New piece published at http://www.rebellesociety.com
If you press your ear against my chest you will hear a clock ticking, a slow and heavy pendulum dangling.
An aorta feeding organs blood, the sound of rushing rivers and waterfalls in suspended silence, then crashing on rocks below. Inside four chambers lie four very different worlds. One gray and black with a murmur, a flutter. A beat. A murmuration of birds, flying together as one shape changing trapeze act. Shifting with wind, with movement of an arm or the brush of fingers through hair. My body conducts them, endlessly swirling, colliding like chemical flakes in a snowglobe.
Second chamber is a field of grass where I would run naked as a child and pick daisies that were as tall as my head. Remembering the feeling of grass touching my skin and coloring my legs like a paintbrush. How the world was seen from inside that field and it stretched for as far as my eyes could see. A quiet crawlspace of a chamber where one could crawl beneath the grass and hide with crickets and ladybugs-poke your head out to be touched by butterflies.
Third chamber is for my sorrow. It is deep scarlet red, with chocolate undertones. This chamber is cold and hollow, yet full of voices and words that bounce off walls. Words like sex and love and ache. Words that mean betrayal and feel like sharpened knives. This chamber is for storage, full of drawers and old letters filed next to lessons learned and categorized by relevance. It is cluttered and often gusts of wind come in and scatter everything. Your patterns become clear stretched out before you and you promise you won’t make that mistake again-but you do, you just do it differently this time. You disguise it, but underneath it’s still the same. You cannot truly grow in this chamber. You come here to learn, to remember, to grieve.
The fourth chamber is for my son. A safe space beneath my breast where he still cradles his head and listens to the rhythm of my breath. Of my beat. Of the first sound he knew, before my voice, before a song or a story read. My pulse was his music, his soundtrack to dance to. He knows the sound of it racing or panicked, the sound when it sleeps or is alarmed, the sound it makes when I’m relaxed or contemplating or when I’m giving birth or when I was breastfeeding.
If you pressed your ear to my heart beat you would hear whispers of birch bark and beds of ferns by the edge of a bog, you would hear owls calling in the night, a galaxy being born and another dying.
You would hear the words, “Don’t leave me alone here.” You would hear fear and the voice of a little girl who just wanted to please. You would hear the words, “I just can’t let it go” and they would be a lie, because I can let it go, I choose not to. I choose not to because sometimes it’s easier to hold onto something that has hurt you when that pain has become so familiar that you know it like reading braille with your fingertips. Hurt is intimate. So instead of letting it go, you let it stay. It may be one of the only memories you have left of him. You may have thrown many of the good ones away. And sometimes we need reminders. You would hear the words, “Sometimes we need reminders, that even though love is painful, we accept and choose that pain. Sometimes pain is more familiar than pleasure.”
You might hear the sound of a smile, or my heart swelling, you might hear it burst or set itself aflame with anger if someone it loves is being mistreated. It may tell you to go. It may not say a word. It’s a powerful, yet fickle living machine.
If I stretch my limbs out I can feel it pumping, pushing blood to my fingertips and circulating. If I listen carefully I can hear it flow through my head, the murmur, the beat, the memories.
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.
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.
I give you lavender, cedar and balsam fir. I give you sweet orange and cinnamon. I gift you grapefruit and eucalyptus with a splash of lime. Here are sea salts to soothe your skin and smooth your wounds, here is oil of almond to merge with your golden skin. Here are my lips to your forehead with a gentle, yet purposeful kiss. Here is my hand.
A bow of my head to the silent wing of a barn owl, of soundless flight, of motion without detectable noise, stealth eyes riding currents of the night.
Bow to the undisturbed forest in all its splendor and see that there is a natural order within chaos, within fallen trees taken over by moss and eaten by insects, with branches that intersect in your direct path and scratch your legs as you maneuver through the untamed.
Bow your head to the notion that this is highly ordered, this untangled and untouched, unfiltered and unmanicured wood has fallen this way for hundreds of years and has rebuilt for many more than that. This chaos is its optimal state.
Bow your heads to the niches and the symbiotic mutualism, the relationships in nature that all rest in balance with one another. Bow your head to the delicate chain of life itself and survival and cells and photosynthesis for this is proof of magic. This is proof beyond any God.
A moment of silence for the dead. For the ones we’ve loved and the ones we’ve never met, but grieved for in stories of war or in pages of fiction that wove themselves into our hearts and became a part of you.
A moment of silence for the word grieving and how that one word can mean so many different things. We grieve loss or what never will be. And there is so much in this world to lose, so much you will never have. So much pain mixed with so much beauty.
A moment of silence for irony and being able to laugh in moments of sheer sadness or panic.
A moment of silence for you.
For. This. Minute.
It is yours.
An incantation for the wild that lies beneath
For the quiet who observe and absorb
All you hear
All you see
And taste and touch
And smell and inhale.
For all the salted tears that fall upon your face and drip slow like honey, Hanging thick like morning fog, like the space between yourself and reality.
An incantation for dissociation and how it serves a function, an often overlooked purpose.
It saves us.
It keeps us from feeling things that are just too much at once, it keeps the reactive anger at bay, it keeps me humble and allows me to see my life from a safe space.
Blessed be the women who curse and speak with silver tongues and move their hips like snakes, who own their curves and imperfections and realize these are their unique and individual markings, their collection of stories in form of flesh and fat, in rib and collarbone.
Blessed be the storytellers. The ones who keep the truths. The ones who tell to remember as much as they tell to teach and who see the story as a dance, as a ballet or as a symphony of synesthesia. Those who continue giving and creating and sharing themselves, piece by piece by piece.
A whisper to the fields of wild flowers and ferns and the twists and turns and Fibonacci sequences that match the galaxies and spiral on a nautilus, the natural spiral shape of the universe, the shape I drew over and over as a child, because it was comforting to me, because it felt like home, because drawing that shape felt like my fingerprint or tracing my hand.
An incantation to birth, to beginning and end.
To the fire and ash,
To those who leave and those who stay.
A clasping of hands pressed to lips
For the color the world is painted
Right before the sun sets.
For the nights that are clear enough
To see meteors fall from the sky,
For planetary alignments
And magnetic shifts,
For having a place,
For this measurement of time,
For being so small…
So insignificantly spectacular
In this vast space
In the grand scheme of it all.
(Inspired by prompts from Jeanette Leblanc @http://www.peacelovefree.com/)
“to run wild, refuse to be tamed,” Old English awildian (see wild (adj.)). Wilding (n.) in the teen gang sense first recorded 1989. Earlier it meant “plant that grows without cultivation” (1520s).
Old English wilde “in the natural state, uncultivated, untamed, undomesticated, uncontrolled,” from Proto-Germanic *wilthja- (cognates: Old Saxon wildi, Old Norse villr, Old Frisian wilde, Dutch wild, Old High German wildi, German wild, Gothic wilþeis “wild,” German Wild (n.) “game”), from PIE root*welt- “woodlands; wild” (see wold).
“uncultivated or desolate region,” 1590s, in the wilds. From wild (adj.). Earlier it meant “wild animal” (c. 1200).
When my Wild self crawls out in an untamed howl she screams like a banshee, she speaks in tongues and sounds of fury and love. Like a chorus of mother wolves, she paces and circles within me, within her marked and carefully guarded territory. She breaks through me like medusa encased in stone, follicles of snakes dancing upon her head, ready to walk barefoot down the sunken trail.
She is fierce and often reckless, a Wild uncultivated tongue that tastes sweet like roses and honey, tendrils wrapping tightly, piercing ever so gently with thorns that dig in and cut the surface, the Wild longs for the depth, she seeks what lies beneath.
Unleashed Wild likes to shapeshift and crawl inside and around, feral like an animal, others know her as Instinct. Wild like Instinct, and action without thought. Wild like when we allow ourselves to be animals, to lose language and move bodies as our predecessors did- walk on all fours or slither around each other like invertebrates. Wild bodies tangled like undisturbed forests, Wild like mating calls and rituals, like fire and wind that speaks through branches of trees.
A mouth wide open with dry lips and the shrieking echo of a red tail hawk flying. Wild like the way it finds you, the way it circles you. One, Two, Three times. Wild like soaring upon air, like sunlight illuminating wings. Wild like speaking to animals, like knowing their words and gestures. Wild like knowing the shape and size of their bones beneath your skin.
Wild as in untamed, as in no one can capture me or hold me down or plant my feet. Wild as in I am solitary, often by choice, sometimes by circumstance, mostly by acceptance.
Untamed like the blood running through my veins, carrying choices from generations passed, entwined in my DNA. Wild like winds that shake the barely in Ireland where many of my father’s side once lived and I stare at the family crest and wonder what they looked like, what they thought and who they loved and what they knew of hardship and suffering.
Wild like Native American blood, like a connection to the land that calls to me in my sleep that I have no living link to, no formal stories aside from the ones my eyes hold in the deep.
Wild like my matriarchs before me, like the imagined selves they never got to be.
Wild like the time I was 11, it was summer and my skin was sticky from a humid day. A thunderstorm moved in, and something pulled me, some Wild spirit. I challenged the storm, I opened the door and ran barefoot up the trail in the woods as fast as I could. I ran until my lungs burned and my head was light. I waited under a stand of trees and sat on my favorite boulder and I stared at the empty field before me as I watched lightning strike. Wild like knowing I could have- that I should have turned and run home the way I came.
Wild like just following my feet, never telling my mother I was leaving. Wild like my anger.
Wild like my breath and the beat of my heart and the slow yet deliberate smile that came across my face as I leaped from the rock, ran into the pouring rain and feet hit the muddy and slick grassy field. Wild the way that time stops or slows down or changes how you recall things when your body fills with adrenaline. Wild that I had the arrogance to challenge such a storm. I ran through the field and I heard a symphony playing in my head, the thunder crashed and lightning broke the sky and I ran across the field and into the dirt road, with rocks cutting the soles of my feet and my mother’s voice in the distance calling me.
