I had asked Shaman about the Yule Ritual: why I was left for last, and why I didn’t feel a connection to the community when I rejoined the circle like everyone else. His eyes sparkled and danced. “But you made a connection with me.” There must have been a look of pleading on my face because despite his obvious joy in the prospect, I didn’t know the significance, so I felt no joy when he said it. To him it must have meant something though, because he paused like he was waiting for an answer from me. Instead, I plied him with another question.
“Yeah, okay… but what does that mean for me? I’ll never find a community? I’ll always be on the outside looking in? I mean, I’ve always been the odd-man-out. Is that just going to be my life??”
Shaman smiled, “You too, eh?”
The tension fell from my shoulders and we laughed. He told me of previous Yule rituals where he’d forgotten people in the darkness and they stayed there even after the lights had been turned back on. We shared a few stories, and I found he was a great person to make laugh. Whenever I came up with something really clever, he’d lick his fingers and make a tick mark in the air. He was goofy, irreverent, and smart… scary smart. I knew I wanted him to be a big part of my life.
“Have you heard of Timothy Leary?” he asked. I did, so he continued, “Have you ever heard of Timothy Leary’s Ducks?” I couldn’t say that I had. “Imagine that you and I are tripping our balls off. We have a spiritual experience, and something walks across the carpet. Our brains aren’t equipped to fully translate what has happened—it was a mystical experience and new—so our brains come up with the next best thing. And because you’re a woman, born and raised where you were, you see a duck. And because I’m a man, born and raised the way I was, I see a goose…” He paused for dramatic effect. “Neither of us is wrong.”
“Semiotics.” I replied. The blank look on his face let me know he wasn’t aware of the term, but I expected that. Few people had. I was lucky enough to have picked it up as my Senior seminar course in college. “It’s the study of symbols and meaning, and it’s rooted in culture. To Western societies, white is a color of purity, but to the Japanese, it’s a color meaning death. Do you know ‘The Name of he Rose’ by Umberto Eco? He’s a leader in the field of semiotics and wrote fiction books to prove his non fiction theories. Brilliant author, and he would totally dig Timothy Leary’s Ducks.”
Another lick of the fingers and a tic in the air. I’d managed to impress him four times in the evening. I was pretty pleased with myself. But it was time to go, and my head was starting to hurt in a way that told me if I didn’t get home now, I might not at all, so we called it a night & made plans to meet again.