A Complex Grief

When you have a complicated personal history with a community icon.

Most, if not all of us, will leave behind a complicated legacy when we pass from this Earth. In all lives lived there are mistakes, triumphs, missed opportunities, grudges, passions, heartbreak, disappointments, inadequate parenting (received and/or given), and more. People will remember us (or be determined to forget us) for a variety of reasons. But I think the most complicated legacies are those left by people who do great things creatively, or devote themselves to a cause or community, but who struggle in their personal lives (for whatever reason).

Those who create and struggle in the larger arenas generally attract people to them who admire their work but who may expect the greatness of the work to have an exact correspondence to the character of the human being. However it doesnʻt always work that way. Or it may work that way sometimes but not others. Itʻs true that expansive vision and tireless service can co-exist with pettiness or cruelty in the same human being. Or maybe I donʻt need to use an example that is that extreme to make my point–maybe itʻs simply that tireless service (for example) can also co-exist with laziness in intimate relationships or forgetfulness when it comes to filing taxes on time.

You get the idea. Weʻre a mix. Weʻre all of us a mixture of good, bad, and indifferent qualities and we show different faces to different people, who are also turning their own curated personality facets toward us. But what happens when someone you once knew very, very well–and who may have even done you great harm–becomes an icon to a community?

And when that person dies, who do you turn to to help to understand the truth of your own relationship to that person? Must all secrets be told? Of course not. But must the lived reality of an interaction, or a long-term relationship, be denied for the sake of the community who wants to keep the iconic personage pure and golden?

Style: “1768589_vol2”

It seems like most people would rather erase the person or people who may have had a less than golden time with said icon rather than say: “Well, he, she, or they were human. They made mistakes. They did good things. They tried.”

Iʻve had a couple of intimate relationships with historically significant partners in my life, both brilliant human beings who also had their foibles and their follies–just as I have mine–and who also inflicted some great hurts on me and others. Iʻve also had relationships with people who were less well known, but also difficult (as I am difficult), but also beloved within their circle of friends for very good reasons. So unless weʻre the kind of person who enjoys living with bitterness, we tend to remember the good times and excuse the bad when a person passes from our lives or from this Earth. And yet I think we should be allowed sometimes to “speak ill” of the dead (or the ex)–not to the point of gossip or talking stink in a toxic way–but in the context of trying to sort out feelings of grief (and sometimes relief) when that person is no longer in your life.

I am struggling with some of these issues myself at the moment. Fortunately there is one other person I can talk with who has experienced some of the same things Iʻve experienced. We are able to acknowledge the full spectrum of behaviors and responses in our intereactions with a person we know in common and understand the complexities of our grief (and perhaps relief?) as a result.

I donʻt know how I would be handling things right now if this werenʻt the case.

That is all.


50,000 All-time Views

My humble “woo blog” has had this many readers?!

Allow me to celebrate! Often when I write I feel as if I’m sending my words and thoughts into a “black hole,” and that no one reads or cares. Yes, of course I do check my stats from time to time, and am happy that this blog finds its way to readers in many countries, but I would have never known Lady of the Lake would garner this kind of visibility.

Of course, I don’t know how many of these views are repeat readers or “just stumbled over it” readers. Even so, this notification has lifted my spirits in a personally difficult week.

All I can say is “thank you!” (Thank you… thank you!)

More Haiku for Trancestors

A few days ago I wrote twelve haiku for twelve people who are no longer with us and who are being remembered and honored for Transgender Day of Remembrance. Last night, I wrote fifteen more. I wrote each haiku through looking at pictures and bios of our remembered dead, and tried to connect to the life-affirming details about each person, in order to emphasize who they were rather than write about the details of their often horrific deaths.

Some references which may seem obscure, like the “Knight and Orchid gent” for Mel Robert Groves, are specific personal references to an interest, organization, or description of the person. In Mel Groves’ case, this is an organization.

Transponder, our local transgender rights organization, has asked community volunteers to write brief bios and/or haiku to acknowledge each one of the sixty-eight transgender and non-binary people who died violently in the U.S. between Oct. 2021 and the end of September 2022. These bios and haiku will be recorded and read for our local Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20th.