Wild like in that moment- feeling so brilliant, so defiant- against myself, the laws of nature, against luck and chance and my own physical limits. Wild like I had uncovered true freedom. I stood in the middle of the road, bent over catching my breath, hands resting on my knees, tired and soaked from summer rain that carried courage and a certain sense of immortality.
I knew from that very moment I loved the Wild; the noun, the verb, the adjective, whatever shape or form or synonym it took. I knew— raindrops brushing my eyelids, rib cage expanding, feet bleeding, my heart and mind aligning, that I was bound to Wild.
I would never truly be a woman you could tame.
Credit to:Jeanette Leblanc @http://www.peacelovefree.com/ for providing prompts to inspire this writing
- An incantation, a prayer, an ask.
- A thank you.
1. I ask for knowledge from the deep. Not just the deep, but the depths where I can’t reach, of my time here, my so-called footprints, of which I have purposely left none, yet many silently remain. I want deep connections, under soil. out of sight from the naked eye. Invisible communication.
An intergenerational mycelium network of dreams and experience, of stories that were forgotten to be told. Stories that may be of little importance to you, that one day may speak something, may call out some answer that’s been searching for me- for my son- for my sister-for the forgotten stories to be finished, to be heard through photographs and sewn together memories, with finely crafted holes like lace curtains, or the change left behind in the cracks of chairs after the owner is gone, small things like the smell of molasses or the smell of rum. The way we used to talk and how people often share their depth, their deep when you least expect it, when you’re often too young to fully understand or appreciate. But it sticks to you, like that sweet molasses, like stains of grass to your summer legs. These are the depths I mean. I want this. I ask for more of this please.
I don’t ask questions of deities, don’t clasp my hands or beg for forgiveness or mercy. I have a percentage of faith, i just can’t and don’t feel the need to name it. Some say atheist. I’m just not a hunter or gatherer of worship. It seems as though I learn exactly what I need, albeit often the hard way, but life has never been easy. It just doesn’t work that way. So I won’t ask for peace, or good health, because these things are by law of nature, only temporary. Life doesn’t work that way. Isn’t it beautiful and terrifying? Blissful and tragic? And somewhere between lies the magic itself.
When I ask for deep and depth I mean… remember that time when I was 8? Circa 1985? It was summer on the Cape. On the beach after a raucous electric storm had woken me half the night. The sea called me that morning. It was gray and wet, an ominous, cold day.
I climbed over wet dunes with winds still humming through the sea grass and stepped onto the beach. The Atlantic had washed ashore treasure from the deep. From depths I could never dare to swim. Creatures I had only seen behind glass. The beautiful and the terrifying. Deep like this.
The price for release from the sea was death. Secret, beautiful death along the beach. It may have been the first time I realized what irony meant. So surreal, the happiness at getting to be so close with these creatures and knowing the violent death they must have died, drowning in thin air, too much oxygen.
I found a stick and walked over to a manta ray that had found its resting place near the base of the sea wall. I half hoped it would be living so i could push it back to the sea. The stick broke under the weight of its fin-like wing. I wandered through pools of refugee jellyfish waiting for the tide to take them home, studying them with desperate fascination, picking up horseshoe crabs and sea stars, washed up, empty homes of shellfish. These were gifts or ghosts or messages from the deep. From the depths I could never reach.
This is the type of depth I seek.
2. A thank you.
A thank you for endless curiosity. For the everlasting quench to know more and explore and seek new things. Thank you for chances to be wrong and to learn from them. Thank you for realizing that I am a forgiving person, that I strive to be a forgiving person and that anger is a poison and toxin in my body. Thank you for teaching me to love, but not to hate. Thank you for a wonderfully flawed child who is my teacher and friend and who has shown me what it is to be a true warrior, to truly fight for justice. Thank you for my own flaws, being perfect would be exhausting and really there is no such thing. Thank you for this moment, for this opportunity. For knowing that I don’t know half of what I’d like to. Thank you for this life being a journey, a process we travel in our own ways.
And he said to me, while curled up, head resting in the space between my clavicle, eyelashes reaching the stars, “mama, when you die I’m going to keep your skeleton. I’m going to keep it next to me when I sleep.” I kissed him gently and told him that he could be the keeper of my bones, of what will one day be left. I name them: his treasure. I name them love. I name them devotion.
Our beginnings are soft, malleable frames, dipped in fluid, an encased sanctuary. Islands afloat an embryonic sea. “You began like this”, I tell him, “I miss those moments sometimes, where you were everywhere I was. When we were one. When I knew you in such a different way” I name these bones: temporary, happiness, innocent.
Our ending is hard, frail, broken, chipped, worn. Life’s map of erosion. An artifact, a keeper of records. Full of love and laughter, of grass between your toes. Of loss and guilt, of dreams and years imprinting themselves. He is 10. He knows this. These bones. The ones that carry him, shelter him, the ones that gave birth to him.The ones that have moved and contorted, that have eyes and ears all their own. The ones that grind.The ones that can cut down and tear up. The anchors, the ones that hold, that stay, the loyal ones. I name them: a work in progress, a list of secrets, an unfinished story.