Allyson and I first met in a walking group and fell into a comfortable gait. She was a petite woman with wispy hair that framed her face, which made her features appear feline. She was also quite comfortable sharing intimate details of her life with a stranger.
For many years, she told me, she was involved with a certain church. A church elder recently told her she was not "deacon material, " something she wanted to be. He said, "You talk too much, listen too little, and lack empathy." She was devastated. She was angry. She was leaving that church.
The next time I saw Allyson, she had joined a group of women who made a study of goddess worship. They traveled to Delphi, Machu Picchu and a small village in Mexico to be near what she called the goddess source. Along the way, she collected trinkets and charms, which she found spiritually energizing.
Months later, I again encountered Allyson, who was no longer affiliated with those women. She'd enjoyed her travels and was making intricately woven, knotted necklaces with the trinkets she'd collected. And now she was engaged in a feng shui training class.
"Feng shui," she explained, "is the ancient Chinese practice of placing things to produce the maximum harmonic balance in one's life."
She asked if I would allow her to do a consultation for me. With some trepidation and a caveat, I agreed.
"Keeping in mind that I like my house and don't have lots of money to remodel any fatal flaws, can you tell me what to do to improve things?"
She agreed and I awaited her visit with curiosity. At the appointed time, I saw her car drive down my street, but after several minutes, she failed to appear at my door. I went outside to find her pacing back and forth in front of my house, swinging a small crystal by a red thread.
"This is bad," she announced. "Your house is on a down slope, a very poor sign."
I could tell she'd forgotten our agreement, but I invited her inside anyway.
Stepping over the threshold, she stood in the foyer, looking up the stairs that led to the garage and down the stairs to the main level of the house. Crystal swinging, a frown furrowing her brow, she said, "The life energy force, the chi, is confused. It's not good for the chi to be confused. You'll have to wind a silk garland around the banister so the chi will know which way to proceed."
Without actually agreeing to do this, I led the way downstairs.
At the bottom of the stairs, Allyson stood in shocked dismay, staring out the window in front of her. The window framed a view of lush greenery and a graceful but sickly Monterey pine.
"Your money is disappearing," she said, "coming in the front door and running right out through this window. The only thing saving it is that pine tree."
I didn't tell her the pine tree in question had been diagnosed with beetle blight and would soon be cut down. Instead, I steered her toward the living room, where she immediately discovered another problem.
Light streamed into this high-ceilinged room from many directions. "Not good for the chi," I was told.
"We need crystals in this room to ground the chi, keep it from charging around, causing an energy overload. Nine crystals, hanging from red threads, dangling in front of the windows might remedy this situation."
Feeling my home hopelessly inhospitable to the chi, but not knowing how to get rid of Allyson, I showed her the bedrooms. Her personal crystal swung energetically as she walked around, offering suggestions for additional gem placement here, wind chimes there. Standing in my son's walk-in closet, I witnessed for the first time a smile upon Allyson's lips.
"This is the best energy in the house," she said. Well, of course it is, I thought. This is where my son used to hide his stash of weed.
We walked down the final flight of stairs to my office. A low-ceilinged room with a panoramic view of oaks gave this room the feeling of a cozy tree house. Through a large window, I often watched squirrels cavorting from branch to branch.
"To keep the chi energized here, you'll need to paint the ceiling black," Allyson said with absolute authority.
With a sense of relief that I had no more rooms to show her, I ventured a question. "Chi-wise, am I doing anything right?"
"Not much. But if you want to attract a serious relationship, you might try placing pairs of things in the northeast corners of rooms. A pair of salt shakers, gloves, anything in twos."
Consultation over, crystal swinging, Allyson left.
I thought about this meeting for several days, and decided I'm probably a feng shui skeptic. I didn't paint my ceiling black, wound no garlands around my banister. But I did place a pair of shoes in the northeast corner of my bedroom, and not long after, a special guy came into my life.
The chi seems pleased.
Nona Smith, who lives in Mendocino, Calif., writes personal memoirs and short stories.