she had listed. The project was to design and execute a dramatic performance using magic routines that portrayed traditional Native American stories. She would become a Native storyteller, narrating Native People’s stories with magic. Her inspiration for this style of magical performance was Ralph’s Alchemical Light Show she had assisted with. It had been a daring and risky venture to portray occult themes and thoughts, yet it had worked well. Ralph had even produced a DVD of the show.

Last spring she had researched traditional Native American animal stories and chosen a few for routines. She had been performing them during her walk-around magic acts at Ocean Delights, a cafe on Ocean Avenue. She had shown two of these magical effects today at the theater workshop. Her teacher and the other students were amazed at her skill.

The first task involved selecting specific stories from different categories: creation, trickster, and self-affirming behavior that supported the community and nature. After the selection she could decide on particular routines and effects that best displayed the themes. She would allow part of her mind to catalog stories in the background while she studied for other courses. Because Teri was working tonight at a restaurant in Stonestown Galleria adjacent to the campus and wouldn’t be home until after ten pm, she would have some serious study time.

After an hour of studying she had already lost her concentration. She wasn’t tired–no, just the opposite. Her brain was buzzing with activity like a hive of honey bees. Something in the back of her consciousness wanted attention. Clearing her mind, Rafé went to the kitchen and heated water for tea. Walking over to the window, she peered out into the night. A raven. What about the raven, she wondered? Raven had spoken to her on her way home from campus. In fact, it had followed her and chattered constantly for several blocks.

She heard the water boiling and, returning to the stove, filled her cup with steaming liquid. With the cup of tea she moved into the living area and sat down. Yes, raven was announcing something of great importance. She would seek guidance from anhinga, her personal guide and Peyote Woman’s water bird. Putting her cup on the side table, she went into the bedroom and retrieved her shawl and a cedar box containing sacred objects used during a Native American Church service. Wrapping the fringed shawl decorated with a water bird motif around her shoulders, she returned to the living area and opened the box.

Her mIshomes, grandfather, had been a Roadman, one who led the peyote ceremony, and his inner sight had told him several weeks before he was to pass over to the spirit world when the time was to come. She had made a special trip to be with him at his passage. He had presented her with the gift of his sacred possessions and a blessing to honor Peyote Woman forever. She was a member of the Native American Church and had her membership card that protected her from the mean spiritedness of the dominant society, in particular the federal and state governments. The card gave her the right to have an eagle feather and peyote in her possession. She often wondered why the government didn’t require other churches to provide their mem¬bers with cards so they could possess crosses or wine.

She selected the prayer feather. The shaft of the eagle feather was beaded using a peyote stitch. Twisted leather strips had been attached to the end of the shaft before the beadwork was stitched. Next she took the gourd rattle with an image of Peyote Woman painted on one side and a sunrise painted on the other. Both the rattle and prayer feather had been her maternal grandfather’s.

Holding the prayer feather in one hand, she shook the rattle to the rhythm of an ancient peyote song. Humming to herself, she focused on the raven’s message. The cawing had a discernible rhythmic pattern. An image formed in her mind: a horizon with the light of dawn spreading through the sky. It was the image of a new day, one of joy. The cawing in her awareness blended with the rattle becoming a different sound. It was the sound of a ceremonial drum voicing the heartbeat of mother earth. The drumming became louder sweeping away all clouds and darkness. A rainbow, Peyote Woman’s symbol, joined her to the horizon glowing with dawn’s light. Understanding flowed through her. A new day was coming, a time of joy and drumming. She would be prepared.

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