Matrescence

by Angeliska on May 14, 2017

For as long as I can remember, I had always wanted to be a mother. I remember cradling my rosy plastic baby dolls lovingly, wiping their hard molded little faces, inhaling the powdery synthetic perfume of them, and feeling as sad when that special smell finally faded as a grown mother might when her baby no longer smells like milk. I have always loved children, and always instinctually knew how to nurture them – even as a very young child myself. Little kids have always been drawn to me. In supermarket lines, at the next table over in crowded cafes, the bright gaze of a baby or toddler will always seem to alight on me, staring until they catch my eye and I make the kinds of faces that reliably elicit squeals of delight. This gazing, the mirroring of facial expressions, the hours and hours that a mother can spend just making silly faces with their baby – I’m not totally sure that I got much of that when I was an infant. Maybe a part of me still needs it, and knows that some other children do, too.

I am so honored to serve as one of many amazing fairy godparents to this magical little elf child, who turned 1 yesterday! I look forward to seeing her grow, and having conversations and adventures with her throughout her life. She's a wonder.
I am honored to serve as one of many amazing fairy godparents to this magical little elf child, Thea Beija. I look forward to seeing her grow, and having conversations and adventures with her throughout her life. She’s a wonder.

I acquired my first job, at age eleven – working with kids at a daycare. I was chief cat-herder, baby-wrangler, nose-wiper, shoe-tier, story-reader, make-believer, nonsense-babbler, peace-maker and tantrum-soother. I learned so much about patience, tolerance and multi-tasking during my years in child-care. Adults would ask me when I was younger if I thought I’d ever want children, but when I emphatically said yes, they would try and talk me out of it – saying I had no idea how hard it was, how thankless, how much work. I figured that after several summers of keeping a wild gaggle of little ones ranging from infancy to six years old happy and safe, I might have at least some idea of what it could be like, but then – I always got to give them back to their parents at the end of the day.

I used to throw big Easter parties, and invite all the children of my friends and relatives. I would always end up feeling like Mother Goose, with a train of little kids swarming around my skirts, tugging on my sleeve, coming to me for a game, a story, a band-aid and a kiss for their boo-boos. At parties and weddings, kids will cling on to me, wanting to stay with me, have me carry them around and dance, clamber on my lap and whisper in my ear, “I wish YOU were my mommy.” Many times, I’ve caught a child studying me thoughtfully for a long time before informing me that they couldn’t wait until I had children of my own, and telling me that I would be such a good mama. I guess you can’t ask for a better endorsement than that, right? Children know. I always say that if I am well regarded by children and dogs, then I can know that I’m doing all right as a human. I tend to care about their opinions more than anyone else’s.

Big baby little mama
Big baby little mama

After my mother died and we moved here, my dad had to find someone who would take care of me in the long summers when school was out and he was working. He found a nice lady who took in little strays like me at a daycare she ran out of her house – the same one where I would eventually work, when I got too old to be babysat. The daycare lady had a baby girl with big brown eyes that crinkled up in the corners like her mother’s. I have a photograph of myself at seven or eight years old, eyes big and scared behind thick glasses, a little owl holding that huge baby on my skinny knees. I only realized this recently but – instead of clinging to the nice lady, the mommy – I clutched and clung to her baby. It was always this way: I knew how to nurture, but not how to be nurtured. That sort of thing felt alien, uncomfortable, wrong somehow. My aversion grew out of my fear, and this unfamiliarity. My own mama, before she died, I think maybe didn’t really know what to do with me. She was overwhelmed by motherhood, by this tiny yowling creature that intimidated and frustrated her. I needed so much. I’m only just now beginning to really acknowledge the layers of loss that are mine to work through, and truly understand where it all began: with a little thorny seed nestled in my heart, a spiky thistle that sprouted up from that dark place in me, a yearning maw that ached with this knowledge: that no mama could ever have enough love, enough patience, enough care to heal in me what I had lost, what I only ever halfway had. Whenever other kids’ well-meaning mamas would see wee bitty me, a pitiful creature so obviously hungry for love, they would instinctively attempt to press me to their bosoms. It was all I could do not to hiss and run away, prickly little hedgehog that I was. They might try to embrace me, or say they wanted to try – but I was sure that eventually they would grow tired of trying to feed a baby whose belly was a bottomless bucket. I would get pushed off the lap at some point, surely. And that would be far, far worse than continuing to go it on my own. I knew without knowing something about that bonding that I never got with my mother. I thought I knew nothing about devotion. I was wrong. My dad married an amazing woman a few years after my mom died, who wanted a little girl passionately. I didn’t know or understand it at the time, but we both could have filled each other’s empty spaces, if only I hadn’t been so afraid. I had no idea how to receive mother love. My wonderful step-mother persisted in trying to love on me and fill me up nonetheless, despite how difficult I could be. She has put up with and softened my rough edges over the years, and taught me much about unconditional love and generosity, now that I am ready to understand it – and I am eternally grateful to her, and to my dad both for seeing me through a very rocky adolescence (and beyond.) I have no idea who I would be without them, and I shudder to imagine.

Them that raised me. My father and my step-mother on their wedding day.
Them that raised me. My father and my step-mother on their wedding day.

Them that made me. My father and my mother.
Them that made me. My father and my mother.

In the majority of the photographs from my childhood, my father is the one holding me, tying my shoes, feeding me, bathing me, changing my diaper, making silly faces at me. I have at least two or three out of all of those photos where my mother is the one holding me. Definitely two. You can say, well – maybe she was the one taking all the photos? Maybe so. But I think my grandmother was responsible for taking most of them, from what I can tell – that was always her gig. My dad has told me that he was the one who provided most of my emotional caretaking. He was then, and is now, an extremely devoted, patient, playful and loving father. But he was also saddled with being the provider for a family struggling with debt during the recession in the 1980′s. Both my parents had long commutes and worked crappy jobs for little pay. I know they were both stressed and exhausted most of the time. I know that they both did their very best to parent me and raise me right, and in a multitude of ways, they really did an fantastic job. Maybe if my mom hadn’t gotten sick so soon, so fast and so hard, maybe we could have gotten through it, and connected the way we both really wanted to. But that’s not what happened. For most of my life, I thought the worst wound I had to carry was my mother’s death. It’s taken me a long time to realize that everything that happened before that contributed in so many ways to a lot of the deep patterns of anxious attachment I’ve been learning to work through in my relationships. It’s fascinating, how much what we experience before our memories even really form shapes us fundamentally.

My papa singing to me when...

My birth was a hard one, and it hurt my mother – it hurt us both in lots of ways. I think that blissful bonding, that skin-to-skin exchange of raw oxytocin love-drugs was something we never got to experience. My mother said she felt a sharp kick right before her water broke. It happened in the middle of the night, or very early morning. My father said that he went from the deep dead sleep to wide awake in the fraction of a second. He said they rushed her to the hospital always prevent infection and her labor was immediately induced with pitocin. She was given an epidural and episiotomy. I was transverse, flipped the wrong way, facing the wrong direction. The doctor reached in and turned me around to face properly to be born. Emerging from the mother water. My birth journey, interrupted. The newest I ever was. I came into this world drugged and afraid, because my mother was drugged and afraid. I reckon that they swooped me up and swabbed me down, snipped my cord and stifled my squalling. I was cleaned and weighed and measured and eventually, eventually brought back where I belonged with my mom but she was distraught, disoriented and confused. She thought that she had done something wrong. I think my mother was afraid of me. I was jaundiced, a yellow little thing, so I was whisked away to soak in an artificial sun from a bright lamp. Was this where I got lost? Perhaps this was the point at which my soul disassociated, fragmented, went floating off in space like a balloon. I didn’t feel safe, or loved, or wanted. I did not feel welcomed, or that I belonged here on this earth, in this body. I think that’s how we missed each other, like ships in the night – in that frantic moment of interfering protocols. It’s as if we were two acrobats on the flying trapeze who missed our moment to grasp each other’s hands, to connect and be bonded for life. Instead, the moment sent us rushing past each other, and both our hearts went sprawling. Me, a little baby up there on the trapeze, swinging wild and alone. Her, crashing down to earth, to this new reality she was completely unprepared for. This is where it all began for me, that sense of being unloved, unworthy, unwelcome. My dad says that he believes he bonded with me in a way that she couldn’t. I know he did. In one the pictures my mother meticulously glued into my baby book, she seems truly blissed out, holding a naked little me on her lap angled towards her breast. I have pored over this photograph over and over, trying to feel a fragment of that lost bliss. I know from her letters that something went wrong during her labor, with the episiotomy, or maybe when they turned me. The doctor had done some damage, and for weeks after my birth, she was in horrible pain, and no one would listen to her, no one would believe her and treat the issue. I know that her physical pain, as well as most likely postpartum depression had something to do with what went awry with us, with her ability to be available and open to me, this terrifying tiny creature.

Out of the very few photographs I have of my mother holding me (maybe only 2 or 3) this one is probably my favorite. Taken in front of the stone cottage in Lone Grove built for my great grandmother. My grandparents lived there too, and now my aunt and unc

I was in the wilderness of Colombia a couple years back, staying at the remote maloka of an indigenous shaman, or taita. I was with my Uncle Don, who I am not related to, but who has known me all my life. He and my mother had been friends since they were toddlers, he was one of the first people besides my parents to see me after I was born, and he was at my mother’s bedside when she breathed her last. We were preparing to drink yage, or ayahuasca – a powerful plant medicine used by the tribal people of the Amazon for deep healing. I was sitting in a colorful hammock, feeling nervous about the ceremony to come when Don decided it was a good time to say, “Well, I made a promise that I’d never tell you this, but the truth is, your mom wasn’t too sure about the whole motherhood thing. It’s not that she didn’t love you – I believe she did, in her way… But she just hadn’t really realized what she was getting into. And she just wasn’t into it.” I was rocked by his honesty, harsh and unexpected in that moment, but somehow necessary. It was a hard thing to hear, especially given where I was and what I was about to do. It was liberating to finally hear someone tell me the brutal truth, to confirm the deep dark secret I’d always instinctively suspected, but could never give voice to. What a terrible thing to admit, to say, to know. “I’m not sure my mother wanted me. Not really.” I used to think it was that she didn’t love me. I know now that she did, but I’m not sure that she knew how to. I don’t know if she really loved herself. Or knew how to. You can’t give what you don’t have. She was emotionally unavailable, or only intermittently available. She was preoccupied with her passions, and a little ambivalent about certain aspects of motherhood. I don’t fault her any of that, truthfully. It was the 1970′s and this was just what you were supposed to do – fulfill the fantasy of getting married and then pregnant, and then everything unfolding easily and seamlessly, just like it played out in the movies and storybooks. My family on my mother’s side were not the touchy-feely, demonstrative, cuddly, always saying “I love you” kind of folks. They were honest and warm and loving, but they had their own more reserved ways of showing it. Little ones need touch, skin to skin contact, eye contact, closeness – in order to grow, to feel safe, to thrive. I know I didn’t get enough of that, and that it’s affected the way that I give and receive love. So much of the healing on myself I came to this earth to do centers from that place, that lack, that lacuna.

In 2005, I fell in love, and bought a house with a man I could really see spending the rest of my life with. He was gentle, kind and loving, and I felt that he would make an excellent father. We set about working on the house and garden, and building up our lives around a shared dream – until it all fell apart. We were engaged, planning our wedding, when the cracks began to show in our foundation. I found myself at 33, alone in the house I’d imagined by that time would be filled with children and laughter, the relationship over. I was so, so sure of how it was all going to work out: marriage, motherhood, a beautiful home – the whole sha-boom. When that ship sank, I was completely bereft. I absolutely could not imagine being happy without a partner and a child in my life – and yet somewhere in me, I knew that as long as my happiness was dependent on this dream being fulfilled, that I’d probably never have that, or be truly worthy of it. I knew I’d have to travel to the other side of that looming black mountain – where I could find happiness and fulfillment without a ring on my finger or a baby in my belly. Because I finally realized that those relationships can’t be about fulfilling some empty place in me – that’s not what love or parenthood is really about, at least not the healthier versions.

Parenthood is not about wanting a baby. Babies grow into people, and you have no idea who the hell they’re going to turn out to be. Probably not at all what you expected, or planned for. Because they are their own people. Parenthood is about wanting a baby, even a screaming, red-faced colicky baby, or a special needs baby, and it’s about actually really wanting an insufferable two year old you’re always having to chase around, and absolutely wanting to make a weird Halloween costume for that four year old person who will only tolerate wearing it for an hour, if that. It’s about wanting to sit at the table after eating spaghetti doing math homework. It’s about telling stories and explaining things and singing songs and helping someone go poop. Over and over and over, for many many years. Plus, later – having a bratty teenager who slams doors and breaks your heart and runs away and is embarrassed to be seen with you. It’s about giving everything you have and more to someone who will most likely throw it all back in your face one day and tell you they wish they were never born, or that they wish someone else was their mom. It’s about loving someone more than you ever thought possible and having to live constantly with the fear that something terrible might happen to them. I remember a friend telling me that having a child is like suddenly having your heart live outside of your body. This wild little person running around like a maniac, jumping off things and later probably sneaking out of the house at night and driving too fast. Imagine loving a child more than your own life – and knowing that their body might betray them, their friends, their protectors, their society, their own hearts might betray them, might even kill them. I hear that it’s a full time job and the biggest responsibility anyone with ever have and that’s it’s completely exhausting and totally rewarding and ego-annihilating, life changing and heart-exploding. That’s what the parents I know tell me. I thought for a long time that I wanted all of those things. Some days I still do. Some days, not. And my time to experience that terrifying wonder grows shorter.

I have to ask myself honestly now: do I really, really still want to be a parent? The unpleasant reality is that I hardly ever visit my friends with children. I neglect the god-children I have, and never spend enough time with my nieces and nephews. My dogs definitely don’t get all the walks and attention they deserve (though they do have pretty wonderfully spoiled lives). It hit me one night as I sat hunched over my laptop, furiously writing something, (or trying to) with my dog Moon repeatedly putting her toys on my lap for me to throw, and looking at me expectantly, eagerly – like a little kid who craves interaction. “Mama? Mama? Play with me? Mama?” I realized that she was me, trying to distract my mom away from her art, her paintings – she was so driven to create, and had so much talent. My needs didn’t really fit comfortably into her need to make art. I understand that now. It’s really fucking hard to do, and I respect all parents, especially mothers, that find a way to balance child-rearing with creating, or fulfilling dreams and ambitions. Or even just making a living and scraping by. That shit is a lot to juggle, and anyone who manages it deserves, well – a lot more than a gold medal. I think that as much as I hate to admit it, that I would probably neglect my child, in much the same way that I was neglected. Moon is staring at me intently with big bright eyes right this very moment, a moist and raggedy toy in her mouth. I have to take a moment to pause from my furious typing to throw it over my shoulder, hoping this will keep her busy until I can finish writing this piece and finally take her outside to play. This absolutely would not fly with a human child. I can say this from my own experience.

Mother's Milk - from the Tantric Dakini Oracle. May we all be divinely nourished - today and always.
Mother’s Milk – from the Tantric Dakini Oracle. May we all be divinely nourished – today and always.

Oh, matrescence – the process of becoming a mother. I’ve mostly talked myself out of it, for the time being – and that sliver of a moment may be all I have left, really. If the right situation evolved, I’d reconsider. But that seems like such a long shot at this point. I don’t want to go it alone. I’d want help – and it wouldn’t even have to be the whole package, the love and the ring and all of that. It’s a lovely idea, but maybe not essential in the way I once deemed it to be. A few years ago, I had a very vivid dream about giving birth in a big red velvet draped bed under the full moon in a field attended by two milk white goats. When I awoke from the dream, I put the call out into the world and to the universe in general (publicly, via social media, because that’s how we do now) that I was looking for someone who was ready to be a father. Not just a sperm donor, or a baby daddy, but a real papa who would wake up in the night and change diapers and croon lullabies and cook breakfasts and help with all the things of raising a small person. It wasn’t a requirement for this person to be partnered with me, romantically, anymore. I was open to finding a financially secure and super loving gay dad or queer couple with major dad-longings. I was ready to find a man who longs to be a father, but was maybe not in a traditional position to easily become one. I wanted someone who would want to be present, every step of the journey, from conception to college – someone who wouldn’t want to miss a second of it! My vision of co-parenting didn’t necessarily have to involve a romantic connection, which is why I was open to collaborating on creating and raising a human with a gay man or couple. Of course, I’d have loved to have had an adoring partner who really wanted and felt ready for a kid, but I didn’t feel I had the luxury of holding out for the whole package any longer. I received quite a few inquiries about it, and even had a few serious conversations about moving forward, but nobody really clicked or quite fit the bill. As I moved forward with opening that possibility up to a different kind of partnership, and inviting in a potential co-parent, I was also working steadily on healing those heavy wounds I had carried for so long. I used to dream of having a baby all the time, for years and years. Often, the dreams took place in a sterile hospital where my baby was always taken away from me before we could bond. Everyone got to be with my baby except me. These dreams were very upsetting – but I had no idea at the time how closely they mirrored my own traumatic birth experience. Every time I dreamt of being pregnant or having a baby, I thought it was a message that I was meant to be a mother. Sometimes I’d struggle to take care of the baby (always a little girl, who resembled me.) I’d forget her somewhere, and discover her later guiltily, stashed in a drawer and forgotten. I’m not sure why it took me so long to realize that the baby in the dreams was always me. The most recent baby dream I had was both mundane, and incredibly powerful. I was changing my baby’s diaper. Literally dealing with my own shit. Lovingly, patiently – no longer neglecting the baby within. When I started really doing this work of healing that lonely little infant, of deeply nurturing my own inner child, much of my intense hunger to be a mother faded away. I’ve been doing a lot of intensive self-mothering, which can look like a lot of things, from day to day – but mostly it’s doing trauma therapy with EMDR and Somatic Experiencing on my early childhood relational and attachment trauma with my mom. It’s also paying attention to myself, instead of ignoring my own needs to focus on others. Care and feeding, showing interest and delight, being as gentle and forgiving with myself as I would with a small child.