Here are the haiku.

3. Mel Robert Groves, age 25

Look into the eyes

Of Mister Mel Robert Groves

Knight and Orchid gent!

22. Duval Princess, age 24

Sweet Duval Princess,

You sure were kown and beloved.

Your family cries.

23. Matthew Ventriss, age 29. (Formerly known from a reality TV show as Destinee Lashaee. Both names are used on the TDOR site.)

“Surrounded by tears,”

He struggled bravely onward.

Wish him peace and rest.

25. Naomie Skinner, age 25

Naomie Skinner,

“Very outstanding person.”

Cherished, fabulous.

26. Cypress Ramos, 21

Trans Latina star,

“Friend, a sister, a daughter,”

Shines bright, remembered.

28. Brent Wood, 31

This artist lived rough,

On the cold Seattle streets.

Friends speak of his love.

36. Ariyanna Mitchell, 17

Never dull, always smiles,

well-known as “the dance machine,”

Unique, funny, loved.

40. Asher Garcia, 14

Music was his world.

He loved his family, friends.

“Sweet, kind, loving soul.”

41. Ray Muscat, 24

Remembered for smiles,

Kindness, cosplay, anime.

He loved his cat, Steele.

43. Sasha Mason, 45

Sasha a friend to many,

You gave light and you gave joy.

We will say your name.

55. Jasper Aaron Lynch, 26

Critical thinker,

Seeking human connection,

With a writer’s wit.

56. Martasia Richmond, 30

Mystery of life–

We see your smiling eyes here,

But know so little.

59. Hayden Nevah Davis, 28

Dear Hayden Davis,

You had dreams to make beauty

Happen all around.

61. Marisela Castro, 39

Bright and sunny smile,

Marisela liked to sing.

Friends called her happy.

67. Tiffany Banks, 25

Dancing butterfly,

The bright light in a dark day.

Sociable, lovely.

Haiku for Trancestors

Transponder, our local transgender rights organization, has asked community volunteers to write brief bios and/or haiku to acknowledge each one of the sixty-eight transgender and non-binary people who died violently in the U.S. between Oct. 2021 and the end of September 2022. These bios and haiku will be read aloud for our local Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20th.

This morning I sat down and wrote haiku for twelve people who are no longer with us. The text came from my impressions from photographs and/or what was written and said about them and their lives.

#4. Tayda Lebon

A vibrant, stellar,

Inspirational artist,

No one will forget.

#16. Martina Caldera, age 38

Martina, your smile!

Kindness shines in your brown eyes

A light sadly gone.

#17. Za’niyah Williams, age 21

Beauty, you are rich,

Brimful rich with golden joy.

Your smile lights the room.

#18. Ke’yahonna Stone, age 32

True heart, battle brave,

Strong in peace, protecting life,

Giving hers instead.

#21. Amerey Lej, age 19

Your legacy lives.

Lady Diamond dance bright,

Your name is spoken.

#24. Matthew Angelo Spampinato, age 21

“A breath of fresh air,

Bright, kind, headstrong and selfless.”

He didn’t give up.

#29. Milo Winslow, age 30

“Loved, deeply loving,

Fierce advocate,” supporting,

His community.

#37. Fern Feather, age 29

Sweet, weird, fun-loving,

Life-loving, artist of food,

Adored by all her friends.

#38. Ace Scott, age 15

Your eyes are so full,

You had a lot to tell us.

Dear one, rest now. Love.

#57. Toi Davis, age 34

Toi cared for others:

“Transition has saved my life.”

Her faith lit her path.

#62. Acey D. Morrison, age 30

Two-spirit Acey

Opened her home and her heart.

Laughter medicine.

#66. Serena Brenneman, age 16

“Quirky, kind, stylish,

Beautiful, elegant, soft.”

Bless her memory.

I might write more, if the organization needs more. They are not emotionally easy to do, but the writing does seem to come easily, if that makes sense. Update: I did write fifteen more. See this page, More Haiku for Trancestors.

