by Angeliska on January 19, 2014
Today, my beloved grandfather would have been 100 years old, were he still alive today. I had hoped that he would make it there in life – he was so close! Only two years to go! But he was ready, I think, to not be here in his body anymore. Still though – the glory of making it to centenarian status seems so impossible and marvelous. I stand stupid and humbled in front of a big number like one hundred. A century, the triple digits! What a marvel that humans can and do live now regularly, to be so ancient – and longer. For me, selfishly, it’s more about longing to have had him present over the course of these past two years. I feel like I’ve needed him and his sage wisdom now more than ever. His sister Dena died in November (I’ll be sharing what I’ve written about her amazing life soon!), and now all four of the Polacheck siblings from that generation are gone.
Charlie was child born in the year of the Great War, into a century of bloodshed and bombings hopelessly intertwined with relentless progress. Journalists and historians are currently struggling to draw parallels between 1914 and 2014 – predicting more dire change and global war, disaster. It’s hard to refute it, or to imagine that we could go on as relatively blithely (at least in this country) as we do. I feel like this day deserves some grander gesture than I am capable of: fanfare and fireworks and a parade in his honor. I feel like I have nothing. My hands are full of dust. His body is burnt up, and everything he ever owned is either in boxes in my parent’s garage or dispersed here and there. Elsewhere. Where is the hat I gave him? It was a good tan leather fisherman’s cap, with a slate blue brim ribbon, brocaded with acorns and oak leaves. I am his acorn, he was my tree. It doesn’t fit me, but I’d love to have it now – smelling of lime leaves, his gone-white hair, dusted with dear dandruff. He used to wear it all the time. It kills me that he’s gone, and that all the pieces of his life are scattered. Where are his ashes? Where are my grandmother’s ashes? We had talked about going out to the Pacific Ocean, and scattering them together. But, everyone has schedules, work, kids, stuff, so it hasn’t happened yet, as far as I know. We don’t bury our dead anymore, and I think for the most part, that this is a good thing – considering the vagaries of the funeral industry and the poison and waste that embalming and lead coffins create. But our cemeteries are standing forlorn, as we dump the dirt of our loved ones onto some pretty place they might once have walked near. We have no monuments to them to sit and reflect by. No dates engraved, no family names. Dust to dust. We are forgetting, collectively, where and who we came from. Names are not passed down from generation to generation as they once were. Hell, we don’t even use cameras anymore, really – much less print photos or have formal portraits taken, unless someone’s getting married. That’s what has changed in one hundred years: how we mourn, how we remember, how we perceive ourselves in relation to our past. So much of it is just sloughed off to languish in moldy storage units or attics, or be pawed through at estate sales. I should know, being a professional picker (antique dealer). I was in a woman’s house this morning, low ceilinged, small, but labyrinthine. As I fingered the silk blouses in her closet, her spirit clung around me like a miasma: mama, grandma, wife – I was all of these, and now I’m nothing. You don’t even know my name. At these sales, invariably, in the front yard there are always one or several adult potty chairs. Dragged out into the open, as if someone would actually want to buy an old person’s used potty chair. Who knows, maybe people do buy them – but it just seems so wrong and undignified to not only open their home to strangers, but also to put the personal secrets of their infirmity right there on the lawn. I bought her church lady hats, her cocktail glasses with gold horses prancing on them, a patriotic costume, a stunning gold lace dress from the 20′s and a photo of the woman who might have worn it. I left still feeling her long fingers clutching at my hair, calling: come back, come back and see me…
“We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” – Martin Luther King
So much has changed since 1914, it’s bizarre to think about being alive to see it all. I’d grill Grampa from time to time – try and ask him what it was like to witness so much change, growth, development. Of course it’s somewhat egotistical to think so, but it really feels like EVERYTHING happened to us this century – and to watch it all occur first hand just seems an utter wonder to me. From horsecarts and button up boots, to space travel and iPhones. Grampa was oddly blasé about it. He said he didn’t think about it, much. I think he liked all the progress, all the ease that was afforded with new inventions that made life run faster, smoother. He was delighted to watch a tiny video of a friend of mine dancing the Charleston in 1920′s gladrags on youtube, as I held my phone up so he could watch it in bed. He found nothing strange or ironic about that, but I did. I guess him being a television pioneer had a lot to do with it – going from radio to live television, black and white to color, analogue to digital. Always new, always better. My grandfather seemed only to really get nostalgic about times much more shrouded in the past – gazing at the cold light in the Flemish master’s painting in an museum in Bruges, or walking the boards in the King of Denmark’s own private theatre.