Woke up from an incredibly vivid dream about giving birth to my future daughter (under a full moon with two milk-white goats attending!) I gotta get on this, prontissimo. Know anybody who wants to be a papa? I'm serious. Good morning! (p.s. A financially
(I’m not sure who created this marvelous artwork, but if you know, please tell me!)

What a marvel, to see in front of you a small being that you created in your own womb: eyelashes, a nose, the bones of a face that mirrors your own face. The miraculous melding of two strands of DNA that result in eventually being able to have conversations with a tiny stranger who is made partly of you. I used to stay up late at night and read accounts of women’s birth journeys in the blue glow from my phone, tears streaming down my cheeks at their stories of their labor, their fear and suffering, their gratitude and awe. I wanted all of that – so much. I wanted to be heavy bellied, waddling pregnant, heaving up to stand, sunk in my own biology. I wanted to breathe and pant and push and groan like an animal. I wanted to reach down to touch the crown of my child’s head emerging from my body. I wanted to bond with that baby and feed them from my breast and rock with them in the rocker and soothe and coo and sigh with them for a long, long time. I really did want all that, fervently, vehemently, desperately. But maybe I don’t need it like I thought I did. My life is full, and rich, and delicious. I have just enough solitude, and just enough time (more or less) for all the people I love in my life, and for all the things I want to do. The idea of living out my days without a life partner and a child shockingly just doesn’t seem like the hideous tragedy it once did. I’m happy as things are. I might be really, really happy if those people, that love and that child, joined me on the road up ahead. I bet they’d have things to teach me: hard and beautiful and unexpected lessons, I am sure. I don’t know what surprises my path might be holding for me beyond this next bend – but I know that in taking good care of myself, and making my life feel as solid and whole and strong as possible, that I am laying the groundwork for the kinds of relationships I want – with friends, family, for a lover, and maybe even a little one. I’m learning to fill up my own cup, so that I actually have something to give, if the opportunity ever arises. Because that kind of love was never meant to be about blind need, or filling a void in me, or giving someone else all the love that I didn’t get enough of. I know now that those are the wrong reasons. Being a parent and a partner isn’t really about me. It’s about showing up and being completely present and ready to discover who those mysterious loves are, and learn what they might come to share with me. I have stacks of children’s books I’ve long collected that I’d love to read out loud someday, but I’m pretty sure that even if I don’t make or adopt a kid of my own, I’ll find someone who wants to hear them, if I just go looking. In the meantime, I can read them to myself, share them with that part of myself that delights in the illustrations, in the stories, in my own attention. I know now how to offer some love to that inner child who felt lonely for so long, and who finally, finally, knows she is home. I know now completely that I am loved, wanted, and welcomed. I know that I belong here, and I intend to stay in this body, on this earth, for as long as I’m allowed. I’m working on nurturing myself, my family and friends, and my beloved animals. And I’m going to keep on trusting that all that can be enough, more than enough.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas, all the would-be mamas, the wishful ones, the heartbroken ones, to the women who have lost babies, or were never able to conceive, to the mamas I know whose children have died, or are estranged from them, for the children I know whose mamas have died, or are estranged from them – for all the love and all the loss and all the healing – to all of your hearts from mine.

Baby me. Wish I still had...

This Bitter Earth – Vernal Equinox

by Angeliska on March 22, 2017

The Vernal Equinox heralds Persephone’s return into the light, beckoning her back up to the land of the living. Coming back slowly into consciousness – the body wakes up, remembers how to breathe, sigh, sing again. This Pluto transit I’ve been going through will keep me in the underworld for at least another year, I think – learning how to read the roots, speak to ghosts, be transformed completely. I’m not the same girl that was plunged down into the choking dirt a season ago. Persephone left the earth a girl, but walked back in the door of her childhood home, something else entirely. The deep want and longing that had always been a part of me have been purged from my heart, finally. I do not want what I haven’t got. I sang that song in a wavering voice under a full moon by firelight in the middle of the Sahara Desert. I am certain no one enjoyed hearing it, but I had to sing it anyway – because though I’ve sung those words for years, they’ve never been more true. I am walking in the desert. I am not scared, but it’s hot. I send a would be lover away from my bed, turn away from his kisses, even though he is the King of the Berbers. I am loyal only to myself, for once. I sleep alone, draped in his robes, his silk burnoose, pale blue. I am stronger than I knew, calm in my resolve, finding a truth deep in myself, way out in the middle of nowhere.

Demeter + Persephone - Dore

Today is a day for telling things, for whispering truths into the shifting sands. In a room full of women, we shared our secrets, telling each other’s – faces hot with the releasing, letting it all go. This is where all the deep work is happening. I see it all around me, in so many of the brave people I meet. Facing their shadows head on. We take care of each other’s darkest secrets, confessions scrawled on notecards and passed around the room, spoken aloud, clouds of shame dispelling, like puff-ball mushrooms deflating colored smoke, releasing gasps of relief. These truths hang in the air over our heads and then fade, just a ghost of something that had so much power, unspoken, untold. The shock and boom of fireworks exploding cathartically, and then just as suddenly turned to ash, to a floating jellyfish chrysanthemum made of haze. Was it ever real, this fear that held so much power over us? Sometimes. Thinking about the lost maidens we were, and the troubled young women in our own lives now – how hard it is to be female in this fucked up world. Thinking about all the mothers and daughters. How we lose and find each other, again and again and again. Stories of trauma and loss, memories of our teenage shames, and secret desires. Our bodies, ourselves. Mothers and daughters, lovers and others. Seeing so clearly now how I’ve been repeating that old story, for so many years now. I don’t need to do that anymore. The old sorrow is with me, but I know what to do now to be mother to myself, to give myself back what I lost, as best I can. It takes a lot of work, a lot of care. It’s worth it. I cry for the girl I was, how much she had to figure out on her own. I’ve been thinking about that time in my life a lot lately. Going into the past, sitting with how far I’ve come, how much my life, and my perception of it has changed. What has remained. I have lost so, so much. But everything I’ve gained has more value to me than robes of silver, than a starry crown. Worth more to me than a gold ring on my finger. Knowledge, peace, and freedom – more precious to me than any of those old illusions I once clung to so fervently. It’s some deep Venus in Retrograde work, Our Lady Underground. My fingers feeling around for the shape of her, eyes unseeing. Digging the carved stone figure of a goddess out of the ancient dirt. Scrabbling blindly for the sacred. Have you ever been inside a cavern, deep under the earth, when the tour guide shuts all the lights off? Letting your vision adjust to that complete darkness, total lack of light. I always wish they’d let us stay in the dark for just a little while longer. It’s such rarity, that level of deep pitch black. Just like seeds, we need it to grow.

The only legend I have ever loved is
the story of a daughter lost in hell.
And found and rescued there.
Love and blackmail are the gist of it.
Ceres and Persephone the names.
And the best thing about the legend is
I can enter it anywhere. And have.
As a child in exile in
a city of fogs and strange consonants,
I read it first and at first I was
an exiled child in the crackling dusk of
the underworld, the stars blighted. Later
I walked out in a summer twilight
searching for my daughter at bed-time.
When she came running I was ready
to make any bargain to keep her.
I carried her back past whitebeams
and wasps and honey-scented buddleias.
But I was Ceres then and I knew
winter was in store for every leaf
on every tree on that road.

