During the psychic transmission event I planned, the majority of participators drew trees. A few drew sunsets, and some people had randomly paired images with corresponding shapes. What struck me most was that the participators were masters at filling in the blanks with creativity. Several corresponding shapes were present in the trees and my television, but much research has shown that participants are often uncomfortable with fragmented images, and imagination is what gets in the way of what the receiver has actually seen.
In Upton Sinclair’s experiments with Craig, Upton once drew a leg with a well-defined calf sticking up into the air, a clunky roller skate on the foot. There was a strange orientation to the image, as one rarely sees a single leg sticking into the air with a roller skate on the foot, unless you’re accustomed to this kind of fetish. Apparently, Craig was not accustomed to the image either, and despite all of the corresponding shapes being present–the wheels turned into eyes and bologna curls, the calf into a contoured body, and the tip of the foot into the snout of a horse–the full images were completely different, even though the parts had been transmitted correctly.
I’ve only been back to Ventura once since we left when I was just a baby. I didn’t see the trees, but probably because I wasn’t looking for them. Instead, we drove straight to a Joe’s Crab Shack on the beach, because we were celebrating three birthdays–mine, my then-boyfriend’s, and my cousin’s. This was back in a time when I was still in the habit of ordering chicken cobb salads with extra ranch dressing. Someday, I will make an infographic of menu items I ordered regularly from chain restaurants in chronological order. The servers at Joe’s Crab Shack foisted the birthday song upon us three times over, then we went straight to the car and drove south toward Oxnard, and eventually L.A.
There’s a great deal of lore surrounding the two eucalyptus trees. When they’re described as lone, that is as accurate as can be, as even though they’re together at the peak of the hill, they do not particularly look like they are together. Some sources claim there were 13 trees originally planted, that a horticulturist named Joseph Sexton placed the trees there at the turn of the last century, but several acts of vandalism and replanting efforts and more vandalism resulted in just the two left standing. Only one is from the original 13, while the other is a survivor from the last replanting effort; this is obvious from their differences in appearance and the directions in which they lean, as they seem to turn outward from one another, not quite facing their twin.
Ventura was not a joyful time for my mother or my sister and I. My mother doesn’t often talk about it, but when she does, she tries to recall the good times, she at just 19, along with my teenage aunt, pulling my sister and I in a cheap red wagon, back and forth from the bargain grocery store. My mother and aunt remember the exhilaration of stretching a dollar, and my sister and I only vaguely remember the ocean, but even the strange, unsure times can feel like an adventure when you are paired with a sibling.
It’s interesting to note that during psychic transmission experiments, higher success rates occur between only two people. Adding more participants into the mix seems to muddle results, and a few partial successes seem to splinter off from the main transmission more often than not. K in Boise, and S in Denver are relatively close in a proximate way. K is a painter, drew several connected tubes of varying sizes with a line through them that she saw as a snake. S drew several connected tubes of varying sizes with a line through them, but left the drawing as shapes and did not attempt to form an image from them or “fill in the blanks” of the shape, saying only that it seemed like a kind of musical instrument maybe. Their drawings are remarkably similar, even if they interpreted the shapes differently. I’m not sure if K and S even know one another personally, but I would consider their drawings a successful pair. Then there are the trees.
LA, J, and E sat at the same table during the transmission. E did not feel that she could draw something at the time, even though she’s an incredible sketch artist. Instead, she wrote a letter to a friend about wanting to move someplace where there are many trees. At the same, LA drew an ornate picture of a valley populated completely by doug firs, a fire in the foreground, and J, while initially drawing a circle with a line through it, followed up by drawing something that resembles a maple leaf. E has mentioned that she felt highly emotional about the trees and her letter. Dr. Diane Hennacy Powell mentions in her book that the most successful transmissions conducted in the laboratory environment utilized the principle that highly emotional states were more conducive for image transmission in the same way that the ability to recall vivid images from your memory bank is often dependent upon the emotional intensity associated with that particular memory. It is entirely possible that LA and J could see the forest for the trees as clearly as E will probably now be able to recall the moment of the letter writing from her memory bank. E says partly joking that her “psychic prowess is huge.”
E and I used to play in a band together and were once back-up singers for another female musician, R, who was very serious about practice making perfect. During one of our practices in my small studio in Boise, we were eating sandwiches and listening to a summer thunderstorm. R was getting annoyed by our inability to remain focused, so I pretended to focus on the practice, while E wandered away to my front door. She opened the door wide and stepped back, gazing into the storm. R and I began singing a difficult harmony, one that could go awry quickly but exhilarate when precise. This time felt precise and wonderful, what could break delicate glass into holographic patterns. E kept staring into the storm. We held our note. She took a deep breath to join with her low-octave harmony, then lightning struck her, right in the eye. I have never seen anything like that in my life. A long tendril of lightning reached through my front door and struck E directly in the eye, and we stopped singing. She turned to us, said, “Oh my god, are we witches?” At that moment, I believed fully in the possibility that we could be.
I’ve asked my sister several times if maybe we could be witches. This was after a long obsession with Teen Witch, and before I knew my family was Gypsy or that my grandmother read the tarot. My sister always said, “Sure.” I haven’t seen my sister or my mother or family in Michigan for years. This weekend, I’m returning to Ventura, though. I’m going with my boyfriend and staying with the aunt who pulled me in the cheap red wagon. I’ve been promised biking to the beach and fish tacos, but I also have other plans. I’d like to meet my biological grandmother and ask her to read my tarot cards, and I’m going to hike up the hill to see the two trees up close. I’ve only seen pictures on the internet, and all from a vantage point of several miles away. I’ve been staring at them for hours. The more I look at them, the more they look like the antennas on my television, but they could be anything. I wonder, though, how much I had been filling in my own blanks.