My Inner Worlds
High school biology changed my world when I learned about genetics. The science came easily to me, and I wondered how my classmates could have difficulty with the concepts. Although I pursued a non-science career, I lived vicariously through my sister Lisa, who chose the genetics route and worked for a time at Yale, doing research and co-authoring academic papers. I visited one summer and got to meet the dominant male lab rat and see where the drosophila flies lived and bred for their keepers’ experiments. While my knowledge capped at A, C, G, T (the chemicals that make the nucleotide bases of our DNA), my mind spun fantasy worlds founded on genetic manipulation. Every story idea I’ve fleshed into a potential novel since 2011 contains elements of genetics and the exploration of what makes us who we are.
Enter AncestryDNA and five sisters who think it’s cool to explore what binds us into the strange world of Webb. What makes us the weird, creative, and strong-willed women we’ve all grown into? Is it the heritage encoded in our blood? The way we were raised? As a CPA, I have no clue. As a fantasy writer, I’ve got plenty of potential answers that are fun to explore.
Just over a year ago we gathered to celebrate my niece Freya’s 21st birthday. As a gift, I decided to run a tabletop role-playing game based on the Pathfinder Dungeons and Dragons world. We dressed up as our characters and enjoyed an afternoon of magic and creative play. It’s an incredible memory (and picture) to have. It also highlights our tendency to be weird.
Below are the results of our tests. I’ve been drawn to our Celtic heritage since my early twenties…the mystery and magic of druids…the nature myths that I want to believe are true…Avalon…swords, definitely swords. Is this because 23% of my genes are from that area of the world? Or is it because my family has played dress-up throughout my life? This picture is from our Scottish Mother’s Day in 1998, where we all chipped in and bought Mom a bagpipe, her heart’s desire that we could make a reality. And yes, we all dressed up and adopted a Scottish or Celtic persona. I even did a sword dance (alas, there’s no pictorial evidence).
What about your family? Have you ever wondered what makes you who you are? Do you have stories you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them.
An untitled track in my music library randomly played two mornings ago on my commute to work. These weird songs pre-date my embrace of mp3 players and phones that do everything except brush my teeth before bed. I’d thought my library had been cleared of these lost tracks, those tunes without an identity, no longer allowed to exist in my curated world.
Not to be. The universe pressed play on a dinosaur, and because my habit is to listen to all songs as though they have a personal message for me, I caught the riff in this one. It had an old rock soul, a throaty start to the chorus, and male vocals in the range I find sexy. The universe got my attention for those three minutes, and then I arrived at work and forgot about the pull to my threading heartbeat.
This evening I woke to my house rumbling with thunder, a dog’s scared face pressed to mine, and a phone that told me my husband had just tried to call me. Groggy from my nap, I auto-dialed Matt and knew I had just missed him since he answered immediately. (Matt rarely takes phone calls, so I’m lucky when I reach him.) He started by saying lightning was crackling from the skies at his office, and my brain connected enough to let him know we were getting the thunder from it at our house. We’re sappy like that, linking our worlds together even though we’re apart. He then gently told me that he hadn’t, in fact, called me. Huh. I swear the never-wrong iPhone said otherwise.
By that time, the sexy, throaty riff from earlier this week floated in my still-sleepy brain and distracted me from the mystery of my husband’s non-call. I remembered the unnamed cool song was either Track 09 or Track 06. A search told me Track 09 was definitely not what I was looking for. But 06 hit pay dirt. Like a long-lost lover coming to snuggle in bed, I realized what this tune brought to my unconscious mind—the male protagonist of the story I began creating last fall before my life fell apart. Back when I set a goal to write a novel in nine months, which would have completed just about now.
My baby came home and told me it’s time we start making his story come to life. His words feel so easy, so right. The winter blahs are behind me, and he needs my love and attention. Maybe now he’ll tell me his name and I can stop referring to him as “Protagonist B.”
Postscript: After writing my thoughts above, I searched the lyrics and learned Track 06 is a Foo Fighters song from 2011. While I’m really glad it showed up in my iTunes library, I have no idea how I got it. But to be fair, it does not truly pre-date smart phones OR my digital library. Gonna say it must have come pirated from a friend…or the Universe really did plant it on my hard drive for me to find.
One-hundred and ten years ago today, my maternal grandfather came into this world as a thirteen-pound bundle of baby boy. This morning I noticed our cherry tree starting to bud, the earliest I’ve seen in the past seven years of living in this house. I love the cherry tree that grows outside the window of our meditation space. I had a harder time learning to love my grandpa.
A complicated man, my grandfather was a fervent televangelist to whom I felt no connection. He and my grandmother bickered incessantly. As a highly loyal child who fiercely loved her grandma, I felt any slight against her as a personal affront. So Grandpa didn’t earn my love or loyalty, shaping the relationship I would have with him for the rest of his life…and beyond it. He passed from his human form in 1994.
Several years ago a car drove up to my house and stopped at the mailbox. I walked outside and up to the driver’s window to see what the person inside wanted. Behind the wheel sat Grandpa Culp, smiling at me and glowing like an angel. I felt slapped, stunned. How dare he come to my home, my energetic space, showing himself to me as though I didn’t resent his presence. Yes, that was my reaction. Not “wait a minute. You’re dead and can’t drive.” I woke from this dream, this vision (I’m not sure I was really asleep), feeling my world had to shift.
Grandpa became a companion and teacher after this dream-vision. I saw the true angelic beauty within him, no longer masked by the human life he led. He worked with me as I forgave the aspects within my own life that corresponded to his (hoarding is one of those genetic traits that I have brutally and intentionally culled from my life). While it’s now rare for Grandpa to visit me, he still comes around a couple times a year, usually in the presence of one of my other grandparents. Yes, I can communicate with the non-corporeal.
After all my grandparents passed from this life and into their truer forms, I learned that the one I believed “the least among us” was a brilliant, incredibly beautiful light that shines brighter than the rest.
Thank you for the gift of budding cherry blossoms, my special teacher and friend. Happy birthday wherever you are, Grandpa.
Years you’ve held my hand, balancing the steps on my chosen rocky path
Years you’ve seen the beauty inside, as blindness shackled me in self-made chains
Years you’ve believed in the woman hidden within
Thank you for spending twenty-six years as my husband. Happy anniversary, Matt.