Eavan Boland
an excerpt from The Pomegranate

Rupert Bunny - The Rape of Persephone -
The Rape of Persephone – Rupert Bunny

I’ve been in cold storage, like a bulb tricked into thinking it’s winter still. An unripe pomegranate. The soil frozen, down deep. Permafrost. I’ve been sweating since December, a hot Christmas, celebrating the New Year with bare arms and legs. The rest of me never thawed, though. I dig in my long shovel, muddy boots shoving it in deeper, ripping the old roots out like rotten teeth. I never planted this, never wanted this – and now it’s taking over, invasive. Sea-Oats. I’ll leave a small patch, because the dangling seed-pods are good in bouquets – but this is my garden now. Mine, and mine alone. I reclaim my body that way, all the places the old lovers like ghosts used to touch, mine and mine alone now. Never theirs again. Broken trust, and deep violation. The old story, Proserpine’s abduction. Old myths. Ancients gods and goddesses rear up enormous, fantastical, breathing fire, trampling cities like juggernauts. Terrible and beautiful (but mostly terrible.) My arms held behind my back, pinning me down, face in the dirt, mouth full of dead leaves. A voice in my head, a dark memory saying, “I own you completely. I fucking own you.” No, you don’t. Not anymore. No longer ill-used, kept in a back pocket for safe-keeping, possessed. Robbed of my choice. Kept in the dark, intentionally. These are Plutonian lessons: sex and death, love and loss. Control and liberation. I suppose I could not have truly learned any other way. But goddamn. I told a shorthand version of this myth to a beautiful maiden on a dark night, on the road back from New Orleans. Winding through the bayou. Telling the tale of the underworld descent, as we made our way back up from below sea-level. Why did Persephone eat that pomegranate, anyway? In doing so, she sealed her fate – to become Queen of the Land of the Dead. This is the other aspect of myself I’ve been learning to embrace – the Mediumatrix. Learning that language, reading the letters written on the cave walls, inscribed on tombstones. Maman Brigitte, whose domain is the cemetery. My mama didn’t name me that for nothing, you know? So, I have to trust. However, I had been warned: don’t feed the shades! A bad spirit followed her home through the streets, tried to play pranks on me. I wasn’t having it. Performing the necessary banishing, cord-cuttings. The lit candle, out. In dark dreams, dead hands on me cold as clay, heavy as stone. Sleep paralysis keeps me from hollering at them – get off, get out! Go now, back to your grave, you old ghosts! It’s time for you to dissolve, fade into memory, dust. New sprouts are forming beneath the soil, lifting tiny green leaves into the morning sun. Spring is here, the birds are singing – wake up, wake up from your strange dreams! I don’t know if I know how or even want to write about how angry I’ve been. How hurt. Pluto has brought me harsh lessons, and I’ve had to work hard not to let my bitter tears salt the earth, make it so that nothing grows there anymore. I want good things to grow here, wild and strong. Truths, and wisdom. Joy and acceptance. Bit by bit I make my way there. Spring does not arrive overnight. There are still trees with bare branches. I’m giving myself a lot of time.

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Pluto + Persephone – Edmund Dulac

I forgot my razor in New Orleans, and so have been experimenting for the very first time with letting the hair on my body grow – seeing what it does when left untended. I started shaving more or less as soon as my body first began to grow hairy, so I’ve never really seen it do its thing. I’ve been thinking about something my friend said, when she stopped shaving recently: that she would grow her body hair out until she could look at it without repulsion, until she could see it as normal – as beautiful. As part of her. Because it is. Growing wild, a thick tangle like roots exposed to the light. It was such a shock, when I was a young girl – the dark wiry hair standing out like a shock on such pale skin. Now, it seems so benign, so harmless. It’s surprisingly sparse, finer than I imagined. So much less hideous. Delilah taking back her own power, owning her animus. I am a mammal, after all – an animal. Perhaps it’s a protection, an amulet, personal talisman. In the underarm cavern, furring down shins, new sprouts, surprises. Growing wild. Feeling strong, a feminine strength. The scent of my own skin, intoxicating. I smell like a woman, like Artemis the huntress, with her loyal hounds, chasing only the moon. Musk and jasmine and leather. Carnations and goat-fur and candlewax. Transformations, explorations of identities, a deeper understanding of my own femininity. A strange and sometimes wonderful construct. An idea, an energy. I was granted new dresses for the first day of spring, flowered sprigs, pin tucked, gathered up and nipped in at the waist. I chose new ones, with room to let my belly breathe, in shades like ripe fruit and shadow: plum, cerise, soot. I hadn’t been wearing any of my more girly frocks much for a bit, or anything flowery or delicate anymore. I felt most comfortable in sort of shapeless overalls, dusk colored, warrior woman garb. Nothing to prove, no one to tempt. No need to be coy or coquettetish. I’m not looking to draw anyone into my orbit. All my lacy stockings are rolled up in their bundles in my drawer, unworn. Gowns hang in the closet like shed skins, high heels gathering dust. I’ve been unwilling to wear any constricting bullshit whatsoever, for the most part. A different mode for me. As is learning to be a good friend to myself, a loving and constant companion. To let myself unfold how I will, over this process. It’s been interesting, liberating, and curious. I am so much more comfortable in my skin than I have ever been. It is only from this place of acceptance and compassion can I initiate any real changes. I want to be stronger, I want to be healthier. So I’m working on that.

Demeter Mourning for Persephone by Evelyn de Morgan 1906
Demeter Mourning for Persephone – Evelyn de Morgan

i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand

an excerpt from
won’t you celebrate with me
Lucille Clifton, 1936 – 2010

T78 INT 37
Mother and Daughter – Meinrad Craighead

We lay in the meadow, among evening primroses nodding their heavy petals, polled loaded. Buttery kissed noses, glowing in the gloaming. All the colors returning to the world that so recently seemed to be nothing but grey. We went down to the river for the parade in darkness, and looked around in amazement as the sun rose over the water and all the hues that had been leached away and hidden in the night were slowly revealed, brightening and deepening in intensity as dawn opened up her golden hands to embrace us. Our eyes were dazzled, our lips speechless, seeing each other, all of us – truly for the first time. Come out, come out – wherever you are! Scattering seeds: bluebells and scarlet flax, poppies and alyssum, bachelor’s buttons, delphinium, black larkspur and hollyhocks. I pull up the beggar’s lice, wild geranium, old cleavers. I plant Angel’s Trumpets. With whispered words I encourage horseherb, toadflax, frogfruit, spiderwort, henbit to reclaiming the garden. The wild weeds return to teach me their often overlooked and misunderstood magic

Demeter + Persephone - S.S. Boulet
Demeter + Persephone – Susan Seddon-Boulet

look at love
how it tangles
with the one fallen in love
look at spirit
how it fuses with earth
giving it new life
why are you so busy
with this or that or good or bad
pay attention to how things blend
why talk about all
the known and the unknown
see how the unknown merges into the known
why think separately
of this life and the next
when one is born from the last
look at your heart and tongue
one feels but deaf and dumb
the other speaks in words and signs
look at water and fire
earth and wind
enemies and friends all at once
the wolf and the lamb
the lion and the deer
far away yet together
look at the unity of this
spring and winter
manifested in the equinox
you too must mingle my friends
since the earth and the sky
are mingled just for you and me
be like sugarcane
sweet yet silent
don’t get mixed up with bitter words
my beloved grows right out of my own heart
how much more union can there be

Untitled ["Look at love"] by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

Renaissance | Simone Pignoni | The Rape of Persephone | 1650 |
The Rape of Persephone – Simone Pignoni

Derek Walcott, a Mighty Poet, Has Died

I grieve for and honor this man who gave us this poem, that has helped me maybe more than any other, survive and understand the past five years. I’ve shared it before, but feel moved to do so again, because this lesson and practice is continuing to unfold for me, deeper than ever.

The time will come
when,
with elation

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror

and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread.
Give back your heart
to itself,
to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another,
who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

– Love After Love
Derek Walcott

Earth_Wolcott

Earth
 
Let the day grow on you upward
through your feet,
the vegetal knuckles,
 
to your knees of stone,
until by evening you are a black tree;
feel, with evening,
 
the swifts thicken your hair,
the new moon rising out of your forehead,
and the moonlit veins of silver
 
running from your armpits
like rivulets under white leaves.
Sleep, as ants
 
cross over your eyelids.
You have never possessed anything
as deeply as this.
 
This is all you have owned
from the first outcry
through forever;
 
you can never be dispossessed.
 
– Derek Walcott
 (from Sea Grapes)
 

Dinah Washington – This Bitter Earth

My theme song for this Spring: This Bitter Earth, recorded by Gene Chandler in one spectacular take. Dinah Washington's original slays me, but I listen to this one when I'm all out of tears...
My theme song for this Spring: This Bitter Earth, recorded by Gene Chandler in one spectacular take.
Dinah Washington’s original slays me to the bone, but I listen to this one when I’m all out of tears…

This bitter earth
Well, what a fruit it bears
What good is love
Mmh, that no one shares?
And if my life is like the dust
Ooh, that hides the glow of a rose
What good am I?
Heaven only knows
Oh, this bitter earth
Yes, can it be so cold?
Today you’re young
Too soon you’re old
But while a voice
Within me cries
I’m sure someone
May answer my call
And this bitter earth, ooh
May not, oh be so bitter after all

Equinox wishes from days of yore:

Fallings, Turnings – AUTUMNAL EQUINOX

AUTUMN HERALDS

Fruit + Flower

Tiempo de la abeja y la flor

FOLDEROL, FALL AND ALL

EQUINOX SONG

THE COLOR OF POMEGRANATES

Pomegranate Star Ritual for The Winter Solstice

ARMOR/ARDOR – Full Moon in Cancer

by Angeliska on January 12, 2017

Tonight is the first full moon of 2017 – a warm and unseasonably balmy night, even for January in Texas. I don’t really feel like writing, at least not much here – but I do feel like sharing, just a little bit, the ephemeral bits of words and images that are speaking to me in this moment. Marking the beginnings of things, and the endings of others. I sit at my kitchen table with the window open, a candle burning, blessed with dried hawthorn blossoms my sister-friend gave me for my birthday. Wearing the little medal strung on thread with an aventurine bead she also gifted: “Our Lady of Prompt Succor, pray for us.” Both aventurine and hawthorn aid in heart-healing. An ambulance goes by, my white wolf-dog friend Snowy howls from across the street. Full Wolf Moon, tonight is. The air smells lakey, a stagnant huff that rises up from the banks of the river some nights. I’m surrounded by vases of birthday flowers that also perhaps need their water changed. Hothouse blooms and standing water. I sit, and write, and savor my solitude. Licking my wounds. Any kind of romantic love feels completely shut down for me now, in so many ways. I’ve gone dormant again. Hibernation, a stasis – gestating something hidden deep within, all that is my own. A seed pod, dried up and put away in a dark drawer. The shell around the tender sprout. Exoskeleton, armor, carapace, thorny encasement. Waiting for another season to burst open, when the ground is less hard and cold. A moon opposition Saturn transit, bringing betrayal, heartbreak, alienation. Learning how to care for myself in the midst of all that mess. When I remember love, being touched in that way, my eyes clench shut, wanting to block it away. The memories searing, cauterized, scarred over. Today, receiving a massage: unfamiliar warm hands on my stomach, my hips. There are pale scars there, faded: three, over my one ovary and the ghost of the other, and bisecting my navel. Not very many people have ever seen them. There was someone who once knew them very well. It had been a long time since anyone else really touched me there, with calm intention. I froze up, my feet wiggling to dispel the tension like little crab legs, pincers waving. An armored bodice over my soft underbelly. Breathing to relax, to receive touch again where it’s safe. Trying to heal heal heal. Full moon in Cancer lessons. I don’t have the open-hearted trust that I used to. Loyal like a dog, smiling and panting and returning over and over again no matter how badly treated. Until now. One day the walls will come down again, for someone worthy, someone brave and determined enough to push through, find the treasure on the other side. Perhaps. Or, if not – it just doesn’t feel like such a tragedy any longer. Until then, battalions and pennants waving, lioness rampant, protective, guarding the secret garden and the fountain at the heart of the fortress, the castle, my body a forbidden palace. In turns guarded and totally vulnerable – the moat around me, the briars that have tangled up sharp and thick. I can be happy here. Fresh water pushes up through the cracks, flowing again, chasing away the stagnancy, the pointlessness. Intimacy and self-protection are incompatible, I know this – but for now, I rekindle that with my friends, with my family, with myself. I had a very beautiful and peaceful birthday, and I am extremely grateful for all the good and loyal love in my life. It feels like enough, more than enough. I don’t need the way I used to. I know how to give to myself, fill up my own cup. Nurturing moon, teaching me how to make a home in myself, nourish my own heart. Tonight, with books and peacock socks and quiet and this sacred Thursday I will give to myself to write and write and write from now on to come back to my own garden, rake up the leaves, sit quietly by the fountain, and plant seeds for spring coming. I’ve come to hate winter – loathing the sight of bare dun trees and everything brown and sad. I know even though the air feels like April there is much to be done in this season, and so I’m trying my best to honor it. This is what I’ve got to share.

A little dish of moonlight and maundering from my table.

moon phases

I receive a poem a day in my inbox, and the one that came to me on my birthday feels like the most perfect gift. Right before I opened it on my birthday morning, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this poem spoke to me especially, like it was written to my heart, and exactly where I am at right now?” And then so it was:

This City
by Eugenia Leigh

could use more seraphs.
Anything with wings, really—
a falcon, a swallowtail.
Ravenous for marvels, I slit open
a chrysalis. Inside,
no caterpillar mid-morph.
Only its ghost in a horror of cells.
I pinch the luminous mash
of imaginal discs
and shudder, imagining
the mechanics of disintegration.
The wormy larva—whole,
then whorled. A wonder
it did not die. Even now,
smeared against my skin, it beams
like the angel in the tomb
prepared to proclaim a rising.

ocularist - marcsteinmetz
Photograph by Marc Steinmetz – SAMPLE CASE

Assorted glass eyes made by 
ocularist Alfred Greiner and his 
father Arnold are used as models 
to determine the individual 
shape a glass eye must have to 
match a patient’s eye hollow.

I’m reading Enchantments – A novel of Rasputin’s daughter and the Romanovs, by Kathryn Harrison who wrote one of my old favorites, Poison. I’ve always been obsessed with Rasputin and the Romanovs, so I’m enjoying delving into this story. The first paragraph struck me, stuck with me, thorny in my chest, remembering that feeling:

The Hole in the Ice

Behold: in the beginning there was everything, just as there is now. The giant slap of a thunderclap and, bang, it’s raining talking snakes.

A greater light to rule the day, a lesser light to rule the night, swarming water and restless air. A man goes down on two knees, a woman opens her thighs, and both hold their breath to listen.

Full Moon In Cancer - Tin Can Forest
Full Moon In Cancer – Tin Can Forest

moribund reverie

Ellen Harding Baker. Solar System Quilt. 1876
Ellen Harding Baker. Solar System Quilt. 1876

morning_star_by_jeffsimpsonkh-d565gxo
Morning Star by Jeff Simpson

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skeleton key telekinesis crone hands

silent dying by mala-lesbia
Silent Dying by Laura Makabreksu

enlargement_corsetmid16thcenturyItalySteelMuseoStibbertFlorence
Iron corset, 16th century, Museo Stibbert, Florence

My friend Olivia Pepper shared a poem from her friend Anis Mojgani recently. The whole piece is incredible, but this section I’m excerpting got deep under my skin:

Translation

3.

Inside the forest inside of me
is a house with a man inside of it.
There are other houses throughout the forest,
which once housed neighbors
neighboring the home of the man.
But they have all moved away
and the man is surrounded
by all these empty houses.
One day a woman moves into one.
She just shows up.
She sends a bird from her window to his, carrying a river stone in its feet.
He sends the bird back with a polished acorn. They send gifts back and forth
until one day she comes over to introduce herself.
They talk and laugh.
She goes back to the house she stays in.
A day or two later she comes back
and again a day or two after that.
Soon they are together every day.
Soon they sing together and cook together
and walk through the woods together.
Soon she stops going home to her house.
They sleep in the same bed.
He paints pictures of her where she has red hair
because he has red paint and she sits still
with a smile like she is watching a secret
form before her. She undresses and he moves
the wet brush across her back.
She sits quietly reading on his couch holding
her ankle in her right hand and then
holding her right hand around his left
Soon it is her couch too.
She has trouble falling asleep,
she kicks her legs restlessly.
He has trouble staying asleep,
waking up gasping for air.
Their arms find each other. The owls circle
silently. One day she is gone.
And once more it is just the man in the middle
of this forest of abandoned houses.
He sits with a stack of firewood and matches,
wondering which houses
are worth burning to the ground,
wondering if any of them are, and if so,
if his house should also burn.

by Anis Mojgani

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012-engraving-flowers-moth-bells-moon

All images here are credited where provenance could be found and credit given. If you know the source of an image I failed to find, I’d be grateful for the proper information – thank you.


Helpful insights from Aepril’s Astrology/Tarot Jan 13-19. Energy push-pull.

Happy full moon, lovers. Take care of your hearts.

Many moons of yore:

UP FROM THE DEPTHS – New Moon in Pisces Eclipse

11.11.15. – NEW MOON IN SCORPIO

Solstice Sisters – New Moon in Capricorn

Wisewoman Honey – New Moon

FULL SNOW MOON – SORROW AND KINDNESS

Cold Winter Moon, Solstice Blue

Summer Solstice – Strawberry Rose Moon

FULL MOON IN SCORPIO

Full Moon in Capricorn

Flammarion’s Firmament

Winter Solstice – Blood Moon

Blue Moon Honey

THE WHEEL TURNS: A PORTAL OPENS INTO A STRANGE NEW YEAR

by Angeliska on December 31, 2016

We are coming through the tunnel of winter, passing through the portal into a new time. The sun is reborn, and with it, a new day - & a hopefulness. The Winter Solstice last night was for me spent in the very best way possible: out on sacred land I love,
We are coming through the tunnel of winter, passing through the portal into a new time. The sun is being reborn, and with it, a new day – & a hopefulness.

It’s almost gone, this wild and unpredictable year that put so many of us through the ringer in truly brutal ways. I’m trying to sit with it, to look back on my own experience of this year, and all that I’ve learned. In many ways, this was a great year for me – a beautiful year filled with learning, growth, and big opening up into my own strength and independence. I’ve had some year that were big, bad doozies before, and while I watched many of my loved ones get raked over the coals by 2016, I was feeling pretty okay about it all, at least for a while there… There were so many deaths, big deaths – huge gaping losses of so many our beautiful heroes. I’m no stranger to death and loss, having experienced so much of it in my life. I lost some people this year, for sure – many old friends, and people who were significant in my past (in good and bad ways.) Some real good people passed on this year – and not all of them were famous (or, at least not beyond their own neighborhood block).

