They’ve opened up from wrist to cuff a silver channel in the forearm of the prairie. This, so the black ink flows faster to the hand that writes the checks which leave us dry thirsty and poisoned in a future of rubber bullets and bird feather shields.
Last week, I had a particularly strange dream. The image of the monstrous seashell building is still tumbling around on the ocean floor of my brain.
I know it was fueled in part by my neighbor. She was preparing to attend a beach wedding over the weekend and as I watered the garden at dusk, she called out over the fence to ask my opinion on the best dress of three. A mini fashion show ensued as she popped in and out the front door in short order, doing a quick pirouette each time. I suggested the comfortable stretchy number with the peacock feather pattern over the short cocktail dress or the thing with the trailing wrap skirt and bodice that would require stitching and extra boob support to make it work. Why make an outfit more complicated when you need to be comfortable near the ocean—because . . . sand, saltwater, and wind.
Later, she awaited her frantic friend whose son was getting married to arrive last minute to help prepare wedding favors—seashell ornaments. Piles of them. All of which needed a dab of hot glue, ribbons, and hole-punched tags with the bride and groom’s names attached. It would be a late night of of production for her and as it happens, for me as I slept.
In the dream, I rowed a small boat out into a wide canvas of ocean. There, I saw a large metal spike rising from a soft ripple of water and bubbles. I slipped into the water to swim towards it and grasped it with one hand, my legs floating behind in a gentle current. I touched the top of it, and found it sharp and tapered as a needle point blade.
Then I looked down into the ocean below and felt a strange wave of fear and nausea as I discovered what I was holding was a spire attached to an enormous building that went down for miles. It was shaped like a turrid shell, more specifically, Turris babylonia: the Babylon turrid or Tower Turrid. I could see endless windows spiraling into oblivion, casting golden whorls of light out of the black-green hulk of bone-metal. The windows were an inverted negative of the pattern on the elusive Scaphella junonia: the junonia shell, or Juno’s volute.
I battled two opposing instincts—swim down to see if there was more to the cityscape; or get back in my little red boat and find the nearest land. Somehow, my sense of the building was based on a faint memory from a previous dream. It did not feel like a livable, underwater Utopia, but a submerged and dark-tinged Atlantis. This seashell skyscraper was merely a glittering prison tower.
The morning after the wedding and my dream, I asked Terri how everything turned out.
“Oh, we were up ’til one in the morning,” she said stiffly, “but they turned out nice. Hold on, I’ll show you.” She ran back into the house to retrieve a sample.
She dangled a few shells on silver and gold ribbon between two fingers, one of them a Babylonia. The dream swam up and flooded me with remembrance.
Later, I read that people who attend beach weddings often receive seashell favors, bought in bulk from a craft store, just as these were. Sometimes, brides want that extra stagecraft to their ocean side ceremony and purchase cheap bags of foreign shells to scatter along the beach or create aisle runners. They often get left behind, run out with the tide, and wash back in to the minor annoyance of pros or the sheer delight of amateur shellers (yes, a name for people who collect seashells) depending on their knowledge of where the shells originated. But most people who buy them have the innocent intention of spreading them on local beaches so their children and grandchildren can go hunting and find a rare treasure—albeit, not a local creature that has fled its conical home. Shellers call these castaway orphans and refugees “Wedding Shells.” Still others want to rid themselves of their old beach comber collection with similar meaningful ceremonies that return them to the sea, even if it’s not the same water.
I look at some of my own collection on my nature altar, recalling the sandy coastlines and aquamarine water I dove in to collect them—even who I was with when I found them. California. Florida. Oregon. British Virgin Islands. Once, I opened a box on a dresser at an estate sale to find a small clutch of shells, which promptly went home with me. I wondered, where had they gone to find all these? What memories were attached to all these nature objects? Were any of my prizes wedding shells? Certainly not the brain coral or the banded tulip shell, not the dried urchin or the sand dollar—I found those in their native spaces.
And what of all those holey stones aka Faerie Stones, Hag Stones, or Witch’s Amulets I have a knack for finding? Or for them finding me. It is said that they offer protection by placing them on a nail near doorways. Faerie stones provide a window into other worlds as you gaze through the naturally made hole eroded by time and water, or clam-like shelled creatures called piddocks, known by the sweeter name, angelwings.
Piddock shells are divided into 2 or 3 sections, one of them with a pointed beak that contains a set of ridges or “teeth,” much like a grinding plate for spices. They slowly drill their elliptical shells into rocks, creating tubular burrows, rhythmically contracting the muscles attached to their wings, siphoning water and holding it in to create an expansive pressure, and extending a fleshy foot that grips the stone surface of their home to rotate the shell. As they grow, they enlarge their hole, carving out space to live in and protect themselves. They remain in their stonehouse hidey-hole their entire lives—5 to 10 years. Because of their foot and their siphon hose, they can never quite fully retract into their shell halves and close their wings. They are a mouth with teeth on the outside and feet on the inside! Those muscles fusing the wings together become weak, and the rest of the shell fragile, making it rare to find angelwings on the shore with both halves still intact.
But perhaps what I should be doing with the stones with holes in them drilled by nature to see through time with, is what the mystics did—thread them with a black cord and put them near the bed to ward off nightmares. Especially nightmares of buildings in the shape of a cutting shell rising above the water’s edge.
