by Angeliska on November 3, 2016
Is it November, or is it still August? It’s hard to tell honestly – hard to say that Fall has come here, because the earth is cracked and the leaves are crisped, but not with winter’s chill. Sweat still trickles down my backbone, bristles my brow, taints my bangs into wet swirls pasted to my forehead. Our recent local Halloween parade was a sweltering procession in damp costumes, flags and banners hanging limply as we wound our way through dark streets and overgrown alleyways. No hint of crisp in the air, no wind, no shiver – except for the internal shudder that we’re setting new and terrible records for the hottest days in recorded memory. For years, the summer doldrums would often keep me from writing, being unwilling to sit with a hot and whirring computer perched on my lap. I would always rather be doing something else in summer, getting outside, swimming or running around with my dogs. Autumn feels like the perfect time to curl up cozy with a cup of tea and write. So, for many years in a row, I would find myself sharing something I had started writing in the hottest days of summer, but never got around to posting until fall. I would warranting this oversight with the fact that it still in fact, felt like summer. I remember writing that in September, maybe a couple times in October. But never in November – until now. It’s hot, y’all. Hot enough that I want to still go jump in the springs, dive in the river. It feels wrong, and weird, and maybe like it’s our new normal. We had such a rainy spring and summer, and were blessed with sweet water in the creeks (though many were cursed here in Texas with flooding and downed trees). I think about water all the time – my heart’s element, blessed restorer, healer, mother essence. It is such a sacred substance.
Some nights I lay awake and can’t sleep, thinking about the countless factories churning out countless plastic doodads to be sold in countless stores only to then be discarded and tossed aside to join the flood of garbage that clogs our waterways, our oceans, the bellies of our sea animal friends. How can I even can them my friends, when I do so little to protect them? When I sip my iced coffee from a disposable straw, out of a plastic cup, purchase my countless seemingly needful items encased in cellophane wrappers. It is so hard to effect real, radical change as one person, and even then – what? What then? Some days it feels too late. I started writing this as a happy piece – about the blessing of clear, clean water we enjoy in nature here in Austin. I’ve been thinking about how much we take it for granted, assume it will always be there. Lately, I’ve been thinking about this when I shower or take a bath – what a miracle it is to have hot water to wash in, clean water to drink, water to flush the toilet, to wash my dirty clothes. What luxury we live in, and how little we realize it.
Every day, my news feed (on social media) is rife with stories and videos about the water protectors protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. I listen to the news nearly every day, and so rarely hear any stories on what is happening there. Mainstream media isn’t taking much action to report the violence being committed against peaceful protestors who are putting their bodies on the line to protect this precious resource that we all require for our survival. It is time to have awareness about out world, and the ways it is irrevocably changing. It is time to realize that mere awareness is not enough. How will you contribute to making changes for the better, to fighting the good fight, to walking a path that honors the life-blood of the Earth? How will I?
This message came to my inbox while I was writing this, from one of our beloved local community groups here in Austin. Here’s one very easy way to offer your assistance:
“Austin Stands With Standing Rock
As you all know by now, the world is watching the events unfold at the Standing Rock camp in South Dakota. This past weekend, friends of this community were arrested for doing their part in protecting the water. Cars were impounded, lives are placed on hold.
The work the native peoples and their supporters are doing in opposition to this pipeline is not just about protecting their families and their water, they are standing up for all of us, for our water and in defense of our Mother Earth. They are bravely standing strong in the face of armed resistance, fast approaching inclement weather and the general hardships of maintaining camp out in the open, round the clock.
Bob is headed up this week to help where he can. We are asking you, the community, to contribute any financial support that you can, along with your prayers, in this time of need. Any funds that you may have to share will go a long way and will be deeply appreciated.
The supply drives have been a huge success (thank you!) and now, one of the best ways to help is to directly support those on the front lines by donating funds to post bail which is averaging over $1500 per person, as well as impounded vehicle fees and upcoming legal fees.
Please send any donations that you can contribute to the following PayPal address:
Bob will take the donations up with him and help those arrested this past weekend. Please help where you can… Even small contributions from everyone could really add up. If you do not have a PayPal account or would like to support another way, please respond to this message.
Thank you for your support, prayers & solidarity.
- Sanctuary Council”
My favorite summer moments were spent in the company of these two magical beings (my dear friend Allyson, and her dog Neville) down by the water. At least once a week, we try to get our butts down to the greenbelt to savor the sacred springs! It’s heaven.
So yes. I wrote this months ago, but want to share now, even though it feels odd to. It feels like a good time to acknowledge the magic and beauty of what we have – so that we might be even more inspired to advocate for it.
When August finally comes in Texas, it feels like hitting the final stretch of a marathon – we’re exhausted but determined, almost totally spent, but somehow with a gritting of teeth we push on, knowing that the end is in sight. If we can just make it through August, school will start and the populations of students and teachers start buzzing as they fill the hives again with their studious industry. September will arrive eventually and usually not really be any cooler, but there’s a sense of hope in the air, instead of the blatant desperation rising up from the baked earth, the pitiful trod upon greenery crisping brown at the edges, the trees aching for rain.
We had a very rainy spring here, so the greenbelt has had plentiful water nearly all summer. Last week, when a surprise thunderstorm or two rolled through, the whole city sighed with relief. Earlier that day, I had embraced my ailing and much beloved lacebark elm, asking it silently, “What do you need? What will make you better?” The answer came quickly, a ragged sigh that echoed in my bones: WATER! Please, please, water. I looked up at the bright blue sky through its browning leaves and tattered branches and wished hard. Two hours later, fat drops pelted my grateful face – even though no storms had been predicted hours before. Weather witch’s water wishes, and likely not just mine.
I started waking up earlier this summer, trying to shift from my usual nocturnal ways because it’s cooler in the mornings, and you can get down to the water before everyone else and their dogs and their kids clutter the air with barking and laughter. I don’t mind them really, but one of my dogs (not mentioning any names, MOON) likes to bark even more raucously at other dogs and children, and it can be stressful. We try to go about once a week, if not more – but last week, almost no one was there. The water had receded and was murkier than it had been all summer. Fat dragonflies skated over the slow ripples, while huge black turkey buzzards soared over the bluffs. A heavy knotted rope hung listlessly from an oak branch, bereft of the elated bodies, full of bravado, that normally swung from it into the green deep.
Moon learned to swim recently, something I wasn’t sure she’d ever be capable of, having only three legs. She’s a very determined girl, though – and she’d follow me anywhere. At the beginning of the summer, she just barked frantically when I swam more than a few feet away from her. Grrizelda isn’t a huge fan of swimming, but is also the most loyal of beasts, and so will paddle out to me with a concerned expression on her seal-like face pushing out of the water, making little squeaks and whimpers, her black clawed paws scrabbling at me. I took Moon out of the shallows one day, with my arms supporting her belly, guiding and gliding her through the deeper water – the way you teach a little kid to swim. She seemed confused and freaked out, so I didn’t push her too much – but the next time we went to the river, she surprised me by swimming right past and making out for the far shore. I had to swim after and spin her around – but she did great. Only one front leg to paddle with, but the kid’s a natural. Talk about determined.
Look at her go! I’m so proud of my little three-legged doggie for taking to the water like a true mermaid this year. I wasn’t sure she would ever be able to really manage it, but she has truly surprised and delighted me by learning to dog paddle!
