Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Magic Stick

I used to have a great back scratcher, one with perfectly clipped fingernails, and on occasion a wonderfully scratchy chin. Unfortunately, we have since ended our relationship of several years. And while we try to maintain a somewhat rocky friendship, our relationship is not quite the same as it used to be. I just don't feel comfortable asking my former lover to scratch my back, if you know what I mean. Its just a little too personal. In addition, right now there is the small problem of a 3,000 mile physical difference between us, even if there were not an emotional one.

Since I am "stuck" here on the east coast for a while, and I am currently not working, I try to find interesting things to do to fill my day. I love the beach, especially walking along the wide, never-ending sandy California beaches, so when opportunity presented itself in the form of a relatively warm sunny winter day, I went to the local beach. There were a few cars there, but only a handful of people, my kind of "beach day". I know removing objects from the beach is environmentally incorrect, but I picked up a couple of shells as I walked along the beach, a pearly oyster shell, and one of those fragile translucent golden "boat" shells that were everywhere in my youth, and which now only make an occasional appearance on the sand. But, I limited myself to two shells to take to my temporary east coast home, to remind me of the one, magical, rhythmic, never-ending sea from which all life has evolved.

(Have you ever read any books by Jane Yolen? She writes fantasy stories for adults as well as books for children. In one of her stories are three life principles, "The Three Wisdoms". Unfortunately, I forget in which book these principles appear, and she has written over 300 books. But, the third principle states (and I paraphrase) " Know that all things touch all others, as all life touches the sea". She wrote this line about 30 years ago, before most people had ever even heard the word "environmentalism". If you have kids, google her website and check out her children's books. The following quote is directly from her website:

"Jane Yolen is an author of children’s books, fantasy, and science fiction, including Owl Moon, The Devil’s Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? She is also a poet, a teacher of writing and literature, and a reviewer of children’s literature. She has been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the twentieth century. Jane Yolen’s books and stories have won the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, two Christopher Medals, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, the Golden Kite Award, the Jewish Book Award, the World Fantasy Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Association of Jewish Libraries Award among many others. )

Back to Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Connecticut, January, 2010, on a sunny, windless day with the temperature hovering around 25 degrees Farenheit. I was walking along the beach in all its shell mounded glory, wearing six layers of clothing that made me look like the Pillsbury Dough Boy, when the middle of my back started to itch uncontrollably, the part of my back I can no longer reach with my fingers, even if I was just wearing a tee shirt. Here I am, having walked all the way east to the Saugatuck River, where mounds of shells lined the confluence of river and ocean, far from my car, doing a little dance on the beach to try to make the itchies stop. Thank god there were no people close by to watch my crazy little beach dance. Then, I spied it, lying on the sand - a small driftwood stick about eight inches long, diameter a tad larger than a pencil, and a small knob at one end. Need I tell you what happened to that piece of driftwood, the third environmentally incorrect act I performed that day as I brazenly stole it from the beach? I think not.

A week later, and I am still using my piece of driftwood as a backscratcher. My dad's house in winter is very warm, actually almost uncomfortably hot (I could probably wear a tee shirt and be quite comfortable inside, although dear old dad wears sweaters over his long-sleeved winter shirts.) Between the heat of the house, and the minerals in the well water that turn my skin as dry as parchment paper, my back is likely to remain on the dry and itchy side throughout the winter months, even though I moisturize daily.

My brother came over a few days after my trek along the beach, to fix the stairs which lead to the basement at my dad's house. He picked up my "stick", which was sitting next to my laptop in the bedroom. "What the heck is this" he laughed. "A magic stick?" "Yes!" I shouted. "Leave my magic stick alone!" He cracked up, I laughed so hard I almost peed in my pants, and we both ended up holding our sides, muscles sore from laughter.

And so, the magic stick remains with me, by my laptop during the day, and next to my bed at night, just in case. I treasure my magic stick, a reminder of the sea, a relic of the living thing it had once been, and now a useful tool for one of the opposable thumb descendants of our common long ago ancestors.


  1. nice. i need to find a magic stick.

  2. A back scratch is a near religious experience between two people, not something to treat casually, it's very serious! When I need one, I'll let almost anyone do me, my itch I'm talking about!