The Wheel of Fortune has been showing up constantly in the tarot readings I give, and serves as a poignant reminder not only of the turning of the year and seasons, but also of the twists and turns of fate. It’s easy to get caught up in notions about good luck and bad luck when this card shows up for us, but it’s so essential to try and find a sense of equilibrium amidst all the changes. Finding a calm, still center within yourself is at times the only way to sit with uncertainty. The Wheel is constantly spinning – sometimes we’re up, and sometimes we fall down – yet this is where we can find a deeper awareness about our journey and the lessons we’ve been given to learn and grow with.

Sometimes I feel like an ancient crone, seeing the world from the vantage point of centuries past: wars, famines, political upheaval, plagues, revolutions, tyranny – all turning over and over again. It never seems to stop. We want to believe that next year will be better than the last one – but the truth is that every year is filled with both good and bad things. I’m trying to be grateful for the good things, for the happy moments. The shock of this year’s election, and what looks to be a gruesome and horrifying aftermath has me wondering: what if one day we look back on 2016, and remember it as the last good year? The last good year before things got really, really bad. The reality is that most of us have no idea what really bad even looks like. Most of us have never gone without clean water to drink or food to eat for very long. Most of us have never lived in a war zone. Most of us have lived in the absurd luxury of being able to waste our time staring at screens endlessly in the ridiculous comfort of our climate controlled homes. I wonder if that will be the case, though – going forward? What will it be like for us if war comes here? If the chickens finally come home to roost… It’s the Year of the Fire Rooster, coming up here – Year of the big pompous, vermilion-wattled cock, yellow feathers fluttering in the breeze. It fits, doesn’t it? A year where everyone is threatening to set it all on fire. It doesn’t feel peaceful. It feels like a time of upheaval and disillusionment. Time to rub the sleep from our eyes and arise from our feather beds of complacence and comfort.

Change is extremely uncomfortable. It’s not easy, at all. But we’ll all have to, whether we like it or not, now. The wind is blowing, and it’s bringing with it a hard rain. Pray it douses those raging fires a little bit. I’ve been so, so angry the past few days – an incandescent flaming sword of rage. It’s a terrible feeling, and something I’m seeking to temper within myself. When the fire pours out of me and spatters others, I always feel worse. Not better. Even if it feels warranted. I’m trying to learn to be the water instead. To channel the fire into making things, instead of destruction. To angle it elsewhere, let it spill onto the rocks – not repressing it, or turning it inward. Steam hisses up, the hazy smoke obscures what’s below. It’s got to go somewhere constructive. I am being hit hard with so many lessons at once this week – most of them about illusions, boundaries, trust, and restraint. I’m failing at a lot of them, I feel. I’m doing my best, but my best still feels shitty. I think I’m supposed to be wiser than this by now, but then I remember that I’m human – and that we all keep fucking up at this stuff until we get tired of doing it over and over again, repeating the same karmic lessons repeatedly. Until we decide to change. It has to come from within, because moving these puzzle pieces into a new configuration just ain’t cutting it. Saturn and Pluto transits are moving through me, working on me hard, doing their psychic surgery. Last night, as I was trying to fall asleep, I had a vision of these giant planets, lost gods in white masks performing open heart surgery on me. My chest was draped with a curtain, but I could feel everything. Everything.

I’ve been thinking about how life and our perceptions of it can change so drastically within the space of a few hours. How rapidly our illusions can be shed, even (and especially) the ones we clung to so dearly. To see yourself (sometimes, in a photograph) blithely trusting that all would continue as planned, that no nasty surprises would leap out to trip you up, that you could keep on believing, just a little while longer… I think this year has been that way for a lot of people, on many different levels. I’m feeling it pretty intensely right now, and it’s not fun – but most likely very necessary: that our illusions and self-delusions be shattered. Let’s walk through the broken looking glass into a strange new year, with eyes wide open.

There’s this strong collective sense of deeply desiring to be done with this year – 2016, the dumpster fire of a year, as so many are referring to it. But then what? What will 2017 bring? Something better? We all want so much for things to just get better, get easier – be simpler. But these are not simple times. One of my amazing astrologer friends was looking at my chart at giving me a little heads up that this year to come would not really be any easier – for me, or for anyone. For me in particular, there’s going to be a lot of make it or break it celestial activity – heavy teachers delivering big lessons. I’m already feeling it – hard. I groaned inwardly (and probably audibly too) when she told me this… You know that feeling – like, when do I get a goddamn break? More lessons? More hard stuff? Sheeee-it. When does it get to be easy? I feel like I’ve been going through some pretty rough lessons my whole damn life. I have, and I will continue to – because that’s what it is to be human. This one is my go ’round – and I drew the dead mom card, and the hurricane card, and a bunch of other doozies. I also drew the soft comfy bed card, and the roof over my head card, and the healthy brain card, and most importantly – the amazing community of loving friends and family card. It’s all relative – and maybe somewhere, somehow, it evens out. We shall see. But what I’ve been contemplating lately is all the lessons: the challenges and obstacles and trials and pitfalls that actually just never, ever stop your whole goddamn life long. Because that’s how it works. We come here to learn and grow and be tested and we basically keep doing that until we die. And then, we keep doing it some more after that. And some more. And often, we get better at it. That’s the beautiful part about attaining maturity, I’ve discovered lately. It’s actually totally awesome. No adults ever told me about that when I was younger, I think maybe because I wouldn’t have believed them anyway – or maybe because they hadn’t realized it themselves yet. It is extremely gratifying to learn from your mistakes, how fail better, and even to have figured out how to do stuff well, how to take excellent care of yourself and other creatures, to make a good life. Growing up ain’t so bad, turns out. Can you tell I’m a Capricorn going through some major Saturn transits? No wonder I’m kind of enjoying this shit. I said kind of! Anyway – newsflash: there’s no happy ending hog heaven truffle buffet that we all get to dive into like a pot of gold after the shitshow rainbow. The shitshow rainbow and the truffle buffet are both ongoing, continuously. I think we do have a choice about most of what we choose to participate in, or engage with energetically – and the fact is: taking responsibility for your own happiness and your own suffering are paramount. I’m working with this truth, and grappling with it – on a daily basis. Pain is part of life. It just is. One day, every one you know and love will die. And so will you. And so will I. You and I will probably keep getting our hearts broken in all kinds of ways. The heart breaks and break until one day, it opens. Is that from Rumi? I think so. What we do in the meantime matters – and while we can’t protect ourselves from the pain of life (or, in doing so, also protect ourselves from the happiness), I do believe we can refuse to suffer. How exactly to do that, I’m still figuring out. And I’m apparently choosing to suffer until I do. I’m ready to break in my new boots and go tramping out into the shitshow rainbow, and find the joy in the midst of it all. I’m prepared to live as fully as I can until it’s my time to stop – and I have a huge high heap of stuff I want to to manifest and accomplish and experience until that day. I have some good dreams, some good visions for what I’d like to create, and share with the world. I want that for all of us. I want to believe in big, wild possibilities for us. For you and for me. So let’s dive in, eh?

First day of the new year on the land where my people have lived for so long. A place of deep knowing. Feeling very hopeful.
This photograph was taken on the first day of the new year on the land where my people have lived for so long. A place of deep knowing. I was feeling very hopeful. I want to feel that way again. I think I will. New Year’s Eve was my mother’s birthday. It feels good to gather out on the land where she lived and died. To sit around the fire with family, blood related and spirit found. Come back home. Come back to center. Be rooted and anchored in that old earth, that old, old love. Feeling the support of dear friends around me like strong branches, deep roots. Out in Lone Grove, time does something strange. It’s a place I belong.

Mystic blue.
Mystic blue. Queen Allyson, heart-sister.

Sisters in the haze of a brand new year. Photo by Allyson Garro - from last year's celebration.
Sisters in the haze of a brand new year. Photo by Allyson Garro.

Three wise women.
Three wise women.

Our beautiful group of happy campers on New Year's Day last year.
Our beautiful group of happy campers on New Year’s Day last year.

Me & my Jo.
Me & my Jo.

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Julia.

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Conjuring.

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Olivia. (I forget who took these three photos! If it was you, please remind me?)

Sparkle magic.
Sparkle magic.

Creek magic. Photo from last year's New Year's Eve celebration out at Lone Grove by Gorgy.
Creek magic.

Fire magic. Photo from last year's New Year's Eve celebration out at Lone Grove by Gorgy.
Fire magic.

Winter magic. Photo from last year's New Year's Eve celebration out at Lone Grove by Gorgy.
Winter magic. These three photos are from last year’s New Year’s Eve celebration out at Lone Grove, taken by Gorgy.

Cold creek white dog
Cold creek white dog.

