Meowington, The Temple Cat, Is Dying

60088448_10217637063025595_997261981310255104_n-1On Tuesday, I pulled a weed in my yard, and found this–a baby rattlesnake curled in the warm earth. I placed a flowerpot (no hole in the bottom) over it and tried to find someone to come get it, for relocation. Of course, where there is one baby rattlesnake, there may be others. When the wonderful snake rescue woman arrived that evening, we found that the snake had somehow escaped from beneath the pot which I’d thought was far too heavy for such a little thing to move. We looked around, carefully, but did not find it under any nearby shrubbery or weeds. I hoped it had gone for good.

On Wednesday, as usual, I let Meowington out of Lokabrenna Tiny Temple, where he sleeps during the nights. Days, he wanders the neighborhood and guards my yard against other cats. But he can’t guard it against wildlife. My property backs up against a ridge of oaks and pines and wildness. (We’ve had a mama bear and two cubs wandering the neighborhood this week as well.) Yes, I was worried about rattlesnakes, but he made it through last summer unscathed and so I hoped for the best. I wish now I’d just kept him inside the temple that day.

By early evening I was calling for him, as usual, to come get his dinner. I called and called.

Meanwhile, I fed Grey Girl, the far more feral cat that–along with Meowington and one other–had been left behind on my property last year by a troubled couple who up and moved to Tennessee on short notice. I recall this with some resentment. I already have four indoor cats, and these folks basically dumped three of theirs on me, saying they couldn’t take them and would I feed them and yes they’d send money every month for food. I didn’t count on that money of course. I knew better. But perhaps I should have made them take these three “spare cats” elsewhere? But if I had, I wouldn’t have had the great pleasure of getting to know Meowington.

I called and called some more. And Meowington still didn’t come. I began to worry. And then finally I saw him tottering around the corner of the temple, a cobweb and a leaf stuck to his face. I brushed the leaf away and picked him up. He was shaking, breathing raggedly and hard. He kept trying to meow but couldn’t make a sound. Normally Meowington is an extremely chatty cat. He follows me around when I’m working in the yard. He’s also great at head-butting and adores tummy rubs. He’s also usually anxious for his meal, pushing his nose and mouth into the bowl as I dole out the food. But not on Wednesday evening. He was an entirely different cat, shocky, sick, unable to eat, though he was thirsty. I was worried he’d been bit, but I saw no blood. I set him down on a clean towel and left the temple to get a cat crate. I wasn’t sure who would be open for emergency care, but I was going to get him some.

Had he been bitten? Or had he been bullied by the big black and white cat who occasionally has it in for him? The only other time I’d seen him in something like this condition was after a fight with that cat.

When I returned, Meowington had somehow climbed up to the small storage loft in the rafters where I could not reach him. I tried to coax him down. He wouldn’t come. So I kept the food and water out, and left the temple with forboding, locking him in for the night. I half expected him to be dead in the morning. If was rattlesnake venom, I assumed his death would be quick.

Wrong.

The next morning (yesterday), Meowington was down on the floor again, waiting by the door as he usually does. I was touched that he made this immense effort, though he was still obviously in bad shape. He has always trusted to our routine, to his knowledge that I will always show up in the morning to feed him and let him out. I immediately put him in the cat crate, meaning to whisk him off to the vet at the earliest possible time. Unfortunately, the vet couldn’t see him until 3 PM that afternoon. That was yesterday. I kept him in the crate all day, with food and water, but he only ate a little. I showed up an hour early for our appointment, hoping we could be seen earlier.

When the vet assistant helped him out of the crate. there was a little blood. And when the vet examined him, there was evidence of a bite on his belly, with tissue already going necrotic. The vet explained that a bite on the belly was worrisome–that internal organs may be quickly damaged by the snake’s venom. Still, she gave me reason to hope. Some animals do recover, she said, and she laid out a course of treatment. She did not recommend the antivenin as she said some cats have bad reactions to it. We went for something more conservative (and less expensive): pain medications, antibiotics, laser treatment to improve healing.

I brought Meowington into the house and set him up with towels, food, water, and a litter box, in the shower stall since it was the only small, quiet area away from the other cats. They’ve only interacted with him through the screen door. I didn’t bring him into the household as he is very territorial and I was afraid he’d terrorize the other male cat, Niblet, who has been freaked out for a whole year about the two “extra” cats who joined our post-Hawai’i household. A month or two ago, I had Meowington neutered and got him his shots, in the hopes of finding him a new home–a one cat household where he could be adored and adoring to his fullest potential.