This morning I woke from a dream where a dragon was terrorizing the city I lived in. It would cling to the parapet walls of churches, breathing fire down on the street and smashing buildings as it went. No one could figure out where the dragon lived and it would appear suddenly in random places. While on a date with a strange man at a theatre play, I discovered that HE was in fact the dragon, able to shiftshape. Somehow, his eyes and the graceful, reptilian slink in his step gave him away.
I was given a gladius from the community, a smallish sword, and instructed to murder him while he was human, which I couldn’t do because—he was teaching me things, and of course, I loved him.
I woke as he was perched at the top of a tree, leering down at me in dragon form, as I sheathed my sword, and thought to myself, “we should leave this place, we are not welcome here.”
Last nite I dreamed a child was born. An angry, powerful girl child meant for battle. A child somehow prophesied and meant to act as a weapon, a tool for humanity. I did not give birth to this child, I simply kept my distance and observed as all the wise men and women sought to coax her and train her. They staged miniature bouts between the child and those who thought themselves strong enough to get within striking distance. No one could and those who tried were thrown back from the child’s fiery, protective field, a red bubble, a halo of light that would build and erupt and push the intruder away as the child sounded with an ear-piercing cry.
I watched the warriors come and go and paced and thought and drew close to the child and gently removed the clutch of her handler from her tiny shoulder. I was well within range to destroy the child meant for service and greatness or murder and annihilation but I gathered the child instead to my barren breast which suddenly gave milk and comfort. I looked to the handler who nodded and closed his eyes and took the child with me for a walk through a field, which led us down a dirt road where Iboarded a bus where a man sat beside me with open sea-green eyes and a gentle countenance. He put his arm about my shoulders and held us both and the child looked up at me and smiled.
No—it is not a longing for children. I am instead longing to soothe that angry, sad untempered part of me who has taken some damage lately and lashes out at all the wrong people, in all the wrong dimensions, and with wildly inordinate scales of heat.
I am listening to my dream language and I know what I must do. It involves some self-mothering. And some fussing and some nursing. To be sure.
She is an egg and every shadowed glance,
every silent forest destroys her.
She is newborn and the shark-tooth grit
of the earth clings to her wet eyes.
She is in flames, the jeweled fire
that everyone remembers,
and then, what she had not foreseen,
She is burned and not consumed.
Burned. She feels her feathers
knit together. Burned. It hurts her
to heal. She is still.
She dreams of the next dawn,
a darkness, a nest of ash.
Tonight was the full moon. The 9th of April. The Pink Moon. The Egg Moon. Even the word April sounds like rain; it spittles from the mouth with the open promise, the gathering of air for the “A” and the plosive “pr” ending with the tongue lap of “l” at the back of the teeth. Water held back, pressed behind the dam. But that rain, as the rhyme goes, the April showers hold the promise of May flowers. Considering the wild rains Portland tends to get on the regular, I would wager that despite a couple of stellar 70 degree days that visited us early in the week, there is still a good bit of watery April left and that will require some patience. Next full moon—The Milk Moon. The Flower Moon.
Luckily, the flowers are already showing their pretty faces in the garden; purple and pink hyacinth carries on the air like a honeysuckle perfume, the camellia trees in my yard bloom bright red, some mottled with white stripes, the yellow, white and violet crocus and buttery daffodils are plenty, and the tulips have unfurled their emerald green bunny ears, though the buds are still closed tight as peapods, so many meditative eyelids, dreaming something deep and colorful. A flurry of cherry tree blossoms drift into the yard; heavy Spring wind casting a false snow, a white mimicry of Winter’s last stand.
While wandering the perimeter of the house, I found a lonely patch of trillium, a tri-fold of green heart leaves lifting up triangular white flowers, a basket of stars, everywhere in 3s.
But that’s the best part of Spring—everything coming back from Winter’s sleep, seemingly, from the dead: the flowers, the trees, the animals, the goddess Eostre, Jesus. Me.
I’ve been feeling better, I’m cooking more and enjoying all the smell and tastes and textures of food. Something happened last full moon, some strong anxietal force moved through me. Some part of me died a little, something, someone else resurrected. It was what i asked for, and lately, as I am sleeping more soundly, it is a common and powerful theme when i dream. Death, rebirth, fire, water, flying, wings, feathers, hands in the earth, digging and digging, biting and scratching my way through.
Two nights ago I dreamed I stood in a huge backyard, a large farmhouse behind me. It wasn’t quite an open field as it was fenced off. The grasses were tall in places and something straw-colored was moving through the area towards me. But all I could see were its dark eyes and furry antlers. It seemed to be part moose or reindeer and masculine—it was so large, but as it drew closer, it became softer, graceful, almost feminine despite the large antlers on its head to indicate male. It was more a Mule deer, a buck.
We both approached each other cautiously and as the deer stood still before me, it morphed into a woman. It occurred to me that i should invite her for dinner; a big party was being thrown by extended family, though it was no family I knew of and no occasion i could name. When I introduced my new friend to the men in the family, they leered a bit, patted at her long legs and lap asking why she was so quiet. I explained that she was foreign and didn’t speak the language, so the deer-woman just smiled softly at them and looked strangely at me. I grew anxious as we visited because I felt that at any moment, her glamour would break and she would morph back into the powerful, antlered creature that would bound through the room, kick over furniture and dishes and smash through the back door to escape. The thought plagued me so heavily, I pleaded with my eyes to the deer-woman, and indicated with my head that we should go back outside. She nodded and followed me.
