Monthly Archives: January 2014

My Postmodernist Poem

I Never Thought I’d Write A Postmodernist Poem

 

this is nothing to capture Being in a scribble
a shadow penned by an author inside someone’s narrative lyric
we’re all Protagorian says the culture rendering it true

adog scurrying on the spray of the Atlantic Ocean
once spoke my name
or maybe he was marking the territory
through which everything goes

then according to Tuesday’s results from the random essay generator
We must become a narrative futility (line 1)
or conclude that “consciousness has intrinsic meaning” (line 3)
that’s relativity, neodialectically speaking all the way down

the world is flat
its north pole rests on a turtle
and even religious revelation is a valid form of evidence-gathering
a whole generation searching through honeycomb for beeswax

 

*Protagoras, an early Greek philosopher, was possibly one of the first proponents of relativism.  He wrote: “Man is the measure of all things.”

 

*Dialectic: The art or practice of arriving at the truth by the exchange of logical arguments.  So obviously, neodialectic is a deconstructionist critique of this practice.  Well, at least for me.

 

 

*About the Random Postmodernist Essay Generator:  The Postmodernism Generator was written by Andrew C. Bulhak using the Dada Engine, a system for generating random text from recursive grammars, and modified very slightly by Josh Larios.

From: http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/.

 

*N.B. This poem has not been approved by the FDA.  There are no studies to date that show that reading this poem will  prevent, treat, or cure any disease, including postmodernism.  Read at your Perill or with extreme enjoyment: reactions will also be randomly generated with 50% probability for each.

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One Among Many _ When Two Worlds Meet: Part 4

Aoife slumped onto the hard wooden floor of her apartment living room.  Her eyes were threatening to spill over with tears.  She was not crying for herself, but for a local person named Robin who had almost died.  A teenager had stabbed Robin, who looked like a boy, because Robin was wearing a skirt in public.  Onlookers had done nothing, save one who finally called the police and helped take the twelve year old to the hospital.  Robin identified as asexual, neither male nor female, and while Robin’s parents were very supportive, obviously not everyone was.  Robin’s assailant found the child’s choices unacceptable enough to attempt murder over it.  Of course Robin was not the only one to be a victim of hatred and prejudice, only supremely lucky to have not joined the statistics of the dead.

 

Today, there had been a service to raise awareness of the need to accept and tolerate everyone whose body (by choice or no) failed to meet the relentlessly insidious cultural mandate for external normalization.  In other words, it brought awareness to just how pervasively normal it was to reject, shun, or make invisible anyone whose body did not conform appropriately to the mainstream standards of gender, beauty, wholeness, or ability.  Aoife had been more than moved by what she witnessed.

 

As a child, Aoife had spent countless school recesses isolated and alone.  Her peers did everything they could to stay as far away from her as possible.  She had all five senses, two arms and two legs, and could walk, but her accident at age two had done a bit more damage than simply make certain tasks harder for her to accomplish.  It had also disfigured her face at a time when facial reconstruction had not even reached its infancy.  Her school peers wouldn’t let her forget how different she was.  Isolation was better than outright bullying, she was often told as an adult (if the subject ever came up.)  But Aoife’s struggles to fit in as a child served to attune her particularly to the pain and anguish felt by all those who experience ostracism, exclusion, prejudice, or sometimes even contempt and hatred.

As she sat listening to people tell story after story of discrimination and loss, pieces of a puzzle she had not even been aware of, whose formation had been long in the making, all fell into place.  The stories all had different content, but it was clear to Aoife that the structure of the stories, the why and to whom of them, was eerily similar. 

 

There was a  mother who lost her baby after a care giver shook her for daring to cry.  There was an elderly woman who’s first husband died for the color of his skin.  There was a woman who told of an intersexed child who committed suicide after her family disowned her when she told them that she identified with the gender they had not picked for her at birth.  A widow of one of two conjoined twins related the deaths of her husband and his brother at the hands of a religious zealot who felt that witnessing another couple’s intimate moments, something the conjoined twins had to do by necessity,  was a punishable mortal sin.  There was a young man who told of how his sister had overdosed on meds after enduring relentless threats and bullying on Facebook.  People told stories of being denied housing and jobs due to disabilities, and of friends who were killed because they were transgendered, or gay.  They sang their stories.  They danced their stories.  And through song and dance, young and old alike wove a tapestry of sorrow sewn with the seeds of ignorance, discrimination, and fear.  Aoife saw the patterns of thread common to them all: the systematic rendering of unusual embodiment as defective or deviant.  She saw   souls shatter for their appearance, recognized the silencing of those who dared speak the truths of difference. 

 

She allowed herself to surrender to the grief, having as she did permission from the others around her who were equally affected.  She ached with empathy, full of a despair that threatened to overwhelm her spirit.  More than these, however, was the overpowering need to act.  The need consumed her, hummed within her just below the murmur of her blood, seeped into the marrow of her bones, called out to her like a lost and wailing child.  We are all the same, came the cry from where inside herself she did not know.   We are all connected.  If one is not accepted, none can take solace anywhere. 

 

The discrimination faced by those with disabilities was not specific to a group, not different in kind from racism or sexism or homophobia.  The destructive messages to young girls in magazines were not teen issues but human issues.  Working for the rights of some while continuing to discriminate against women, look down on people from different classes, dispise a religious group, or fail to respect children continued to create the illusion that interdependence was less than a law of nature.  More than ever before, Aoife believed, she felt, she knew that separation was a lie.  It occurred to her that if our fears, prejudices, isolation, ostracism, and rejection were so interrelated, surely our belonging, tolerance, acceptance, curiosity, thoughtfulness, and respect were just as inextricably linked.  The world in which she lived was an interwoven world, one in which every sound, every action, every person altered everything around her simply by living.  The pattern had always been there, she realized.  It was the change in her which allowed her to see it now.

 

Aoife had not spent the entire past month living in such emotional intensity.  She had gone to today’s event with a friend, a friend she hadn’t known a month before.  She had met Ashlee at the first meeting of the druid seed group she’d attended.  It was a group of women who would become her second family.  Ashlee also had an ability to see and speak to otherworld people, and the two hit it off immediately.  Before the meeting was over, they had already set a date for coffee.

 

After ordering a hot chocolate and an espresso respectively at the quaint local Starbucks, Aoife and Ashlee began a lively discussion of their families, childhoods, life goals, and professional lives.  Finally they turned to a discussion about otherworld beings, how they saw them, and what they were learning.  Ashlee had an affinity with Sequoia trees and often had such long, patient, enduring conversations as those which are characteristic of trees:   The kind that unfold and enfold, rather than trip on words or hasten to a conclusion.  She could speak to the spirits that inhabited a place—a river for instance—and learn from them just how much damage human pollution was causing the water and the animals depending on it.  Sometimes when she closed her eyes, Ashlee could see the stars as if the milky way was imprinted right there on her eyelids.  She knew the memories of roads, the history and origins of wooden decks.  She knew what it was like for a bridge to feel the sway of a fierce wind, and that even the mountains could breathe. 

 

Aoife was entranced by her new friend’s recounting of all this, and felt wonder at the awesome and breathtaking experiences given to her.  Finally Ashlee asked Aoife about her experiences.  Aoife began with the faery folk she had seen as a child, the small noble people who danced in clearings and glades, lit the trees at twilight, and sparkled like jewels in the creek that meandered through the woods.  She told of meeting Athena who had taught her that wisdom and weaving were one and the same.  “Everything is interconnected.  Those who believe otherwise, are not wise.  Wisdom is knowing the difference between that which is part of everything else, which simply is, and that which appears separate which never was.” Athena had instructed.  Aoife lost count of how many times she needed to be reminded of these words.  And then she told of coming home after her time wandering the desert, and how she had met Oisin and Caoilte.

 

“That’s incredible,” Ashlee said a bit wide-eyed.  “So Caoilte taught you to stand tall, and then offered to run with you.  Did you get to run with him yet?”

 

“Oh yes, we ran together twice now,” Aoife said with a smile in her eyes.

“And…” Ashlee asked expectantly. 

 

“Well, I suck at running, so Caoilte ran super slow, slow for him that is, so I could keep up.  We ran out on one of the trails through the woods, up a hill and then down near a creek on the other side.  It was a very beautiful part of the woods, but I was too busy trying to breathe to pay attention.  I held out for about five minutes before feeling like I would pass out.”

 

The two friends laughed at the image.  “You don’t look out of shape,” Ashlee offered helpfully.

 

“By some standards I’m not, but the last time I ran any distance, I was ten years old.” Aoife explained.  “Fortunately Caoilte took pity on me and we walked the rest of the trail, and if he thought anything about my less than meager running ability he never said anything.  When I suggested that next time we run a much steeper path with lots of exposed tree roots zigzagging across it (because I still felt like I should attempt to meet a good challenge,) he cautioned that it would be highly impractical.”

 

“Well he definitely sounds sensible to me.  I certainly wouldn’t be able to run that trail, I know the one you mean,” Ashlee replied thoughtfully. “So where did you go on the second run?”

 

“The next week we ran the same easier trail again, except that this time Caoilte tried giving me some tips on how to move while running—how to land on my feet differently than if I was just walking, how to move my arms in rhythm with my steps more parallel to the ground than at my sides, that sort of thing.  I valiantly tried, but the suggestions only had the effect of making me look like a renegade puppet in desperate need of outside intervention.  I couldn’t make any of my movements flow naturally so I kind of just bobbed around with aimless exertions of effort.  Caoilte and I both laughed at the absurdity of the situation then, and he was quick to assure me that it really didn’t matter because the whole thing was just supposed to be for fun, which it was.  We walked for a while before I turned to him and asked a question I had been pondering for a while.  My curiosity could no longer be ignored.  I asked him whether there were more modern people who had, after death, joined with those fianna who became guides.”

 

Ashlee listened intently.  She was fascinated by her new friend’s ability to talk so candidly with otherworld folk as if they might have belonged to this world, still.  “You mean there might be people throughout all the generations after the fianna lived who would want to take up with them after they died?”

 

“Well, not exactly,” Aoife admitted.  Caoilte made it clear that no one was actually a member of the fianna, the way they might have been in the second century.  In the other world, such hierarchies and class distinctions were meaningless and nonexistent.  He had explained this after once again changing expression from curious to serious in that characteristic way of his.  Aoife said, “Caoilte shared that yes there are many people who become guides, and a few who not only dedicate themselves to assisting others in the manifest world once they cross over into the other world, but also take as their own the three values that we live by: the truth in our hearts, the strength in our hands, and fulfillment on our tongues.  And then of course he added that the whole thing was phrased slightly differently in the otherworld where nobody actually had tongues or hands and the notion wouldn’t make sense.  He has this way of being solemn without taking himself or others too seriously, you know.  He went on to point out that such an otherworld arrangement made it possible for people who had been any age or gender in life to be counted with them, one among many, and made a point to assure me that the otherworld was all about equal opportunity.”

 

Ashlee laughed at that.  “Seems like people continue to learn and grow, even after their time here is over.”

 

“Absolutely,” Aoife agreed smiling as well.  “I don’t think I ever mentioned myself in any of this, but here is the rest of what Caoilte told me.  He said, ‘just because Oisin and I sought you out doesn’t mean you have any obligation to join us.  We never compel anyone to do anything.  We are all free persons, and how you choose to live, whether or not you want to be counted with us, it is entirely up to you.  We’ll keep sharing what we know with you whether you are one of our own or not’.”

 

When Caoilte said this, Aoife had been full of gratitude and great respect.  Here was this person who, perhaps for the first time in her short life, was showing her at that very moment the meaning of unconditional acceptance.  She had never had such acceptance from her family.  For sure, they loved her, but their love always had strings attached.  She was lovable if she did what her mother wanted, accepted by her father only when she could pass as normal.  If she ever disagreed with her mother and stood her ground, there would be hell to pay.  If she ever failed her father’s lofty expectations of her, he would withdraw affection—subtly, in ways that were noticeable only to Aoife and imperceptible to the outside world of casual observers and acquaintances.  Aoife did not like to think ill of the dead, but her relationship with her parents had been difficult, fraught with mixed messages, guilt trips, expectations that she alone could fill any number of their bottomless needs, or give them the belief in themselves they sorely found lacking within.  Here was someone she hardly knew, letting her know in no uncertain terms that she wouldn’t be expected to put on some kind of performance, pass a test, prove herself, twist herself into a pretzel, act a certain way, be a certain way in order to gain acceptance and belonging.  It was difficult, but once again Aoife found herself forced to believe Caoilte and trust this knew and strange thing, unconditional acceptance, since he wouldn’t have said something he didn’t mean.

 

“Was that something you were thinking about?” Ashlee was asking.

 

“Was what something I was thinking about?” Admittedly, Aoife’s mouth had been speaking, but her mind was busy sorting through connections, making observations, presenting her with scenes and pictures and possibilities, and she forgot what she was specifically talking about.

 

“You know, joining them,” Ashlee said matter-of-factly.

 

Aoife felt oddly threatened by the question so she said curtly, “No of course not.  I’m a druid.  The fianna are warriors, and I have chosen a path of peace.  Besides, I’m not dead.”

 

But long after she left the coffee shop, as one week ran into the next, she wasn’t so sure that being a physically embodied druid and living the truth against the world were at all mutually exclusive.  In fact, a voice she was too frightened to acknowledge was whispering in her inner ear, when it came to the three principles the fianna lived by, it was very, very possible that she was already living by them herself.  She certainly did not have to be dead in order to better align her life with values she already personally held dear.  She was no fighter, but then if the otherworld was as interdependent as she felt it ought to be, physical fighting was right out anyway.  Still, she hated danger and didn’t care to be physically injured or thrown in jail.  She avoided protests like she stayed clear of spiders. If she were ever asked to do something like that, she would never make good on it.

 

All of this was true and yet… and yet hadn’t she been a child advocate since she was three years old?  Hadn’t she  spent years speaking out around the country for those who could not raise their own voices?  Didn’t she unhesitatingly give what she could to whoever was less fortunate to herself?  She simply thought of such things as ordinary and not worth counting in the course of things, but that pesky inner voice continued challenging her to her complete dismay. 

 

What kept her from running, that very instant, from the thoughts quietly taking up their positions in her mind, those thoughts she wished fervently she could just ignore, was the very fact that nothing at all was expected of her.  If Caoilte and Oisin had promised to protect her, it was done with no expectation that she do anything. It was the same, she mused, when she had wanted to help them as a child.  She had no hidden motives, no  expectations of her own.

 

And over the next few weeks Aoife pondered another thing that Caoilte had said.  While showing her a running technique during one of their entertaining excursions, he had paused and made an observation which Aoife figured was meant to apply to much more than running.  “It’s okay to emulate someone when doing something knew, everyone has role models,” he’d said, “But never imitate anyone.  If all you do is strive endlessly to be like everyone else, you won’t ever be who you are.”

 

Now Aoife sat on her floor trembling, thoughts of the day’s discrimination awareness service overcrowding her already frenetically occupied brain.  It was only a matter of minutes until these feelings, these thoughts, the almost futile attempt she had made to integrate all that had happened during the last few weeks, this bewildering suspicion that she was completely over her head, all came crashing together, hurling her out of any last chance of composure.  When shaking and rocking herself like a child who had almost gone unloved wasn’t enough, she jumped up and paced the floor in tears.  When that wasn’t sufficient to express her terrible sadness, her undeterred determination to change what she could, gather the shattered points of light within every last living thing, never mind how absurd that was,  and piece them whole, do what was needed, whatever was needed… she began to shout. 

 

She was glad of two things then: that she lived alone, and that finally after years and years of silence and her nonconsensual apprenticeship within the confining perfect wall flower guild, she had found her voice again.  Even if her words were merely tones, “aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh” and “Om” and “awen,” it was her voice, and that was what mattered.

 

Sound slowly turned into words, and words into exclamations.  She stood tall, closed her eyes, and shouted.   “Is Mise Aoife! Is Mise Aoife! Táim anseo.  Táim anseo I gcónaí.  Is Láidir mé.  Is Mise.  Is mise I gcónaí.” (I am Aoife! I am Aoife!  I am here.  I am always here.  I am strong.  I am. I am, always.)

 

Aoife’s world became sound.  It became moment.  It became one resounding moment.  Rational thought had long since walked out the back gate of her head to take a long leisurely stroll down the path of the familiar.  Aoife was.  She was, always.  What lived in her then was something much older, wiser, eternal, knowing, and unfathomably mysterious.  The kind of ineffable but indomitable spirit that sent logical syllogisms and the tenants of empirical science cowering into old dusty corners, suddenly uncomfortably aware of the limitations of all that is ascertainable and finite.  All Aoife ever was, truly was, emerged like a butterfly breaking out of a cocoon that had become too tight, too small, insignificant.  It has been said that the woman who looked then out of Aoife’s blazing eyes, who stood tall, whose tears were spent, who addressed the world as one who had always known her belonging in it, whose voice pierced the silence that had long overstayed it’s welcome, was a soul as old as the mountains, as vast as the sky, as fragile as flesh and bone, as vulnerable as a two year old in the back seat of an overturned car.  She. Was. Her. Self.

 

Now, there was a moment, right after the man who had first chanced across the fianna’s cave in that story twice blew the dord fian, the ancient hunting horn of the fianna.  The voice of the man’s soul had called to him a third time in that moment, called him to complete what he had started, told him all that was needed, to blow the horn the third time so that those who had slept for so long could finally awaken, could finally return to themselves.  The man heard but did not listen, knew but was too afraid to understand, and so he fled, never looking back.   He did not look to see what had come of his choice to fear, he did not look to see that he had turned on none other than his own soul, he did not ever dare to face that what he was so deathly afraid of was himself.  The fianna had no need to be awoken, but he had such a need, and for him, at least, it never happened.

 

Uncertainty, fear, doubt, these things had no place within the woman who stood transformed, transfixed, in the middle of her living room near the coffee table.  She did not need to ask after what she could do.  For she did understand.  She would finish what was started.  She would see the dawning of the three.  When next she spoke, it was only truth she uttered.  When next she spoke, she asked only for what was already hers to claim.

 

I call you, first among the great fianna of Éire, who fight with deed and song
I call you, you who are eternal in the world beyond the world
I call you to awaken from the depths within us
I am the one who touched the earth with my hands
I am the one who turned my face to the sky and wept for what I had almost been again
I am the one who looked within and wept for not fully being who I am
Blood of my blood and bone of my bone,
I remember you, the clay out of which I am formed belonged to the landscape from whence you came
Out of all I’ve ever been, from time beyond time
From all dormant places locked inside
I call you to arise, rise, rise,
Blaze out from behind our eyes
I, the soul of ages, the spirit that now within myself resides
I will embody that  voice that cries: “I need you, I call you, and it is time.”
I call those I know by name
Those whose lives within our lives remain, I remember.
Those whose lives we never sang, I remember.
Those whose journeys never crossed the white lines of printed page, I commend you.
By star and stone, by earth and sea and sky,
Hear me, hear the three things that I live by
The truth in my heart, the strength in my hands, fulfillment in my words
As a child of the oak I ask to put my hand in your hand and do what is needed
Reach into the recesses of my belonging and cry the truth where most it needs be heard
Answering  foremost as you do to Bríd, whose healing fire shapes and mends you
The source of all divine from which we all were spun
Woven into existence, kindled by the radiance bound not by any world
I stand beside you as a free person, my own unique shining person,
Those whose truth against the world unfurls,
I will serve the cause of justice with you, and live without regret or fear
Be fully, beautifully, exquisitely, wondrously here.
I combine my lot with your own, In this world and the next
For I am, and my song has etched itself into the fabric of all that is
In whatever way I am able, even if right now I do not understand
I will stand, stand with you, and do all I can.

</<

 

Silence. Stillness.  So silent that Aoife could almost hear the earth turn.  So still that the rhythm of her breath, in and out like the tide, continued only as a vestige of motion.  She had only done what was needed.  She had had no expectations.  What may or may not happen next she hadn’t the foggiest idea.  She felt cold, the kind of cold that came to claim her whenever she expended a vast amount of energy.  She was a bit dazed, stunned even.  She blinked.  A few times.  Besides blinking however, she stood perfectly still.

 

When they came, they formed two lines, Aoife between them.  She might have said that she looked into their eyes, but it was they who stared unblinking into hers, and they saw, she felt, not just who she was now but all she had ever been.  They sought and found the measure of her name.  She also did not blink, as much as was possible, and to her bewilderment she matched their gazes, she did not flinch or move or look away.  She stood by her words, she stood on the truth she had always known.  Nothing more was needed.  They saw, and she was everything she had said, and more. 

 

She could not put her hand in theirs, literally.  Having a body where they did not made it a rather complicated matter.  They compensated effortlessly.  She watched in astonishment, profoundly moved, as each put their hands under her own.  She noticed as they passed her how she could not tell their gender or height or glimpse what they wore, or if they carried anything.  They did not come looking like one might have expected.  Such formalities were meaningless to the soul of the world and the pattern of interconnection that they were inextricably a part of, that Aoife was inextricably a part of with them.  As they saw only spirit when they looked at the woman who wished to be one of them, as a druid, oak’s child, so they did not bother with appearances with her and she, too, saw all they had ever been.  In pairs they moved past her.  All she could see were the two walking past at any moment.  All she could feel was the radiant energy that ran like current through her hands as they “held” them, the collisions of two worlds.  She would never know exactly how many passed her, but it seemed to her that at every quarter minute there were two more.  It seemed to her that when she felt surely there would be no others, more others appeared, endlessly.  They did not stop long with her, except for the two who turned, and stood arm and arm with her, looking out with her at the others, and she knew she would have recognized Caoilte and Oisin, even if they had not stood with her the longest.  Later she would learn how she stood there for at least twenty minutes.  Long long after, once her analytic thoughts had reluctantly, begrudgingly returned home to their familiar head, she would calculate that at about two people every fifteen seconds within twenty minutes, she would have met one hundred and fifty people.  The sheer number of them made her head spin.  But it was not how many, but what it felt like to look into their eyes, and be well met by every one, that she would always remember, that everything she ever was would always remember.

 

Once she was alone again, stillness settled back in around her.  Stillness, and awe, and a sense of joy, like returning home.   She could have been overwhelmed by it all, if she wasn’t also more exhausted than she had ever been in her memory.  Peacefully, gently, she fell asleep and slept for many, many hours.  She would not wake until the sun was halfway to the center of the sky.  She drempt of stillness.  That still bead at the center, that had changed everything.

The Sojourner’s Lament

“We have to give up the life we have planned, in order to have the one that is waiting for us.”
–Joseph Campbell

Ah my friend, what plans have been well-made that have then been undone, what visions of freedom are never born into the world for no reason but that of fear, what successes have never occurred because of the slight possibility of failure, what loneliness was never quelled since the distress of rejection proved stronger, what hopes have been shattered by the begrudging jealous voices of our previous generations, how many people stay in the nest as they’ve been told that there is no reason to look beyond how they were brought up, how many shouts are never heard because mouths have never opened to make them, how many fallen tears, whether of joy or of sorrow, have been lost in the cycles of clouds and rain, how many of us go hungry out of ignorance of what might nourish us, how very few of us take a leap into the unknown and discover we have found all that we are looking for?  How do you ground yourself where you cannot take root? 

 

Ah my friend, how much sadness has already made the face of the world swollen and bloodshot?  Is it sadness or the constant companion of mortality that subdues us into silent murmurings by the sides of the roads?  For life and death are faces of the same coin and the coin can be tossed purposefully or with abandon, all the same.  Do we not wonder while we breathe why we are here?  Do we not stop to marvel at the goings-on of life that persist among and around us regardless of the most violent moments human beings have ever seen?  Perhaps we can learn from our wordless brothers and sisters who survey the world on wing through sky, or consult the ones who put four paws to the ground.  Perhaps we might learn from our own brothers and sisters, gone to rest in the world beyond this world.

 

Oh, will we ever learn, indeed?  We will not ask the flowers, you agree, what they have seen, for even they wish not to recall.  How many dreams lay untouched at the end of lifetimes?  Who will dare to carry out what they long for to come to terms only later with whether they have done right?  You may travel thousands of miles, and still the inner space in which you keep your most hidden thoughts is the largest uncharted ground you will ever find. 

 

You could weep at the enormity of it.  But it is better, you know, to put on some sunglasses and a big funny hat and strike out through the undergrowth:  the unruly branches of unkempt trees, the marshes of memory, the fog of the forgotten.  View it as a great adventure, one you will never chance to make again, and learn to confront all the wild creatures that might cross your path, for they are all parts of you that you have left in shadow.  What dream could you realize once you are this strong?  I think, as it is, you could manage anything you ever thought to be worthwhile doing in this world.  And are you the kind of person who can manage it, regardless of what happens or how many eyes roll in your direction?

 

In this particularly forlorn and unfortunate pop culture, “live life to its fullest,” has become cliche. Life is so fragile.  What can we make of ourselves if we do not know what we, who we are?  Not just what kind of success we can achieve, but what song still sings just beneath the rushing of blood, what landscape is imprinted on our skin, what hard-won determination defines us intricately like the labyrinth of bone that allows us to stand at all. 

 

Ah my friend, if only there were answers.   Anyone who tells you they have the right one is not worth listening to.  Anyone who stares at the sky wistfully and longs for something she cannot speak, treat her like your own relation, , for you surely have seen the same bewildered longing haunting the unfathomable eyes staring back at you from your own mirrored reflection.  Do what is needed for you, then, for there is nothing else, nothing more you could ever ask of yourself.

 

What is waiting for me, my friend, if I close my eyes and let go of this straight and narrow existence I chose for myself so so long ago, thinking then it was all I would ever need?  Do needs change with age, with experience, with growing?  I am here: perhaps this is strength enough to turn my hopes into something real.  Then I will no longer be dreaming of what could be, but find myself being all I could ever dream.

A Not So Ordinary Day

I have been having some very challenging spiritual experiences lately.  I’ve already been writing about them here.  Dare I suggest, however, that living in this world as  a young woman with a disability who has the wherewithal and presumption to live out loud regardless of her blindness, is actually more challenging.  I had a medical appointment yesterday, which –and I know this is strange– I was looking forward to because it meant getting myself out of the house, into the world, and closer to having dinner with my mom. 

When you are blind, there are only a few options you have for traveling over 25 miles.  First, you can take public transportation.  In my case that would be two hours plus a disorienting stay on a BART platform overlooking a freeway.  Alternatively, there is East Bay Paratransit, which takes you door to door.  I chose what I supposed was the more sensible option and took the disability service.  This was a terrible, terrible mistake. 

 

Now, I have several important values I seek to live by as much as humanly possible.  One is to keep my commitments.  Another is to arrive on time.  A third is to follow through with what I say I’m going to do, be there when I say I will be there, keep appointments, show up when needed or when someone is expecting me to show up.  Yesterday I left Berkeley at 2:30 in the afternoon to get to Walnut Creek by 4:40 PM. Two hours and forty minutes later, after picking up five people one of whom didn’t have his fair, after transferring Paratransit cars, and after the gods only know what else was making us travel like snails traversing Mount Everest, I got to the building where I had my appointment.  I did not say I got to my appointment, because it was fifteen minutes past closing hour when I walked through the door.

 

Like any sensible human being, I was irate.  Unlike most people I suppose, instead of being angry at a company that had failed *it’s* commitments, I felt like a personal failure because, regardless of the reason, *I* had not made my commitment. .  You see, it does not matter to most people in this world why you are late, what your story is, whether you have fewer abilities, more challenges, a crappy childhood, whatever and so forth.  What people care about is that you show up on time, you do your work, you act as normal as possible, you respond to everything cheerfully, and you do what you said you would do come hell or high water.  I felt like I had been given an unpleasant glimpse of hell, and given the choice I would have settled for the high water because California is going through a pretty bad drought. For the shortcomings of missing my appointment, wasting my day, wasting mine and others’ time, coming across as a flaky and unreliable human being, I blamed myself.

 

I am writing this account here for two reasons.  First, perhaps it is time to cease blaming ourselves, if we have disabilities, for things that are strictly other people’s and agencies’ problems.  It is too easy to move on from blaming ourselves for one thing to expanding the blame to all sorts of things whether or not it is rational to do this.  We owe it to ourselves to draw a large distinction between our own principles and values and how we do everything in our control to live by them, and the world’s increasing obliviousness to the concept of taking responsibility, and the values of community and connection, especially surrounding services for people who have atypical needs.  Secondly, I want to publicly fault a service that is based on inefficient protocols, is not run well (perhaps because no one suspects that people with disabilities are noticing?) and fails to consistently provide the support it purports to offer.  In no way do I suspect that I am the only person who has missed something very important because she relied on a service which is ten times less reliable than those services procured for the general nondisabled public.  In my opinion such discrepancy constitutes discrimination and confers approval on the hegemony of normalcy.  We people with disabilities are made second class citizens in part because the most prosperous country in the world cannot muster up the funds, tolerance, and respect, nor take seriously any policy changes that would reflect tangible adequate solutions, needed to give us equal opportunity.

 

What if I had been a quadriplegic who could not take BART as the obvious alternative to relying on the unreliable?  What if, instead of missing a medical appointment, I instead missed my mother’s funeral?  What if I just didn’t get to my best friend’s wedding–sorry. What if I missed the birth of my brother’s baby because Paratransit and it’s affiliates took three hours to go the distance that a car enabled person could travel in 40 minutes?  I am lucky that I was the least disabled of anyone on yesterday’s ill fated Paratransit ride.  I am lucky that I have family and friends, and I am learning the art of self-forgiveness.  Many are not so lucky. 

Perhaps my telling this cautionary tale will bring awareness to the general public of just one of the myriad possibilities preventing those with disabilities from showing up for themselves and others in their own lives, being on time, and ensuring as often as possible that the circumstances of their outer worlds match the strong and respectful soul they are inside.  Next time your friend with a disability is two hours late, or your coworker with a disability once again fails to come to work on time, make sure to remember compassion and realize that more often than not the world they had to travel through to get to you did not allow the light within them to shine through.  Here’s to changing what is, so we can fully become who we’ve always been.

Cry of the Child

Bright sun dances on the road
Ahead a mother and child

Such a strange cry the child makes
Low and hushed as if he dare not
Teadering on the threshold of silence

Mama, don’t leave me alone
Don’t leave me alone mama

Mama don’t
Leave me alone, mama don’t
Leave me.

Over and over in broken echo
Mama says you don’t want to come with me?

Mama says there will be no watching later.
Child cries hesitate before droning on without conviction

No more watching.  Does she mean the child,
Nno watching the child
Cries, child’s echoing cries over, over

Three times I stopped along my way and turned
Three times wondering, hoping to do more
Three times I looked back, knowing I couldn’t see

And I could never be sure, no sure thing
Surely it is nothing, no thing except such a strange cry the child makes

One final time to turn to them
Mother and child, send love to them
Love the child, and would he recognize it,

Mother’s love for a child
One eternal moment I love the child
I walk home

I move on, walk the fading cries of a child
Dissipating fragments on the wind
Echos breaking.

Dragonfly Rider

She used to sit between the dragonfly’s wings
Giving words to the dragonfly’s song.
He was with her when she fell.

She was so tiny—forefinger to thumb —
That he just picked her up,
In his hand.

Her dragonfly already expired,
So she could no longer spur the wind on with her heels.

He carried her
Though her songs unwove themselves,
Though she would not eat.

He cradled her
Until her eyelashes flashed white-shut,
And her elbows stopped twitching.

And then, trembling,
He cupped her between palms,
Embalming her in the salty long lifelines on his skin.

If you ever find me,
To make me your own,

Let me curl up like that,
Strange and somber
In the palm of your hand.

This, alighting with you,
Could b our love– a small lean-to
In the land of the dead.

The Sound of What Happens _ When Two Worlds Meet: Part III

                A few days later, Aoife went online again, but this time on a different mission.  In the search box she typed in “druid groups.”  She had been looking for a group for several years, and always came up empty handed.  In the desert there simply weren’t any groups for hours.  It would turn out, however, that now she would find what she was looking for.  She happened on a small group, called a seed group, and they were meeting in her area.  Friends, she thought excitedly.  Not only could she have a spiritual community at last, she could also make friends.  It was great to have friends in the otherworld, but she needed friends in this world as well.  And, as much as she loved her siblings, well, they were siblings.

                Eagerly, Aoife sent in her contact information and agreed to be at the next meeting in two weeks.  Elated, she decided to celebrate her find by taking a long stroll through the woods.  She grabbed her cell phone, just in case she got lost or hurt, and her keys, and stepped out into the world beyond her four walls.  It was sixty degrees out, but it was sunny and the breeze that played with wisps of her hair as she walked downstairs to the main road was soothing and kind.  It was a good mile to the heart of the woods where her spirit took refuge and loved to explore.  Aoife started out briskly, as she was suddenly filled with the sheer delight of being able to move and be a part of such a beautiful landscape.

                As she almost meditatively walked the streets of her town, oblivious to everyone around her, enjoying the wonderful day, her mind flashed back to one of the fianna’s stories she had read a few days before.  In that story, they were debating over what was the finest music in the world.  Fionn had told his friends that the greatest music was the music of what happens.  Aoife loved this immensely.  Obviously, she reflected, the whole point of being here in this world was to be a part of all that happens in it.  The joy, the crying, the laughter, the footsteps of a lost one, dreams and wanting and needing and standing your ground and arguing and learning and wondering and it just went on and on and on.  If the earth had its own music, if everyone on earth had their own song, the music of what happens would be akin to a symphony ringing out the existence of such beings as ourselves throughout the whole universe.  Sound, of course, never dissipates and moves forever.  This is one reason, Aoife knew, to always be attentive to what you say to yourself and others, because it was preserved throughout time as part of the history of this planet’s vast plethora of audible and inaudible vibration.  This was basic physics at its best.

                So as Aoife walked, she did something she rarely did: she closed her eyes and listened.  She had walked the road so many times, and the sidewalks were so predictable and safe, that for a while she simply moved through sound, let it wash over her, until she resonated with the world she passed through, until she became a part of the sound of what happens.  A crow flew overhead, cahing a warning that pierced the sky.  Chickadees chattered away in the trees.  The trees’ leaves swished in the wind.  There was the almost imperceptible sigh of roots pulling water into the trunks of their trees.  The trunks barely moved at all, but surely they made a noise when they grew.  Didn’t children have a sound of growing, as well as newly born animals, minds, love, and all things that grow?  Doves called out to one another.  The air whispered.  Aoife’s shoes crunched the leaves underfoot, lightly touched the tree roots poking up in sidewalk cracks, uniting sun and earth, just one more threshold to ponder.

                As she neared the woods, eyes still closed, she could almost hear the whispered murmurings of the creek she knew would soon be on her left, meandering along the path she always took.  The water gurgled and laughed and played, and told a secret within earshot of all who passed by, who would surely have grasped it’s meaning if they only knew its language.  The reeds that lined the creek had their own songs too, songs that the birds knew, and the birds sang them full throated and in wonder, but the people of the world could not understand or even mimic them.  The stones in the creek, undoubtedly, would have messages of their own, messages of water along smooth pebble, of pebbles among each other, of silt and sand and things swimming over them and things living in between them.  Aoife walked in awe of all this pulsing, changing, rhythm of music around her that she suddenly could experience, if not ironically, put into words.  She had stopped at the point where the woods met the road, and even the boundary had its own hum which though Aoife could not hear, she could feel.  Her body radiated with energy.  It was as if a small current was running through her blood, connecting her to the earth below her and the sky above her.  She lost her own rhythm within the motion of the landscape that filled her with a power that was strange and captivating and familiar, like a childhood home, as if she had never known and had always known the pattern it wove into her flesh-and-bone self.

                For a long time Aoife stood perfectly still, and then sensing that she needed to move on, she opened her eyes.  She allowed time for the suddenness of vision and light to once again become normality, and then proceeded on her way.  She walked for about an hour before her cell phone rang.  .  Aoife stopped, perturbed that someone was interrupting her quiet, and was even more disappointed when the call turned out to not come from someone she wanted to talk to.

                “Hello?” she asked tentatively.

                It was a pharmacist calling to inform her that her prescription that she’d requested in the mail was no longer available in the dose she needed.  Irritated, Aoife spent quite a while arguing with the pharmacist over whether she could still get the prescription in the mail.  From her remote little place in the world, the nearest pharmacy was over an hour away by car and she had better things to do.  Also, she didn’t have a car.  It was one of her ways to refrain from contributing to global warming.

                Aoife hated bureaucracies.  They were such a waste of time, and made her feel small and inadequate.  In her lifetime, Aoife had spent a lot of time advocating for others, but when it came to herself there was always a nagging fear that she didn’t deserve for things to go well.  While she was getting her PH.D., she had had experiences time and time again of her ideas being dismissed.  She barely finished what she had started because of so many voices telling her she couldn’t, and she shouldn’t, and she wasn’t good enough.  Aoife had internalized those voices.  Even though a part of her resisted their devaluation of her, another more sinister side of herself whispered into her inner ear that those people had been right and she should never have tried.

                Aoife lost to the pharmacist.  She wondered, a bit amused, why she viewed everything as a competition.  But she had wanted the prescription in the mail, and 30 minutes of transfers to this and that department including one particularly “lovely” individual who had hung up on her was definitely not an achievement.  Frustrated, Aoife decided not to finish the trail she was on and turned around to go home.  Quite unlike the journey into the forest, Aoife did not hear the sound of what happens as she retraced her steps.  Instead, she heard the sound of her anger and the despairing cry of her broken heart which was at this moment wondering if she would in fact ever have a purpose in this world.

                Aoife had decided not to pursue an academic career, and was living on savings while she looked for a job that would be of some service to others.  She had no idea what that would be though, as her college and graduate studies made her intelligent without imparting any skills that could deliver on immediate results.  Although it was irrational, Aoife felt that the confrontation with the pharmacist was just one more deciding factor in favor of her throwing a short pity party.  Perhaps she simply was not good enough, and everyone knew it, she thought.  Now she felt even worse and wanted to cry.  But she was outdoors, and wasn’t sure who in this world or the next might be by, so she didn’t act on this impulse.  She just kept walking, ignoring the beauty of the day—how could she see beauty when it was nowhere to be found in herself?—and continued on her way dejected and tired.

                “No, not like that,” a voice said softly, full of concern and conviction.

                “What?” Aoife stopped walking and looked around frantically.  Whoever spoke had taken her quite by surprise.  She was baffled even more when she saw no one.  She blinked, and then shook her head and kept walking.

                “If people who did not know how to care for themselves could wilt like a plant that had long ago ceased to obtain sustenance from life, you would make the finest example.”  The voice came again.

                Aoife stopped and sighed.  She would have to calm down so she could see whoever was talking to her.  Whoever it was, he  was willing to say whatever might get her to pay attention.  Whoever it was was decidedly not of the manifest world.  She concentrated on breathing and imagined roots sprouting out of her feet and burrowing into the earth.  She reached out underground to the trees around her, searching for connection, instinctually breaking the illusion of separation that had held her so effortlessly in its spell.  Slowly she began to center and ground herself and, albeit with a small bit of reluctance, let go of her anger and frustration and, for lack of a better word, pride.

                Finally the world she was used to came back to her.  She turned and saw a man standing a few paces behind her on the trail.  All of a sudden she recognized him, though she had only seen him once.  He was Caoilte.  She’d never spoken with him alone.

                “Hello,” she said, a bit shyly, and added, “Sorry, I almost didn’t see you.”

                “There’s no need to apologize.  You do that way too often,” Caoilte admonished, and Aoife would have protested if it hadn’t been true. 

                “You wouldn’t have come here without a reason,” Aoife replied, “What is it?”

                “Ah,” Caoilte’s eyes brightened, “I’m here to teach you how to stand tall.”  When Aoife looked puzzled, he continued, “Character is very important, and so is what you say and how you say it, but how you hold yourself, literally, in this world speaks for you before you have time to open your mouth and tell the world who you are.”

                Aoife nodded.  She was beginning to understand what he meant.  “Is that why you made the comment that I was wilting like a sorrowful dejected plant?” she asked, and couldn’t help smiling at the image.

                “Well, first off, I meant to get your attention and I succeeded in that,” Caoilte said, “But more seriously, yes—your shoulders were hunched, your head was down, you looked more often at the ground than what surrounded you.  You were screaming that you were worth nothing, deserved nothing, in how you moved, how you carried yourself in space.”

                Self-consciously, Aoife straightened her back and lifted her head, which she realized was still down even while making eye contact. 

                “Watch how I’m standing,” Caoilte directed.  At around six feet tall, Caoilte standing tall would definitely cause anyone to take notice.  He looked assertive and self-assured, without coming across as intimidating, though Aoife knew she had a tendency to not even consider the possibility of being intimidated by someone in situations where other people would feel quite differently.  Aoife tried to mimic him.  She stood straight while appearing relaxed and self-assured.  She did not actually feel self-assured, just attempted to look like it.  But as she did this something strange happened, at least it was strange to her.  She began to actually feel more confident.  The idea that she didn’t deserve good or that she wasn’t good enough was beginning to sound ridiculous.

                “Yes, like that!” Caoilte exclaimed excitedly, answering the question in Aoife’s eyes.  “Okay, now I’ll show you how to walk tall.”

                Grinning like a child who had just been told he could go out to play, Caoilte started off down the trail.  But not, Aoife observed with relief, any faster than she was comfortable moving.  She was sure that some semblance of Caoilte’s legendary speed was true and knew he’d be able to outdistance her without any effort (even if she won the 100 yard dash as a ten year old.)

                “The first thing to understand is that it’s never productive to compare yourself with others,” Caoilte was saying.

                Aoife wondered if he could read her mind.  That would be actually frightening, she thought.  “How did you know what I was thinking,” she asked.  She had to know.

                “I watched how you moved,” Caoilte explained.  “You were walking a lot faster than you were earlier and you went back to your closed off small less than look again,” he continued, “It’s true that I’m faster than you.  I’m faster than most people who have ever lived.  Why should that make you less of a person?  You’re not living in the time in which I lived, and you don’t have the responsibilities I had.  You’ve learned things I’ll never know about.  You didn’t learn to be a runner, but you had no reason to.  You didn’t even want to.  That is an acceptable and worthy preference to have.  Running was not just a necessity for me, it was what my entire being yearned for.  Besides, it would be impractical for you to try to run as fast as I can, and being me is already taken.  It’s absurd to try to imitate me, or your perception of me.  The world and I need you to be yourself.  Only yourself.”

                “But I’ve always been told I am slow,” Aoife interrupted, the words appearing in the world before she had time to sensor them.  This time, she was aware when her body started crumbling in on itself trying to stamp her out, as if she was a bad little thing for wanting to take up space.  With great concentration, she corrected her posture so that she was standing tall, now despite herself.

                When Aoife was two, she had been in the car with her mom when they slipped on a patch of ice and skidded off road.  The car had flipped over.  Her mother was hurt but not severely.  Onlookers said that the large section of glass from the windshield that they found shredded and fractured like a thousand glittering tears covering the toddler’s head, had missed her mother by only a sliver of distance.  Mother and toddler were whisked to the emergency room, and the toddler fell unconscious on arrival. 

                “Will she live?” the desperate mother asked the white coated doctor hovering over her once she was allowed to hold her little girl.  For a week, it had seemed that the child wasn’t long for this world.  The force of the crash caused several pieces of glass to lodge in the child’s skull.  If she would live at all, she was bound to have brain injuries, and the longer she remained comatose, the worse her prognosis for survival would be.

                “She’s going to make it.” The doctor gently put his hand on the weeping mother’s shoulder.  “You have a strong, vibrant little girl.  Her will to live is stronger than her desire to return to the world beyond this world.  Just continue to hold her and love her.”  And although the mother tried to find the doctor to thank him for the faith and hope he had helped her rekindle in her grieving heart, so she could share with him how right he was once her girl came back into herself and smiled, she never found him, or anyone who knew of him.

                Aoife did recover, perhaps miraculously from the trauma that had so suddenly plastered a question mark over the tenuous existence of her little life.  However, she did not recover unscathed.  She often suffered from sensory overload and would get migraines if there were too many lights flashing, or if a leaf blower and a train tried to have a noise contest outside her window.  She had an incredibly horrid sense of direction and had, she recalled with a sense of shame, even gotten lost in her living room.  She also literally could not multitask, perform complex math problems, or easily coordinate simple motor tasks like tying her shoes without overtly thinking about it.  Her family must have had reasons, Aoife knew, but even so it always hurt to hear one of them remark on how slow she was.  Such remarks seemed to only increase with her age, or perhaps it was just that she was old enough to really listen to her family’s estimations of her.  At first Aoife had thought their comments were intended to lovingly make her aware of things she needed to work on, so she could assimilate into her culture and not be ostracized more than she already was.   When the accusations did not stop when she reached adulthood, however, they began to take a toll on her self-esteem that she could only now begin to acknowledge.

                No wonder she felt like she had to compare herself with everyone, even someone like Caoilte who “everyone else” could never compete with if they tried.   Her whole life, or perhaps more accurately, much of her childhood, was spent putting energy into becoming like everyone else.  Whoever this everyone else was, Aoife never measured up to them.  When occasionally she indeed did do something better than everyone else, such as get the highest grade in the class, her parents would congratulate her, but such circumstances never seemed to make up for what she could not do.  Aoife had started to internalize the message that she was never good enough, that in order to make up for what she lacked she must try endlessly to do more, more, more.  There was always a better, more normal, and definitely faster way.  She came to believe that the only antidote to her imperfections due to her accident was perfection.  It was an inevitability that she would fail, every single time, at being perfect. 

                Caoilte was looking at Aoife sympathetically.  “It is not right that others would tell you that,” he began, “Perhaps you don’t fit the measure of excellence that they prescribed for you regardless of whether it was warranted.  Perhaps they don’t feel good enough, and it is safer to make it your problem.”

                “I don’t know.  I’ll have to think on that awhile.” Aoife answered honestly.  “I could walk tall if I was good enough, but I don’t always meet my own standards.”  She hated admitting this, but somehow the fact that she was speaking to someone in another world made her less guarded. 

                Caoilte changed from his interested curiosity look to his less frequent grave and serious look.  “I certainly have not met my own standards in the past, either.” He said.  “I have worked through this, but even I have made terrible mistakes, mistakes that have cost many many lives, and there are things I did that I died regretting.”

                Aoife was baffled.  She found it hard to believe that someone whose deeds , whether real, exaggerated, or imaginary, had been celebrated for over a millennium would have not lived up to his own standards.  Caoilte must have seen the disbelief on her face because he added, “You’ll have to believe me because honesty is one of the few standards I have met excellently without fail.  I have never spoken falsely.”

                Aoife nodded solemnly.  It would be interesting, she thought, to see just how many painful yet pervasive beliefs about herself she would be forced to let go of because she was told they were false by some of the most honest people who had ever lived.  On that point, this was just the beginning.

                “Why worry about being fast?” Caoilte wondered aloud.  “Life isn’t a race.  What’s the hurry for you?  Those people who say you’re too slow are afraid.  It’s true.  It takes courage to meet the world slowly.  Next time someone tells you that you’re slow, really contemplate how that person lives her life.  Such people have an opposite difficulty: they don’t know how to slow down.  Have you ever thought of what a disadvantage on someone it is to be incapable of doing one thing at a time,  or to literally be unable to wind down long enough to appreciate what they have, count their blessings, hear their own thoughts, or listen to the voice of their soul?”

                Aoife was astonished.  She had never thought of her limitations of being any more than just that, limits, problems, defects.  Suddenly there was another perspective to consider.  It was a perspective that, as a matter of fact had never crossed her mind until Caoilte pointed it out to her.  But now that he had, a tiny flicker of hope, and something like joy, overtook her.  Could she allow herself to feel this way, she wondered.  Yet there it was, permission to just be herself in this respect without apologizing to people, without having to hide, without having to carry around the burden of believing she was less than everyone she met because of something that wasn’t her fault,  that was completely out of her control…something that might even be a gift.  There was a flicker of a suspicion that a better person wouldn’t have needed permission, but she told that part of herself which realm of Dante’s inferno it could take a hike to.  After all, in the ugly duckling story, the “duck” didn’t learn he was beautiful until he saw a swan with which he could compare his reflection.  A person who is told all her life that she is “just a woman” and so can’t follow her dream of becoming an astronaut won’t usually believe otherwise unless someone tells, or better shows her otherwise.  Those who achieve great things without guidance from anyone are (often retrospectively) deemed heroes or geniuses.

“Thank you,”  she whispered.

                They had left the forest and were walking along the road now.  The sun was slowly making its way westward across the sky.  Aoife guessed it was around four in the afternoon, but couldn’t be sure.  She was standing, and walking tall now.  She was already beginning to appreciate this way of holding herself in the world.  She could take up space, she could have a voice in the world, she could share and participate in what went on around her, because she was already here, because to be here was her right.  This had nothing to do with being arrogant or holier than thou or falsely coming across as greater than anyone.  It was simply the way a person literally embodies the truth that she is, and never has been, less than anyone.  For Aoife, it was the first time she took the idea that she was enough, good enough, seriously.

                “You won’t always feel like standing tall,” Caoilte said, breaking into her thoughts.  “The important thing is to stand tall whether you feel strong or afraid, whether you believe at the moment that you are good enough or start to worry that you are inadequate.  If you meet someone while feeling unworthy, your standing tall will show the other person that you will back yourself up, that you believe in who you are, and you are someone worthy of consideration and respect, someone who has things to say and valuable contributions to make.  Then, while you literally demonstrate how you take ownership of all you do and are the one to account for yourself, you can get your thoughts together and dispel any beliefs that are vying for you to think otherwise.”

                “I understand,” Aoife said excitedly.  “And I suppose it gets easier, the more you practice.”

                “Exactly!” Caoilte beamed at her. 

                At that moment, Aoife’s cell phone rang again.  She froze, terrified that the glaring this-worldly intrusion would break their connection and that she’d be alone, before the conversation was over.  She said, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to answer that.  I should never have brought it with me on the walk in the first place.”

                In response, Aoife was in for two further startling occurrences.  First, she was relieved to find that, after the ringing ceased, Caoilte was still there.  He had stopped a few paces ahead of her on the sidewalk, and had turned to face her.  Secondly, as impossible as it might seem, he had changed from standing tall to appearing rather shy and uncertain.  Aoife blinked.  The sight was actually unnerving.  “What is it,” she asked cautiously.

                Caoilte looked as though he was conflicted over how to proceed.  In truth, his curiosity was threatening to overwhelm him.  He managed to show a completely unconvincing amount of restraint while his eyes went wide and a grin spread across his face, “Can you show me how it works?”

                Aoife laughed.  If he had been of this world, she imagined he would have perhaps, if no one was looking, actually jumped up and down with joy.  His pure wonder at the world, as if, at every moment, he saw it anew through the eyes of a child, was wondrous, perhaps even awe inspiring.  “Sure,” Aoife said, with an equally big smile, this time actually embodied on a face.  She pulled out the cell phone and showed Caoilte how the buttons worked, how to call someone, explained about texting, and how the screen responded to taps of your fingers so you could communicate with someone hours, even countries away.  Caoilte didn’t understand how you could talk to someone without having a visible connection between you and the other person.  In the end, Aoife settled on an analogy that it was similar to the two of them speaking to each other even though they were separated by an entire world.  It was not at all the same, but it was the best she could do.

                “So how does the signal get sent across to the other person?  How can something so small do so many things?  How does it do what you want it to do?”  Admittedly, most otherworld people were not this fascinated with manifest world gadgets, and even were wary of them, but Caoilte had always been fascinated by how things worked.  He surmised that had he lived in this time period, he would have liked to build things.  He would certainly have tried to learn everything there was to know, if that was possible.

                Aoife was sorry that she would have to disappoint him, “I don’t know how the phone is actually built.” she said finally.  “I can give you some very rough details, but I don’t know more than that.  And I can tell that you’re as fast at learning as at running, and you’ll out question me in less than a minute.”

                Caoilte nodded.  “It’s of no matter.  You’ve already told me more than I’ve ever gotten to learn before.”

                He was harder to see now, Aoife noticed.  It takes a great deal of energy for someone in the other world to manifest with an image of themselves in this world, and Caoilte had kept up an image in this world longer than any otherworld person she knew.  He must have been thinking something similar because he said, “I can’t stay now.  I need to go back to my own world, and rest.”

                “I know,” Aoife replied, but she held up her hand, then, to gesture that she hoped he’d stay a moment longer.  “I just wanted to thank you again before you left,” she said.

                “Think nothing of it,” Caoilte replied, “You have all you need within yourself.  We are simply sharing with you, in a way you can understand, what your spirit already knows.  That you are already whole, that you lack nothing.”  Then, just before disappearing he added, with light dancing in his eyes, “If you want, purely just for fun at another time, I’ll run with you.”

                “I would be delighted, son of Ronan.” Aoife responded, and she thought she now could discern another sound of what happens.  It was the sound worlds make when they intertwine and then fold back into themselves.  Aoife thought long about this, and about the importance of standing tall, all the way back to her apartment and into the remainder of the day.  That night, she fell asleep to the sound of darkness enfolding the world in its arms.

For a version of the story of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the music of what happens, click here:

http://siblingofdaedalus.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/the-music-of-what-happens/.

Watch a tribute to the music of what happens in action.
“The Music of What Happens” – RTÉ – Big Music Week 2010

To The Four Who Helped Me Heal: I Remember You In All I Do

I sit in my room in California at a computer with words in my head, and wonder briefly what you would think of this place Or of us, so starved of space and time,  so anguished to find purpose and meaning and a sense of our own measure.  With tears in my eyes, I am afraid that I am unable to mend the torn And shattered places where we  are full of pain.  Afraid that I will not know how to gather this screaming, ravaged and wounded world Into my arms, close to my heart like a mother cradles her child,   and with gentle hands and soft murmurings, allow it to remember itself  and let go, sob like an infant for all that’s broken within it. 

 

All I yearned to do out on a walk today was sit with back against tree so we could console each other, the tree and me.  Instead I walked without rest like a wandering shade because I could never come to a tree alone without getting lost. Because of how many violations of love do I have the privilege to live where I do?  Because of how many truths trampled in the clash of cultures, twisted within the bindings of forced misremembering, do I go out and walk this world?  I don’t know whether you’re gone to another world or whether or not we have all run from the startling possibilities you show us are always within ourselves.  If only we were not afraid of our own power, our own voices. 

 

They say you lie still, well met by those with the courage to turn their eyes inward, hidden within the caverns of Ériu, among the sidhe.  Within the underground passageways blocked and overcrowded with discarded forgotten ones, we stored the maps to our souls and we could not retrieve them.  We left all who dwell there to shine a light of their own ineffectively at the bare gray walls where no one living dares to tread. 

 

I heard your call, faint and distant on the wind, and answered you, journeying to that forbidding landscape, hushed with the heavy presence of an ancient imprint, where a traveler twice blew the Dord Fiann, but I found nothing there.  I tried to excavate shadows of what could have been.  I scrambled, falling and sliding,  along the limestone paths leading underground that spiral down, down, down.  I hurled myself into motion, and shouted what words you lived by– the truth against the world–, and gave an almost forgotten cry, and threw my wild defiant spirit so that it flew as high as the dome of the sky.  And tears fell on my hands like rain, but I could not recover all that lies dormant within us, or disentangle your memories from the snares and trappings of our history. 

 

So I stayed where you are, sitting down with you,, unwilling to fly like the wind when you could not now do so yourselves.  We exchanged stories, and though mine were few and yours were numbered as many to formulate an age, we found the grit and color of our everyday living had carved it’s deep lines into the faces of all of us in turn.  And slowly the sound of all things that happen resounded throughout all I’ve ever been, and all I am now. 

 

And then I realized  the cave was merely a projection made by this day’s obsession with fear when, in fact, we each are standing on the tallest hill.  Each watching the sun rise, so close we could reach out, hold each others’ hands, though our times here on this sacred ground are farther apart than a millennium. For a moment, our journeys crossed, and in that moment I felt the walls dissolve and in their place, Green and shimmering, hundreds of miles of fields, and a peace I never could have dreamed.

 

But I did dream, and have done better than dream.  In my dreams I have come to the land of the young, Tír na nóg.  In my dreams I have been to the places you once walked the earth, fierce with wise wonder.  I have spoken with you face to face and you stood by me unconditionally.  And despite the caves and the fear and the many running from who they are, those of us who still remember Rekindle the light that otherwise might have gone out of our eyes, and are not afraid to stand by our own experience, not afraid to blaze with every fiber of our being, burning with passions that never had names, shining out from the very core of our wild and wondrous, mysterious and majestic selves, like living stars.

Wide Awake _ When Two Worlds Meet: Part 2

(Sometimes:) Is fearr rith maith ná drochsheasamh.  A good run is better than a bad stand. – Irish Proverb

 

When Aoife returned from school to the coast where she grew up, she decided to reconnect as much as possible with a source of spiritual guidance.  The barren and lonely desert, with its moaning winds and haunting separatism, favored only those living things who could bottle up and hide away anything valuable to them, whether that be life sustaining water, little green shoots, or happiness and tears.  Before graduate school, Aoife had decided to follow the spirituality of her ancestors and joined a modern group of druids.  She had begun to study as a bard for only a few months when her parents died, and anything that she might have loved or enjoyed seemed to languish then.

                Now that she was healing from what she had been through, she no longer needed the thorns and spines and thick hard shell that protected her so well in the desert.   She felt it was finally safe to return to her bardic studies.  She considered that it would be wise to learn many of her ancestors’ stories, just as the bards of old sang the lives of those who had gone before, weaving the strands of long ago into the pattern of everyday living.  Now, Aoife sat at her laptop PC, the internet just a keystroke away, thinking about her commitment to remember Oisin and Caoilte, and the rest of the fianna.  Despite their words of caution that she would not gain much insight into who they truly were from reading stories of who others thought they should be, she thought the best place to start was to learn the stories written about them anyway.  After all, the only story about them with which she was familiar was the one about the cave and that had nothing to do with what happened while they were alive. 

                So, with excitement, Aoife began a rudimentary google search.  Once she started reading, she got lost for hours in the retelling of all their countless adventures and otherworldly encounters and exploits and nearly thwarted escapes from captivity, battles, and nomadic hunting excursions.  She read about how Oisin was purportedly born.  How, the first time Fionn came to that forlorn dreary stretch of woods, he found a deer which neither of his dogs would harm.  When he brought the deer inside his house, she turned into a beautiful otherworldly woman.  She was Sadbh of the Sidhe, transfigured by an evil doer, and Fionn was the only human being whose protection kept her in her true form.  Sadbh was Fionn’s truest love, but tragically he could not forever stay indoors with her – this no one could do, surely—and so she was found and taken as a deer back to the woods.  The last time Fionn came upon those same woods, he found a boy, naked and surely frightfully cold, whom he recognized to be his son.  For this reason he named the boy Oisin, which means “Little Faun.”

Aoife then read about the time when Fionn was captured and Caoilte burned a great number of fields and killed hundreds of men, women, and children in his grief and then (not unlike Noah from a very different place and time) had to gather two of every kind of wild creature and bring them all to the king before Fionn was set free.  The majority of this story listed all the manner of wild thing Caoilte captured but didn’t give many details about why Fionn was imprisoned.  Aoife was struck by how oddly similar the tale was, besides it’s apparent Noah connection, to the story of Demeter who in her grief on losing her daughter to the underworld, refuses to allow anything to grow, any crops to survive, or any patch of earth to be fertile or green.  Less seriously the list of animals made her recall the scene in a Monte Python movie in which a character extolls the various animals, objects, birds, and all other plethora of items on which the people “feasted and were glad” upon receiving the Holy Hand Grenade.  She had a terrifically fun moment with this image before, inevitably, considering just how many innocent people died in many stories, but this one especially.

Although all the accounts about the fianna were fascinating and full of adventure and would probably make a very successful action movie, Aoife was greatly disturbed by all the seemingly useless violence.  It didn’t surprise her that they’d killed so many people, sometimes in the name of war, other times just because they could.  She knew she didn’t share the same value system so central to a time when classes and hierarchies were taken for granted, a time fraught with warring tribes, a time defined through standards and a quality of life that she could never know or ever completely understand.  She tried, sometimes more successfully than at other times, , to withhold judgment about the decisions people made in the past even while she searched through and weighed the consequences of their actions almost unconsciously, attempting to piece together lessons she might learn in order to find the joy in life they knew and avoid the hardships and pitfalls they did not see coming. 

Aoife was at heart a progressive, almost socialist pacifist and believed fervently in the maxim “We are all some mother’s child,” rather than in the efficacy of war.  She believed that race, color, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or religious creed were all aspects of identity that had no bearing on the respect and consideration of human dignity which everyone deserved and was worthy of.  She believed class shouldn’t even exist.  She was determined to have a lively philosophical discussion with Oisin and Caoilte about the use of violence and whether it was ever morally justified when the right time presented itself.  Although she knew they would probably have to agree to disagree on some points, she was more than curious to find out what the fianna would think about modern values and she might even change her mind about some of her opinions.  It was fantastic that she could simply just ask them, she thought, grinning like a mystified child.

                It was then that Aoife came across one of the most told stories about Oisin that exists: the story of Niamh and Oisin in the land of the young, tír na nóg.  She read about how Oisin had been out hunting, and wasn’t having much luck, when he saw the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen riding across the white capped waves of the sea on a horse that had no equal in all of Éirinn.  The woman had long flowing golden hair, and her eyes shown with unfathomable depth and piercing clarity, and were so like the pearls found in the shells of oysters that cling to the rocks at low tide that it was impossible to tell their milky white hue from that of the foamy crests of water that held her reflection.  Oisin asked her for her name once she came ashore, for he was already so in love with her that he could think of nothing else but to be with her.  The woman replied that she was Niamh, daughter of Manannon Mac Lír, the god of the sea and one of the Tuatha de Danann, no less.  She told Oisin that she had come seeking him and was so in love with him that she wished to take him with her to her country, tír na nóg, and there be married and live happily.  She was adamant and persuasive, and came across as one who had always gotten her way.  She told Oisin that Tír na nóg as a land of flowers and fields and forests, a land without strife or toilsome striving, where no one grew old and no one died.

                Oisin knew that, if he accepted Niamh’s offer, he would never see his father or the rest of the fianna again.  He asked for one night to think it over.  On the next dawn, he knew he must go with her to this strange land.  He had to see this place for himself, and more importantly, Niamh’s fairy charm was irresistible and he knew he could never be happy again without her.  In Tír na nóg, Oisin had three children and lived very happily with Niamh, but after three years he missed his homeland of Ireland sorely, and longed to see his own people again.  Niamh did not tell him that while three years had passed in her country, three hundred years had passed in his.  She did try to persuade him not to return home, but Oisin’s mind was set and it was impossible for another person, even his true love, to unmake his mind.  And so, Oisin went to Éirinn on Niamh’s only condition, that he not set foot on the ground, for then the years would catch up with him and he would be very old.  Oisin meant to keep his promise, but it was not to be.

When he got to Ireland he was overcome with grief at not finding any trace of his family or companions.  Just before returning sorrowfully to Niamh, he saw several men trying to lift a large and heavy boulder.  Being always an empathic soul who wished more than anything else to help those in need, Oisin began to lift the rock for them and it was then that the saddle slipped from the horse and he fell to the ground.  He became an old, blind, withered, wrinkled man, dependent on others to survive (which must have been quite a change as he never went through the stages of growing old as most folk do.)  He died belonging neither to the land he was born to nor the land in which he raised his children, neither in the arms of his love nor among friends.  It was presumably only once he died, that Oisin gained some semblance of peace.

                Aoife sat staring at her computer screen, stunned.  It was not occurring to her to ask whether the story was accurate.  It was not occurring to her to start reading another story, or indeed do anything at all.  Somewhat numbly, she covered her face with her hands and squinted, hoping, praying to whomever she could think of—a rock, the god Lugh, her dog—that she would not feel, that she would not think, that she would not remember.  But she did remember.  She began to sob.  She was not just crying for Oisin, she knew all too well, she was crying for herself, and for Conn, or perhaps despite Conn.

                Connell, hence Conn for short, had been her only, her true love.  Well, she thought he had been her true love.  There were too many similarities between her story she gave the world about her relationship and the one told about Oisin to not wonder if it was more than likely that Niamh, who at first came across as flawless, beautiful, loving, and kind, in the end turned out to be a waking nightmare.  For Aoife had, for a long time, told her siblings and friends that she was happy, more than happy, couldn’t imagine her life without her love, and wished they could spend an eternity together even though this was a big, blunt lie.  She persisted in keeping up the facade of contentment and joy even while Conn slowly and steadily kept her more and more to himself, until she hardly saw her friends or spoke with her family.  In truth, Conn would often cling to Aoife like a vulnerable toddler and whine that if she truly loved him, she would go away with him to share a little world of their own and only have each other.  In truth she was as terrified to be with Conn as to be without him, and he made sure of that.

When she first met Conn on that infernal August morning, a mere 104 degrees, Aoife felt as though she was a weary lost and bedraggled traveler who, upon the brink of death, suddenly stumbles on an oasis and eagerly revives herself with the water she thought she’d never find.  Aoife had been promised the world, in fact more than the world.  Somehow Conn knew all of her weaknesses, all of her insecurities, and all of her places where she was too vulnerable to fight, but it was over a year before Aoife questioned whether his having such knowledge about her was anything other than safe and genuine intimacy.  She had nothing to compare her experience to.  .  When he found out about the death of her parents, he had assured Aoife that she would be accepted into his large family and would never be abandoned again.  He wrote her long romantic love letters.  He held her for hours.  He told her there was something special about her and that most men wouldn’t see it, but he did.  He told her that she was the only person he could be himself with, that he’d found the one, that he couldn’t live without her.

He had been so loving that she felt comfortable sharing her ability to see the spirit world with him.  He swore he understood, and assured her that she was strange and exotic and other men would make fun of her for her differences, but that he, Conn, cherished and valued her.  Sometimes he got angry with her for wearing clothes that he felt made her look like Lolita and would insist that she change into something less revealing when they went out, even if it was otherwise completely appropriate.  He would then cajole her with a pout in his voice that he loved her so much that he couldn’t bear to have another man look at her.  To please him, Aoife would go change, happy to have found someone who was so brutally honest and loyal.  She also knew not to make new friends, especially guy friends, because Conn would get jealous and start calling her incessantly to check her whereabouts and even threaten to track her, but he earnestly explained holding her hand and looking deep into her eyes, that he only acted this way out of love and because he had had some traumatic event happen to him as a child.  So Aoife did exactly what Conn wished her to do.  If Conn was hurt, she knew how that felt, and she would not hurt him further.

                Conn hated technology and disliked living near too many people.  He told Aoife his dreams of living off grid with her in a remote part of Wyoming, where their nearest neighbor would be at least a mile away.  He lovingly insisted that Aoife was selfish for wanting the amenities of an apartment, and promised that she could always depend on him to survive.  If and when Aoife ever challenged his opinions or thought differently, he would go into a fit and break things, important things, and he’d put her down for her education and remind her that he had gotten where he was in life with nothing.  It didn’t matter that he had no degree himself, he was intelligent and smart and the education system was corrupt and bureaucratic.  Aoife would worry that something was wrong with her and promise to try to love him better, do more for him, cease being judgmental and listen more, whatever it took to calm him down until the love of her life returned.  Then he would gather her up in his arms and kiss her and tell her he wanted to be her life partner.

This went on and on.  Aoife found Conn more and more unbearable to be around, but the tenacity and power she once had in abundance continued to slowly ebb out of her bones as if the tide in her only knew how to recede.  What was more frightening than Conn, however, was the absence of the light inside her.  She would sometimes, very cautiously, peer within herself and more often than not come up empty handed.  When she saw no light at all, though, something shifted.  Despite the fear and her grief which was so palpable she thought for sure it might drown her, she knew better than to never, ever let anyone take all the light that burned inside her, that made her her own.  That light kept keening so persistently, though now quiescently, to shine, always shine, that she could not ignore it’s calling to her, the call to return and belong to the only one she would ever be in this world.

                On one of the rare occasions when Conn went back to visit his family, Aoife knew what she had to do.  Her heart was a stone, but the neurons in her brain were on fire.  She would live, she must.  She shipped back his things and changed the locks.  She called her brother and he had stayed with her a week, until she had stopped shaking, until they knew Conn would not return to try and hurt her.

When Aoife left, she left knowing only that some part of her deserved more, was more.  She felt more guilty and uncertain than she had ever thought possible, and was afraid that Conn was right and that she was inadequately prepared to live her own life, a life without him in it.  When Aoife left, she continued for a while to hope that Conn would change, and they could live the life they had planned together.  She told herself that Conn had only threatened to hit her once.  He hadn’t actually hit her, just did things like yell at her to watch her jump and get angry when she went out with her friends.  These were the excuses she would give herself as to why it wasn’t all that bad and she could live with it, but somehow she knew she was now lying to herself as well.

It was only after she left, a month or more after, that the word abuse ever came to mind.  Who, besides someone skilled at manipulation, guilt, feigned neediness, and practiced apathy would make someone choose between their relationship and their friends and family?  She had not waited until she was old and frail to leave.  But those months in the beginning, when Conn was her world, when all good and meaningful things in life felt permanently eclipsed by his brilliance and undying love, when all she could see was him, him, him, filling every inch of her horizon, when he made her feel special and unique and loved beyond any love she had ever known: it was as if a fairy from another land had waltzed into her life.  Within a year they were living together, and in the months before she left they were already talking about marriage.  After that, once the relationship began to go downhill, Aoife had lived in the land of youth in yet another way.  Conn, as it turned out, had the emotional capacity of a five-year-old.  If he did not get his way, he threw a tantrum.  Granted, it was a tantrum of emotional blackmail, fear, obligation and guilt, threats, rage, and sometimes desperate displays of tears which was more sophisticated than simply throwing yourself on the floor and pounding your fists, but it was just as ineffective.  Aoife found herself unwittingly in the role of mother one moment, lover the next, and it was disconcerting and exhausting.  Thank the gods they had not had children.

Aoife often hoped that, had Conn succeeded in isolating her completely, she still would have found the courage to walk away, but of that, she would fortunately never be sure.  Now looking back at that time which she filed away under “relationship mistakes,” it was almost as if the time with Conn was a dream, a surreal blip on the timeline of her varied existence, as if she had spent more than a year sleep walking, as if she had moved in a waking coma, as if she had given her very heart and soul away not realizing she had surrendered, almost willingly, to become the play thing of a bangle tiger.  She was not sure how she woke up before the tiger swallowed her whole, but she knew she was still mending the pieces of herself that had been so skillfully torn away.  She knew, then, she was stronger than she had ever given herself credit for.  She knew Conn had picked the wrong sort to mess with, and over time she learned her worth in this world.  She knew she had almost missed her chance to wake up, but she was now wide awake and would never be lulled asleep again.

                Once again Aoife surrendered, this time in safety, to the flashbacks and her tears.  Perhaps if she cried enough she would learn to live with the experience, as a war veteran might learn to live with the shrapnel permanently embedded in his shoulder.  She let herself cry until she was spent, and tired, and could resolve once again to no longer give away her power to this man and the wounds he inflicted on her already bruised and battered spirit.  It was late, she realized, and so she ate some chocolate and went to bed.

                But the next morning she couldn’t put the story of Tír na nóg out of her mind.  It had been over a week since she saw Caoilte or Oisin, and she found she very much wanted Oisin to know that she understood what he might have gone through.  She sat down and ate a bowl of cereal and then sat on the sofa to read her email, but behind her eyes were images of Oisin leaving his family, and never seeing them again, all for the sake of a girl.  No human being could be worth such a sacrifice, Aoife thought adamantly, because it was such an insidious choice to force someone to make.  Surely there were strong people in the world, like Oisin, who would never fall for such a trick as the one Niamh must have pulled.  But if there was any truth at all to the story, even someone as strong as Oisin had fallen for it, for a longer time than she had.

                Tears came unbidden into Aoife’s eyes again.  This time she did cry just for Oisin, for the unnamed and incalculable parts of himself and people he loved that he had lost without any struggle or fight or last stand, just stolen in the name of love out from under his nose by a woman who was very probably damaged, and broken, even while stunningly beautiful.  A woman who was hungry for all she could never have and, like Conn tried to do to Aoife, devoured everything he had.  She cried.  It was only when she finally looked up, after what seemed to her like a long time but might have merely been moments, that she realized she was not alone.

Oisin stood next to her, his hand, which she couldn’t actually feel, resting on her shoulder, his face full of concern.  It was so odd, Aoife thought, that she didn’t shriek or pull away or do any of the other things she usually did when someone surprised her, especially if that person was of the opposite gender.  She had generally been very afraid of people, particularly men, since she had left that terrifying relationship with Conn.  Perhaps, she mused only momentarily, she really was healing from it.

                “Please don’t cry,” Oisin said quietly. 

                “Sorry,” Aoife always felt a bit embarrassed when someone saw her cry, “I never meant for you to have to come comfort me for being upset about something that happened to you.”  The whole scenario struck Aoife as being opposite what it should be.  “I wanted to comfort you, let you know you are not alone.  I just really empathized with what you went through, never seeing your family again. Was it like…” she stumbled on, trailing off unsure how to say what she wanted to say.  He had so much more experience than she did, having been in the world so long ago.  There must be something more important to ask someone so ancient.

                “I don’t remember all the details of what it was like.  But I do know that you’ve been through many struggles, and when you found your strength to actually walk away, learned what you were worth, and discovered that leaving doesn’t always mean giving up, I was very proud of you.  It took me a much, much longer time to realize that I would give up everything by staying, and gain everything by leaving.  It was almost too late when I learned that”

                “Did you ever find your family after you left?” Aoife asked.

“Sometimes it’s possible to physically be with your family while being further away than you have ever been in your life.  But I have had hundreds of your years in this world to be with my family.  I’m no longer sad or angry or divided.”

“I understand,” Aoife replied, and she really did.  Then after a while she asked, “I just wondered, how did you know I was with someone and left him?  If you were there, then, why didn’t… I… see you?” She was going to ask why he hadn’t come to talk with her then to warn her to stay away, but decided it wasn’t good on her to ask that question.

                Oisin smiled knowingly.  “Well, you weren’t ready to hear a warning from anyone, not even your siblings and school friend who valiantly tried.  Let’s say, your mind was made up and nothing would unmake it.” After a moment, he went on, “You were so defensive back then, that you were blind to the world beyond the physical world.”

                Aoife nodded.  He was right, of course.  She was shut off from everything back then, including herself.  “I didn’t read what actually happened to you, did I?” she asked almost as a statement.  “Can you tell me everything you know that happened?  Perhaps it might help someone else realize it’s time to open their eyes.”

                Oisin sat down facing her.  He truly did not know the details of all that happened, not anymore.  “A long, long time ago,” he began, “I reconciled myself with Niamh, for I do recall her name was in fact Niamh.  She was of noble birth, for sure, but not Manannon’s daughter.  I never met Manannon or his daughter until my life was through, and they would very much like to clear up the misunderstanding.  In the world beyond your world, after some time…if I can speak of something such as time happening in a place where time doesn’t mean the same thing as it does to you, I learned to forgive her.  Most importantly, I forgave myself.  After that, there was no need to remember the details.  The lesson was, first, to find the good that can be saved from the experience.  I cherish my children who I would not have had without her.  I then learned to let go and move on, as you’re doing now.”  He paused for a moment and then he thought of something and his eyes gleamed in the half-light of the room.  “I will tell you a different story.” He said.

The Birth of Oisin:
http://www.mc.maricopa.edu/~thoqh49081/celtic/oisin1.html

Oisin in tír na nóg:
http://www.shee-eire.com/Magic&Mythology/Myths/FinnMacCool/Oisin-TirnaNog/Page1.htm
For a different version which I have not heard told anywhere else go here:
http://www.horsesoftirnanog.org/legend.htm

 

 

I don’t wish to write about the subject of unhealthy or abusive relationships without providing some information that might be helpful.  In no way am I at all qualified to assist anyone in any official manner, beyond sharing my experience.  In my experience, then, while anyone can do a google search, sometimes the people who are most in need are those who are too terrified, traumatized, overwhelmed, depressed, or too isolated and in danger to do a search themselves, and I hope this helps them.

 

The National Domestic Abuse Hot Line:

http://www.thehotline.org/

 

The Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program, resources, articles, and community run by Melanie Tonia Evans:

www.melanietoniaevans.com.

 

The Verbal Abuse Site Run by Patricia Evans (no relation to Melanie, it is simply coincidence):

http://www.verbalabuse.com/.  Many of her books can be found on Amazon or Audible.com.

 

Eilish Niamh