This is all the stuff I’ve been thinking about, lately. It’s not pretty, or happy, and I wish I had better. Today, everything seemed to go wrong. Crossed wires, lines of communication failing spectacularly every which way. Everything slightly askew, the picture gone crooked in the frame, the flavors of everything I tasted strangely off. I feel like I said all of the wrong things and none of the right things – even though I know it’s not true. I tried my best, and it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I felt myself losing my footing, sinking into the muck of swampy quicksand, the alligator’s jaws visible out of the corner of my eye – and yet, I couldn’t stop the slow slide down into the thick of it. My grandfather’s birthday dim sum is the only traditional celebration my family has – the only day where all of us are together. Usually, it’s a somewhat chaotic, but amusing affair, and most of the peccadilloes of our meshuggeneh mishpoche are taken in stride along with slugs of jasmine tea from tiny cups and copious turnip cakes and dumplings. But today, it went awry – and it was my fault. I got into the muck when I ought to have nodded and smiled, and as I was doing it, I could hear Grampa’s gruff voice telling me, “Leave it alone! It’s not worth it!” Getting into an argument right in front of his shrine, on his special day felt so wrong. Underneath all anger is sadness, and often it’s easier to get upset about the little things, rather than let ourselves feel the big hurts. I have been so torn up about missing him lately, crying a lot and just feeling his absence so intensely. It’s weird how all that emotion can get channelled into being upset about something else entirely. In some ways, it’s related – just in thinking about how he was the glue, the cornerstone of our family. The one who brought us all into being and kept us together. Without our patriarch present, it feels like there’s nothing to bind the unruly mess of us. Old family hurts, old woes. These things can have big echoes. The family member I got into it with broke the spell of our contretemps by grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking me while almost shouting, “Families are dysfunctional! Our family is dysfunctional! Get over it!” And she’s right. Something that comes with age, at least in my Grampa’s case, is the wisdom that all families are imperfect. I hope I can start accepting that, because it hurts my heart so much. I am someone who always just wants everyone to get along, to be a big, happy, loving family. In these moments, I strain to hear his voice – to discern from the ether what exactly he would tell me, if he were here today… Maybe “easy does it”, which is an AA phrase I always mocked and scorned as hopelessly trite as a cynical teen, but only recently have heard in a new light. Maybe it was the way it was said, or the timing – but I think I finally got it. Go easy on yourself, be gentle, take it slow. You don’t have to get it right all the time. You are perfectly imperfect, and that is enough.
A friend of Grampa’s recently posted a comment on his obituary page that made me so happy. Hearing from his friends from all over is such a sweet gift, especially when they over little bits of his words and wisdom for me to hold close. These are some good ones:
“I did not know Charlie well in L.A. in the 1980s, but my beloved friend, Debra, and I still repeat some of his sage lines with laughter such as “MYOB” or “mind your own business” and “If your spouse says the moon is made of bleu cheese simply say, ‘It very well may be.’” When I asked how he had remained married for so many decades, was there a secret to be garnered, how did he do it? He said, “I let my spouse do whatever she wants and she the same for me.”
Here’s to you, Charlie! Wherever you are I know it’s good.”
I used to be afraid of old people when I was little. Not my own grandparents: all four of them I knew and loved, even if I was childishly fascinated at times by Gramma’s crepe papery forearm skin, or Grampy’s leathery face with it’s startlingly deep creases and wrinkles on top of wrinkles. Nonnie would always draw me close for a kiss, and when her whiskers brushed my cheek and I’d screech and giggle. I was so lucky to have them all – to be so cherished and accepted by my four elders. I only wish I’d had more time with them – that I had been older and they younger, so we could have had more conversations. But the old people in the nursing homes my elementary school would visit around Christmas were full of a different kind. These old folks were cast off, forgotten in corners by their families, the staff, themselves. None of them seemed lucid, though most were docile and still, save the old woman with applesauce down her chin who gaped at us and started shrieking when we attempted to sing her carols. I dropped my cowbell in the kerfuffle and was traumatized for weeks. Maybe longer. There was something shocking to me about the idea that people would just ditch their parents and relatives in these places. It felt like coming across someone’s old toys tossed in a ravine. Why would anyone throw these good things away? You never picked them up to take home, though – because whoever did it surely had some kind of good reason. Maybe the toys were diseased, or cursed, or full of bugs or had touched poop. And I hate to say it, but there was that same sense of apprehensiveness about the nursing home residents: no one would have abandoned perfectly good old people if there wasn’t something horribly wrong with them. They were defective, insane, or maybe even criminals, considering the prison-like atmosphere of the rest-home. Kid logic, I guess. I think about the elderly a lot these days – how screwed we are as a society where we don’t value these people more. When I started traveling with my grandfather, it was interesting to observe how people in difference countries and cultures reacted to us tootling around with a portable wheelchair. In some places, people seemed shocked, in others – indifferent. At times, we were treated with special deference – and in most Japanese restaurants, invariably, were shown a deep appreciation. The gift of my grandfather’s company throughout my life is a treasure that has changed me forever. Being able to know him, talk with him, travel with him, and to be his friend until the end of his life was so precious. I know all people are different, and that Charlie was certainly a rara avid and a true gem – but all the same, I can’t help of think that there are some ancient gems moldering away in rest-homes, ignored by their families. And that just kills me. I think about going there sometimes, and trying to seek out some wonderful old lonely person, who needs a grandkid as much as I crave a grandparent. I think I’m still a little scared.
I have such a hard time not adopting elderly dogs from the animal rescue – wishing I could just give them a home where they could be loved and petted and sleep all day. I have had the honor of seeing two noble creatures through to advanced old age: my beloved feline companion Junior, who I had with me from age five until I was 26. He was 21 years old when he died. It was one of the hardest deaths I’ve ever mourned, and I still dream about him all the time. He was my familiar. Thelonious is my old man prince, whose company I have had the pleasure of keeping for the last 8 years. He’s 15 now, and totally blind. His retinas detached in 2009, but as border collies are one of the most intelligent breeds of dog, he has managed to get by surprisingly well by relying on his other senses. A few weeks ago, I thought he was having a stroke because he was acting really strangely. In that moment, it hit me that at any time, his health could fail, and he could leave us. I lost it – totally freaked out. But on the way to the emergency vet, he perked up, feeling the wind riffle his ears and chuffing happily at the breeze through the open window. It ended up being, thankfully, just idiopathic vestibular disease – which basically means old dog vertigo. For a couple weeks, he was seriously out of sorts, and I would carry him up and down the steps to go to the bathroom every day. This dog has survived eating rat poison and nearly dying from internally bleeding to death, being blind and lost in cactus and coyote infested country after getting spooked by fireworks, having his immune system attack itself and cause blindness and other issues as a result of Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada Syndrome, and just being alive on this earth for an unusually long time. I’ve heard of border collies living well into their twenties, and I wonder how long he’ll be able to stick around. I want it to be forever. I want him to live to be one hundred, too. Being with Thelonious every day, I am constantly reminded of my Grampa. His old man’s stiff gait, his snoring had sneezes, how I have to lead him through the house so he doesn’t get stuck or bump into things. I love his sweetness and little bursts of joy over the pets and massages I give him. I am here to help him, to be his nurse and his companion, for as long as he remains here. My stepmom told me this recently, And I know i’s true: “These animal companions and friends are old souls and have been given to us to bring comfort, solace and unconditional love. They are our teachers. We are never alone when they are near us.”