Once we were outside, she became the buck again and wandered out into the forest where I followed her/him. A bright shock of sunlight stunned the deer and it turned on me, knocked me over, bleating, snorting and biting at my neck. It was part murder, part mating. The world went dark in a swirl of tree canopy, pearl grey sky and clouds of shattered eggshell.
When I woke, it was the woman again beside me, waiting for me to rise. My sense was that I was dead, but undead. Not quite vampire, but stony, pale and cold. I was able to move fast, to levitate, to fly and could bring someone with me, transferring the powerful ability to them, with them, so long as they linked hands or an arm with me.
The deer-woman had someone with her now, and I had a faceless someone with me. The four of us flew around until we came upon a memorial site. A grave with no body. A decorative brass commemorative plaque. With my name on it. But it was not my current married name. It was my maiden name: Andrea Jackman. I wiped dirt away from the plaque, collected cigarette butts and trash thoughtlessly discarded in the grass surrounding it and threw these things away. I felt sadness, but also, realized, it was not truly myself that was lost or dead, but a previous incarnation of self.
This lead me to seek out the mythology of the deer, the stag, ways to interpret the dream. Some of it I knew, but some of what I found amazed me in my own psyche’s ability to deliver the message.
It begins even in Neolithic Cave art where the depiction of people for hunting or shamanistic practice, dress in deer hide and wear antlers. In Classical times, the ‘Stag God’ was paramount to the Scythians and other peoples across the Eurasian steppes. To the Hungarians (my ethnic background) there is a great horned doe, which shone in multicolour lights and its antlers glittered from light.
There is the Spring renewal, the chase after the stag is a hunt for the return of the sun, searching for its light and heat which during Winter is taken away by the stag. The girls of the legend are the does, the daughters of light (Leukepius in Greek), who return the light and fertility of the sun. For that reason they have names which indicate “light, white, burning” Dula=Gyula,Gyul…, Sar=gold, light, stag. Bular or Bugur=stag in Turkic.
Ancient Norse mythology tells how 4 stags run in the branches of the ash and browse the foliage of the world-tree Yggdrasil, eating away the buds (hours), blossoms (days) and branches (seasons). Their names are: Dain, Dvalin, Duneyr, Durathor and are thought to represent the four winds.
In Greek mythology, it is the Keryneian stag, a fantastic beast with golden horns and brass hooves sacred to the huntress-goddess Artemis who turned herself into a white hind (female deer) to avoid being violated by two giants.
The deer is also a central religious image for Buddhism. Buddha is often pictured with a deer, and legend tells how he first preached in a deer park. The deer image itself representing innocence and a return to the wilderness.
In Celtic mythology, the deer is a magical creature, able to move between the worlds and many tales have humans transformed into deer. For example, St. Patrick was said to have transformed himself and his companions into deer in order to escape a trap laid by a pagan king. Cernunnos, the Celtic Horned God, was depicted with the antlers of a stag; he is said to be a god of fertility and plenty, and to be the Lord of the Beasts. According to some, his antlers symbolize a radiation of heavenly light. Images of stags were supposedly used to symbolize Cernunnos in non-human form. In the Welsh tale of Culhwch and Olwen, the stag is one of the oldest animals in the world, along with the blackbird, the owl, the eagle and the salmon.
In some parts of Asia, deer are considered to be conductors of soul and thus the robes of shamans are usually made out of deerskin. Likewise, many Native Americans believed deer and other animals with forked horns and antlers represented forked or double nature. When the Cherokee traveled during harsh winter weather, they rubbed their feet in warm ashes and sang a song to acquire powers for the four animals whose feet never were frost bitten—opossum, wolf, fox and deer. To the Pawnee, the deer is a guide to the light of the Sun. The Panche Indians of Colombia believe that human souls pass into the bodies of deer after death and therefore eating the flesh of deer is forbidden to them. In ancient Mexico, deer were sometimes depicted carrying the Sun (similar to the ancient Steppe myth and the Scythians).
The antlers of the stag are compared to tree-branches (the world-tree Yggdrasil) and since they are shed and re-grown every year represent fertility, rejuvenation and rebirth. Carl Jung noted that “the stag is an allegory of Christ because legend attributes to it the capacity for self-renewal … In alchemy, Mercurius is allegorized as the stag because the stag can renew itself.”
This close to Easter, my mind is swirling with birth, bunnies, blossoms, eggs, animals, the moon, the sun, Christology, oh and sure, I’ve some room for chocolate in there, too. After all, it is the sweet delectables, the luscious plenty, the little gifts, and the small rewards that make such great love and transformation possible. But was my dream telling me to lay off the Twilight series by conjuring a vampire deer? Was I truly dead? Rutting? No—I’d like to think it’s the change on the horizon, the promise of sun, a great white fire I am still chasing after in the woods. Some promise borne out of rain, softening the edges, washing away the ashes, waiting for me to rise from a bed of flowers and turn my head up to the clouds of shattered eggshell to see the robin blue sky.
so . . . i was tagged. more, i was asked to write a blog with 10 random things, facts, goals, or habits about mys(elf).
this longish little labor of love is dedicated to Virtual Angel and Laura, (thanks for waiting pretty ladies) though i will break the trend by NOTtagging anyone directly for obligatory response and instead invite anyone to tell me one random thing, fact or goal about themselves here as an optional comment.
i will start big and descriptive and then i will try to scale down to some simple trivia.