Airing the Dirty Family Laundry

There’s a reason I’m making documents public that would usually remain private. I was never allowed to live in the apartment bequeathed to me by my uncle. Otherwise, I am not commenting, just exhibiting the documents.

A Spell for Democracy

It’s Halloween 2022 and here we are. True terror is upon us: rabid white supremacist, transphobic and homophobic and misogynistic Republicans toting guns and conspiracies, threatening the rest of us with Death/Pestilence (continued pandemic), Famine, War, and Conquest (the Four Horseman of the Patriarchy) and hoping to undermine our voting rights so they can reign and rain terror from the comfort of their own social media.

But the veil is thin today and tomorrow (and especially up to Nov. 7) so let’s work a little positive magic, shall we? Why not charm our democracy?! Chant this simple spell below and finish filling out your ballot even as you don your false eyelashes, catsuit, superhero cape, witch hat, vampire teeth, or any of the other countless costumes we have here at our disposal (just not anyone’s culture as a costume, please). I wrote this spell, but please, distribute it widely!

A Spell for Democracy

Her kink is not my kink but her kink is okay.


My Gods Are Fragrance-Free Part 2

Hel Hath No Fury…

No, I haven’t mispelled the word for the Christian underworld. I am deliberately referencing Loki Laufeyjarson’s daughter, Hel, ruler of the Norse underworld. (Hint: she’s not what the Marvel Universe portrays.)

I’ve just jettisoned myself from an online spiritual community where I’ve felt generally at home for about four years. I even served as a moderator, helped create online events, and edited and did layout design for two issues of its annual publication. But there was this one thing I just couldn’t take anymore.

Let me back up a minute. For the last 35+ years, my life has been extremely constricted due to multiple chemical sensitivity/environmental illness. My ability to access grocery stores, health care, public transport, education, spiritual communities, and social gatherings has been limited due to (mostly) ubiquitious fragrance use in all public spaces. If I come in contact with these airborne pollutants (volatile organic compounds), I get sick. “Sick” may include asthma, fatigue, spaceiness and brain fog, anxiety and panic, and impacts on various organ systems. Some days I bounce back fairly quickly. Others, not so much.

In spite of this, I’ve tried to live a life of meaning, service, creativity, and curiosity. I’ve raised two children, helped to run a family business, volunteered at my kids’ schools, immersed myself in various special interests, loved and lost (big time!), gone back to school earning two degrees and a number of other college units (thank you, remote education!), and written–written my little heart out, actually, throwing my words into a void which seldom responds. I did all this by building in recovery time, masking my symptoms, and pushing through being sick whenever I had to, if I could. I’ve grown used to life on the margins, preferring to experience being marginalized as a kind of liminal space for spiritual exploration and a unique vantage point for socio-cultural critiques.

However the ubiquitous use of fragrance products has denied me equal access to almost all aspects of modern, Western life: professional opportunities (I can’t network at those fancy business breakfasts because someone is inevitably saturated with fragrance! I can’t schmooze at professional sexology conferences, because, ditto!); and employment (I have so many skills, but finding a fragrance-free workplace? Forget about it!). I can’t even anticipate a book tour as a new author (if such things even exist anymore, post-Covid) because contact with the general public can be hazardous to my health. I can vax against Covid, but there’s no vaccination I know of that will halt the impact of toxic chemicals on my body. I know my chronic illness was a source of resentment and frustration in my marriage and it was boring for other partners. And last year, one of my children decided to cut ties with me “forever,” claiming that I am too much work. Damn, but that was cold! And ableist to boot! (Not to mention ageist and unfair. I threw myself into childrearing, body and soul.)

One of the things that has kept me alive–I mean that literally–is connecting with other people through social media and online affinity groups. Just as some disabled people have written that “internet friends are real friends,” so too is internet space “real” space. As such, it can be made accessible and welcoming to people with disabilities and it can become inaccessible and unwelcoming too. That “one thing” that just caused me to exit from my favorite affinity group was the increasing number of group members posting their advertisements for scented candles and other scented products that are made and sold, supposedly, to honor our deities.

To me, it’s like spraying the stuff in a sacred space that I’d hoped to occupy, if only for a little while. My entire body goes into fight or flight mode just seeing the pictures and reading the blithe postings of people who are making and selling these products. So, seeing that Loki-themed “cinnamon pumpkin spice” smelling candle for sale is like a sock in the gut. And I do mean that literally. My enteric nervous system ties itself in knots.

Far be it from me to get in the way of entrepreneurism, however, does this shit have to be EVERYWHERE? All witchy/pagan spaces seem to be chock full of scented candles and oils for sale: all the actual stores, all the online groups, and probably a lot of in-person rituals. Even my favorite online tarot reader always sprays his reading space first with some kind of cologne and I can no longer bear to watch him on a livestream because of this. I watch the recording later so I can fast forward past that part.

And what about the people and pets who have to exist in the polluted spaces created by witchy sorts who profess animism and spirit devotion, but can’t understand that they are HURTING other people and other creatures with this stuff? That these chemicals add to climate change? I’ve read the studies, folks! Peer-reviewed and everything!

I can’t do this anymore. The grief, the anger, the frustration, the sheer, relentless “Cassandra in a Coal Mine” history of all this is overwhelming. And the ongoing, unexamined stupidity of this seldom acknowledged aspect of ecocide makes me want to scream. I just posted a link to the original “My Gods Are Fragrance-Free” on FB and Twitter today, with the comment that I want this piece read at my funeral (not that I’m planning that anytime soon). I’m serious. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever written. And it’s my longest, most heartfelt cry I can make in my marginal wilderness. Please read it.

Thank you and blessed be.

The Post I Wrote in 2019:

What follows is imagined, an eco-parable. Gerda, a Jotun, smells only of rich soil, bruised herbs from her garden, and luscious Jotun pheromones. This was enough to dazzle the Vanir god, Freyr, from afar. His sister, Freya, adorns herself with amber jewels, but cares for her skin only with salves of honey, clear water, and powdered grains. The dry tips of her hair are moistened only with the tiniest bit of melted butter. She scorns the feckless chemistries, the unwise alchemies, of Midgard’s humans, which propel poison into every living thing. Freya has complained to Odin that dead warriors are no longer what they once were–they are now creatures with flacid muscles, except for their texting hands, and that they die now with withered sperm counts, and distortions in their DNA.

Even worse–“They (the humans) are even going after the roots of the World Tree,” she whispers, “with something called ‘Round-Up.'”

Freyr, the Corn God, nods. He dies each year for the harvest and comes back reborn, but it’s becoming apparent that the humans who once honored him for this would now rather manipulate the mysteries of the grain themselves. Perhaps an extended vacation in Vanaheim is in the runes…let the humans spend a year without him for once, prefereably after an Icelandic eruption, when ash clouds herald global famine. That’d learn ’em, he thinks, but in the next moment he backs away from such thoughts. He will serve as he has always served, all these long eons. “Perhaps Ragnarök will be a blessing after all…”

Freyr smells of rich earth too, and Gerda’s herbs and mead, and a not-unpleasant tang of godly sweat and semen. Vanir pheromones are also rather scrumptious, carrying a faint scent of apples. But humans, drunk on designer petrochemicals, can no longer detect them.

As for Ragnarök, Loki has no comment. What will be, will be, and has been–so many times. Contrary to his bad press, Loki finds no happiness in wanton destruction…but cleansing…the metabolism of poisons when all else fails…sometimes that is something to be desired. He should know. The next cycle has already unleashed forces powerful enough to bake the planet, to scour it of the unwise alchemies of the paltry, money-grubbing humans. Midgard will eventually recover (Gaia is strong) but Loki isn’t all that keen to be the trickster god of cockroaches. However, he recognizes the cosmic joke about to be played on them all. He’ll do his best to find some fragment of mirth when the time comes. But onlookers will mistake his battle grin for vengeful joy, misunderstanding the mask that hides his hot, angry tears. It was all so unnecessary! It always is! Meanwhile, cremation fires are at hand for another death of a too beautiful world. It’s Loki’s job to ensure that creation follows cremation. Somebody has to do it…

Loki bound, enduring poison. Sigyn trying to catch it before it can hurt him.