When the greenbelt’s full of water, which it thankfully has been all summer, I wonder why anyone complains about summer in Texas. Every time I’ve gone down there and jumped in, I’ve just been in awe of how beautiful it is, how lovely the cool currents feel on my legs, how gorgeous the sycamore leaves fluttering against the sky and the silvery rapids flowing over the rocks are. It’s free, and there are so many different points on the trails you can get to, so even when it feels crowded, there’s always enough water, always enough shade and sky for everyone to enjoy. I meet people all the time who never, ever venture down into that glory, and I remember being one of those people. What a fool I was! Even when the greenbelt dries up, there’s still Barton Springs – which feels like heaven on earth on a blazing day. It’s paradise there, truly – 68 degrees year round and my favorite shade of nearly black teal at its deepest point. I spend plenty of time during the hottest parts of the day hunkered down in my dim living room, ceiling fan spinning overhead, and the air conditioning blasting. But the water calls to me, beckons me to dip and swirl like a mermaid, cooling down the white hot core of me, so that even a heavy summer night with no breeze feels tolerable. The only way to survive the hot weather down here is to get in the water, as often as you can. People complain of Austin changing (and I used to be one of those people, constantly and vociferously – but that’s really another story), but I say that as long as there’s water in the springs, grackles in the pecan trees, and fireflies in the springtime, I’ll know I’m home. What would happen if that changed, too? Our planet is changing. Surely you feel it? How will we continue to see those changes manifest? How long, really, will we all be able to continue this way? I wonder every day. I want to do more than wonder.
No wind, no bird. The river flames like brass.
On either side, smitten as with a spell
Of silence, brood the fields. In the deep grass,
Edging the dusty roads, lie as they fell
Handfuls of shriveled leaves from tree and bush.
But ’long the orchard fence and at the gate,
Thrusting their saffron torches through the hush,
Wild lilies blaze, and bees hum soon and late.
Rust-colored the tall straggling briar, not one
Rose left. The spider sets its loom up there
Close to the roots, and spins out in the sun
A silken web from twig to twig. The air
Is full of hot rank scents. Upon the hill
Drifts the noon’s single cloud, white, glaring, still.
– Lizette Woodworth Reese, 1887
by Angeliska on August 29, 2016
I’ve discovered a strange pattern recently – a restlessness in my spirit that seems to hit me every year around this time, and keeps me from sleep. Some unseen goblin has been sitting on my chest like the one in Fuseli’s painting The Nightmare, although instead of swooning dead away with fright, I am just a tight little ball of nerves, anxiously tossing and turning beneath my thin summer blanket. I normally don’t suffer from insomnia, or don’t notice if I do usually – being habitually such a night owl and giving myself the luxury of staying up most nights as long as I like, writing, reading, puttering or watching movies. When I finally get tired, I go to bed – even if that happens to be 3 or 4am. It used to be even later, when I was really hammering away on something. The wee hours are sacred time, when the rest of the world is fast asleep, and no one is expecting anything of you. But there are times when I’d like to just fall asleep at a normal, reasonable hour, and wake up when the day still feels new – and it’s on those nights lately that my mind races through every regret, every letter and email unanswered (lord, so many!), each and every instance where I meant to be a better person, a better friend, but then disappointed myself, and others. What is it that keeps me up? I can’t quite put my finger on it, because overall right now, I feel very content and for the most part, quite happy. Is it related to my mother’s August death, or Hurricane Katrina, or the demise of my last long-term relationship – all of which gut punched me in August, during the dog days of Southern summer. It must be some elusive muscle memory, an old story only my body remembers, my nervous system engaging back into instinctive flight or fight. It’s something I can’t quite put my finger on, but realizing that it hits me every year is almost a comfort – because maybe next time round, I could actually prepare for it. Stock up on Epsom salt and kava kava, or book more massages. I have to do something, because the cortisol that floods my body makes my limbs contort with stored up tension and ache deep in my joints. Maybe it’s all this rain we’ve been having, the barometric pressure shifts, or the dampness and mold in the air. The no-name storm that squatted malevolently over Louisiana what felt like an eternity finally moved west, and has been doggedly soaking our cracked and crispy Texas soil. We’ve needed it, so I can’t complain, and I am delighted to hear the little tree frogs, golden-eyed peepers that talk to each other quietly all night long. Big chubby-bellied toads hop around the yard, splaying their fat fingers over hundreds of tiny grey mushrooms with moist, tattered caps that will vanish as mysteriously as they appeared, once the rain blows over.
I buried these sweet babies in the roots of my favorite rose bush, so that they might bloom again – in a different form. Every night, their brothers and sisters serenade me in a chorus of gentle peeps, teaching me their language in my sleep.
These days and days of rain were a boon to us, and a bane back east. I’ve written about this before – the mixed up feelings I have when August storms curse the wetlands and coast but bless our parched earth. Hurricane season means we might finally get a blast of rain, but a weakened system, not capable usually of wreaking quite so much havoc. I get hypervigilant around this time of year, keeping an eye on the weather, on the tropical depressions and the threat of whirling winds. Even without a hurricanes in the Gulf (yet, and heavens forfend) this year, Louisiana has been nearly drowned by these persistent rains. They’re saying this is the worst disaster since Hurricane Sandy, and yet I can’t help it – I perceive something a little different in people’s responses and reactions to this kind of shitstorm happening in the deep south. There’s a shrug of the shoulder, a kind of blind eye, a certain diffidence in the body language that I wish I could stop interpreting as, “Well, they do live down there in the swamps anyway…Don’t they know any better?” Maybe I’m wrong about that. I know a lot of people care. But it’s weird to see what people care about, or what their social media feeds tell me they care about, anyway. I get it, it’s not a totally valid source of information to weigh judgment against – and it’s less about judging and more about just inputting the information I come across, and determining what exactly to do with it. I mean. We’re talking about 60,000 homes and businesses. More than two feet of rainfall in three days. One hundred thousand people evacuated. It’s a helluva thing. And it’s here, at home. We can’t just shake our heads when whole towns are underwater. Of course, we’re going to see more and more of this. Much more. It’s easy to become inured to it, to all of it – all the terror, disaster, suffering going down in the world… But if you’ve lived it once before, you can’t just ignore. I can feel the fear and sadness rising up through the roots, blowing through the pines. I want to tell them I’m sorry. So sorry about everything that was lost, everyone that drowned. I hope they find a way to make it right again. It takes some time. And some things never come back together. It’s never the same, after. I know that now.
The recent deluge we experienced for days on end down here in Texas was much needed, but it made me melancholy. I have been feeling extra sensitive, soft underbelly exposed – as vulnerable as these poor sweet tree-frogs I found drowned in the rainwater filled cat food bowls early one morning after a night of storming. It seems strange that an amphibian could drown, but apparently, they can. I mourned these two meeting their fate in this way. It’s rare that I get to see these guys – usually they’re hiding out in dark nooks and crannies around my porches. I love eavesdropping on their conversations (I’m listening to them as I write this). I wonder what they’re saying to each other.
Frog totem brings cleansing. I’ve always known I carry this medicine, even though I resisted it when I was younger. I remember feeling like the ugly Frog Princess around all my swanlike girlfriends. Pale with big eyes and easily hurt feelings, so thin skinned and affected by toxic energy in ways I didn’t even understand at the time. I would hunker down on my little lily pad of self-pity, not realizing what gifts I had. Taking it all so much for granted – the way young folks do. I feel so grateful for my years on this year, and what some maturity has brought me, and taught me. For instance – how lucky I am to have Frog medicine! They leap between worlds, and can cleanse negativity and bad spirits. I keep a little rose quartz frog with me when I read tarot for people, and I know she helps me in my work. Also: I don’t know why I ever thought frogs were ugly. I don’t know how I ever thought I was. We’re not – not at all.
“Frog sings the songs that bring the rain and make the road dirt more bearable.
Frog medicine is akin to water energy, and the South on the medicine wheel. Frog
teaches us to honor our tears, for they cleanse the soul. All water rites belong to Frog,
including all initiations by water.”
From Medicine Cards, by Jamie Sams, and David Carson.