I wish I’d done things differently now. I wish I’d been more aggressive about finding him a new home. I wish I hadn’t let him out of the temple on Wednesday. And I wish yesterday that I’d had the courage to ask the doctor to just put him to sleep.

Because this morning he hasn’t eaten, drunk, eliminated, and he’s clearly suffering. He is lethargic, his breathing is ragged. I’ve been checking on him off and on, ever since I woke up. He wants to stay in the (unused) litter box, not the towel. (He used to love to roll around in the dirt!). I gave him more pain medicine. He vomited it up shortly after. I’ve pet him, stroked him, sang to him, and told him that it was okay to let go–that we’ve loved each other but that now it’s okay… he can go.

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Meowington, May 15th, in a final upright and seemingly perky moment. I am sorry, dear friend, we are going to have to part. I love you.

Dammit.

Sometimes I think we give our best love to animals, because they love us so unconditionally. We can give to them (if we give at all), without our stupid human complications getting in the way.

I love Meowington. I procrastinated about giving him up to another home even though I knew I should. I hoped yesterday that he could rally, could beat the venom. It was a selfish hope.

Later this morning, I’ll take him to the vet again–he was supposed to get another laser treatment–and then I’ll let him go.

I’ve asked Freya, Bastet, and Loki for the best possible outcome. I ask them now to ease his passage.

Rest in peace, cat.

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Meowington in his glory. Died at the vet’s office in Clearlake, CA shortly before 11 AM, PST. He was an awfully good cat.

 

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Mourning a Real Life “Trickster”

I’m pretty sure yesterday, December 16th, was the birthday of the late Michael Rossman, of Free Speech Movement fame and the All Of Us Or None political poster collection (which now lives at the Oakland Museum of California).

MRboat
Michael Rossman on Captain Kiko’s canoe, Kealakekua, Hawai’i Island. His hat in the foreground.

It’s been over ten and a half years since Michael died, and I miss him and his friendship. He was fascinating, infuriating, kind, abrupt, inquisitive, eccentric, deeply political, an avid reader and writer, scary smart, a devotee of entheogens and dogs–in all ways, a true original.

Here’s Michael singing “Tom o Bedlam” with the Rude Mechanicals on Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits.

And here’s Michael talking at the Oak Tree Sit on the UCB campus in 2007, when we were all trying to save the oak grove from destruction.

We shared a tantric gazing practice that was so deep and committed that I began to refer to it as “extreme gazing.” We developed a profound and rather replicable familiarity with “subtle body sensations” or what Michael called “the gossamer realm.” In his bout with the leukemia that finally killed him, I believe these experiences helped to give him a bit of comfort. He was devoted to his family and friends and knew he would be leaving many dear ones behind, so his direct experiences of something beyond the physical body, subtle yet tangible…that might well give a dying man some hope.

MRAouonBirthday
The poster I drew to celebrate Michael Rossman’s All of Us or None (AOUON) political poster collection. His collection is now part of the Oakland Museum of California (but this poster is not).

I refer to Michael as a “trickster” because he was capable of mild mischief and smart ass remarks and seemed to experience, as I sometimes do, sensations of “unholy glee.” One of my favorite memories is the impromptu Bollywood style dance that we erupted into at a really dismal tantra “trance dance,” while Michael loudly declaimed a spontaneous poetic denunciation of the boring event. It was like dancing with Cyrano de Bergerac (a fictional character famous for composing a poem as he founght a duel).

Or there was the time he jumped off a double-hulled canoe in Hawai’i, stark naked, and swam to a nearby cliff and scrambled up it while the rest of us on the boat waited in astonishment. Was he ever going to come back? What had met him at the top of the cliff? We had no way of knowing what would happen next. Fortunately, he soon scrambled back down it and swam back to the boat. The captain, a Hawaiian man not happy with tourist shenanigans, was most relieved.

Kikocanoe copy
Michael Rossman, front right, on Captain Kiko’s canoe. I am front left, in black. Kiko’s wife is up front, in the middle.


