by Angeliska on August 8, 2013
August 8th is the twenty-seventh anniversary of my mother’s death. Every year when this day rolls around again I take stock of the condition of my heart, and pause to consider my path – the one that has led me from the womb to whatever I may find on the road ahead. Two infinite eights, a snaky double lemniscate, always a fierce harbinger of sweltering dog days and thick dark storm clouds, heavy with memory. Although this year, something has changed – the air has shifted somehow, and I find a weight has been lifted off somehow. Somewhere in the depths of my broken heart, a strange and solemn joy has been unfolding feathered pinions. I think this is what’s known as… healing. Every year that I’ve taken the time to honor the day of my mother’s passing, I’ve grown a little, learned some, healed a bit. I realize how angry I was at her, for so long – for leaving me, for not saying goodbye properly, even though she had plenty of opportunity to (or so I thought). Children are self-absorbed, thinking the whole world revolves around them – and so, for a long time I never took the time to imagine what it must have been like for her. How terrifying, to be dying, to be leaving everything you knew and loved. The enormity of saying goodbye. I didn’t realize then how many people dying from a terminal illness are so consumed with their sickness and pain, not to mention contemplating the imminent termination of their mortal sojourn, that tying up loose ends and saying impossible goodbyes often go by the wayside. What words could possibly make it better, anyhow? Well, I can think of a few. All my life, people who were close to my mom have informed me about how much she loved me. My brain registered their words, but my heart wasn’t convinced. I thought that if my mother had truly loved me, she would have fought harder to stay alive, to stay with me. Or, at least, she would have taken me aside and said all the things that would prove that she really cared. I think now that maybe she’s been saying them to me all along, whispering them in my ears, brushing my hair out of my sullen face – I was just too hurt and mad to hear it.
I randomly came across the last letter my mother ever wrote to me on July 3rd of this year. It was written about a month before she died – dated July 3, 1986. I found it 27 years later, to the day. You can tell she was really hurting because her handwriting is so shaky. Her words reaching out to me from across the void, through the ether. I had read it plenty of times before, over the years – but it had been awhile. I saw different things in it than I was able to perceive before – reading between those lines meant for a child’s mind, the pain and longing bleeding over into her penmanship. She wanted to hear from me so badly. I did see the fireworks, and I did go to the Watts Towers, which I loved and still love. Somewhere I have a cassette tape we recorded as an audio letter to my parents. I’ve only ever listened to it once, because it’s so painful to hear my squeaky little voice trying so hard to sound jubilant and brave. We were all hiding our hurt and longing from each other, too well. Every night that I curled up on my cot in my grandparent’s North Hollywood guest-room that summer, I ached for her, calling to her with every fibre of my tiny heart. They had sent me away while she was settled into hospice in Lone Grove, preparing for the descent into the underworld. It was too much for me to have to see her that way, and they were protecting me, I suppose. Years later, my grandmother told me that around the time she wrote this letter, that she had called in the middle of the night and begged for them to put me on a plane the next morning, to send me back to her. She needed to see me, wanted me near. My grandmother told her that we had big plans to go to Disneyland the next day, and that there was no way she could disappoint me and my cousin Caleb, because we were so excited about seeing Mickey Mouse. Grandma said it was one of the biggest regrets of her entire life, not just calling a halt to our plans, and heeding my dying mother’s last wishes. Hearing that story from her was like being punched in the gut. I never knew. Maybe if I had come then, she could have told me all the things I wanted to hear from her lips in person, but by the time they finally sent me back to Texas, she was so weak and diminished. Her seizures had gotten bad, and her mind was clouded with painkillers. She died not long after. Even before I knew all that, I had found Disneyland to be hugely disappointing. None of the magic was real. Everything was plastic and robotic and overpriced and crowded and stupid. I hated everything about it (except for the haunted mansion, pirates and abominable snowmen, I guess.) So that’s why I loathe Disneyland. Because I could have seen my mother one last time when she was still able to talk to me. And Mickey Mouse fucking stole that from me.
I wear this chrysocolla flower cuff she made all the time. Her work was so exacting, every detail thought out and perfectly executed. Every piece I make is an exercise in following in her footsteps. I’m not so much a perfectionist myself, but in my mind, I imagine her scrutinizing my handiwork. I want everything to be as flawless as possible, to meet her high standards of aesthetic and craftsmanship.
I used to paw through this box of jewels when I was a child, imagining that my mother was some kind of royalty in hiding, to be in possession of such marvelous gems… All glass & paste, but precious to me.
My mother collected broken china plates that she had my Grampy grind and shape on a wheel into cabochons for her jewelry. I inherited this legacy from both of them, and am continuing their work as best as I am able.
I made this sterling silver & porcelain cuff for Mlle. Dana Sherwood’s birthday. The china piece was one of those cut by my Grampy for my mama back when she was alive & making jewelry. She didn’t live long enough to use them all, so that’s partly why I wanted to learn how.
Another piece I made for someone I love. None of these pieces will ever be sold, but instead only go as gifts to those I consider to be family. In giving them a piece of jewelry made from this old china, I am sharing a piece of my mother, of my grandfather with them. These silver threads connect us.