I found a strange thing, a few years back – this mummified toad trapped by a metal star in my yard that I use to cover over a pothole. It was a chilling discovery – imagining this creature stuck and not able to get out… I’ve been thinking about all the crazy water rescues I’ve been seeing videos of – people and animals overtaken by rising floodwaters. I think about the people trapped in their attics in New Orleans, 11 years ago. Trying to hold on, hoping someone would come to the rescue. Sometimes you get saved. Sometimes you don’t. About a year after I found the toad mummy, another toad got trapped in the dastardly star. I know, I should probably just fill that hole in to avoid more toad mishaps, right? But this huge fat toad was stuck in the circle in the center of the star – half in, half out. That circle is about the circumference of a quarter. It was just the damnedest thing. I didn’t know if I should try to pull him out by the legs, or push him on through, but eventually I got him out! A smaller toad was waiting worriedly close by, and I could almost hear her voice talking to her husband, “Murray, I told you you were too fat to go through that hole! But did you listen? Of course not. You gotta lay off those slugs, Murray!”
I found this big dude chillin’ in my watering can recently and thought maybe he was stuck. So I put him in the garden. Today, he’s back in the can. Sorry, toad friend! The watering can is clearly Barton Springs for toads.
Evening walk after the storm. All is quiet, painted dripping rose gold. The hush of water soaking the earth, and fireflies winking bright into the night air. I know how lucky I am. I count my blessings. The roof over my head. The high ground I live on. All my books out of boxes and up on shelves for the first time since Katrina. I’m home, and I’m safe, and it’s beautiful. I’ve been working really, really hard to make it that way. To convince my nervous system that it’s as okay as the rest of me is. It’s still hard, eleven years later. My lucky number. I’m doing the work. It helps. But the storms keep on coming, and it hurts me to see the water rising, see people losing everything. I remember.
This is from my old friend Desier Galjour in New Orleans – she’s been boots on the ground doing flood relief down there, and I think what she says here is so, so important.
“Thoughts and observations after 2 weeks of helping folks that got flooded out. Going through Katrina has taught me how to deal with events such as these on a purely triage mode mindset. I am able to pinpoint where immediate help is needed, starting from day one helping with rescue efforts. Most people are in a panic and it’s up to us to stay calm and get the job done. Russel Honore has been quite an example, for me since Katrina, on how to do this. Thank you sir. Once folks get to a dry spot the next step is to make sure they are fed, dry, and can have a cot to sleep on. Home base so to speak. The animals that are in need of rescue are next. We got flooded in areas that were filled with livestock, horses, chickens, etc. Not an easy task to get them to dry land and fed. Not to mention most people who donate chow don’t have a feed store in their neighborhood so getting specific feed for all animals is critical. Folks came in from other states, towing their boats, to help rescue folks who were still in floodwaters. Thanks go out to them and I MUST say that local Law Enforcement will continue to deal with flooding and when THEY want some kind of permitting process, so be it. This means that the regular guy from that particular town has a decal on his boat, a laminated card, that states he is prepared and familiar with safety. We need to have this. Why? Because when you get a guy from Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, into a town he has never seen dry, much less flooded, we know a local will be able to partner up with him to continue rescuing folks. The LAST thing we need is a bunch of guys who head into an area they are completely unfamiliar with and now we have to rescue THEM. This IS a safety issue, NOT a money making venture. This is not the first, nor will it be the last, time we have had to deal with being told to stand down. So here we are now getting food and cleaning supplies to as many people as we can. We haven’t stopped. Folks are sleeping in hot tents. Animals are still pouring into shelters, vets, etc. I know this can be tiring to read but it can be exhausting to live through. We have a long way to go and I will continue to collect donations for folks who are so hard headed you have to practically hit them over the head with a bucket of cleaning supplies. I will continue to monitor situations and report to whomever is in charge or can help. I will continue to fight hard for those who are in shock and can’t speak for themselves. Dana DiPerna has been tireless and we are still getting supplies to folks. firstname.lastname@example.org is my Paypal. Second Harvest Food Bank is also awesome if you don’t feel comfortable with donating to a Paypal account. We are in the very beginning stages of this event. Don’t stop paying attention now, please. Thank all y’all.”
and from my friends Jami Girouard and Jay Pennington:
“If you are an able bodied person within the greater New Orleans area and your schedule permits, please try and make it over to an area affected by flooding to help with the gutting process. A big group of us went this Saturday, and it took about 14 of us total to gut an entire 3 bedroom house in a day :: There’s 50,000 of them that need to be gutted. There’s houses where only 2 people are working on them. If it took 14 of us to gut an entire house in a day can you imagine how long it will take 2 people to do that work, especially elderly people or people that aren’t able bodied? It’s exhausting work but our fellow Louisianans need us right now and if you went through Katrina you know how daunting that reality is. Even if you have limited mobility or can’t lift, there’s stuff to sort through and support to give. It’s really devastating over there y’all.”
If you can’t be there physically in person to help, (and aren’t able to make it to my Fais-Do-Do Fundraiser on Wednesday!) but still want to offer assistance, please consider donating to these reputable organizations that are doing great work. Please do not donate to Red Cross. Thank you.
This mural is from Rayne, Louisiana – Frog Capital of the World! It looks like they’ve taken a fair amount of flooding in all this. I’ve always wanted to go there, for their Frog Festival (though I would never eat frog legs – the horror!) I just wanna hear some good Cajun music and maybe watch some frog races!
We’re putting together a little backyard Fais-do-do Fundraiser to get some money and donations together for the folks affected by the terrible floods in Louisiana. It will take place on Monday evening, August 29th, which is also the 11th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. After losing my home in the storm, I want to honor the day, the dead, and all those who were affected by rallying support for people who need it badly right now. I’m inspired by all the folks stepping up to serve in the “Cajun Navy” – helping out their neighbors because that’s just what you do! So we’re gonna get some money and cleaning supplies and other needed goods and send it to Louisiana! Let’s sing and dance and be together. It felt so good to gather last year, for the full moon. Very healing. We’re keeping a close eye on the weather – we may have to postpone/reschedule if it thunderstorms… I can’t fit that many people in my living room! So please do some weather magic for us, eh? The irony of a flood relief benefit getting rained out is just too much! There’s a 60% chance right now. If we postpone it, we’re thinking this Wednesday, August 31st. Oh, weather gods! Please cooperate with us. With everybody.
(Update: I think we’re going to have to postpone it – I just can’t handle the potential stress of everyone getting dumped on after working so hard to set everything up. So Wednesday it is. I am finding myself compulsively refreshing my weather app, checking radar, monitoring the tropical depressions as they move into the Gulf. This is what I do around this time of year. Watch and worry. So tonight, we’ll be here at home, if anyone wants to drop off donations. The house is ready, everything is prepared. I will light the candles for the dead, and play New Orleans music and it will feel like a Hurricane Party maybe, except I never celebrated those things. I hunkered down in terror or got the hell out. But I’m safe now. I’m going to keep finding ways of showing myself that until all of me believes that it’s true.)
1. In what sense is creative writing a form of cultural and institutional revenge?
2. Take pristine care of your blood.
3. Every day, orient to joy and pleasure. How?
4. Scrub your arms up to the elbow with salt then rinse them in cold water.
5. Change your clothes and shower when you get home, even if you are tired.
6. Let nettle and oatstraw steep in a mason jar and drink the resulting infusion.
7. Chelate long-held, chronic trauma, anxiety and fear. It’s time.* I love you. *How?
8. Remove yourself from situations that cause you distress. How?
9. Spend time with your beloveds. Who are your beloveds?
10. Drink hot water in the morning.
11. Write anyway.
12. Write until you reach the edge of something, whether it’s the world, the community you live in, or your skin.
I’m listening to Bessie Smith’s big full-bellied blues as I write this, and praying for Louisiana – for the living and the lost, the waters and the earth. Even though Bessie’s singing about missing Mississippi, I think I know that feeling.
