by Angeliska on September 22, 2014
Here we are at the turnings again. It seems that the turnings are the main moments (or the only ones, lately anyway) that I feel inspired or most dedicated to writing about. This is when I write most, when the air shifts and something in me feels beholden to this marking of time, honoring the days here in this journal of sorts. I’ve been thinking long and hard about what it’s all for – the medium and how it’s changed and what I want to write and why. The kind of thinking that feels maybe like what carding thick wool or spinning rough thread feels like, but I don’t necessarily feel the satisfying hefty hank of spun and done fiber in my hands at the end. Maybe that’s where the writing part comes in. This is something I’m going to try and elaborate on here, on a different day. We’ll see how that goes. No promises, though. It’s dangerous to make promises at the crossroads, and that’s where I’m standing – between here and there, looking back on some of the big changes that have occurred in my life and just feeling sort of dazed and amazed that I even made it through this far I suppose. I did, though. And it changed me, the road, the journey. Turnings will do that to a person, which is one of the reasons we feel compelled to mark them. The reason I do. Lately, it’s felt so heavy. The feeling I have in my chest is like a river stone, a large one – the weight of the world, the responsibility of honoring, of marking, of archiving, of telling. Do spiders and storytellers feel this way sometimes, or does that silk always just effortlessly spool out from their mouths, hands, and rear ends? Oh hush, I do know the answer. Of course it’s hard sometimes. Life intervenes. Reexaminations occur. The wheel turns, and every year the same solstices, anniversaries, death days, birthdays, weddings, winters, wakes. Honestly, I get exhausted by poignance sometimes. The weight of meaning, the constant flood of wonder and disaster that my life (all lives) seems to be made of. There are times when I have to just sit and stare at the sun heading down the horizon line, go inside and close the door, blow out the candles and oh, I don’t know – watch funny cat videos or read a frivolous book about time-traveling witches. As much as I want to always be present and participating in every ritual, I’m trying to remember that fields have to lay fallow sometimes in order to produce. So this autumn equinox, I’ll just be happy if I can write a little, say a few things I want to convey, and mark the hours, the months, the days in my old way. The candle is lit on the altar, the little bouquet from my garden gathered, and I sit below it, trying to tap out the words, the wishes. The heavy poignant things that have happened, and the passing fancies. Mark them, lest they fade away – they will anyway, but still. On long afternoons like this with golden sunlight flooding low into my writing room windows, my heart wants to honor it all. To try.
Our practice is to find our true home. When we breathe, we breathe in such a way that we can find our true home. When we make a step, we make a step in such a way that we touch our true home with our feet.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
Little ramshackle shack, you feel like a place I go to in my dreams. Long time ago, someone who loved you planted those oxblood lilies along the path to the porch. Those hands are long gone but y’all still rise bloody and graceful every year in September. The lilies remember when.
I rode home past this place on the way back from the bike shop, admiring it, as I have for years – and wondering who exactly dwells in this tumbledown vine-nestled clapboard cottage. Someone does still. I almost didn’t take this picture, but I’ve been regretting that lately, because you never know if you’ll have another chance, and even though you can tell it in words, describe it in a story, I want to try my best to capture both. So I turned the bike around, past the tough-looking fellas with no shirts smoking on the porch next door, and photographed the little shack. I didn’t take a picture of them, so I’ll do what I can to tell the little story of our conversation instead. One of the guys said, “You like that place, huh?” and I replied, “You know, I really do… I always have, but I’ve never stopped to take a picture.” He says, “Oh, people are always stopping to take photos of it. Everybody likes that old place.” We talk for a minute about oxblood lilies, and the person that maybe lives there and how there are lights on sometimes and trash bins, but they never see anybody come in or go out. The guys don’t seem so menacing to me anymore, just a little rough around the edges, maybe a hint of faded prison tattoos, a bleared inky teardrop tucked away in a leathery crow’s foot, but you know – real friendly. The one guy says, “You like old stuff, huh?” and I tell him I do. He asks me if I like the Back To The Future movies, and I say that I did when I was little. I’m about to pedal away when he says, “Lemme ask you something. If you could go back in time to any time in history, when would it be?” That one gets me, because I think about that question all the time, and have since I was a kid. I tell him that I just posed the same question to my boyfriend over breakfast recently, so I don’t even have to think about it. But he says “Naw naw, hang on lemme guess first…! I bet… 1973!” I say, “You know, that’s funny, because my fella and I, we ended up agreeing on two times between us, more or less. For me, it’s anywhere between 1910-1920. He wanted the 40′s. But we both thought going back to the early 70′s would be great if you could bring stuff back with you, because the antique stores then were crammed full of all kinds of great stuff nobody really wanted or cared about back then. Funny for him to come up with that, because he doesn’t really like too much stuff, but I’m an antique dealer, so I’d be in hog heaven…” We talk a bit more about finding cool stuff in the trash and he asks for my card so he can let me know when he rescues something good.
