Tag Archives: community

Making Returns

I’ve been sick with the whisky of sorrow
Drowning in draughts of deep grief
Delirious, intoxicated by the excitement of chaos
Shame the thick tenebrous brew that I drink

I have chosen isolation, drunk from such loneliness
The sharp scent of silence staining my breath
Tending a pantry of long bottled secrets
Despair, and terror, and regret

Here are the hops of hope, all drained dry
The jinn of constant crisis and its tonics on recall
Cocktails of confusion and forbidden joy
And of the cider of solace, not much left at all

Here are my chilled kegs of childhood memories
Just the hurtful ones … I want a refund if I can
And the traits on tap I formed to survive these
If nothing else, please take them off my hands

I want the light stuff, it never goes bad
Something soothing and gentle to calm me inside
The soft touch of wholeness to shelter all that I have
The spring thaw of winter to bring me alive

For the past and its memories, there are no returns
And though life has its trials, no one keeps score
The freedom you long for isn’t something to earn
Learn to trust that with patients, you’ll live more and more

We’ll trade for your hatred, your blame and your rage
Deep peace and acceptance, forgiveness comes slow
And gently replace the twinned silence and shame
With the seeds of compassion, that with you will grow

Your need for pain, your constant clinging in fear
You now can safely leave behind
Hope shines centered in the stillness here
Gathered together, it’s love that we find

Remember, grief cannot be exchanged
Without the tears cried, it’s joy that you’ll lack
And please be mindful when making each change
Of the old and familiar, so you don’t choose it back

The Difficulty with Making New Friends

Isolation is a frozen pond,
Achingly glacial blue.
Breaking the surface,
I can’t gloss over what doesn’t serve me anymore.

The future holds people I might come to know and befriend,
But I would have to talk to strangers,
And the past with its doubts shatters me–
Waits to lap up the tears that won’t fall.

What about it? Taking off into the world,
Tramping onto buses,off trains,
Tired, traversing time and uncharted roads,
Just to meet someone who might not love me?

I spend too much time alone in empty spaces,
So I’ll have to reach out, start again,
A falling star, hopefully crash landing into belonging.
Think again, if that at all sounds reassuring.

Despite this, I put myself in your hands,
I will take the steps unknowing,
Going out into the world once more,
I am pulled into the earnest embrace of this year,

Like a moth to a flame.
How it roars and crackles,
And cackles, and cries,
And beckons and flails wildly.

The untamed, unpredictable choice is:
come together or fall apart.
But when it’s my turn to cross that threshold,
I fleetingly wish to be anywhere else.

Flashlight eyes,
Outstretched hands,
A place for me somewhere I can’t imagine,
Shining with love and compassion.

And there’s nothing about the mystery
To suggest anything but uncertainty,
Transformation could be as wondrous as painful,
Colliding into the light we’re drawn to.

Scorched into completion, the same reason
Why we can’t find pollution on the sun,
It all gets burned away,
In a flash, just like that.

It’s been said that we cannot be humble
Without suffering and sorrow,
So silently we provide them hospitality
To guarantee we won’t become full of ourselves.

But surely learning our worth, our strength and our care of it,
Is worth being proud of,
And we will never wake up if we believe
We don’t have it within us to open our eyes

Solstice: Before the Turning Tide

Of the snow that falls,
I will tell you,
And of crumbling walls,
I will tell you,

And when solid ground gives way,
And you’re grasping at what cannot stay,
I will tell you

About your feathers and your wings,
I will show you things
You never even knew
About the sky,

And why there is no need
To know where you are going:
You simply are,
And you are growing.

When the rains wash flowers in their crying,
I am here,
And when the wind takes up its sighing,
I am here,

And through all the pain and loneliness
And longing you’re denying,
I am here,
Holding, keeping you near.

In the soft-spun light
Of each day’s dying,
I am reminding you of why
Every season passes by,

And oh how I hope
That now you really hear
That you can safely give up fear.

Of the sun’s journey to return,
I will tell you,
And of the years it took for us to learn,
I will tell you,

And when all the underbrush of overrushed time
And hurried dreams are burned away,
I will tell you how beautifully you shine,

Wrapped like a child
In the fine threaded fabric
Of this new incipient day.

