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Amie's mother has an irksome inability to distinguish left from right. If you ask her to turn left at the next intersection, there is just under a 50% chance she'll turn right. The missing percentage goes to whether or not she chooses to respond to you in the first place. A few times I tried asking her to turn at the next intersection. This had an enormous impact on the odds. Not always, but very consistently, she continued down the same road as though nothing had been said. So at one point I asked, "Did you hear me say, 'Turn at the next intersection'?" And she said, "Yes," adding, "You didn't say which way."

Compass directions were just as useless. She lives in the eastern most part of Los Angeles County, just south of the San Gabriel mountains, which serve as the constant feature of a somewhat featureless land. She also knows where the ocean is, and possibly where the sun sets. You can't really escape the ocean in Los Angeles, even if you never go there. So we developed the strategy of asking her to turn toward the mountains, or toward the ocean, and to our absolute surprise, she listened and responded to our every word.

Which left south and east. The solution to that problem was simplicity itself — away from the mountains and away from the ocean. She still had no idea which was left or right, and still had a tendency to listen only when she wanted to, but she carried within her an almost infallible grid based on something visible and looming, and something else that though ever present was nonetheless invisible.

When she drove to the Central Coast to visit us one year, and this is the part that constantly amazes me, we were concerned that she might get distracted and lose her way. She found that ridiculous when we told her. She knew exactly what to do. She drove toward the mountains all the way here, though the mountains she was driving towards were two hundred miles behind by the time she arrived. I have often wondered what would happen if she was somehow dropped on the eastern seaboard with a full tank of gas. If she drove toward the mountains, would she end up in Maine or Florida?

Since today is Halloween, it seemed appropriate to use Amie's picture of her mother as the Wicked Witch of the North. Actually, she's a pretty good Witch of the South. When Amie left to live with her mother, and to pursue her destiny, she left a large version of it pinned inside the closet. I'm sure there's a meaning behind this, but I'm still working on the details.
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