Dixie moonlight, Swanee shore
Headed homebound just once more
To my Mississippi delta home
Southland has that grand garden spot
Although you believe or not
I hear those breeze a-whispering:
“Come on back to me”
Muddy water ’round my feet
Muddy water in the street
Just God don’t shelter
Down on the delta
Muddy water in my shoes
Reeling and rocking to them lowdown blues
They live in ease and comfort down there
I do declare
Been away a year today
To wander and roam
I don’t care it’s muddy there
But see it is my home
Got my toes turned Dixie way
‘Round the delta let me lay
My heart cries out for muddy water
If you’ve still got it in you, here’s some collected writings
about my experiences with Hurricane Katrina,
in reverse chronological order. Dig in:
✸ One Year
by Angeliska on August 8, 2016
Today marks thirty years since the day my mother died. Nearly half a lifetime, it seems – and so much of my life that I’ve had to live without her. I have spent most of those years hiding. Body hunched and curled over to shield the shameful wound of my unbearable, unspeakable grief. It lives at the core of me, every day. Everything I lost when I lost my mom. The door where I came in, that source of unconditional love and support, all her magic and wisdom and essential Maggie-ness, which I can only experience through the stories and memories of the people who knew and loved her, and through the precious objects she left me. Her absence has shaped my existence in countless ways. I tried to be tough and stoic for so long, even as a very small (and very scared) child. I didn’t cry, I didn’t grieve, I didn’t let on that there was anything wrong – even though everything was. When I was forced to admit to someone who didn’t already know that my mom had died, they would say, “Oh, I’m sorry!” and look very uncomfortable, and I would say “It’s okay.” But it’s not. It wasn’t then and it isn’t now. It will never, never, ever be okay that my mother died and left me to have to figure out how to survive without her. I’m tired of pretending, tired of lessening the horror of my loss to make other people more comfortable. It is a raw place in me like the scar left when a tree loses a big branch, an essential piece of itself, necessary to uphold the structure. Children need their parents. For survival, for healthy growth and development, and really for everything. Those who have lost one or both to death or abandonment may walk with their chins up and their upper lips stiff, but they suffer every single day without the love and support of those people who should have been there to raise them. And they hide – from a society that has forgotten our rituals for grieving and honoring the dead, and from themselves, because reckoning with the enormity of that loss can be truly terrifying. This is the work that I have been doing. Learning to stop hiding from myself, and from the world. Step by step, year after year, I make slow progress. I have learned to cry, in front of other people especially, which is so hard. I have learned to let myself be vulnerable, to ask for help, and to seek it myself. I work on processing the deep traumas the trainwreck of my childhood inflicted on me, with therapists and healers who understand how to treat trauma in the body, in the nervous system, where it lives. And I write. I write to know myself, to remember my memories, and to feel things I had for so long been afraid to feel. I wrote this piece, or began the process of writing it, two years ago in a writing workshop with my hero, Lynda Barry. I could barely get through reading it aloud to the class because I was sobbing so hard. I still can’t make it through without crying, and that’s okay. I share it here for anyone who is willing to bear witness. I have learned that grief must be witnessed and shared to be fully processed, so I thank you in advance for reading, and for your willingness to be a part of this process for me.
I am seven years old, chasing madcap after my cousin Luke, who is ten. We are tearing through my grandparent’s tiny country cottage out in the Hill Country, where my family has lived for generations: a ghost town near Llano called Lone Grove. I don’t remember why I’m running after him like a crazy wild thing, but I’m determined to catch up, to escape the close confines of the little house with its heavy smell of burnt bacon, dust, and old people. Maybe we’re racing out to the ditch to go race dirt-bikes, me on the back clutching my cousin’s skinny ribcage tight. Though perched precariously, I want to imagine myself both as tough and romantic: like Nicole Kidman glaring cooly over Tom Cruise’s shoulder in the the Top Gun poster that hangs on my cousin’s closet door at home. It’s much less glamourous when we limp back down to the house later, our kneecaps skinned fresh into what will later become one big scab. For now though, we are exuberant – full of sweet tea with six spoons of sugar mixed in, desperate for some kind of life and action in this place where all the adults whisper in low worried voices and tell us to keep it down. I rush out onto the porch, Luke’s hair in a long rat tail just out reach of my grasp – the screen door banging behind me with a shotgun crack. I don’t know how many times we kids have all been hollered at not to do that very thing, but this time it’s him, who whirls on me with hazel eyes flashing. “Don’t you let that damn door slam when your mom’s in there having seizures! Don’t you have any respect?”
I don’t know exactly what a seizure is, but it sounds bad, the way we hear the grown-ups talking. I think of the word seized, seize the day, and I think it must mean: grabbed, taken, stolen. The cancer is taking my mom away, shaking her body like a rag doll in the mouth of a wild dog until there’s no life left in her. I stand on the front porch, shaking, staring blind at the magic rock embedded in the side of the door frame. It’s hot, hot in late July and a few minutes ago I was dripping with sweat but now I’m cold, cold. This stone cottage was built for my great-grandmother to live in, back in the thirties. Someone took the time to make sure that the very best little rocks were set right where you could see them, going in and out – the smooth edge of the speckled polished granite I always touched for luck, and my favorite: a piece of smoky quartz with a tiny phantom rainbow hovering at its core. How did those colors get in there, I’d always wondered? They seemed suspended somehow, like the blue glow on the tip of a match-head or a patch of iridescent oil skating over a puddle. My finger strokes at it, trying to make it move, but it doesn’t budge. I can’t go in or out now. The red number of my cousin’s soccer shirt is receding down the driveway, hazed and wavy in the heat. His shoulders are hunched up high like his body hurts, and I want to run after him but I’m stuck here. I want to say sorry but I don’t know who to, and I have the sense that if I try, it will knock something loose in me and Luke and all the grown-ups that will never be able to be put back together. No one is allowed to cry here, or we will all drown. It hasn’t rained in weeks and weeks.
I can’t apologize, and if I go back inside, I might get yelled at more, or worse – just recede into the murk of concerned murmuring like another shadow, get lost in the sickroom hush. There’s nothing to do in there but make myself very small, hunch up in the corners of the dim living room with a old National Geographic from before I was born. On the other side of the front door hangs one of my mother’s watercolor paintings: this one of a roadrunner with a dead lizard hanging half out of his mouth, pausing mid-dash. One the other side of that wall hangs a picture of a horse torn from one of my coloring books. With my black crayon I made the horse regal, a Black Beauty stallion with a starry white blaze, and emerald green eyes. A gift to my mother, to try and cheer her – to show her that I care. I do. I don’t know how else to say so except staying quiet and out of the way, coloring pictures, maybe being an artist, like her. The horse stares down its long nose at the wan figure in the hospital bed – but her eyes are very rarely open to see it. I had worked hard on making sure it was colored in as perfectly as possible, no straying from the lines, no messiness. I knew, as an artist, it would matter to her that I could do a good job, take care with making it just right. After someone tall tacked my picture up in her room, I worried about it. I had learned recently that black was the color of death. What if my black horse seemed like some kind of bad omen, or served as a dark reminder of what was coming? It felt like it was coming fast, the way Texas thunderstorms come up on you suddenly. One minute the sun is shining too bright – and then the air changes. The heady odor of tin is sharp and metallic in your nose – making you look up to see those bruised-looking storm-clouds pulsing on the horizon. Everything speeds up, like a freight-train rushing towards us down the track. My cousin Luke was obsessed with locomotives when he was younger, and he had these model sets where you could move the position of the tracks to your pleasure. The train could go over the bridge and into town, or it could careen off the edge of the kitchen table if you directed it that way – nothing was inevitable. This is not like that, some part of me knows. I don’t know how to shift the path, swerve the course of this juggernaut that screams towards my mother’s body tied to tracks, wrapped in white bedsheets. I am too little. A few days before, I was pushing her, grown so thin and frail in her wheelchair over the gouged out tire tracks on the dirt road. We go halfway down, to where the crepe myrtles are blazing vibrant fuchsia, so pink it sears the eye. I try to make encouragingly poetic and mature comments about the beauty of the blooms, but she is too tired to respond with more than a breathy whisper. I don’t know it yet, but this is the last time she will leave her bed and see the world beyond the robin’s egg blue room where her life is folding in on itself. This is the last time chance I will ever have, to talk with her, about anything before it all collapses. I want so much to say the right thing: find the perfect, magic words that will make her smile, paint the orange freckles back on her face where they’ve faded grey. Change the direction of the train tracks. Banish the black horse from high up on the wall. Unslam that damn door.
