The Previous Chapter in The Paranormal Memoirs is here. Jesse was the first person to suggest to me that some of these benevolent strangers we encounter are not even human, but incarnated guardians.
Although I had experiences as a child that involved angel sightings, spirit guides, spirit animals, ghosts, and elementals, I would never have included the episodes with the man John, who had followed me on my trip to Europe, in a similar paranormal category. Over the years, I even found myself relating the story of the almost-mugging -- but, for some reason, excluding the part about John entirely.
Until my conversations with Jesse, I would have lumped these strangers into quirky, serendipitous stumpers of curious environmental synchronicities.
Environmental Synchronicity (Aside) I'll give you a few very recent examples of what I mean by these patterns that I observe seeming to emerge from random chaos, but that feel "less personal" somehow -- just glitches or glimpses of cosmic machinery at work that don't feel "targeted" toward me in a significant, meaningful way.
A few months ago, just before Christmas, I was standing in the checkout line at the supermarket behind some random stranger. Nothing noteworthy about that, except that, the very next day, in a completely different part of the city, I was waiting to place an order at the cafe, and the same person got in line behind me. Never saw him before; never saw him again...
Last month, January, I was out running errands. I stopped to get gas and a car pulled up at the pump next to mine. I noticed it because it was the exact same make, model, year, and color as my own car. (You always notice when you see "your" car on the road, right?) So, I went all over town that day -- the bank, the post office, the bookstore, the cafe, and eventually criss-crossed my way to an enormous shopping mall a few hours later (which I generally avoid and only visit about once a year if I absolutely have to -- I needed to exchange a Christmas present). I found a group of empty parking spaces and pulled into one. As I was getting my bag out of the trunk, a car pulled into the space next to mine -- the same exact car and driver. In that asphalt sea of parking options, not to mention in a medium-size city, what are the chances?
No biggie -- just things that make you go "Hmm... What was that all about it?" Never saw them before; never saw them after. Some fairly irrelevant mathematical remainder in the clockwork of divine timing, I suppose.
Anyway, that's the kind of compartment in my mind where I might have placed the story about John, tagged with a greater-than-average significance and a Big Mystery stamp.
I met Jesse in 2002, exactly ten years after that trip to Europe. I was thirty-two years old. I had lived through a really shitty (shittier-than-most) Saturn Return that nuked all the structure in my world and left me in a ditch that I would spend most of my thirties crawling out of. At the time, I was recovering from a serious illness and working on rebuilding the basics of third-dimensional existence -- job, place to live -- I had no way of knowing that I was about a year away from a major Trip Down the Rabbit Hole that would deliver me to some different level of identity and I suppose a reorientation to my spiritual path -- events that climaxed with an intervention by my guides, an ultimatum regarding my sense of purpose, and ultimately the creation of Shift Your Spirits and the work for which you know me.
In 2002, I was not operating from even so much as the intention of a "higher vibration" -- I was just surviving. (Barely.)
I was working in Chattanooga at a temporary, low-paying job while searching for a full-time position with medical benefits, preferably in a counseling environment, where I could also work toward a Master's degree. I decided to move back out of state, to Atlanta, a large city where I had lived before and where there were more opportunities. Fortunately, my temporary job gave me Mondays off, so I could arrange to do interviews on at least that one weekday, and travel down on the Sundays before.
All the back-and-forth was expensive, with most of my funds eaten up by gasoline. The weeks of job hunting were turning into months. Many of my friends and contacts in Atlanta had moved away; even more of them were estranged. I had one girlfriend from college who was generous with her hospitality, whom I felt I could impose on to some degree, but I was going to rely on her heavily for a place to stay at a longer duration of time once I'd actually secured a position and could then start the second stage process of relocating to a place of my own.
I'd already worn out my welcome with more than one person. I told everyone, including my parents, that I was spending those Sunday nights in motels; more often than not, armed with pre-ironed interview clothes, a lint-roller, resumes, and my cell phone, I slept in my car so I'd have enough gas money to return home. (I could sometimes simply get up before dawn in Chattanooga and drive down but the morning rush hours and unpredictable gridlock of getting into Atlanta on Monday mornings was actually more stressful and difficult to effectively schedule.)
I passed most of those earlier Sunday evening hours killing time hanging out in cafes. I tend to haunt cafes -- I've discovered more than one magical vortex in a favorite cafe. If I decided to plot them on a map I wouldn't be surprised to discover evidence of ley lines or the network of some personal power nexus.