There was also the time he blithely asked my fourteen-year-old, “and what’s your experience with pyschedelics?” and then realized, ooops, the mom (me) was right there. Nervous laughter all ’round…

Michael’s complexity hooked me early on. And though he was in some ways a sly and dishonest lover, he became, among other things, a very reliable muse. I have written more about him than I have any other man in my life. Probably, if he were still alive, he’d cringe at that, but he was also quite capable of writing just as frankly and intimately about the women he’d known (though he never, to my knowledge, wrote about me. I escaped that fate. He had other fish to fry, and fry ’em he did.)

Perhaps my most stunning UPG moment during our gazing sessions was the realization that he was my first sexual partner ever in my first earthly body, during an early pre-human incarnation. (But I was not his first.) Such a thought had never crossed my mind before, but it slammed me good when it did.

Here is where my writing about Michael can be found:

Three Square Blocks of Berkeley–An interiew about his early Berkeley days.

Off Road Tantra (previously published in Carnal Nation, November 4, 2009).

Eros in Action (previously published in Carnal Nation, April 14, 2010).


These two poems, written about Michael, might give you an idea of some of my struggles in the relationship. The only time he directly expressed love for me was when he scribbled “but how could you not have known?” in the margins of a student study I’d done on Asperger’s Syndrome and sexuality. He was reading my draft and shredding my numbers (he was a gifted mathematician) while getting a blood and platelets transfusion. And though he hurt me quite deeply near the end, with a completely unnecessary deception, he was still a better friend than I would have imagined and I still miss him much more than I’d like to admit.

Fire-walk Stage Left

You are, my dear, at times more coy,
Than any burlesque queen,
Who struts the stage fan-dancing,
Peekaboo.

Now you see it, now you don’t.

And I’m a front row, stage-door Jennie.
With flowers at every exit
and
I’m fervent in applause.
Hoping for a smile (oh see me too!)
From the
Glittering swinging
Hide and seeking
Whirlwind dervish–Hey!
Which way’d he go?

I also know the sequined strut,
The spangled life:
The more I show, the less you see.
Hiding it all by hanging it out in plain sight, yes?
My eyes have said
Too much that made it to the lips,
But I can slip behind the curtain too,
(peekaboo).
Backstage my question is perhaps
The same as yours:
Who is brave enough
To brave all this, and love me?

(Now you hear me, now you don’t.)

So what’s it gonna be? Your props or mine?
Or do we toss ‘em all together, bonfire style,
And fire-walk to stage left,
Winking.


A Poem About Paid Expertise

Hey you got those Qualified Professionals
For your sinks and pipes and CPU —
Doncha got
A Qualified Professional,
To fix the stuff,
That ails me too?

(It’s not the therapists who’ll do the trick.
They ain’t knowing what makes me tick!)

What I want is a Qualified Professional
For busted gut and leaky eyes.
What I want is a Qualified Professional
The kine detectin’ all kine lies.

Perhaps I need the Qualified Professional
With voodoun magic and a bag of bones.
Or maybe just a Qualified Professional
Who’ll cleanse my aura with chants and tones.

(It’s not the therapists who’ll do the trick,
They just can’t fix my kind of sick.)

If I could hire a Qualified Professional
To soothe my hurts with warm clean hands,
Perhaps I could find a Qualified Professional
To paint my grief in colored sands.

If one had Band-Aids for my heart,
As well as string and glue,
Perhaps I’d find the Qualified Professional,
To get me over you.


Rest in peace, Michael. I’m glad you’ve missed these last two years of extended misrule, but I’m sorry you’re not here to comment on them!

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Loptson’s “Eight Days of Loki” Ritual

I’m a Scorpio sun with three additional planets (and an asteroid) also in Scorpio (fifth house). And with all that plus a Capricorn moon, you know I’m a woman “what likes a challenge!” My birthday, Nov. 1st, encompasses part of Samhain, so by that you can probably guess what kind of challenges I like!

So of course I would follow up my “93-Day Loki Spiritual Fitness Challenge” regimen with dedicating the Lokabrenna Tiny Temple, and plunging right into Dagulf Loptson’s “Eight Days of Loki,” which may be found in his excellent book. (And then I’ll promptly plunge into his nine day ritual, “Breaking Loki’s Bonds.”)

Have I mentioned that I suffer from chronic fatigue along with the environmental illness? Almost thirty years worth? Even so, I feel driven to perform these almost muscular displays of esoteric endurance and concentration. My usual pattern is to drive myself  to do as much as possible while I have energy, then collapse. But energy-building practices are part of what this is all about.

