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A cold night, a freezing mist like a drift of icy breath. A circle, swept into the snow. A stick of incense, stuck into the snow, and a white candle, placed in a dish where the snow was swept off the altar. Sweet cherry wine, poured into a silver chalice. A silent toast to the elements, the directions, and a few drops poured onto frozen white. Not hope, not promise, nor intention other than this: there is light in the world, and there is sweetness. May this never be forgotten. Nothing more than that. No resolutions, on New Year's Eve.
She's up too early, but this no is surprise having spent New Years Day in a nightmare agony of some particularly insidious form of food poisoning. Drifting in a half-stupor the entire day, waking up early after that seems to only reasonable option. Helluva way to start off the year, but then, perhaps there's a kind of cosmic wisdom in it. After a ritual acknowledging the good; get whacked big time by the bad. Remember: all it takes is just enough time past the expiration date to turn a pot of good, hot food into a lethal cauldron of pain.
Sometimes, her sense of disconnect is so strange and pervasive as to be something of larger than life proportions. Awesome, monumental; terrible in the classical sense. Who are these creatures, and who is she to be wandering among them? An infant lays in her carrying cradle while her father does his business at the counter in the Post Office. Something grips her heart as she watches the baby, staring up and out at the world, scrunching its face when the father turns away. What is that all about? Why do her nerves feel like they have been stripped and exposed?
On the scale of disasters, having the car door ripped out of your hand by a passing truck and nearly torn off the frame, rates fairly low in severity, when you consider that it might have been an arm or a leg. But all you wanted to do was go see a movie and escape the worries for a bit, and so it becomes another reminder of how the simple things, more important than any other, hang on the thinnest of threads, ready to be sundered by the whim of any random deity with a bone to pick with existence.
The Yews between the houses, may be dead. The last snowstorm has brought them to their metaphorical knees, and lower. Maybe it's time to let go of the guilt, the guilt for not living in the world. Free herself of the notion that there is anything out there for her at all, ever was, ever will be. Send out the missives for nothing. A newsletter mailed anonymously, randomly, to names picked from the phone book. A Book of Shadows full of nothing but invisibility spells. Take up permanent residence in the twilight. Some people were not meant for the world.
Winter is a spice, its fragrance both sharp, and ethereal. The dog bounds through the snow with limitless joy. There is a purity here; the air, the light, the snow covered distant hills. She leans down and breaks the icy crust; scoops out soft snow from underneath, and takes a bite. The sensation brings a flood of sense-memories from a long-ago time: a childhood joy of winter, unstained by larger concerns. The taste of snow, if it needed a word, is
, simple and pure. She follows the joyous dog through the woods, eating snow until her tongue turns numb.
Night shopping. The supermarket, empty but for the employees, and one or two others walking the aisles. Do they wonder who she is, as she does about them? After the supermarket, the all-night drug store, then fill the gas tank at the all-night convenience mart. Signs of the Citadel, actually, these 24 hour emporiums. As sure a sign as the sodium lights that elbow out the dark. The Citadel is not many, as some believe; it is one: a single organism. Spreading its filaments underground, to emerge here and there, until finally, the entire planet is encased in its grip.
A visit to Mount St. Mary. It overlooks the river, and they drive down to its banks, where there is a park surrounded by the Hudson Highlands, and huge, wheeling clusters of white gulls, being fed by visitors. Back on the mount, the campus is empty, but when they get out of the car, she sees that the bare branches of the trees are filled with crows; a hundred perhaps, maybe more, hanging like black fruit on the leafless branches, until they rise like a swarm, cawing and calling, to take to the sky and settle on other trees nearby.
~~~ The Crows of Mount Saint Mary, redux ---
On a stark winter's day, the crows are both ornament and elucidation. Watching them, she finds herself taken by wholly opposite sensations; a sense of the dark beauty that these large, black birds with their raucous cries enfold, and a kind of loathing associated with a forgotten memory. They watch her beneath them, and she wonders if they regard her as some earthbound crow herself, in her long black coat. Later, the memory returns: an infestation of houseflies, their bloated black bodies clinging to the leaves of a house plant. She's glad she didn't remember it while she was there.
The landlord says he's raising the rent by $100 a month. He has no conception of the terrible axe he wields. Whenever she dares to think that maybe the hammer has let up, another blow comes crashing down. She wonders how long she has been desperately putting brackets on the hammer:
this spring, these seasons, this solar cycle, this calender year, years
; whatever. Now she's simply too stunned to even care. She thinks she understands, a little bit. Some stories have to have bad endings. She just hopes that this one ends soon. Please, please; please let it be soon.
Maybe she's stopped taking it all personally. That's something, anyway. Not to regard the universe as cruel anymore. But this seems to necessitate not regarding the universe as good, either. Good and bad dwell within like vaporous liquids in a bowl. Maybe there's something sad about that. Faith in a cruel deity is still faith, after all. The mad, bad, God; dispensing blessings and curses on a whim. There's always the hope that the God might redeem itself. But if she believes that it really is all impersonal, random, even? She wonders if she is, finally, truly, losing her faith.
They are driving past the corn fields, where the guard rail separates the road from the drop down to the irrigation ditch below. It's dark again, as it was the night before. She considers speaking of her encounter here, at 1:30 am on her way to the supermarket. She wants to speak of it; to make it real, to give it substance. But in the end, she says nothing. Something within her feels that this is the way it's meant to be. The moment is meant to be kept unspoken. This is something meant to be kept secret, within herself.
On her own for the weekend, she treats herself to a movie: a escapist fantasy, a voyage into the lush unreal. Afterward, emerging into the day, the sense of unreality hits her; the stark, artificial food court of the mall, the strange and nearly indecipherable signals crossing through the air like an invisible matrix of cold and hot lines, tables selling raffles and calenders, stalls of
, kids considering this their recreation, adults alone or in small groups doing God knew what. Alone in the theater, dark and spacious, the fantastic world had seemed so much more real.
A most unusual January thaw, in a month that has seen more days with temperatures over freezing than below. Misty in the morning, and the woods full of fog, and little nothing more than remnants of rain-soaked snow in patches ragged and sparse. She'd been up early, and, seeing the morning mist, had gone out with her camera to try and capture it, shooting various scenes, hoping for the best. It isn't until hours later, after noticing shooting more than the roll of film should have, that she realizes her mistake: the camera has no film in it at all.
Is hers a life less real? A phantom moving through the trees, or casting shadows thrown by midnight lights, alone, in her way, more alone than ever, yet more whole. She no longer moves through the weather; she lives it, revels in it, stops and lets it wash over her, from season to season, from time to time. now the sky is hard and blue as a glacier, and the wind that moans in the treetops is sharp, and carries its cold steel unsheathed. Perhaps her life is less real. Maybe that is why the wind blows through her, now.
Sometimes depression is the floor giving out; a gut-wrenching free-fall into the abyss. Today, her depression is a crushing weight, something that takes her breath away, in the manner of a constrictor snake or emphysema. Flights of fancy, thoughts of things that should have been, accidents of karma or fate, and the sadness of the way things are and always will be. Sometimes the mirror is such a duplicitous friend. Sometimes thought is a trap. Sometimes the heart knows more than is good for it to know. The wrong kind of truth is as good, or bad, as a lie.
Walking the dog. Grey woods underneath steel grey skies, a precipitation of ice crystals sounding like grains of sand pattering on a sheet of paper. At the far edge of vision, a movement, a flash of color. She looks for the deer, but doesn't find it, and suddenly sees why: it is a fox: the orange-red fur and pointed snout and full brush of tail unmistakable in the grey and white of the winter's day. A powerful feeling takes hold of her as the fox lopes away through the woods. Gratitude. Unexpected beauty is such a blessing in this world.
For some, to encounter the natural world writ large is to feel themselves made small. The vastness of starry space; the vista of sky and mountains, of rivers snaking through valleys, makes them feel insignificant, tiny, unimpressive in the face of it. For herself, however, such majestic grandeur and overwhelming size is a comfort; making her feel ensconced in something so very much bigger than herself. And in realizing that, while she herself is an integral part of it all, that the world in no way revolves around her. She is only necessary as long as she exists. If that.
The waters of January. The weather dude said if it had been snow, it would have amounted to anything from twenty to thirty inches. But it wasn't snow, and after the rains let up and she'd gone into the woods, the waters were everywhere. Runnels of it, filling every dry gulley, cascading over rocks, spilling in waterfalls over precipices. In places she has to climb around to find a spot where the waters are narrow enough for her to cross without getting soaked. One advantage to doghood: the water is wide? Splash right through it. Shake it off, trot onward.
Today's catastrophe: the water heater bursts. Cascades of water inside the house. Another chunk of money sucked away like breath sucked out by a goblin. Boxes of ruined books, bags of ruined everything, trips to the dump, shoveling a soggy mess. None of that sense of relief or release that advocates of tossing it all promise would come: only a sad acknowledgment of defeat. The detritus of a life. She'd be in despair, if she weren't too numb and deadened to feel anything at all but weariness. Hey; these are the good times. They can only get worse from here.
Liner notes from a vinyl record album pulled from a box salvaged from the water heater flood:
"Welcome to BIG BROTHER AND THE HOLDING COMPANY. You are holding their first album... this is one of the most exciting groups on record today... You will be amazed at the gamut of emotional sounds this group produces... Critics have called them the most exciting group of the Monterey Jazz Festival, and their material is virtually their trademark. Janis Joplin, the lead singer, who is featured on a great deal of their material, is considered to be the greatest white blues singer today."
What is this? It feels like a crisis, of sorts. But not one that she has seen before. A crisis of silent proportions, a failing of faith on a subatomic scale. Still; there is, if not acceptance, a kind of dull resignation. Where does one turn when the lights go out? A crisis, of sorts. She thought she had reached, if not a place of peace, at least a plateau of belief, without judging it, not good, not bad, but now belief seems like a fading star. How many times must she wander through the desolation of a shattered spirit?
A foggy woods is a remarkable thing, but a foggy woods sheathed in new-fallen snow is a wonder. Mist condenses into silver drops that hang like crystal pendants from drooping needles of pine. Trees disappear into drifting grey, while the whiteness of the snow combines to make a light both surreal and sublime. They walk along through the fog and trees, she and the dog, she trudging through, he bounding along, no prints but the ones she and he leave behind. Woods and fog, and a fresh, virgin snow, and a dog who's limitless joy is her joy, just because.
Now, she lights the candles and slips into her dream and performs her ritual, casts her last bit of sympathetic magic for herself. Secret, silent, but for the music and the sound of her own breath and heart. Ablution, invocation, transformation - but not of this body, not of this world, not that which betrays her. A secret transcendence, a reaching beyond and within. She holds on carefully to this one small remnant of the magical. Dare she call such a thing a hope? Not for this world, this life, and yet... maybe yes; maybe, in its way, yes, after all.
Working her way back into functioning, into action, into ability. Art is her refuge, her self-indulgence, her escape, her sanity, her madness. She blurs the lines, crosses borders, gets lost, wanders in the wilderness. She denies reality, yearns for the unreal, loses her self and discovers her shadows. Sometimes she can only create in a state of near unconciousness, and often she destroys what she creates as soon as it's done. Like the sand mandalas painstakingly made by Tibetan monks, she takes her digital ghosts and shreds them into the electronic winds. Sometimes creation is nothing more than a dream.
: The Ineffable Spirit of Confusion, aka Ronin Priestess, aka LilyRose
: one day closer to death
: over the hills and far away
: madness; repressed perversity; untold secrets; abject submission; self-loathing; redemption; revelation; transcendence
: Pi; Mullholland Drive; Groundhog Day; Begotten; 2001: A Space Odyssey
: The Shaggs; Elvis Impersonators; Thistle; ABBA; The Ramones
Favourite poet / writer
: Danielle Steele; Jackie Collins; Theodore Geisel; T.J. LeRoy
: gazing into the abyss; waiting for the abyss to gaze back
Favourite Historical Figure
: Morgana Le Faye
The brighter the light, the darker the shadow
A night out, to a refurbished genuine old movie palace, and a one-time showing of
for less than the cineplex would charge to sit in a tiny subdivided space. They got there a few minutes late, and so it wasn't until the film ended that she looked around to see that the entire theater, right up to the highest seats in the balcony (a movie theater with a balcony - how decadent) was packed with people. She remembered how she'd sat in the balcony when she saw the movie for the first time, when it had just been released.
A message from her father: an old family friend - at least, when the family had still been still whole - has died. The last she'd heard, it was metastasized cancer, and pronouncements of hope and encouragement, of plans for the various medieval tortures known as cancer therapy, chemicals and radiation and God knew what else. She remembers feeling vaguely annoyed at her father's insistence, in the face of it all, of the possibility of triumph over tragedy. From the news of hope in the face of it, to the news of defeat at the hands of it: six weeks, maybe less.
Dark of the moon. A new beginning, come 'round again. She thinks she is beginning to understand, too, something about exploring the dark path. Not dark as bad, not dark as evil... but dark as the shadows within, dark as the secret self kept even from the self. This is what she is beginning to understand. The dark path is going to the edge of the abyss and gazing within, and embracing the shadow and holding judgement - even self-judgement - in abeyance. And that may well be the most difficult task of them all. But she thinks perhaps it is time.
Dog on a leash, late on a foggy night. She doesn't realize just how foggy until she gets down the driveway and onto the road. Looking back; the windows of her house are a warm, diffused glow of light. Homes send out long shafts of illumination through and around the trunks and branches of trees. But the big surprise is when she looks upward; for while the fog is thick and dense from the street up to treetop level, the sky is clear beyond, and through the drifting wisps of mist, she can see a black sky full of stars.
Her world is defined by so little. And yet, there is so very much within. The movement of the weather, the turning of the wheel. The minute changes on the path through the woods, and the immeasurable vastness inside her head. The dog, the cats, her mate; the few she connects with outside of that sphere. The stones on her desk, the lone stunted cedar tree proudly leaning in its place like a japanese bonsai. The stars at night, the art she creates; dreams strange and wonderful and too complex to hold. These are the things that define a life.
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