I think you can tell a lot about who someone is by what they love, by their taste, by what they collect & are drawn to. Material objects can be powerful emblems of identity & memory. With that in mind, I present to you, my mother. I didn’t find this list until a few years ago. It’s kind of crazy how similar we are in our tastes, and so many other things. Though, it’s really no surprise that what she loved, I also adore. Acorn, meet tree.
Things I Really Like
Perfume (certain brands) esp. “orientals”
Scented soaps and powder
Sexy panties and bras (black + red)
Blue Mirror glass
Flowers – especially “old” roses, iris + carnations
Nice cowboy boots + hats
Books (art, architecture, cars, plants + music)
Like to read: social commentary
Cadillacs from 1948-1952
Lamps and light fixtures
1940′s + 1950′s stuff – especially music, cars, + housewares (clothes too)
Jackets that look like riding habits
real cotton velvet
“Hotel” dishes (esp. Syracuse China)
glass-stopper perfume bottles
cats + some dogs; horses
fine stringed instruments
colored aluminum dishes
Shoes with ankle straps
fine leather goods
Glass brick, spanish tile, stucco
Today, instead of doing what I normally do on August the 8th – (isolating myself with my grief, processing, crying over old letters) I decided to treat myself nicely for a change, to celebrate her life, and do things she might do if she were still alive. I got my hair did the day before, got a massage from a dear friend, went out for gelato, hung out with my dad, and made a pilgrimage to the Elisabet Ney Museum – one of my mama’s favorite places, and mine too.
There’s a really sweet man in my life who knows me better than I know myself sometimes. He brought me fancy breakfast and roses (with the best moniker ever: HIGH AND MAGIC!) this morning because he knew that today is often a hard day for me. I usually don’t tend to share this day with anyone, but it was so nice showing him around my mom’s old stomping ground. We drove past the house where I was conceived and lived until the age of 3. He was so sweet and kind to me, and it felt good to go on adventures together instead of just brooding by myself all day. I think about this piece Cheryl Strayed (aka. Dear Sugar) wrote to a man asking how he could better be there for his partner who had lost her mother. I think it’s a really helpful thing to read for anyone who loves anyone who’s ever lost someone:
Or, if you’d prefer to hear her read it aloud to you, there’s this:
The Black Arc Of It – from Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed
And by the way, if you haven’t read that book yet, please do. It has saved my life a hundred times over, and taught me so much. Oh, and yeah – I do quote something or other from it pretty much every year on this day. She just knows. Cheryl Strayed is the official President of the Motherless Daughters Coalition for Healing Your Own Goddamn Broken Heart. Pretty much because I say so.
My mother’s best friend was a magical woman named Lenore Nier, who lived in New York and loved purple and was a poet. She died of cancer, the same scourge that killed my mother, less than ten years later. She always used to send me postcards and letters from museums with her favorite paintings. Such a lovely woman. This poem to my mom was sent amidst a flurry of sympathy cards (which I used to disdain as mere Hallmark pity, but now wish people still sent each other. It’s a nice gesture, dammit.) It was inscribed on the inside of a card with a holographic rainbow unicorn on it, which I remember coveting. I have it now.
Roses and Crystals (To Maggie)
Go in love, go in peace.
You’ve left your love
Across the miles,
My house is filled with your souvenirs,
Your rings and your art.
You saved my cat when she was hurt.
You were a rainbow,
Roses and crystals,
Now you lay dying across the miles.
In love you die, to love you go.
Sad vigil’s end.
You were a prism of colored lights,
But now you’re light. Your love will live –
Your crystals and roses,
Your art and music,
Your husband and child.
In the end we all follow our lonely roads.
I wish you peace
(August 2 and 12, 1986
Brentwood, New York)
For so long, I have longed to communicate with her spirit, to hear her voice again. In dreams and visions, I manifest antique telephones and elaborate devices to facilitate our otherworldly conversations. I recently reread a vivid dream I had a while back, where I found her standing in my kitchen fiddling with an archaic radio set. She firmly tells me that it is time to put this thing back together, to get it working again. Her hair is hennaed even redder and pulled up into a bouncy ponytail. She’s wearing little shorts and a t-shirt and looks so young and cute. She’s intent upon the pieces of the communication device in her hands, and in her familiar voice and cadence, she says, “Oh, it’s fallen into disrepair – the metal has become corroded over time.” I grab her hands as she’s inspecting it closer and stand up to embrace her, saying, “Mommie, I miss you so, so, so much. I’ve missed you every single day.” I hug her and kiss her face all over. We are the same height now. I think she’s too surprised to know what to say.