And together
We will watch this weary world
Again begin to stir,
Having slept through the clay-cracked cold of winter.

Life stretches and uncoils from itself,
Reaches up
Passed what’s certain and what’s sure.

Laughing, blinking,
Once more breaking open
Letting go of all you thought you were,

Once again you have awoken
To the song that carries you,
Remembering the words, from deep within
The truth you always knew.

As the soul of the world calls,
I will be there,
And as trees bridge the two worlds,
I will be there,

And soon it will be time,
And with the sun’s rebirth we rise,
Until everything on earth
Glows vibrant and alive.

Until the light of all that is
Is reflected in each other’s eyes,
We will weave the path that lies ahead,
Its symphony in every thread.

The Lesson At Winter Solstice _ When Two Worlds Meet: Part 11

December 21, 2013

Today is my seed group’s winter solstice gathering. It is our first semi-private ritual since the group formed, and we’ve put quite a bit of effort into making it as meaningful and smoothly running as possible. My friends pick Allegro and I up in a clunky, old, yet functional pickup truck. While Ashley drives, Tara gets into the truck bed with Allegro on her lap and we set off to make the forty-five minute trip from Berkeley to Walnut Creek. Fortunately the truck is equipped with a camper shell. I would otherwise have never let Allegro ride in the back of it on the freeway.

Minus some minor hang-ups, the ritual is a big success. In itself it only amounts to half an hour of the gathering. The rest of the time is spent chatting, eating great food, drinking mulled wine, and catching up with friends and family.

Now a bit tipsy on both red and mulled wine, I find myself in the kitchen of the clubhouse we’ve rented for the event which is owned by the apartment complex of one of our members, Holly. Holly has had more whine than I have though this is hardly the main reason that, when I find her, she is more in the otherworld than this one.

“Can I talk to you a minute?” I ask Holly, who puts a warm cup of mulled wine into my empty hands. This is the first year I’ve been introduced to the stuff, and boy have I been missing out!

“I’m not all here,” she says, “I’m trying to make more whine and am running around a bit. But I have a minute.”

So, I lay out the problem for her as quickly as possible. It has now been a solid month since the fianna started coming through my apartment on the way to making other commitments elsewhere. I am more than exhausted. I lean against the wall heavily, visibly spent, explaining to her that despite the fact that none of them have individually given me any trouble, I’m an introvert who recharges energy by having alone time, and have had next to little of it lately. I think there are definitely over a hundred of them, and that’s an insane number of people to share a small 720 square foot apartment with.

This would be difficult to deal with in and of itself, but things have gotten worse. I am, as it turns out, amateur at best and dangerously ignorant at worst when it comes to creating portals to the otherworld in my living room. Recently, I’ve come home to find two modern teenagers lackadaisically lounging on my island kitchen counter swinging their feet and rolling their eyes at me when I ask them to get down. I suggest to the couple that perhaps they have died. Do they know where they are? With surprised quizzical looks, they disappear. This leaves me sad and worried. If teenage newly-deads can appear in my apartment, perhaps anything and anyone can. What would prevent a nasty otherworlder, human or creature, even elemental, from entering my space?

“So,” I say to Holly, “It seems that now, despite my intentions, anyone can get through. I’ve been trying not to conclude I ought to change my mind on offering my hospitality, but now I might not have a choice. The thing is, I haven’t known my otherworld friends that long and something like this hasn’t happened before. What if Oisín and Caoilte don’t understand? I don’t want to make them angry or let them down. What should I do? I really did mean it when I said they could call my place their own. I wanted to give that to them. But it is now costing me too much of myself and is becoming potentially dangerous. It’s never wise to indiscriminately let any otherworld being into your home, even if this wasn’t my intention.”

Holly thinks this over for a while. Finally she advises me that it sounds like, for my safety, I need to get rid of the entrances I’ve made into the otherworld. She assures me that the four people, including Caoilte and Oisín who helped me heal, are already connected to me and closing the portals won’t shut them out of my space. I’m relieved to know that. She says that to her mind they ought to understand why this situation is no longer working for me. Uneasily, I agree with her that tonight when I get home, I need to get the word out that I can’t be offering my place for everyone anymore.