I met Jesse at a Starbucks in Ansley. He politely asked if I minded if he sat in a leather armchair next to mine that shared the small table between them. He was dressed in scrubs; a doctor or perhaps a nurse. He was handsome in a bland, super clean-cut way -- he obviously had some seriously Nordic DNA that results in superior height, blond hair, blue eyes, and an airbrushed complexion. I remember thinking he looked less like a nurse than a model for a medical uniforms catalogue, or maybe an extra in a hospital scene on a television show.
I don't remember how we initially began chatting, but the conversation started over the books we were reading. I was reading Jung and Tarot; he was reading Conscious Evolution by Barbara Marx Hubbard.
Jesse talked at great length about the concepts of Hubbard's work -- he was a bit dull and emotionless in his delivery, professorial, yet the information itself was interesting and he seemed intent on instructing me about it.
He eventually asked me what "my story" was, and I told him about my process of finding work and relocating. "You're inhabiting the Wanderer archetype," he said, pointing to my book.
"Ah, yes, or you could call me a Fool, as the Tarot would," I chuckled.
"That is the beginning of all Journeys," he kindly assured me.
When the baristas began to make the obvious motions of closing the cafe, Jesse asked me where I was staying. I told him truthfully that I wasn't sure yet, but lied when I said I would go find a cheap hotel -- I mentioned a notoriously shady possibility nearby.
Jesse looked troubled by this. "No, no no," he shook his head. "I live alone, nearby, just blocks from the University where you're going tomorrow. I have a guest room, I'm not working tomorrow, and I insist that you come stay with me."
I was not looking forward to finding a safe place to sleep in my car, and after going through the motions of being assured that the invitation was sincere, not just a friendly but empty offer, I accepted with grateful relief.
I was to follow his car to his place, but he also gave me back-up directions in case we were separated, not an address but simplified landmark-based. The house was on Woodland Hills, the first driveway on the left after the last speed hump as you approached the traffic light at the end of the street.
Jesse drove some vaguely forgettable car -- something white, fairly late model, like a Ford Taurus -- it looked like a rental.
I'd driven past his house thousands of times over the years.
I realized just how tall he was when he actually stooped going through the back door into his kitchen.
The strangest thing about Jesse's house was that it was almost entirely empty -- there were no appliances except a coffee maker, nothing but water and milk and a bag of coffee in the refrigerator, paper plates and cups in the cabinets; there was nothing but a lonely chandelier in the dining room; two leather armchairs, a large television and a lamp, both sitting on the floor in the living room; there was no art work on the walls; blinds were the only window treatments; in one bedroom was a mattress and an alarm clock on the floor, an open closet with a row of scrubs and a few pairs of jeans and t-shirts; the bathroom had a toothbrush, toothpaste, a razor, and shaving cream in medicine cabinet, a bar of soap and a bottle of shampoo in the shower...
It looked like a house that had been immaculately upgraded and remodeled -- for sale, but badly in need of staging.
"Did you just move in?" I asked.
"Uh, yes," was all he said. (The same cryptic and succinct answer he'd given me when I asked if he was a doctor or a nurse.)
The whole house smelled like saffron incense.
When he showed me to his second bedroom, apologizing that it was his "meditation room slash library," I discovered where Jesse kept all his possessions (or at least a good ninety-five percent of them).
Books. Books -- everywhere. (It was a bit... eccentric; or possibly insane.)
The books weren't shelved, but in stacks on the floor; a few feet high, and two or three stacks deep around the entire perimeter of the room. The twin mattress on the floor, well-made with crunchy new pillows, made the whole room look like some kind of gigantic crib with book-stacks instead of bars. Had the stacks been any closer to the bed or any taller I would have feared that they might topple over on me and bury me alive while I slept between them.
I had once worked in a small metaphysical book store, so I immediately recognized the spiritual subject matter of his collection; he seemed to have at least every title we'd carried in stock, and then some. The books were in several languages -- English, French, Italian, German, Dutch, Afrikaans...
In addition to the most popular best-sellers on a range of subjects, as I explored the spines more carefully I realized that the one over-arching theme, the one topic that was represented more than any other was: Angels. And, I mean, this guy was clearly obsessed.
Our earlier conversation had established Jesse (in my mind, at least) as intellectual, sober, and serious. He just didn't seem to fit the profile of the customers I remembered coming into the book store and purchasing material about angels. I must admit, at most periods in my life, I negatively judged people with an interest in angelology as being vapid. With the exception of those who approached the subject of angels from an academic, scholarly, or comparatively religious angle, I assumed the audience for contemporary angelology to be simplistically fundamentalist or spiritually immature.
Weren't angels a bit -- I don't know -- fluffy, naive, benign yet decidedly un-powerful?
Although I would have had a hard time describing sightings of beings such as the one I wrote about in The Ones Who Glow as anything but some type of guardian angel, at the time that I met Jesse I still held to some arrogance that my experience (or at least my perspective) was uniquely profound.
The truth is, at this moment, I accept that the word "angel" describes a type of entity that I very much believe in -- a vocabulary that transcends the boundaries of human culture and faith -- yet some part of me wishes there was a footnote every time I use the word that screams
"The angels I see do not look a damned thing like Barbie dolls in nightgowns with wings, people! Their energy is comforting not because they are 'huggable' but because they are powerful."
In response to Jesse's semi-apology about my having to sleep in a makeshift library, I told him that I always needed to read before falling asleep anyway. It was already incredibly late in the evening and I had to get up early; he left me to the books and retired to his own room.
A person's books provide an irresistible insight into his private self, so I stayed up for awhile exploring them. I was intrigued to discover how many of the books had been autographed -- all the Doreen Virtue titles were inscribed to Jesse by name; Sophy Burnham, Angela McGerr, Sylvia Browne... they were all signed. In addition to the modern, popular titles you would find in any well-stocked New Age section in a bookstore, there were also very old books I'd never seen before and still have not run across again -- volumes filled with Kaballah; encyclopedias of angel names; invocations, prayers, and spells for calling in the Archangels and banishing demons...
Of all the uniformly blank white walls in Jesse's house, there was one exception -- opposite the bed was a print of William Blake's Angel of Revelation (which I have included above as the illustration to this post). When I opened the closet to hang up the suit bag containing my interview clothes I found the floor covered with more poster prints, rolled up like scrolls with rubber bands around them. More reproductions of angel paintings and facsimiles of illuminated manuscripts.
I fell asleep that night staring at the Angel of Revelation, with that little coif of golden curls that clashes absurdly with the intensity of his expression and purpose, frozen in his bold-postured pronouncement.
Jesse served me coffee the next morning when I came out of the bathroom, dressed and ready to leave for my interview. He formally inquired how I had slept.
"Angels, angels, everywhere," I said, hoping it came across as only a slightly teasing prompt.
"Indeed they are," he said.
"I've liked William Blake since I was a little kid," I told him, trying to at least communicate to him that I was more open to the topic than I really felt. I've always had a tendency to want to adopt another person's language in an attempt to connect with him. "When I was in elementary school, a librarian found me looking at a book of Blake's paintings and poems and she told me that Blake saw angels in trees when he was a boy. I remember resisting the urge to confess Me too!."
"Maybe that's exactly what she was inviting you to do," Jesse said. "I'll give you another opportunity to now. I'd like to hear about that."
So I told Jesse about The Ones Who Glow, the same story I told you about my first encounter with a guardian angel when I was six years old.
"That was your asher," Jesse told me. It was the first time I'd ever heard that term. He explained to me that the asher is the word for the "classic guardian angel," and is merely one of many different types (or phyla) of the highest vibration spirit entities we call angels.
"Will you come back next week? I want to tell you more, and I have a feeling you have other stories. You are welcome to stay here again, when you go to your second interview."
"Provided I get called back for another interview," I said. "Are you making a prediction?"
"Oh yes, I absolutely believe you will," Jesse said. "You've just called your asher to you, after a very long time."
"By talking about her, right now. You will notice the effects of having done so."
As I gathered my things to leave, and thanked him for his hospitality, he wrote a pager number down on a piece of paper and gave it to me. "Please let me know when you're back in town. I insist. I'm always off on Sunday nights and Mondays. Promise me that you will come back and continue this conversation."
I said that I would, although I'm not sure how much I meant it.
My first interview was a success, and I did get called back for another the following week... and the truth was, this time it was scheduled late in the afternoon on Monday -- I really had no good reason to drive down on Sunday and stay the night. It was totally unnecessary, other than to visit Jesse again. Of course, I went.
I found myself wondering if I should call him. I was worried that I might be imposing on a stranger who was only being polite. But then, he had given me an explicit way to contact him... Then, it occurred to me that the number might even be a fake.
I decided that I would page him, and if he called back I would thank him again for letting me stay and let him know that his prediction came true. That would give him the opportunity to invite me to meet again if he really wanted to. The page went through okay, but quite a bit of time passed and my cell phone never rang.
I eventually went back to the same cafe where I had met him. Hours passed, and closing time came with no call. I was very disappointed, and feeling foolish that I would now have to spend money on a hotel or find a safe place to sleep in my car and kill another entire day until it was time for my interview.
As I was getting in my car to leave, Jesse pulled up next to me in the parking lot and jumped out. He was clearly in a rush -- flushed in the face, and almost out of breath when he spoke.
"Oh, good, I caught you!" he said. "Follow me back to my house."
The Next Chapter in The Paranormal Memoirs is here.