There’s something about the experience of loving someone, be it person or animal, up into their last days. They slow down, sleep a lot, react differently to stimuli – but the essence of their nature gets distilled down into this raw, undiluted, shining thing. I’ve seen it happen with the evolved people and creatures I’ve loved at the end of their time here: they become pure light, letting the physical fall aside, the ego dispersing into the greater consciousness. Becoming one with the world, with everything else. Becoming part of the sum total of all the energy in the universe. This is where the journey of the Fool in the tarot takes us, to the World – the final card. This is the ouroboros, the old one becoming a child again, the wise baby forgetting everything they once knew. A century of learning what it is to be alive, to be human. A completed circle, even if the ends of the rope are frayed, constantly unraveling – falling apart, and coming back together, all the time, forever.
These articles were helpful to me in writing this:
More about my Grampa:
by Angeliska on December 31, 2013
The tail end of the year is about to brush past us, this imagined point between now and then that keeps me feeling like I’m dancing on the head of a pin – trying to keep up, to push forward, stay with the beat of the heart of the world. Stay on my path. I feel like the snake’s egg broke this year, and all the most strange and unexpected things kept emerging, slithering through my fingers, too quickly. I remember at the beginning of last year feeling so wobbly and new, sticky winged and winded by the mystery of it all. So many aspects to my life at this point that I never could have predicted or imagined – and I think that if anyone had been able to tell me about them all, I doubt I would have believed them. It’s a funny thing, being involved in the work of fortune-telling – as so many people to me hoping I will tell them their futures, and all the things written in the book of fate. But that book hasn’t been written yet. We write it every day, with every action, every word, every thought. We create our own futures, moment by moment. Nothing is carved in stone about your fate, except that one day, you will die, and everyone you love on this earth will die. Nothing else is predestined about life. Knowing anything about our deaths, the whens and wheres of them – well, that’s useless too. In both cases, I believe that those kinds of knowing do more harm than good. To have your life foretold robs you of your free will, your ability to manifest and create the life you want for yourself. We are the creators of our own realities. But manifestation rarely goes as simply or as quickly as planned: oh no, because then we would lose the surprise of it all! That is one of the biggest and most valuable things I’ve learned this year – that I can still be surprised. Some good ones, some bad – but all things I never would’ve believed if they’d been predicted. I can appreciate surprises so much more now, than when I was a little child. Too much was unknown then, terrifyingly mysterious about the world around me. I wanted to know exactly what Santa was bringing me weeks ahead. Now, I wish deeply to have that sense of wonder and possibility in my life at all times. I want to believe in Santa, still – and the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, fairies, elves, little green men, and all manner of invisible magics at work in the world. I believed fervently in unicorns, largely due to this book: De Historia Et Veritate Unicornis/on the History and Truth of the Unicorn.
I was a horse girl – only, one with no horses. No live ones anyway, although I begged my parents for one constantly (It can live in the yard! I’ll feed it apples! Pleeeeeeeaaase can I have a horse?) We were far too poor for anything like that, or even lessons, but I wasn’t aware of that at the time. I made do with drawing them obsessively, collecting Breyer figurines, and lurking around the stables in my neighborhood (I even stole the faded ribbons off the stalls and hung them on my wall, pretending I’d earned them.) By the time I actually got to ride on anything more proper than some old exhausted carnival pony being led around the ring, I was nearly twenty, and sitting nervously astride a big dappled mare named H.B. (which stood, appropriately, for Hell-Bitch.) We were atop a mountainside in Colorado, and the scent of a bear or puma nearby, combined with being taken out prior to feeding time after a long day on the trail meant that the horses were skittish and pissed. Which is a truly terrible combination of horse moods for an inexperienced rider. I had no clue how one might operate this flesh and blood vehicle, other than coercion with sugarcubees. I suppose that all those years of reading Black Beauty and Serendipity books lured me into the fantasy that the first horse I rode would swiftly become my best friend, and that we would immediately develop a powerful psychic mind-meld, and certainly would both want to go frolic in fields of clover and waterfalls together all day. Imagine my horror when it was suggested to me that I needed to kick my horse harder. We were warned that the horses might try to rub up against a tree trunk in an attempt to break your knee-cap, or find a low-hanging branch to knock you the hell off with. I don’t know why it was so hard to conceive of up until that point that these majestic beasts might have a will of their own – and might not really want to cart you around on their backs. After many misadventures that day, I had to concede humbly that horses were something I had loved and studied from afar for nearly my entire life, but that I truly didn’t understand at all. I respect them now, immensely, in a way that my childish adoration could never fully encompass. They are mighty, and standing next to one always makes me feel puny, curious and shy. I didn’t realize until fairly recently that I am year of the Horse, in the Chinese Zodiac (January birthdays revert to the previous year, so I thought I was a Sheep for a long time!) I felt a thrill when I realized that this is year of the Wood Horse – because I have a hopeful sense that this year will be a game-changer, even more so than the last one. This year is going to be full of surprises, and as much as possible, I want to be completely present with them. My main wish for 2014 is to be more in my body, more in the moment, and more consciously present in every way. I think about dancing a lot more than I actually do it, and I want to change that this year. I want to be more immediate, responding to messages as they come up instead of letting them get buried. I am the most impatient procrastinator, who is learning how to be a very patient do-er.