And, if you’d like to read more about this journey, here you go:
by Angeliska on March 9, 2016
The new moon in Pisces eclipse is inviting us to plunge into the depths, a voluptuous mermaid or wizened sea-hag who beckons us with long green fingers into her cold and wet embrace. Watch with round and wondering eyes the silver scythe of a moon setting on the horizon, that light coming down low – sinking slowly into the water. A fingernail paring belonging to a maiden goddess, glowing like an ancient opal. The reflection of your own face so familiar, wavering on the liquid surface. What shipwrecks lie beneath? Long kept secrets are being revealed. We are being given the opportunity to contemplate the deeper mysteries, to hold our breath and dive down to the ocean floor, hunting the pearls of wisdom until morning.
Pisces is my rising sign, and usually the first thing people guess when they’re trying to figure out what I am in the zodiac. The eyes give it away, probably. One astrological interpretation of my chart described me thusly:
“Generally, you have inclinations and tendencies for the following:
professions dealing with occult matter or mediumships, religion,
seafaring, acting, psychometry, clairvoyance, painting,
poetry, mysticism, and espionage.”
I’d say that sounds about right!
from The Symbolist Tarot (A project I sincerely wish had come to fruition!)
I’ve been thinking about the Queen of Cups with this moon, and what she has taught me about self-care, and the dedication necessary to re-route the urge to help and heal every other broken baby bird in our lives when it is often ourselves most direly in need of healing. It’s easy to become a martyr from this place of constantly pouring out, without ever taking the necessary time and space to replenish. Compassion must begin with the self: because there are no truly selfless acts. The gifts you share with others must be offered freely, because it is truly your pleasure to do so. The best way to prepare for that work is to know how to give to yourself, and how to graciously receive the kindness and self-compassion that you would selflessly offer someone else. The Queen of the Waters teaches us how to refill our own cups from the bottomless well of the spirit, and to drink deeply – refreshing the places where our spirits have grown frayed and withered. Take the time to sit alone, to reflect, be still and quiet as a calm tidepool. What would be most nurturing for your soul right now? Perhaps it’s taking the time to write by hand in your journal every day, to converse with yourself in a friendly way – to transcribe and meditate on the dreams that come through in sleeping time, when the subconscious mind wakes up and wanders through other worlds. This is a powerful time to be creative – to dance, draw, dream and let the hidden messages from our subconscious psyches drift to the surface. Take long baths, anoint your skin with nourishing oils, or maybe receive a massage, some healing touch. Watsu is a gentle form of relaxing bodywork that takes place in a pool of water. Spending some time swishing around in a salt water float tank can be incredibly restorative, and becoming more and more easily available. Go swimming, in fresh water from the springs, if you can. Spend time nurturing friendships that feel reciprocal and supportive. If you’re ready to do some serious emotional healing, it might be time to find that skilled therapist or healer who really gets you, (or who at least might be smarter than you) – ideally someone who practices a modality that is effective in releasing ingrained old patterns or trauma that you’re ready release. It helps to drink lots of water – always, but especially when doing deep emotional clearing work. Ingesting and immersing in good water helps reconnect us back to the source, the primeval headwaters from which everything originates.
This spring new moon is beckoning us towards a powerful time of renewal: of coming back into the body, and awakening consciousness. It’s time to open up our hearts like the bright blossoms and new leaves bursting forth outside! We are being given new opportunities to tend to our own healing and return to the work of nurturing new growth. Spring is a powerful season for clearing any stagnancy or old wounds from the past that have been hurting and blocking us for too long. This is a perfect time to do some spring cleaning and deep clearing of inherited pain from our family lines.
I have been seeing representations of that heavy ancestral energy show up in many of the tarot readings I’ve given for quite a while now, and have been actively seeking an effective method to assist my clients in moving through their familial baggage. I feel very called now to offer a way for my beloved tarot clients and dear friends to partake in a method I’ve found to be incredibly helpful, called Family Constellations. This April, I will be very honored to host a beautiful healer and longtime friend from the Bay Area, Akasha Heather Christy, who facilitates this amazing healing modality. Akasha will be leading a workshop for us here in Austin, at my home. Here’s some information about this work from her:
“This is Akasha writing you from the Bay to invite you to this workshop that Angeliska and I are cultivating. It is my great pleasure to have the opportunity to come to Austin and share this work of Family Constellations with you. Angeliska is herself an amazing healer, and I am honored to spend this time with her, and with you all, doing this much needed work. Family Constellations provides a means to identify the unspoken and unconscious emotional patterns which affect our lives. It reveals the stagnant patterns which extend through generations of ancestry in a phantom-like manner, showing up in unaccountable ways, dragging on our spirits – in order to open a door towards deeper soul level resolution and healing.
By revealing the places in which we have given over our attention, our life force, and our dreams, we can see how we are respecting those who came before us. We are always seeking to respect our families – our ancestors. That being said, when there is tragedy in the family line that has gone unnoticed or ignored, it wreaks havoc on our lives. We can spend our whole lives unconsciously focusing on these places that are unresolved. Whether it is genocide, war, lost love, lost children, displacement, addiction, mental illness or loss of fortune – any of these things in our family history can impact how we live our lives now. This weekend event is an opportunity for us to gather and go into these hidden places, and share the process together with the morphogenic field in order to offer resolution to ourselves, and those we love.
Because you have an issue which doesn’t seem to be going away – problems that take too much of your attention, and are able to trace sources of the issue back to your family of origin.
You are willing to allow your intuition and feelings be a source of exploration and resolution – you are willing to let go of logic long enough to allow the mystery to show you the way through to new perspective and opportunities.
You are open to working with others, to witness and serve those around you to discover new healing for old wounds.
You are thirsty for a new experience in your life – ready to make a change, and allow yourself to operate differently.
This experience stands to completely transform your perceptions around how you relate to your family and loved ones, and will offer you a greater capacity to let go, open more, and share more deeply. It will offer a level of internal resolution that will serve every relationship you have – including and especially with yourself.
We will be sharing this work on Saturday, April 16, 2016 from 12 noon – 6pm and Sunday, April 17, 2016 from 12 noon – 6pm
If you’d like more info, or to register, contact us soon!
“The Lost Correspondent” by Jason deCaires Taylor in the waters of Grenada.
I’ve been dreaming, not surprisingly, of water for the past few nights. Water in dreams is emotion, and so I always try to pay attention to the currents: where is it choppy, with rough waves – or tranquil, clear and serene? Is the water a rushing flood, a tidal wave, a pristine spring, or a polluted puddle? Pay attention to what the water is doing in your dreams. It will tell you so much.
