by Angeliska on July 9, 2015
I started writing this almost a year ago:
Take a picture of a dark room at 4am, slap a filter on it, capture a ghost. Take a picture of your insomniac, restless spirit, up tossing and turning way past midnight. Take a picture of a tree that falls in the woods and no one hears it, of fragments of dreams, of memories of past travels, old loves, friends you haven’t talked to in years, time rushing too fast to write all the letters, make all the calls, say all the words, see all the things, read all the books, sing all the songs, learn every language, play every instrument, master every skill. Sand running in the glass & gritty in my bed but not in my eyes from Mr. Sandman. This is the time of night when I’m wide awake and thinking of all the dear ones I love, and I’d call to tell you do but everyone else in the world is sleeping soundly now. Maybe now that I’ve transcribed that from my brainpan, I can finally get some rest.
I couldn’t sleep. Something made me rise naked and wild-eyed from my bed, leaving the warmth of my companion, who was sleeping soundly. I went into my studio almost in a trance, and walked straight over to a stack of my old journals. I grabbed them up, wrapped myself in a shawl, sat at the kitchen table with one lamp on, and started to read. The restlessness in me woke something else up, too. A lot of unanswerable questions that I’m still grappling with about time, and memory, and why we write. This is the pinhole, the aperture. A starting place that has been opening back up very, very slowly.
There is a space that exists, in the interim of a long period of silence. It is a black hole that has a force, a velocity to it. It sucks many things into its centre, into that place of nothingness, of no words. It is like what happens between two friends who go a long time without speaking. You mean to pick up the phone, to write that letter – in fact, you think of it every day. It nags at you with an insistence, and yet – the silence, the space it takes up, begins to take on a shape of its own. Intentions, excuses, memories, resentments, fragments of your last interaction all fall into it, and congeal into a bogeyman made up of all these disparate thoughts. It takes a certain kind of will, a bravery – to stand at the lip of that void and boldly shout a long overdue HEY! Or whisper a tentative hello.
I’ve been quiet in this space I keep for writing, for sharing, for a lot of reasons. Until this moment, all those reasons kept me from being able to break the seal on that silence. There was just too much. What do you say to the friend who you think of every day, but for whatever reason, just can’t or don’t talk to for a while? Those weeks stretch into months, and then it just becomes more and more awkward to explain where you’ve been, what you’ve been doing instead of getting in touch, reaching out. How do you begin? Perhaps like this:
Soooo… The reason I didn’t write for so long is because I’ve just had a lot going on – too much to really explain or get into here, and also, well… To be honest, I’ve really been thinking about our friendship, and questioning a lot of things in myself, and making up a lot things that I decided you were probably thinking, and then questioning the reality of your existence at all. I know it’s been six months. I’m sorry if you missed me. I thought about you a lot.
How do you say all of that to the invisible friend, the reader, whoever you are? The reader is not a who – and though right at this moment, you are the reader. Though, you specifically are not who I refer to when I try to write about this idea of friendship. I dearly want to come back to that idea, but I have to address it with this construct that I can’t really have an actual dialogue with. I mean, this whole thing started in a way, as so many people just whistling in the dark. That’s how I’ve always seen it: tossing things out in the void, into the ether. A golden record sent out into space, a love letter to distant civilizations, intelligent lifeforms. The echo of the Bulgarian folk singing that stirs my soul so profoundly potentially catching the ear of some errant alien searching for signs of life. It began as a way to connect with friends. There were other people out there, in the night, staring at their own computers. People you knew and people you didn’t, but suddenly, there was this sense of caring. It felt like more than just endless scrolling, scanning, reading, clicking, commenting, engaging, interacting. A community formed. Many of the people I met through this medium during that time have become true friends. Real life friends. I’ve been grateful for the way this technology gives us a window into each other’s lives, helps us stay close – even when we’re physically distant. So, this has place where I keep my friends (even those I have never met) abreast of my doings, thinkings, musings. Only connect! That has been my motto in all of this. I remember, in a time before email – I had penpals. I loved receiving letters from people all over the world – feeling like time and space were traversable, foldable, insignificant. This has been a way of doing that, too.
“Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its highest. Live in fragments no longer.”
― E.M. Forster, Howards End
But then, I stopped connecting. Stopped really wanting to. I wasn’t reading blogs much, anymore – even my those written by dear friends, who I loved reading about. If I didn’t have the energy to engage in that way, why assume that anyone else did, anymore? We are just mirrors in the dark. I had to really sit with and examine this assumption that I have, or had, a wide readership, who somehow cared whether I wrote about my dead mom every August the 8th, or about my trip to Colombia last summer, or the adventure that I had with my Grandfather in Serbia in 2005, right before Katrina. I mean, I want to write about these things for me, for myself – as a document, a testament, a processing. I’ve always thought that if anyone else gets something out of the the things I share here, well – what a terrific bonus that is…! It’s that tree falls in the woods thing, though. Wanting what you do to make a sound. Have some kind of effect. And yet I know that somehow, this thing that I come here to do sometimes does matter – every once in awhile. It’s knowing that my solipsistic wonderings and wanderings do help people out there, from time to time. Friends, and friends I haven’t yet met. Who do we write for? An unseen audience, the mysterious reader, or even just my friends and family who I know like to keep up with me. That idea, though. I think you have to have it, in some way, if you are going to write. You have to start pouring the words out as if it doesn’t matter who sees it. Dance like no one’s watching. But the voice crying in the wilderness does want to be heard, to be read. And so. But where does it all go? Into the little leather and brocade diary you keep in your handbag and carry around with you everywhere? Sometimes, yes. I used to have a secret wish, combing through antique stores when I was a kid (and still do, even now) that I would come across someone’s diary. A dusty testament of life from another time. I think the phenomenon of journaling online felt like that to me, a little bit. Stumbling upon a portal into another world.
“I inherited a dark wood to which I seldom go. But a day will come when the dead and the living change places. Then the wood will begin to stir. We are not without hope. The most serious crimes remain unsolved despite the efforts of many policeman. In the same way there exists, somewhere in our lives, a great love, unsolved. I inherited a dark wood but today I am going into another wood, the bright one. Every living thing that sings, wriggles, oscillates, and crawls! It is spring and the air is very strong. I have a degree from oblivion’s university and am empty-handed as the shirt on the clothesline.”
— Madrigal, by Tomas Tranströmer
“This is what I believe: That I am I. That my soul is a dark forest. That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest. That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self, and then go back. That I must have the courage to let them come and go. That I will never let mankind put anything over me, but that I will try always to recognize and submit to the gods in me and the gods in other men and women. There is my creed.” – D. H. Lawrence
This is the very first thing, the only thing I’ve written here, in this space, so far this entire year. It’s July. You know what’s interesting to me? That not one person has asked, (directly or indirectly) about why I stopped writing here for more than half a year – and in a way that’s been totally liberating. To not feel a responsibility to write. To anyone. No deadlines, no readers. To let go of this ridiculous and egotistic idea that I had some vast and far-flung readership who sit clicking the refresh button on their browser with baited breath in hopes that I’ll finally get my head out my my ass and just write something again. I mean, there are scores of dead and abandoned blogs out there, to be sure. There are people whose writing I adored reading online, who one day just winked out of existence. Not that they died, necessarily – but that they no longer shared themselves with the world at large in that way. The portal closed. Maybe another portal in their lives opened up that made that urge unnecessary, or impossible. A child, a relationship, a job, travel, illness. A Russian conglomerate that buys your journaling platform and turns it into a sinking ship that everyone eventually bails off of. Other platforms for sharing that rise up like mushrooms to take the place of those communities. Now we can stay connected in 140 characters, in newsfeeds populated with nonsense, in small square images, photographs only ever viewed on hand held devices.
I think it was this thought, this analogy – about connection and disconnection – about that heavy friend silence that I know so well, that’s even making it possible for me to type out these words right now. I mean – this same thing has been happening in other corners of my life as well: so, so many emails and letters and phone calls all gone unanswered. How to explain that it’s just not personal, that it is occurring across the board – because in some other long neglected area of my life, something strange and undefinable has been happening. It has been a somewhat conscious (if not wholly strategic) withdrawal. Into the cocoon. Away from certain kinds of obligation to external energy, to people, to organizations, to all the places where for a very long time, I’ve been expending my vital juice. Sometimes, you have to just unplug from everything. Shut down the system – identify the sources of the drain, investigate how to tap into a more sustainable source of energy, and REBOOT. This has been taking some time. I suppose that there’s some irony in this computer metaphor – because that’s been part of the problem, really. I haven’t had much desire to spend a lot of time sitting on the computer, staring at a screen, typing on a keyboard. It stopped feeling real to me – it stopped feeling like living. The truth is, though – I haven’t actually stopped writing at all. In fact, I have been writing more, or more consistently then ever, maybe. This hasn’t been a case of writer’s block. I have a writing group I go to once a week where I hammer out a lot of the stories and truths that don’t necessarily belong here. Yet. Or ever. I started taking some amazing writing workshops, and returning to writing by hand, to journaling, to writing things that are only for me, at least for now. Maybe they will exist only on paper, in books. Books that you can buy, and take home with you. Sit with over tea. I’m working hard on something write now – a big dream that I’ve wanted to make real for most of my life. It’s going to take a lot of focus and hard work, real dedication and discipline to make it happen. If I can find time to squeeze in something here and there in this place, I will. I want to. I have been also deeply questioning my desire and intention to share my thoughts and writing online, in a public space – here. I’ve just wanted to live in the moment, without documenting it. To be in my body and the present moment more completely than I’ve ever been able to before.
It has taken a long time for me to feel ready to try to crystallize any of what I’ve had floating around in my head into some kind of honey I feel might be worth sharing. But a few little signs have appeared to me here and there that indicate it might be a good moment to dip my toe in. A swirl of black ink, making arabesques in the water before it dissipates, disappears. The thing is, I’m ready to say hello now, but I don’t know when I’ll have time to write about all the things I’d like to write about here. So many things I’d like to share! For months and months, I haven’t known what to say. I haven’t wanted to sit alone in front of the computer. I’ve been thinking so much though, about this solitary work we do together. I’ve come back to my hands, to blank books made of paper, to writing on the page with ink. I had to re-think. About why I needed to come here, in the night. Why you might. Why anyone comes here, to read these words. Writing sometimes flows out of me like water. Other times it feels like an old mule turning a rusty wheel. The wheel that turns time. For a long time, I only wrote to honor the turning of the seasons. Solstices, Equinoxes. Happenings, and travels. Deaths and the anniversaries of deaths. I only felt moved to write to mark the passage of time. Everything else fell away. The quotidian. My urge to share links, information, pretty things. I’ve always been the archivist. The truth is that for most of my life, I’ve felt very lonely. I think that’s true for a lot of people, even if we might be loath to admit it. We live in such an isolated way, these days. It’s not surprising that we find ways like this, to try and bridge that gap. Shouting to one another from opposite sides of the abyss. Helllooooo! Is anybody out there? The big thing is that I’m learning out to hang out with the echoes. To be okay with my own company. To be alone, and for once – not feel so lonesome on my own. This is big work, and it’s changing me. It’s changing the way I write, and why I write. Where I write. How I share. This feels like a such a jumble of fragmentary thoughts and ideas that I’ve honestly been wrestling with for way too long. Will anyone actually read it, or particularly care? I guess you know, if that’s what you’re doing now – and I’m grateful to you for reading this far. I can’t worry about that part anymore though. I’m just glad I have a place to put these thoughts – so I can stop spinning in circles about it, and hopefully feel free to share something else, anything else. Who knows what, or when. But the seal is broken, and the door is open again. Let’s see what comes through, yes?
I can be alone,
I know how to be alone.
There is a tacit understanding between my pencils
and the trees outside;
between the rain
and my luminous hair.
The tea is boiling:
my golden zone,
my pure burning amber.
I can be alone,
I know how to be alone.
– Nina Cassian
Star-heart Jesus in Brooklyn. A little sidewalk grotto in front of a brownstone, on a pretty quiet street. I was coming back from seeing Nick Cave play in the park. This was a happy accident. Forgot I had the flash on, turned it off and took a few others. Only later realized that it illuminated his sacred heart perfectly.
“The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake a night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.” – T. H. White
p.s. This post is dedicated to Minty, in Liverpool. I didn’t know you that you existed, until a few days ago. Chance, the synchronicity of connection, and very magical circumstance brought the fact that you do to my attention – and it was this that gave me the kick in the pants I so needed to come back and write here again. Thank you so much for reading. It means more to me than you know.
by Angeliska on December 31, 2014
Right now, I am standing on the brink between one year and the next, and for the first time in a long time – I feel totally different. The long, long ago feels a lot farther away. So much has shifted for me this year: internally and externally – and though I am far from being able to really process it all and come to any place of deep understanding about what all these changes will really bring, I feel strangely at peace. This year has been truly wild, in so many ways. I learned so much. I let go of things that meant a lot to me. I got rid of a decade’s worth of physical junk that I didn’t need. I stopped doing some things, and began others. I thought about where I put my energy, and made big decisions regarding my approach. I lost a lot, and I gained a lot. I witnessed so much pain, and also – so much jubilation. I went on incredible adventures. I pushed my boundaries, and found that sometimes you have to sit with being completely uncomfortable before you can really get anywhere. My heart broke, and broke again. I loved so hard and so blindly that I allowed myself to get very lost. My dear friend Charity wrote this to me the other day, and it helps me to read, so I’ll put it here:
“I think you’re amazing, of course, and no one can convince you of that, but there it is.
When someone leaves you, or a relationship fails right when you’re ready for it to succeed,
all we can do is examine the ruins… Which feels shitty, especially when you want to do the
good work at building palaces and love grottoes. Oy, timing.”
There’s a quote this makes me think of (I think of it often, actually) taught to me by my friend Nica: it’s from the novel “Mating” by Norman Rush, and it goes: “He said, There is a school of thought, a heresy from the madhouse of heresies in the ninth century, that says God is good and is in control of every individual thing that happens, every event, but that unfortunately the devil is in control of timing. Hence, gaffes. Hence, the actually existing world.”
Hence, broken hearts. It’s hard to think there could ever be any wrong in too much love – but what is love, and what is longing? It’s time to finally know the difference, and to learn something about really being alone. Being with myself. Going into the dark cave of the soul, into the ruins, the ancient temple. It’s humbling to be so blind and naked: groping and stumbling in the dim – reading the hieroglyphic stories written long ago, those old scripts. I know now that they can be re-written, amended, edited – into something that serves the higher self better. Those stories from our past don’t have to define us any longer. Not if we’re willing to do the work to heal ourselves. In the dark night, I listened to what the bitter medicine had to tell me, and – at some point, I’ll be coming out the other side. Wiser, maybe. I hope. Stronger, I think. Something about being shattered over and over again will eventually take you to a place where you just no longer fear it the way you used to. Maybe. I’m looking into what happens to us when we really start letting go. What happens when we truly surrender control? Strange things. Amazing things. I feel as if all of these brilliant, golden balls of possibility have been suddenly tossed up into the air, and set into motion: for the first time in a long time, life does truly seem limitless. Anything could happen now. Anything! This is a time for wish work – for manifesting. The future from this point forward feels wide open: the perfect place for a bright comet to streak through, trailing stardust, cosmic debris – all the stuff we are made of. It could be you and me up there, flying through the stratosphere. If you want it. It’s a little shocking, every time another layer of the blinders we tend to shutter ourselves with gets removed. It’s kind of crazy how willfully, how almost intentionally, we can hold ourselves back from flight, from rising – from doing everything we were born to do. It doesn’t have to be like that, you know. The cage is open, and you can fly out whenever you want.
They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
― Andy Warhol
This is the first time in several years that we won’t be gathering out in Lone Grove for New Year’s Eve. Feels strange to admit it, to acquiesce – but the weather gods are not cooperating with us, currently! Mother Nature has conspired to invite Jack Frost and the Snow Queen to visit the Hill Country, and though cold is something we can totally handle – icy roads and sleety freezing rain might make for a miserable and potentially dangerous situation. We’re planning to reconvene out there for 12th Night, and the full moon, instead. Old country magic will still happen – just a few days later… We’ve been so lucky with the weather for so long – I guess there had to be some tests of faith thrown in there. Seems like there’s been a lot of those this year, eh? It’s really forced me to learn to be flexible, to go with the flow, and to seek out my internal resources to ensure that no matter what – I can gain something from whatever is happening. I’ve been working on that whole “relinquishing attachment to the outcome” thing for a little while now, and I’m really hoping that I’m starting to get better at it. It’s so easy to fall back into habits, into rigidity, into making demands that the universe fit neatly into the palm of your hand – right when you want it. But I’m beginning to learn that if I open up and trust a little bit – if I speak more softly and whisper my heartfelt requests, well… Good things can and will happen, of their own accord. Often in the most surprising ways. It pains me to change plans – to go against the traditions I’ve held so firmly to for years. But the reed that resists the river, breaks. And I’m voting for no unnecessary suffering for 2015. This past year has held more than enough. So, on New Year’s Eve this year, I’ll be (literally) in a glittering gold dust wonderland, created by dear friends, and ideally – enjoying the dazzle of a party I’m not responsible for! What liberation – what a delight! The theme is one very close to my heart: “a gilded explosion of glamour and light, channeling Biba style, the Egyptian Revival, the 1920s Golden Age of sequins and stockings, golden disco balls & golden dance halls, Ziggy Stardust, the sun, the stars, the dawn, the Golden Eye, the Gold Rush, and the transformation of everything dark into everything bright.” I mean. How can I resist that? Lead into gold: spirit alchemy, and unexpected transformations. Bend, go, trust, flow. There are blessings undreamed of, awaiting us. I know it.
So, ironically, I set out this year to write all about winter, and community, and what the cold has to teach us – during a year where the (quite extreme and unreasonable) cold is keeping us home. I want to share this excerpt from the essay WATER IMMERSION DAY, by Thea Elijah. The entire essay is amazing, and I have read it aloud to the gathered circle for the past two Winter Solstices. It’s been really, really helpful to me. This part, especially, though – it encapsulates exactly why it’s so important to me to go out to the country, my ancestral land, every year – in the cold. On the New Year. To gather with friends and family and welcome in the turning. To feel what it is to survive together, to have it seem a little more dire, a little more important than just hanging out, having a party. This feels necessary to me. And this is why:
“That there is some deep self-knowing that comes in winter, that is a holding of the warmth on the inside, and part of what is so good about this holding of one’s warmth on the inside, is the memory of summer, and that summer will return; and the very careful and precious nature of exchange of warmth. This is a precious thing, not be taken lightly, the exchange of warmth. One of the things I love about New England is that if you and one other person are the only two people on the street when it’s thirty below, you definitely smile at each other. You are so happy to see this other person. However, the heart exchanges in this very careful way in winter. It’s not like a summer greeting. It’s a very different greeting, that thirty below kind of greeting. It’s pared down. Talk about love in the cold times. There’s that deep winter from one- living-being-to-another affirmation. Ah, you live. I live. That’s so powerful.
In summer it’s like yeah, you’re alive, I’m alive, ha ha. I mean it’s great, love in the summer, easy in a way. But the holding of this deep winter ‘I live,’ the holding of this deep warmth, and the incredible specialness of how much it means in winter, to be able to greet from that place. Try it for a moment. First be summer. Just be out and about in the room. Yeah, see the whole room changes. Here we are and we’re together and that’s fine. It’s not as special to be sharing warmth in summer. Now draw yourself in. Figure it’s cold and it’s going to be cold for awhile and on some level every single one of us is on our own, because it’s our survival that either will or will not happen in the cold. And then having taken responsibility for that, that paring down, saying o.k., each and every one us, our life in our own safekeeping… it’s not entirely pleasant to feel but I promise, it is salutary. I promise I’m taking you some place that is a health-promoting place. Bear with me, let yourself feel where I’m taking you. I need to protect my survival and that’s up to me. It’s a cold world. And my survival’s mine and I need to hold to this; I am in here. Now each of us having taken responsibility for this light that’s mine, then to look around the room at other lights and say, all right, we can build something together. If your car is stuck I’ll help you. If you need wood. I’ve taken care of mine. I’m alert to my survival. I’m already prepared for mine. I’ve already put in my stores and now I look to the rest of the people, one of whom might have a little bit more wood, one of whom might have a little more food, to feel that very different quality of being ‘in it together’ than the summer way of being in it together.
You feel this in New Englanders in a way that you don’t feel it in Florida folk. This quality of kind of checking each other out as we make alliance with somebody, from a winter mentality. You got any wood put away, buddy? Do you know it’s cold? Or are you just some summer person who doesn’t know about that? Do you know about cold? Are you aware of the coming dark? Do you know about winter? Do you know how cold it can get? There’s a way in which that’s who we want to know in our community. Don’t you want neighbors who also have their own wood stacked up, because they know winter is coming and they know what winter is about and they’re preparing, too? Yes. We are allies: all of us who know about the cold and have prepared. Now I’m ready to be your friend. There’s a wariness. My survival is at stake. I’ll stake it with you if you know my survival is at stake. And your survival is at stake. And yes, I’m willing to pull together, but it’s a very different feeling. It’s not Southern hospitality, because you don’t have to heat down there.
Cold teaches us this responsibility, this awareness. I want to make sure that I’m saying this in a way that really gets across the virtue – there’s the contrast between the whole Southern hospitality thing, and the more Northern quality of wise friendship. We want a friend who knows what winter is, don’t we? We want friends who understand that it can be very cold for a long time. And that’s whose eye you want to meet. The eye with the kind of love that knows that it isn’t necessarily easy. I want to be around people who know that it’s going to snow and they’re going to have to shovel it. This changes a person’s consciousness and it changes the nature of a person’s connections. Cold teaches about conservation of vital resource, what it means to share warmth and share resources when resources are not plentiful, when the sharing of resources is a matter of survival. Is everybody equally aware of that? It matters.”
– Thea Elijah
Okay, so – another irony I have to point out, however – is that it does actually get damned cold down South, and we do seriously have to heat down here! But I guess it’s rarely cold enough to keep us from camping outside in the middle of winter – except for this year… Dammit.
I’ve been thinking about that song, Auld Lang Syne, and how I grew up hearing it sung at New Year’s Eve parties when I was little. I remember being frustrated, because it seemed so important to people, but I didn’t understand what the words meant. It felt poignant, and people would sway together and get teary, and smash their glasses together in drunken toasts, and I’d be so sleepy but wired on the energy around me and wanting to stay up late and be part of it all. I can’t remember ever seeing folks do this, though:
“It is common practice that everyone joins hands with the person next to them to form a great circle around the dance floor. At the beginning of the last verse, everyone crosses their arms across their breast, so that the right hand reaches out to the neighbour on the left and vice versa. When the tune ends, everyone rushes to the middle, while still holding hands. When the circle is re-established, everyone turns under the arms to end up facing outwards with hands still joined.”
I wish people would do that still, and sing the old song again. I like traditions, the old ways. They connect us from here to there, then to now.
Past. Future. Always now.
Here are the words of Auld Lang Syne translated from the original Scots folk verse into a minimalist English:
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and long, long ago?
For long, long ago, my dear,
for long, long ago,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for long, long ago.
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for long, long ago.
We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since long, long ago.
We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since long, long ago.
And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for long, long ago.
Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On Old long syne.
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my friendships, my relationships, lately. Thinking a lot about the surprise of how closeness with those we’ve loved can ebb and flow. People come and go. Someone can be so central to your life, to your everyday notion of existence, and then – one day, just gone. Often it happens slowly: some have babies, and careers and tragedies and depression and television and secrets and gardens and end up with hands full and overflowing with everything that goes into building a life. Some kinds of survival take our full focus. I know now that friendships are an integral part of that survival. But people move away and you never see them again. Maybe we’ll meet on a crowded street corner years from now in a city neither of us live in. Or maybe not. People just stop talking to each other. Stop checking in. Stop inviting each other to parties. Ebb and flow. Sometimes this is discussed, or questioned – and sometimes not. Friends can fall out of our hands like sand, when we’re looking the other way. Connections can be severed, and it can feel so final – so irrevocable. We don’t really speak anymore. The burden of the tangle between us got to be too much to unknot, and we moved on, sailed away. This has always been hard for me. I like to hold on, even when it doesn’t serve me. I think this is because I’ve lost so many people I loved to death. So many. Those faces I’ll never see again. That’s the hardest part – that they are so truly gone. It’s also why I’ve been so happily surprised to find that even estranged friendships, or people I’d thought lost, or even grown distant from myself for one reason or another, can come back around. Be redeemed. Reconnect. Relationships don’t end – they just transform. We grow, we learn, we change. Often for the better. We’re all trying the best we can. Everyone on earth, at every moment, is truly and genuinely doing the very best they can. Sometimes your might curl your lip, and say, “Well, their best seems pretty crappy to me!” But – that is what they have to offer at that moment, given whatever they are equipped with. I’m really trying to remember that, lately. For myself, too. I mess up, so often. Say the wrong thing. React. Get scared. Do the wrong thing. I’m trying to be patient with myself, and with everybody else.
The best thing we can do for each other is try and speak our truths, speak from the heart – and listen honestly and quietly to one another. To do our very best to be kind, to be understanding. I have been working on judgment a lot in the past few years – realizing how harshly I have judged others in my life: people I knew, people I didn’t even know – and how, in the end, my judgements were all about my own fear and sadness. And how, in the end, they hurt me more than the people I judged. I regret this, deeply. I want to change this thing in me. So, I’m putting this here – as a reminder to myself, that the most important thing we have in this life is each other. Our friendships, our communities, our families, our people. I want to deepen the true heart connections with the people I love. I want to be able to be of better service and support to them. The work I do on myself now makes it possible for me to have more to offer to everyone else. Ram Dass actually said it better, here:
“I would say that the thrust of my life has been initially about getting free, and then realizing that my freedom is not independent of everybody else. Then I am arriving at that circle where one works on oneself as a gift to other people so that one doesn’t create more suffering. I help people as a work on myself and I work on myself to help people.”
Happy New Year, friends. May 2015 be a year of filled with wonder, powerful growth, and transformative healing for us all.
I love you. Thank you for reading.
More to read from New Year’s Eves of yore:
✶ YEAR OF THE HORSE
✶ NEW YEAR’S EVE FOXFIRES AT THE CHANGING TREE
✶ FUCK THE PLAN 2012
✶ AN EPICALLY EPIC AND FAIRLY TARDY YEAR IN REVIEW – OR, HOLY SHIT: 2011!
✶ A Bright Blue Wish
✶ New Year’s Redux
✶ Stargazer Honey
✶ Blue Moon
✶ Lone Grove New Year
✶ Pink Moons
✶ The New Year
✶ Lucky Stars and Garters
✶ La Nouvelle Année
by Angeliska on December 21, 2014
Happy Winter Solstice, and new moon in Capricorn. This is a reflective season, a time to go inward and focus on the light within. The regenerative powers of darkness gather around us now, and give us a container to find our own healing in. The long hibernation of woodland animals in their dark dens and caves can teach us something about not stretching ourselves too thin. Now is a time when it is so easy to give in to the relentless hustle and bustle. This is a time to honor the elders, our ancient teachers, and all their experience has to give us. I am calling upon these energies tonight: old man time, the Hermit, the Crone, the wise men and women who came before us. Saturn rules Capricorn, the sign I was born in, and also these powerful archetypes. I am strengthened also now especially by the female energy of all my sisters: warrior women, witches, hearth-tenders, fierce mothers, sorceresses, artists and creators that inspire me every day. This post is dedicated to all of them, to all of you who are reading! Thank you for showing me the way, Solstice Sisters.
“I remember feeling that pieces of me were scattered around the world;
I belonged to her, Mother Earth.”
– Raquel Cepeda
“Just let go. Let go of how you thought your life should be, and embrace the life that is trying to work its way into your consciousness.”
— Caroline Myss
Several of these wonderful images and quotes have been very helpful to me of late. I found them through the good folks at Evolver Social Movement.
Artwork by Vladimir Fokanov
I’ve been going through kind of a dark season, recently. The grey weather and a broken heart make for dim days, even here in Texas. I’ve feel like I’ve been carrying a heavy weight, for many years – and that I’m finally ready to lay it down. Lay down that burden and ask myself honestly why I hell I felt I needed to shoulder it for so long. Saturn is working on me again – that dark teacher. I am ready to learn these lessons now, because I know I can’t continue to live on this earth and truly thrive unless I find a way to fully heal myself. These big shifts are happening across the board, for so many people: this huge opportunity for healing and growth. I’ve found a lot of solace in knowing that I’m not alone in experiencing some profound shifts towards transformation and healing, and that there is apparently quite a powerful celestial precedent for a lot of this intense internal and external movement. Aepril Schaile of Aepril’s Astrology, in particular, has been an incredible source for astrological insights during this time. I have found the wisdom that she shares so generously to be invaluable to this process of deep change that I’m going through. I recently purchased a transit reading from her, and it brought me an amazing amount of understanding, clarity and peace. I recommend her as an astrologer very highly! An in-depth look at your own personal horoscopy can help you learn more about yourself in relation to the cosmic tides, and you can support a small woman-owned business focused on promoting happiness and growth at the same time! Truly: this lady knows her stuff, and delivers the information in a very clear, compassionate and powerful way.
“As I write this post, the Moon moving through her final minutes in Libra on her way into the Dark Goddess sign Scorpio. The last moments of the overtaking Dark are here. The Moon continues to wane before renewing in a powerful cardinal New lunation on Sun the 23rd. Saturn continues to travel through the last degrees of Scorpio before changing signs on the same day. And, the Sun, who has been appearing to diminish in power, is renewed once more on the Solstice, when He appears to stand still and then move again toward glory!
So here it is folks…We’re in it. Anyone who was ANYONE in the world of Myth had to go to the Underworld to gain full Sovereignty. Goddesses, Gods, heroes, heroines…most took a journey of one kind or another into dark and difficult territory in order to come back bigger and better than ever.
In these last few days, it may appear that the Dark is winning. Here’s a secret: it’s SUPPOSED to look that way. We’re supposed to wonder if we have gone too far from the Light, if we will ever heal, if life is worth this battle, if the Sun is ever going to come back to life. That’s a crucial part of the story. The cup has to be emptied in order for it to be able to experience being filled. We have to “not know” in order to seek the knowing. We have to journey out into the Dark in order to experience the Joy of returning home to the Light.”
excerpted from Aepril’s Astrology: Before the Light
“The New Moon happens just two hours after the Solstice, both happening at 0 degrees of Capricorn. Zero degrees of any sign is very powerful, but for a cardinal sign, this packs an extra punch! This is potent moment of both release and intention setting, of calling in AND allowing for space. The space of the quiet of Winter, where the Sun Child (who is ourselves) can develop in infancy; we have entered a state of re-birthed consciousness.
Capricorn has to do with the structures and traditions of the family, and society. Uranus calls on us to awaken to how we really feel about our relationship to this. What needs to awaken, to break through or break out? Capricorn is also an earth sign, and it has to do with manifestation. If we want to continue to manifest what we have, we can keep doing what we are doing. We if need and/or want something different, something has to be done differently. The impetus comes from within, and it comes from the FEELINGS. Go toward what has heart and meaning. There is nothing to “work through” or “figure out”. Haha!
Venus in aspect to Pluto/Uranus invites us to ask ourselves: “If I were someone who truly loved myself, what would I do right now?”
Hint: the Angel does not answer rationally. (If it was rational, you have have thought of it by now.)”
excerpted from Aepril’s Astrology: Nuit Report – Solstice and New Moon!
Photograph by Nyree Mackenzie
“When winter comes to a woman’s soul, she withdraws into her inner self, her deepest spaces. She refuses all connection, refutes all arguments that she should engage in the world. She may say she is resting, but she is more than resting: She is creating a new universe within herself, examining and breaking old patterns, destroying what should not be revived, feeding in secret what needs to thrive.
Winter women are those who bring into the next cycle what should be saved. They are the deep conservators of knowledge and power. Not for nothing did ancient peoples honour the grandmother. In her calm deliberateness, she winters over our truth, she freezes out false-heartedness.
Look into her eyes, this winter woman. In their gray spaciousness you can see the future. Look out of your own winter eyes. You too can see the future.”
“Through the loveliness and power of her dream world she was now, in her old frock and botched shoes, very likely the loveliest, mightiest and most dangerous person on earth.” ― Karen Blixen, Winter’s Tales
I really loved this post/letter from Elizabeth Gilbert:
IN PRAISE OF THE INNER CRONE!
Dear Ones -
OK, we all know about the “inner child”, right? The innocent being who still lives inside of us, who needs and deserves love and care, and whom we sometimes have to channel in order to learn self-compassion?
I’m a big fan of the notion of the inner child. It can be a really healing construct. Once, when I was going through a particularly dark season of self-loathing, I taped a sweet photo of myself (age 2) on my mirror, and taught myself that any harm I did to me, I also did to HER. It made me kinder and more tender to myself. Imagining other people’s inner children makes me kinder and more tender to them.
So the Inner Child is a good thing.
These days, though, I find myself spending less time thinking about my Inner Child, and more time focused on my INNER CRONE — the old lady who lives inside me, whom I hope to someday be.
Because she’s a serious bad-ass.
The really old ladies always are bad-asses. I’m talking about the real survivors. The women who have been through everything already, so nothing scares them anymore. The ones who have already watched the world fight itself nearly to death a dozen times over. The ones who have buried their dreams and their loved ones and lived through it. The ones who have suffered pain and lived through it, and who have had their innocence challenged by ten thousand appalling assaults…and who lived through all of it.
The world is a frightening place. But you simply cannot frighten The True Crone.
Some might consider the word “crone” to be derogatory, but I don’t in the least. I honor it. The crone is a classic character from myth and folklore, and she often the bearer of great wisdom and supernatural power. She is sometimes a guardian to the underworld. She has tremendous vision, even if she is blind. She has no fear of death, which means: NO FEAR.
I keep a wall of photos of some of my favorite crones, for inspiration. The photo below is of a Ukrainian babushka named Hanna Zavorotnya who lives in (get this) Chernobyl. There are a group of about 250 such women — all tough elderly peasants — who have all recently moved back to the radioactive area around Chernobyl.
You know why they live there? Because they like it.
They like Chernobyl because that’s where they came from. They are natural-born farmers, who got kicked off their farms when disaster struck. They hated being refugees.They resented being shunted off their land after the catastrophe. They hated living in the shabby and crime-infiltrated and stress-inducing government housing in the city, and much prefer the independence of living off the land.
So they moved back home — illegally — to the most contaminated nuclear site on earth. They have formed a stupendously resilient retirement community there, in what some would call the world’s most terrifying landscape.
Is it safe? Of course not. Or, whatever. After 90 years of hard living, what does “safe” even mean? (If you survived World War II and Stalin and famine and communism’s ravages, how worried can you be about “safe”?) They drink the water. These women plant vegetables in that radioactive soil and eat them. They butcher the wild pigs that scavenge around the old nuclear power plant, and eat them, too. Their point is: “We are old. What do have to fear from radioactivity? At this age? Who cares?”
All they want is their freedom. So they take care of themselves and each other. They cut and haul their own wood. They make their own vodka. They get together and drink and laugh about the hardships of their lives. They laugh about everything, then they go outside and butcher another radioactive boar and make sausage out of him.
They are living longer and healthier lives than their peers who stayed behind in refugee housing in the cities.
I would put these women in a Bad-Ass Contest against any cocky young alleged Bad Ass you’ve got going, and I guarantee you — the Chernobyl crones would win, hands down. Put the lady in this picture in a survival contest against any Navy SEAL; she will endure longer.
We live in a society that romanticizes youth. We live in a culture where youth is considered a real accomplishment. But when you look at a seriously powerful classic crone like the woman in this photo, you see how foolish we are to obsess over youth — to imagine that the young offer much for us to aspire to, or learn from.
No wisdom like the wisdom of survival. No equanimity like the equanimity of somebody who plants a garden right on top of a nuclear disaster and gets on with it.
So these days, when my Inner Child gets all fluttery with the panic of living, I just ask myself: ” WWMICD?”
“What Would My Inner Crone Do?”
Ask yourself that same question. See what she tells you.
One thing I can promise you she will never say? She will never say: “WORRY.
She will more likely tell you this: “ENDURE.”
So listen to her, and get on with it — get on with the powerful act of LIVING.
Hang in there, all you future awesome crones!
p.s. — and if you want to read more about Hanna and her fellow bad-ass Chernobyl crones, and see more photos, here is a really wonderful article:
Savor, endure, partake, worry not.
Heart true, review, sand to sinew,
Savor, endure, partake worry not.
– wise words that I have taken to heart, from my dear friend FLINT FANCY, a powerful witch, great musician, and badass mother of three.
Artwork by Rebecca Guay
Rebecca Guay’s Dreamlike Paintings Explore Sensuality
Artwork by Zhang Jingna
Zhang Jingna’s Photographs of Fairytale-esque Beauties
“Capricorn tradition and its origin is the Goat “Koza” means Goat and Capricorn the Goat has had a long and sacred tradition on earth within the rituals of our Ancestors. Gwiddon Harveston wrote that one of the typical traditional Koliada (Winter Solstice) songs is…
“It is not just us coming we are leading the Goat Where the Goat will go the grain stock will grow! Where she shakes her tail there will be an abundance of grain. Where goat stomps her hoof they’ll be harvest through the roof! Where goat shakes her horns there will be great huge stack of corn!”
Goat by its nature is full of abundance, she gives milk, she gives us cheeses and meat as well. Capricorn is represented as a Mountain Goat and the Sea Goat was seen in ancient Mesopotamian cultures as Ninurta, the God of Fertility and Agriculture. Unlike his brother Nergal (Mars), Ninurta was seen as firm and reliable, slow and steady in his movement through the sky which ultimately gave him the title… ‘Sun of the Night’ not a return of the light. This links it to the Winter Solstice of the Koliada Wheel of the Sun which burns at Night. Symbolically meaning we are darkened by the season of the night and when we let our light be our strength of our struggles, we learn personal responsibility for our true natures. Our earthly responsibilities in the Winter season can be harsh or difficult and sometimes the quality of how we learn to fight, retreat, bow or flight – is also contributed from our family’s “emotional traditions”.
Try to review how your family or the family you created acts upon emotions or lack of. This moon is the ‘cold moon or month of asking” in a more ancient tone of the Slavs, and for other cultures, about our root primal family relationships. Sagittarius last month was about freedom and learning, which in moon terms, is a big inner struggle. In this moon it is about our core responsibilities to our own healthy choices of how we react (grace) or respond (project), and generally can be a big struggle this moon in Capricorn. Remember moon work means working with oppositions, both the joy and the pain of something with acceptance. Accepting and welcoming struggle or fear in order to heal it, not just asking if to be ‘over and done with’ as soon as possible so no personal involvement or accountability can be contemplated and reviewed of our own nature and behavior. These actions are how we grow spiritually (emotionally) one moon at a time.
Also something else unique is happening – the Capricorn Moon enters at “00 Degree” with is our 3rd of 4 consecutive Moons. This is very rare for four new moons to sit at 00 degrees, and because of such synchronicity, the planets are starting a new beginning in their lunar internal cycle relationships. The planet Saturn, who starts off our Winter Season, as rulership, has nothing to do with lightness, the light or anything else, it is a somber energy, a cold wintry landscape of snow and barrenness, a time of contemplation, quiet and retreat.
These are heavy players of shifting the internal emotional energy, the dreamer’s veils and soul realities of our karmic past lives and its coming relationship.”
– Lunar Dreamology by Phoenix
Here are some links to more Solstice reading, for your delight:
My writings from Winter Solstices of yore:
by Angeliska on November 29, 2014
Olivia Hansson is a very magical lady that I have yet to meet – though I have a strong sense that if we were on the same continent (she lives in Sweden), that we would no doubt enjoy having tea together, telling stories, and frolicking in the countryside. Oh, how I wish – one day! In the meantime, I get to delight vicariously in the photographs of her beautiful life that she shares on Instagram under the name blackbirdandgoose. I admire so much the way she chooses to live in such an intentional way, in deep conversation with the earth and her seasons. There’s something powerful about the clarity and simplicity inherent in being so connected to the land where you live. I love getting to partake secondhand in all the adventures Olivia goes on in the woodlands with her sweetheart Anton, and her dog Foxy. Her good spirit and sweet nature come across so clearly to me, despite the distance.
There’s a fantastic juxtaposition in the depiction of traditions that are so ancient being shown with the wonder of internet-magic in 2014 – a sense of fairy-ring time travelling, perhaps. I think it’s such a gift we can experience a glimmer of what a person’s experience of life is with this strange miracle of technology. Looking at her lovely pictures, I was overcome with curiosity about the stories behind all these marvelous images, and I got inspired to ask if I could do a little interview with her here, and feature some of my favorites from her photo-feed. I often have an urge to write about all the special people that I’ve been so blessed to cross paths with in this life, and then I get overwhelmed with how many amazing folks I know, and don’t know where to begin and then end up just putting it off. I’m making an effort to leap into the present, and into action! I am so delighted that she agreed to let me share these wonders with you – and I hope that you will be similarly heartened by the charms of Olivia’s gorgeous garden and extraordinary existence.
Will you tell us about some of your favorite things? I am so enchanted by your way of life, and curious about your various inspirations, traditions, background, dreams, wishes.
I love being outdoors and foraging for edible foods, and to forage for antique goodies is also a favorite pastime – especially textiles and cumbersome furniture, which we never have space enough to accumulate. Folk costumes and their intricate details is something I never tire of. A home is not complete without a bouquet of flowers or plants indoors. I like to dabble a bit with photography. I’m in love with Instagram – it’s such a positive medium and always gives a perfect dose of daily inspiration. My mother is from Slovakia and when I was a toddler, we even lived in Saudi Arabia for a year and later on in the U.A.E, so I guess my upbringing has had a mashup of different influences and from different cultures. I like my folktales the way my maternal grandmother read them to me, often bloody and with grim endings. I think that love has continued in my inkling towards Slovak artists, that to me always seem a little dark or at least always carry a dark humor. My dream table with my favorite food would be set with a Lebanese buffet! Give me hummus any day and I shall be happy. Anton wooed me by bringing me a jar of homemade hummus with a red ribbon, before we were a couple – he had my heart soon after that. Anton is wonderful. After nearly five years together I still feel blessed having met him and for having him in my life. He is a self-taught woodworker and can turn beautiful bowls. He can sew, cook, empty traps from dead and bloodied mice. He is the optimist when I’m being the pessimist and he always makes me laugh. What can I say? Anton is a keeper! I hope he will stick around forever.
I am totally fascinated by your photos of the the medieval village place where you dress up and work? What is this magical place? What do you do there? It looks so amazing!
I’m terribly sorry to disappoint you but we don’t work in a medieval village, nor does it exist as one place. It only exists in our imagination – ha-ha! No, it is simply a hobby that we share with some friends that are all interested in historical reenactment of the 14th and 15th century. The pictures that you have seen on Instagram are all taken in Visby, a town on an island called Gotland in the baltic sea, where a ”medieval” festival (medieval in the loosest term, mostly a mash up of what popular culture sees as medieval) is held during a week in early August each year. It is a beautiful city with a city wall from the 13th century that still stands and its a lovely event to meet with old friends and strut about in hand-sewn garments. We share a passion for history, especially dress and domestic history and fate has had it that we have focused on the late 15th century in Northern Europe. We are such nerds and proud of it!
Your harvest photos of gathered plenty have completely captivated me. They are so beautiful. I’d love to know more about your garden, and how you learned to cultivate its bounty.
When Anton and I were younger, our parents both had vegetable gardens – but with time they tired of the endless battle with weeds. It’s probably an urge that we have had in our backbones from early childhood memories. A carrot never tastes so good as when you’ve just pulled it up and wiped the earth off on the grass and eat it straight there and then. Nor a fresh pea straight from the pod! Its hard to describe without sounding too much of a cliche but just being out in the garden checking on everything on a daily basis just gives me such a sense of peace and a feeling of being rich on so many levels. Learning has been a trial and error experience and we are still quite new to running our own kitchen garden so everything that has come out right has really been cherished with glittering eyes and commemorated with plenty of pictures. We shall see if we handle ourselves with more cool indifference when we become veterans, but I don’t think the joy of gardening will ever cease. To cultivate the bounty my parents have been great inspirations. We have never bought jam, fruit cordial or apple sauce during my whole life, as we have always had trees and fruit bearing bushes in the garden. Watching my mum and dad preparing such things in the kitchen together has been both beautiful and inspiring. The beekeeping is something that has also been a tradition in the family for four generations – me and Anton being the fourth to take over. We still have much to learn but the harvest is something we have a good grasp on after two seasons of doing it. Everything we grow and everything that we give the bees is environmentally friendly – of course! We dream of including some chickens to the garden next year if we find some time this spring to build a coop.