Horses have no patience for procrastination. This moment is all we have. Expand into it. Breathe deep. Toss your mane and kick the stormclouds open! My mama said she felt a strong kick right before her water broke – I was ready to be born! But when I got here, it took me years to feel like I belonged in my body. As a child, my consciousness always floated outside me, above me – I would narrate my actions and thoughts in the third person instead of just doing and thinking. And I was aware that that was odd. It bothered me, because I was pretty sure that most people didn’t have these kinds of conversations with themselves. Sometimes my awareness would slam back into my body with a shock, knowing: “This is me. I am nine. This is my name. I live in Texas. This is my life, and it is real, and not a dress-rehearsal for some play, or a game. It is real. This is real. I am real. I am this person now.” It’s a really hard thing to explain, but it makes a lot of sense for me now. I don’t have too many memories of my mother, but one of my very favorites is the lullaby she used to sing to me:
Hush-a-by, Don’t you cry
Go to sleepy little baby
When you wake you shall have
All the pretty little horses
Blacks and bays, dapples and grays
A coach and six little horses
When you wake you shall have
All the pretty little horses
Hush-a-by, Don’t you cry
Go to sleepy little baby
When you wake you shall have
All the pretty little horses
I want to be kind and wild and strong and free this year. I want to rest deeply when I sleep, and dream. I want to love my body, and treat it with love. I’m digging in, and unfurling wide. This is just the beginning. In a year, we will stand baffled at how far we’ve come. I’m extending these wishes to you, that you may be kind and wild and strong and free, and that your dreams be sweet. I’m going out to the country to stamp my hooves in the soft old dust and whinny songs to the stars. I leave you with some horse art and music to inspire and delight you. Some star things and word things. Leaden hollows and glancing lights. Fireworks and thick clay. A new day.
Giant ‘Kelpies’ Horse Head Sculptures Tower Over the Forth & Clyde Canal in Scotland
“Currently in the last stages of construction after nearly 7 years of development, the Kelpies are a pair of gargantuan horse heads by public artist Andy Scott that now tower over the Forth & Clyde canal in Falkirk, Scotland. The sculptures measure some 30 meters tall (99 ft.) and are meant as a monument to the horse-powered heritage of Scotland.”
I’ve been marveling at the captured images from Google Street View curated by 9-Eyes (aka. Jon Rafman) ever since he was covered in Coilhouse awhile back (Old 9-Eyes Is Back In Town…) I especially love the pictures of horses.
“My work is not so overtly about movement. My horses’ gestures are really quite quiet, because real horses move so much better than I could pretend to make things move. For the pieces I make, the gesture is really more within the body, it’s like an internalized gesture, which is more about the content, the state of mind or of being at a given instant. And so it’s more like a painting…the gesture and the movement is all pretty much contained within the body.” – Deborah Butterfield
Ulrika Kestere — “The Girl with Seven Horses”
“Once upon a time there was a girl who had 7 invisible horses. People thought she was crazy and that she in fact had 7 imaginary horses, but this was not the case. When autumn came the girl spent a whole day washing all her clothes. She hung them on a string in her garden to let the gentle autumn sun dry them. Out of nowhere, a terrible storm came and its fiercefull winds grabbed a hold of all her clothes and all seven horses. The girl was devastated and spent all autumn looking for each horse spread around the country, wrapped in her clothes.”
Let us build an expendable day
without winding the hours, counting
only the salient clarity – that day
of all days that came bearing oranges.
The columns close on the niggling particulars,
leaving their chewed scrap of paper
spinning off in the sand,
devoured by winters.
Not a leaf in the forest
survives our recall, though its scent and vibration
stay in the memory: in that forest
I put forth my foliage
and carry its sighs in my veins
with no thought for the hour or the day.
The years and the months betray us
month follows month in the vast of the tunnel
October and April clash like two lunatic stones,
the apples rain into one basket,
the silvery catch into one net,
while night with rapiers precision
cuts through the days splendor – the day
that is ours if we are there to retrieve it tomorrow.
— Pablo Neruda
Photo by Terry Hancock
“Part of the Orion Molecular Cloud, an immense star forming region very close to earth, The Flame and Horsehead Nebulas offer a glimpse into the process from which stars and their planets are created. The colorfully lit areas are being irradiated by the young stars which have formed in the recent past and as a result, the ionized hydrogen in the clouds glows. The dark regions, on the other hand, are areas of dusty material in the interstellar medium dense enough to obscure the glow from behind. The Horsehead is such an object and from our vantage point on Earth, it bears a striking resemblance to the head of a horse.”
“Rigel, Betelgeuse, and Orion. There was no finer church, no finer choir, than the stars speaking in silence to the many consumptives silently condemned, a legion upon the dark rooftops. The wind came down from the north like a runner in lacrosse, violent and hard, to batter every living thing. They were there, each one alone in conversation with the stars, mining ephemeral love from cold and distant light.”
― Mark Helprin, Winter’s Tale
Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale is one of my favorite books, ever. It is so, so gorgeous. I am so grateful to all the people in my life who, at one time or another, insisted that I read it. It is being made into film that will come out on Valentine’s Day. Even watching the trailer made me sob, so I’m hoping that the film similarly slaughters and elates me half as much as the book did.
Here are three quotes from the novel about the horse:
“He moved like a dancer, which is not surprising; a horse is a beautiful animal, but it is perhaps most remarkable because it moves as if it always hears music.”
“Truth is no rounder than a horse’s eye.”
“The horse could not do without Manhattan. It drew him like a magnet, like a vacuum, like oats, or a mare, or an open, never-ending, tree-lined road.”
