38 on August the 8th

by Angeliska on August 8, 2017

Thirty-one years ago today, my mother died at the age of thirty-eight – the same age I am now. I didn’t actually put that together until a few months ago, and when I realized it, I feel a numb shock flooding my belly, as if I’d swallowed a glass of cold lead. The age she was when she died had been a cipher for me, an invisible number – something I think I didn’t want to know, or remember, or ever think about. I’ve noticed that there’s certain pieces of traumatic information that my brain protects me from, sometimes. Essential details that forever remain hazy – because to acknowledge them makes them concrete, irrevocable. Too real. It’s ridiculous, but my ovary is a good example. My mind refuses to retain the information about on which side of my body the damaged ovary was taken. That surgery was terrifying for me, reminding me so much of my mother’s surgeries on that part of her body – all unsuccessful at removing the disease that eventually killed her.

I don’t have too many memories of my mother, which makes me feel really sad. If our memories really start developing around the age of 5, that means I really only got two years with her – and she was really sick for most of that time. Quite a few of the memories I have are of us in the tiny bathroom in the small-town house where I grew up. Perhaps because it was time when I got to be alone with her, in this intimate space. I loved being that close to her. I remember asking her lots of questions, always, in the bathroom. I remember her sitting on the toilet, sitting in the bath tub, standing at the sink in her underwear. I was fascinated with her body, and wanted to understand everything about it. I remember asking her how old she was, and her saying a number, and the number not making any sense to me. Maybe she was 37 then? The number was too big to comprehend. It was a cipher, a question mark, a blank space. I remember when my best friend turned 9, when I was 6. I was holding the heavy pale blue hard plastic receiver of the phone to my cheek, twirling the coiled springy phone cord around my hand, sproinging it like a slinky, and Star’s voice on the other end telling my proudly how old she had turned on her birthday. I remember just being stunned with awe – that anyone could be that big! I was a little proud that I had a friend who knew what it was like to be nine years old – like knowing someone that had been to Borneo, or walked on the moon. It was so foreign, such an accomplishment! I mean, nine is really almost ten! Double digits felt like a big, big deal. So thinking about my parent’s ages was like trying to contemplate a number like a googolplex (which is one, followed by writing zeroes until you get tired.)

I found this these other day, in a stack of photos my aunt sent to me. This smudged little snippet - a whole life reduced to a few inches of newsprint, where they couldn't even be bothered to spell our name right twice (it's Polacheck). Obituaries are so

I found this the other day, in a stack of photos my aunt sent to me. This smudged little snippet – a whole life reduced to a few inches of newsprint, where they couldn’t even be bothered to spell our name right twice (it’s Polacheck). Obituaries are so very final – and usually, they say so very little. This pitiful scrap tells you nothing about my mother – nothing about her accomplishments, her struggles, her hopes or her dreams. Nothing about what she loved or hated, no words to even attempt to express what kind of person she was, or what kind of hole she left in the world, in our lives, when she died. It’s so stark, seeing my own name in an obituary. Seeing that number, 38. The facts are cold and hard, printed out in the newspaper for all to see. That was her life, right there. Ended. Trim it out with little scissors and save it in an envelope. That’s it.

So, a few months ago, it hit me for real – that my mom died at the age I am now. Which wasn’t very old after all, it turns out. It’s all relative. I remember when I turned 31, and well-meaning, naive 20-somethings telling me (with a hint of awe in their voices), “Wow, you totally don’t look that old at all!” It’s so hard to contemplate when you’re young, growing old, or dying. Another question mark, blank space. Death? When all you know is life, life, life – climbing trees and dripping popsicles and dancing until you get a stitch in your side and being bored and craving toys and attention and affection. Childhood feels like a blur of sticky hands and flailing limbs and the agony of having to sit still when you want to leap up and whirl around the room screaming wild at the top of your lungs. And then there was death. I started thinking about it, knowing about it, younger than most kids.

A watercolor my mother did of John Keats, with whom she was obsessed. For her, it was always Keats & Hank Williams: two doomed poets who both died far too young, tragically - this caught her up in the romantic fixation on, as my father described it,
A watercolor my mother painted of her idol, John Keats

My dad and I have been talking about my mother’s infatuation with those poets, artists and musicians who died too young. For her, it was always John Keats and Hank Williams. My father told me this:

She learned pretty much all there was to know on their lives and work. She acquired the complete published works of both men. Meeting Hank’s friends and relatives and visiting his gravesite was very important to her. Producing unique and lasting work of genius in a short unhappy life of pain and suffering, this was her obsession. It’s very Romantic, the doomed genius artist, largely under appreciated until he is gone.” She put her heart and soul into artworks commemorating her passion for both Keats and Hank, a collage series called “The Mansion of Many Apartments” and her portrait of the lonely cowboy called “Star-Crossed Troubadour”. She outlived them both, but only by about ten years. Dead before her time, and as Keats put it, “…half in love with easeful Death…” The phrase “dying into life” from one of Keats’ poems comes up a lot with my mom. I both understood and totally resented her fascination with dying young, and those who did. She became part of that club, the tragic geniuses hanging out in the graveyard, never growing old, becoming immortal, always remembered because of the great works they left behind. Maybe it’s because of this that I sometimes feel I have a desperate mission to shine a light on the works of those bright stars who died too young, without ever receiving the proper recognition. I wish everyone could know how goddamned talented my mom was. She never became famous, or legendary in her day – except to the people that knew and loved her. I think that’s the real way we achieve immortality, eternal life – is through the preserved memories of those who choose to remember us, and what we did here. I long for that for myself, which is most likely why I save everything I ever made – hoping to leave something for the biographers. It’s definitely fanciful and vain to think that way, but I can’t help it. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I still save everything for posterity, thinking that someone might want to pore over it in my archives one day, the way I do over my mother’s scraps and bits I’ve managed to preserve over the years. I examine these for clues, like a forensic archaeologist dusting bones, hoping they might tell me something more about her life, about her days on this earth. What will my stack of daily planners, my grocery and to-do lists tell someone who loved me, who misses me, about my time here? Will it help them, to look at these things? Or will all of this stuff end up in the recycling bin, or pawed over at an estate sale like the sad grabby debacles I used to frequent?

So, with all of this, it’s probably no accident that I became a goth around the age of 13 or so. A constant awareness of our own death makes us think about life differently. Thinking constantly about death, my own especially, became a theme for years, and is something I still struggle with. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve imagined my own funeral, in great detail – or envisioned quite explicitly, all the terrible ways I might meet my demise. For a long time, I felt a little ashamed of this morbid preoccupation – until I learned that it’s very common, especially for children who have experience loss at an early age. We seek to understand what has happened through the filter of our own existence, which is usually all little kids can generally relate to, anyway. That habit is still with me, but it’s shifted. I can’t help but contemplate my own mortality, given what I know about what’s possible – that we have no guarantee, no divine promise that we’ll all live to a ripe old age. I believe every one of us has a number, and when our number is called – it’s time to go. My mom’s number was 38. I don’t know mine, but it wasn’t 16 or 22 or 30 – miraculously, despite all the crazy, reckless situations I was putting myself into. Maybe my mother had something to do with that, too – protecting me from harm. I know I have guardian angels abounding – because there’s no way I’d be here otherwise. The presence of death changes you, makes you live like a fugitive, constantly looking over your shoulder, feeling like you’re living on borrowed time. Marked by your own mortality, the ace of spades flung onto your chest. The number 38 has been a sword of Damocles hanging over me, the pendulum over the pit, ceaselessly swinging. When I went to Morocco last year, it was the dark voice hissing in my ear saying, “it’s now or never, my dear…” that made me take a deep breath and buy my plane ticket. What if I died, having never seen Africa? Could I be okay with that? The answer was no, I couldn’t. I went, I saw the Sahara (and so many other amazing things!), and I lived deeply in that experience. I’m headed to Oregon soon to witness my first total solar eclipse. The last one occurred the year I was born, 1979. The trip feels a bit stressful, fraught and complicated to plan – and there have been moments where I felt tempted to call it off and stay home to tend to my work and my dogs. I’ve been reminded that there will be another solar eclipse in 2024, with the path of totality falling right over where I live. But a lot can happen in 7 years. Will I be alive to see it? My mother’s death reminds me that I have no guarantee. I have to live each day as if it is my last – something I rarely succeed at (as a dither around my house, woolgathering and scrolling through silly stuff on the internet…) And so, to Oregon I go, praying for good weather and a powerful, potentially once in a lifetime experience.

I always feel more like myself after a bang trim. Since I don't trust myself to be exacting near my own face with scissors, I go see Iana at Hearts & Robots. She twirls my curls and re-saturates my color and makes me laugh and restores me to myself every

Virginia Woolf, who was thirteen when her mother died, wrote, “Youth and death shed a halo through which it is difficult to see a real face.” 
― Hope Edelman, Motherless Daughters