::: ::: ::: :::
1 i am a nature nut. I have a profound respect for all things furry, things with leaves, scales, fins, feather and especially wings. And not just the pretty things like moths and butterflies, but birds and even bats. I have picked up butterflies dashed by car radiators flapping at the roadside. i’ve hand fed a dazed hummingbird after thudding pitifully into a window and was amazed to have it fly directly out of my hand. i have carefully pulled a baby mouse from a glue trap. Out of sheer interest, i took great pride in planting and cultivating a small but beautiful garden and i raised giant silkmoths (Saturniidae) for a year. i have photo documented nearly all of the above in great detail.
This all adds up to the fact that i wish i were a National Geographic level photographer (though i did finish in the 3rd annual Smithsonian contest in the category of Altered Images for a photo of a red tree.) my photos have also been featured in a Maryland Department of Natural Resources Calendar and on a species sign at the Calgary Zoo (for a HUGE bat called a Malayan Flying Fox.)
To remind me of the fragility of the natural worlds (humans included) i keep a little wooden box on my bookshelf. Some would consider it a bug sarcophagus but it has several wings, some full bodies of, and some single panels of glittering, scaly, colorful butterflies, moths and a fully intact dragonfly. I’m not a pinner and framer or a freezer or a killer. None of this Silence of The Lambs nonsense . . . i would just find these and collect them in the field as is. Creepy to you maybe, but delicate treasures to me.
2 i move slow on Sundays. Meditatively so. Or more at, sometimes, i don’t like getting up in the morning. Correction. i do NOT get up in the morning, i typically rise in the early afternoon. Morning for me is 10am to 11am. 9am is really pushing it. Anything prior to that and i am either sleeping, or some kind soul is cooking up a mean breakfast in the kitchen that has roused me and my hunger. Or – i wake voracious and i am found making a tall stack of pancakes, towering like fluffy beige clouds or a big mess of cheesy scrambled eggs. My Sunday ritual is this . . . Rise late. Drink tea. Eat breakfast for lunch. Stay comfortable. Snuggle with Joe. Read or write of fill my mind and heart with music and art. I am not religious (unless you count nature) but i understand why people go to church, why they don’t want to work, why they choose forced respite on Sunday. as midnight approaches on a Saturday, bringing to close a full day, a full week lived and loved, greeted and embraced, photographed and written about, drunk down and eaten full, documented, cherished and learned from, i see the world as my church and the amazing places, people and things in it, all beautiful, meaningful and deserving of reverence in their own godlike ways. So i need time to digest my universe. And i refuse to work on Sundays. For at least the past 10 years . . . ultimately, i try to live my life as if it were a string of neverending Sundays: i eat when i am hungry, i sleep when i am tired, i work when i need the money, i rest when my mind or my body calls for it.
3 i am guilty of magical thinking. This is because i believe i lead a charmed life. Truly. In a world of random bullshit and utter chaos, i find myself wildly lucky. this works for me in a positive way not a paranoiac way. Many, many positive things, people and opportunities have filled my life. The places i’ve traveled to and seen, the wine i’ve consumed, the food i’ve eaten, the music i’ve absorbed, the people i’ve met, the true friends and the necessary lovers over the years and now, the perfect husband i now cherish. Where does the magic come in? i believe these things have been delivered to me from sheer wishing, from dreams, from asking the universe out right, from applying my mind and my will to them and invariably, from making the good decisions that put me in the places where the magic indeed happens. Oh yeah – and i think faerie folklore has a good bit of truth and i don’t care what you think that means. The boon of art and writing inspired is plenty. i look for signs in everything from placement in time and numbers on coins, to colors worn for effect, from license plates to billboards, from overheard conversations to the small, pinched flower mouths of children. Myths are made daily. i live like that . . .
4 i prefer to eat with my hands. I can even been seen eating a salad like this. Sure – i’ve worked in fine dining for the better part of 16 years and i know how to set a proper table. Even so, i use my right hand like a little claw or a prong, gathering three fingers and a thumb into a quadrant, leaving the pinkie out. i like gently tearing off hunks of cake or gathering a bundle of French fries and bringing the whole of it to pursed lips. i often taste sauces on plates with my fingers first before going in. it doesn’t matter how fancy or how low country the food is, though i will often employ the proper tool at the proper time, i still prefer the direct tactile sensation of bringing food to my mouth with my hands. and as for beverages, i’ll drink wine out of anything, including a bowl.
5 i’ve tried my hand at every artistic arena minus sports. i’ve attacked and completed most ventures with moderate success and still continue to grow in the ones i’ve decided to hold onto. No one told me i couldn’t or explained that i might fail so i tried everything to see what i was good at with joyful abandon. i play acoustic guitar and a smattering of piano, i even tried flute and saxophone. i sing mostly as i discovered it was my best instrument and used it to front a band. i’ve been recorded. i’ve sketched, painted and sculpted. i took jazz for a few months and performed in precisely one dance recital in a hideous pink and black polka-dotted bodysuit with crinoline skirt when i was 15. i still write quite a bit and have been published in small collections that i have entered and/or was editor-in-chief for and won minor educational scholarship contests for writing when i began my college career. Then there’s the photography bit too . . . as previously mentioned.
6 secretly – or maybe not so secretly, i want to sift through my writing and author a book. Poetic prose, nothing too confessional, something probably more at short-story/essay-type of writing. If there were a way to amalgamize the astute natural observation of Annie Dillard, the humor of David Sedaris, Douglas Adams or Christopher Moore, and the delightfully dense prose of Tom Robbins, fluid and delivered in equal parts, then this is the book i want to write. i mean – aren’t we all very busy writing the Great American Novel?