From the film-maker:
“‘The Wild Horses of Newbury’ was shot by me, Mark Carroll, very early on a single morning in February 1996 at the building site of the Newbury Bypass. (UK) This controversial road was to cut through some beautiful, ancient English countryside and had met with massive and radical direct action protests, hence the number of security guards. The whole episode only lasted a few minutes.. nothing was staged. The security guards and police had circled two very old Oak trees and were preparing to chop them down , when two scruffy, seemingly wild horses appeared and began to interfere with the felling. One of the horses even confronted one of the police horses…..
It was a very magical moment.”
Oh and – for the first time ever, I’ve not been plucking or dyeing my here and there grey hairs. My friend Abe Louise Young is on the same page, and just posted this sentiment, which I share whole-heartedly:
“In preparation for 2014 I am becoming a silver fox. Embracing mortality and the time-limited nature of all of us. Letting my hair grow wild, eau naturale and starlight–full moon-colored. Ask no permissions, hide no facets, grab aging and kiss it.”
Croning on up.
Learning to Measure Time in Love and Loss
By CHRIS HUNTINGTON
“and for all our believing, bastards in church alone dry heaving, searching for truce to feed the fear, near the beginning of the year”
Hello Lovers has a new album out, and it is brilliant: Glorified
And here’s a mix I made for your prancing pony disco and dreamytimes. Happy New Year!
More to read from New Year’s Eves of yore:
✶ 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, 2013
My heart-sister and friend Brenda Francis has generously revealed the secrets of her sacred pomegranate star ritual for all those who desire to honor the Pumica grantatum’s skin as ornament. They are really special, and look beautiful dried and garlanding your parlor or tannenbaum. Today is the Solstice, and when night falls, we will be together in the darkness, lighting candles, lighting the fire, lighting the way. May your darkest night find a bright source of warmth, a sparkle and a glimmer in your heart of hearts.
“About the pomegranate I must say nothing,” whispered the traveller Pausanias in the 2nd century, “for its story is somewhat of a holy mystery.”
1. Put on an apron because pomegranates splatter red droplets on your dress.
2. Put on pretty pretty music. I went with Laura Marling. She is young, but she was born on Imbolc.
3. Choose a knife. This is a ritual.
4. Assume the space of clear intent. This is a ritual. Banish the circle, or at least spray some lavender water on your face.
5. Make the first incision, cutting the first petal of the star toward the center.
6. Make 4 or 5 or 6 more cuts, depending on how many points your star has. 7 sided stars can get tricky and thin-armed.
7. Empty the seeds into a bowl, carefully cut the white away. Maitain the integrity of your star. Don’t let any of its arms flop off.
Note::These are sacramental fare or altar offering or party food or breakfast (Fruit Salad Of Light recipe following)
Fruit Salad Of Light: 7 bananas, thirded and sliced. Eggs of dragon. Pomegranate seed. Vanilla extract. Salt for that salty flavor. A gopping heapful of coconut butter (not oil, butter or manna as it is called). Stir with restrained passion. Do not add maraschino cherries. Ever. Spoon with the family crest.
8. Don’t eat any pomegranate seeds while you do this operation! You might get stuck with a old man Hades…If you start to, spit them out back into the bowl and cross yourself, or say fuck it, that myth does not apply to me.
9. Trim the edges neat. When you are done, wash the stickiness off your star and pat it dry gently with a tea towel. Run a red thread through one arm of the star, the one that looks like the top. Add beads to the thread if desired.
You can do this ritual tonight if you like, or anytime between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice. Or anytime, really. But this is when the pomegranates are naturally ripest. Tonight, whatever you do, light a candle. Light a fire. Be warm, and remember that the light is in you. You live!
Have you been feeling sad? Bone-tired and soul exhausted, like you might like to just sleep until Spring? Me too. Go read these things:
I like listening to Finnish folk music all year round, but it’s especially perfect in this season, and for the Solstice. Here are some of Brenda’s current favorite selections:
Tallari – Sydämestäni rakastan
Karelian Folk Music Ensemble “Tui Tui Tuomen Kukka”
Finnish Folk Song, MeNaiset – Kuulin aanen (I Heard the Voice)
Karoliina Kantelinen “Ellös huolta huomisesta”
Karoliina Kantelinen “Soittelen soutusalmen suorimaista”
Vallåtar från gammelboning (Swedish kulning)
Happy Winter Solstice!
THE COLOR OF POMEGRANATES
by Angeliska on December 20, 2013
This recent autumn was the best year for pomegranates. The tree planted by the pond in the garden seven or so years ago has been flourishing in this strange weather we’ve been having. Oft times, at harvest, the fruits would be cankered with the befouling kisses of some strange bug, with brown patches and tell-tale black pinholes on the thick red rinds. No such plague this year, thankfully! The pomegranates I plucked were larger and far sweeter than ever before – crimson globes hung like giant Christmas ornaments on the tree that’s grown nearly taller than the house. I’ve been fixated on their magic this year especially, and feel so grateful to have this gorgeous tree growing near me, feeding me and my loved ones with her bounty. In honor of this grand tree and her marvelous fruit, I’ve compiled some of my favorite poems, writings and images inspired by the magic of the pomegranate.
In modern times the pomegranate still holds strong symbolic meanings for the Greeks. On important days in the Greek Orthodox calendar, such as the Presentation of the Virgin Mary and on Christmas Day, it is traditional to have at the dinner table “polysporia”, also known by their ancient name “panspermia,” in some regions of Greece. In ancient times they were offered to Demeter and to the other gods for fertile land, for the spirits of the dead and in honor of compassionate Dionysus. When one buys a new home, it is conventional for a house guest to bring as a first gift a pomegranate, which is placed under/near the ikonostasi (home altar) of the house, as a symbol of abundance, fertility and good luck. Pomegranates are also prominent at Greek weddings and funerals. When Greeks commemorate their dead, they make kollyva as offerings, which consist of boiled wheat, mixed with sugar and decorated with pomegranate.It is also traditional in Greece to break a pomegranate on the ground at weddings and on New Years. Pomegranate decorations for the home are very common in Greece and sold in most home goods stores.