Returning home grateful to storm soaked earth, my garden rising gracefully back after the pummel & swelter of August in Texas – I feel so blessed and blissful to be back where I belong, and be in time to witness the first yearly blooming of the oxblood lilies welcoming me back. Called hurricane lilies or schoolhouse lilies, they always tell you what time of year it is. Maybe the ones that grow in my garden are called returning-home-after-late-summer-travels lilies, or maybe breathe-easy-long-and-deep-because-fall-is-just-about-here lilies…
Lycoris radiata. Red spider lily. Higanbana. Autumn Equinox flower. In hanakotoba, the Japanese language of flowers, red spider lilies are associated with loss, longing, abandonment and lost memories. As legend has it, if you meet a person you’ll never see again, these flowers will bloom along your path. I had bought some of these bulbs and just planted them when Maldorora turned me on to the story behind the flowers, which I’d never heard before… (Thank you!)
“The flower has many other names, but many of them are no longer used.
I’ve come across an old name that’s not used in Japan anymore as far as I know,
chicken blood plant (鶏血草, keiketsusō), due to its colour.
It’s known as shibitobana (死人花), flower of the dead, because it blooms while you visit your ancestors’ graves.
It’s called yūreibana (幽霊花), because the flower looks like a ghost.”
More information about this lovely bloom from the same author: Higanbana, the flower of the dead,
“Ohigan (お彼岸) is a Buddhist celebration that takes place twice a year. Both are public holidays in Japan: Spring Equinox Day (春分の日 Shunbun no Hi) was on 21 March and Autumn Equinox Day (秋分の日 Shūbun no Hi) will be on 23 September.
Ohigan roughly means “the other shore”, in other words, enlightenment. The lofty ideal during ohigan is that you should focus on the so-called six perfections; the more practical application is that you return to your hometown on these days, clean family graves and pay respects to your ancestors.
One flower has become anonymous with the autumn equinox: higanbana, English name red spider lily, scientific name Lycoris radiata. I know autumn is on its way – doesn’t matter how hot it still is – as soon as I spot the year’s first higanbana. They’re beautiful flowers, both delicate and flamboyant.”
The golden apples of the sun. First and only the apple tree in my garden has ever produced. They were a little wrinkly, because I let them ripen too long before harvesting, but so very sweet! Hopefully there will be more to come.
This is a good day for this poem:
The Song of Wandering Aengus
I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
– William Butler Yeats
I think of Eudora Welty’s Golden Apples, also:
“She knew that now at the river, where she had been before on moonlit nights in autumn, drunken and sleepless, mist lay on the water and filled the trees, and from the eyes to the moon would be a cone, a long silent horn, of white light. It was a connection visible as the hair is in air, between the self and the moon, to make the self feel the child, a daughter far, far back. Then the water, warmer than the night air or the self that might be suddenly cold, like any other arms, took the body under too, running without visibility into the mouth. As she would drift in the river, too alert, too insolent in her heart in those days, the mist might thin momentarily and brilliant jewel eyes would look out from the water-line and the bank. Sometimes in the weeds a lightning bug would lighten, on and off, on and off, for as long in the night as she was there to see.”
This is my dear friend Pandora, who is an enormously talented artist, performer, and puppeteer. Her beautiful home & performance space, The Mudlark Public Theatre was destroyed recently by a devastating fire. New Orleans needs this hub for magic & creativity to exist and this creator to thrive! Please help if you can: www.youcaring.com/savethemudlark & spread the word! Thank you! p.s. I took this photo last Ash Wednesday – Pandora is standing in front of her theatre/home, on the corner of Port and Marais in the Bywater neighborhood, NOLA. Help save the Mudlark so you can go see shows there and be amazed!
The majority of this footage was shot for a theatrical project campaign prior to the fire. It has been arranged to show that the people affected by the fire are hard working, productive artists that have succumbed to a tragedy. Donations will go to helping restore Pandora’s home and theatre. While the home was devastated, the theatre also requires extensive repairs. This means securing a space that she’s built over the years to master her art, and as a sanctuary for burgeoning underground artists.
The fire has halted the efforts of The Mudlark for the moment. Let us not allow it to remain in waste. Please Donate.
I was fervently wishing I could’ve been in New Orleans yesterday for my friend Veronica’s second line, celebrating her life and honoring her passage to the world beyond this one. Vee was gorgeous, insanely talented, sassy and sharp as a tack, with an enormous lust for life. Joie de Vee indeed! I can’t believe she’s gone. We were all so in awe of her talent, style and effervescent verve. I will miss her lusty laugh & the mischievous glint in her gorgeous green eyes… Goddamnit girl, we are gonna be missing you sorely… R.I.P. Veronica Anne Russell – one helluva dame, a great beauty, and a true southern sweetheart.