May you who are reading this now be blessed in the new year. May you stay safe and warm, and may those you love all be well. Keep the homefires burning, keep your light going. We’re going to need each other, okay?

I love you. Thank you for being here with me.

More to read from New Year’s Eves of yore:

OWL WELCOME
AULD LANG SYNE
YEAR OF THE HORSE
NEW YEAR’S EVE FOXFIRES AT THE CHANGING TREE
FUCK THE PLAN 2012
AN EPICALLY EPIC AND FAIRLY TARDY YEAR IN REVIEW – OR, HOLY SHIT: 2011!
A Bright Blue Wish
New Year’s Redux
Stargazer Honey
Blue Moon
Lone Grove New Year
Pink Moons
The New Year
Lucky Stars and Garters
La Nouvelle Année

Keep On Doing What You Do / Jerks On The Loose

by Angeliska on December 22, 2016

I’m sad and angry for her. I’m sad and angry for us, for all the women, for the immigrants, people of color, Muslims and Jews, queer and trans folks, for the earth. For the water. For all the little children, and the old folks – for all of us. We’ve got to do the hardest work now – of showing up even more, staying strong, staying alive, keeping our noses above water. Everyday, fight. Don’t give up, don’t back down.

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” – Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

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Nobody around here knows what happened to you
No one will ask you to explain
You have your arm around a drastic measure
All of your efforts down the drain

There might be something here you could get into
Or just be quiet by yourself
Oooooooo. . .
Stare at the stuff up on the shelf

You work too hard
to take this abuse
Be on your guard
jerks on the loose

Look who
did it to you
Joker over there
with nothing to do
Don’t let ‘em
get through
Keep on doing
what you do

Why don’t you listen to my little pep talk
Instead of what that person said
And now I’m gonna open up the window
And you will come in off that ledge

You work too hard
to take this abuse
Be on your guard
Jerks on the loose…
Jerks on the loose…
Jerks on the loose!

(by Terre and Suzzy Roche)

I’ve been wanting to share this song that has been such a helpful anthem to me for a long time. I grew up listening to The Roches, but rediscovered this song a few years ago when I was going through a particularly tough time. I listen to it whenever I feel sad, discouraged, or beat down by the world and the people that sometimes can be huge jerks. It always helps, a lot. Right now feels especially apt, on a larger scale than ever before. This is such a disturbingly surreal moment we’re having in this country, in the world. As cynical as I can be about politics and the general state of things, nothing could have prepared me for where we’ve ended up, in just a few short months. It’s hard to conceive that this is our reality. I don’t even know how to write about it, how to put my disbelief and shock into words that even begin to convey all the things I’m feeling. I’m dumbfounded, utterly gobsmacked by how completely fucked up this current turning has turned out to be. I could never watch the movie Idiocracy all the way through, because nothing about it felt funny or satirical to me at the time. It all just felt real – and now it really and truly fucking is. I understood that a massive paradigm shift was occurring, and that it would likely be ugly, bringing all the poison up to the surface. I don’t know why I imagined it would be gentler than this, or that common sense, good judgment, and justice would prevail. I truly thought that our next president would be a woman, and that this would be the turning of an ancient tide. I was wrong, and I’m starting to understand why. I am horrified, and I am afraid. I don’t want to be, but I am. It can be a little paralyzing, that fear that makes you want to turn everything off, all the screens, all the lights. Hide under the covers, hide away. If the monsters can’t see you, they’ll go away. But they won’t. The monsters are here to stay, it looks like. There is no vanquisher, no silvery warrior riding in at the last minute to set things right, chase the baddies down into their suck-holes, slimy tails slithering behind them. I mean – I haven’t quite given up hope yet, but we’re cutting it so close here. This feels like one of those bad dreams you keep trying to wake up from, but every time you slam the door and run outside, you find yourself still in the room with the bogeyman. He’s coming towards to, reaching out his hands to grab you where the sun don’t shine, and you can’t move, can’t scream, can’t wake up. He is in power now.

What can we do? Well, a lot actually. Hopefully you have read all the articles explaining how, written the letters, signed the petitions, called your representatives every day, rang their phones off the wall. I know there are a lot of resources out there for how and where and why to get motivated and pitch in, organize, participate in active resistance to this heinous bullshit. I won’t compile all that here for you, because I think (I hope) you already have access to that information, and are acting on it. There’s a lot of good stuff out there, ways to help, ways to find something to do. We have to. We must. Because with so many of us being hit by this blow right in the old nervous system, our animal selves are going into fight, flight or freeze. A few immediately talking of running, taking flight – but I don’t actually know anyone who is actively planning to move to Canada, or any other country as a result of this tainted election. We have to stay and fight. This is our home. We have to stay present, stay deeply grounded and rooted in our communities, in our bodies, in our truth. To keep from going into that paralysis place, playing possum, shut down – that happens. I’m seeing a lot of people I love having PTSD reactions from this election. I know I have been – anxiety sweats, legs aching, flooded with cortisol, mind blanking, numbing out.

A series of explosions woke me from peaceful dreams (gathering wet sticks for my dogs to fetch) at 6am the other morning. Men’s voices shouting through a loudspeaker across the street. Flashing blasts that rattled the windows. I rolled to the floor & grabbed blindly for my phone to call 911, thinking it was crazed white supremacists lobbing bombs into the nearby projects. Crouching near the window, trying to deduce what was happening – I thought the voice on the loudspeakers was yelling something about WWIII. I slowly realized it was the police, with a search warrant for an apartment across the street. Flash grenades are a diversion tactic. This kind of action is especially terrifying for anyone with PTSD. My legs turned to jelly, cowering against the bed. Instant fight/flight/freeze all at once, nervous system glitching. It took a long time to settle down. Is this normal? My neighbor frantically texting, asking me if I was okay. She thought the same thing was happening, and I can’t help wondering if our minds went there because we’re both Jews.

Later that afternoon, I received a disturbing prank call, from two ranting men talking over me and laughing. They called back after I hung up, and left a message questioning “why I would have an immigrant on my answering machine in Trump’s America”. They accused me of being the devil, threatened bad Yelp reviews, and told me that they’d be sending their pastor over my way. To do what, I’m not sure. I don’t want to know. It freaked me out though, that dude-bro bullying – being ganged up on in a way I hadn’t experienced since school days. It’s such an effective way to make you shrink immediately – as if being small would help you escape their notice. Back hunched, always looking over your shoulder. When I went to check the mail, it was with trepidation. Would they be waiting around the corner to jump me? Would my fence be sprayed with a swastika? I grew up with this, expecting this, confronting this kind of feeling nearly every day. Our country feels like one big high school, with the loudest and meanest swinging baseball bats, thoroughly savoring their rage. The jerks are on the loose. It felt exhausting to be taunted like that, after such a brief night of interrupted sleep, after giving of myself, my energy, trying to help people all day. I give my work my all, trying to offer compassionate spiritual service to those who come to me in pain, in fear.

I think of all the people I know, working every day in the trenches, trying to do some good for and with the people who need it most, and how beat down and worn out most of them were feeling, even before the election. What now? When I came back from Morocco, I expected to have a lot of people coming to see me for tarot readings – but I expected them to be shattered, depressed, broken. Many are, of course. It’s really hard to not be. The surprising thing is that most have been coming to me on fire, wanting to know how they can best be of service, motivated to get involved, to contribute, to be active in the resistance. To fight! Let’s be ferocious warriors of love. I’m seeing the women come together in such a powerful way – inspiring each other and encouraging each other forward. In this post, I’ve shared images of warrior women that inspire me to be braver, more determined, more fearless. Let’s build each other up, and keep each other strong. Let’s make sure we have the backs of those who lose their hope and are deep in despair. Don’t let them get trampled under the dark waves. Lift them back up. Protect those who are being attacked. Defend them, stand up for them, and for what you know is right. Give of yourself, show up, and don’t be silent. Don’t you dare just shrug and turn away, Don’t you dare think that the jerks won’t come for you, because eventually – they likely will.

Help in the way you are best equipped to help. Help through empathy, not pity or sympathy. Give in such a way that you can honestly say, “It is my pleasure.” Do your one small piece, do the thing that you do, or the many things – but do them often, regularly. Do them in such a way that you do not get overwhelmed, burnt out, and just shut down. You cannot fix it all. It is too big. But you can offer your little pieces, with a fierce and determined heart full of love. This is how we make shift. This is how we can be the change we want to see. Keep on doing what you do. Do it more. Be kinder, more patient – with yourself, and especially with strangers. The more you learn how to fill up your cup, the more you have to offer. It will be important to stay in a place where we can always treat strangers with graciousness. Even if we’re in a bad mood, or feel that they’re messing up. I’m working on this a lot lately. Let’s treat each other with extreme gentleness. Rumi said: “be with those who help your being.”

Be with those who help your being.
Don’t sit with indifferent people, whose breath
comes cold out of their mouths.
Not these visible forms, your work is deeper.