I get home at 1:30 in the morning, but I am undeterred from my mission to do what I say I would. I am now extremely exhausted, and even more tipsy. I open Microsoft Word, and write a letter to Oisín and Caoilte, explaining the situation and how I need to do what is best for me, and that I apologize but I simply misjudged my capacity to host so many people, as well as failed to accurately assess my ability to selectively create portals into the otherworld. I end by entreating them to understand, still not sure whether they will, and not sure I want to know what mood they will get into if they do not.

I then close the portals immediately without waiting for approval. It would frankly be foolish to wait for a response from my otherworld friends. After all, the longer I wait, the longer I leave open the possibility that something unpleasant can come through to bother me. For all I know, some nasty thing has already done this. More than that, however, I don’t do approval. I’m the kind of person who begins eating a cookie and then asks if it’s all right to eat it—if I already know the person whose cookie I am surreptitiously taking, of course. I have walked across a road I know is closed just to tell a bewildered police officer that I do not follow the rules: well I actually had a line prepared about not seeing the “closed” sign, but I’m an embarrassingly terrible liar. Of course I am considerate of others and a happy follower of social norms, usually, but I’d rather make my own decisions and own their consequences than constantly look outside of myself for direction.

Once the portal is closed, I remember the letter on my screen. In a moment of pure inebriated clarity, I hit the save and send button in Word, then puzzle for a minute or so over why I can’t remember Caoilte’s or Oisín’s email address. I decide afterward that perhaps I should only write my otherworld friends while sober. But I do smile at the fact that I’ve completely forgotten their disembodied status for a moment and simply thought of them as people, period. And most people I know have email. I decide that I will simply leave the letter on screen and delete it in the morning. This, I think to myself, is like writing something on a piece of paper and then burning it, without the complications of writing on paper or the use of fire, both of which I gladly forgo most of the time.

After this, I can barely move and am falling asleep sitting up, which I am excellently good at. So I get myself to bed. When I wake up in the morning, I delete the letter on my screen, and hope for the best.

I Drempt of Me Who Once Was I

Unsteady with recognition I gaze
Up the steep climb, changed over the centuries
I, both who I was and now am wind
My way like the vines that creep namelessly

Along the track. Around my feet, here and there the branches twine,
And the moon’s three A.M. shadow glides above me silently,
Grasses on the hilltop bending wildly.

So high above the village and the fields,
The fierce wind blows, with a reckoning all its own.
There are many waiting for what future I’ll divine
Much depends on the outcome of the night.

The wise man, does he live still, ailing down below?
The one the troubled turned to, at his hearth fire now they gather,
Folded hands, a day’s work left undone. I keep the vigil with them here.
I call the wind by name, long and earnest tones,

With rising hands I raise the storm,
And at the center, meet its eye.
The swirling wind around me cries,
It is crying, cries and cries,

“The cold that mourns is born,” it cries,
The voices of the storm, they cry,
And rooted where I am, I cry,
Drowning out the wild song, together wind and woman cry.

As if I were a lightning rod
I resonate what shines but is not mine,
I form the bridge of earth with sky,
And through me, they both come alive.

Our hopes and dreams a final time
Are carried far across the land,
And though I hear, I can’t make out the whispered answer
My dream-self, the one who I am now, I do not understand.

Rite of Passage

Every cell within me comes alive, I am,
With nothing left to grasp but the truth I find inside, I am.

I feel, I act, I let go, entrust my life, I am,
Familiar faces are those of strangers in this long enduring night, I am.

In joy and pain I cry, I am,
I face my fears stained red with blood, yet never have I been alone, I am.

Three times I walk the circle of the ancient ones and the fires in my eyes still burn, I am,
Somberly I journey to the center, to meet the maiden, mother, crone, I am.

As fragile as a child, led in darkness hand in hand, I am,
All around me fierce and wild, before the Rífhéinní and the sidhe, I am.

