I Was a Teenage Crone From Outer Space

While I do think there’s no better way to age-out in this life than to become an “old witch,” I do wish someone had warned me that this time of life is as confusing (if not more so) than adolescence! I feel like a teenager again: confused about sex and my changing body, experiencing weird hormonal shifts, pissed at the way society dismisses me, concerned about my economic prospects, the way people act around me, my place in the world…

I talk with my friends about how weird this is. We’ve not yet reached the point where we’re dying off (yet), but we’ve entered the realm of “near-death” experiences even as we consider a life on social security. What I mean by “near-death” in this case is the momento mori nature of becoming gradually more invisible to those who still exist, apparently, in The Land of the Obtuse Living. We who are visibly aging beyond what is fashionable no longer matter as we once thought we did, no matter what our accomplishments. We are pushed ever more to the margins of all human consideration–familial, economic, artistic, social…

A long-time friend called me a couple of weeks ago. It’s been about five years since we talked. She and her husband recently moved. They had an economic need to downsize and that meant leaving the city where she lived for so long, moving to a town on the outskirts. She’s socially isolated as a result. I was commiserating with her (yes, I feel that too) until she mentioned an 80-year old neighbor across the street who was friendly, but then she said something to the effect that this neighbor “won’t be around for very long so why bother?”

OMFG. When even the younger old can be this callous toward the older old, who are we as human beings?

I’m also preparing to move. I’ll be saying good-bye to this lake and those mountains sometime this spring. I’ll be moving closer to a real city, closer to people in general, nearer to some friends and medical care. I need to be in a place where I can access things like food and care if illness and infirmity strike. Here the nearest bookstore is twenty-two miles away. I’d like a situation that’s more walkable.

I moved to Lake County to be as near to my adult children as I could afford (150 miles away from the SF Bay Area). But after two years here, and not much in the way of visits, I have no hope of much attention from my children, so it no longer matters how far away I live from them. It’s difficult enough just to get an appointment to FaceTime with them once or twice a month. I can’t blame them, really. They are attempting to navigate the hell that is young adult life in a world of accelerating climate change, citizens of a fascist country that is greedily genocidal. (We elders are costly–I presume we’re among the “disposable.”)

I am bewildered. This is not what I thought would happen to me at this age. I thought I would be cherished a little. And though I remain interested in so much (and interesting too, I hope), and long to participate in many of the exciting movements and resurgences that are going on right now, I realize my role can only be as a quaint onlooker unless I galvanize a bunch of other pissed off older witches, artists, writers, and musicians to Do Some Stuff and Kick Some Ass. I’ve always been quietly audacious. I now find myself wanting to throw my aging back in everyone’s face much as I used to want to throw my youth. Here’s the story of (some of) my life:

“You want a pregnancy test? I’ll do it. You want punk rock vinyl fashion? I’m making it happen. You want a feminist space group? Already done. You want a sexologist for a wife or a girlfriend? Watch me! (Oh, you didn’t want that after all? Too bad!) You want a three-part fantasy novel? I’ve got one in the works! You’re expecting fierce commentary about what it means to age in the 21st century? I’m so fucking on it!

And so I find myself saying it still, the same thing I’ve said for at least fifty years: “World, don’t you dare underestimate me, not even now. Just watch what I’ll do next!” The funny part about all this, of course, is that no one much cares and I know it. But I really have no choice. It’s an all-out, bat-shit old lady thing.

What has kicked off this melancholy musing? A combination of things, really. Looking around at all the things I’ll either pack or give away. The boxes of family photos no one seems to want. Stuff I’ve collected, written, drawn. Business records and “archives.” More fine china than I actually need… It’s not that I feel I live in a museum (yet) but I’m still ravenous for dynamic interactions and transformations. And so I blog, leaving wordy breadcrumbs for the “children” (who may not be mine) who may teleport into my fragrance-free witch’s lair, filled with cats, books, art, and talk of sex and magic over tea.

I’m not done with this world yet. But it seems to be done with me. If the margins are all that’s left, that’s where I’ll be. Actually, it’s pretty much where I’ve always been. I’ve always drawn sustenance from the outer limits. I just didn’t know that life here could feel so diminished. It’s up to me, as a bat-shit old witch, to serve this up with fire and fury.

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Book Review: Outside the Charmed Circle

Book cover of Outside the Charmed Circle.
Outside the Charmed Circle by Misha Magdalenehttps://ladyofthelake.blog/2020/01/31/book-review-outside-the-charmed-circle/

Outside the Charmed Circle: Exploring Gender and Sexuality in Magical Practice, by Misha Magdalene, is a challenge to review. That’s because the book is so deep, so rich, and so necessary, that in order to do it justice you almost have to quote great heaping gobs of text. I’ll try to not do that–I want you to read the book itself.

