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.
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.
I’m tired of screwin’ up, tired of goin’ down,
Tired of myself, tired of this town.
Oh my, my, oh hell yes
Honey put on that party dress.
Buy me a drink, sing me a song,
Take me as I come, cause I can’t stay long . . .
Last Dance With Mary Jane ~ Tom Petty
::: ::: ::: :::
My first act of 2006, at the stroke of midnite, I chased my birth control pill with a glass of red wine. I sure hope that is some funky premonition for love, protection and celebration. 2 weeks into the New Year, I saw a Friday the 13th followed by a Full Moon Saturday – what a witchy week! And no winter white in sight. It’s been strange weather in the high 50s to 60s some days, rainy with a thin veil of fog and this strange wind coiling, whispering around the boat masts, whipping the lines to into clanging night bells, making the canvas into flapping voices. Then this wicked cold moved in, more high winds and sleet, but NO snow. Global Warming anyone?
Seriously, we just don’t have winters like we used to, but the Farmer’s Almanac claims it’s coming . . .
The nitelife here in my “home-for-now-town” is, umm – interesting. I am living in (as the locals paste on t-shirts) a drinking town with a sailing problem. Midshipmen on the wander, plus drunken, bloated congressional types and supposed professionals making laughable passes at me, wearing striped shirts and power ties, riding power boats, power mowers and eating power lunches while I try to escape and go take a power nap.
But there is an artist conclave here – some of them are advertising successfully, playing music, photographing, sculpting, painting, recombining, pack-ratting, twisting and forming new shapes. Some of them have already slept with everyone of the same ilk, hacking the local six degrees of separation down to a fearsome three or two.
Then there are people like me, or what I imagine to be the way i am perceived by the way I project myself. Living in Maryland eight years, a few interesting jobs, a little bit of recognition in the photo department via contests and small tea house for sale hangings. I garnered a good collection of friends and acquaintances, spurned a few, stalled a few others, gave more still gigantic berth and avoidance and still, I don’t feel like a townie—like I belong here utterly. my sense of here and now and then owing only to the people I love and who love me in return. When I wander down the street, we familiars nod to each other. We may not have broken bread or put down a bottle of wine or shared a secret, but we know each other’s faces.
I know I’ve been less involved, but as I’ve sort of stated prior, my real life outside of my online community involvement has been so full, full of changes, and engaging.
changes and growing bring in new things while simultaneously initiating a whole exodus of others. also, i have come to realize, though it has pained me to be so upset, that i have had to go inside and question myself about all of it – particularly the recent issues i’ve seem to run up against with personalities and people whom i’ve previously counted as friends. i have concluded that it is largely THEIR problem and not mine. all the little insults i’ve been experiencing in my life recently, the little setbacks, i now view as some sort of cosmic insistence nudging me to get out of my brain, to finish my journey within and start implementing the change without. That is to say, recognize the things i have been and gone without and the necessary psychic changes i need to achieve balance again: such as a job where i feel appreciated, friends who i respect and who love me as i love them, the places and people with which i conduct business and pleasure. some of these things have changed or evaporated or fallen away or have demanded my immediate attention over the last 6 months since my life imploded last June. oddly enough, most of this inspirational need for balance arrived as a sort of vision as i lay in shivasana, or corpse pose, after a very hot and strenuous yoga practice. during meditation, the instructor encouraged us to find and practice strength and balance both on the mat (in here) and off the mat (out there) and to remember to breathe deeply through the difficult places and painful times.
i have allowed myself the time to heal, to adjust, to date, to make a mess of things and to make sense of others, to get my head screwed on straight and the new self-focus has been challenging, but re-defining in a good way. it has been mind-blowing at times, mind-bending at others, and still mind-numbing further on. it has been terrifically magical. it has been terribly lonely. it has been encouraging. it has been disheartening. it has been more living than i have done in quite some time and i am grateful for whatever force took my little snowglobe world into their hands and shook the unholy fuck out of it to see how i would deal with the fallout. it has snowed powerful weather down on me. it has grown still. i have begun digging out and winter isn’t nearly over. i don’t want to be cold when i stand up. i don’t want to have to lay down and curl inside to feel warm. i am weary of turning on my side, of laying between two pillows like an infant with bumper pads in my crib bed to prevent me from hurting myself or in my case, to feel like no matter which way i roll over, there is always someone there. i fall asleep clasping my own hand in front of me like a prayer to myself, like a pleading gesture to the world. i find myself waking in tree poses, with one leg drawn in and knee cocked out forming a triangle, a branch to crawl up on. i’m tired of sleeping just so i can dream.