Recently, I was at the pet store where I buy my wolf pack’s fancy expensive dog food, and I caught my reflection in the tinted glass doors. For the first time, I was startled by the resemblance between my mother and myself. I rarely see it, thinking I look more like my dad most of the time. It’s in the little things, though – the way we carry ourselves, the way my mouth and chin are shaped like hers, in repose. That day, in my wrap skirt and tank top, wearing big round sunglasses like the ones she favored, my hair in a ponytail – I could see it, I could see her, standing there in front of me. In so many ways, I realize that I am living my mother’s dream life: a life that she would have loved to have had for herself – living alone in a beautiful home created to my own specifications, free to go anywhere I want, whenever I want, doing work that is fulfilling for me, and surrounded by loving friends, family and many adoring critters. By living my life to the fullest, I honor her, and the loss of all the years she should have had to enjoy here. Some days, it feels like a lot of pressure – to honor all of her legacies. She left paintings and collages unfinished, memoirs unwritten. Her fiddle and guitar gather dust, go unplayed. I have taken up her jewelry making, silver-smithing – and created pieces from all the unfinished cabochons she left behind. Recently I was told by my aunt and dad both, on separate occasions, that I have surpassed her in skill. That my jewelry now is far beyond what she was able to do. That’s an intense thing to hear, and I feel both pride and shame in thinking about it. I can’t attribute it to talent, really – only the accident of time, that I’ve had more than she did, to learn my craft. I remember the trepidation I felt when I first began, feeling so nervous at my first jewelry class – what if I’m no good at this? What if I don’t like it? How will I honor her then? Who will finish what she wasn’t able to? I lay awake at night often feeling wild with anxiety about my inability to squeeze all my passions into every week, about all the languages I have yet to master, all the songs I wish I could play. In these dark and sleepless moments, I fervently curse people who complain of boredom – wishing I could steal their wasted hours to put to good use. I remember my mother always telling me, “Only boring people get bored”, whenever I would complain as a kid. I took this wisdom to heart, and try my hardest to never allow myself to get boring.

I feel very alive and very terrified when I go to the gynecologist to get a pap smear, when I got my first mammogram, recently – trying to breathe as the cold plastic squashed my breast. Preventative measures. I spit in a tube, took a test to check my genetic markers for cancer. The day all my results came back negative, it felt like the sun coming out from behind a cloud – on a day you were told would be stormy. Maybe I won’t die like that, then. Perhaps I can avoid her fate, and I’ll have some other kind of death. I’d prefer it being devoured by a wild beast, truly – to laying alone in a cold hospital room while my own body betrays me, killing me slowly from the inside out. I would rather have the gnash of teeth pulverizing my bones than the slow drip of chemotherapy. If I ever do get cancer, it would be so hard to trust that I could live through it, survive it – though I know now many people do. Many people don’t. I am trying my hardest to keep living my best life – to stay here in body, a place I refused to completely inhabit for a long time. I am learning to stay connected to my breath. When my mother was alive, all my energy was focused on wanting to please her, wanting her gaze to turn my way – wanting her to be a captivated with me as I was (and am) with her. People tell me that she would be so proud of me, proud of the life I’ve created for myself. I think that that’s true. I like to think so, I hope so. I am finding myself at the intersection where her life ended, and mine is truly beginning. I am more awake now, more content, more present than I ever was able to be when I was younger – and I am determined and completely committed to squeezing every last drop of ambrosia out of the time I have here in this human body, in this remarkable incarnation. I can’t imagine having to say goodbye to my life right now – so young, with so much undone. This year, her death anniversary feels extra heavy, and I’ve been really struggling under the weight of so much grief, and long-held fear. I’m trying to stay present, and keep sitting with this awareness, and the knowing that (if all goes well), I will outlive her – and go far beyond this train-stop where she had to disembark, her journey sharply truncated. I feel like I want to celebrate being alive – like I want to be held and shaken and danced around with to wake me up into the reality that I didn’t fucking die like she did, when she did – to acknowledge somehow that I’ve passed over the dreaded mark. Maybe every year after this will be even stranger. She never even made it to 40, which just feels so very young to me now. For a long time, I had inherited my mother’s infatuation with the romantic idea of being a famous artist who died too early – but not anymore. I want to become an old ancient crone –crotchety, wise, and whiskered. My mother never got to grow old – and I will never get care for her or learn from the wisdom of her elder years. I feel robbed of so much. It’s been so hard to walk my road without her to guide me. I’m told she is, that she does – and I’m learning to trust in that. But it’s not the same, you know? I can’t imagine having to say goodbye to a seven year old daughter – which is maybe why she didn’t. It feels impossible, to accept that 38 years was all the life she got. How on earth does anyone accept that? If I died tomorrow, I’d know I lived a good life – that I worked hard, loved harder, saw the world, and experienced much bliss. But I’m not done here, and I won’t be – not for a long, long time… Rest In Peace, mama. I wish we’d had more time.

August the 8th is my mother's death day. She died when she was only 38 - the same age I am today. I can't imagine having to say goodbye to my life right now - so young, with so much undone. This year feels extra heavy. I'm sitting with this awareness, and
My mother, Maggie (Margaret Merrill Cook Polacheck – December 31st, 1947 – August 8th, 1986) This photo was taken when she was a teenager, only 16 or so, I believe.

If you’d like to read more about this journey, here you go:

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WILD BLUE YONDER

NO ROOM IN MY HEART FOR THE BLUES

FAMILY VACATION – HANK WILLIAMS’ GRAVE

STAR-CROSSED TROUBADOURS

Foxes in the Rain

Triumvirate Lemniscate

Gustav + Mama – August 8th

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.

pluto-and-persephone
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.

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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

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Morning Star by Jeff Simpson

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skeleton key telekinesis crone hands

silent dying by mala-lesbia
Silent Dying by Laura Makabreksu

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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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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