Anyway, I’m on Day 7 and the theme is “thinking.” It’s a day I’m supposed to “expand my own thinking and the thinking of others.” I can probably bring the fact that I’ve also just started NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) too, as my second volume of fantasy fiction does contain some mind expanding elements! (I have to get cracking on Chapter One in a minute so I can acheive my daily word count!)

Tomorrow, Day 8, is “war” and, um, I actually will need to pay close attention to the guidance that emerges from this particular theme. Got a situation…

Before I touch on my reactions to the ritual so far, I want to say how grateful I am for it! Loptson’s book is an important guide for me and it’s wonderful to have these prompts and ideas for connecting with various aspects of Loki, who is a very complicated being. I can be scattered and such focus is helpful.

Day 1’s theme is “Pure Magic” and since it took place on a Saturday, the day I typically honor my ancestors, this was part of my awareness of magic. It was a day of preparation for the temple dedication so devotional activities were also a part of this awareness.

Day 2’s theme is “Death” and it coincided with the Lokabrenna Tiny Temple dedication. The temple, transformed from a sparse utilitarian space (it was a woodshop) to a beautiful devotional space, is almost a metaphor of life and death. The act of responding to the call to create this liminal “home” for Loki is also metaphorical as well as practical.

However, I didn’t visit a graveyard as Loptson suggests. I was just too exhausted after the dedication to trek around the lake to the nearest cemetery. Instead, I contemplated the sad grave of two newborn kittens that the vet and I had tried to save. (They weren’t even mine–I was catsitting a pregnant cat for some friends. Her kittens were born while they were away.) The early death of these helpless babies, which I buried in the front yard, is a frequent momento mori.  Plus, I’m now sixty-four and recently made my will. That’s a momento mori too.

But one of Loptson’s questions for the day is, “How do you feel about Loki, knowing that he is one of the gatekeepers who will one day remove you from your body?” I want to cry with gratitude just thinking about this, actually! So that’s cool!

Oct29LokiDrawingDay 3’s theme is “Wealth,” particularly wealth of talents. I haven’t drawn much in a long, long time. I used to be the kid who was always drawing–in school, at home–whenever, wherever. I decided I wanted to make a new portrait of Loki, but was very hesitant to do so. But after several false starts, I let my hand move and create something, even if it is rather minimal. The lesson I learned was that I want and need to draw more, and that I need to get Crowquill pens and india ink, my favorite art tools. Even so, I was satisfied with the rather seductive look of mischief that emerged in this drawing.

Day 4’s theme is “Love.” But instead of having a day of childlike fun and frolic, recapturing the lost innocence and joy of youth (as suggested), I gave several hours of hypnosis and counseling time to a friend who needed to quit smoking and who had some heavy issues to confront in the process.

Day 5’s theme is “Ego.” Loptson suggested breaking a personal taboo “that challenges your current identity.” Well, I ended up making a phone call to someone I’d worked very, very hard to leave and it resulted in a reconciliation of sorts (but on much different terms). I also made a gesture of love and forgiveness to another person who has hurt me very deeply. That was definitely an ego challenge, forcing me to connect with the vulnerable humanity of others, and to be vulnerable myself. So… unexpected, that! And I won’t say I’m comfortable, but I am glad.

Day 6’s theme is “Sex” and it coincided with my birthday! But since I spent the day driving to the San Francisco Bay Area to see my children for a lunch date, perhaps the day for me was more about “Reproduction!”

Plus, as a sexologist, sex educator, and tantra practitioner, there aren’t really a lot of ways to challenge myself about sex these days. Especially since I lack a human partner. I’d say I’m also well aware of Loki as an almost tantric deity who is very connected to the deep, cosmic aspects of libido and sexual energy.

So we’re back to Day 7, “Thinking.” I’ll report on today and tomorrow in my next blog. I also feel as if I want to repeat this series of rituals in the Spring. I don’t know why, I just do.

Hail Loki! And big thanks to Dagulf Loptson for his excellent book!