A chunk of dirt thrown in the air breaks to pieces.
If you don’t try to fly,
and so break yourself apart,
you will be broken open by death,
when it’s too late for all you could become.

Leaves get yellow. The tree puts out fresh roots
and makes them green.
Why are you so content with a love that turns you yellow?

– Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi

Surround yourself with the people who fill up your cup rather than drain it, or spit bile into it. Make meals together, tell stories. Circle the wagons, cozy up. We’re in it for a long haul here, it looks like. Who are your people? Make room for them. I tell this to myself, most of all.

I have thought often of Sister Simone Campbell’s revelatory words of wisdom on how to be spiritually bold when I heard her interviewed by Krista Tippett from On Being:

One is the doing something. I sometimes think we, in the United States, think we ought to do something about everything and that it’s my job to fix everything. Well it’s not. That’s way beyond us. It’s more important, I think, that we listen deeply to our stories and then see where it leads. And that’s the piece. If we all do our part in community… Whatever our part is. Just do one thing. That’s all we have to do. But the guilt of the — or the curse of the progressive, the liberal, the whatever is that we think we have to do it all. And then we get overwhelmed. And I get all those solicitations in the mail. And I can’t do everything. And so I don’t do anything. But that’s the mistake. Community is about just doing my part.

I think doing your part is the toughest as a young person because you’re finding your place — you’re finding your place. And so the challenge always is looking to the future. It looks dark. When I was in our formation program in the community, this one retreat guy giving us a retreat said that faith was walking through a mist with your eyes wide open. And that’s what it feels like when you’re trying to find your place. But then the amazing thing is to look back. It looks like it all was a straight line. You can see the straight line of light and that makes us who we are. And so I refer to the groping in the dark and that piece of listening for the nudges and paying attention, paying attention to where the nudges are. And don’t procrastinate too much. Just do it. Act on it. And you’ll know the right way for you forward. If you find yourself not doing anything, beginning to save yourself — ‘I can’t do that, and I can’t do that’ — it’s because you’ve got too many ideas in your head. You’ve got to — focus can help. At least, that’s what happens to me.

For me, the religious life is about deep listening to the needs around us. The question becomes, ‘Am I responding in generosity? Am I responding in selfishness? Am I responding in a way that builds up people around me, that builds me up, that is respectful of who I am?’ All of those questions are at the heart of how we discern best steps forward.

It really is that inside listening to where you’re being called. And what do you — what gift do you have to offer to the situation? You could offer a bunch of lamentation, but lamentation doesn’t often help. And — but what gift do you have to offer in this — to this situation? Who can you connect with? Where — what can you offer? Now, the other piece is, is we can lament a lot, but the other piece that I haven’t really talked about it all and — but I goof off a lot — is joy. That joy is at the heart of this journey. And if we — too often, progressives are really grim. I mean, it’s not a very good advertisement. “Come join us. We’re so miserable.”

I mean, that really isn’t — because the amazing wonder is that we get to live this life in relationship. We do live in an amazing country as painful as it is with our arrogance. We get to know all kinds of people. We live in a hugely complex, multicultural setting, which is not shared in very many places in our world. There are tremendous possibilities. And I get to be here and talk with you all. I mean, that’s fabulous. So the giving, the finding your niche is about life giving and enjoying the life that is given to you and to others in the process.

Sister Simone Campbell

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Cheyenne or Arapaho woman Pretty Nose at Fort Keogh, Montana, United States. She is wearing cloth dress with woven cloth belt and buffalo robe, as well as earrings, bracelet, rings and necklace. Collotype. 1879

I don’t know where now I first came across these words, or who originally wrote them. If you know, please tell me so I can give credit where it’s due. But I want to share them all the same, because I think these are truths to sit with:

There’s a surge of divine feminine energy within us at this moment. We are undergoing a spiritual mutation of sorts. As we have entered the Aquarian age – there is a prediction that 1/3 of the world will commit suicide, 1/3 will go mad, and 1/3 will awaken. Earth IS shifting us vibrationally so that we do not kill her. Those of us who awaken will be the ones to survive. In order for our species to survive we need to function more from an empathetic state. This state is achieved through self-love, self-actualization, and service. It is no longer about status, but what we can give. We are no longer in the age where “me” and “how far I can get” is important. This is why we have a lot of people committing suicide in recent years, and why more and more people are turning to pharmaceuticals as they experience the intensity of this shift. Those of us who have stepped out of the illusion, who have experienced these gifts – it is from a place of love and service that we help our fellow beings. These gifts enable you to be of service from the shift of living from ego to living from spirit. The old way of living is done, if you’re reading these words – it’s over, that life, that you…gone. You can choose to delude yourself for some time, but know that the truth will never be dampened. You will always know and carry within you the truth of your spirit. You will face the dark and illuminate yourself. You will purge fears, egotistical chokeholds, and limitations. You will trip and fall many times, and then there will come a time where you do not trip so much. Where you live from the heart and can feel the world. Her rocks, her crevices, her breath, and her warnings. That time is now. Face your inner sun, and let it guide you. This is part of the shift from “me” to “we”. Every person is important. Every being is important. If you have this ability, you signed up for this role. Here are the beginning tools. They wouldn’t have been presented to you if some part of you was not looking for them. Grow, and expand. We need your love, we need your light, and we need you to be who you really are.

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“Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim is from the Sahel region of Chad, where devastating droughts and floods are now the norm. As co-chair of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change, Ibrahim works to contain the humanitarian and ecological fallout from the vanishing of Lake Chad, a lifeline for an estimated 30 million people in Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Niger. ‘If women come together, they can have more impact than any agreement, than any negotiations,’ says Ibrahim. ‘Because we know that the future — it’s coming from us.’”– From The Glowing Colours

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I’ve shared this quote before, but I think it’s never been more relevant than it is now, so here you go:

“The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.” – T. H. White

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After the Election: Buddhist Wisdom for Hope and Healing

Toward a Worldwide Culture of Love – by bell hooks

This is always the measure of mindful practice—whether we can create the conditions for love and peace in circumstances that are difficult, whether we can stop resisting and surrender, working with what we have, where we are.

Fundamentally, the practice of love begins with acceptance — the recognition that wherever we are is the appropriate place to practice, that the present moment is the appropriate time. But for so many of us our longing to love and be loved has always been about a time to come, a space in the future when it will just happen, when our hungry hearts will finally be fed, when we will find love.

– bell hooks

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Sojourner Truth – Civil Rights Activist, Women’s Rights Activist

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We’re heading into dark times. This is how to be your own light in the Age of Trump – by Sarah Kendzior

I want you to write about who you are, what you have experienced, and what you have endured.
Write down what you value; what standards you hold for yourself and for others.
Write about your dreams for the future and your hopes for your children.
Write about the struggle of your ancestors and how the hardship they overcame shaped the person you are today.
Write your biography, write down your memories. Because if you do not do it now, you may forget.
Write a list of things you would never do. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will do them.
Write a list of things you would never believe. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will either believe them or be forced to say you believe them.

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And so we press on in an attempt to achieve presence, wanting to contain it in our simple hands, in the overcrowded gaze and in the speechless heart. We try to become present. And so, the pain.

– Rainer Maria Rilke

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Notes from the Resistance: A Column on Language and Power – Summer Brennan, In Defense of Linguistic Infrastructure

No one person can defend everything in America that will need defending in the age of Trump. What we must do, instead, is to find our particular hills to defend, and then to defend them as if our freedom depended on it. Even if these battles are lost, the very act of writing down the progression of that loss, as Winston did, is an act of resistance. The hijacking of public language, as is happening now, is a way to shift perception—to bend and control thought—and must be resisted.

I would like to invite readers to join me in doing this. Get a diary or journal and write down as many words as you can that relate to the things that you value. Fascism favors sameness; it represents a desertification of language and thinking. You can fight sameness with diversity. Inside this thought-desert, we must learn to be jungle oases. If you plan to defend nature, write down the names of birds and landscape as a start. Write phoebe, warbler, wren, heron, starling, swift, swallow. Write dale, dell, coppice, coomb, swale, swarth. Let your language soar and spread. Get closer and write root, leaf, stem, stamen, stigma, filament, sepal, pistil, petal. Write down how the world and words around you change.”

I wrote this the morning I discovered the election results, way out in the wilds of the Atlas Mountains:

This feels so goddamn heavy. It just really hit me, and waves of grief & hot tears. Last night I lay in bed fervently praying for a miracle – and instead a different truth came to me: I remembered that I am a healer, & that the world will need us all to remember our purposes, our reasons for being here – and wake up fully to offer our love and light and strength and fierceness and wisdom to the world. The artists, writers, musicians, warriors for good must rise up together and commit to our lives and our work, our joy and our communities. The time for complacency and distraction, for division and numbness is over. Feel your fear, honor your despair – but don’t let it win. Don’t let him win. He can’t have our hearts, our minds, our spirits. Stay strong, brothers and sisters. Let’s keep each other whole.