7 Socks. i love them. Especially knee-highs. The longer, more silly, more sexy, more striped, more full of cats and flowers and polka-dots and eyeballs and stars, the better.
8 Being naked. This is my preferred state. And i don’t say that to be provocative. i like senseless nudity. Like, i prefer to be naked cleaning the tub and bathroom tiles (so i can shower after!) or fresh out of the shower composing email naked in front of the computer with a towel on my head. i like doing the dishes naked or dusting the bookshelves on a chair naked or my favorite, stripping down in front of the washer and loading the clothes into the basin naked. Also combine this with 7 and you get naked plus socks – another common state of mine. Because i dress according to mood and function, it takes me awhile to decide what i’m wearing for the day so if i don’t have to go anywhere on the immediate, i’ll just wander the house naked until i get inspired.
9 Oregon. This is where i want to live. I want to see mountains and water, to hike to camp, to breathe and eat healthy and sleep soundly to the rain. All of this with my husband Joe, in a home with a fireplace and a wall stuffed with books (or a proper library), with a couple (or few cats) and a big porch to watch the birds from, a backyard without a fence to hold back the garden of flowers, herbs, vegetables and lavender, a few comfortable chairs, a bright window to look out while i write and read, and a nicely stocked kitchen and pantry with plenty of cupboard space for us to feed ourselves and entertain the people we adore. There is a plan in place for this eventual utopian move . . .
And last for 10 i give you . . ..
10 My Top 10 List of Tiny Zen
the top of my cat’s head (where smooches go)
Mango flesh – if you want to learn to kiss, eat one, with both hands
the smell of onions frying in butter
the crisp of autumn experienced through an open window
blood orange hot tea
an afternoon nap in a cool, dark place
lavender – in any form, mixture, balm or concoction
a sexy, luscious, viscous red wine
Jasmine Rice steaming
cold champagne in a hot bath
and the invitation is now yours, should you choose . . .
So much life happens in between writing—sure, I toss off a few poems here and there, bread crumbs for the flitting birds to circle and chase and peck upon in my head, but after awhile, i think i get a little backed up. Polluted really. My brain hurts – and I get an actual headache from the need of being empty. But not in a bad way. I am full to the brim of events to reflect upon, or more, i have so much to convey, to catalogue where I’ve been, what i’ve seen, and all the emotional responses in between.
As a child, i often imagined what it would’ve been like to be Anne Frank. To live swiftly, to love, to fear and to hope so deeply in a mere 15 years, and somehow, to have the wherewithal to take the time and write it all down. I imagined what it would be like to have your secret thoughts, sketched out and told to a book/creature/confident called “kitty.” Strangely, i romanticized the idea of having my own thoughts read by others after i died, young or old, discovered in a desk nook, thumbed over and devoured. i think it is more the idea that most of us want to create a legacy than a fantasy about dying young and being immortalized.
Humans want to surpass mundanity; we want to be individually great and loved and remembered for something. Anne did it unwittingly and it was more than just a girl talking about family and school and boys and prejudice – she documented and encapsulated a dark time in history making it a crystallized horror for us to look at and in some ways, to give thanks for our lives now. Is this why we blog? To prattle on about daily events in the hopes that we are found? Or that better, we are PROfound . . .
Sometimes, i still see myself as the girl with the diary in my night table, except that not only is the writing not so private, there’s a digital display for anyone in the world to locate and to read it. Though i have them and use them for other things, my tools are not paper or pen, but this monitor and this computer with a program that throws clean white sheets and perfectly scribed text and no crossing out or rubber-end erasing; it’s cut and paste and movement and manipulation and clickety-clack and SAVE AS until it’s fitfully complete.
And what will they discover of me? i thought about this upon cleaning my keyboard, popping off keys to reveal multiple DNA samples, unlikely chimera tailing together: dust, dried ivy leaves, finger nail clippings, sticky bits of evaporated wine, food crumbs, cat hair, all recombining to lay out a pattern that speaks of a woman with small hands and a dislike for fingernails that make tapping noises, a someone who loves cats and plants and food and libation and cool breezes through windows to kick and stir things up a little, rather than the swatch of a dust rag.
But that’s just part of me – there is also the most important influence and the reason i am able to write at all . . . the people in my life who i spend time with, who inspire me, who i create memories with, else i’d be moaning and meowing on in my own private hell, concocting my prosaic neuroses in painstaking, exhaustive (and to be sure, wildly boring) detail. There’s plenty of that to be had about and so really, it’s a meaningful task to tell a good story about a normal life; that’s what allows us transcendence into heroes.
Wikipedia tells us that a superhero is a fictional character who is noted for feats of courage and nobility, who usually possesses abilities beyond those of normal human beings. The exhibit a strong moral code, including a willingness to risk one’s own safety in the service of good without expectation of reward. They have extraordinary powers and abilities, relevant skills, and/or advanced equipment. More often than not, they have a secret identity.
Well – my list of late, they aren’t fictionalized (well, yet, unless you count Chelsea, who wrote a book and flattered me with a request to design the cover.) i’m going to have break confidence on this one and reveal the identities of good friends and loved ones.
In June, the Monday night of my birthday, it rained. Not to be deterred and though some of the people I invited did not show, Nicole was my sweet saving grace and trooped out with me. We went out drinking like rockstars and dancing like divas, hair thick and skin slick with rain which became sweat, pressed against all those swaying bodies in the basement bar. It could’ve been a disappointing night with the no-shows and the weather, but Nicole was a true friend to me.