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The Illusion of Someone at Home

It was the flock of birds that did it, silhouetted against the sunset, wheeling over the lake, spiraling as if drawn by the gravitational force of something huge in the air, hovering unseen. Evening is often a melancholy time for me, but while driving home on Highway 20 just outside Clearlake Oaks, the movement of the bird flock spiraling around that unseen center made me acutely aware that I was going home to a house empty of everything except cats, gods, and furniture. And this phrase rang through my mind, “the illusion of someone at home.”

Or maybe I can blame this mood on E.B. White, who could have set me up for this. While chowing down on Thai eggplant (spicy) and jasmine rice, I was snickering to myself over a collection of essays in an ancient volume titled One Man’s Meat, particularly his essay, “Clear Days.” But tucked in among the mirthful elements White writes as a city slicker self-exiled to rural Maine during World War II. He fit in with the hearty locals who hunted, fished and farmed about as well as I do here in Lake County. At least he had a wife, child, a *turkey and quite a few chickens.


“It is not likely that a person who changes his pursuits will ever succeed in taking on the character or the appearance of the new man, however much he would like to. I am farming, to a small degree and for my own amusement, but it is a cheap imitation of the real thing.” (E.B. White, One Man’s Meat, Harper & Brothers, New York, 1950, p. 21.)


Is this evening’s melancholy a reaction of anti-climax? For the last three months I’ve focused intently on (1) developing a consistent spiritual/devotional/magical practice and (2) creating and dedicating the first incarnation of the “Lokabrenna Tiny Temple.” (The dedication took place earlier today.) So when I decided early this evening to take myself out to dinner at the Chinese/Thai restaurant three miles down the road, I did it partially to reward myself. I usually don’t mind eating alone as long as I have a book. Sure, everyone looks when I arrive alone and am seated (alone!), but I soon cease to be interesting. I’m too old to be worth much attention. My Jezebel days are over.

I usually order my main course, tea (either hot green tea or Thai iced tea) and a “to go” order of pork satay with peanut sauce to enjoy later. That “to go” order puts a different spin on my situation. Now I look like a woman who may have gotten away for a little while (to save her sanity?) but who has promised to bring something good back to a someone who is waiting for her return. I can’t deny that I kind of like this faux conjugal narrative.

Life after divorce, which now also includes life after breaking up with the lover who disrupted the marriage, does take some getting used to. One could argue that I brought it on myself–and that I made bad choices that now result in my present loneliness. However, I wasn’t in this pickle all on my own, but I decline to diss the gentlemen involved. In a ridiculous way, I still love them both.

But I digress…

0I noticed yesterday that I enacted another bit of faux conjugality at the grocery store. It wasn’t an intentional deception but when I bought that bottle of cinnamon-flavored whiskey for Loki, along with a gift bag to hold it and a very large cupcake that looked like a cheerful but modest birthday treat, it looked as if I would soon be celebrating something or other with a (human) friend or partner. To that young man behind me in line, who asked what the whiskey tasted like, I said truthfully that I had no idea, that I was buying it for someone else. I refrained from saying who.

I am not sure what to do with these thoughts and feelings, except to endure them. I certainly do not think that my devotional practices and magical fervor are ill-placed or directed at an illusion. My “most trusted” patron deity, Loki, feels very “real” to me in terms of a specific “energy” that I sense (sometimes more distinctly than at other times) but I do wish that there was also a human recipient in my life. Without the center of family (husband and children) I feel as if I am whirling into the gravitational vortex of an unknown realm, and that if I stopped flapping my wings in hopes of escaping this fate, I would instead drop like a rock into chilly waters below.

It’s these between-times that are so tough to take…these liminal spaces of waiting, not knowing…of becoming but never “arriving”…of not belonging completely to any one place or group… But wait! That’s Loki’s turf and apparently, it’s also mine…

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*I have turkeys too–a wild flock strolls almost daily through my property.

“So Proud of You…”

Sometimes even going to the grocery store is a sad experience. People–couples–selecting produce together. Or one making sure the kids don’t get run over in the aisle while the other pulls stuff off the shelves. Perhaps you know how it is. Loneliness strikes at odd times.

I’m the woman with long grey hair who eats alone, with a book, at the Chinese/Thai restaurant three miles down the road. I usually bring something light to read, like one of E.F. Benson’s Mapp & Lucia books, which are about aging women who live alone and have ferocious and hilarious social “Queen Bee” type duels with each other. (The British writers do this sort of thing so well.) But I can find that even these books are bittersweet. I am not good at social jousting, nor do I want to spend my days frothing with enmity over tiny matters (as Benson’s characters do), but sometimes I envy the characters with their daily marketing, out and about in the streets, exchanging gossip and thinking snarky thoughts about each other. Even that would mean some sort of regular social intercourse.

