The coldest spot in the world is the writer’s desk after the muse has gone. So says my unfinished manuscript, frozen in my desk. I’ll do anything to get it flowing again. I’ve decided to break the blizzard bottle and bestow on myself the magic within. That will get my muse’s attention. I guarantee.
I first met my muse when I was eight years old, visiting my grandmother. My father’s mother lived alone in the majestic rain shadow of the Mojave Desert. Her home, a patchwork of rambling additions, sat apart from other dwellings. Empress of the yard sale, confidant to the hidden packrat, grandma’s art room enthralled me with its grandeur of found treasures: sculptures, geodes, lizards, canvases, (most repainted countless times) and every imaginable fetish under the sun. She loved costumes, fabrics, color and a good story too.
Mornings we’d paint, side by side, amidst a myriad of floating crystal prisms. On this particular day, painting and enjoying the intoxicating aroma of sage and juniper, my gaze locked on a strange ceramic bottle, high in a window. The bottle was china-blue with a crackle glaze and stoppered with a black cork.
“That’s my blizzard bottle,” Grandma said, noticing my interest. “Would you believe a Gypsy carried it all the way from Siberia? It ended up in Lucy’s yard sale; well, I couldn’t resist.”
I studied the curiosity in the window, trying to work out the physics of trapping a blizzard inside a bottle. “Is it real?”
“Oh, yes,” she said, her voice dropping to a more intimate level.
“That would be a miracle,” I said, looking skeptically at the bottle then back at my painting of a dark purple mountain range.
Grandma leaned close with a mischievous grin. “I’ll tell you a secret, kiddo; there’s real magic in the world. There’s magic in that bottle, and even there on your canvas. It’s all in how you see it. But disbelief kills it. That’s the catch.”
“Can we open it?” I asked, delighted with the possibilities.
“And let the blizzard out? Heavens no! A blizzard doesn’t belong in the desert. That’d be like putting an ice cube on a hot skillet!” She laughed and went back to her panting. She leaned into her work, absorbed by her rendering of a Joshua tree.
When she took her nap, curiosity got the better of me. Climbing up on a stool, I carefully took the blizzard bottle from the window. Despite being in direct sunlight it burned icy cold. I put it to my ear but only the pulse of my own heartbeat knocked back. Twisting the cork, it would not budge. I scanned the table for a tool and froze. When I lifted my gaze, she appeared in the doorway, my muse, wearing a loosely tied kimono with gold threads. The sleeves drooped and reminded me of huge butterfly wings. “You don’t believe?” she asked softly.
I wanted to say, I do! … I do! I just couldn’t help myself, but I was too ashamed and stunned to say anything but, “Sorry, Grandma.”
I’m past the age of make-believe. Yet a lovely blue bottle still sits in my desk window, capturing my imagination. Today, my manuscript comes out, and this relic from my childhood reveal its secrets.
“I do believe!” I proclaim standing in the backyard patio. I let the bottle slip from my hand and hear the punch of ceramic glass splinter on the cement. I wait and watch, ready for the magic to come.