I feel like recently, I finally broke through the membrane separating us: I had a profound experience where I was able to deeply commune with her spirit. During a powerful meditation, I found myself focusing on the mystery of motherhood and the magic of the crone. I was thinking especially about the amazing old women in my life, and how much love and respect I have for them. I was imagining myself growing elderly, my body’s inevitable decay. I thought about my aunt, who I adore – my mother’s sister. She lovingly took care of both my grandparents until their deaths, and I thought about what an honor it is to get to be present with someone you love, to return the favor of the care they bestowed upon you when you were small. To tenderly wash the aged body, the sagging breasts that you once fed from, the withered belly that you lived in, the weakened arms that once held and carried you. It hit me for the first time that I would never have the chance to experience my mother that way – that I would never, ever see her as an old woman, her auburn hair turned to silver, her face creased with lines, skin turned to crepe paper. I wept and wept for her, for the deep longing, the raw missing of her. So visceral, the clutching, reaching towards the body that you came from, the door where you came in. I grieved for her like a lost infant, and felt that ancient child’s cry bubbling up in my chest: “I…WANT…MY…MOMMIE!” She was the one I screamed for in the middle of the night when I was scared after a bad dream. I remember realizing with sorrow and shock soon after she had died that I would never be able to call to her in the night again. That she would never be able to come to me and comfort me, ever, from this point forward. The finality of death is hard for a little kid to comprehend, but I understood then what it meant. She was gone, permanently.
In the night, in the midst of that vision, I feel like she came to me: first, through her emblems, the sweet roses painted on fine china. Her symbols, the images that embody her spirit now – they flooded through me in psychedelic sunset waves of cactus flowers swirling like galaxies, emitting cascades of sparks and shooting stars. Fiorucci angels winking behind heart-shaped sunglasses and glamourous starlets with their hair in victory rolls, chorus lines of pink flamingos, and roseate flaming vintage dreamboat cars arcing through the sky like comets, like fireworks. She came to me through all this glory, and held me close. In her mimosa honey and tabasco voice, she told me everything I ever wanted to hear, everything I ever wanted to know. I know, now, completely, incontrovertibly, utterly: how much my mother loved me, still loves me. How precious I am to her. That I am the best thing she ever made, the rarest jewel in her treasure chest. I know that now, and I have to remember to carry it with me all the time, and never forget it. I told her how sad I am that she’s not alive right now, that she’s not in my world, awake and breathing in this life. She would be 66 years old. She tells me, “Y’know, it’s okay, baby. It really is. I’m at peace with it.” She tells me that she had had enough of the wisdom found in pain and suffering and sitting with the reality of her body breaking down, that she’s glad she died at her prime, when she was the most beautiful, that she didn’t have to know what it was to be an old lady. If she had, she would have been someone else, and I would have become someone else, too. It would have been a different story. And her story ended right where it was supposed to. She tells me that she’s free now, that she can go anywhere. In knowing that, in hearing the echoing truth of it resounding deep in my bones, I was able to finally let her soul go fly off joyfully to where it wants to be. For the first time in my entire life, I felt a sense of acceptance, and peace. It was so simple, and so profound – I watched her kind of shrug her thin white shoulders, and lips curved in that secretive Mona Lisa half-smile as she waved goodbye. Before she flew away, I caught a glimpse of that place where she lives eternally now, and it is so unimaginably goddamn beautiful.
My mother’s blue heaven is this: her fantasy dream car, a 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe de Ville is pulled over on the side of a lonely country road, out in between the corn and cotton fields. It is dusk, the sky a pure Maxfield Parrish periwinkle, deepening into cobalt and indigo, where silvery stars have just begun to glitter. At the horizon, the last shades of a brilliant sunset are fading into gold and dusty rose, and the bats and barn-swallows are chasing junebugs and mayflies in the darkening air. The headlamps of the Caddy illuminate my mother’s cowboy boots, and her favorite Hank Williams song is playing on the radio, competing with the fiddling crickets. She’s laughing and dancing with a long tall stranger, kicking up her heels in the dust of this perfect deserted twilight place. Out there in the wild blue yonder, where she’s dancing now – forever.
Hank Williams – When God Comes and Gathers His Jewels
If you’d like to read more about my mama, here you go:
by Angeliska on June 26, 2013
Hot on the heels of the Summer Solstice, the full moon in Capricorn has waxed gravid over the horizon – a supermoon to boot, pregnant with all the intensity and magic of a grand water trine (Sun in Cancer, Saturn in Scorpio and Neptune in Pisces). The Algonquin tribes called the June full moon the Strawberry Moon, because this is the month when the ripening fruit can be harvested. (My own ripe strawberries have all been harvested prematurely by some vermin bandits, alas!) In Europe (where strawberries aren’t native), the June moon is known as the Rose Moon.
Miss Allyson Garro in her solstice head-dressed glory, welcoming in the summer… All hail the Queen of Summer!