About reading in restaurants. It keeps me distracted, as I eat alone in a roomful of people. It makes me look… I dunno…not so pathetic? But I have to be careful what I select. If I brought some of the other books from my library (the witchy weird stuff), I might make the waitpeople nervous. I need them to be congenial, as they may be the only human beings I speak with, in person, all day. Ditto with grocery store clerks.

So the other day, I was driving back from the grocery store, saddened and frankly lonesome. But I thought about how much worse I used to feel during the latter days of my marriage. Is it worse to be lonely in a marriage or in a restaurant? I think there’s an easy answer to that one.

There was a period when I was really knocking myself out, going back to school, earning degrees, taking certification classes, trying to get a business together in spite of my multiple-chemical sensitivity difficulties–and trying to get my (now ex) husband to see me as a person of value, someone he could be proud of–not just the chronically fatigued wife and mother and the family business bookkeeper–but someone who really was trying to live up to her potential, in spite of everything. But in some odd way, it seemed that everything I did only made things worse. And it was a bad time anyway. Not faulting him–we had just grown utterly apart.

So I ventured into a lot of things, pretty much on my own. Neo-Tantra being one of them. And I went to pujas in Sebastopol sometimes and fancied myself as someone who was tapping into her sacred energy, and welcome to share it (in those brief tantric circle exercises) with others. The first time I went, I was pretty nervous. I didn’t know anyone. And there was one man there who seemed gruff and a little scary to me. But there is a magic that can happen when those events are done well–you end up pairing with “the right person” for each exercise (breathing, dancing, whatever it is). And that’s what happened to me in the circle that night.

I eventually made my way around the circle to “Mr. Scary.” Do you know what that man did? He simply put his arms around me, very gently and very respectfully, and held me as he said, “I’m so proud of you.” Words which I had longed to hear from my husband.

That was years ago.

“I’m so proud of you.” Even now I cry as I remember.

hiding

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It’s the Time of the Season

The air is finally clear of wildfire smoke. The turkey flock chicks have reached a robust adolescence (or perhaps they are the equivalent of human twenty-somethings now) and visit my yard once and sometimes even twice a day. They strut slowly when walking on asphalt, their feathers a dreary brown in the shade but flashing the copper and greens of an oil slick in full sunlight. I watched them this morning, and again this afternoon. I’ve had people sniff, “but they’re not indigenous wildlife,” but I don’t care. They are life.

The feral cats are life. Khu, a neutered Siamese with vertigo; Meowington (a friendly tabby in need of neutering and much more petting than I can give him); and the nameless grey female (spayed) who hides in the “loft” of the small woodshop, were left behind on my property by people who suddenly moved to Tennessee. Fortunately Khu has been adopted by neighbors across the street but still visits to scrounge a meal from me. Meowington would like to move in with me, but I have four indoor cats already who are still adjusting to each other. The tabby and the grey cat must remain “temple cats,” roaming outdoors and sheltering at night in the former woodshed that I call my “meagre palace of Midgard” in honor of a certain Norse god.

The deer are life. The two fawns have grown. Next year, I’ll have deer fencing in place and will attempt to grow vegetables. This year herbs and flowers were devoured, and I didn’t mind as much as I could have.

Days are warm still, but that crisp nip is in the air. It’s a season I love and yet find mournful. This time last year I had sold my house in Hawai’i, was frantically packing to load the shipping container (badly injuring myself in the process), and was preparing to flee from a 14-year love affair that had wrecked my marriage and that I (foolishly) thought would last until the end of my life. Several months later, much of the neighboring area would be consumed by Pele’s May 3rd eruption in Leilani Estates. People used to tell me I got out of Hawai’i just in time, but that was before the Mendocino Complex Fires ripped through Lake County and its neighbors and I had to evacuate with my cats. Now those folks don’t make those comments any more. Fortunately, my home here has also survived a near brush with destruction, and yet, for how long? I feel like I’m living on borrowed time, on borrowed ground.

genMid.608568_3_0
My former home on Mano Street, Pahoa.