And we lost sweet Nicky. He was a bright shining star, gentle heart, powerful force, magical being. My heart is hurting for him, for his family, and for everyone who loved him… I feel so grateful that I got to know him a little but in his time on this earth. Only 24 years old. So goddamn sad. I just can’t even say everything I want to about him, his life and his death right now. I hope to be able to at some point. I loved that he would always trust me to paint his face with wild colors. I love having those quiet times with him, holding his face in my hands, dusting those shadowed sad eyes with sparkle, making each other laugh. I love you, Nicky.
As Rusty Lazer says about this video: “Getting past the ridiculous name of the show, this is the best representation of the spirit and attitude of Nicky Da B I’ve seen. His open personality and self assured joy is what really shines through:”
Nicky da B, rising young New Orleans rapper, remembered by friends, family and media
I’m also very saddened to have learned that a favorite author of mine, Graham Joyce, has died earlier recently, after a valiant battle with cancer. I’ve been reading his work of dark fantasy and intrigue since I was about 17, first falling in love with Requiem (Mary Magdalene + Jerusalem Syndrome!), The Tooth Fairy (I don’t even know what to say about this one, other than that I loved it the most) and then Dark Sister (witchcraft + herblore!). A couple of years ago, I rediscovered his work when I picked up The Limits of Enchantment from the library – it’s about a hedge-witch midwife in 1966 England, and it utterly captivated me. I sobbed over the characters in that book as if I’d known them – and because of his writing, I did. I remember vividly that feeling you have sometimes when you’ve stayed up all night reading something amazing, and then suddenly – it’s finished. You turn the book over in your hands and gaze at it lovingly, longingly. I was struck by a sudden desire to reach out to the author, and tell him how much his writing had meant to me over the years. I found his email address on his website, and before I could second guess myself, I wrote him a letter. Imagine my excitement, when a few days later, he wrote me back – and on my birthday, no less! Through other writerly friends we have in common, we became friends here on Facebook, and I would read his sometimes cheerful, sometimes morbidly hilarious updates about the vicissitudes of chemotherapy over the last year or so. It was here this morning that I learned of his passing. I sat at the kitchen table and wept for a man I’d never met, but whose words had taken me on so many journeys. Graham, thank you for being so wonderful. I’m going to savor the books I have of yours, and most especially the ones I haven’t yet read. Thank you for creating these worlds for us. Rest in peace, lovely man. Even if you never read a single one of his books (though I certainly hope that you will!) – please, read this. It’s the last thing he wrote on his website, and it made my heart seize up and the tears flow again. So beautiful. So true.
“And with that uncertainty of the time previously taken for granted comes the prospect of grace. I’m not religious, but I know moments of grace when they are gifted. Ordinary moments, but they make the hairs stand up on the back of your forearm. Watching my boy race through the field with our dog; getting deliciously lost in a new bluebell wood; the four of us laughing until it hurts at something said one dinner time; my daughter showing me her latest painting; the music of rain; driving back from a beach walk on my wife’s birthday when the setting sun boiled up huge, blistering poppies in a golden barley field and flushed pheasants and hares and other totemic animals from the roadside. Quotidian moments, each no bigger than a nutshell really, but infinite and delirium-inducing when you come to examine them.”
Oh, death. It’s just too much sometimes. I know we live in a blessed era of health and relative peace, at least for the moment, in this country – and that compared to other times and places, when people were just keeling over right and left from, you know – yellow fever, starvation, bombs, whathaveyou – we just don’t lose loved ones constantly. But I feel like I do. I’ve known so much death in this life already – lost so many friends too soon. Maybe it’s just that I know and love so many incredible people, maybe it’s New Orleans – or maybe it’s that so many of the incredible people that I know and love tend to live and die in New Orleans? I don’t know, but I’m real tired of it. Tired of saying goodbye, of wishing I’d said hello more, of missing their faces, and knowing their places stand empty in the fabric of living and breathing and doing and making that they used to occupy. And it always seems to be the ones who were doing the most, being their best, trying the hardest. True hearts. I want to write about them and honor them more, better than this. It’s not enough, you know. Bright stars just wink out and we miss them and all the pieces of their lives get distributed hither and thither and we tell their stories and try to keep them alive, but they’re just fucking GONE. A whole life lived, up to a point – and then, never again. My friends got sick, real sick. They knew they were dying, felt it coming. I have been thinking about this a lot, and I don’t know what I want to say about it yet. Maybe I will someday. The sun is setting, like it does every day, and the days are getting shorter from here on out. I went out and planted a Mexican oregano that smells like limes and some wormwood, and got dirt on my hands. Sitting in the amber light on the porch among the morning glory vines, saying goodbye to summer.
(Amazing artwork by Brian Luong)
The Autumnal Equinox is upon us, dear ones. I am sending each one of you heartfelt wishes for long golden afternoons, full bellies, and a gentle transition into fall. It’s been an intense summer for so many people I love. A darker season approaches, and our candles must be burning brightly to light the way. Keep the kettle on the hob, and the ones you love comin’ through your kitchen! Happy Harvest Home to you & yours.
Autumnal Equinox wishes from days of yore: