Up Kenai's windy Strawberry Road an ancient rune master lives in a cozy, cedar cabin.
"In this place love and magic dwell," says a sign on the boardwalked porch up to the house. But if you don't know how to read runes you wouldn't know that it says that.
But Doc Warner knows what it says. In fact, he carved it himself to place at the entrance.
"I love the magic of this place," he said.
And it certainly feels magical there.
Inside the small two-story cabin, candles glimmer amid the incense smoke. There's juxtaposition between the old timey contents of the cabin and new technology. Electric lights hang along with lanterns and a radiator sits by a wood stove.
Doc seems magical too -- a compact man, with long grey hair, and a matching beard. Oversized aviator eyeglasses shield his deep brown eyes, and when he looks at you, you can tell he's a sage of something, albeit an uncommon one dressed in Carhartts and suspenders.
"Magic is here for everybody but you have to ask for it," Doc said. "We're born believing in magic. They have to teach it out of us."
To Doc, magic is walking into a room and knowing someone that he hasn't met yet. Or when a gardener can grow anything from the ground simply because she believes in her crop.
And, no, it's not necessarily Harry Potter style magic with wands and spells and cauldrons, even though Doc thinks those stories are fun.
It's his ability to read and interpret runes, a 24-symbol, ancient Nordic alphabet with meanings for each character.
"They talk to me," Doc said. "Certain people are drawn to certain things. When you believe in something it starts talking to you."
But they don't actually talk to him. No actual words come out of their pretend little wooden mouths.
Rune reading isn't fortune telling, Doc said. It's more of a personal discourse.
"You're having a conversation with yourself through me," he said. "Your energy is drawing them and your energy is putting them down."
Each rune stands for something, a word all of its own, he said.
For five years now he has done readings at Pye' Wackets, the metaphysical store in Soldotna. He's usually there twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, from after 4 p.m. to about 6 p.m.
"I don't have office hours, per se," Doc said.
And by that he means he will do readings just about anytime, anywhere.
"I did it once in the parking lot of Safeway," he said. "One gal tracked me down so we sat down, did her reading and it was most interesting."
He always carries the runes with him. But that doesn't mean he will read for anyone. There are some people he will not read for, those that are confrontational or don't believe.
"We're not here as a parlor trick. We're not here as a game," Doc said. "I'm not here to do it every day."
He said that 99 percent of the time the readings he gets from runes are not earth-shattering.
"Everyone wants to know if they're going to win the lottery or if their boyfriend's going to cheat on them but no, it's just simple things," he said. "If you master the simple things everything else falls into place."
When Doc isn't reading runes, he's reading books. He's voracious and goes through softcover books about the Stonehenge, and fantasy, faster than fairies.
He also likes to cook Chinese and traditional Southern comfort foods. But he's diabetic so he has to take a pill.
He carves wood, too. The runes he made and most decorations in his cabin he carved himself.
"I like working with my hands, I like making things. If I can't find it I make it," Doc said.
For his day job, Doc works in the warehouse at Keller Supply Company off of Kalifornsky Beach Road. He also drives trucks.
Everybody there knows he believes in magic, and identifies as a pagan and a heathen. He doesn't hide his beliefs. In fact, the letters "HTHN" for Heathen are on his license plate of his dark red SUV.
"I've carved runes at work," he said. "I get to be me all the time. Who cares as a truck driver whether I am or not? It's fun."
Because Doc is himself all the time, people end up seeking him as a teacher, a scholar in the old ways.
"He is by far a man who takes his knowledge and his history literally and spiritually," said Rondell Gonzalez, the owner of Pye' Wackets who's known Doc for some 20 years. "He wants to know all there is to know about something and masters it. That's what makes him a great reader."
Gonzalez said Doc is locally the leading authority in runes, as well as a leading authority in the state.
Doc said he studies runes with the Denali Institute of Northern Traditions, a correspondence school based out of Chugiak. He's been taking the distance-learning course for five years and has one more to go. So far he's a rune master, a vitki, which means philosopher teacher, and he's studying to be a skald, which means poet/historian.
"He has a talent," said Ragnar, the administrator of the Denali Institute of Northern Traditions.
He said Doc has a connection with them, which makes him a good reader and interpreter.
Ragnar also knows Doc through his writings. As a student, Doc is required to write a piece every quarter, which is then compiled into a newsletter of sorts.
"They are very, very good and profound," he said.
Like the other philosophy Doc has displayed in runes, the handrail up to his little cabin says, "Earth magic works if you believe." It's a simple yet philosophical statement that really sets him apart from others.
Doc believes. He believes in magic, and old gods and runes, and having a good time.
"Life is very enjoyable. Believe in it," he said.
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