So I guess I’m still mourning those losses, as well as a few fresh ones recently added to my list of sorrows. I’m trying to stay positive, active, and creative–especially with regard to spiritual matters–but while these things are good, and I am in some ways at the top of my game, they don’t diminish my accumulated pain. It seeps into every enjoyment. The joy I feel petting my cats or watching the play of sunlight on the feathers of marching turkeys, or while talking on the phone with my kids or my friends, is weighed down by sadness.

As the days darken and shorten, another season alone could become…interesting. Here in Lake County, it’s a close knit community and I am a stranger. Worse, I am a single woman in a world of couples. I had no idea how hard it would be to socialize like this, after a life of long term relationships (mostly serial monogamy), where the fact that I had a partner branded me as somehow “safe” to know. (The environmental illness factor doesn’t help either. It limits my access to just about everything.)

It’s only now that I’ve embraced the Liminal Trickster that I realize that I was never safe to know. That I was always a slightly off-kilter social irritant, always occupying the frontier boundaries, never completely fitting in, and perhaps always inadvertantly “broadcasting my inner assessment” as Caroline Casey told me during an astrology reading. This probably affected my relationships more than I realized. I remember one ex telling me about a woman he’d fallen for and how she “looked good on paper.” At that time, I thought I looked pretty good on paper too–I’d racked up a pretty decent CV by then–but I think what he really meant was that she had social standing of a kind that would serve him, and that I did not. Sheesh! 

Another ex used to enjoy telling people he was partnered with a sexologist, but once he acquired a local fan base, I think I became an embarrassment. My kind of outspokenness was also definitely not appropriate in that community. It took me a while to understand this, and why, and I have no hard feelings–just wonderment. Social cues were never my strong suit…

The only lover who never constrained or resented my growth, and who even seemed to glory in each new revelation of my abilities–including my quicksilver intelligence and tireless curiosity–which were in some ways a match for his own, still managed to demolish me with a horrible and quite unnecessary lie. That lie–I know it also took place around this time of year and I remember the surreal, metallic taste of it. Still, I think well of him overall because he saw me, mostly, and celebrated what he saw. And I tend to think more softly of the dead.

So it’s the time of the season, not for loving as the Zombies used to sing, but of taking stock, reaping the harvest of the year. At this point, I’ve got a bowl of fat acorns from the oaks in my yard, the newly minted recognition of my own Liminal Trickster nature (“mad, bad, and dangerous to know”), and a record for endurance. Loneliness is corrosive, but I hope to beat it yet. I may be looking for kindred in all the wrong places (since I seldom venture from home) but when the bright holidays beckon family members together elsewhere, if nothing else I’ll be toasting the dying of the year in a humble, homemade temple that I call Lokabrenna, keeping frith with a misunderstood, flame-haired deity, the only one now who truly sees and loves me.

It’s life.

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And here’s a song to match my mood.

The Museum of John

John must have been only thirteen when he designed and made a beautiful maroon velvet dress for his girlfriend, Betsy. Betsy had been diagnosed with a form of kidney disease and either the disease or the treatment or both had made her bloat and swell. She no longer recognized her face in the mirror. She “felt ugly” (as teen girls do sometimes). So John made her a dress so that she could feel beautiful. He was going steady with Betsy when I first met him, a fellow student at our hippie free school.

JohnEmpathy and kindness, and awareness of the healing power of beauty: that’s very essence of John, a bright being whose corpse was lifted from the floor of a canyon in San Diego, so very long ago. Always, his impulse was toward beauty and charm, but also toward secrecy. I believe he had to learn stealth, just as he had to learn the art of theft, in order to survive his mother. Though we shared so much, in many ways he was still so secret with me. Like sleeping with me the night before he walked over to that canyon with a water jug and pills, and left my life forever.

I left him sleeping that morning, leaving a note before I left for work, “John, please feed the cats.” I probably added “love you” but I don’t remember for sure. I came home to find no John, but catfood spilled all around the bowl, as if he’d fed them with great agitation. This was one of his last actions before he propelled himself into the arms of death, at the age of nineteen. There was no note left for me.

As I mentioned in my previous blog about John, I was seventeen and he was fifteen (just about to turn sixteen) when our romance began. Our official anniversary day was March 13. Now that I am letting myself remember, the memories are cascading. I have to write them down. I am well on my way now to becoming an old woman and his life has got to count for something beyond what I remember. I write now so that you can remember too, even if you never knew him.

