Dreaming up Atlantis: Chapter 1

God Save the Dreamers

What do you want to be when you grow up? The question is asked to every kid. The answer is supposed to be whimsical. I thought that was the point. How can a small child plan for their future when they are still ruled by imagination? That’s what I think now. But back then I was always jarred by the inevitable, “Oh you can’t be a singer without a way to make money.” To be an artist means you will be starving. That was my programming. I have a rebellious nature, so I grew up determined to be ok with being starving. I got off on the wrong foot.

Dreaming up Atlantis: Photo by Jim Fittipaldi

I would always shoot for the moon, but I was keenly aware of the limitations. I couldn’t fly. I didn’t have a space ship. Not to mention, the moon was in space where I couldn’t survive even if I could somehow miraculously escape the atmosphere. But I never stopped believing. Underneath my sad awareness of impossibility, I somehow managed to bumble through being a dreamer.

I’m not usually the one to sit and tell stories. I’m usually the one listening. Unless there’s banter to be had, and then I’m all talk. I thrive on small talk and silly quipping. I can’t say as though a good intellectual discussion is out of the question, but when someone goes off talking about their thoughts all the time without room for the volley, I get bored pretty fast. It’s one thing to have something to share. It’s another to have a discussion about it.

Because of this, I don’t talk about my past much. If what I have to say can’t be said in a minute or less, I don’t bother. When people sit and force me to listen to their long winded stories for 15 minutes, inside my mind, I’m screaming, “Are you ever going to stop talking?” The value of telling our stories should be reserved for writing. And so, for all those who have forced me to sit and listen to their constant babble, here is my life story.

I grew up in Los Angeles. It was back in the days where we had high pollution, and couldn’t breathe. My school was full of mean kids who liked to prey on sensitive kids. If you reacted, they would continue their abuse. I reacted, so I was in the pantheon of the teased. I spent my days wishing I was someone else, making up stories in my head. My bubble was safe. My imagination, impenetrable. The school was called Holy Trinity. But I called it Holy Tragedy. The church bells would ring, and I would listen to the music. The sun would shine into the window, and I would watch the dust floating in the air. I was the kid who would sit for hours playing with my little “people” who lived in the perfect worlds I would create for them. I was a god.

One day we had a creative writing assignment. It was an essay on the family pet. I had a goldfish. So I had the brilliant idea of writing from its POV. My way of personifying a fish’s life was unique and funny. The teacher read it out loud to the class. Everyone laughed and cheered. And when it came time to reveal the mystery author, the class gasped in awe that it was me, that weird, dirty kid with divorced parents and a cool older brother who played on the flag football team.

From then on, somehow I started building up a rapport with the kids I had grown to despise. When it came time for the teacher to read our creative writing assignments, the class would ask for mine. I started making my classmates into characters, and they were always entertained. One of the “popular” boys who sat behind me in class kept asking me what I was writing in my journal. I would lean in and cover it so he wouldn’t be able to see it. I didn’t trust him. But eventually he pestered me enough that I told him I was writing a fantasy book. We were in the 5th grade. He was impressed, and from then on he started defending me, and telling everyone I was an author.

That was when my dad was transferred to Washington, DC, and we moved away from L.A. So much for finally being accepted. Dad was in the Airforce, but we never lived on a base. He was in the aerospace field, working on Titan missiles. Apparently, he was a minuteman in Montana when I was born. I must have been about 4 when my parents split up. Half the week was spent at one place, and half at the other. To me I just had parents who lived in different houses between San Pedro and Long Beach, the harbor area of Los Angeles. My brother and I were tricksters. My mom would get out the wooden spoon to “punish” us, and we would leap around out of her reach, taunting and saying “oooooo the wooden spooooon.” Even though it was a broken situation, I liked my two homes. But when that DC job at the Pentagon arrived, our fragile existence was blown to bits.

My dad had gotten remarried, and my little brother came into the world. My mom took the opportunity to move to Colorado, where she had always wanted to be. It was 1984, the year the Olympics were in Los Angeles. Having to start over as a 12-year old who had finally earned acceptance with my peers was a contributing factor to my continued psychosis. Teenagers are fragile creatures. It is a time of developing hormones, and deciding how we fit into the world. My stepmother and I never got along from day one. She was a hard-headed woman, and I was a troubled kid turning misguided teen. It was a bad mix. While home became the clash of the titans, I had no choice but to make the best of school life.

I spent the first year watching the way kids did things in public middle school. I wore my brother’s heavy metal shirts, even though I didn’t like the music. I had been in a Catholic private school before with a uniform, so I never knew how to dress to impress. When I came back the next year, I had been to see my mom, and visited my fabulous granny in Austin, Texas. I got a makeover. The women in my life were determined to help me fit in.

I had new clothes, makeup, and a new attitude. I was popular for the first time, even considered pretty for the first time. I participated in the weird games that teenagers play with each other. I needed to fit in. I changed my very nature to become popular. I was even mean. Sometimes ruthless. It was my way of lashing back at the world for being so cruel. I became even more cruel. More manipulative. Me as a villain was a very bad thing, because I found I was better than everyone else at it.

One day, one of the girls I knew said I would make a cute couple with the most popular boy in school. I watched him for a while and calculated my conquest. Then I made my move. It was entirely strategic. I did it just for the challenge. But what I discovered was love. We actually did make a cute couple. And he was nice. And he genuinely liked me. So we had a semester of perfect love. It brought out the real me.

When summer hit, my parents decided I would move to Colorado to live with my mom. The conflict at home was just too much to bear. I denied it at first, preferring to believe my version of the story. I wrote to my boyfriend, saying I would be back, and we would start high school together. But when summer was over, my belongings showed up in a box, and I was now a Coloradoan. I grew up with a broken heart. But that was my first real heart break.

At first I tried my technique of changing who I was, and being ruthless. But the wind was gone from my sails. I no longer cared what people thought of me. I started to drink. I was now a party girl. My older brother was always good at making friends. He was a musician. His buddies became my buddies. I was the one sister who was part of their crew. I dressed how I wanted, did what I wanted, talked to people I thought were interesting. I auditioned for the top choir at school and made it, so choir became my life. Every year I went to high school, everyone thought I was a senior. I had lockers in the senior hall. We had an open campus, so I would leave school with my friends and smoke weed. I would empty out half a bottle of juice and fill it with vodka.

My mom was an international journalist, so she would travel. My brother and I would stay at home alone. Naturally, we had giant keg parties. We got in trouble a few times, but ultimately, our teenaged years were the essence of freedom. Everyone looked up to us. My brother’s band would play at the house, and people drove by every weekend to see if our little “underground venue” was popping. 6 times out of 10 it would be.

My brother moved out before the end of high school. His buddies had a big house in downtown Fort Collins on Mason Street across from Avogadro’s Number. Much to my mom’s relief, that became the place to party instead of our place. The train went down the street. We would put pennies on the tracks and find them flattened later. We played music. Dungeons and Dragons. And we drank. I suppose some of the boys did harder drugs. That was just what happened in that town. We owned Fort Collins. Every street belonged to us.

I fell in love with my brother’s best friend. He was a genius. He would serenade me with classical guitar. He was incredibly hot. The manager of Avogrado’s. I was in high school still. At first he was cautious about his best friend’s sister, but over the years, he had to submit to our chemistry. I would leave school and crawl into his window. We laughed a lot. But he liked drugs. He would disappear for days with his lesbian drug dealer, and show up again without an explanation. I would be upset, but he would fall back into my good graces immediately with his charm and good looks.

When my senior prom came around, I arranged a beautiful pink princess dress. He backed out. I tried to go with some other older guy I had met, but decided I wasn’t inspired. I didn’t attend my prom. I got drunk instead. I knew he was depriving me of an important American rite of passage. I decided it didn’t apply to me anyway. I cut up the princess dress into a mini skirt with a tank top, and rocked it at a concert instead.

I was in love with my genius, high school sweetheart, and he had decided not to be my prince. We stayed together for 3 years. That’s a long time in my world. Eventually my brother lashed out at him. He was mad that his “best” friend treated his sister like shit. Somehow years went by, and the genius never really understood why my brother betrayed him. So much for the awareness of dudes.

I graduated in 1990, and joined a band called Perspectives. That was to be my future. It lasted for a while until they all decided to kick me out. I was kind of a slut. Guys don’t like it when a girl sleeps around in a group. Lame. My future was in ruins. I got my first place. A nice one bedroom apartment at Horsetooth Reservoir above Fort Collins. I had a dog named Shawnya. She was the love of my life, a beautiful Australian Shepard/pointer mix. She stayed with me through thick and thin, always my emotional support.

She got hit by a car once and fractured her pelvis. I brought her into the vet. They said they needed to operate and cut off the ball of her femur in order to get the pelvis back into place. But when they went into the surgery, they had cut at the wrong angle. They closed her back up and sent her home, scheduling another surgery date. They didn’t give me pain killers for her. They wanted to discourage her from walking on it. For weeks, her leg dangled lifeless as she hobbled on three legs. Otherwise she would lie in the bed and cry.

I spent hours holding a heating pad on her hip. I imagined light coming out of my hands. I had read about light healing. This was my first experience with it. When I brought her back in, she was limping on her leg. They said that shouldn’t have been possible. They took an x-ray and were amazed. They brought in specialists. The bone had grown back into its socket. They didn’t need to operate after all. It was a miracle.

I went in and out of depression. I was a miserable child turned angry teenager. But I had a hunger for knowledge. I was raised with religion. But the church didn’t practice what it preached. In Catholic school the kids were cruel to me, and the teachers never did anything about it. I would cry, and they would ignore me. I would have my revenge. When I was confirmed, and my adulthood in the church consecrated, I announced that was I was no longer Catholic. I prayed every night like I was supposed to. But more often than not, I would end up meditating. I would leave my body and travel through the cosmos. I would contemplate death for hours. I would wonder where the universe ended. I would try and remember where I was before I was born. I would reach out across the world and feel people on the other side of the planet.

I always believed in God. But I couldn’t wrap my head around the finite depiction of heaven and hell. I couldn’t imagine that church was the only way to reach a spiritual understanding. I was 15, and I went to the public library to find books on theology. I liked Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoist philosophy. What got me about Hinduism was their concept of time, and above all, reincarnation. It struck a chord in me. I researched reincarnation. It led me into a rabbit hole, an entire aisle of books at the Fort Collins public library labeled New Age philosophy and occultism. Some undeniably interesting shit. One particular book captured my attention above all others. Finding that one book changed the entire course of my life. I had struck gold. The book was called “Edgar Cayce on Atlantis…”

(Stay tuned for chapter 2)

Mara Powers is author of the critically acclaimed series Shadows of Atlantis. www.shadowsofatlantis.com