I love mushrooms, and am especially excited by your mushroom hunting expeditions! I know this is quite a cherished tradition in Scandinavia and Northern Europe. Would you tell me about any traditions, lore, recipes, or thoughts you might have on mushroom gathering?
Swedes are proud to boast about their mushroom picking but we never ever share the places where we have been picking – that is a secret that we take to the grave, or a secret that is only passed onto immediate family. This year was amazingly bountiful! I don’t think I’ll see something like it in years to come! The whole family was gathered together over summer and almost every time one of us was out walking the dog he or she came home with a bucketful! Seeing this arrive time after time to the kitchen table one didn’t know whether to delight or despair. It is quite a task cleaning them, although a pleasant one. Chanterelles are a favorite – especially fresh, fried in butter with a pinch of salt and black pepper and then eaten on a slice of home baked bread. This year however, since we had so much to take from, I have tried pickling them for the first time using a Slovak recipe, the pickled jars have still to be tasted waiting in the larder until the bleak months when spring and fresh foods are a distant memory.
We dry the most part of them, this year we got over two kilos of dried mushrooms! That is a staggering amount compared to what we have picked other years, then you can only get a couple of small jars filled at the most! Now we don’t seem to have jars enough so some we have kept hanging in a loosely woven linen bag. They keep for a really long time and when you use them you just soak them for a couple of minutes in water and their ready to be fried or popped into a soup or pie!
I don’t think I know any lore surrounding mushrooms. I am personally a bit superstitious and don’t pick anything that grows in a circle be it mushrooms or flowers, it simply does not feel right…
Do you have any tips for surviving cold weather and winter and staying cozy that you’d like to share?
We live in my grandparent’s house on the countryside in Bohuslän and it is heated solely with woodfire. So my tips to survive the cold is to simply to be industrious in spring by felling trees and to drying the wood out properly before use in coming winters. To survive the darkness of the Swedish winter months (we have only 7 hours of daylight and we will have even less in the coming months) we light lots of candles, spend lots of time in the kitchen preparing heartwarming food and pore over seed catalogues dreaming of spring and what to plant. Christmas is a given highlight in winter.
Your sweet doggie looks so much like a fox! What kind of dog is she/he? What do they answer to?
Foxy! She’s a stray and a mixed breed that I found in the United Arab Emirates when I lived there with my family for 3 ½ years, we moved back home to Sweden in 2002. We lived there when I was in my early teens, instead of chasing after boys like my peers, I only had room in my heart for all the unwanted stray cats and dogs roaming the compound were we lived. She was one of many that I took in and sheltered, much to my parents chagrin. One German Shepherd Saluki mix gave us a surprise litter of ten pups one night. I think we had 14 cats at one time once. I even bought some sickly birds from a pet store, only because I felt sorry for them and the state of the cages they were kept in. We built an aviary, but the poor beasts were sick from the start and died soon after. The cats and dogs we re-homed, but our Fox had nestled her way into our hearts and had to be brought home with us. She’s a wise old lady of 14 years going on 15 soon. When I took her in she was a colt-like pup circa 1 year old. She cowered at the sight of boys and men with beards and was so subdued that she did not dare bark. So for years she only communicated her happiness through small howls and murmuring yowls. Nowadays she’s a confident one giving us demanding barks and enjoying being around boys and bearded men.
Oh and – why the moniker Blackbird and Goose?
Blackbird and Goose is however quite easy, as blackbirds are my favourite birds and I’ve always called Anton my goose, ever since we first met – and when in doing so, he has always given me a goosely honk in return. How this silly endearment started in the first place, I have unfortunately forgotten. But the name represents us both as we share the Instagram account. It would also work quite well as a pub name in some obscure English country village….
by Angeliska on November 11, 2014
Last night I dreamt I was getting married. Walking through a garden with tables set for a banquet, floral arrangements spilling over with bright orange berries and paper lantern flowers. Lights were strung from the trees. Everything was being prepared, made ready. The guests had yet to arrive. But the colors were all wrong, not mine. Everything was secondhand, leftover from somebody else’s wedding, but I’d agreed to make do. Beggars can’t be choosers, right? So much rushing around to do, and all alone, because I can’t see my fiance until we’re both standing at the altar together. I miss him. It seems wrong that we should have to be apart for all this madness, even for just half a day. I’m standing in front of a pair of priests in suits with my husband to be. I don’t know him. He’s a stranger to me (but I think he might be Frank Zappa.) The old men in suits, the priests, they can’t find the paper with our ceremony written on it. They dig through their suit pockets and get red-faced, flustered as we stand there stiffly, awkwardly waiting. After awhile, my bridegroom leans in towards me and whispers, “Hey – I love you and you love me, so how about we just leave it at that and blow this pop-stand?” He takes my hand and we leave the priests blustering, gobsmacked and we’re out the glass doors and I’m thinking – but we didn’t even kiss. We made no vows. The wedding party has been gathered out on the stone stairs below, taking photographs of themselves for some time. When we emerge, arm in arm, there is nothing but a stunned silence. I instruct them to clap for us, cheer, throw rice or ring bells, blow bubbles – something, for god’s sakes. They half-heartedly manage a hurrah, but we’ve already escaped. I think we might not even know those people, that they are possibly somebody else’s wedding party after all. I pause for a moment on the garden path to examine the ring on my finger. It’s made of gray and heavy lead and set with sapphires, inscribed with words I can’t remember. This, and the wedding gown I’m wearing belonged once to his first wife. The dress doesn’t fit me – it hangs off my body like a brocade sack, much too big. I wonder where my sisters are, all my ladies – surely they would’ve helped me prepare, done my hair, taken this awful dress in, told me not to go through with this thing. I wonder where everyone was. It seems we didn’t invite any of our friends or families. I feel like I’ve been swindled out of a wedding. I’m married now, Mrs. Zappa, apparently – but I wish we could have a do-over, because none of this seems right. My husband is a taciturn type, and not likely to put up with another wedding, now that we’ve just had one. There’s a finality to it – something I had wanted for so long, and now it’s done. The wedding as a thing, a seal on a canopic jar – but nothing like a long life, a long marriage. The actual work and joy of being together. I see my boyfriend down the way, and he doesn’t seem very happy that I’ve gone off and married Frank Zappa. I squat down in the dirt beside him to examine the impressive array of alien mushroom species on display in this garden. They look more like psychedelic jellyfish than fungi – glassy and swirling with an otherworldly sentience. Feathery anemones undulating inside shiny orbs like millefiori paperweights from outerspace. He pokes at one sullenly with a stick, making a hole in the slick, bulbous clear surface. It regenerates, morphs, comes back together bigger and better – healing itself like a starfish, growing new appendages.
I wake up, and it’s 11.11.14 – maybe no surprise that my subconscious spent the night struggling to parse the anxiety of a wedding, given that I was supposed to get married on this day, three years ago now. Dreams are funny that way, showing us the ways our psyches are still preoccupied with certain subjects and scenarios. Trapped in a situation that you suddenly realize is all wrong. Marrying someone you thought you knew. I don’t really think about that part of my life all too often these days – or, I guess I try not to. It comes up, of course. But the way my dreams will hand these things over sometimes still shocks me. They hiss: Pssst. Hey. Hey, you! Did you forget? Does that scar still ache? Well, sure it does, if you poke at it like that. Conversations can happen in dreams that might never happen in waking life. Things can surface in dreams that can still make you hunch over your teacup at the kitchen table early in the morning, weeping helplessly over what was lost. I wanted to be married, so much. I wanted to belong to someone, to be part of a partnership, a team. You and me, baby. Together, we can handle anything. Me for you and you for me. I think I still crave that: the companionship, the connection, the surety of knowing that you have someone to come home to. I still want that, but I see it somewhat differently these days. The past few years have made me question deeply my own motivations behind wanting a partner. I realize now that there was something about that ring on my finger that symbolized the ultimate validation, proof that I was loved eternally, unconditionally. I think that there are maybe a lot of people, perhaps women especially, who secretly view being married as “winning” somehow. A golden ring won like a prize at the fair. It’s 2014, and yet – I think many of us still feel the imprint of a heavy weight made up of a thousand years of human history where marriage has existed most commonly as a financial, social and logistical transaction, as an institution where the worth of a woman was indeed based upon her marriageability. For most of us in the Western world today, marriage is supposed to be solely about love – not necessarily about our the wishes of our families, or security, society, money or children – and yet all of those things are still very much part of the story. There’s the idea that being married means that someone wanted you enough to pledge their life to you, to stand in front of god and everybody and say the magic words that would bind you together forever. I think about this a lot, especially when I am called to perform wedding ceremonies, as a priestess. It is not something I take lightly at all, and truly – the main reason I do it is because I would rather a couple have someone participating in their ceremony who actually cares about them and their union, rather than a blasé Justice of the Peace who gets their names wrong. In the Catholic church, when a couple wants to get married, they must go through a lengthy preparation process with their officiating priest. I think it can potentially take months, for discussion, answering questions, and considering deeply the proposal before them – which is: nothing less than eternity, in a religion where divorce is an extremely undesirable outcome. Even though I only have a sort of vague idea of what this process actually entails, I’d like to know more, and perhaps somehow adapt it for the couples who come to me wanting to get married. I think of myself, three years ago – and how I wish someone would have sat me and my (now former) partner down, and asked these penetrating questions of us – made us look clearly at what we were getting into, what we were truly asking of one another. I don’t think either of us actually knew. I want to believe that it was more than just the idea of marriage that bonded us then, but now it’s hard to see more than disparate points in the sky where our lines once met, intersected. What we were to each other is now a constellation whose true shape has been forgotten. The dots still exist on the map, but the roads connecting them got washed out over time, and after many storms.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned from all of this, is that in order for one to have a good relationship with anyone else – you must first have and continue to cultivate an extraordinary relationship with yourself. This is an ongoing process of learning for me – how to nurture and nourish that relationship with myself. I see now how completely I used to neglect it, and how it caused all my other relationships to suffer greatly in turn. More and more I understand profoundly how you really just can’t give what you ain’t got. We hear it all the time, how you gotta love yourself before you can love anybody else (can I get an amen?) but I’ll remind you that that is just the goddamn truth. So, I’ve been focusing on that more and more in my life – all the different ways that I can replenish the well, keep the fountain flowing. To not feel I need anyone else, to be validated, to be desired, to be a whole person. But just to be enough in myself – no matter what. Of course, we are creatures who are built for connection – we naturally gravitate towards the idea of a mate, a family, community. Belonging. It is an idea that is still hardwired into us as true survival. But it has to go further than the illusion of safety and comfort. It has to be concurrent growth, awakening, and mutual understanding. And this is where the real work comes in. For both individuals in a relationship to be actively and devotedly attending to the care and feeding of their own souls/minds/hearts/bodies – that’s what the work is made of.
“I ache for shared silence, not the awkward lulls in conversation where we reach for something – anything – to cover the tension of trying to be with too much of the other and too little of ourselves, but the moments of fullness that let each of us unfold and know who we really are. I long for silences with another where there is nothing to forgive or explain or justify, where we agree to abandon quickly spoken words for a time so we do not abandon ourselves or each other, the silences where no one asks me to choose between belonging to myself and being with the world. And when these silences come, I feel how I am working my way home through whatever they hold- terror or tenderness, grief or celebration – spiraling ever closer to a sweetness I have ached for all my life.”
May we find some shared silence today – where we are present with each other and whatever the silence holds. How sweet and intimate it is to be able to truly be together with or without words.
“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” – Fred Rogers
This applies to self-love as well. To accept yourself exactly the way you are, right here and now.
And so to that end – I’ve been going inward, taking time for myself to do the things that feed my heart, that reconnect me with who I am. There’s this quote I read one day that moved me so much: “If you want to see the face of the one true love of your life – just go look in the mirror.” It’s silly, maybe – but it hit me that I’ve been searching for this love outside of myself desperately my entire life, and all along, the real love was here – always. There is one person who can count on to never leave you, never betray you, never deny you – but only if you will recognize yourself of being worthy of that steadfastness, that kindness, that generosity. To radiate that love inward, so that it can shine outward. There are so many ways to do this, and each person (hopefully) will find the different sources of that sustenance that is always available – but for me, this heart food is made of light, of quietude, of time to think and to create. I have been retreating to my studio to putter for hours, my happy place that receives the afternoon sunset through open curtains. Sometimes I listen to music, or sometimes just the sounds of grackles squawking in the cedar outside, motorcycles whizzing by, schoolkids chattering, the last calls of the cicadas. I clean my altars and light the candles. I cut zinnias from my garden and make bouquets, offerings. I give thanks. I anoint my wrists, temples, throat, heart with oils that make me feel strong: frankincense, ginger, black pepper, rose. I take tinctures, medicines made with love by friends: El Corazón Elixir and Passiflora Spagyric. I calm my rattled nerves and breathe deeply. I remember.
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”
Owl & unicorn window in the tarot trailer.
For so long – years and years – there was a part of me that was hungry like a starving dog begging out in the cold. Pleading eyes and ribs jutting out over a concave belly, and yet – all the while I was begging for scraps in empty alleys behind long closed restaurants. Looking for love in all the wrong places. Barking up the wrong goddamn trees. It’s just true. You can’t expect someone to give you what they ain’t got. To finally come in out of the cold, to learn to receive love rather than just shiver and hunger for it. The question is: do you know how to feed yourself? Do you know what nourishment your heart craves? What’s the recipe, what elements, once mixed will bring you back to a place of fullness? Sit still and listen to what your soul craves. Feed yourself like a mother taking care of her child: gently, lovingly, tenderly. Do you want to sit at the table and draw? Rock in the hammock on a slow day? Sleep in ’til noon and dream? Take a four hour bath with your book? Eat chicken pot pie on a cold night? These inquiries, aimed within, are how we can begin. It takes some time to learn, but it can happen if you tend to it: this process of blossoming, heart-opening, self-honoring.
I cup my hands around a lit candle, warming my fingers on the glass.
I stand in the afternoon light, making wishes.
I go back to the source, call upon my ancestors, obscure saints, strange angels,
whoever might be guiding me, looking out for me.
I know there’s someone, something out there –
or I certainly wouldn’t be here now, writing any of this today.
Help me, bless me, guide me, show me. Lead me back to myself, back to love.
“Down where the valleys are low, there’s a refuge so high
And down where the coldest winds blow, there the warmest winds hide
And deep in the forest of woe, sweet deliverance is nigh
And deep in the heart there’s a rose that a glimmer keeps guidin’”
– Judee Sill – “Down Where the Valleys Are Low”
Here’s a recipe for happiness, in the form of actual food (with many thanks to Miss Allyson Garro):
(this is good for gray mornings when you need some light in your belly)
Make some oatmeal on the stovetop (I like Irish steel-cut oats)
Add coconut milk
Dried coconut flakes
Butter, and a little salt and honey
Toast some raw cashews in a skillet
That’s heartfood, too.