I was privileged and honored to read a PDF draft in advance. When the book was published I ordered two copies, one for me and one for a family member. This is the kind of book you want to talk about, the kind you want to give to others, the kind that makes you want to shout “YES!” into the oak groves at midnight or wave at passing motorists by day.

So why am I, a witchy person and a sexologist, so darned enthusiastic about what Misha Magdalene has to say? Well, it’s also that I’m kind of like that “over-enthusiastic PFLAG mom” meme that was going around a few years ago, only I’d be in a black t-shirt saying “My Transgender Witch Child Makes Me So Proud” and I’d be wearing less bracelets. So, the topic of “exploring gender & sexuality in magical practice” is deeply personal on several levels. I feel its urgency. At the core, I want my children (both cis and trans) to be respected and safe, and I want everyone else’s kids to be safe and respected too. It’s just basic human empathy and justice, qualities which are lacking in this world and sometimes this lack bashes into our spiritual lives, where we go to be strengthened, but are also frequently deeply vulnerable.

In spite of the topic’s complexity, this book is quite “user friendly.” Each chapter contains exercises to help the reader think through and experience the material. The appendices and bibliography are also wonderfully helpful.

In the introductory chapter, Misha Magdalene describes their book as “an exploration of magic through the lenses of gender and sexuality.” I think the reverse is also true. The book asks also us to examine gender and sexuality through the lenses of our magical practices and beliefs. Magdalene is extremely qualified to write from and through both (and several) perspectives. For me, in this book, intersectionality reveals its liminal nature, and liminal, magic practice reveals its intrinsic intersectional necessity. Circles and spaces, within and without, all are essentially “charmed.” If I’m interpreting correctly, I feel this may be one reason why Magdalene writes “magic is queer.”

The second chapter, “Getting Our Bearings, Knowing Our Terms,” is a helpful “101 and beyond” navigation through sex and gender terminology, which–as Magdalene points out–can and does change over time.

The book focuses next on the body, embodiment, and all the baggage that may be heaped upon bodies, often internalized. This third chapter is practically a body-positive “user’s manual,” a way to set ourselves up–not just conceptually but also physically–for the body’s ability to be “an instrument of magic.” For myself, as a person who is finding the physical and social transition to old age as bewildering as adolescence, this appreciative and mindful focus on the body as a location of self, wisdom, and power, provides a much needed reminder to take care of what I’ve got. I have a hunch other readers will appreciate these reminders (if not for the same reason).

The fourth chapter, “Gender Theory and Practice,” takes us deeper into considerations of this topic and how gender essentialism is incorporated and enacted in various magical traditions. (And now I find that these chapter descriptions are so simplified that it is almost embarrassing. Just…read…the…book…)

The next chapter moves powerfully into a discussion of queerness, queer deities, and more. I (cis, het, spectro-sexual, Lokean) particularly resonate Magdalene’s description of queerness as “a metaphysical yearning for something beyond the scope of our understanding” and also as a “pursuit” of potentiality. While I (cis, het, spectro-sexual, Lokean) don’t presume to the label of “queer,” this chapter helps me to understand my own allyship and the underpinings of my own spiritual quests.

My only quibble with this chapter (and it is a small one) is that an important aspect of Loki Laufeyjarson–the Norse trickster and shape-shifter–is overlooked. He was/is a mother not just once, but twice. In the Norse Voluspa en skamma, Loki ate a burnt woman’s heart (an offering?) and promptly gave birth to innumerable “troll women.” “Troll” was another word for witch. Loki, therefore, is a Mother of Witches, an important (gender-shifting) ancestor of magic practitioners. I would have liked to have seen this aspect acknowledged. But as I said, this is a minor criticism.

Chapter six brings us to one of my favorite topics. It’s called “Safer Sex Magic for Beginners (and Experts)” and I must say, this chapter is a thing of both sexological and magical beauty. I highly recommend the section called “How to Learn Sex Magic in Three Easy Steps” and the exercise for working solitary sex magic. In fact, I highly recommend the entire thing. Just…read…it!

The next two chapters on consent are also full of common sense and wisdom. The second one, chapter eight, concerns the process of negotiating consent with gods and…wow. Just wow. One of my professional interests, as well as personal/spiritual orientations, concerns spectrosexuality and god-spousing, and I can honestly say that so many people need the perspective and information contained in these chapters! These chapters are a stunning example of sex education at its best.

The last three chapters bring everything together in a context of individual magical practices and working within (or without) magic communities. Can I just say that even as I flip through these pages, as I write this review, I find myself wanting to swoon with admiration? So much common sense, so much compassion, so much inclusivity, so much impeccable information…

I believe this pioneering book is destined to be a classic. It is certainly one that I will take from my shelf again and again, and will continue to recommend whole-heartedly to all who are interested in such topics.

