Where do I go?

We all have those places we run to, the places we retreat to, in the recesses of our minds, in the dark corner, under the covers or out in a sunlit field. I asked myself, as I ask you, where is your space? What do you claim as your calm, your quiet, your escape? Where is that safe space in time that holds you tight like the womb, where you can unfold and be…you -in all your glory, wrapped in lessons and memories held by skin and days or months or years. Where do you go?

I asked myself several years ago where I would rest if I died. I know not in a box, not in that sense, but a place. If we were supposed to choose our ideal spot, the one special piece that had become the landscape of our heart. My answer was a series of questions.
Nowhere and everywhere.12687769_10153812315116166_1028088449205451360_n

Did it really matter?

There was no place.

There were places; in time, in memory or emotion, in imagination or longing of traveling to places I’ve never been.

Sometimes I close my eyes and I find myself in corners of empty rooms, brightly lit. I see myself curled tightly, chin resting upon my knees, like steady, solid guards protecting me. There are times I need complete solitude and space, where the walls are pale, pale yellow or cream or orange and the paint is chipped or peeling, little fragments scattered on the floor which is warped wood full of scratches and dusted footprints. The space is abandoned, overgrown with broken panes of windows where nature creeps in, tracks from small animals and stray feathers from birds, dead leaves create sparse blankets or nests and in this forgotten space, there is still constant and deliberate growth. A familiar oddity. Sometimes I go here. I take and leave nothing. I never even speak.

Other times, with my eyes open wide, I leave sidewalk and traffic lights, sirens and stop signs, neon lights, barking dogs, the sound of skateboards hitting the pavement and engines humming. I trade them for carpets created by conifers, for the way that the underside of birch bark slides like silk across your skin. Traffic lights become crickets and neon a form of firefly. The modern disappears and it is the forest and I.

This is home. This is the place my feet know. This is why my soles are calloused and rough and shaped by earth-because walking barefoot through the wild is important to me. Because my feet need to feel earth. They need to touch stick and stone and be comforted by moss, challenged by thorns and ice cold rivers. This is why I leave shoes behind in the summer, why I tell my son to do the same. So he can know the feel of soil and sap and acorn caps and various textures of lichen and mud between his toes and speak its language. My home is the forest, but home is not always where we need to be.

When I need escape, when I need to lose my skin and become light to shed layers and feel golden and ancient and connected with time, I arrive in places I have only seen in dreams, where maps and globes and pages in books pull me. Here my sternum is lapis and my crown is moonstone, my eyes are boulder opal and lips of garnet. I walk through walls and time. I walk among stars and gravity has lost its hold on me. I belong in parts of the planet I’ve never been. Here I am a different self, a version that cannot exist anywhere else.

When I need wisdom, raw truth where there is no filter and I can hear myself clearly I travel back to Tucson, Arizona (in my memory) to the Saguaro desert. I remember seeing it for the first time in daylight, how there was no canopy between me and the sky-nowhere to hide and the arms of the cacti twisted and stretched through the swirling waves of the heat.

Where Earth was raw earth. Bare rock and bone.

The heat held me tightly while I stared at the long forgotten, dried and deadened sea that lay cracked before me, too hot, for even my calloused feet to conquer. Forcing salted drops of sweat on my skin. Raw like placing yourself in the middle of the sun’s territory and surrendering.

This desert tore me apart, it stripped me bare and then filled me with life when I least expected it. The desert birthed me as a mother, as I birthed in it, my son. It holds truths I’d rather forget, but can’t, and memories so beautiful I want them running like an endless filmstrip in my mind.

I often revisit that beauty of raw pain and joy.
The beauty of the naked truth.
The vulnerability.

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Walk with fire

I awoke with languid limbs, heavy from dreams I was still speaking to.
My head a fog of past particles mixed by confusion and the sound of my son calling.
Winds had battered my window all night
A banshee knocking, beckoning me to come play
To be swept away in endless frozen gusts
I breathe deeply and promise myself I will get him to school, despite the arguing, despite the begging to stay warm and safe in dark blankets.
My gentle, yet strong words cut through his attempts
He finally cracks like ice beneath his boots and agrees to get dressed.
Only three hours late for school.
I sit in the car, warming my hands.
Just breath.
Just silence.
For the first time in sixteen days.
Home again, I dress the dog in his ridiculous coat and force myself into the subzero
The cold hard ground bites back
My face numb
Winter has taken me.

I walk slowly, letting the cold absorb me, watching the puddles, now miniature ponds
The smell of pine and smoke blowing past me.

I walk with a fire inside
A fuel
An eternal flame of defiance, devotion, disillusion
I envision the burning words I began this new year with

Goodbye to memories that taint my vision, goodbye to dead love lost and long buried, goodbye to fear of failure and exposure.

I am exposed.
Face and hands raw
Stepping determinedly
Like a predator
Like a wolf inside me
Ready to howl with neighborhood dogs paws up on fences
I stop and meet their eyes.
They know this cold,
This heavy gray

I walk with fire burning inside, my charred words resonating,
Hanging by strings
Held tight by ribs
And lungs
By layers of skin and clothing.

I release my breath, I bare my teeth
I watch this slow release
This air escaping in curls and whispers from my silent, empty throat.

I turn the corner toward home
I turn my back to the bitter cold.
I step inside
My stomach a space of grounding, of intuition and trust.
A new breath of fiery coals.

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Equinox

Those thin lines between worlds, they hang like a veil, like a heavy gravitational pull. No borders between skin and air. Winds that wrap around trees like silk, turning branches and leaves to watercolors, ebbing and flowing.

A midnight veil, dividing day and night, as summer melts into autumn. Metallic air tasting like copper, brass, gold hanging under the silver moon, the platinum stars.

The midnight geese are calling, their trumpets echo, a symphonic rustling of leaves somersaulting, chasing time in the streets.

The cool air of dusk and dark enters through the window, like tendrils, it crawls along my neck and down my arms. It tells stories of migration, of black feathers meeting black sky, of synchronous wings beating, of spirits riding currents, joining the flock in unison, the trumpeters sing, “I’m coming home, I’m coming home”

To lay their heads down, the lost souls that touch my face, that take refuge in my heart, that settle themselves in the empty space of my bed. Let sleeping spirits lie, stretch their mouths and memories.

No borders between worlds, surrendered to the crevices between. The midnight geese, they call my name. The wild wind, she whispers…

Come home. Like the ghosts that guard the night, the ones who change the clocks and paint the seasons. When the dark arts coincide. Come through my window. Spin your worldly tales.

Where shadows drown the sidewalks and spirits thick like fog can walk among us, enter through us.

Autumnal migrations. You are coming home, to your insides, to your bones and breath. To a softer time of year where life gives way to death. Leaves falling at your feet. You are coming home.

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Inside the Unclear

Unclear are the lines that frame my eyes, the way they change with time, creased from smiles and anguish, heartbreak and love lost. They twist and turn, little fragments of history written on my face. They form words of flesh, hollowed out space where skin was tight.

Blurred lines between borders. The kind that define love and hate, mother, father, son. The lines that mark territory…my son, my house, my street, yet nothing truly belongs to me.

Unclear futures spun in hope and desire, foundations built with no plans in place. The clarity of an open slate. Unclear decisions and the art of learning to trust myself, of trust in general. Seeking, searching in the mist of my mind for answers, the ancient kind spun from gypsies and severed souls who walk with the night.

Unclear letting go, murky inhales and exhales, the pounding beat of blood in my ears, clouded, collected…thick like summer leaves.

The way that autumn strips you of all things, draining chlorophyll, undressing branches and covering the ground in a blanket of dead leaves. Unclear demarcation of seasons changing, shifting winds and crisp clear sky.

Out of focus perspectives and the welcome of the unknown, the state of sleepwalking through days and following the earth’s cycle of death, of loss. A time to reflect where your body turns to blankets, your senses full of smoke from fires. Your words. Your words are still. A sense of waiting, of turning and shedding, of layers and lost cells.

A soft ringing, a muffled, broken bell, you sit in your haze of nostalgia. Twisting memories and quilting them together. Patchwork thoughts. Invisible stitches tightly bound…

The clear lines that separate the internal from external. Fading, erasing until you find yourself an unclear shape, you shrink, you molt. You have turned yourself inside out.