Ignoring such as fear, for rooted tall and surely here, I am,
I do not move or cast my eyes away, intrepid though not entirely prepared, I am.

The kinship of Brighid’s household, dare I seek to claim, I am
To face the Cailleach under Nuada’s watchful eye,I am.

In the world beyond the world, I forge the measure of my name, I am,
As from the depths of me begins to rise a strength I never knew was mine, I am.

I, who pass the trials of the sidhe, I am,
Held within the mystery of land and sky and sea, I am.

Awaking deeply moved, brightly shining, I am
Overwhelmed, in gratitude to those who sought to my becoming, I am.

Full of awe and wonder at the dawning of the day, I am,
And for all I’ve ever been, I will never be the same. I am.

As You Have Whispered the Memories of Ages

The central fire blazes still
With long charred sticks, we eat our fill
Our forest home awash in light
Hemmed in by the black of night

A singer and a song in weaving
Crickets listen, make no sound
I watch the shapes of flames in leaping
An abandoned board game on the ground

Two run off into the green
Two dream beneath a bracken bush
Another sleeps against a log
As singing intertwines with song

A clearing in the old wise trees
A place that now you’ll never find
I see as if it were yesterday
These were my own, this place was mine

We leave the rocks, a ring of coals
We gather up our sleeping rolls
We call the dogs, the hunt unfolds
Vivid shadows from such days of old

We sing the sunrise when we wake
Two brave the stream, jump off a rock
One stands beneath the arch stone gate
To ask a sign for trails sought

Several run to scout ahead
One recites the deeds of friends
Beside them I do all I can
And hum the hymn of sea and land

I breathe in vast and endless sky
The rolling hills so far away
I track the ground with well-trained eye
And wonder what the sky larks say

Pristine and full of mystery
The land yet scarred by history
Above me only stars
Around me everything is ours

In awe of how I’ve lived this long
In twilight now the new day spun
The birds go quietly to rest
To rest we sing the sunlight down

By the playful flames that warm us
Oh we the wanderers all
Without somewhere to call our own
Yet unquestioningly we belong

The fire bright we circle ‘round
The wild boar is cooking now
We thank the shining ones, this life for life
That we might live, another night

I can almost hear the curlew’s cry
And the many voices of our family
We pass around a mug of beer
And thank the gods that we are here

Tell me what else can I say
I see as if it was yesterday
Faces etched in fire’s glow
If I was there, I’ll never know

Along The Road _ When Two Worlds Meet: Part 7

It was Friday, two and a half weeks after I first offered to Caoilte that, as the fianna had no permanent place to live here in the actual world, they could call my small but functional place home. I was exhausted. There were just so, so many of them. Every couple hours when I was home, there were around four groups of five or so who’d come through, and most likely more when I was sleeping, and more when I was gone. They were very respectful and, being disembodied, very quiet. But I was sharing space with them, and it’s very different keeping up a place for many rather than just one. I did end up with some alone time, but never knew for how long it would last, or whether, if someone showed up, there would be something expected of me to do.

 

There were a few times I’d thought of letting Caoilte know this wasn’t working for me, but wasn’t sure whether he’d be understanding or not. I also was extremely stubborn, and every time I came close to actually attempting to contact Caoilte, I’d decide that I could at least attempt to get used to living like this, as everyone else seemed to be, (everyone else had, it seemed, been living in close proximity in groups even in the otherworld, and weren’t phased in the slightest.)  I certainly wasn’t going to give up the minute I felt tired or it became difficult to make good on what I’d promised to do. After all, I’d offered my hospitality, and it would be bad form to change my mind this early on. Besides, I could not imagine a fian backing out of a difficult task, and although I wasn’t a fian myself, I was in some sort of relation important to them or they wouldn’t have included me in the first place. So, I decided to keep learning from the experience, be grateful that I got to meet so many people, and keep up my practice of casting circles around me if I wanted the kind of privacy which would render me truly invisible.