Well done, Misha Magdalene! I look forward to your next book!!!

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Dagulf Loptson’s New Book: Loki Trickster and Transformer

510PMSAfpoL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Inspirational, accessible, well-organized, experiential.

Loki: Trickster and Transformer (due for release May 29, 2020) is a must-read introduction to the Norse god, Loki Laufeyjarson, and modern Loki worship. And for anyone already devoted to this complex deity, Dagulf Loptson has created yet another informational and devotional gem. My reviewers copy now has an honored place in my own book collection, along with Loptson’s first, Playing With Fire: An Exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson (Asphodel Press, 2014).

Loki Trickster and Transformer is published by Pagan Portals (an imprint of http://www.johnhuntpublishing.com). This book definitely opens a door and guides the reader through it.

Loptson’s scholarship is respected by such notable writers as Diana Paxson (who writes an endorsement for this book) and Stephan Grundy, Ph.D., author of God in Flames, God in Fetters: Loki’s Roll in the Northern Religions.

I also want to mention that I thoroughly enjoy Loptson’s portrait of Loki on the cover, and the inside illustrations.

Inspirational

As someone who found myself, late in life, suddenly and surprisingly called by Loki (something which I would never have anticipated in a million years!), I appreciate Loptson’s work on many levels. When I read Loptson’s books I immediately feel closer to Loki, my fulltrui (my most trusted one among several deities with whom I work). That’s the experience I had with Playing With Fire, and it’s what I feel reading Trickster and Transformer. (This is not something that happens with most of the books on my shelves!) I can’t promise you’ll have the same experience, but I am willing to bet that you’ll enjoy returning to this book often, as there are many aspects of Loki to ponder, particularly the transformative ones.

But as Loptson writes, “Loki isn’t a god you can really know just by reading his stories or what other people have written about him: he’s a deity that needs to be experienced.” This book can help you move toward direct experience. But more on that in a moment.

Accessible

This book can also help you move toward your own research. The introduction includes a list of Norse lore sources for Loki myths and poems. I also appreciate the inclusion of endnotes, a bibliography, and a list of recommended reading. Readers are not forced to wonder where Loptson found his ideas. Loptson also clearly indicates when he’s expressing his own insights, opinions, and experiences, as opposed to describing a reference to Norse lore.

Well-organized & Experiential

The book progresses logically, which is really rather wonderful seeing as it’s devoted to a being who is supposedly “chaotic.” The first ten chapters each focus on a specific name (heiti) and aspect of Loki, so the reader gains broader understanding with each new chapter. Easier, “user friendly” Loki aspects are presented first. The last couple of chapters are devoted to aspects which are more challenging: Loki as “The Roarer” and “The Vulture’s Road.” I feel this is a measured, thoughtful approach which will serve readers well, especially those who are newcomers to Loki.

Each chapter also contains an activity and a simple ritual. Loptson is a skilled ritualist and this is reflected in the rituals he has created for each aspect of Loki. Elements from previous chapters and rituals are incorporated into subsequent ones. For example, the first chapter includes the consecration of a Loki candle. Several subsequent rituals will include this candle, plus other objects made and consecrated in future chapters.

The final chapter, “Becoming a Lokean,” includes a Loki Dedication Ritual and suggestions for a daily practice and altar implements (mostly the objects and materials created and assembled for the previous rituals).

I’ve worked through other rituals that Loptson has created, both in his previous book and as found on his blog, and I’ve always gotten something valuable from the experiences. I’ve now begun to work through Trickster and Transformer on my second reading, but have to postpone some of this work as I lack necessary materials. If I have any mild criticism to offer at all, it is that I have no idea where to find birch twigs, which are used in Chapter Ten’s Loki Blót (sacrifice) ritual. That tree doesn’t seem to grow around here, so a list of substitute woods would have helped.

A Master List of Materials Used in Trickster and Transformer

Though each chapter contains a list of the necessary materials and tools for each ritual, I suggest that the reader who intends to embark on this ritual series have a “master list” of all necessary items, and assemble all of them at once, in advance of beginning the first ritual. That way you won’t be stopped in your tracks by the lack of birch twigs or a dremel, or any other item. This may mean a trip to craft stores, thrift stores, or online purchases of hard-to-find herbs and incense ingredients, rocks, and beads.

I would make the suggestion that subsequent editions of this book contain such a list at the end, for easy reference, but here’s one now. (I hope the author will forgive my presumption in making such a list and offering it here.)


Candles: A pillar candle that is either orange, red, gold, yellow, black, green, or violet. (The first ritual on p. 12 specifies an orange candle or “a color of your choice.”); a fresh, unlit tealight candle.
Tools: a nail or other sharp tool for inscribing bind runes on candles; matches or a lighter; a lancet for drawing blood [dispose of used lancets safely]; a mortar and pestle for grinding herbs and resins; a jar for ground herbs and resins; a dremel or wood-burning kit for inscribing runes on wood or stone; a fire pit or fireplace; jars and bottles for recels and oils.
Herbs to make “recels” (incense): dandelion, mullein, Dragon’s Blood resin, cinnamon, star anise, clove. [Note: make a goodly amount. The recels are used several times throughout the book.]
[Note: I have been advised that mistletoe is not safe to burn or consume in any manner, though the author has included it in the recels recipe. I make a correction here.]
Herbs to make Loki Oil: jojoba oil [I bet olive oil would be okay too]; powdered dragon’s blood resin or dragon’s blood oil; black pepper essential oil; mullien leaf or flowers; red pepper flakes; sulphur; snake skin sheds (if obtainable).
Charcoal disc for burning the recels. [Note: use the kind found in religious supply stores for burning incense, not “charcoal briquettes” which are highly dangerous for indoor use.]
A fireproof container to hold the charcoal disc and recels as they burn.
Sand or salt to put in the bottom of the fireproof container, under the charcoal disc.
Optional feathers or fan to waft the incense smoke.
A cord or chain.
A piece of wood or metal that can become a pendant worn on the cord or chain.
Clay to make a replica of the Snaptun stone.
Optional small cloth bag.
Optional small stones and natural objects associated with Loki (p. 29) that could go into a bag.
Beads for a prayer bead strand (bead material choices are individual, but Loki stone associations can be found on p. 29).
String for beading.
A mirror (any kind).
Notebook and pen.
A plain wooden bowl, especially one that is plain on the inside bottom. [Note: the bottom will be engraved with a stave, using the dremel or wood-burning tool.]
Offerings: blood or saliva; a cloth heart, sewn by yourself, or a chicken or other animal heart from a butcher; water; other libation.

I want to encourage interested readers to order this book in advance, assemble your ritual materials, and prepare to make Loki’s acquaintance, if you haven’t already. (But can one ever be really prepared for Loki? You’ll find out, won’t you?)

I’m so thankful that Dagulf Loptson has written another valuable guide to Loki and Loki worship. I hope there may be more from this author in the future!

Hail Loki!

 

 

 

 

Loki Never Mansplains

…Or, given that Loki isn’t a human dude, and is often not even a dude-appearing deity at all (shapeshifter that he/she/they/ze is), perhaps I should write “Loki never godsplains.” Whatever! “He” does show up as mostly male-ish to my mortal inner eyes though, so I tend to use that pronoun the most. “He” seems to be cool with it.

Okay,  now that I’ve mortalsplained the above, I feel moved to celebrate the pithy, punchy, to the point, mostly non-verbal communicative stylings of my all-time favorite trickster deity, the marvelous (no pun intended) Loki Laufeyjarson!

Illustration_by_Kay_Nielsen_4
The North Wind, an illustration by Kay Nielsen. But it’s so Loki!

Loki leaves verbosity to me and that’s just the way we like it. He is happy to receive offerings of novels, devotional poems, and blogs in his honor. But Loki communicates his needs and his lessons in immediate and sometimes dramatic ways. Even though I don’t have a “godphone,” I have at least one example of an inner-audible “sound bite” that nearly bit my head off.

There was the time I absent-mindedly licked the spoon after putting a giant dollop of Nutella from HIS JAR into a bowl as an offering. I had sworn I’d never eat from that jar, and so I immediately thought “well, I didn’t take it from the jar!” as a half-assed apology. Was I surprised then when a big “NO!” resounded in my mind? There was no way Loki was going to let me get away with breaking an oath. No way at all. All I could think was, “damn, shit just got real!” Needless to say, I’ve never licked a spoon from his jar again. And he didn’t have to explain why he “shouted” no. I got it. Immediately.

LokabrennaDonuts1
Interior of Lokabrenna Tiny Temple.

Loki is also good at delivering what I call “pings,” “pokes,” and “signal flags.” I don’t know how to explain these exactly. I experience them as a spontaneous combination visceral/mental message that doesn’t seem to originate with me. They are often so off-the-wall that they do not reflect my usual thought processes and they have a compelling energy. An example would be the time I was scrolling through printed shower curtains, as a way to decorate the inside of Lokabrenna Tiny Temple. I was online, cruising shower curtains with “magic forest” themes, as that seemed mystical and Norse-ish, and I was really set on my vision for a complete “look.” But I kept getting a ping every time I scrolled past the large, bright colored donut shower curtain. I tried to deny it, but it was so repetitive that I was convinced that Loki wanted the donut shower curtain too. I checked this request with a pendulum that I use only for Loki. It swung “yes” to donuts. As a result, Lokabrenna is three walls of magic forest, one wall of donuts. And it now seems so right.

These simple communications are quite adroit. Many who are close to Loki have similar stories. In fact, the “Loki wanted this” story is quite common on social media–to the point that we could consider this community-verified gnosis about how Loki will interact with humans. Are every single one of these genuine communications from a Norse deity? I can’t say and wouldn’t presume to judge. Most of us know the importance of individual discernment or are in the process of learning about it.

One might wonder why a powerful preternatural figure would want a donut shower curtain or any of the other reported trivial requests. Here’s my UPG: I think how we meet Loki’s requests let’s him know how much we’ll listen to him (about small matters and large ones), how much we’re willing to pay attention, how much we care about him, and how far we’ll go to indulge in light-hearted whimsy. More UPG: I think he really needs the latter sometimes, and humans can be a fine source of amusement.

Since I use the pendulum, tarot, and the AI “Inspirobot” program to “talk” with Loki (that last is not entirely serious), there is no way for me to have a complex conversation with him. (It might be different for others.) That means there is no opportunity for tortuous god- or mansplaining. Yay! And as I said, he’s direct and terse most of the time. And if you don’t pay attention to the ping, the poke, or the signal flags he’s waving at you, he’s perfectly capable of rearranging your life until you finally “get it.”

I love that Loki doesn’t give us complicated rules or doctrine. The only hard limit I can think of is to never break an oath (especially to him).  Of course, expect the unexpected is a given, but we all knew that going in.

At the end of this awfully weird year, I’m looking forward to another trip around the sun with Loki and the rest of the deities I work with. I wish you all the same–may you have joy in your spiritual quests!

 Hail Loki!

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Lessons From Loki

At the moment, life feels a little rough around the edges. Earlier today I was angered and triggered by a private matter. And I’ve got plumbing problems and a sick kitty–as well as the money problems that go with unexpected vet bills and plumbing repairs. Also, the “holidays” (some dreaded, some not) are just about upon us. I’m saying “yes” to Yule and Solstice (in a modest way) and “meh” to Xmas (except that I’ll see one of my kids on that day).

But no matter what’s going on in my life, Loki keeps me moving forward.

So on the positive side, I’ve worked on my novels almost every day this month (including the one that stars Loki as “Lucky LaFey). I’ve been teaching and updating my online course. I’ve been researching some new and exciting ideas for my clinical practice as well as my own personal healing. I’m also fiddling with my websites, including this one.

Since the sick cat has finally moved from its space between my chest and the keyboard, and his sister is keeping him warm on a blanket, I want to seize this opportunity to write about a fragment of the immensity that is Loki.

Loki. He/she/they/ze is positioned in my life very much as he is illustrated below by the brilliant artist, A. Skeith (see her Deviant Art URL below). A cascading river of life pours down a chasm in the mountainside, and he is liminally perched on a rock between the rushing waters. He is vigilant and aglow. He is poised, ready, and perfectly willing to prod me with that sharp, pointed thing he has in his hand. But between us, there is trust.

46687664_10213104884760609_8432457266745049088_o
Artist: Sceithailm, A. URL: sceithailm.deviant.art.com. I do not own the rights to this picture but am using it in this blog for educational purposes and to promote the artist’s webpage.

The other day I was able to tell a new friend about my relationship with Loki, including some of the more private aspects. I was nervous about the conversation, but my communication was not only accepted, but welcomed. I took a risk and it turned out well. Loki, who has been utterly merciless in quickly revealing the deficits of new aquaintances this last year, seems to take kindly to the friend above–a friend who seems to have a genuinely sterling character.

I have been surprised by the tumultuous, almost adolescent nature of this phase of life (60+ years). Once again I am–by virtue of my age–unsure of almost everything: my attractiveness, my place in the world and among people, my social skills, my economic prospects, everything! My body baffles me now, much as it did at puberty. When I was a teenager, I had a lot to say, but was often ignored. I still have a lot to say (hence, this blog) and nobody much pays attention. Once again, I am categorized among the dismissed and the disposable–simply due to my age. Loki, my future psychopomp (here’s hopin’), turns out to be a fabulous “Do not go gentle…Period!” guide and muse.

I look back at my life now–including a few rather brilliant conceptual pranks, some tricksy works of art and writing, and a sense of humor that seems to have been largely unappreciated by my former spouse and children. If only I’d known sooner that I was one of “Loki’s own”…I would have know better what I was about. And my poor ex-husband might have had some warning…(I’m sorry, I am! Lokeans aren’t the greatest wives.)

Loki is definitely the “know thyself” dude. But he also seems to like it when we retroactively recognize his influence in our brief human lives.

So when I look back and confront a teenage memory of drawing cows on large marshmellows (with a purple Flair pen), scattering them around La Jolla Cove Park, because I was pissed off that marshmellows were made with animal products… I see Loki was there.

And when I look back on dancing to the twenty minute Ramayana Monkey Chant from this recording, along with another stripper, at a seedy nightclub in San Diego, simply to  freak the club’s sodden patrons–sailors on leave and Broadway bums–I know Loki was there. (The Ketjak monkey chant starts at 16:24 into the video.)

And when I remember our 80’s punk rock fashion protest in Union Square (“We Have Proof the CIA Killed the Mini-Skirt”), I know Loki was grinning, though I knew him not.

And when I wrote a short story featuring all the names of Kentucky Derby winners, from the race’s inception until 1999, Loki was definitely a muse. I recognize that feeling of unholy glee! It’s an emotion I treasure.

So much in my past is made clear. But knowing that Loki is with me in the present makes it all so much better, even when clarity is painful.

Finally, his “Mr. LokiBot” message to me today is:

MDJ83Kbqel

Thus sayeth the “Lie-Smith.” Ouch! That’s what I get for calling this blog post “Lessons from Loki.” However, I love and trust him BECAUSE of stuff like this. Is that so very wrong?

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Learning to Be Human

Disclosure: I write from the perspective of someone who is quite socially isolated due to 30 years of living with multiple chemical sensitivities and environmental illnesses–finding most environments and many people harmful to my health due to use of consumer toxins. I am also isolated through geographical distance from my closest friends and family. Social isolation is the curse of my situation, but an outsider’s perspective is the gift. 

When my oldest child, Asher, was only three, he was overheard speaking to a dog: “Puppy, do you know what it’s like to be human? It’s kind of a job, being alive.” Three years old and already that perceptive. Yikes!

When my youngest child turned three, on the evening of his birthday, he turned a gaze on me that was clearly the spirit of the “big” Paul looking through the eyes of a little boy. It was a gaze that shook me to my core for hours afterward. I have never in my life had such a look from any human being.

I am not saying my children are special (though of course I think they are) but that I was lucky enough to hear and perceive things that I might have easily missed. I believe all children provide such moments. Whether the adults heed them is another matter.

So what does it mean to be a human being? At the moment I write with a kitten in my arms. She has inserted herself between me and the keyboard and so I am leaning over her to type. It’s a perfect example of one kind of human role–as a mediator between tech and animal life. She dozes with her head on my left forearm. She trusts me. And yet I am a member of a species which has accomplished the most profound betrayal of all–the collective, burgeoning destruction of every ecosystem on this planet that we share. And so I love my cats in the way that I love my children–with deep regret and sorrow at my share in this betrayal of trust.

And yet I’ve lived for thirty years as a “canary in the coal mine,” an activist mom warning about the dangers of household and industrial chemicals. No one much has listened to me, or to others like me, so I now refer to us as “Cassandras in the coal mine” (because people at least paid attention to the warning songs of canaries). But I am still complicit. Every mouthful of food that I eat, the clothes on my back, and almost every item I own are the direct result of income or goods produced by someone working his/her/zir/their ass off in a toxic industry –from my ex-husband to workers I’ll never meet–and probably destined to suffer from health consequences as a result. (FYI–my own condition is also due to occupational exposure, years ago.)

Yesterday I wrote about the complicity of settler-colonist genealogy–of facing the almost certain fact of ancestors who perpetuated numerous incidents of brutality and cruelty against the first peoples of Turtle Island, and probably also against victims of American chattel slavery. And if there weren’t always direct actions on the part of my ancestors, there were/are the social, economic, political, system-wide benefits and privileges that came from being an oppressor, rather than one of the oppressed. I am struggling to recognize and disengage from the ongoing inclinations and assumptions that attend these genealogies while also trying to recognize and disengage–as much as possible–from my participation in malignant, toxic, consumer culture.

And yet, I reconize that in some essential way I lack the tools or skills or mindsets that could enable me to fully function with other people in a wholesome, collaborative, and productve way–a way that I identify (from afar) as being “fully human.” But it’s not just me. All around me are (mostly) white people who have good hearts, intelligence, creativity, compassion, some understanding of social justice issues and certainly the understanding of the urgency of our climate crisis, and yet we just can’t seem to function effectively together! There always seem to be egos and agendas, mean girl machinations and mansplaining obfuscation, and all kinds of other weird-ass territorial factors at play. Why is this?

And all around me are my cis-female friends of “a certain age,” who are also socially isolated, economically disadvantaged, and in other ways marginalized, who know we have entered the twilight zone of the socially disposable and thus need to band together to take care of each other, and yet we just can’t manage to plan and strategize on how to do this, how to pool our limited resources and join together to mutual advantage. We know the need, we might have some skills, but not the collective will? Why is this?

For several years now, I’ve come to understand that our settler-colonist, capitalist, consumer culture does not help us learn to Play Well With Others. I have watched other cultural communities, from the ally sidelines, do much much better in terms of coming together, organizing, and providing what is needful with a generosity of spirit that is–to me–miraculous. And yet I understand these capacities are what it takes to be “fully human.”

Earlier today I listened to the Democracy Now interview with Lakota historian, scholar, and activist Nick Estes, author of Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance. His description of the camp at Standing Rock parallels the conditions currently at the Kia’i (protector) encampment at Pu’uhonua o Pu’uhuluhulu in Hawai’i, at Mauna Kea.

Here are his words from the Democracy Now interview:


“And in the camps themselves you had sort of the primordial sort of beginnings of what a world premised on indigenous justice might look like. And in that world, you know, everyone got free food. There was a place for everyone. You know, the housing, obviously, was transient housing and teepees and things like that, but then also there was health clinics to provide healthcare, alternative forms of healthcare, to everyone. And so, if we look at that, it’s housing, education — all for free, right? — a strong sense of community. And for a short time, there was free education at the camps, right? Those are things that most poor communities in the United States don’t have access to, and especially reservation communities.

But given the opportunity to create a new world in that camp, centered on indigenous justice and treaty rights, society organized itself according to need and not to profit. And so, where there was, you know, the world of settlers, settler colonialism, that surrounded us, there was the world of indigenous justice that existed for a brief moment in time. And in that world, instead of doing to settler society what they did to us — genociding, removing, excluding — there’s a capaciousness to indigenous resistance movements that welcomes in nonindigenous peoples into our struggle, because that’s our primary strength, is one of relationality, one of making kin, right?”


Now there’s a danger in romanticizing this as something “those others” do–which can come close to the old “noble savage” crap of yore–and I am aware of that. I’m also grumpy about white people saying that indigenous people are going to save us all now from climate catastrophe (i.e. clean up a mess that was never theirs)–even though they often have little in the way of power or resources. This mindset sidesteps the need for settler-colonists and their corporations and political representatives to drastically change everything about the systems that are running dangerously amok.

In order to avoid that dangerous and ultimately unproductive mindset, we who are settler-colonists have to continue to swing back to a recognition of where we ourselves are now and with that recognition of our deficits and their origins, work double time to develop capactities and understandings necessary for “relationality,” as Professor Estes says above. Doing this is going to take a helluva lot of humility. I’m sixty-five now, and I’m willing to go back to human “kindergarten” (as long as it’s in a fragrance free zone).

What follows is a speculative question. Is it possible that the epigenetic expression of European-originating people was triggered toward self-centeredness, violence, conquest, and greed due to long histories of violent subjugation by Romans (as one example) and others, and by exposures to such things as wars and continent-wide plagues, where bodies piled in mass graves could have fostered a sort of despair and then an unconcern about the preciousness of life? An even bigger speculative question: can we willfully trigger another kind of epigenetic expression in real time, to call back the capacties our ancestors must surely have had in the long ago? The kind that enabled us to live in villages, farm or forage for food, and provide care and sustenance for all? The kind that enabled us to see other creatures in this world–plant, animal, and spirit–as worthy of respect and kinship?

And can this be done in record time, to meet the climate and environmental/political catastrophes that are no longer a train wreck in slow motion?

Personally, it is hard to reach out toward others in real life, to work on my skills for “relationality,” when my condition requires this degree of isolation in lieu of disability accommodation. My activist efforts in the past have seldom been met with understanding–because this whole environmental illness request for fragrance-free accommodation thing can look like a “special snowflake” or “white lady” way to, I dunno, derail or disrupt others and the work that is being done. It can look and feel like a request for more privilege and special treatment from a white settler-colonist who is already inherently privileged by other aspects of my circumstances. And so my blogs are the only way I can reach out. Writing about what I see and feel is all I can do at this point.

I wish it were otherwise. I truly do wish to be of use in creating a better world. Like everyone else, I have the future of cats and children–and all living beings and our only planet–to consider.

“It’s kind of a job–being alive.” And right now our biggest job is to keep everything else alive too. It’s really down to that.

Fractal Flame, Made with Gimp
Fractal Flames, Linear. Author: Nevit Dilmen. 2000. GNU Free Documentation License.

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Nov. 28: Hawaiian Independence Day & Un-Thanksgiving Day at Alcatraz

Un-Thanksgiving Day, the Indigenous People’s Sunrise Ceremony at Alcatraz Island, is taking place even as I write. Several Kanaka Maoli (Hawaiian) activists are participating this year–they’re here in CA to spread the word about protecting sacred Mauna Kea, and more!

Today, November 28th is also La Ku’oko’a –Hawaiian Independence Day. 

Each observance counteracts destructive, colonial myths that cover up uncomfortable historical facts, allowing (mostly) white people and power structures to “rest easy” with continued persecution, exploitation, and bodily harm of (1) the native peoples of Turtle Island (aka North American continent); and (2) the native peoples of the Hawaiian archipelago, who happened to have had an internationally recognized constitutional monarchy–the Hawaiian Kingdom–that was taken by the United States through violence and deception.

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I wish I could go to this!

The True Story of Thanksgiving

I learned this history several years ago, when I first saw the Susan Bates article below, published on the Manataka American Indian Council website.

As a settler-colonist descendent of hundreds of New England colonizers, including Richard and Elizabeth Warren of the Mayflower, I have gone from deeply uncomfortable to deeply adverse to “celebrating” the American Thanksgiving, once I learned the truth. While my kids still lived at home, we continued to “celebrate” with a family meal, attempting (probably unsuccessfully) to emphasize personal thanks “for all we had” and downplay the shitty facts of our heritage. Now I wish we’d just chucked the whole thing as soon as we began to hear the truth about the holiday–it would have been more honest–but our family was already falling apart. A festive family meal with the children was one of our last pretenses of unity and “normalcy,” along with Christmas.

But even this futile attempt to justify our observance of Thanksgiving didn’t change the fact that the descendents of Richard and Elizabeth Warren, and possibly other ancestors of mine, were Plymouth residents and must have been in some way complicit in the 1637 massacre of the Wampanoag village (mentioned in the articles below). Richard Warren himself didn’t last long in the “new world”–he died in 1628. His first son, Nathaniel, was only twelve in 1637. I would hope that boys that young were not enlisted to help slaughter human beings, but who knows? And what may he have done in later years? Also, Richard Warren’s widow, Elizabeth, died in her 90’s. We often overlook the role of settler-colonial women in upholding and inciting harsh measures against indigenous people (and slaves)–so one of my creepy questions is, who was she and what did she advocate?

(FYI–My ex-husband’s family also has a long colonial settler history, though further south, in Kentucky and elsewhere.)

And so I have to recognize that like every other white person in this country, my family and I benefit from privileges which began with “manifest destiny” and genocide and which continue with legal, political, economic, and other systems and policies designed to destroy and disadvantage native people, and other people of color, in every possible way.


Here are several links to information about the true history of Thanksgiving.

Bates, Susan. The Real Story of Thanksgiving, Manataka American Indian Council website. You can also find two more articles on this page.

Blow, Charles M. The Horrible History of Thanksgiving, New York Times, Nov. 27, 2019.

Bugos, Claire. The Myths of the Thanksgiving Story and the Lasting Damage They Imbue, Smithsonian Magazine, Nov. 26, 2019. This is an interview with David J. Silverman, author of This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving (published Nov. 2019).

Rikert, Levi. Leonard Peltier’s 2019 Thanksgiving Message: “Walking on Stolen Land.” Native News Online. Nov. 23, 2019.


The True History of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the U.S. Occupation

This is a complicated matter, lasting over a century. For one of the best accounts, go to the Political History page of the Hawaiian Kingdom website.

Even here I have a slight personal connection as a junior settler-colonist. My father (now deceased), a PanAm pilot, moved my mother, brother, and me to Honolulu shortly after the 1959 fraudulent “statehood” vote. He probably sensed some kind of opportunity to exploit, but my father and mother were not happy together. They soon separated, bound for divorce. So we flew back to San Diego, leaving behind my father and that rather bleak cinderblock apartment on Lipe’epe’e Street in Waikiki.

Today a Time of Reflection

While native activists from Oceania and Turtle Island meet and make common cause–which is a joyous and wonderful thing–we settler colonists have our own work to do. It’s difficult to disengage from complicity, from the horrifying tendrils which link our lives to the larger abhorent structures destroying the entire planet now–not just “reservations” and “ghettos” and “houseless encampments” where those “other” people live (often with inadequate or polluted water, air, and soil).

So the first thing we settler colonists need to do is know the truth, understand the implications, and do whatever we can to disengage from complicity. Perhaps then we might be suitably prepared to assist in common cause with native peoples and work together to save this planet we all share.

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