The hermitage, where I live, has windows over the kitchen sink that provide a view of the backyard of Spence Manor, which has a landscape of limestone, native plants, and one dead palm. The palm lived quite a few years, but the big freeze of 2021 killed it, along with the gorgeous ivy that used to drape Engelbrecht Inn, Spence Manor, and the Tower. The palm is twenty-five feet tall, so it looks pretty much the same now as it ever did. You only realize it’s dead if you look up.
On paper there is no way Sam and I should be friends. Not that there is something inherent in our personalities that would prevent friendship. It’s just that, outside of La Mancha, there is no way Sam and I would ever have connected.
I was on the East & West Trail that runs behind the Village of La Mancha, right where the road turns north to the Wizard’s Tower. I saw a flash of bright, luscious color. It was a wildflower. In full bloom. And not just any flower. A purple and yellow one, which are common in April and May, but don’t typically make it through the Summers.
La Mancha, like every magical kingdom, needs its Fairy Folk. Elves, Sprites, Brownies, Nymphs, Pixies, and Leprechauns. These magical beings live among us but belong to another world, an older one that existed before science exploded our myths and drove the darkness from our land.
There is something compelling about reaching the end of the line, going to the place where civilization ends and wilderness begins. Behind is the safe and familiar, all you know and everything you have survived. Ahead is the mystery of possibilities and the birthplace of the stories you will tell when you return from that far country.
I call it Star Church. There are no doors, anyone is welcome, and all you have to bring is your phone. The doctrines, rules, and practices of this church could be written on my thumbnail, which suits me just fine.
I captured a dark moth tonight as he thrashed about the globes of my lamp. He was the darkest purple there is, the last color on the spectrum before the whole thing falls into black. Within my cupped hands I felt the powdery softness of his abdomen as his velvet body rubbed against my fingers.
Beyond Engelbrecht and the Lost Boys, where civilization ends and the Western Wild Lands begin, there is an enchanted gravestone embedded in the ground and designed specifically to be urinated upon. This arcane ceremony is generally performed by inebriated wizard students after their long days of study at the Tower.
And just like that Foxy Brown is back. I was reading on the back porch of the Hermitage, looked up and saw Foxy moving eastward out of the Western Wild Lands into La Mancha. I grabbed my phone and managed to get a single, blurry image.
And now a blazing and muscular Summer has fallen over La Mancha. The locals say it’s going to be a bad one. When I open the door to the Hermitage it feels like I’m stepping into an oven. The sun throbs and shimmers and drains the colors of the landscape, leaving everything looking like an old polaroid photo. People avert their eyes from the sun, hide beneath broad brimmed hats, and scurry from one spot of shade to the next.