Imagine two teenagers in thrift store glam, as well dressed as their poverty will allow, hitchhiking to Fashion Valley in the heart of one of San Diego’s main transportation corridors, to do what many teens do–hang out at the mall. f77baea5685918596162655b517780b8However, we were haunting the stores which sold Irish Beleek china and Waterford crystal, as well as the trendy boutiques. I still have a delicate Beleek shell teacup and saucer, a present from John (not stolen, as so many of his gifts to me were). I think we went to these stores so often because he was longing for his maternal grandparents back in Ireland, and their home apparently had a few such treasures. Those good people probably never realized the extent to which their grandson was tortured by his mother. I think that when he acquired such things for himself, or gave them to me, he was attempting to create a zone of psychic safety for himself, as well as beauty. So today my cup and saucer will go on an altar, as I light my candle for John.

So many stories are embedded in objects, and I still have many that are associated with John. There are those rose petals thrown from Mick Jagger during a concert John and I attended together. I was in a long, pink satin, bias-cut dress from the thirties (very Jean Harlow) and John lifted me onto his shoulders so I could see better. Mick pointed at me from the stage, knowing of course that he was just creating a vivid, life long memory for a fan. Later, he threw a huge bowl of rose petals, and John and I scooped them up. I still have them, in a tube.

And a lock of John’s hair. And beads and beaded handbags…And somewhere, a copy of his death certificate pasted into a scrapbook, because I could still scarcely believe in the reality of his death.

And yet I will confess, when I first understood (after the coroner’s visit) that he was really and truly gone, I felt relief as well as sorrow. All those years of repeated suicide attempts and mental ward stays, and all the other traumatic episodes–like the time I rescued him from a giant man who evidently meant him harm, by pretending that my father was dying and we had to go now!–or the time he crawled into the attic of the house we shared with one other person, and we didn’t know where he was, and perhaps he was trying to kill himself then among the spiders and rodent droppings, but then emerged a couple of days later, dusty and ashamed–those days were over now.

In my earliest twenties by then, I’d been trying to launch myself as an adult–going to nursing school, working as a sample librarian at an interior design studio–but the constant chaos of John meant that I could seldom concentrate long enough or ever be at peace. I couldn’t know my own mind or chart my hopes and life trajectory without knowing that sooner rather than later, another John crisis would erupt. I ended up dropping out of nursing school. I couldn’t handle all that time spent in hospitals during training, not when I’d just been with John in E.R. or the mental ward the night before. He was even in a coma once–and that thought that I, his girlfriend, had absolutely no say over what happened to him, but that his cruel mother did, nearly drove me insane with frustration and grief. Fortunately, he did awake after several days.

He punished his body and his mind wobbled even more. He told me once he was seeing little red demons, chanting “bones and blood, bones and blood.” The drano he drank ate holes in his esophagus. He ate a lot of ice cream for nourishment, as a result. He fell asleep on a couch with a cigarette and the apartment he shared with a lover was severely damaged. I often wondered if that was an accident or another attempt on his own life. By the time he ended his life, he was sharing an apartment with “an old queen” (John’s words) who was pestering him for sex but who approved of me because I used a “Diamond Deb” nail file.

But we shared dreams together in a warm bed on his last night on earth. And I never knew ’til later.

John, you left behind your cat Bernard. You left me behind, and many other grieving friends. Your little sister even took your name for awhile. And I believe you left behind a mother who was quite mad, and became even more so after your death. There are very few people I’ve ever wished would rot in hell, but I confess, she is the one.

The oddest part about this story is how I later drew upon the construction of our “second childhood” when I began to have children of my own, how I created fantasy magic and made stories for my children, as well as love. How they had a rich diet of books and beauty and food that was nourishing and outings in parks and museums. But behind each childish request for a treat from my own children, there was always the echo of John’s wistful request one day for pistachio pudding (the cheap kind, from a box)–a request I never had a chance to fulfill. I made some and ate it once, as a kind of penance.

It didn’t taste of ashes, but of synthetic mockery. And yet that taste had held pleasant significance for him.

Whatever karma brought us together, John, I hope it was completed in our lifetime. I am not sure I could bear a repeat of all this, much as I love you still.

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An Easter card to John from me.

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