I’m in Sedona, Arizona, where today’s psychic gazes at some point across my right shoulder, la-la-la-ing to herself. She is a young woman with long hair, in a loose cotton dress. The other psychics I’ve seen in my West Coast psychic quest have been surprisingly suburban. Coiffed, scarved, in department-store dresses, they collectively put me in mind of a principal at a mildly hip elementary school.
This one — Mari — would have looked at home at Woodstock. Her la-la-las trill out as I ask her questions.
My main question has to do with my grandmother, who is long dead. I’ve been visiting psychics to see if I can find her.
“I see her,” Mari says, still rapt by whatever it is that sits above my shoulder. “The most important word to her was ‘freedom.’ She cared about her family but cared a lot more about traveling. And she had some kind of second sight.”
All of which is, remarkably, true. Mari also tells me that my husband and I cut off money from a member of our family, which we’d just, days ago, had to do. It’s upsetting, she says. We wonder how he’ll do without our financial support.
Which is pretty much the theme of every conversation my husband, Bruce, and I have had in the last forty-eight hours. Mari mentions that Bruce and I once went together to a haunted place called the Hay House. At this point, she’s so accurate, I’m giddy.
I’ve seen multiple psychics before Mari, and watched them cast around and flounder, giving me a milk-and-cookies version of my grandmother before backtracking. And I’d chosen to visit Sedona — the capital of New Age — in the hopes that, with all of its crystals and energy spirals and aura readings, I’d find a psychic who seemed worthy of the name.
The previous psychic I saw was a middle-aged blond named Julie. Julie threw her head back dramatically when considering my questions (I had paid for three, at fifteen dollars a pop, and written them out on little cards). Then she said, with a squinched-up face, stuff that must have sounded likely to be true, but wasn’t: Your grandmother just doted on you, didn’t she? She was a warm, loving person, wasn’t she?
Well, Julie said gustily, she wanted to be a warm person.
By the time I found Mari, I’d spent a year visiting psychics in search of my grandmother, May. May believed in spirits, conducted séances, and practiced table-rapping, using my mother and her other children as séance partners. My grandmother spoke most often to a spirit named Simon, who rapped on the table she used for this purpose: two raps for yes, one for no. May told me, and my mother backed it up, that the Simon table would sometimes express itself by flinging itself across the room.
The best way of finding May, I reasoned, was to see if she could let me know of her presence through a psychic or a medium. Not that I began this quest really believing in such things. At most, I was willing to be convinced.
Why do this? After my mother’s death, in 2014, I decided that I needed to speak to my grandmother, or at least experience her, again. She was the strongest and most independent woman I’ve ever known, worlds apart from my quiet, timid mother. May liked her family well enough, but, as Mari pointed out, she loved the rest of the world more. She had a fierce drive to travel, to try everything, even if it meant staying in an Amsterdam brothel, as she once did, because the room was cheap. She smoked opium cigarettes. At 79, she trekked across Kenya. Her appetite was for life, for experience, for living wholly. I lacked her ferocity but had inherited her restless spirit.