Last night I dreamt of inspecting exotic mushrooms for sale at the hippie food co-op. I can’t make up my mind about which fungus would be best (black and robust with thick stems like tree trunks, or slim pale straw mushrooms that look like little ghosts), so instead I select a petite aristolochia specimen, with intricate crazing designs on its heart-shaped leaves and big floppy dutchman’s pipe blossoms that are periwinkle blue with confetti sprinkles that look splatter painted on. The man I nearly married is sitting at a table nearby, and we amiably discuss my marvelous plant until the store manager approaches and asks if we’re “in loooooove“. We both pause awkwardly and are silent, not knowing how to answer, until I put my hand on his shoulder and say, “We were once, a while back – very much so. But not now. Not anymore.” It doesn’t feel bad to say this. We are at peace. I go to the lake, an old place, somewhere in Upstate New York. The water is clear, sea-glass green, but with fuzzy black shapes covered in algae, indistinctly waving beneath the surface. I start to wade out, to investigate what they might be, but something stops me. It doesn’t feel entirely safe. I say to my friend who is perched above me on the rocks that there has always been something about lakes that creeps me out. She says that the other lake we visited that one summer is truly ancient: formed millions and millions of years ago. There’s something in the way she says it that seem to imply that this lake is perhaps artificial, man-made, possibly polluted. I get the feeling that the Slithery Dee might live there. Something that might wrap an eel-like black tail around my ankle and yank me down. The dark shapes in the water look like people. Maybe the frozen statues of figures standing in circles. Lost ancestors waiting beneath the waves.
The night before last, there was a big storm in my dream – prophetically perhaps bringing the real thing not long after. I was supposed to go in to a doctor’s appointment, but they called me from the office, not wanting me to risk it. The sky was dark grey, and the wind was starting to pick up. Electricity is crackling in the air, making the new leaves shiver. Fat drops were starting to come down, but I was thinking about chancing it and trying to get on the road anyway, when I noticed that it had actually been raining heavily for days. My yard was flooded, but not in bad way – just, a water feature that got beyond itself. The long neglected pond had filled up and overflowed its confines. Two bright koi fish that had been languishing in the few inches of brackish water near the bottom were now swimming happily in lazy arcs around the roots of the lacebark elm. I’d thought anything living in the pond that my former partner created had perished years ago, but apparently not. Two shiny carp, like the dual fish symbol in Pisces, and not the first time I’ve dreamt of these magical totems. I wonder for a moment if maybe I should try to scoop them up and return them back into the pond, but then realize that they’d just swim right out again. So I start planting some seeds that I find instead, for little pale blue flowers called baby blue eyes. I find a buffalo skull washed up from under the porch and decide to hang it up. The flood hasn’t ruined or destroyed anything the way it used to in my dreams. The floods used to erupt suddenly, sweeping my rickety wood cabin down the river. It used to be enormous tidal waves I ran from, huge moving walls of emotion that threatened to engulf me, drown me, suck me under. They would sometimes crash over me when I could no longer out-run them, but I’d survive it somehow. Coming to, bobbing in the water, eyes salt-blind, grasping for the waterlogged leather handles of old suitcases stuffed with soggy family photos, old love letters with their carefully inked words of longing rinsed away, just blank wet paper now. Not much is salvageable, disintegrating cardboard boxes containing important documents, histories, memories, secrets. All gone. I would have these dreams often, before Katrina hit, even. But now maybe something has finally shifted again. My world can flood a little, and it isn’t a total disaster. The storm can come, but it doesn’t keep me cowering at home anymore. The overwhelming feelings rise up and can now be felt, and completely processed. The good things are made free again. What was neglected can now be restored with love. New seeds filled with potential appear to be planted. The old bones of what has passed can be reclaimed and honored.
☾ Dream Reliquary is a project by artist Caledonia Curry, also known as Swoon. It is a space for people who wish to participate in the creation of a sculpture containing a large repository of dreams transcribed from people all over the world.
☾ Many wonders are being revealed in the depths, including an adorable new species of octopus: Casper, the Friendly Deep Sea Octopus Who’s Entirely New to Science
☾ The Nuit Report March 4-10. Solar Eclipse in Pisces. There are so many fantastic astrologers out there right now, sharing their wisdom and expertise with us so generously. I have found that checking in with a gifted guide to the cosmos on a regular basis has helped me understand my own shifts and transitions so much more. Aepril Schaile has become a mainstay in that practice for me, and someone I feel thrilled to know in this life. I love her grounded and wise way of communicating, and the way she imparts even challenging or heavy concepts with grace, compassion and humor. Check her out:
by Angeliska on January 14, 2016
After my last sweet visitor had headed home the night of the 10th, after a perfect and beautiful birthday, full of friends and children and kindness and sweet medicine and pierogis, I sat alone at my kitchen table covered in sweet gifts and roses and flickering candles burning down low. A last glass of champagne, chuckling and weeping over heartfelt birthday messages from dear ones faraway, and then the news: The Thin White Duke had left the building. A shard of sorrow in my hands, turning it over and over like a piece of obsidian: but no shock, no disbelief. I had known, somehow, that we would all be saying goodbye soon. Of course. This day, that moment, it was his time. I could feel the deep peace of a life well lived, of a life’s work well done, and the release that follows as such a bright star breathes one last and then evaporates into everything.
DAVID BOWIE – JOHN, I’M ONLY DANCING (AGAIN) 12″ (1979) I started to write a caption for this image & it ended up becoming this. I used to dance to this 12-inch all the time, before I lost it (& all my other records) in Hurricane Katrina. Photo of the record by Mat Maitland.
Capricorn brother. I always felt an affinity, with his birthday two days before mine, and now his death coinciding with the anniversary of my birth. So I’ll never forget – as if I ever could fail to remember my admiration for that elegant elfin alien, such an otherworldly, brilliant being. So full of passion and incredible talent and preternatural grace. Him passing on my birthday felt like a very peculiar gift. I cried tears of love, gratitude and deep happiness for the gifts he shared, for every soul that he inspired. I see so many people I love struck deeply by this loss, bereft and adrift. Grief’s arrow can affix you to a moment, can paralyze you – or it can spurn you on and motivate you in powerful ways. When death strikes, I see some people get lost, sink down into themselves, get numb under blankets of apathy and depression. I see others fired up, fucking in the bathroom at the funeral, staying up all night writing songs, stories, poetry, love letters. When you beat a tomato plant or a rose bush with a stick, it will think its life is in danger. Faced with mortality, it will attempt to reproduce itself hurriedly – just in case there won’t be another opportunity. This could be it, you know? Animals do it, fish do it – and we do it. Biology and creativity – sex and death. I am hoping fervently that more of us will fall into that fevered excitement instead of a sorrowful haze.
I want to ask you to stay present with this one. Keep feeling it, keep your eyes and heart open. Let his death wake you up, make you remember what it felt like to discover that you weren’t alone, that there was an anthem for your strangeness, and a guide through the wilds of self-discovery to the cosmos within. Countless flocks of blossoming freaks found their sherpa in him: he led the way up the mountain ahead of everyone else, sure-footed, brave and indomitable, leaping from rock to rock and scaling impossibly sheer heights. He kept going, kept pushing – against all resistance, laughing in the face of fear. He made it irrelevant. Singing onstage in a mini-dress and thigh-high boots, coming out loud and proud because someone had to, goddamn it.
That man worked so, so hard. He pushed himself to the limits of his own psyche and beyond. He let himself be tempered, hammered into different shapes – constantly transforming, an alchemist of creativity. He survived the maw that consumed so many of his genius peers to become a wise old man, (but not too old). Instead, he sacrificed his alter-egos on the altar of fame, killed off the worn out personae, and continued to fashion new masks to protect the man inside, the one none of us ever met, or saw.
