May 22, 2008
Strange things are happening . . .
— 1950s catchphrase popularized by
Red Buttons, 1919-2006, American comedian and actor
At about 6:45 this morning, as I sat ”seeking to borrow surcease of sorrow” with my colored pencils and the mandala I’m using this week, I looked up from my notebook to see a large black bird land on the railing of the deck. It glided in silently, folded its glossy black wings against its body, and strutted slowly across my field of vision. When it was opposite my place at the table it turned and looked directly at me. I swear it said, “Nevermore.”
Since 7:00 this morning (it is 5:00 in the evening as I write this), the piece I wrote for November 25, 2007, about my visit to the Mint Bar in Sheridan, Wyoming, has garnered nearly 100 views. All of the hits have come from the same yahoo.com search string, which I will not repeat here. Suffice it to say that my piece contains all of the words in the string, including “walks” and “novelist” in the title, but not in the order given. My piece is the third return from that string.
The words in the string do comprise the title of a novel published in 1930 by John Dickson Carr, 1906-1977, who wrote under that name and several pseudonyms. Carr is regarded as the one of the greatest writers of the plot-driven detective story. He specialized in the “locked room mystery,” a seemingly impossible crime which is solved by a clever but eccentric investigator. Were he flourishing today, Carr would probably be writing for Law & Order or Monk. He was a Pennsylvania writer, described in a Wikipedia article as having been “a mediocre student preoccupied with fledgling attempts at writing mystery stories” while in high school. Were I still in the classroom, I might have this kindred spirit’s picture on my bulletin board.
A critical study and an academic biography of Carr appeared in the 1990s, and he undoubtedly is held in high esteem by fans and students of his genre. But he’s been dead for more than thirty years, and it’s not the centenary of his birth, so I can’t figure out, beyond some strange spam attack, why there is such sudden interest in the title of his first novel. The hits are coming from a wide variety of ISPs, including the Internal Revenue Service, the United States Army, the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and a school district in Kansas.
My unknown, unidentified reader in Tempe, Arizona, has also visited today, but not from the yahoo search string. This individual, using an ISP called Limelight Networks, has over the past several months apparently visited every single page I have, including the ones outside the WordPress structure. The visits seem to be random, have no referring URL, and come at all hours of the day or night. A robot indexer? A grad student writing a thesis about suburban blogger moms? I welcome all readers, and I would love to know who this is, so, Tempe, if you read this, drop me a line!
It was overcast this morning when the large black bird alighted on my railing. It’s full sun now but windy and cool. The air conditioning service was here today for the annual cleaning and tune-up of the units, so for a short time we had cold air blowing out of the ceiling registers and colliding with the warm air rising from the baseboard heating units. I looked up the symbolism of the raven or crow in several mythologies. Its appearance is usually an omen. In Celtic lore (the one that’s in my very bones via my mother’s Irish heritage), the raven symbolizes protection, initiation, and healing. Its advent signifies the death of one thing to bring in the birth of another. It foretells that something unexpected but beneficial will happen soon.
I hope so.
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