Sometimes Loki wishes Sigyn had gone in for systems change, rather than holding the bowl for him alone. He imagines he could have borne his suffering–bound with his son’s entrails and scorched by viper spittle–if he’d known she was battling the powers that be, on behalf of all sentient beings. Sigyn might have known better though, and who really is to say? Her victory might yet be won.

It doesn’t take a völva prophecy to know what’s coming. Freya sheds tears. She and her daughter want to save a cat or two. Freya wants the falcons to be okay, and bees. Freyr puts in a word for boars and grains. Dogs too. Their father wants to save whales, sharks, sea turtles, guppies, and coral polyps, among others. His is a long list. Loki would like to send wolves and snakes and salmon and horses to Hel, for safekeeping. Gerda hides seeds in safe places, and waits. The souls of animals are already reluctant, but plants and fungi have not yet given up all hope. Neither has Gerda.

Loki says, “Don’t shoot the messenger (especially if I’m it!). Don’t ignore the voices of doom, of climate change, or the canary in the coal mine. Invite Cassandra onto your podcasts–she’s still got a thing or two to say! Don’t disregard the muttering sibyl, the trancing völva, or anger of witches and Jotuns.” He’d slap this message on t-shirts, even though it’s not a sound bite, in hopes that humans would pay attention, but he distrusts capitalism–particularly the kind that sells toxic petrochemical perfumes wrapped in bottles that look like Marvel Universe characters, especially his!

This last is a particularly painful mockery–big anime eyes and golden horns on keychains are one thing, but this is quite another–all those bottled endocrine disruptors ending up in the salmon, just so a few fans can pretend they have access to “his” scent.

Product of a toxic industry making a mockery of our god, adding yet more petrochemicals to the planet and its creatures, all in the name of money.
Meanwhile the big money laughs and this makes Loki mad. “Stick to cosplay,” he mutters. “Is nothing sacred?” but he already knows the answer to that question. Rather say that nothing is so futile as the sacred, and nothing is more powerful. After all, Loki knows how to stand with two, four, eight legs, or none, in the spaces between all the worlds you could ever name. (Some say that’s why he drinks so much sometimes. He’s so sick of stupid.)

All matter is alive and aware. If we could hear it, all Midgard is screaming at us right now, “Stop it! Go back! You’re hurting us!” The Earth is our hearth. Hearth fires are lit for warmth and nourishment, not destruction. But we have forgotten this. We have forgotten to extend our hospitality (our frith) and our care to all living things. Loki-as-Lóðurr awoke the first humans with his breath, which was clean and alive and full of strength. He warmed us with his breath and gave us fire to warm our hearths. He certainly did not give us a command to go forth and pollute.

I would like to think that human beings still yearn for that first clean breath, that pure air granted to us by a being as old and as vast as a star, and that we’d do anything to get it back. Instead we diddle with gadgets, toys, herbicides, GMOs, scented candles, and guns. We’ve poisoned our Midgard and every living creature in it. Our own bodies now shit microplastics. We’ve inflicted this same diet on animals and plants. Fragrance chemicals are harming aquatic wildlife. Our reproductive systems are drenched in endocrine disruptors (like phthalates) from deli food containers, Round-Up, shampoos, and perfume. Babies are born with birth defects as a result.  Our breast milk contains countless contaminants, including an array of self-inflicted consumer toxins from such beauty products as “Loki-Master of Mischief” cologne. Soon plastic golden Marvel Loki horns from the above bottle will find their way to the Pacific Garbage patch, floating among the discarded grocery bags, to be eaten by starving whales who can no longer find enough krill. I don’t think this (below) was the kind of “mischief” Loki had in mind…

Water pollution due to domestic garbage at RK Beach in Visakhapatnam. Date 22 September 2013, 09:53:32. Author Adityamadhav83. Creative Commons Attribution
Is there any hope at all? Or do I just put another gaudy, food-colored donut on Loki’s altar and sigh, “fuck this shit, Worldbreaker, we’re doomed. Bring it on…”

But Loki will have none of that. He absolutely refuses to let us dodge this wyrd. He says, “Stop buying this crap, especially not in my name. Use your breath for something decent, like saving the planet, while you still can.”

