This is Eskimo Nell's story. I barely know her. We met at a gem and mineral show in the Little America hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona at least fifteen years ago. I have not seen her since then.
I bought a raw opal from her. She gave me two more for free - a brown opal and a sun fire. She had dug them from her little claim in Australia.
The brown opal was the size of the nail on my fourth finger. It was a tiny puddle of glint, green and pale blue against the rough brown of its matrix.The sun fire opal was a rough blue cylinder no bigger than the first joint of my little finger. The surface was matte. She had chipped off a sliver so the gleaming interior was visible. "Put it in water," she said, "and set it in a window in natural light. That way you'll see the fire."
I can't remember the nature of the third opal. I think I gave it to someone - a gift beyond measure.
The brown opal is also gone - stolen, I suspect, by an unfortunate visitor to my cabin in the Mojave. The sun fire opal is here with me. It is time to put it in a vial of water. It is time to see how it holds and gives back the Central Oregon sun. The delicate flicker will bring my long-ago friend to mind.
Ten days ago I received an email from her:
Mary, thank you for sharing your beautiful dispatches with me.
I am sad to tell you of what is the speeding up of the beginning of the final journey we all must take. I was rushed from Australia in dire straits...inoperable pancreatic cancer stage iv so am here in Texas with my two sons and all my grandkids. We are in a large 3500 square foot house...rents are cheap in Texas. and am laughing with them daily and resting some from chemo...a light chemo...hoping to give me a few more months.
I ate a magnificent grape popsicle the other night in the dark hospital room, with curtain drawn wide open so as to catch the thunder lightning show and the sheets of pouring rain cascading over the glass as the grape juice cascaded over my sore throat instantly soothed by the wonder of it all. I am wishing you well in your new start. I am so glad you own the black opal nobbies that I mined so many years ago. May it be your companion on many new adventures ole gypsy girl you.
Love, Barbara Vil MCondra aka Eskimo Nell
I wrote her back and asked her if I could use her words in a new wRite. "It is gorgeous and others need to read it." She wrote back:
Yes, dear Mary, Feel free to use it. I write and all writers want to be read. I treasure our brief meetings too Mary. Regards, Barbara
Here, Barbara, are your words. You can know you are being read. In a few weeks, there will be a writers' conference here in Bend. There is an open mic on the last day. I hope to read your words at that gathering.
Until then and long beyond, you are on my mind. Today, the sky is feathery gray and the Oregon light is opal. Sky and light shimmer in the heart of the sunfire opal that sits on the windowsill of the northern window. I turn away from my old roll-top desk to see the liquid glint. This moment is perfect. Thank you, sister, for reminding me of that.
Please send me writing news - I want to intersperse columns centered on the work of writing with news of poetry slams, open mics, book releases, workshop and writing competitions. I'm most fascinated by venues and collaborations that create alchemize what is commonly accepted as "literature."
I'll begin another 6-week writing circle on Monday, January 4 at Dudley's bookstore at 6:30 p.m. It is a joy to work together in the second floor space at Dudley's. We are in an aerie with our feet on the ground. I love this work.
To send news and for information/registration for the next session of write: the circle, contact me at 350-1322 or firstname.lastname@example.org