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Writing from Our Word (response to shamanic drumming and visualization)

I intended to be in the forest, sitting down and looking up at the trees, feeling my smallness in comparison. As soon as the drums started and I closed my eyes, there was a flash. I immediately become a red-tailed hawk, not entirely; I can still feel my human body. It enters me. I am a hybrid, human and hawk. My chest rips open (I can see through first and third person at the same time, which is often how I dream.) My ribs expand to be a broad chest. The energy flows down my arms, expanding to wings. My bottom half remains- legs, feet dangling. I am floating above the forest, near the sea. It isn’t a familiar forest, or sea, but one that feels as if I know it inside and out. My eyes are sharp and crisp. My face changes, my nose to beak, my eyes gleaming yellow. I circle the woods. I circle a fire below. I feel the wind run through my feathers, lifting them. We are one, the hybrid. I can still form thoughts like a human, yet feel everything as a hawk, my human body just resting inside. My legs disperse into a tail, spreading, stretching. Wiry legs sprout from my hips. My heart beats differently. I have consumed the hawk and it has consumed me. It runs through my blood. I start to lose balance, the earth seems to shift. I fall. I am diving into the sea.

As soon as my arms (wings) touch the water I am heavy, diving deep, pressure building. I see from outside myself. I see a humpback whale. I am that whale with my sensual curves and ripples, my haunting eyes. I dance in the water so gracefully and open my mouth, breathing in the water. I roll over and thrust myself upward, pushing the water to the depths. I glide out of the water, feeling the water drip, feeling the cool air. I am soaring, the hawk and the whale separate, yet one. I fly over the forest, back to the fire. I touch the ground. I circle the fire, still feeling, yet also seeing the hawk and the whale. I feel the fire. I circle it once more. Transparent faces shoot in and out of the trees. They flicker like fireflies. Ancient faces, spirits- they are here to watch us, to witness this ceremony.

I walk, looking down at the soil, this perfect circle of barren soil carved out of the forest. The fire. My feet. My feet are paws. The hawk and the whale sway opposite the fire from me.  I feel my teeth (sharp and strong.) I feel fur. I am regal and wise. I growl from deep within, like an echo in a cavern. I am a wolf. The wolf is me. I lift my nose, a familiar scent wafts over me. A deer steps close, I can almost taste it. I look to the whale and the hawk. We begin dancing, spinning in circles around the fire. I feel the weight of the whale rocking. I feel the wings of the hawk stretch and twist, moving in rhythm. My paws kick dirt and I move low to the ground. I roll my head from side to side, my shoulders grinding deep. I drop my hips. I move seductively. I stalk.  I JUMP! Antlers burst through my head, growing like the branches of a tree. I see the wolf, the hawk, the whale. They see me, they KNOW me. They hear my heart beat. The beat grows faster . I stomp my hooves (my feet.) I feel bare feet for a moment, inside and outside the hooves. There is no space between bodies. I can’t tell where I end, or begin. Do I end or begin?

I walk with pride. Tall, methodic, I dance. All animals dance around the fire. I see all the animals from outside. I see my feet with pale skin in the night. The air touches my breasts, my hair. I breathe the animals in. I see a smokey form of each of them rise above the fire toward me. Their bodies remain dancing around the fire. They have given themselves to me-the hawk, the whale, the wolf, the deer.

It is dark night. The fire burns bright, setting a tree ablaze. It picks up its roots and moves into the circle, slowly and calmly burning, as if it were meant to be on fire. It stands still, towering above us. I am alive, electric. I am sensual, my hips grind. I feel orgasmic, my body light. A wave of warmth comes over me. My legs part, my vagina is hot, panting like a dog. It smolders like the fire. I swallowed the animals; their smoke selves… and now I birth them, the same smokey apparitions emerging from me, becoming one with the flame, and sharing space with the smoke.

I climb into the wolf. I snarl. I hunger. Without thought I lunge at the deer. I grab it by the throat and pin it to the ground. As soon as it touches the ground, before I can taste blood, its flesh is gone. No meat, no skin, just bones. It lays- perfectly intact skeleton, its heart resting, its heart still beating secure in an empty ribcage. All animals fall like dominos. Down go the whale, the hawk, and then the wolf. All skeletons, all hearts still beating. I am now removed, watching from a distance. The skeletons rise and stand, animated. They dance and circle the fire, drawing closer. My flesh is glowing orange. I feel the heat. We, I, they, us walk into the flames.

We burn with pleasure. We have no fear. We disperse, molecules separating. Time slows and electrons spark, molecules swirling and merging with the smoke.  The smoke rises and changes shapes. The fire cracks and shoots up like a geyser, falling swiftly back. The smoke is me. I am the smoke, still dancing. We are the hawk, the whale, the wolf, the deer. The tree still burns. We take one shape. We rise in curls, in tendrils. In little clouds we gather, we form. We become leaves of smoke inhabited grass sent to the sky. We grow into a flower, a fern, we continue to rise.

The skeletons now lay in a circle around the fire pit. The fire sucks them in. They are fuel. We are fuel. We burn bright. The smoke becomes a geyser, shooting to the stars. The fire goes out, the smoke lingering with the stars. The sky falls. The night is pitch black. The stars litter the ground like fallen leaves. The sky lies with the soil. There is only soil and sky. I, me, they, us are nothing but soil and sky.

Where the Heart Lives

My heart lives in many different places, in many different times. The place of my heart is often outside myself, tucked in the forest…really it could be any forest, but I love the quiet beauty of places most people don’t see as beautiful. I love swamps and bogs and old rotting trees where  pileated woodpeckers hide and my son calls out to mourning doves in such a perfect tone that they answer him, they converse for what seems like days.

My heart lives in the peat comprised of so much dead matter building on itself, creating a space no person can enter, it will swallow you. There is something eerie and beautiful about swamps and bogs, the myriad of life, the morning dew resting in the cup of a pitcher plant.

Several times a year I find myself sitting on a bridge in East Callais, Vermont, feet on the edge of a fen (a particular type of bog.) It is silent aside from birds singing and crackling of twigs as animals roam through the forest. I wonder how deep the bog is. I think of how my body would be preserved if I were to throw myself in and surrender to the thick layer of peat and moss where cattails would become my arms and my hair would be a ragged mess slime molds and fungus. I find my feet dangling off the edge, the sun beating down on my face and I read the landscape like I read a book. The familiar words like the worn path. There is no sign leading to this bog, it is secret to most and when I first visited it felt like home, like I had known the landscape for a long time. I can sense the animals watching me, I want them to watch me. I don’t need to see them, but they know I am there.

I watch the birch trees on the other side of the bog, standing strong like soldiers protecting this ancient tomb. My heart longs to be part of this, part of the decomposition and the death that brings life to the surface, part of the mystery beneath the peat. I step quietly on my way there, passing old stone walls that were used as pasture, I see evidence of strong storms from hundreds of years ago where trees were knocked down, the ground pillows and cradles beneath their roots, I count the whorls on the pine trees and remember how long this land has been untouched, unaltered.

I climb over fallen trees and dark shadows to emerge in a bed of ferns, the oldest living vascular plant that lies in front of me like a bed. Just like the bed of ferns I used to nap in when I was a child, where I played with faeries and used moss as a pillow for my weary head. I notice the spores and what a brilliant strategy it is to disperse yourself like that, the let the wind carry you as it carries my hair, as it carries the red tailed hawk above me. I sit in the ferns and remember that feeling of innocence I had as a child. The ferns are the gateway to the bog, a darker and more mysterious side of myself dwells there.

My heart beats with the sound of spring peepers and crickets and again I am brought back to a silent place where I think, this is where I shall return, when I become ash, when I become peat, when I become truly silent and I can disappear here, where no one can see me buried beneath, where I become part of the hundred year process. There is something magic to me about the idea of letting yourself go, to decompose, to rot and become a bigger part of a living organism containing hundreds of other organisms. This is my peace and like the waves of the ocean, it beckons me in. I stick a toe in, just to see and the peat feels warm on my feet, like thick mud. It sucks my toe in.

This is as far as I will dive for now, but someday I will return and feed this ecosystem, or one like it. This will be the resting place for my heart, my bones. Untouched, no box, no skin. I am free in this bog. I lay down on the bridge that truly leads to nowhere and I let the sun touch my face, soaking it all in until I force myself to leave, wandering back into the shadows of the forest, back to the ferns with patches of light that shine though. Back down the beaten path where my feet pad along the pine needles. I keep that bog with me.

I am also ugly and deep like the bog, in my shadows, in my heart. There is beauty in accepting the ugly, in walking among the shadows. I can taste the air, damp, moist and soil like. I leave this place knowing I will come back, to wonder again, to bask in the sun, to watch the predatory plants, to walk in the footprints of deer. I leave a piece of my heart here each time so I know where to find it when I need it. The bog knows when to call me. My heart lies in many places, but the forest is the blood within me. My heart is a fragile ecosystem in a state of metamorphosis.