David Bowie was a true genius, and in true saturnine sea-goat fashion, he endured, persevered, always working, growing, manifesting — and he was richly rewarded for all his efforts, all his magic. He held the glory, he wasthe glory. So, how could he be just gone? No, not gone — but here, closer than ever. Now he’s everywhere, all around us, like embers floating on the wind — let his spark alight on your skin: let it burn you, mark you, scar you. Let his essence surround you, embrace you, and ignite in you that same drive, that same passion, the willingness to push off and fly. Now he is immortal. He gave you permission to be a beautiful weirdo, so don’t forget to honor him by continuing to stretch yourself past your own internal or external boundaries. Please keep doing the sacred work of connecting, keep sharing yourself with the world by doing your magic, whatever it is, with the same dedication, focus and verve that Bowie brought to the table for us to feast on. Step up into his shadow, into the hole his absence has torn in the fabric of our reality: get playful, look deep, transgress (and don’t apologize), wander far away from your comfort zone, discover those other archetypes within, and let every wild facet shine. Be willing to be uncomfortable, to be fabulous, to be both elastic and silvered steel. Do all this in thanks for the gifts he laid at our feet.
He came here to do his work, and he really fucking did it. With such great aplomb! We only have a lifetime, however long that is, to shine, to do our big work. That’s all any of of get. We are mortal. Our time here is brief. Do something righteous with what you were given: your brains and body, your imagination and your own singular perspective. Ars longa, vita brevis: art is long, and life is short. We will be listening to the songs of this poet forever. We get to keep them with us. He hasn’t truly left us at all. Feel how close he is? Do you hear the music? Sway with his spirit, dance for him.
And then get to work!
David Bowie interview on the Russell Harty Show, 1973
“What do you worship?”
“Life. I love life.”
David Bowie interview on the Russell Harty Show, 1975
Some thoughts on the subject by wise friends:
“I see we have already begun with the “art and music are officially dead” rhetoric. What an insult to Bowie’s memory and legacy to assume that the gift he gave us is finite. That the inspiration, example and beauty of his work won’t fuel and drive literally millions of artists who grew up with, discovered him later in life, and cherished him. Enough already. Stop looking backwards. Good art is not an exhaustible resource.”
– Fyodor A. Pavlov
“I know you are all upset about the passing of David Bowie. I am too indeed… But something you should know. He is totally at peace and went back to the stars hecame from. He is home now feeling totally complete, and fulfilled all his earthly duties. No regrets… He did that all and more. Muse city… Now utilize this knowing to motivate you to do the same. He would certainly approve of you mourning him in the glory of following your muse.”
– Marcella Kroll
I’ve been taking some time to listen and read, to watch interviews and find treasures and glean things I didn’t know. Looking forward to a really beautiful, well-written biography soon – or maybe there already is a definitive one someone could recommend?
“The image of that gingery boney pinky whitey person on the cover with the liquid mercury collar bone was – for one particular young moonage daydreamer – the image of planetary kin, of a close imaginary cousin and companion of choice
It’s taken me a long time to admit, even to myself, let alone you, that it was the vision and not yet the sound that
hooked me up – but if I can’t confess that here and now, then when and where?
We all have our own roots
To this room”
– Tilda Swinton
“Something happened on the day he died/ His spirit rose a meter and stepped aside/ Somebody else took his place and bravely cried, ‘I’m a black star,’” Bowie sings on “★”, his voice multiplied and filtered for the line’s last four words. “I’m not a pop star/ I’m a black star.” For what it’s worth: “Black star,” in physics, can refer to a black hole or a white dwarf that’s cooled down to the point that it stops emitting radiation. Both objects are theoretical.
“Sometimes I don’t feel as if I’m a person at all,” said Bowie to Ingenue Magazine in 1973. “Sometimes I’m just a collection of other people’s ideas.” That was more than 40 years ago, but one line on “★” carries a similar idea: “At the center of it all/ Your eyes,” repeats Bowie with particular menace. Like his best lyrics, it could mean anything, but it reverberates in a particular way against the backdrop of his disappearance, his continued enigma, his withdrawal from everywhere but the distant planet he now finds himself. The core of Bowie — or of everything — is not what he is, but how he’s seen. Or really, the two are one and the same. There is no David Bowie except the one you imagine, and it is always possible to imagine him.
“There is a singular energy that moves throughout each person, but it’s all fluid. It’s transmittable. It’s like a disease. You can give it to somebody,” says Fortune. “It doesn’t have to begin and end with your birth and death. It’s something that can be moved through time and space, if you can separate your individual essence from your intellectual ego and allow it to become this broader thing that can be shared and passed along. Reincarnation, occult practices, interdimensional travel, eternal life — all of these funny ideas that humanity has played with forever that Bowie has tapped into throughout the arc of his career, I think it all comes down to this one basic concept. This is me, this is mine. I manifested this. But you can have it too. It’s not singular unto me. It’s singular in the sense that I have carried it to this point, and now you can take it, too. That’s what I think he’s all about.”
– BY SASHA GEFFEN
I held off on watching Lazarus as long as I could, but when I finally did, it just socked me in the gut.
Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth…
Oh, mortality. Mortal gods, mortal man. It’s rough, man.
Still, we have these bright candles, and…
I was 13 years old dancing to Rebel, Rebel and Changes in my best friend’s bedroom. Jean Genie and Suffragette City and this whole flamboyant world that was unfurling before us. I think she had the Changesbowie cassette. It didn’t matter that we were late to the party. It didn’t occur to us that this music had had its moment and the scene was dead long before we came onto it. It was timeless, and it belonged to us. I am finding that this is still true – that teenagers everywhere dance in their rooms to this music and feel completely as if it were made just for them. These are the songs that woke us up, that turned us on. Your body and the world around you and with in you is going through so many ch-ch-changes. All you can do is turn, and face the strange.
I used to play Hunky Dory over and over again in the little one-room shack I lived in when I was 17. I had the album, and would just keep flipping the record and moving the needle – never tiring of the process. I wanted the music. I loved Kooks, and Andy Warhol. I remember my friend Kathie Pandora singing those lyrics to me in her raspy voice,
“Andy walking, Andy tired
Andy take a little snooze
Tie him up when he’s fast asleep
Send him on a pleasant cruise
When he wake up on the sea
He sure to think of me and you
He’ll think about paint and he’ll think about glue
What a jolly boring thing to do”
I always think of her when I hear that song, or sing it myself. I still like to sing it. But The Bewlay Brothers will always be my favorite Bowie song, ever. It was, and is – so powerful. It was eldritch and mysterious, and it made me think of the beautiful, troubled men I thought of as my brothers back in the day. They were terrible and always doing dangerous, evil shit. I was worried constantly that they’d die. Two of them are dead to me now.
Now my Brother lays upon the Rocks
He could be dead, He could be not
He could be You
He’s Camelian, Comedian, Corinthian and Caricature
One remains, and he’s the brightest and best of them, anyway. Evan, who we always affectionately referred to as The Goblin Prince. He has always epitomized the Thin White Duke for me: effortlessly elegant and for a long time bleached white blond, with all the moves, the genius, the wicked grin. Dancing with a cigarette, drawing in the dark.
He wrote this, the other day:
“The star collapses, and when it has almost reached singularity,
when its influence becomes infinite and spacetime
cannot exist within it, it is transformed and
–despite its death– continues to release energy.
Goodnight, my oldest teacher, to you and your little white saxophone.
Goodnight, my Blackstar.”