“In order to eat a pomegranate you need this many things: a pomegranate, a knife, a cutting board, a bowl and a towel.
Also, two hands. These help with the making of the pomegranate.”
― Tahereh Mafi
“This is our Central Texas fall, blue skies, an occasional floating shower that is gone too soon, luscious ripe prickly pear fruit,black juicy native persimmons, and pomegranate trees loaded with sweet heavy grenades.
The pomegranate utterly drips with symbolic significance beyond our physical senses. It is also at once pleasing and teasing our taste buds – with that sweet pop of its edible ruby seeds, attained through the laborious task of consuming a few morsels at a time.
The illustrious Punica granatum has an ancient pedigree. Not only does it appear in the Old Testament, but circles of Jewish scholars believe that it is actually the pomegranate and not the apple that is the forbidden fruit so fatefully consumed in the garden of Eden. According to same tradition, the pomegranate (rimon) is considered to be a holy symbol due to the held belief that the number of seeds contained in the fruit are equivalent to the 613 mitzvoth (commandments). The sacred rimon is used abundantly in Jewish ritual for a variety of symbolic implications.
Our eminent pomegranate is called “Granada” in Spanish, meaning “grenade”, which its physical shape resembles. In the Major Arcana of the Tarot, the High Priestess and the Empress are both illustrated with imagery of the pomegranate. The High Priestess sits in front of a curtain adorned with the fruit’s likeness and represents intuitive knowledge and femininity, among other attributes. The empress, the mother figure, sits in the gown of pomegranates on her throne in a field of grain. She represents the seed and the harvest, and reminds us that we reap what we sow, to say the least.
Punica granatum is universally a symbol of femininity, fertility and abundance. This long held belief is reinforced each autumn, when the pomegranate reaches its peak of maturity, coinciding with the season of plentiful harvest. Her majesty of fruits reminds us once more, that no plant is ever merely a plant. but an entire mythos unto itself.
May you in good health, continue to follow the beckoning of their provocation to explore ever deeper the enchantment of their ways.”
Once when I was living in the heart of a pomegranate, I heard a seed
saying, “Someday I shall become a tree, and the wind will sing in
my branches, and the sun will dance on my leaves, and I shall be
strong and beautiful through all the seasons.”
Then another seed spoke and said, “When I was as young as you, I
too held such views; but now that I can weigh and measure things,
I see that my hopes were vain.”
And a third seed spoke also, “I see in us nothing that promises so
great a future.”
And a fourth said, “But what a mockery our life would be, without
a greater future!”
Said a fifth, “Why dispute what we shall be, when we know not even
what we are.”
But a sixth replied, “Whatever we are, that we shall continue to
And a seventh said, “I have such a clear idea how everything will
be, but I cannot put it into words.”
Then an eight spoke–and a ninth–and a tenth–and then many–until
all were speaking, and I could distinguish nothing for the many
And so I moved that very day into the heart of a quince, where the
seeds are few and almost silent.
The Pomegranate ― Khalil Gibran
“I felt like a seed in a pomegranate. Some say that the pomegranate was the real apple of Eve, fruit of the womb, I would eat my way into perdition to taste you.”
― Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body
One of the greatest masterpieces of the 20th century, Sergei Parajanov ‘s “Color of the Pomegranate”, a biography of the Armenian troubadour Sayat Nova (King of Song) reveals the poet’s life more through his poetry than a conventional narration of important events in Sayat Nova ‘s life.
“Parajanov made films not about how things are, but how they would have been had he been God.”
– Critic Alexei Korotyukov
“Its rich, deep colors remind us also of the fall – midnight blues, blood reds, rich yellows. It really is a feast for the eyes. The whole film is a poem, both visually and cinematically.
Sofiko Chiaureli, the main character(s) in the film and thought of to be Parajanov’s muse, is incredible to watch as she shifts between male and female seamlessly, morphing and gliding across the screen with such elegance and grace, its impossible to keep your eyes off of her.”
– RECSPEC – THE COLOR OF POMEGRANATES
“The pomegranate is the symbol of Armenia and represents fertility, abundance and marriage. One ancient custom widely accepted in ancient Armenia was performed at weddings. A bride was given a pomegranate fruit, which she threw against a wall, breaking it into pieces. Scattered pomegranate seeds ensured the bride future children. In Artsakh it was accepted to put fruits next to the bridal couple during the first night of marriage. The pomegranate was among those fruits, and was said to also ensure happiness. It is believed the couple enjoyed a pomegranate wine as well.The symbol of the pomegranate is connected with insemination. It protected a woman from infertility and protected a man’s virile strength. Currently, pomegranate juice is famous with Armenians in food and heritage.
The pomegranate gained a new symbolism after Armenian Genocide that left millions of Armenians spread all over the world; Armenians use the pomegranate and its many seeds to symbolize the Armenian people and their resilience. The pomegranate is also seen as the fruit of life for Armenians because during the genocide the only food they had came from fruits on trees. It is said that there are approximately 365 seeds in each pomegranate and the Armenians survived by eating one seed each day during their exile.”
“It was the face of spring, it was the face of summer, it was the warmness of clover breath. Pomegranate glowed in her lips, and the noon sky in her eyes. To touch her face was that always new experience of opening your window one December morning, early, and putting out your hand to the first white cool powdering of snow that had come, silently, with no announcement, in the night. And all of this, this breath-warmness and plum-tenderness was held forever in one miracle of photographic is chemistry which no clock winds could blow upon to change one hour or one second; this fine first cool white snow would never melt, but live a thousand summers.”
― Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine
“My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water’d shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these,
Because my love is come to me.
Raise me a daïs of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.”
― Christina Rossetti, Poems of Christina Rossetti
“And her sweet red lips on these lips of mine
Burned like the ruby fire set
In the swinging lamp of a crimson shrine,
Or the bleeding wounds of the pomegranate,
Or the heart of the lotus drenched and wet
With the spilt-out blood of the rose-red wine.”
― Oscar Wilde
“Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.
Song of Solomon 4:3
The Tamil name maadulampazham is a metaphor for a woman’s mind. It is derived from, maadhu=woman, ullam=mind, which means as the seeds are hidden, it is not easy to decipher a woman’s mind.
You tell me I am wrong.
Who are you, who is anybody to tell me I am wrong?
I am not wrong.
In Syracuse, rock left bare by the viciousness of Greek
No doubt you have forgotten the pomegranate-trees in
Oh so red, and such a lot of them.
Whereas at Venice
Abhorrent, green, slippery city
Whose Doges were old, and had ancient eyes.
In the dense foliage of the inner garden
Pomegranates like bright green stone,
And barbed, barbed with a crown.
Oh, crown of spiked green metal
Now in Tuscany,
Pomegranates to warm, your hands at;
And crowns, kingly, generous, tilting crowns
Over the left eyebrow.
And, if you dare, the fissure!
Do you mean to tell me you will see no fissure?
Do you prefer to look on the plain side?
For all that, the setting suns are open.
The end cracks open with the beginning:
Rosy, tender, glittering within the fissure.
Do you mean to tell me there should be no fissure?
No glittering, compact drops of dawn?
Do you mean it is wrong, the gold-filmed skin, integument,
For my part, I prefer my heart to be broken.
It is so lovely, dawn-kaleidoscopic within the crack.
From “Birds, Beasts, And Flowers: Poems By D. H. Lawrence.”
“If the authors of Genesis envisioned any one particular fruit dangling from that infamous tree in Eden, scholars argue it was likely the pomegranate. In the Greco-Roman tradition, those same ruby seeds cursed Persephone to an eternal half-life, consigned her to winter after winter with her abductor-husband, Hades, among the pomegranate groves of the dead. From Jerusalem to Athens to Rome, this is the fruit you get when love spoils into lust, when desire goes to seed. This is not a fruit you want to crack open.”
My contribution to Thanksgiving dinner last year: persimmon, pomegranate, squash, orange pepper, robusto cheese, asian pear, golden cherry tomato salad. It was so delicious, I might have to repeat it again soon…
If you buy a pomegranate,
buy one whose ripeness
has caused it to be cleft open
with a seed-revealing smile.
Its laughter is a blessing,
for through its wide-open mouth
it shows its heart,
like a pearl in the jewel box of spirit.
The red anemone laughs, too,
but through its mouth you glimpse a blackness.
A laughing pomegranate
brings the whole garden to life.
Keeping the company of the holy
makes you one of them
Whether you are stone or marble,
you will become a jewel
when you reach a human being of heart.
Plant the love of the holy ones within your spirit;
don’t give your heart to anything
but the love of those whose hearts are glad.
Don’t go to the neighborhood of despair:
there is hope.
Don’t go in the direction of darkness:
The heart guides you to the neighborhood of the
the body takes you to the prison of water and earth.
Give your heart the food of holy friends;
seek maturity from those who have matured.
THE LAUGHTER OF POMEGRANATES ― Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi
Love makes of each moment an eternity
And tends the garden of the heart’s desire
When love mocks, ruby tears fall heavy as pomegranates
And when love looks, it sees your deepest mystery.
Love seeks out the tears of hidden hearts
And turns not from the Lovers of the Dawn.
Is there a remedy for the pain of love?
Or is it too unbearable for thought?
One taste of the medicine
And you will realize just how sick you have been.
Those who plead in the defense of love
In love’s judgement shall find grace
And to that court, Hafiz
May your heart fly…
“In older myths, the dark road leads downward into the Underworld, where Persephone is carried off by Hades, much against her will, while Ishtar descends of her own accord to beat at the gates of Hell. This road of darkness lies to the West, according to Native American myth, and each of us must travel it at some point in our lives. The western road is one of trials, ordeals, disasters and abrupt life changes — yet a road to be honored, nevertheless, as the road on which wisdom is gained. James Hillman, whose theory of ‘archetypal psychology’ draws extensively on Greco–Roman myth, echoes this belief when he argues that darkness is vital at certain periods of life, questioning our modern tendency to equate mental health with happiness. It is in the Underworld, he reminds us, that seeds germinate and prepare for spring. Myths of descent and rebirth connect the soul’s cycles to those of nature.”
― Terri Windling
“Take from my palms, to soothe your heart,
a little honey, a little sun,
in obedience to Persephone’s bees.
You can’t untie a boat that was never moored,
nor hear a shadow in its furs,
nor move through thick life without fear.
For us, all that’s left is kisses
tattered as the little bees
that die when they leave the hive.
Deep in the transparent night they’re still humming,
at home in the dark wood on the mountain,
in the mint and lungwort and the past.
But lay to your heart my rough gift,
this unlovely dry necklace of dead bees
that once made a sun out of honey.”
― Osip Mandelstam, The Selected Poems
“Be to her, Persephone,
All the things I might not be;
Take her head upon your knee.
She that was so proud and wild,
Flippant, arrogant and free,
She that had no need of me,
Is a little lonely child
Lost in Hell,—Persephone,
Take her head upon your knee;
Say to her, “My dear, my dear,
It is not so dreadful here.”