i am not utterly disenchanted with my beloved Maryland, but lately, i have toyed with the idea of moving far far away from here and wiping everything clean to get that needed change. and why not just change everything? i don’t have a mortgage, i don’t have children or a mate. i have no real ties. i can travel, i can make a plan, i can set up shop and re-invent life anywhere. i can succeed so long as i define success by tangible, meaningful terms.
Hope explained to me once that black flies, those things that are dark and draining are attracted to the light. i have always tried to maintain my childlike approach to things, to live lightly and to be a beacon of positive energy for myself and for others, to truly believe that i lead a charmed life no matter how high or low i exist, and to understand that all things come to me and through me when they are needed, even minor and major tragedies are blessings and have reasons. this is so much easier and sweeter than spitting in the face of fate and choosing to NOT imbue my life with meaning. people who don’t appreciate my honesty, my kindness, my bluntness, what i consider my lucky charm, my good fortune, my powers of gentle persuasion and genuine openness, my willingness to accept, to forgive and also – my occasional quick-snap judgment when i remove someone from my life because they cause me grief or harm me – i do this now to protect myself. like a mantra i have to tell myself i am not a bad person. i do not need to be punished. i am good and worthy and deserve more for myself and i expect others to treat themselves the same way. anyone who chooses to be a victim, to victimize themselves, to victimize ME and to make anyone in their surroundings miserable as a result needs to get the hell out of my way and off the path i’m cutting.
I have no need to take on broken people as pet projects, as I am my own work in progress. I studied psychology to understand human behavior, to avoid the pitfalls of lower thinking and feeling and to learn to be more human, more flexible and better adjusted, and how to recognize when someone is NOT and to escape those trappings. Though I often attract friends and lovers who need fixing by some general impetus that drives me to help and to heal, I still prefer people who can swing with it and be happy in themselves, and NOT blame me for their own social/emotional shortcomings when things don’t work out for them.
People are generally uncomfortable with bearing their emotions and being honest with others, especially themselves. There are, however, exceptions to the rule . . . there is a website that updates every Sunday called Post Secret. Frank Warren, the man who created the interactive art project began by printing 3,000 postcards with a message that invited their finders to write a personal, anonymous secret on the blank side and mail it back to him. He left the postcards in art galleries, restaurants, between pages of library books and on subway seats. And as the postcards started trickling back to his mailbox, he began posting a few of them each week at what has become one of the web’s most popular blogs. (Ranked 55th among BlogPulse’s top 10,000 blogs.)
Even after they 3,000 were in, they still kept coming. They arrived from all over the world in many languages – even in Braille type. The project combines art, poetry and psychological candor in ways that few other endeavors have, and that’s what makes it so fascinating to Warren, a self-described “accidental artist.” (Some secrets on the blog, where about 20 new cards are posted each week: “By the time you read this, I’ll be drunk again.” “I’ve been giving oral sex to a pastor for the past 5 years. He’s married. I don’t believe in God.” “I am a breast cancer survivor. Sometimes I wish the cancer had killed me.” And on a New Yorker subscription card: “I think it makes me look smart to subscribe. But I only like to read the cartoons!”).
He still collects them, and continues to invite people “to anonymously contribute … secrets. Each secret can be a regret, hope, funny experience, unseen kindness, fantasy, belief, fear, betrayal, erotic desire, feeling, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything – as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before..”
Instructions are to “Create your 4-by-6-inch postcards out of any mailable material. If you want to share two or more secrets, use multiple postcards. Put your complete secret and image on one side of the postcard.
Please consider mailing in a follow-up email describing the effect, if any, the experience had on your life.
Be brief – the fewer words used the better.
Be legible – use big, clear and bold lettering.
Be creative – let the postcard be your canvas.”
Getting into Georgetown on any given evening around happy hour to park and entertain oneself is always a logistical nitemare. And the nite was already a carpool all over town posse, picking up friends who had other commitments for dinner and nonsense later in the evening. But I rolled up and got rockstar front row parking, then we looked at the 2 block long queue stretching around the building. The two women I was with who lived 30 mins away in Annapolis balked at the fact we’d probably wait over an hour to get in and move through the exhibit. I frowned and said, “right, well, I’ll take you all home and come back myself.” I was dead serious. This was my mission now.
This mission had a hitch when I realized I was low on fuel and got a little twisted around on the way back (DC will disorient you). I coasted into a station on fumes, got back on track and continued my necessary & epic journey. I tore ass through the neighborhoods, made rolling deliveries of my stunned friends who were muttering soft apologies as i waved my hand away and dumped them at their doors. Then I high-tailed it back for the last hour of the exhibit and by then, the line had become manageable.
It was a moving exhibit beginning with cards posted 3 deep and many across on two stretches of wall, then hanging on clothesline, snaking around like dirty laundry left out to dry in the open air, some of them were printed big as billboards, 4×6′ canvases hung in adjacent cubbyhole-like rooms, shouting at you along the way. in these rooms people sat at a line of tables under the big canvasses and wrote down thoughts and talked together. this opened up to a squared off area where the secret postcards hung four or five high on string and several deep, twisting in the air as people walked in between them, turning the cards to read them, looking up at them, into them like a dark rainy sky full of questions and answers. Finally there was a wall crowded with all the envelopes the secrets had arrived in to protect the artistically done post cards. There were two tables nearby with flipboxes full of post cards that people sat at, looking through them like recipes from their grandmother’s kitchen.
Near the exit, there was translucent mailbox created by Washington DC artist Mark Jenkins where people could hand deliver a personal secret. And at the last long table, a book where you could leave thoughts and reactions to the exhibit just as fascinating as the display itself. Frank Warren himself sat there. It was the last day and the last hour of the exhibit and i don’t think anyone recognized him as who he was. I wandered over, said hello and he struck up a conversation with me about the bag I was carrying.
I have a black and red tote bag bearing the picture of a little girl yelling “F*CK F*CK F*CK!” He asked why I had an angry bag and “where are all the joy bags?” so I explained myself.
My sister, Racheal had sent me the tote after after Brooks broke up with me. Inside was a card she had sent that reminded me how we all carry baggage but should do so lightly and instructed me to “Carry your anger inside the F*CK bag. Leave your shit in there, not inside.” I carry a regular purse most other places, but I take the anger bag to Yoga with me, where I unload the little daily insults, bad thoughts, pains, pressures & residual griefs and so I thought it would be appropriate to take it with me to the PostSecret exhibit where I could air out and relate my emotions to some of these brave, beautiful and creative people.
Frank Warren inscribed my book for me. It reads:
Sometimes art and healing are the same thing.
::: ::: ::: :::
Creativity and sharing love with people is what makes life purposeful for me. Through a friend, Andreas, I had the rare opportunity to go see Bono speak on Friday, February 3rd at the Washington Hilton & Towers as part of the 2005-2006 Nation’s Capital Distinguished Speakers Series. His theme was The Future in Front of Us: Living a More Involved Life.. He shared the cover of TIME magazine with Bill & Melinda Gates as Persons Of the Year. He didn’t sing, but instead took the stage to talk. the blurb i read about it on the informal side stated, “His topic is quite simply the future of the planet. This is nothing new for the U2 lead singer. He regularly consorts with the Pope, the President of the United States and other dignitaries. He is that rarest of rock stars, one who can change things in the real world too. Bono’s activism is directed against the AIDS epidemic and reducing the debt burdens of the poorest countries. Like a rock and roll Robin Hood, Bono doesn’t take money from the rich and give it to the poor. Instead, he tries to assist the rich in changing their world view so that they realize that to help the poor is, in fact, to help themselves. Join him at the Hilton where he will talk about how one can have more of an impact by living a purposeful life.”
He said he had come to talk about three things rarely in balance with each other: “music, politics and business.” And also of “tragedy, opportunity and adventure.” He described the “kafka-esque labyrinth of NOs” that we run into everyday of our lives an what we can do to turns those walls and boundaries into YESes. he talked about the situation of starvation, poverty, AIDS and death in Africa, likening it to the Holocaust and how we can choose to effect change on such issues. He was very specific to differentiate that it is not a “cause” but an “emergency” he is discussing and advocating. he said that all the attention of the death toll in the recent tsunami happens every month in Africa – one tsunami a month worth of deaths and it goes uncovered in the news. he was funny, serious, compassionate, told anecdotes about Bishop Desmond Tutu and President Michael Gorbachev and snickered, saying that when sitting between President Bush and several priests, monks and holy figures he ordered a Bloody Mary. he talked about Ireland, about his love for America not just as a country, but as an idea, about ways we can make ourselves shine again in the world community.
At the end of his speech, there was a short question and answer session as taken from a box left out front of the venue. He was very delicate about religion and politics being in the nation’s capital, made jokes about lobbyists and when asked what the role of god and religion took in his music and activism he said he didn’t trust anyone who talked about god too much, that it is a private matter and that he wasn’t particularly the poster child or advertisement for such things. “what if i were snapped crawling out of a club my hand and knees, I am after all a rockstar.” his comments were met with loud applause and laughter.
A question came from a 14-year old girl who asked what young people can do to bring awareness to AIDS, poverty, Africa free market trade, and debt forgiveness of poorer nations. Bono asked her to come up onto the stage, he kneeled, kissed her hand, hugged her to her great surprise and told her and the rest of us about The One Campaign. whether or not you agree with Bono, his vision, his politics, his movement to help, whether you see him as a saint or an annoyance, a rockstar with a big mouth or a person who is using his position to inspire goodness and action, indeed, he is leading an exhaustive and purposeful life.
I bought tickets to go see Feist on Wednesday, February 8th at a club in DC called The Black Cat. I also won tickets from my local radio station, WRNR to see her as part of their Emerging Artist Showcase. it’s an afternoon, pre-show private performance before the concert that evening. Feist’s big song is called “Mushaboom,” and she’s also played with Broken Social Scene.
lately i’ve been dreaming of kissing strangers, of sitting on the curb while i watch my house and all the things in it burn in leaping, licking, gorgeous, garrulous red flames; i’ve seen myself changing faces by pulling them out of white porcelain basin, a bowl of water. clearly – something needs to move in my life. something is requesting to push through. something is asking to be destroyed and to be set anew.
I started with my houseplants. I cut a few back pretty hard and they responded with new, bright growth. The space around my desk looks like a little jungle now. Even Odin leaps out from around the pots and green plants, stalking like the wild thing he was and still is, somewhere in there.
I also bought a beautiful orchid. it’s an Oncidium Intergeneric called “Pacific Sun Spots.” brick red, deep orange and butter yellow.
like a California sunset . . .
. . . which brings me to my trip to Los Angeles February 17th-21st to see my sister, Racheal. I’ve never seen the Salton Sea or a Joshua Tree in real life. It’s time I took some of my own photos. I’ve never taken a wine country tour as an adult, and this time, Ithink we will go not to Napa, but some place small and eclectic—to Santa Barbara. Nothing sounds finer to me in the midst of a cold winter month than to take in some breathtaking visions of desert sand, sea foam, waving palms and sun glinting off all things while I sip wine and release the shutter, both on my self and my camera.
Calendula comes from the Latin “calends” meaning “throughout the months” and became the English “calendar.” The calendula is also the word for marigold as it typically blossoms according to the calendar, either once a month or at the new moon. And it has been many months and plenty of moons since i have been back where i came from.
Bittersweet should be a description reserved for terrible confectionaries, and not the visit home. 4 days since i’ve returned from Detroit . . . such a strange thing it is to go back there now. It was once thought that placing garlands of calendula or marigold under a bed would cause the sleeping person to have prophetic dreams, but the dreams refuse to visit me in the old bed now. The house – a museum, a shrine to a deceased mother/grandmother, a storage facility for nest padding. Life in concentric, obligatory circles of work, sleep, shopping, sustenance. My mother is still deeply depressed and heartbroken over the loss of her mother more than a year ago and it really destroys me to see her like that.
My youngest sister is 12 now, 13 in December and is a masterful soccer player, a beautiful girl, and wildly sarcastic. She still thinks that strapping down her developing breasts in a sports bra built like a duct tape prison is a workable solution to putting off womanhood. Good grief – then she’ll menstruate and it will be Judy Blume all over again. She is a thoughtful, occasionally reserved girl, but quick-witted and i think, surely, a survivor type.
They told Jimmy when he was 17 he had third stage Hodgkins Lymphoma and that he would never father children after chemotherapy and radiation. He dated my sister and lived with us for a year while we were all in high school. Had his sperm samples frozen, met some not so nice girl Rhonda and now, he is expecting his second child . . . without the help of his cryogenic progeny. His voice has changed from too much cigarette smoke and his face is as weathered as the carpenter’s belt he wears at his too slender waist. Is he cured? Possibly. Is he happy? You can’t tell from his smartass tales of drinking and sex 12 times a year when he gets horny and his wife will permit. Stories of falling off roofs and friends who drank themselves to death. A kiss on the cheek before and after and he is out the door. The same whirlwind of strange energy as he ever was. Not even cancer slowed him or toned him down any.
Travis dropped by. His wife going back to grad school, possibly here in DC or Maryland. Is she pregnant too did he say? Either way, she called looking for him. He politely ate the baked brie i made even though he already had dinner and beer. He just lost his father a week or so back. Says i haven’t changed a bit, still deeply sarcastic, but in a nice way – just as he remembered.
I learned one of our friends recently drove himself to a funeral home and shot himself. Perhaps out of convenience or practicality. Perhaps he saw that episode of Six Feet Under. Perhaps it was morbid curiosity to see if he could really go through with it and what they would say in the papers. Not that he would know in any event when the light went out. They found him on a Monday morning.
On the way out of town i ran into Katrice’s mother in front of the liquor store. Her husband, the locally celebrated and revered fire chief (and drunk known to grope you at the fireman’s ball) dropped dead of a heart attack while he was quite young. Barb had Katrice’s son in tow who looked up at me and smiled mischievously. i only knew about her first daughter who had multiple surgeries and illnesses in her infancy. Katrice had to leave the father – he was actually what we call, no joke, a crack addict. She finally decided it was time after he sold the vacuum cleaner.
Michigan’s death rates continue on a downward trend – more every year than live births from what I’ve learned. Alcohol and drug addiction is high and Governor Jennifer M. Granholm has declared September as Michigan Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. Depression and suicide rates are high. There are health advisories against eating some of the wild game and fish in certain areas due to environmental pollutants. Factory wokers fall out from poor work conditions and accidents. And don’t get me started on obesity . . .
i wondered as Zoey and I drove and made pit stops at rest areas for food and fuel – where do these people LIVE that work in these places? I cannot imagine driving from some outlying area to see the daily influx of road stragglers: tired, irritable, hungry, perhaps unshowered. (Pardon the sweeping judgmental stereotypical guess) but if some of them weren’t so simple, they’d probably be amazingly accomplished writers. There must be so much to tell about seeing so many different people and never having to travel far yourself to see them.
It was after midnite on one stretch of the trip. We saw a sign for a rest area that included Starbuck’s, Cinnabon, Sbarro (pizza/pasta) and McDonald’s. Well – all or some of that sounded good to us both – save the golden arches. Of course, we arrive and ALL of it is closed EXCEPT for McDeath.
“Welcome to McDonald’s, can I help you?”
“Do you know of any restaurants in the area that are open?” i politely asked the smiling, rotund creature behind the counter.
“What’s wrong with Mickey D’s?” she asked earnestly, grinning wider.
“Hasn’t she seen the damn movie?” Zoey whispered to me as we walked away.
i was very proud of myself for NOT enumerating precisely all things that are indeed WRONG with Mickey fucking D’s. We grudgingly selected some snacks from the metal coffins that dispense garbage swaddled in plastic and drop them in a dump bin from corkscrewing silver pigtails. We selected Pringles and the ever popular road food – beef jerky, which we found to be tasty but unusually tough. So much that it misaligned our teeth and set our bite out of whack for a few hours. “Tiny sour gummy spider of death?” Zoey jiggled a sugar-coated purple and red sour candy spider at me and we tried to find the best way to eat it: leg by leg and belly treat to finish? Or fat round abdomen and legs last?
On the return trip, we stopped at some place where as always, the music is horrible enough to make you want to hang yourself in the LYSOL doused, Pepto-Bismol colored, “faux-citrus mingled with old urine” scented bathrooms. But what am I talking about – we actually busted out the Macarena on the way there to see if we could stomach it. This and some “Mmmm-Bop” from Hanson sent us into fits of laughter.
This particular rest stop had the oddest open room full of copper-colored mirrors reflecting from all four walls from the floor to the enormously vaulted ceiling. Everything looked rusted and sickly and you couldn’t tell where one room ended and another began. The girl behind the counter here announced everything that each person carried with them to the counter as she rang them up. Or rather – instead of asking if that would be all, she asked if that’s what they had, as if the items might be an optical illusion.
“Is that a cinnabon?”
“Is that a coke and bagel?”
“Is that a bottled water?”
We showed up and were asked, “is that a slice of pizza?” i had the mad urge to pet my pizza lovingly and reply in my best brit accent, “Why no, this is a tiny kitten, do you mind if i eat it here, then?” I told Zoey this and we had a good laugh and remarked how glad we were that we weren’t high and trapped in this room.
i brought her back a small orange and red marigold from a vase in the bathroom and instructed her to let it dry so we could pluck the crumpled blossom, which when pulled from the stem become the seeds themselves. This was something my mother showed me. We saved them at the end of the season – snipped off their crowning heads and put them away in envelopes as seedlings for the next season.
Despite all the deaths, all the emotional hardships, my mother’s garden is still the most impressive one on the block: wild, tall, almost overgrown, but in a beautiful way. Marigolds, petunias, morning glories, double impatients, miniature rose bushes, daisies (her favorite).
Despite its beautiful, sunny appearance, the marigold remains a mythological symbol of pain and sorrow, closing its petals daily when the sun goes down. It can be meant for joy or sadness when given as a gift and is a reminder of the acceptance of both.
It’s still drying on the dashboard of my car . . .
i’m heading back home to Detroit for a few days – Friday PM through Monday AM. i’m dragging Zoey with me for the pilgrimage.
i haven’t been home in more than a year. in essence – since my grandmother died. i also haven’t seen my sister in about that long. i have 2 of them, a 30 year-old and a 12 year-old, who just got a cell phone (*gulp*) and who calls me just to chat quite a bit, which is nice .
i could sure use the road trip, cold Rockstar bevvies, cheap food and little sleep. there’s no way in hell i’m flying out of DC the weekend of 9.11 on an election year. too likely my plane will have come from FL and lost in a storm or be grounded for some unusual terror alert du jour: CODE ORANGE plus CHARTREUSE SPOTS.
there’s a church festival that occurs over this weekend just up the street from my mother’s house. St. Linus. my sister attends school at this place and we, as a strange little family, have memories of polish food and beer tents, polka music and rickety rides. i feel a little tense about the trip home (for longer personal reasons i will NOT delve into here) so this fair may be just the silliness i need.
i will be back soon enough, and possibly, with more pictures
woke up from a tangle of dreams
dressing in black for a party
the sounds of a baby crying
and now … the sun full & bright
the snowdrops blooming in the garden
here to stay, and not melting.
i wandered out in my robe,
hair still tangled from sleep
and what should land on me
but a question mark
a butterfly asking me
what i am asking myself . . .
it’s such a lovely day …
and you should, love.
what a lucky girl i am
to know these things:
the warm sun in my face
a melodic song in my mouth
a daunting, haunting love
and always that series
of life’s unending, unrelenting
puzzling, perfect, positive
i went to bed as the sky was slipping open,
a silver blade across a dark canvas
the sun – a dusky, milk-white pearl,
a burnished tin coin
and the patter of rain.
i woke up late afternoon
a warm ivory cocoon
decided not to burst wings
but lay still for 2 hours
assembling dream collages
two paperweight cats
held me warm and fast.
i had explained to him
that waking up is like being born
sometimes i come out screaming
sometimes i need more pushing
sometimes i cry . . .
i called three friends
from under the blanket-tent
with sleep and recline in my voice
and they asked if i were ok
and i declared softly
with a honeyed smile in my voice
that i was
in a slip of black satin
i padded the stairs, cats in tow
and made eggs and pancakes
with peanut butter and toast
and drank orange juice slowly
marveling how far it had come
to be here now.
how far would I have to travel
to move this slow every day
in a purposeful dreamstate
to share a wishbone prize
while never having broken