Tuesday it drizzled a nice haze to accompany the hangover I nursed at work the following day, but on Wednesday, there was no holding back – the sky opened up and hailed a glorious rainstorm down on us replete with lightning and thunder and flash flooding. And then the transformer blew out at the bottom of the street in a spectacular blaze, then dudded like a lame fireworks finale and darkened the block all except Joel’s house on the corner who was clearly jacked in to the electricity from the next corner over.
The houses on my street are quite old, a good deal of them declared “historic” with building markers by the nearby and omnipresent Historic Annapolis Foundation. Ours in particular falls under the category of “Chesapeake Gray” in the 19th/20th-Century Annapolis Vernacular, 1837-1921. Some of these houses still have root cellars and a good downpour can mean serious problems in the basement – the kind that require a sub pump to work and when there’s no power, there had better be a generator. On this night, there was a truck, suited with a generator rumbling at the bottom of the street for hours while other neighbors exhaustively bailed out bucket style. Luckily, this was not my fate that night leaving me to concentrate on being comfortable in my pajamas and lighting enough candles to give off the illusion of civilized living.
In this monsoon and to my darkened door, Nicole delivered me the birthday carrot cake, carefully wrapped in plastic and shielded from the rain under my porch awning when i rescued it and brought it inside. i poured a glass of Moscato dessert wine and sat down with a good portion centered on a bone white plate, decoratively trimmed with fat pears and flowers rising from the edge of the china; a happy brail inscription of bounty and beauty. no power, no internet, just my cell phone with three little bars of battery power left, so i sent merry, thankful texts as i happily and greedily devoured a wedge of orange, cream-cheese frosted goodness.
“Still living in 1785?” inquired Ryan? “oh yes. it’s Jane Austen up in this motherfucker. candlelit room like a Renaissance ballroom. quite pretty, actually,” i replied. although it was probably more Jane Eyre a la Emily Bronte. more poor girl makes good of it in the dark and damp. Soon after the umpteenth message was texted under my quick thumb, my cell phone battery died. not to be deterred, i went out front to my parked car into the long, narrow street, wading through ankle-high water rushing past me like a line of cool, silver fish swimming to meet the bay at the foot of the hill. All the ever meanwhile, i was in my grey pajama nightie with the intentions of using the auxiliary power in the car to charge my phone and continue my only connection to the outside world beyond this wicked rainstorm.
As i sat with my feet propped up on my dash, i noticed a bright orange and black umbrella lulling a promenade from side to side in the wind and coming toward my house. it ducked into my neighbor’s fence, then dipped to reveal my neighbor Joel’s familiar face. “Joel!” i called. And then had to call again as he swung around trying to figure out where the voice was coming from to discover it was from a car window, rolled down just enough to let the sound out while keeping the rain out too. He laughed at me and my non-outfit and invited me, or more, tempted me with pomegranate cosmopolitans and a warm robe. i mean, how could i refuse a bartender with a Harvard degree in said skill. Well, ok – a “Master of Mixology” degree from the Harvard Bartending School.
The robe he produced was like the coat of many colors. A terrycloth robe in magentas, teal and goldenrod. It boasted a smaller, matching version for his son. So, for the second time that week, i sat, drinking with a head full of wet hair, but this time, i danced with his dog, Schooner, who allowed me to pull him by his front paws and onto his back legs for a little spin through the kitchen. A finer partner than some men i’ve cut a rug with, i can tell you, and sweeter.
Since we got onto the topic of dressing strangely or inappropriately, for my amusement, Joel pulled out the ghosts of Halloweens past. Costumes made mostly of foam: gigantic heads with glasses, a monstrous slice of pizza you could slide your arms into and peek out through holes from, a blood spattered t-shirt to be worn while carrying plastic knives glued through boxes of Cheerios and Cinnamon Toast Crunch (a “cereal” killer) and finally, the piece de resistance: a naked, disembodied boob wearing a spiked collar and a stiff leash, the kind meant for walking invisible dogs or for, in this case, for two people to walk side by side and when begged the question, “what the hell are you supposed to be?” They could slyly answer, “Oh, we’re just two people walking abreast.”
Joel showed me pictures from a recent bike trip to Lake Tahoe where he races for Lymphoma & Leukemia. He also showed me photos from a recent wedding of his friend Brit. Joel is a wonderful father to his son, Galen, a terrific host, a great cook and a good ear to bend. And he makes a mean drink too . . . i walked home after several ruddy cosmopolitans in my coat of many colors and staved off the raindrops as i went.
And speaking of some mean drinking . . .
August 21st, i went to see one of my favorite female singers Esthero live at the Ram’s Head Onstage in Annapolis. This venue is small and extremely intimate and we, in fact had front row seats. (me and the 3-Ms (Megan, Meg and Melissa). The four of us were parked right up against the stage at her feet. These were feet at which lay the many shots of Jaegermeister she was able to coax from the crowd. The show progressed at a loose and silly pace of storytelling, her father taking pictures as he strolled through the crowd and around the stage, her and her brother drinking as the set grew more improv and a touch vulgar and hilarious.