― Edna St. Vincent Millay, Collected Poems
by Angeliska on December 18, 2013
The Full Cold Moon in Gemini is still soaring above as I write this, casting a bright purity of blue light over the trees grown bare with the season. I am always shocked by how much stronger the moonlight seems in winter, with no leafy canopy to dapple the stone paths and altars in my backyard. I set my stones and crystals out there tonight, to charge and bathe in that light. Little rituals, small things we can do when more formal gatherings are waylaid by sniffles and holiday whatnot. With the Solstice right around the corner to be celebrated, it was lovely and peaceful to have a bit of quiet time to contemplate, to write, and to do these tiny works that make such a big difference to my sense of inner calm and well-being. The full moon can stir up a lot of energy, and I’m feeling this one particularly. The Winter Solstice’s approach brings with it for me a sense of hush, a quiet that steals over the land, honoring the moments in-between, the midnight vigils of the only person awake at night. I’ve reverted back to my nocturnal habit, up until dawn nearly, every night – alone and writing, or reading. This is a holy time, a sacred season – the light in the darkness, a single candle’s flame illuminating expectant faces in the dark cave, the longest night of the year. How do you honor the Solstices? What do you do when the moon is full?
I’ve been feeling hibernatory, and lulled towards slumber at all times lately, save late at night when I really ought to be abed. I’m giving in to whatever strange rhythms my body seems to be dictating and sleeping in after staying up into the wee hours, when all is quiet except the owls, a stray cat in heat, and my hounds breathing, dreaming doggie dreams at the foot of the bed. No memorable dreams for me lately, though apparently I’ve been getting ’round a good deal – showing up in the dreamscapes of friends far and wide. Tonight I’ve taken melatonin, and will have some mugwort tincture and dream oil to see what lays on the other side of the mirror. For myself. I’m using these stunning images by the Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Robert Hughes (1851-1914) to guide me on my journey, into, ideally a world inhabited by angels, valkyries and moon maidens…
“As we near the Solstice, the longest night of the year, it is helpful to remember that we too are being called into our deepest dark. Down to the places we hide from view; where we keep our grief, where we brace and hold, where we are ashamed and unforgiving too. We are asked to acknowledge our untruths, to bare our fragile stories in the open, to be seen – which is also to release. Without any proof, we trust that a way will be born then in the dark, out of nothing, by this braving forward.” – Toko-pa
December 16-22: The energy shifts as we approach the Full Moon and then the Winter Solstice. You may feel jerked around by things seeming one way today and upside down tomorrow. This is a time of sudden adjustments often made by others but affecting you. There will be many lessons around attachments to how you think things ought to be and how you think people ought to behave. In this somewhat emotional time, stay out of negativity and judgment and accept the adjustments.
December 17: Full moon is at 2:28AM MST (Mountain Standard Time). You may wish to celebrate it the night of December 16. Use this full moon to expand your sense of what could be. The time between this full moon and the Winter Solstice should be honored and quality time should be carved out to do what brings you joy. What brings you joy? What feeds you spiritually? What do you still need to adjust and revise and modify? What do you need to let go of? What needs expansion and more inspiration? Ask these questions and then go for it!
December 21: Winter Solstice is at 10:11AM MST (Mountain Standard Time) Do a ceremony around honoring yourself and your own truth. Your desires should be given top priority. Remember you cannot fix or create intentions for anyone else. Don’t be afraid to dream big. If you are still feeling the weight of what you have carried, changed, released, processed, started or created in these past months, release it somehow in a fire or other ceremonial way.
“The Sun sits on the galactic centre and just meditating on the chart for a few minutes blows my mind. The Galactic Centre is postulated to be a supermassive black hole so heavy that the entire galaxy spins around it. Everything revolves around what’s inside and anything that comes too close is absorbed and transmuted into something else entirely, including light. It’s as though the Sun is absorbing the energy of the galactic core and shining it on the Moon – like holding your face up to the midday Sun with your eyes closed. It’s too bright, too intense to be able to open your eyes. With Mercury sitting nearby, it’s like receiving divine cosmic instruction but the instructions are written in God script. Some part of you recognises it but it’s a language you forgot.”
Photograph by Margarita Kareva
Our annual 12th Night Celebration in Austin is right around the corner, and we’re getting very excited preparing for a beautiful welcome to the carnival season and a sweet farewell to winter and hexmas times!
I’ve been contemplating some new wintery scents for the season, and have a hankering to try these lovelies out:
Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles
Fille en aiguilles contains notes of pine needles, vetiver, bay leaf, spices, fruit and incense. The memory of pine forest under sunshine, a very feminine sensuality. Adventurous, sexy, intriguing, witchy, smart and serious.
D.S. & Durga Eau de Cologne – Siberian Snow
Rare, narcotic, jasmine, crisp mint, Oriental amber, sandalwood & powdery incense. Worn by Countess Anna Vladoska at her legendary balls.
Slumberhouse Cologne- Norne
Fog caked needle, lichen, fern and moss perfume the nocturnal air beneath grandiose canopies of fir and hemlock – a headspace captured in perfect equilibrium. Containing not one single essential oil nor synthetic, Norne is luxuriously composed with entirely 100% pure forest absolutes; a connoisseur grade fantasy/surrealist recipe of incensed coniferous woodsy resins inspired by the catharsis of self worship.
This video of a big Russian crow using a scavenged lid as a toy to slide down a snowy peaked roof is one of my favorite things ever. Not only is he using a tool (something only very highly developed and intelligent animals do – which crows are indeed), but he’s using it idly, not out of necessity – to do something FUN! Remember, this is a creature that can FLY! Who discovered that it’s fun to go sledding! So wonderful.
An English Ladymass – Anonymous 4
Music for your Solstice.
From winter solstices of yore: