Word Winding

attempting to spin cacophony into sanity

Archive for the category “Life and Death and Hope”

Monster Spray

Platypup has a longtime fear of the dark that waxes and wanes circumstantially. Since we returned home from our evacuation, it’s been steadily increasing — compounded by being stuck inside an unusual amount and by acquiring a new fear of zombies.

(I am unfortunately partially responsible for inducing fear of zombies; after conversing with friends, Platypup decided he would like to be one for Halloween without an inkling of what a zombie is. I talked it over with him on and off for several days and finally pulled up a page of fairly tame zombie costumes on Amazon so he could get some sense of what he was expressing interest in being. Scarred. For. Life. Thanks, Mom.)

So lately he’s been reluctant to go anywhere in the house alone or fall asleep without a parent, and all attempts that involve reason, cajoling, or exasperation have failed.

Enter monster spray.

It’s not a novel concept — Pinterest is a black hole of monster spray recipes, printable labels, even a pharmacy prescription. But it’s new to us, and I had no idea whether it would work on Platypup.

I announced our plan to the kids shortly before bedtime, and they watched with eager anticipation as I produced a spritely little yellow and purple glass spray bottle, added five drops each of Lavender, Juniper Berry, and Wild Orange essential oils, and filled the rest with water.

I screwed the top on firmly and then held it out, asking everyone to touch the bottle together, close our eyes, and infuse every bit of the contents with monster repellent, love, and happiness.

When we opened our eyes, Platypup examined his new tool for a moment and then walked off into the shadowy hallway, spraying periodically, fears firmly in cross hairs. Bedtime went as smoothly as it used to, before the fires.

Platypup is not the only one in our community who is afraid of shadows. Evacuees, roused from bed, report waking, hearts racing, at that same time each night since — assuming they managed to get to sleep in the first place. Everyone knows someone whose home vanished in the dark. No one knows if the air they are breathing, the ground they are touching is safe or poison. Voices are threaded with gratitude and grief, stripped down to the core of what truly matters, with an undercurrent of panic. Most of our city packed a bag and braced to lose everything that didn’t fit in it. Uneasiness crackles in the air.

We inevitably turn to our spirituality, our loved ones, our hobbies, and our vices for a talisman against the dark, a banishing spell for monstrous fears.

My monster spray would usually be to go out into the garden at night and feel the earth, the cool air, the pull of moon and stars. Right now that seems advised against; no one knows for how long. Making music, yoga, dancing, celebrating Samhain with my local Reclaiming cell, writing, hygge-ing with my family, swapping stories with my friends, teaching and lesson planning… these things are bringing me solace and rhythm. But without my bare feet sinking into soil, awakening the scents of lemon balm, thyme, and peppermint, I remain ever so slightly off-kilter.

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Unfathomable

It began with the queasiness of being late for something important.

We’d slept in. All of us. With three kids, that’s ridiculously unlikely. I tipped my phone to check the time: 7:01am, not that it registered under all of the urgent messages from friends and family.

Fire.

I got up, got the rest of the family up. We dressed, ate breakfast, threw important documents, underwear, toys, wedding jewelry, and diapers into backpacks, wrestled cats into carriers and children into shoes, and got in the car as though this were a normal activity: hurriedly, haphazardly, more or less the way we leave for school or dance class.

Not knowing for sure where we were heading. Knowing it might all burn.

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I held my violin, uncased, in my lap. Soothed children, listened to music. Squeezed Thor whenever I would otherwise have spoken words not fit for little ears.

I didn’t know terrifying and peaceful could coexist in one moment, let alone one car ride, one day, the better part of one week.

We stopped at the nearest evacuation center to get our bearings. I got out and asked the first uniformed person I saw that wasn’t looking incredibly busy whether we should stay there or go to west county, where our friends had offered to take us in.

We established that she couldn’t officially make that decision for me, and then she essentially made that decision for me. I got back in and we drove out of town, past beloved mundane sights — knowing each might become smoke — and into the golden-hilled, oak-strewn countryside.

It was both an incredible gift and deeply, fundamentally wrong to be somewhere so beautiful and safe while our home was in jeopardy.

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Facebook let me know my friend’s whole neighborhood had disintegrated. I saw her brave eyes, her unflinching acceptance of loss, her steady heart.

Imperfect maps let me track the erratic progress the closest fires made toward our house and those of friends and family. Homeschooling always, I explained these maps over and over again to curious children.

I texted love, photos, news. Marveled constantly at modern technology’s approach to disaster.

The fires engulfed home after home, but had a sizeable ridge to consume before they could get to ours.

So we came back. Just us grownups, the next day. To evacuate more thoroughly. We got the things my heart ached for (rabbits, chickens, cello and other musical instruments, my mother’s ashes, my children’s small treasures). And clothes, way too many, stuffed into trash bags utterly unsorted except in terms of clean vs. dirty.

At the last moment I grabbed the kids’ roller skates and Thor’s soccer gear… Unfortunately, minus one cleat. My dear friend Pythia’s chortling response to this state of affairs: “you know when evacuating it’s key to be able to play soccer whenever you want.”

The second drive away from home felt more final than the first, more premeditated, but still surreally calm. While there were many things we had to leave behind, including Thor’s beautiful custom builds, that had to be ok, so somehow it was. We had our lives, every two and four footed member of the family, and then we got a chance to take two carloads of belongings. That still feels about as lucky as it is possible to be. So lucky I’m hesitant to admit it in the face of so much loss.

While others faced the destruction of every material possession, we spent the better part of the past five days in what one might consider utopia under more intentional circumstances: three families (one host, two evacuees) with eight children between them ranging in age from 20 months to 11 years, all homeschooling through the same charter school, sharing food and chores while the kids ran around like a pack of wolf pups, in and out of pond and trampoline and apple trees.

I found my brain would abruptly stagger under the cumulative weight of uncertainty when faced with unimportant decisions about meals and so forth, and having other adults around to share those smaller burdens is probably what kept the larger one manageable after the initial adrenaline faded.

Firefighters lit a backfire that quelled the inferno closest to us. It’s not over yet for far too many of our neighbors to the north and east, but in our little corner of the world, danger is ebbing.

And now we’re home, a place I honestly expected never to see again. We’re plying the kids inside with screens until the air quality improves. We wear masks during errands. Tomorrow we will attempt to unpack all of our prized possessions before Cria trashes them.

My town is devastated. New normal is a work in progress slow to take form. Each day appears as if from nowhere, and plans for more than a few hours at a time seem unfathomable.

While we wait for daily life to find us, we find solace in sharing our experiences. Exquisite beauty and pain co-mingle in every tale of loss and triumph, and it is by telling these stories that we journey back to the frame of mind that makes routine possible.

Three ships passing

We are in historically epic transitional times, of that I am certain. Adolescence is the most apt (non-profane) one-word description of society today. We’ve picked at our blemishes and now they are rallying, marching from cheek to chin. Red and raging now, they will fade, in time, and leave scars.

Three spheres are going to slide past one another in space tomorrow. This celestial shuffleboard is unremarkable when viewed from anywhere but here.

Here it will induce unsettled fascination with mild to moderate traces of apocalyptica. Knee-deep in cultural voice cracking, now feeble, now gravelly, we struggle to plot humanity’s adulthood from the confines of our short lifespans and unstable hormones.

What is one dust mote of a human being in all of time and space?

Tomorrow I bear witness to the fleetingly profound impact one dust mote of a moon has on all life in the known universe.

It is absolutely true that any object can banish light. And it is equally true that light will return.

Through our growing pains we develop tremendous power to wield on behalf of one another and this planet. May our skin soften and crease into wrinkles of love and laughter. May our voices find resonance. May we realize that our actions have consequences; may we draw from our diverse strengths to make wise and thoughtful choices. May our species find our way back home, newly minted adults, to say “thanks, mom, for everything. Sorry I took you for granted for so long.”

I sometimes feel despair and loss when looking at the night sky from the city or suburbs. I crave the complexity of stars that my bones know is my birthright, that I have yet to see in unadulterated glory. Lately, however, I find sustenance in this aching discrepancy.

You see, the stars are always there. Pollution and city lights and clouds and simple daylight can’t do a damned thing to stop the rest of our universe from gleaming at me… The only effect they can have is on my ability to See. What. Is.

It’s time to stop squandering potential and grow the fuck up. May this momentary alignment of sun, moon, and planet serve as a compass, to help steer humanity through the darkness, toward the stars.

Starlit Grief

​The moon is not visible from my window
And this is good.
Starlight is more illuminating of grief.

I hold my ceaseless craving for your warmth
Gently these days.
I take comfort now in its omnipresence.

The way the stars of this time and of this place
Are merely hints.
Would that I could see nebulas in their stead.

You and the unpolluted sky are both here
Safe in my heart.
Your absence, like your presence, lights my way home.

Holding Space

It’s not either-or.

We can extend ourselves to understand rather than demonize those who voted another way. We can search for connection to, for common ground with, for a way forward that is more than us vs. them.

We can do that while we circle around those most affected by this shift in politics: The undocumented. The refugees. The non-Christians. The non-cis. The non-hetero. The water protectors. The victims of abuse and rape. The people of color. The poor. The earth herself, and the plants and animals struggling to survive in our man-altered climate.

I am finding my balance in this image. Those of us with strength and privilege in a ring. Behind us, sheltered by our bodies, concentric rings with the most vulnerable at the center. We are resolute in our stance, and yet also reaching out. Holding space for a shared path.

If you’re looking for guidance, I cannot recommend highly enough the work of two brilliant lights: Starhawk and Veronica Torres.

Starhawk’s world-class novel The Fifth Sacred Thing has become increasingly, alarmingly relevant over the years since its publication. There is also a prequel and a sequel, and many many other offerings by her as well, including an amazing children’s book, The Last Wild Witch. Her thoughts on the election are an antidote to fear and hatred. Visit Starhawk’s website here.

I have the immense pleasure of being Veronica Torres’ friend. Her work as channel for Eloheim and the Council directly influences my ability to stay sane, grounded, and engaged in this crazy world. She has a zillion recordings of channeling sessions, a number of books (my favorite is A Warrior’s Tale), and various other offerings (the Levels of Creating is a revolutionary tool for self-discovery). Her Core Emotion Session is what I would give each and every one of you if I could. Visit Veronica’s website here.

Countries

Countries are at once
Too large
And too small–
Too powerful
And too impotent–
Too simple
And too complex.

I long for the village.
The ancient, archetypal
Village in the wilderness.
Answerable only to itself.
Part of no larger plans.

I long for the universe.
The glacial, eternal
Universe expanding.
Answerable only to itself.
Beyond plans.

I am the country
Writhing within my skin.
Arrogant
Insecure
Devastated
Jubilant
Conflicted.

I am the village
Deep at my core.
Self-contained
Cooperative
Minute
Complete
Imperfect.

I am the universe
At the outer edges of my awareness.
Unknowable
Infinite
Inescapable
Intricate
True.

The village and the universe
(In addition to their many other tasks)
Must cradle the country
As a child who has, every day
Knowingly and unknowingly
Done terrible and wonderful things.

Cradle, without condemning.
Cradle, without condoning.

Cradle while seeing clearly
The universe
Far beyond this moment
The village
Deep within this moment.

You Are Invited

This election feels different. The stakes feel very, very high. Turning point in history high. Millions of lives hanging in the balance high.

On behalf of the United States of America, I would like to take a moment to issue an open invitation.

There are no better words for it than those crafted by the renowned Starhawk in her increasingly relevant novel The Fifth Sacred Thing:

“There is a place for you at our table, if you will choose to join us.”


My fellow Berning ones and assorted independents, we belong at the table. We are a sizable percentage of this country and have influenced the creation of the most progressive platform a major party in our nation has ever put forth. Cooperation is what this moment in time requires from all of us. Extend a welcoming hand. We may disagree some but I believe we can sit at this table together and discuss it like friends.

Hillary diehards, you belong at the table. Your passion for Ms. Clinton comes from a good place and we look forward to hearing more of what you see in her so we can catch some of your enthusiasm. Refrain from disparaging remarks. Cooperation is what this moment in time requires from all of us. Extend a welcoming hand. We may disagree some but I believe we can sit at this table together and discuss it like friends.

Moderates and apolitical types, you belong at the table. You have untapped potential to breathe fresh air into a heated room. Share your perspective, mediate, find humor in tense moments, and change the subject when truly required. Cooperation is what this moment in time requires from all of us. Extend a welcoming hand. We may disagree some but I believe we can sit at this table together and discuss it like friends.

Conservatives of all stripes, you belong at the table. So many of your values are ours as well. You want to live in happiness and safety. We do, too. You want to be free to make your own way in life. We do, too. Cooperation is what this moment in time requires from all of us. Extend a welcoming hand. We may disagree some but I believe we can sit at this table together and discuss it like friends.

Whether we realize it or not, at some point we chose to consider one another enemies, chose to exaggerate and vilify and blame. We can choose to consider one another friends. Quirky friends, maybe, somewhat embarrassing friends whose eccentric ways leave us shaking our heads, but still friends.

In our splintered factions, we are not just biased against and bewildered by the opposition. We are also ineffective. If we truly want what we say we want from this life, we will sit at the table together. We will refuse to allow anger and fear and greed to run amok and devastate our imperfect but much treasured home. We will extend a welcoming hand even when it seems, as my friend Pythia says, that our only common ground is that we breathe. We will bite our tongues when necessary and speak our truth when necessary. We will disagree respectfully. We will sit and we will invite others to sit at this table and discuss it like friends even when it is not comfortable or convenient because that is the only path that honors the democracy we strive to be.

Rewiring

Our culture hardwires us believe that we are destined to find a soul mate to complete us. A family to complete us. Friends to complete us.

We have a different approach to plant life. Conventional wisdom says that the needs of plants are important but not more so than our own; we take care of them when life is good and forgive ourselves for not tending to them when life is difficult. We applaud their beauty, respect their longevity, and begrudgingly admire their tenacity, considering them “scenery,” a backdrop that might influence our lives but would never be permitted in the director’s chair.

I am inclined to believe we have our wires utterly crossed.

Imagine a culture that absolutely encourages its people to support their partner’s, family’s, friends’ needs — but not forsake their own. That offers ready forgiveness when one is unable to tend to the other in difficult times. That promotes lavish admiring of one another’s traits but ultimately expects each individual to sit in their own director’s chair, influenced by but not relinquishing control to their loved ones.

Appealing?

hubba hubba


Now imagine a culture that believes that animals and plants are destined to complete one another. Where just being together fulfills the primary need of both. A culture that overflows with manuals, mantras, and workshops on forming a more perfect union with one’s garden. That writes poems, songs, and dramedies about the primal dance of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The way each nourishes the other — even beyond death itself, the two merging into one. 

How one will die without the other.

That’s the world I choose to live in. Are you with me?

Our summer solstice circle this year

The Making of a Family

Thor and I are done creating new life. I knew this from the moment Cria arrived with exactly the same certainty I felt after Platypup was born and I was instantly, intensely aware that we had another babe waiting in the wings. Infant pajamas still render me weepy, newborn eyes hold me breathless, but our family is complete.

There are many rational reasons to be done: limited space in our house, limited zeros on our self-employed paychecks, limited sanity in our heads.

None of those are true reasons. You could squeeze six children into our three bedroom house if you really wanted to without anyone calling CPS. We are blessed with funds from deceased relatives to draw upon in tough times. And our missing marbles rolled away before our firstborn rolled over; additional kids just rattle the half-empty drawstring pouch some.

The truth is one does not simply add a child to a family as one might take a fifth towel and plop it onto a stack of four. Pregnancy in and of itself is a tax before any new person emerges, not just on the one bearing the child but also on the partner providing scaffolding and on any existing children whose still-wet clay forms bear the marks of every one of our choices. And every addition — no matter how beloved — every new addition cracks the familial structure wide open. Fractures its foundation, shatters its windows, and requires intense work rebuilding.

We may prefer not to recognize that our bundle of joy is a wrecking ball. But failing to acknowledge a fact never does seem to wither it one iota.

My solitude delighted in and was forever altered by my love for Thor. Our quirky twosome had a gorgeous miraculous iceburg crash headlong into it when our baby was born. The harmony of our family trio and the pea pod coziness of the parent-child duo groaned and stretched and made space for a sparkling quartet. The sturdy balance of our quadrilateral: two grown and two growing, two male and two female, two dependable and two incorrigible, as well as the comforting triangle of two small hands in my two big ones lay in ruins before reforming into the five pointed star we cherish today.

Every prior family unit must be cradled and mourned before the new larger family unit can properly set.

I am lucky. We are lucky. Each newcomer has been welcome, uncomplicated. We’ve only had to deal with increasing in size. All the cracks have been and continue to be painstakingly and willingly filled with copper and gems by loving hands. The choices I made were the ones my heart craved: to wed a person of heart, depth, and wit with whom to bear impish humans. 

I am not naive enough to believe the years ahead do not include their fair share of labor, but I’m no longer willing to intentionally launch the cycle of breaking and mourning and reforming the treasure that is our family. And so we have arrived at one of those moments when it is easy to see how the present alters past and future alike. Now we were always heading towards being a family of five. Now we will be remembered as a family of five even after we are all gone.

The time between

I am an elephant. A cranky elephant. A cranky, creaky, elderly elephant. A cranky, creaky, elderly elephant who needs to sleep more hours than there are hours. And eat more food than exists.

Which is to say, there is likely still at least a month and a half to go until our third baby makes an appearance.

I am ready to nest. And yet who would attempt to nest now, when nesting means wrestling space for clothes and diapers in drawers and closets already full of four people’s things? “Nesting” the third time around looks a lot more like intensive purging and a lot less like tenderly folding tiny onesies.

Today I entertained the notion of never teaching again after this birth (but not with any real seriousness). In almost the same thought-bubble I considered suggesting Thor quit one of his bread-and-butter gigs, because third-hand smoke is a *thing* (which it is, but thankfully I can count on one hand the times my pregnant nose has even noticed that he was in a facility where smoking is permitted). Later, I enthusiastically plotted the new little kid classes I’m putting together for this coming summer.

A smart fortune cookie would say “you are in no condition to make life decisions.” The word on the back would be “dàn jiǔ” (eggnog).

One of our cats is missing. The shy one. Pajama. The one we took in as a feral teenage waif of a kitten. I spent a whole summer taming her, almost a decade ago now. She barely ever leaves our yard, and she is terrified of strangers.

  
I am hopeful she will return. The only other time one of our animals has disappeared was the last time I was pregnant — also during the winter. Our cuddle-bug Cricket vanished two weeks before we moved. Fortunately our new house was quite close to our old one so we could still patrol the same neighborhood. He was gone a whole month. Thor found him walking down the sidewalk only a few blocks away. He was skinny as all get out, writhing with joy to be home again. Blessedly safe and sound.

So we find ourselves turning the page of the year as one would flick a waiting room magazine. Soon our beautiful baby will make his or her debut. Hopefully sooner than that, if we are lucky, our little tuxedo cat will have made her way back.

Of course, we are hardly just waiting. We are doing all of the living we always do; flipping pancakes, quelling squabbles, making music, collecting stray shoes from the yard before they decompose or acquire residents, brainstorming for our family/businesses/selves, sneaking eggnog from the fridge. On top of it all, we are posting flyers, scanning shelter listings, and taking walks in the dark making real cat-calls that sound something like a drowning bumblebee with an urgent secret. We are meeting with midwives, gearing up for the routine glucose tolerance test, going to yoga, and clearing the aforementioned space for nesting to eventually occur. We are having serious conversations with children about guns, and dinosaurs, and maybe not coming into our bed quite as early in the wee small hours of the morning so mommy can have enough room for her beloved body pillow and therefore just possibly get enough sleep to stay sane.

But we go through it all cloaked in the stuff that makes daybreak so beautiful and at the same time so damn tediously suspenseful that you seriously regret leaving your bed just to see it. I remember my dreams well these days (because I am so often wrenched from them by the incessant need to use the loo) and I can say with certainly that my every hour, waking or sleeping, is draped in dawn’s mauvy gauze.
 

cloaks of a different sort (handmade by Granny)

 
I wish I could tell you that by the third child I know to cherish this last bit of breathing space before the hurricane of newbornhood. I mean, I do “know” it. But actually doing the cherishing is a challenge when your skin, your brain, your bladder all resemble nothing so much as a water balloon filled by a child too young to know not to fill with the maximum amount possible.

Still, there are moments quintessential to this in-between period. Time spent watching my lurching belly. Time doing my witchy thing, wrapping my unborn babe in love and protection, summoning my cat home with an open beacon of a heart. Time making sure my older babies are properly treasured, my marriage nurtured, my body kept healthy and strong — with a side of eggnog and a nap if I can get one.

Because this time around, I know I am preparing the right way. Not by reading every prenatal book ever written, like my first pregnancy, or by planning endlessly for the practical aspects of having two children, like my second, and all the while, both times, knowing there was something more important and yet less tangible I should be doing, but unable to reach it through my pregnant haze.

This time I am focusing on my emotional state, my spiritual exploration, and above all my connection with each member of my growing family. In this glittering stillness between inhale and exhale, I am growing like a weed. A very rotund weed. And I feel certain there is no better way for me to honor this time between.

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