 

On this particular Friday, I was frazzled not just because I’d been entertaining somewhere between fifty and a hundred people, but because it had been the kind of week where I was running into all sorts of obstacles due to my disability. This is a sighted world, and often it isn’t made for me, or at least that’s how it feels. I’d spent hours trying to make the correct formatting on a single poem on the blog. I was trying to finish an a cappella album of music, and as if attempting to record it whenever neither the refrigerator nor the Amtrak trains were running wasn’t enough, I also could only get Audacity to work with sighted assistance. The person I paid to be my assistant was ill and couldn’t show up, which meant I spent five hours that Wednesday including transit and wait time going to shop alone to Trader Joe’s, rather than the mere hour and a half it would have taken with a sighted guide with a car. For all the negative impact cars have on the environment and the planet, the freedom they offer is often taken for granted by those who have them and longed for by those who don’t. Someone without a car, whether sighted or blind, simply has fewer options in the world as to where to travel, and how much to get done in one day.  And ordinary activities such as meeting a good friend for lunch or doing something spontaneous must always be weighed against the hours and hours of transit time and the meticulous planning involved.

 

Being blind confounds these limitations, and adds more to the growing list. When the bus driver forgets to announce my stop in an area with which I am unfamiliar, I not only have to walk an extra five or so blocks but also, usually, get lost. It’s way too easy to be late somewhere because the bus is late, there’s construction, or a light has stopped working. Sometimes buses pull up in the middle of the street, and I miss them as I don’t even know they’re there. Sometimes four or five buses pull up at a stop at once, and it’s necessary to literally run from one to the other and back asking each driver the name of the bus and hoping, if that’s not the right one, that I can find the right one before it leaves. In other words, it gets very complicated, very quickly.

 

It was that kind of week, one with which I am all too familiar, in which I was being told or shown, implicitly or explicitly, that I would have to miraculously reattach my retinas if I ever wanted to participate in the kind of living the world had to offer me. The alternative would be to completely adjust my own expectations and goals, so that they fit the limitations the world was prescribing for me, and I of course found such an option intolerable. Yet the problem really did seem to be that I did have expectations and standards, and it was not just the world that didn’t measure up to them: I did not meet my own expectations either.

 

Given all this, when I installed a new version of Audacity onto my computer and the sound was suddenly muted, rendering every capability it had useless to me, I lost it. A muted computer means I can’t work on anything. It’s akin to having your hard drive go out, and every project you’re working on is suddenly gone. The difference, to my mind it seemed, was that whereas the problem with a hard drive is internal to the computer, the problem with muting was internal to myself. If I could only see, nothing would have been amiss for more than a few seconds. Retrospectively, I wish I hadn’t spent so much time feeling sorry for myself: but that is what happened.

 

I did have the wherewithal at this point to get out of the house. I decided to take a walk down by the bay at Aquatic Park, hang out with nature (the great equalizer of all beings) and soak up some sunshine. Perhaps the light outside me would blaze out the darkness that was threatening to swamp the space within me, threatening to convince me I was actually worth nothing despite appearances, and that giving up my expectations entirely was the only option. Somewhat miserably I made my way across the Amtrak tracks at breakneck speed as to not be caught on them if the bell went off, and wound my way more slowly down the cracked tree-rooted sidewalk to the path by the bay.

 

The bay at Aquatic Park is actually a lake. Building up the area had caused some of the bay to be cut off from the rest by filled land (not landfill, but legitimate land that was used to displace the water.) It’s an incredibly difficult challenge to stay angry while birds are calling, ducks are splashing about and quacking, children are shrieking on a playground, and trees are rustling in the wind. I decided it wasn’t a challenge worth taking, so I let go of the anger. The anger of course was more with myself than at any one in particular, and the more I lost myself in the surrounding world I love to which I’ve always belonged, the world of earth and wind, water and trees, laughter and song, I forgot the meaningless chatter of the world of illusion that humans have constructed which had never been able, let alone ever had the intention, to adopt me.

 

I was now no longer angry, but disheartened and sad. I felt sad because so much of my life in this world is spent alone in isolation, partly due to my disability, and partly due to one of the occupational hazards of being a philosopher. Sad because many people are so afraid of blindness that they would rather exclude me than ever consider whether there would be value in getting to know me. Sad because this manifest world often shuts me out, and I am not the only one who experiences this kind of banishment caused by prejudice and discrimination. As I walked, I thought about how so many people, for varying trivial reasons, from race to ability, gender preference to objectifying standards of appearance, are given the message to find their way elsewhere. There are only a few groups of people for which this world is truly made, but none of those who have been rejected have ever thought to band together, to find commonalities among their differences, including the fact of their differences, and create the communities they long for. (More on that later.)

 

I thought about how I was sad because most of my ways of belonging rarely, if ever, fall within any shared reality I have with others in this world. Some part of me still remembers the world I would have gone to at six months of age if I hadn’t wanted to see what life was like instead. A part of me still recognizes that world as home, and has never adapted to this one. A part of me has always belonged their more than here.  As an adult, I walk both worlds, one foot in each of them, belonging holy to neither, and for that I am a wanderer. In a way, it was no surprise that I wanted to try to create once again somewhere between this world and the next a place where other wanderers like myself are welcome. I’d still like to do that, actually, but not at my house.

 

As these thoughts went streaming as they always do through my head, I continued walking through the park, watching the motion of the water, feeling the branches of trees waving over my head, and noticing all the people who were also walking out on this beautiful autumn afternoon. That is when I saw Oisin walking toward me, not particularly on the road. I looked up, and our eyes met.   Much passes between people without words. And so it was then, an exchange of all each of us was in that moment, which would have taken embodied humans several days to talk through to the end.

 

He walked over and took my hand. For a long time we walked in silence this way, I between Allegro and Oisin, connected to both of them. The quiet calm compassion that Oisin has for all living things seemed to wrap around all three of us, and I felt at peace, more at peace than I could remember ever feeling. Any sense that I was less than anyone had simply vanished. Any trace of feeling like a wayward orphan who neither fit in, nor could make sense of the world had vanished also. This was unconditional acceptance, and I knew I was blessed to experience such unconditional belonging while in this world. It is the belonging we all share in the world beyond, and it was not just mine to look forward to, but mine to have, here and now.

 

Holding hands with an otherworld person is a unique experience. It’s obviously not like holding hands with an embodied person. Unlike human hands, otherworld people’s hands are cold and also obviously lack any density or definition. Though my hand felt cold, it didn’t actually drop in temperature, and it felt almost like it was about to fall asleep without the unpleasantness of actually falling asleep, like there were currents of energy coursing through it. I was fascinated by the experience. Somehow we could reach each other across worlds, world boundaries notwithstanding, as if, I thought, such boundaries were only precursory or nonexistent.

 

When I’d completely become grounded and he thought I was all right, Oisin let go of my hand and started walking a bit ahead of me, now actually following the road. I smiled at that. In order to hold my hand, I realized, he’d had to walk through the reeds and other plant life lining the path down to the water, and at some points he would have been actually walking in (on?) the water. I was impressed, though I suppose it made no difference where he was concerned. No embodied person could have pulled that off. There were advantages being an otherworld person, I mused, even if you can no longer enjoy manifest world food.

 

We’d been walking together for a few minutes more when a thought occurred to me, one which I admit I’d never before considered. The thought was this. Here I was, walking with Oisin, and he not only was from another world but had lived long, long ago. Surely he’d know things I never would have imagined, and I hadn’t thought to ask him any questions. I could ask, I realized, any question I wanted, though I might not get an answer to every question I could ask.

 

For a moment I thought hard about what kind of question I’d ask such a one. Perhaps not a question about his, or even our, past, I decided. I did have endless questions about the past, but felt that any answer to such questions would be information only, and I wanted to ask something of more permanence than mere information.   I realized too that like most people he wouldn’t be able to answer a question about the future, mine or his. I wanted to ask an experiential, not just factual question. One that could transcend languages and time, cultures and conceptions of the good. I already knew we had some philosophical disagreements, and wanted to avoid them at the moment.

 

When I’d finally settled on a question, I asked it in pictures. “Oisin,” I asked, “Can I see the world through your eyes? Can I experience the world as you experience it?”