20 September 2010
The Smudge Stick
It's no secret that we've had trouble bonding with our new house. It was built in 1984 as a colonial reproduction; it's big and it's comfortable and it might be somebody's dream house. That person being a boring one with a 1980's flair for color, but still. The point is that it's not calling out to us in any way. And it doesn't help that the previous owners were bad people. Big meanies who jerked us around and bullied their neighbors.
Bad people lived in my house.
So how did you end up with this house? you ask. The housing market here just didn't give us that much to choose from. And this house seemed like it would offer a good return on our investment in addition to planting us just steps away from the beach. And time was running out. Not every decision can be a forever decision.
But 7 weeks in, we still feel like visitors in this house; sometimes even trespassers. I think the meanies may have abused this house by putting ugly colors on the walls and allowing the 1984 wallpaper to overstay its welcome and mock the house from the inside...........and by being mean in it.
Numerous friends suggested that we "sage" or "smudge" the house - a Native American ritual of burning sage in a space to dissipate negative energy and invite goodness in. The sage is tightly rolled in what's called a "smudge stick" (available in new age hippie stores). The homeowner walks through the house with the burning stick so that the smoke drifts into every corner, banishing old energy. In a word, get the f*** out meanies.
After weeks of feeling like we're not welcome, the day finally comes when my famously skeptical husband was like "where's the nearest hippie store?" An hour later we stand outside together - mother, father and son - with a burning stick of sage, talking about the happiness we want to bring into the this house. We enter the house like a little hippie parade, swirling the smoke around. And by the time we get to the living room, Mike gives me an "uh-oh" kind of look and says, "Kristin, this smells like weed." And it does - and we cough and sputter and laugh but we carry on. Because this is my house now, dammit, and we have to get the stink of those mean people out of here!
Despite the smell, Mike is into it. He's so rattled by this house that his normally skeptical outlook is suspended so he can take full advantage of this magic woo woo. He's like "Wait! You missed this corner! Get it up here!"
We go into the former owner's office and I hold the smoking stick high above my head, trying to reach corners filled by the man's malevolence. I say, "I think he screwed over a lot of people in here." Mike counters - "I don't think so. He didn't have that kind of pull. I think he was just frustrated." This makes me feel better. Homeland Security levels dip to orange.
We hurry because we have a babysitter coming (score! A babysitter! After only 7 weeks in our new neighborhood! And at age 12, she's too young to have a criminal record!). A few more wafts here and there and then I run upstairs to change clothes, assuming my jeans and Tshirt are a little smokey. I feel accomplished. Like I'm taking steps to re-orient this house in a happy direction. I wonder if the exercise is primarily symbolic; and the act of performing the ritual brings change to the psyche of the inhabitants rather than to the house itself. Whoever thought of that is brilliant......keep it up, dude.
When I return downstairs, the babysitter has already arrived and date night has begun! Woo hoo! But I notice that our normally perky babysitter seems a little off. Distracted. Anxious even. I start making up things to worry about.........maybe she's manic depressive. It's quite common for depression issues to appear around puberty. Damn! I don't want to lose our only babysitter! But I want to get out of the house so I quickly rationalize that Liam's nerf gun attack will snap her out of it.
We get in the car and peel out of the driveway (ok we responsibly exit the driveway. But in my head we peel out. Leave skidmarks even) and I take in a deep breath to start fresh........
...........and the smell hits me so hard I actually swoon. I reek!! But, wait, I changed my clothes! Mike says "Are you sure that was just sage?" Yes! Yes! The ingredients read sage, cedar and lavender! I really am feeling a little dizzy! And then I flash back to another era...........when my crunchy hair scraped the ceiling of a car filled with 10-12 if my closest friends as we drove home from the little bar off campus. It's my hair!! I grab a handful and hold it to my nose. And, I'm not kidding, my eyes start to wiggle in my head a little bit. I smell like St. Olaf in 1988! Even without the perm.
I can't go in a movie theater like this! Mike is nonplussed. What do you care what people think? But I do care - I don't care if people don't like my new hair color but I do care if they think I'm a lawbreaker. Besides, a 42 year old pot smoker is just sad.
And then........(flash back to the anxious looking babysitter).............
OMIGOD THE BABYSITTER!!!!!! The babysitter thinks we're potsmokers! And then I realize that my 8 year old child, her charge for the evening, also smells like a potsmoker! And I'm scrambling, hoping that she's too young to identify such smells - she rode to my house on scooter, for crissakes! Or maybe she has just enough exposure to know that funny, smokey smells get the big kids in trouble. I'm picturing her seeing the half-burnt banana-sized smudge stick and thinking "so that's what a joint looks like."
Mike thinks its funny but I don't. He's forgetting that we are the NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK and she's going to go home and tell her parents that the new neighbors smoke pot! WITH THEIR CHILD! So I call home several times hoping she'll pick up. I'll explain the scary smell and tell her about the world's biggest doobie sitting on the kitchen counter. But it rings and rings and rings. They're probably outside......on their scooters. Or maybe she's scootering home at this very minute to tell her parents........with Liam in tow as evidence!
But there's nothing I can do. I have to let it go and enjoy my date. I'll just explain when we get home.
We go to see "The Other Guys" with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. I love me some Marky Mark, with or without the Funky Bunch. Mike and I always end up seeing adolescent boy comedies. That way he doesn't have to snore through the obscure indie flicks that I like and I don't have to check my email through the action flicks that he likes. This is where we meet in the middle.
And Marky Mark is cracking me up. CRACKING ME UP! The movie is so funny I can hardly stand it! Like milk coming out of your nose funny. Mouth wide open with no noise coming out funny. But why am I the only one laughing? I notice that my laughing is going on a lot longer than everyone else's. And I'm laughing where other people are not. Because everything is so damn funny! Everything! And then I laugh at myself laughing because that's really funny, too. And no one else is laughing. That's really funny! And it finally occurs to me that I may be the tiniest bit stoned from by sage and cedar and lavendar fatty.
Toward the end of the movie, it seems like I haven't laughed for a long time. Nothing is funny anymore. Is it me or them? There are cotton balls inside my head and I'm having trouble paying attention. The movie just seems like it's on in the background. Am I coming down or is this just bad film-making?
We get home to the babysitter and explain everything and her sweet, perky face returns. Her face visibly goes "whew!" And so do I..........because she's not manic depressive. Then she hops on her scooter and goes home.
That night, I sit on my couch watching the MTV Video Music Awards (The VMA's to those of us who listen to music far too young for us) and my head hurts just a little bit. I text my vote for Best New Artist (Justin Bieber, of course. He won! Yay! You're welcome, Justin.). And every once in a while I get a whiff..........I smell like a frickin' stoner. I'm going to have to tie all my hair up on top of my head when I go to bed. Just like I did after a night out in 1988.
But it's worth it. Because now we have begun to give this house a soul. And maybe she enjoyed toking up a bit with her new family.