But she became a Superhero to me when she pulled me up on stage to sing Superheroes with her – a song i had here on my profile for quite some time, and that’s a memory i’ll always cherish whenever i hear it. it’s not every day that a beautiful woman /rockstar you admire points to you in the crowd, compliments you on the way you sing and the way you smell, lays their head on your shoulder and then cops a feel!
i only wish that Shane and i were still friends – he gave me that first CD, Breath From Another, thinking i would like it . . . i did. besides good music and film, he also offered company and advice at a time when my life was undone. i’ll be grateful for that time even if i don’t understand what happened to make us distant. i hope he reads this and he knows that although he can be an extremely occupied but selfless recluse and though i can be a little flighty with a full plate of my own, i’m so happy he found someone to love with as much passion as he owns in this life and offers to the people around him.
Adria, a friend from work quipped recently, “you know, i’m never the bride, i’m not even the bridesmaid, i’m the bride’s waitress.” and i laughed, because i’ve listened to women “ooh” and ahh” and aww” over baby booties and matching dishware for many many years having been the waitress who brings the food, the mimosas and the garbage bag to put all the colorful wrapping paper into as well as the paper plates to affix all the bows to for the “bouquet.”
She’d been asking me about dealbreakers and happiness and love and i’ll have to attest, you’re doing the right thing girl. when you bicker over the proper way to make toast in the morning, when the important conversations become null and void topics for discussion, when there’s love but there’s no real time spent together showing it, if it’s only inertia keeping you there then it’s time to escape the atmosphere. Her life will only open up and welcome the love she needs from here.
Proof positive—you can love people, you can enjoy them for who they are and rail at them for who they aren’t, but that still doesn’t make them a good fit in your emotional world. Weather, seasonal disposition and growth (or death) accounts for the fostering or the floundering of any relationship. Some fall away, some change their shape and meaning, some we cling onto for good.
Which brings me to my beautiful Joseph. There i was, ready for the big move. “Fuck it all, boys and girls. He must not live here so i don’t want to either.” i was going to Los Angeles to be near to my sister, Racheal and her great relationship with Flounder (his legal name for which a story is due), and i would foil off of them and locate love in the big bad scary plastic city (with pockets of reality, so i understand). i even had a sweet benefactor/friend who sent me wine and wonderful books, encouraged my move and bought a photo from me. Drew, you’re a beautiful, thoughtful person and a fine example of the goodness in the world that allows us all to pool from the collective unconscious and come by like-minded people to grok this life with.
And weeks before i was ready to make arrangements for the moving truck, the drive, the car, the clothing, the cat, fate stepped in and said,”oh no, not that!” Somehow by some strange twist of dreams, roommates, my friend from the south, Graham, and Joe’s sister from across the pond, Laura – we came to find each other. It was a volley of long, tasty emails, a dinner date and a long walk that turned into two days before i allowed him to go home.
So many false starts and flat hopes and meaningless gestures from other men and then he sweetly asked, “i know you’re planning on moving and i’m not trying to force my will, but would you consider staying here to see where this goes?” His kind request slowed me and led to deeper discussions and further, fancier endearments. His question also prevented me from making a gross error in thinking that there was no one here for me and possibly, though i adore my sister and the west coast landscape, i have a feeling that a part of me might’ve died out there, that i might not have survived in some ways, financially, emotionally and otherwise. That the crushing loneliness of one cat, a small room, a couch for a bed and a horrific daily commute might only have furthered my suspicions of futility when it comes to finding your soulmate. Out there, somewhere, in one of those tin cans driving alongside you or passing you by on the way to the grocery store and you don’t notice him because you’re digging in your door pocket to retrieve a lost CD for that song you just HAVE to hear that reminds you of the love you want except, you know, he didn’t see you either because he’s got his hand flailing under his seat trying to retrieve the fucking Bluetooth so he doesn’t crash his car or worse, get a ticket for using his cell phone without a handsfree unit.
That’s what i mean—in all the mess, all the chaos, in the busy storm we swirl up to occupy our lives, it’s a miracle we find people remotely like ourselves. People who will take the time to get to know each other, to have the serious and soulful conversations that lead to sunrise and breakfast and the rest of your burning lives. To pay attention to someone closely enough beyond movies and music and favorite colors and pet peeves until it leads to understanding. By measurable degrees, you should come by knowing whether that person is a good match, sense the difference between affection and affliction and employ the necessary balance between appearing over-eager, cooling your chances by self-censorship and being justly picky and mindfully critical. i never settled for friends with benefits, i don’t answer to booty calls and the oil-change for the libido that sport-fucking accomplishes is a pale and temporary fix. it is a troublesome, fantasy-laden emotional vacuum compared to the safety and comfort that a real relationship with lovers able to communicate their desires can offer. Eventually, you relax and just marvel and open yourself and are thankful for it all. And i did. Completely. My reward is being unafraid and constantly amazed by the synchronous workings of this gorgeous love affair.
And wow, does it ever give you perspective . . .
A few weeks ago, we lay down for sleep and he was more than half way there when the phone rang at some inhospitable hour. It was a drunk dial from a boy-long-ago. i let it go to voicemail then checked what could possibly be the matter. I snickered as it played back and thrust the phone at Joe so he could hear the silliness for himself. He muttered, “poor guy, sounds like a Muppet with a mouthful of socks.” Indeed. Occasionally soft, brightly colored, delightful in half-hour episodes, but tragically childish and impossible to understand. i lay back down, he pulled the pillow over his shoulder for my head, smoothing my hair as i settled in and curled an arm and a leg over him, a koala bear clinging to a eucalyptus tree.
Megan and i sat down over a big buttery pretzel and some lemonade last night and i described to her, how different i feel. This, i explored out loud, though she already knows the full story because she’s been there since the bad days crashed down and watched with me as the good ones rose and smiled upon me (thank you woman, you’re in my heart). i expressed how my body is changing and strengthening through the yoga she re-introduced me to, how it is also changing and strengthening (and in some ways, softening) at the influence of joy and love, but more so this yielding is taking place in my mind and in the way i see my life unfolding.
“I consider myself so lucky,” I said.
“It’s not about luck,” she said, “it’s about making good choices.” Thoughtful and practical advice in the face of magical thinking. You are where and what you pull yourself towards.
She’s right. And i choose Joe but not only because he rescued me, but because he chose me. And i choose to be a superhero. To be courageous and noble, to devote my life in the service of good without expectation of reward, to develop extraordinary powers and abilities and to choose love. With abandon.
I am breathless knowledge and light.
I use my fingers as eyes and keep my hands behind my back,
can you imagine all that I have seen?
I am tall enough to listen to Gods who are distant and removed
I am low enough to swallow mouthfuls of Earth,
tasting the Gods we all have buried.
I am here now and I will come by knowing you.
And yes, then, I wore red cloak and spoke
with a tongue that knew your name.
But I eat only what I am hungry for:
tasty, white prophecy.
I regret no words that speak for you,
from them I am created.
I will go only where I am sought after
and with me I bring whispers.
On my feet will travel stories of a thousand couplings.
My ring, your fixed attention please.
I will make you remember all who you have tangled with,
every street where you were kissed.
I will not wait on excuses or under false pretenses.
I hurt for you where moments string out and break
like beaded necklaces.
And in a world of upside-down
where those thoughts fall into
the branches of trees,
I will hunt those droplets out,
I will climb there and collect them for you.
And when it is night, I will swim far into your rainswept dreams
and spill them into your hands.
Post-apocalyptic war zone, somewhere other than Earth . . .
We are going into the stalls again,
It is testing time.
Will we live?
We have grown wise of protection.
We fare better now.
Chairs block the opening beneath the door
to guard against shrapnel.
Open arenas for concert events.
Now for animal corralling.
We are the soft-skinned animals
Children huddle around me.
Their eyes soak through my pants.
Blood-let cheeks, tearful, snotty,
My skin is cold.
The siren sounds, the explosion comes.
The announcement is made
My name is squawked over gray horns — I win the lottery
and they begin biting my ankles and flesh to kill me.
They want what I will have.
I am the mother they could not kill
before they were born into death.
The lottery is random even here.
My ticket out for me and my friends,
family and traveling companions.
I can buy them passage out of this realm.
One always refuses to leave.
One is always numb from routine abuse.
We sit in a circle:
In our hands, gold cards like airplane tickets.
We bring up the silent song.
and our energies gather above our heads.
pulling up like luminous strands of cloud,
taut, gathered strings
without the tether of delicate balloons,
the blue-lit tendrils,
the stinging coattails of jellyfish
i am not politically inclined to comment.
i am not so easily terrified by ‘terror.’
i avoid most news to maximize joy.
but i have some thoughts on these things,
in grand universal brush strokes . . .
::: ::: ::: :::
Exquisite Cognomen or “How to Name Our Pain”
In the world, there is forever fever:
We read the signs,
blazing in historic orange.
We straddle our majestic fates,
ride our caution horses up to the edge,
and prepare ourselves to be known,
We drop our weapons in the dust,
and unveil with the other prairie dogs—a global disrobal.
We read too much tar for no pleasure,
while we patch ourselves up with nicotine band-aids.
We let the talking heads scare us into the show,
We become cancerous clowns in the tumor circus.
We cannot duck and cover in the Alcoholocaust.
We cannot stay dry in the headswim of worry
and forward motion.
Compartmentalization leads to:
and Tupperware death,
All the ever meanwhile,
Howling sweet exultations
and consuming quietly our consummations
so that we may die pure
and be saved by our cleverly patented,
one-hundred thousand mile drive chain
When we hunker down
And cast our last breath under the elective curtain,
when they unearth our sterile bones,
will they say they truly understood what fine
encyclopedic creatures we were ?
Will we leave bones?
Bones for wolves to make soup,
for women to make breastplates,
and for men to make cages to keep their wolves
and women warriors in.
They may see the hinted drop stitchwork,
the soft, green loop to crochet the new world from,
but will they want such a pattern to follow?
We who all succumbed to communal self-butchery and burnings.
With the burden of our knowledge,
clinging to our near-death faces
though we wake in the night,
bloated and blue,
—information gorge syndrome—
well coax the current thickening lump and swallow,
and fall back against another chainlink, razorwire
Well, for now, caustic dreamers
of blameless, paranoid, age-defying landscapes,
let us multi-task our spiritual trash,
complicate the workable and fertile into fiscal orgasms,
and reduce our grand and beautiful ideas to slogans and acronyms
that suggest other equally unplugged words.
Let us muck around in newfound dark,
continue our acid intercourse,
bring our weary and our winded before our glittering
But we ask that you ask your loved ones to cover their nettles,
so we cannot trace the frightening highway back to the ocean,
or the forest,
or the desert,
so we do not name the extraneous scar across the trellis of a thousand nations,
so we will not offend our impressionable guests
at dinner date death,
so we cannot recognize our very same,
How do we not weep when we know our name is like a dirge,
strangled from threadbare angels.
The earth groans under our weight,
impregnated again and again with a stifling humanity,
eggs rolling off the edge of the earthen table
set by Columbus—
tiny, hopeful, rudiment vessels,
unpacking the cargo of the daunting future
while crushing the orange partitions of the past.