“Do this,” he says without winking, “and maybe you’ll get a whiff of my pheromones…”

From a hat sold by the Environmental Health Network of CA, http://www.ehnca.org. I was a board member and president back in the 90s.

Lovely Reviews for The Dire Deeds!

Gentle readers, I have a healthy international readership on this blog. This is why I am crossposting this image and asking you to please take a look at these lovely review excerpts for my urban fantasy novel, The Dire Deeds, the first in The Guild of Ornamental Hermits series. I hope these reviews encourage you to seek out my book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Available on Amazon in either paperback or Kindle eBook.

These books are LGBTQIA++ saturated, yet the characters (and the plot) can be loved and enjoyed by anyone who likes humor, paranormal romance, preposterous plot twists, and plucky humans learning magic from plucky Elves.

Excerpts from three Amazon reviews of my book.

The second and third books are with the copy editors and publisher now. The fourth is in progress. The Dire Deeds is not just a first novel with aspirations for a series. I have already written so much more!



“Oh no, love, you’re not alone!” – Remembering John

Both boys are in my clothes. John on the right.

The quote in the title is from David Bowie’s Rock and Roll Suicide, and those were the days of Bowie at the peak of his most androgynous glam. These were the days and nights of glitter, of dancing in clubs, of struggling to make ends meet in dreary day jobs and yet, still being fabulous. But the Bowie song that gets me the most, that most reminds me of John and who we were together in those days, was Heroes.

Today is yet another anniversary of his decomposed body’s discovery in a canyon in San Diego. I’ve had decades of these anniversaries now. So many of them. John died a suicide and broke my heart.

I’ve written in past years about John, here and here. Today I wrote this in Facebook:

John, you died in 1976 in that San Diego canyon, sometime between August 15th when you left my house without a word or a note (I’d just left for work) and September 1st, when the coroner knocked on my door and told me they’d found a badly decomposed body that they thought I could identify. That body fit your description. It was wearing jeans, a shirt with small Carmen Miranda cartoon women on it, and a heavy gold ring. It turns out that someone in your beauty college saw that heavy gold ring, which the police showed on T.V. news, asking the public for any info that could lead to your identity. That someone knew you well enough to send the coroner to me.

This wasn’t the first time you attempted suicide (pills, ground glass, drano…), but it was the time you finally succeeded.

And it turned out that some feckless, idiot acquaintance of ours who should have known better, sold you 100 barbiturates. You chose your moment, your day to die, and took them and a water bottle down into the ravine in the Hillcrest neighborhood where we lived. Eventually the police responded to neighbors’ reports of a bad smell coming from that ravine…

Missing Persons wouldn’t listen to me when I reported your disappearance, your history of suicide attempts. Your shrink simply shrugged. Mentally ill, queer youth on SSI were a dime a dozen and so what if one of them went missing? I hated these authorities, but the coroner at least spoke to me like a human being.

So today is the day I mark and dread every year–September 1st. It’s a date flanked by my children’s birthdays. For many years, that was a mercy, but that’s no longer true. Now it’s just the stark reality of a life that I have lived without you.

I hope you are resting in peace or incarnated among parents who would actually care for you as a child this time around. You were so uncared for in this life that you left, outright abused, kicked out into the street at age 13, again at 15, doing what kids on the street do to survive… Not all the attention and love you received from paramours and tricks would ever, ever make you whole. Still, I wish we could have stayed friends all these years, and shared our stories and arch observations over cups of tea and during walks among roses. I miss and love you and always will.

John Albert Suter Brennan.