I had a cassette tape of Low that I damn near wore out when I first moved to New Orleans. “A New Career in a New Town” became my personal soundtrack for leaving my hometown at the age of just barely 20, and strangely enough (I just realized this), it was then and there that I did embark upon what eventually did become my career: reading tarot. My first apartment there was in my beloved castle on Esplanade and Bourbon, in the tower room with the bay window on the third floor. I lived in there for a few months, until the much larger apartment I ended up staying in for many years became available. That time was very special to me: I was starting a new beginning, all by myself. The apartment was grand, only one room that was mostly the floor to ceiling bay windows overlooking the overgrown courtyard, with an odd little crooked kitchen. The big room was painted an ugly shade of blue that I never got around to repainting, but it made me think of the line in Sound and Vision:
Blue, blue, electric blue
That’s the colour of my room
Where I will live
My bedroom now is a much prettier shade of blue. I’m glad the song still applies…
David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King was my first human (sort of) crush. Before that, it was just anthropomorphic animals, like the hot fox in Disney’s Robin Hood, or Dangermouse (his eyepatch and British accent made the fact that he was a cartoon rodent easier to overlook.) I know I’m not alone in this, and it’s been a comfort, over the years to realize that the desires of so many young girls were awakened by that character. I had a poster from the movie that I would practice kissing on, until the paper his lips were printed on started to get faded.
I’ll paint you mornings of gold.
I’ll spin you Valentine evenings.
Though we’re strangers ’til now,
We’re choosing the path
Between the stars.
I’ll leave my love
Between the stars.
My friend Reiner insisted on buying me a cd of Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) at a used record store on my first visit to New York. I think I was 18. It was wintertime, and snowing a lot. The hard edges and manic energy of those songs still bring back the feeling of exploring NYC, hunting for the lost ghosts of party animals of yore. I’d play the cd when I was getting ready to go out, doing my makeup and pinning things into my hair. We spent New Year’s Eve in a dilapidated concrete warehouse (or maybe it was a parking garage?). I was wearing my 1930′s cloth of gold dress, which was constructed of real metallic threads and thus conducted heat and cold. I was freezing and having my ear talked off by coked-up Russians. Reiner was really passionate about this album, and his love for it was passed on to me. I think he listened to it a lot when it came out, back when he lived in Berlin. Exciting times. My favorite track was Ashes to Ashes.
I’m happy. Hope you’re happy, too.
I’ve loved. All I’ve needed: love.
Sordid details following.
“There was a beautiful Art Deco house on six acres, an exquisite site property and a terrific value at just $300,000, but he took one look at a detail I hadn’t noticed, a hexagram painted on the floor of a circular room by the previous owner, Gypsy Rose Lee. ‘A great deal of codling and reassurance got us through that crisis, and I went and found the Doheny Drive house. Built in the late fifties or early sixties, it was a white cube surrounding an indoor swimming pool. David liked the place, but I thought it was too small to meet our needs for very long, and I wasn’t crazy about the pool. In my experience, indoor pools are always a problem. This one was no exception, albeit not in any of the usual ways. Its drawback was one I hadn’t encountered before and haven’t seen or heard of since: Satan lived in it. With his own eyes, David said, he’d seen HIM rising up out of the water one night.’ Feeling demonic forces moving in, David felt strongly that he needed an exorcism and asked that his new found friend white witch Walli Elmlark be called upon to lend her assistance to remove the evil from his surroundings. ‘A Greek Orthodox Church, in LA would have done it for us (there was a priest available for such a service, the people had told me) but David wouldn’t have it. No strangers allowed, he said. So there we stood, with just Walli’s instructions and a few hundred dollars’ worth of books, talismans, and assorted items from Hollywood’s comprehensive selection of fine occult emporia. There he (David Bowie) was, then, primed and ready. The proper books and doodads were arranged on a big old-fashioned lectern. The incantation began, and although I had no idea what was being said or what language it was being said in, I couldn’t stop a weird cold feeling rising up in me as David droned on and on. ‘There’s no easy or elegant way to say this, so I’ll just say it straight. At a certain point in the ritual, the pool began to bubble. It bubbled vigorously (perhaps ‘thrashed’ is a better term) in a manner inconsistent with any explanation involving air filters or the like.’ The rock and roll couple watched in amazement. Angie says she tried to be flippant – “Well, dear, aren’t you clever? It seems to be working. Something’s making a move, don’t you think?” – but I couldn’t keep it up. It was very, very strange; even after my recent experiences I was having trouble accepting what my eyes were seeing.’ Angie insists that she would peek through the glass doors which lead to the pool every so often and was dumb founded by what she saw. ‘On the bottom of the pool was a large shadow, or stain, which had not been there before the ritual began. It was in the shape of a beast of the underworld; it reminded me of those twisted, tormented gargoyles screaming silently from the spires of medieval cathedrals. It was ugly, shocking, malevolent; it frightened me. ‘I backed away from it feeling very strange, went through the doorway, and told David what I’d seen, trying to be nonchalant but not doing very well. He turned white but eventually became revived enough to spend the rest of the night doing coke. He wouldn’t go near the pool, though.’”
“Early in life, Bowie had established his interest in all matters extraterrestrial. As a Brit teenager, David had helped edit a flying saucer newsletter. He admitted to me that he loved science fiction and was fascinated with life in space and the possibility that quite a few cosmic visitors had ended up on our earthly shores.
During a conversation, Bowie had gone out on a limb revealing that he had once had a close encounter. In the book Laugh Gnostic, author Peter Koening paraphrases what Bowie said: ‘A friend and I were traveling in the English countryside when we both noticed a strange object hovering above a field. From then on I have come to take this phenomena seriously. I believe that what I saw was not the actual object, but a projection of my own mind trying to make sense of this quantum topological doorway into dimensions beyond our own. It’s as if our dimension is but one among an infinite number of others.’”
★ David Bowie: Closet Occultist!
Q: “So were you involved in actual devil worship?” A: “Not devil worship, no, it was pure straightforward, old-fashioned magic.” Q: “The Aleister Crowley variety?” A: “No, I always thought Crowley was a charlatan. But there was a guy called [Arthur] Edward Waite who was terribly important to me at the time. And another called Dion Fortune who wrote a book called ‘Psychic Self-Defense‘. You had to run around the room getting bits of string and old crayons and draw funny things on the wall, and I took it all most seriously, ha ha ha ! I drew gateways into different dimensions, and I’m quite sure that, for myself, I really walked into other worlds. I drew things on walls and just walked through them, and saw what was on the other side!”
David Bowie, interviewed in NME, 1997
★ Station To Station
“One of the many lies we tell children is that there’s no limit to the imagination. Of course there is. Even the most consuming and perceptive of minds reaches its borders and retreats. Expanding the mind is dog’s work, as grueling as it’s often fruitless; few attempt it, fewer succeed in it, and those who do often come out twisted and torn. In 1975, binging on cocaine, living in paranoid isolation and making a rock record, David Bowie succeeded.”
★ The Fall To Earth: David Bowie, Cocaine And The Occult:
Here are two extracts from Peter Doggett’s excellent new book The Man Who Sold The World: David Bowie And The 1970s, covering the star’s all time low, 1975
★ Bowie in Berlin: David Bowie moved to Berlin in the mid-70s in the grip of a cocaine addiction. But the city purged his demons and pushed him to new creative heights. Rory MacLean remembers their nights in his Hauptstraße flat – and one wild night out with Iggy
“He dressed in baggy trousers and dowdy shirts, and enjoyed the Berliners’ disinterest in him. No one bothered him on the street, unlike in star-struck LA. One night on a whim, he climbed onto a cabaret stage to perform a few Frank Sinatra songs. The local audience shrugged and asked him to step down. They had come to see a different act. Away from the limelight, he composed, painted and, for the first time in years, ‘felt a joy of life and a great feeling of release and healing’, as he put it.”
Wild Is The Wind
“He’s got more sense than anybody I’ve ever known. It’s not human — David ain’t from here.” – Nina Simone
photograph from my friend Stephanya Tyler
★ Sign the petition to keep “David Bowie Street” in Austin – won’t you?