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May 29, 2016, Sunday.

(10.00) – I take Thumb Butte steep trail, reach the top in 24 min (my best to date) and climb the off-trail rise to the crest above the trail that looks out north towards Granite Mountain and across the plains to the San Francisco Peaks. Very nice.

(10.35) - I begin tossing my wife Doris’s last ashes into the slight breeze on this day so they float off into the air and toward the valley. This is a slow and meditative process that makes me feel peaceful and content. I have done this in similar places of beauty and life for the past few months, and this is to be my last devotional act with her ashes. Tomorrow is Memorial Day.

In this mood of reflection I say to Doris out loud that it would be nice if she could give me a sign. Like many couples, we had long agreed that if we could do such a thing in any life after death, we would.

(10.40) - A crow and a hawk, flying close together as the crow apparently is chasing the hawk away, move at a moderate speed across my field of vision from right to left and out of sight. It pleases me to take this as a sign.

10.41 - Somewhere in the aerial-aetherial world of AT&T record keeping, it is noted that my friend Chuck Post’s cell phone calls my cell. The duration of the call is recorded as zero seconds. I do not notice it, and my cell phone does not notice it either. (It is not in Call History.)

(11.00) - Having finished a lovely morning devotional, I return to the trail below and adjust my gear to enjoy the slow trail back down.

11.01 – My cell phone rings. (Times not in parentheses are from logs; others are my estimates.) Seeing a local number I do not recognize, I answer. Instead of a person, though, I hear a deep and almost machine-like grinding noise. If I constrict my throat tightly and do a kind of strangled hum, I can almost replicate it.

Now I have heard this weird sound once before on a voice mail recording. It rises and falls in intensity, pauses frequently, and somehow or another manages to suggest an occasional voice speaking a ghostly sort of word above the grinding hum. But I could never quite make out what the words were. As I have just been communing with some sense of the spirit of my deceased wife above the trail, it does cross my mind that this could also be a sign — an elementary version of what are called EVPs. That’s Electronic Voice Phenomena, in which a phone or tape/audio recorder mysteriously manages to reproduce the voice of a departed spirit. The voice might say, as in one case of a teen-aged son who died in a kayak accident: “Braden’s not dead, Mom.”

And so I say something like, “Hello, Oma, is that you?” But there is no answer, and the grinding and pausing continue. I say, “Hello, hello!” Nothing happens. I suppose whoever has called (and I’m not thinking Doris) may hear my voice while unusual atmospheric conditions or some such thing prevent me from hearing him or her. I think to hang up and call back then.

My friend Chuck Post answers. When I hear his voice, I think he must have called to arrange for us to have a coffee somewhere, something we haven’t done for a while. We chat for a bit about other things and it eventually occurs to me that he does not know he just called me, or perhaps he did not just call me. I confirm that with him, something we naturally find a little strange, but we arrange to meet tomorrow, Monday, for coffee.

(11.15) - Walking back down the trail now, I puzzle over this strange call with the grinding hum and the strange pauses and suggestions of words I can’t quite catch above the weirdness. I know the number that called was in fact Chuck’s cell, and I know his phone could not very easily have called me by accident. We talked about that, but his I-phone was in his trousers pocket, and several slides and pushes are needed, besides throwing an initial switch on the side, to get that machine to dial a number. In fact, we feel confident this could not have been what people call a “butt call.”

Naturally, I decide I’ll just view this as a second sign from Doris.

(11.30) - The third sign is a bird. Maybe half an hour later, a white-breasted nuthatch dashes out of the trees on my left and zings across the trail in front of and a bit above me into the trees on the right. Rather close. Because of the time of day, later morning, the passerines have been quiet and I’ve not actually noticed any birds all morning along the trail. The crow and hawk were off in the sky, of course.

This feels like a sign to me not for that reason, so much as this: that I am very familiar with the white-breasted nuthatch and could easily recognize it in its brief burst across the trail because of long experience with it on the deck of our former home in Colorado. In fact, I make special use of a splendid photo that Doris took of one of these birds spreading its wings wide at our bird feeder back there. Spreading its wings in an effort to scare away a small chipmunk who was eating seeds in the feeder. This is such a great picture that I use it as the centerpiece of my vanity webpage. Here it is as it appears there:


This day felt very special to me. I wrote our two children about the three signs from their mother and went to bed feeling very content.

And then there came the second day. Memorial Day.

(11.15) details: Chuck’s incoming cell calls do not show his name on my phone because I’ve not got around to editing it and that’s because he doesn’t much use it to call me, nor do I call him on it very often.

He has checked his call history, however, and notes that his phone does show outgoing calls to my home phone, my Skype number, which transfers unanswered calls to my cell, at about the two times I’ve mentioned here — 10.41 and 11.01.

It makes sense, then, to suppose these were actually trouser-pocket calls (where he keeps his cell) made as he was doing some physical labor on his deck that morning. I’m not so sure it makes much sense to suppose two such calls might originate by accident so close together on this particular morning, given that Chuck does not report to me that his phone is somehow making such calls from time to time to other people.

Hmmm. And given the seemingly tiny likelihood of even one occurring by accident of bumping around in a pocket. My phone doesn’t do that.

10.41 note: At that time Chuck was calling my “landline” (really a Skype telephone number) normally. The Skype nr was set to forward to my AT&T cell if not answered. This call was recorded on my Skype account at the same time (10.41), but with a 2.53 minute duration. No one was at the house to answer the Skype call, which would not have forwarded to my cell if it had been answered.

This is confusing to me, too.