We went out in a wonderful canoe for the Summer Solstice Lantern Parade, and were serenaded from our serene vantage point on the water by Minor Mishap Marching Band. Out in the middle of the lake, I gazed at the pearly moon reflected in the water, all bright mercury slipping over my oars, and made wishes to help me be in the present moment, savoring every second of the now. This is something I’ve always had a hard time doing, but I realize that truly, the now is all that is, all we have. I want to make it count. Dusky blue herons burst forth from a copse of overhanging willows, rousing me from my reverie and bringing me back to the moment, the now, the now, the now…
This is a time of abundance, of summer’s brilliant zenith, where the bounty of fruits and flowers brings sweetness to our eyes, our tongues, our noses. Honeysuckle and passionflower twine in my garden, and this year I harvested ripe plums and nectarines from the fruit trees planted years ago. The Queen of Pentacles and the Empress both remind us to plant those seeds, to nurture the things we want to flourish in our gardens, and to weed out what we don’t. These powerful archetypes both represent the Earth Mother, the divine feminine force, the ultimate Creatrix – manifested both on the celestial plane and on the earthly. These energies can inspire us to be independent, strong, and peaceful in the homes and workspaces we create for ourselves. To know and trust completely that we can provide for ourselves (and our children, if we have them). Think of the deep pride you might feel in being able to bring home your own bacon, in tenderly feeding your hungry baby bird (be it yourself or another), in maintaining a tranquil and beautiful place to live. This is a good time to take care of yourself, of your body – to cook good food that you grew yourself. This is strong magic.
Pre-solstice parade happiness. It’s crazy, you know – I’ve been realizing that it’s been almost a year since my life fell apart, and I couldn’t imagine then that I could ever really be happy again. So much has changed in my life, and yet the constants are a comfort. I have come through the slaughter, still remembering how to smile. Last year’s Full Moon in Capricorn was not so kind to me, and I’m grateful to report that this year’s has been far more gentle. To me, at least – though so many people I love dearly are having a really hard time right now. I’m focusing on sending them strength, and the knowledge that a year can change a lot of things.
This was last year’s moon: FULL MOON IN CAPRICORN
Life certainly is feeling like a bowl of cherries today – I got completely distracted from posting this earlier this week as I’ve been captivated by the goings-on in our State Capitol this week. Last night’s incredible feat of filibustering and explosive energy from the democratic politicians here in Texas, who were joined by the fired up citizens of Austin when they showed up in droves at the dome to shut down Senate Bill 5, and roar that we will not stand meek in the face of the GOP’s dirty war against women. Talk about Queen of Pentacles and Empress energy! Senator Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, Texas instantly became the hero of so many of us here in a state that is all too often seen as nothing more than a hateful backwater filled with hicks and idiots. She is the ultimate fierce warrior queen defending our constitutional rights with her strength, bravery and grace (and fabulous hair!). Huge love to Senator Leticia Van De Putte also for her huge heart and hard work, standing up to her male colleagues and making her voice heard. Not only that, but upon waking we discovered that not only had SB5 been defeated, but that also that the Defense of Marriage Act had been killed! Today is a great day for equality, and for activism – and this is only the beginning of the fight. Stay strong, stalwart sisters! Savor the sweet fruits of your labors, and the taste of victory!
I hope your Summer Solstice, and the recent full moon has been treating you kindly, and that your life is full of sweetness, and that all the good things that you are working on come to fruition. What did you do to celebrate? What seeds are you planting for the future?
Here’s some more inspiration regarding moons, strawberries, and some May Queens thrown in for good measure:
And, some Summer solstices of yore:
by Angeliska on May 31, 2013
It’s Queerbomb time in Austin again, sweethearts! We’re getting ready to flood the streets with beautiful, proud happy queers and queens letting their freaks flags fly gaily in the summer wind, and if you’re in Texas, I hope you’ll come be a part of the magic this year.
What is Queerbomb?
Queerbomb is a Political Rally and Procession. Queerbomb is free to the public. Queerbomb is 100% free from corporate sponsorship. Queerbomb is an all ages event. Queerbomb is all inclusive.
Each June, the month of Stonewall, we stand together to embrace our sexuality, bodies, personalities, art, music, literature and politics, while recapturing pride from corporate sponsorship. We strive for a pride that refuses to put rules on what you can and can’t be proud of, that says every expression, from the spirit to the flesh, is worthy.
To give you an idea of what Queerbomb is like (if you don’t already know!) here are my photos from last year’s event:
See the full set of photos here: QUEERBOMB 2012
Minor Mishap Marching Band makes the Queerbomb procession a magical experience every year!
Everyone loves Hibiscus! The giant walking puppet was inspired by Hibiscus of The Cockettes.
Zombie musicians from the awesome Dead Music Capital Band
Check out the magic from Queerbombs of yore:
by Angeliska on May 21, 2013
It’s springtime, still – just barely, but there are still lots of baby birds hatching out there. Much of the work I’ve been doing on myself over the past few months has been inspired by those little birds, and by another passage in Pema Chödrön’s book, The Places That Scare You – A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times:
For an aspiring bodhisattva, the essential practice is to cultivate maitri. In the Shambala teachings this is called “placing our fearful mind in the cradle of loving-kindness.” Another image of maitri or loving-kindness is that of a mother bird who protects and cares for her young until they are strong enough to fly away. People sometimes ask, “Who am I in this image – the mother or the chicks?” The answer is we’re both: both the loving mother and those ugly little chicks. It´s easy to identify with the babies – blind, raw, and desperate for attention. We are a poignant mixture of something that isn´t all that beautiful and yet is dearly loved. Whether this is our attitude towards ourselves, or our attitude towards others, it is the key to learning how to love. We stay with ourselves and others when we’re screaming for food and have no feathers and also when we are more grown up and more cute by worldly standards.
If you know me, or if you’ve been reading what I write here for awhile, then you know that last year was a pretty traumatic one for me. As the months have passed since the emotional apocalypse of summer and autumn of 2012, I’ve found myself face to face with many hard lessons, many deep challenges. It is these experiences that temper us, that force us to reckon with ourselves, with our pain, our fears. In the belly of the beast, there’s no more running – you either learn what you must, and grow, or keep running for the rest of your life. Or, as Pema puts it, “Do I prefer to grow up and relate to life directly, or do I choose to live and die in fear?” In the midst of all that, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, taking care of myself, keeping myself going even when it seemed and felt impossible. I remember so clearly, that feeling of going through the motions – the hollowness that was with me every day, that seemed like it had become a horribly permanent part of me. I called my dear friend Brett, who has been my sherpa up and down this terrible mountain, having traversed it a few steps ahead of me – I asked him, “When will this hurt go away? Does it ever fade?” He promised me that it did, eventually. I had to trust him on that one, and just keep moving forward. Thankfully, he was right.
You hold an absence
at your center,
as if it were a life.
At some point I I discovered that I was no longer merely just going through the motions – my life had changed, had been irrevocably altered, and I had found a way to accept and flow with those changes, as difficult and painful as they were (and often still are.) For the first time in months, when someone would ask me how I was, I could honestly answer, “I’m doing pretty good, actually…” It was an amazing feeling, to be able to say that, and realize that it was true. Slowly, slowly, my heart had knitted itself back together. It was like the first drops of rain on parched earth after a long and brutal drought. Little green tendrils unfurled and began to reach out shyly, to climb and twine around – exploring this unknown territory. The healing took place almost invisibly, and so in some ways, I think I took it for granted. I was so used to being miserable and in pain for so long, that the day things started to ease up and turn around, I found it tempting to plunge headlong into just feeling good, into being okay. I met someone, and fell in love – something I had imagined was impossible, unfeasible, or at least – highly unlikely. I was terrified to extend myself, to try and learn how to trust again, to believe in the possibility of love. It was scary, but also exhilarating – like I imagine learning how to ice skate might be. I’ve never tried it, but I imagine that I would be mostly not very graceful, wobbly like Bambi, falling over – hopefully laughing, hopefully not breaking anything. One day, (on the morning of the explosive full moon in Libra back in March) we had a… I don’t even know what it was – cataclysm of sorts? I didn’t take it so well. In fact, I freaked out pretty badly. In an instant, the happy bubble of contentment I’d constructed was suddenly burst, and I tumbled out onto the hard ground. My reaction was shocking – especially to myself. I thought I had been doing such a good job of nurturing myself, healing myself, being patient and kind to myself – and yet, here I was right back in that dark pit of despair and self-recrimination. In a flash, all the work I’d done on having a good and loving relationship with myself seemed to evaporate like dew on a hot day – I felt rejected and thrown away, a feeling that has been a recurring theme I’ve battled a lot in my life, but particularly often this year. Instead of lashing outward (okay, mostly), I lashed inward – I was literally slapping myself in the face over and over, calling myself stupid. Stupid for loving, for trusting, for believing that things could be good, that I could have love. I was so angry at myself for allowing myself to be so vulnerable again, for being so raw, for letting myself get hurt. I realized that I was still not fully healed, too unsteady and new to all this, too prone to mistakes. Instead of being gentle and kind to myself on that hard day, I was very mean indeed. I was impatient, infuriated and embarrassed that I could be back in this state of deep pain. All of a sudden, I was the baby bird again, falling out of the nest. I thought I had grown, my fine feathers had come in finally and I imagined that I could fly – but no. Instead I toed that helpless lumpen bit with my boot, and kicked it over into the grass for the mercilessly biting red fire-ants of self-loathing to torture and devour.
You know, baby birds are really ugly. They’re actually hideous: half-blind squinty eyes in purple sockets that look like a boxer’s swollen shiners, that translucent, testicular skin stubbled with needle-like feathers poking through, their gaping yellow maws squawking unceasingly for food. “I want! I want! I hurt! I hurt!” So hungry, so needy, so pathetic. And yet, like Pema says – their mamas love them dearly, unconditionally, without reserve or judgement for their babies’ outcast state, their bootless cries. The mamas are there, protecting, feeding, comforting. As children, of course we look to our mothers to do this for us, or sometimes our fathers too – but as adults, most of us never learn to do it for ourselves. It’s hard, when you’re nothing but a splattered mess on the asphalt, to pick yourself back up, and tenderly cradle that ugly part of yourself. To feel compassion for your flaws, your weaknesses – instead of disgust and shame. How can we allow ourselves to be the tiny nestling, and rise up to being the capable adult, simultaneously? That’s the trick – that is the work. Being totally present with ourselves in that raw and frantic place is usually too overwhelming, too awful – we reach immediately for distraction, for panacea, for something that will make that noisy and annoyingly achy part of ourselves shut the hell up. Whatever the thing is that usually seems to work for us, be it booze, drugs, sex, shopping, television, work – it’s only a temporary fix. The unhappy baby bird is only going to be satisfied by one thing: love. I think I did grasp that part pretty early on, after I lost my mother – that the only replacement for her unconditional mother’s love, was what I learned from fairytales was the next best thing as far as depth and enduring power went: true love, romantic love. Prince Charming, the knight in shining armor, the soulmate, The One. I spent years looking for that elusive concept in all the wrong places, and damaging myself plenty on that thorny path. What I didn’t get, is that it’s not about finding love, about being loved – it’s about loving. My teacher reminded me of this recently, and also – that the majority of the great love songs, when you really listen to them, are about giving love – not receiving it. Of course, how can you give that love to others if you can’t extend it to yourself? It’s just like we’ve been told all our lives, and just like RuPaul says: “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Can I get an amen? It can sound like nothing but an easily cast off feel-good platitude, but that shit is true. You have to be able to give it to yourself first. You have to be enough for yourself at all times. You have to be the one you are looking for. For years, I was like that little bird in the storybook, “Are You My Mother?” trying to find something or someone outside of myself to replace that love that I lost. I didn’t know that I had it in me all that long while – I didn’t know that I was enough.
As painful as my recent tumble from the nest was, as excruciating as all of the hard experiences in my life have been, I am finally starting to feel grateful for them – grateful at least for the lessons, for the opportunities to grow, to learn. As horrid as it was to be back in that shitty, broken place with myself, I eventually eased up. I let the tears fall, without furiously knuckling them away – I held myself, in all my heaviness, my rawness. I listened to my own piercing cries patiently, and tried not to recriminate myself for my sensitivities. I’ve had to learn to be my own mother, my own true love, my own best friend. It sounds kind of lonely, kind of sad – to have to do that for yourself, maybe especially if you actually have a mother, a true love, a best friend. Isn’t that their job? To love you, to be there for you, to never leave you? Maybe so, but who knows if they can always be there, even if they wanted to be. We have to be there for ourselves, first and foremost. Always. As an addendum to this story, you might want to know that the cataclysm that sparked it was relatively brief and peacefully resolved with a currently extremely happy outcome. That’s a good thing – but it’s a challenge to not fall back on a relationship to be the thing that fixes us, makes us feel safe, satisfied, whatever. It’s still up to us to maintain that baseline of self-care regardless of what anyone else in our lives is doing or not doing. I had a powerful experience recently, on my family land: I was laying belly down on the sun-warmed outcropping of pink granite out past the creek, and had the intense sensation of being embraced, being held by the earth. Many times over the years, I’ve encountered well-meaning hippies, who, upon hearing that I lost my mother at a young age, would tell me, “Oh honey, you still have a mom! The EARTH is your mother!” I would sneer at them and explain that the earth wasn’t available to take me bra shopping, make me doll clothes, to teach me all the lady secrets I grew up having to guess at. In this moment, though – I finally felt it, felt that it was true. The earth was cradling me like a little robin’s egg, like an infinitely precious treasure. Never in my whole life, outside of the womb, have I felt so loved, so protected, so cared for and adored. It was amazing – and I know that I was feeling my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother, all the women who lived and died on that ancestral land, reaching out to me through the rock. I feel certain that being able to feel all that was a gift that I was able to receive because of how much I’ve been trying to understand this lesson. Knowing that I can reach within, and at any time, access that deep unconditional love is the greatest gift I could ever imagine. I have been looking for this answer for almost as long as I’ve been alive. It was here all the time. What if we could all hold that fullness, instead of an absence, at our centers – all of the time? As if it were a life. Because it is. Stretch out those fledgling wings, little thing.
Weird But True: The Secret to Dealing With Those Things Called “Feelings” – I stumbled across this post when I was researching writing this piece, and I’m so glad I did. There’s a really important story here, that I’ve been really impacted by. Please read.
Are You My Mother?
by Angeliska on May 1, 2013
Calloo, callay, it’s May Day! I’ve been fighting off the annual Scorpio moon lethargy that apparently strikes me every year – strange but true, I find myself struggling to climb a seemingly endless mountain of correspondence, household chores, gardening et cetera and never seeming to make much progress in my Sisyphean toils! Finally, I just gave myself three days off to come back to myself, have some quiet time to hack away at my gargantuan to-do list and feel better in general about everything. I feel like I am finally emerging from the cocoon I enveloped myself in last year: a full cycle’s turning, and here I am, pumping blood into my sticky wings, preparing for flight. It’s taken some doing to pull the shreds of tattered chrysalis from my eyes, to shed my old skin – stubborn bits of shroud still cling to me here and there. I am trying to be more patient with myself, to give myself the time that I need to sit a breathe a bit, to unfurl slowly, to learn what this next chapter is all about. The recent Pink Moon waxed full on the 25th, and we honored it with a Beltaine bonfire, traditional spring songs and ritual. The past two full moons (in Libra and then in Scorpio) have cast a bright and discerning eye upon relationships and partners, old and new. I have learned more about myself and the way that I engage in my relationships in the past six months than I ever did in the past six years. Or, perhaps the learning was happening then too – building up layers of sedimentary understanding and awareness. I’m learning much from my mistakes. I won’t say any of it has been easy, but it has been enormously rewarding to put these lessons into practice and see them work. Last year’s Scorpio full moon was all about letting things go. I can stand back now, and see how hard that process was for me, how much I’ve had to let go of this year – and yet, now, I’ve come to have a modicum of peace, even for some of those more painful endings. I wasn’t sure how the eclipse and all the various intense celestial aspects would affect me personally, but was fairly relieved to have a bit of calm, a little room to breathe and grow in the wake of this stormy past year. And what’s more – what a wonder it is to have found some happiness there, as well. Beltane is a time of rejoicing, of celebrating – a time to take your lover by the hand and lead them out to the fields, out to the woods, to do “that which love commands”! I’ve been meditating much on two cards from the tarot that have come up a lot of me this year, and that are also associated with Beltane: the 4 of wands and The Lovers. The 4 of wands is a favorite cards of mine: it’s such a beautiful image of celebration, of what happens when you set your energy and passion forth to build a solid foundation for your projects and endeavors. This card is all about setting the table, building the altar, garlanding your life with flowers. It’s clearing off your desk and lighting candles in your studio. Creating a joyous and harmonious space to do the work you were meant to do. Without the stability of the four, wands fire energy can be ungrounded, formless, all talk – the four says, “I have arrived! I belong, and I’m here to stay (and celebrate!)”. It’s the wedding – whether between two lovers, or between you and your commitment to your passion, to whatever it is you love most – be it your work, your creative path, your home, community or family. In honor of this card, I finally cleaned up my absurdly messy house – I cleared the rooms, and burned sage and copal and rose petals. Making the space ready for good work to happen in! The Lovers card has been on the altar in my studio for a long time, and a few months ago, I almost took it down – deciding that I’d had enough of trying to figure out this card in my own personal life. The universe had other plans for me, and I’m still here grappling with that eternal question: the union of opposites, the alchemical marriage, learning what the dualities have to teach each other in that cosmic, tantric firework-sparkling explosion of pheromones and spirit. Turns out it’s not as simple as I once thought – no surprise that humans have been trying to figure out what this love thing is for centuries, and perhaps are no closer to having any real answers… Though I will say this – I have learned more about love and relationships (not just romantic ones, either) from my counselor and teacher, Jason Fischer. He wrote a book that came out a few months ago, that have been a major part of of me understanding so much better how to make my relationships a lot less painful and a lot more extraordinary.
I highly recommend spending some time with this one if you’ve got questions about love and relationships: The Two Truths about Love: The Art and Wisdom of Extraordinary Relationships
Also, in the spirit of that sexy (now waning) full moon, and this fertile and lusty love festival, a beautiful love letter from Henry Miller to Anais Nin, showing us how it’s done: Now that is how you write a Love Letter
“Full Pink Moon – April This name came from the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Other names for this month’s celestial body include the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and among coastal tribes the Full Fish Moon, because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.” – from the Farmer’s Almanac
Some rundowns on the celestial significance of this Full Moon and eclipse, from a few of my favorite astrologer/writers:
Full Moon and Lunar Eclipse in Scorpio April 25th 2013 from the always wonderful Mystic Mamma
Lunar Eclipse in Scorpio – April 2013 – Testing Times from Leah Whitehorse, who is a brilliant.
Some history & lore of Beltane…
Beltane, and its counterpart Samhain, divide the year into its two primary seasons, winter (Dark Part) and summer (Light Part). As Samhain is about honoring Death, Beltane, its counter part, is about honoring Life. It is the time when the sun is fully released from his bondage of winter and able to rule over summer and life once again.
Beltane, like Samhain, is a time of “no time” when the veils between the two worlds are at their thinnest. No time is when the two worlds intermingle and unite and the magic abounds! It is the time when the Faeries return from their winter respite, carefree and full of faery mischief and faery delight. On the night before Beltane, in times past, folks would place rowan branches at their windows and doors for protection, many otherworldly occurrences could transpire during this time of “no time”. Traditionally on the Isle of Man, the youngest member of the family gathers primroses on the eve before Beltane and throws the flowers at the door of the home for protection. In Ireland it is believed that food left over from May Eve must not be eaten, but rather buried or left as an offering to the faery instead. Much like the tradition of leaving of whatever is not harvested from the fields on Samhain, food on the time of no time is treated with great care.
When the veils are so thin it is an extremely magical time, it is said that the Queen of the Faeries rides out on her white horse. Roving about on Beltane eve She will try to entice people away to the Faeryland. Legend has it that if you sit beneath a tree on Beltane night, you may see the Faery Queen or hear the sound of Her horse’s bells as She rides through the night. Legend says if you hide your face, She will pass you by but if you look at Her, She may choose you. There is a Scottish ballad of this called Thomas the Rhymer, in which Thomas chooses to go the Faeryland with the Queen and has not been seen since.
The beginning of summer heralds an important time, for the winter is a difficult journey and weariness and disheartenment set in, personally one is tired down to the soul. In times past the food stocks were low; variety was a distant memory. The drab non-color of winter’s end perfectly represents the dullness and fatigue that permeates on so many levels to this day. We need Beltane, as the earth needs the sun, for our very Spirit cries out for the renewal of summer jubilation.
Beltane marks that the winter’s journey has passed and summer has begun, it is a festival of rapturous gaiety as it joyfully heralds the arrival of summer in her full garb. Beltane, however, is still a precarious time, the crops are still very young and tender, susceptible to frost and blight. As was the way of ancient thought, the Wheel would not turn without human intervention. People did everything in their power to encourage the growth of the Sun and His light, for the Earth will not produce without the warm love of the strong Sun. Fires, celebration and rituals were an important part of the Beltane festivities, as to insure that the warmth of the Sun’s light would promote the fecundity of the earth.
Beltane marks the passage into the growing season, the immediate rousing of the earth from her gently awakening slumber, a time when the pleasures of the earth and self are fully awakened. It signals a time when the bounty of the earth will once again be had. May is a time when flowers bloom, trees are green and life has again returned from the barren landscape of winter, to the hope of bountiful harvests, not too far away, and the lighthearted bliss that only summer can bring.
Beltane translated means “fire of Bel” or “bright fire” – the “bale-fire”.
– from witchvox.com
Chloe – Ellen Rogers I love Ellen’s work so, so much – she is magic.
One year, I hope to set up an actual Maypole for dancing around with ribbons, but until then singing around the bel-fire suffices nicely. We sang Hal-an-tow (the term “halan” means “calends,” or first of the month, and “tow” means “garland”.) and the Staines Morris song. Amy Annelle taught us the words and lead us in the singing of these sacred songs.
“The green calendar of spring has many songs. dances and shows, particularly around the opening days of May. Here and there are clear traces of old cults and superstitions (well-dressing against droughts, etc.) but generally their original meaning is lost. So the customs are transformed into ritual spectacles, festivities, distractions, opportunities for a good time, such as the old May Games that once comprised four sections: the election and procession of the May king and queen: a sword or Morris dance of disguised men; a hobby horse dance; a Robin Hood play. The Hal-an-Tow song was sung for the procession that ushered in the summer.”
Hal-an-tow, jolly rumbalow
We were up long before the day-O
To welcome in the summer,
To welcome in the May-O
For summer is a-coming in
And winter’s gone away-O
“Come ye young men, come along
With your music, dance and song
Bring your lasses in your hands
For tis that which love commands
Then to the Maypole haste away
For ’tis now our holiday
It is the choice time of the year
For the violets now appear
Now the rose receives its birth
And the pretty primrose decks the earth”
– Staines Morris Dance
– Shirley Collins – Staines Morris
Wonderland : The Pink Saint by Kirsty Mitchell
“Kirsty Mitchell’s late mother Maureen was an English teacher who spent her life inspiring generations of children with imaginative stories and plays. Following Maureen’s death from a brain tumour in 2008, Kirsty channelled her grief into her passion for photography. She retreated behind the lens of her camera and created Wonderland, an ethereal fantasy world. The photographic series began as a small summer project but grew into an inspirational creative journey.’Real life became a difficult place to deal with, and I found myself retreating further into an alternative existence through the portal of my camera,’ said the artist.”
– Woman, 36, who lost mother to brain cancer creates breathtaking fantasy land photo series in her memory
These two images call up the Queen of May for me, the priestess of all that is blossoming, and the wildness of sap rising, Persephone returned to the garden after months int he underworld.
Wonderland : The Beautiful Blindness of Devotion by Kirsty Mitchell
I love this image of the Congo hills made pepto-bismol – Mosse’s work is really amazing:
“Irish photographer Richard Mosse is known for his restraining and highly aestheticised views of sites associated with violence and fear, such as his 2008 depictions of the war in Iraq, and his large-scale photographs of aeroplane crash sites. For his new series, Infra, Mosse used Kodak Aerochrome – an infra-red film designed in the 1940s to assist the U.S. military in detecting camouflage – to photograph the people and landscape of the Eastern Congo. The film reveals a spectrum of light beyond what the human eye can perceive, turning the lush, green landscape of the Congo into a bubblegum pink. The photographs investigate the severe circumstances within which the people of the Eastern Congo live and draw our attention to the complex social and political dynamics of this region of the world.”
Who knew that inside this flower exists a magical being? Well, now you know!
My friend Lily Rose Love wrote this today, and it was too wonderful not to share here:
“On May first when I was a little girl my folks and I would make up baskets and baskets – lots of little baskets of flowers and drive the seven miles into town to surprise old ladies. I don’t know if they made up this tradition, or if anyone else did this, but we would go up to the houses where we knew little old ladies lived all by themselves, leave the bouquets on the porch or hanging from the doorknob, ring the bell, and then run and hide in the bushes. Sometimes they were confused, sometimes they seemed to be expecting it, but they were always so happy and all smiles when my dad and I popped up out of their hedges with our matching blonde curls. Happy May Day.”
Dance in the gardens, lovelies. Hop over the bonfire and make a bright wish. Take your lover by the hand.
Here are a few choice soundtracks for doing just that:
Beltanes and moons of yore: