A brief word of wisdom

Today for the time I met with my therapist of three years’ standing via online video, aka “telehealth”. We had a couple of “glitches in the matrix”, as he said, but otherwise our session was pretty normal. I carried away from it, as Pooh Bear would carry a jar of honey into a corner to get properly acquainted with it, this small nugget which I now share with you:

It feels better when you do the thing.

It can be hard to do the thing, if you are oppressed and depressed by the current pandemic and all its ramifications. It can be even harder if you suffer from depression anyway and now have the current situation to cope with on top of that. But you will feel better when you do the thing.

The thing may be the hours at home you owe your job, or the exercise you’re not getting because you don’t have to go to work, or showering when nobody is around to see (or smell) you, or the meditation or yoga or spiritual practice you’ve been telling yourself you’d get to. Whatever it is, how big or little, how mundane or spiritual, if it’s your thing, you will feel better if you do the thing. wordpress-265132_640

I know I do. I’m doing one of the things right now.

I was not paid for any product endorsements here

My ex used to say that Easter Sunday was the cast party for Holy Week. Once you have come through the evening Eucharist of Maundy Thursday, a service of around two and a half hours on Good Friday that includes multiple sermons and, excuse my language, a fuck-ton of chanting, and then the darkness, fire, more chanting, water-throwing, multiple readings, costume changes, and THE GLORIA WITH ALL STOPS OUT of the Easter Vigil, even the average person is kind of tired by Sunday morning. Those of us who sang or served as acolytes during the marathon are as punch-drunk as the loser in a boxing match, and our singing voices are burnt out. (My ex also said that you hire brass players for Easter morning to cover up how tired the choir will sound.)

Of course I had none of that this year, not even as a person in the pews. I couldn’t help but be moved, even shocked by images of Pope Francis in an empty St. Peter’s Square, carrying out the pageantry as best he could with a skeleton crew of acolytes. We’re all doing the best we can right now, with our spiritual practices, with our jobs, with our necessary isolation. One of my Jewish friends and her wife celebrated their Passover Seder with friends over Zoom and proclaimed, “Next year in person!”

I ventured forth this afternoon with the intention of getting one last purchase of Easter chocolate. I came home with some Cadbury Mini-Eggs, two Lindt milk chocolate bunnies, and two other purchases I hadn’t planned on:

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I took this picture, don’t judge me

Happy Easter, happy springtime, happy life-going-on. Bring home something that flowers.

Empty space

I set out to blog this month about my spiritual journey, about memories of church and religion and how I wound up a pagan and polytheist. On the one hand, I have unexpectedly found myself drawing wisdom from the wells of the Church again, without giving up my devotion to gods other than Jesus. On the other hand, I have run up against how much of my journey I’m not ready to blog about yet, intertwined as it is with my marriage, which ended in divorce after twenty years and then ended a second time with my ex-husband’s death from cancer.

If we were not at the mercy of this pandemic, my workplace would have been closed for the Christian holy day, and I might have gone to church for the first time in several years. If I had gone, I might feel just as empty and speechless as I do right now. What do you talk about, what do you write about, when you have seen your god die and have buried him, in a tomb that didn’t even belong to him? The liturgies of Good Friday are a slow wringer that leaves you dry and flat, but I feel like that so much of the time right now.

I will leave you tonight with a gem of English church music proper to this time of year, the Lamentations of Jeremiah as set by Thomas Tallis.

Snapshot, 6 April 2020

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An excellent book on writing and life

My brief as a writer, as I see it, my emotional acre, to borrow a metaphor from Anne Lamott’s excellent book Bird by Bird, is a certain intertwining of spirituality, sexuality, and creativity. This intertwining or overlap or interconnection fuels my poetry; it has dominated the spiritual seeking I’ve begun to try to document in this month’s blog entries; it’s the thematic territory of my fiction. It’s what makes my engine tick.

So I don’t say much about, for example, ecology, or feminism, or current affairs, because they’re not part of my emotional acre. Other people have the gifts and the drive to write about those topics, and the many others on which I don’t comment, and that is a good thing. I assume that after people have been reading me a while, they either like the kind of thing I write and stick around for more of it, or go somewhere else to read another writer with a different focus.

The fact remains, though, that while I haven’t mentioned it, I’m living in the United States in the middle of a global pandemic. I am, to quote a useful Twitter post, not so much “working from home” as home and trying to work, to put in a few hours a week toward my paying job, in the middle of a crisis. I am at somewhat higher risk than average because I’m over fifty, diabetic, and hypertensive. I also have depression and anxiety, which I manage with medication and with therapy.

So I’m writing to you from a small studio apartment that I share with my companion of twenty years, my cockatiel Rembrandt. In three weeks I’ve seen very few people other than the cashiers at my grocery store. I just saw my therapist for the first time in over two weeks; he’s been out of the office on family business that was planned well before we knew we were having an epidemic. I’ve missed our sessions, and honestly, there are times when I just curl up on the bed, pile my stuffed animals on top of me, and try to breathe, because it feels like the depression has got me again.

It hasn’t, though. I have the good fortune to have what everybody ought to have–a secure job, healthcare, enough money and food. I have the comfort of my bird friend and connections with online friends, although I miss seeing people face to face. And I’ve been able to keep writing.

Tonight I don’t have any reminiscences to offer you, no stories or poems. Only a snapshot of life in the time of pandemic, a reminder that we’re all in this together. I will try to keep on writing.

What will you do?

I spent a lot of my time and energy this weekend worrying about this year’s Presidential election, here in the United States. Suffice to say I would like to see the incumbent out of office and replaced by a Democrat; I will support whoever the party nominates with a clear conscience. (And that’s all I’m going to say about politics.)

After fretting and feeling hopeless for most of Sunday, a question occurred to me as I was settling down to sleep for the night. What will you do, I asked myself, if the worst comes to pass? What will you do if the incumbent gets a second term? What will you do if the country is pushed further to the Right? What will you do, even, if your country becomes a dictatorship?

The answer was easy and immediate. I will keep on doing exactly what I’m doing now. I will work at my job until I can retire, which I hope will be next year. I will write fiction, poetry, and essays that portray positive, hopeful alternatives to the shortcomings of our culture, especially around issues of sexuality. I will do theurgic magical work. I will take care of my bird, listen to Hozier, watch an occasional movie or television show. And whoever may be in power, I will continue to do those things until my body gives out, or I get hit and killed by a careless driver, or the jackbooted thugs come and drag me away.

I have often heard it said that anyone who says they don’t care about politics must be speaking from a place of privilege. In general, I would agree with this; any human being living in community with other humans is involved in and affected by politics in some way. On the other hand, I think I need to stop caring so much about politics in the sense of current events, of “keeping up with the news”. Because whatever political party is in power, while it may affect me in various ways, it is not going to affect what I choose to do and how I choose to live. As I have also heard it said, survival is a form of resistance, if you are a person who doesn’t fit into the system, who isn’t privileged, whom the system seeks to exploit and discard. My survival is my resistance, and my work is here to be done regardless of who’s sitting in the White House.

In your worst-case scenario, what will you do?

In paradisum

A friend of mine died last month. His funeral was Saturday. Unfortunately, I could not go.

He was a Navy veteran, a black man from a Caribbean family, a gifted counselor and therapist to many.

He was also homeless.

I heard of his death when I went to get my hair cut at a neighborhood salon. Told the stylists who were there that he had helped me move almost two years ago. Learned that he had been a faithful supporter of the students at the arts high school, showing up for their performances. That through connections on Facebook, people had tracked down members of his family out of state and informed them, had formed a group for sharing reminiscences and information.

A local funeral home donated their services, including a place of burial. An Episcopal church gave him a funeral with music and the dignity of ritual.

I thought about my friend being found dead on a weekday morning, on the sidewalk where I had passed by and chatted with him so many times, dead probably because of an untreated infection in a minor cut, and I wished savagely that some old, wrinkled white man in power was dead in his place. I wished that the people whose political power had denied my friend adequate rehabilitation after his military service, education for his empathic gifts, health care for his injuries, or even the bare minimum of food, shelter, and clothing would die, even if it did not bring my friend back.

I don’t often hate people. I don’t like hatred in myself any more than in others. But I have felt a lot of hatred in the past four years.

Rest in peace, Dwight Claxton. Into paradise may the angels lead you, and with Lazarus, who once was poor, may you have eternal rest.

Blogiversary

WordPress has kindly informed me that on this day in 2007, I signed up with their blogging service. At the time I was married, involved with a druid order, writing mostly fanfic. I started writing about my wrestling with the druid studies I was pursuing and went on to document years of trying to find the right religious and magical tradition, path, place, spot, label, whatever, with forays into what I was reading, watching, listening to. There was a November when I blogged every single day, the blogger’s version of NaNoWriMo. There were months where I didn’t write at all. I started more than one blog on the site; some are still extant, some have been deleted, pretty much everything is buried somewhere in my Google Drive.

I am a writer. Writers write. It’s a useful mantra, because it’s true. I’ve used the site 750words.com for daily writing for almost as long as I’ve been blogging; in fact, this post was drafted there. Before I became accustomed to composing everything on a keyboard, even poetry, there were pens and notebooks (and there are still pens and notebooks in my apartment, waiting, hoping to be used). I started writing as a child and have never stopped. It is, along with my engagement in religion and my erotic energy, the great throughline of my life.

These days I am single, having been divorced and then lost my ex-husband to cancer. I sit lightly to labels, traditions, organizations, having found that “lightworker” is a useful bag in which to carry my Hermetic magical training, my devotional polytheism, my interest in multiple forms of religion and magic. I accept being called pagan, polytheist, and Episcopalian with equal aplomb. I call myself queer and bisexual and am learning that my gender may not be exactly what I thought it was. I watch some television–I’m already hooked on Star Trek: Picard–listen to a lot of Hozier, read fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. One thing that hasn’t changed is the presence of my companion bird and avian life partner, Rembrandt the cockatiel, who’s been with me going on twenty years.

And I write. Every single day, I write. Here’s to sharing more of my writing here.

How to be a crazy bird lady

Last night I was on my way home, walking from the light rail station by way of the Rite Aid where I had picked up a few things. I was dragging at that point in the evening, moaning to myself that I was too old for this, I couldn’t routinely stop on my way home for stuff any more, I wasn’t even sure I had enough gas in my tank to get home–and then I saw a bird.

I immediately stopped to take a closer look. He was lurking around the entrance to the Belvedere; he came out from under a car and hop-fluttered to hide behind one of the large flower pots. He was a raptor–specifically, I guessed, a kestrel. A very small bird of prey, but still, a bird of prey, with a very sharp beak and tiny talons.

I talked to him for a minute and he seemed basically okay; however, he seemed to be dragging his left wing. I didn’t see any wound, but it was obvious that he couldn’t take flight, or he would have done so already. I became alarmed when he fluttered up into the revolving door of the hotel. Worried that the door moving would smash him, I held people off for a few minutes while I tried to coax or pry him out. He gripped the pavement and gave me a threatening open beak when I attempted to poke him gently with my cane. A passing dude offered me a folder as a scoop, and tiny raptor flapped away to hide under a double-parked bus when he was lifted on the stiff folder.

When the bus pulled away, tiny raptor was unhurt but exposed. He promptly headed for the building entrance again and got up into a corner beside the doors. I sat down on the steps next to him and snapped a few pictures, hoping to post on Facebook about him; I was picking up the wifi of the clinic across the street. Then he escaped me again, got into the revolving doors, and was swept into the lobby of the hotel.

At that point I got up and went after him. I had a small towel that a guy who works in the hotel had given me, a heavy-duty disposable thing like a big paper towel. When tiny raptor retreated into a corner by a closed door, I accepted that it was up to me to help birb. So I threw the towel over him, dropped my cane and bag, and picked him up.

Once I had the towel around him, he was entirely still, and small enough for me to grasp in one hand. I went to the young woman on duty in the lobby and asked if she could look up and call a bird rescue. Her appeal to the older man at the concierge desk did no good; he shrugged and suggested taking the bird to the park and letting it go. So I wrapped my little friend carefully in the towel, put him in my shopping bag, and took him home.

Once in my apartment, I grabbed an empty box from my unpacking and took him directly into the bathroom. Closing the door, I placed him gently in the box and then folded the flaps over him. He was alive and awake and calm, didn’t seem likely to come flapping out of the box like a bird out of hell, so I turned out the bathroom light and left him there. I knew a small dark space would keep him calm because I had dealt with another stray juvenile bird back in the fall and asked for advice then.

I got on Facebook and consulted my local birding group, who gave me the number of a bird rehabilitator. She cheerfully agreed to come pick up my little foundling that evening, so in half an hour tiny raptor was on his way to being properly cared for. And then I changed clothes and ate dinner.

I learned from this experience that I know far more about birds than the average person walking down the street, which I guess shouldn’t surprise me. Most passersby didn’t even *notice* the bird, or didn’t identify it as a species that is not usually roaming city streets. When I showed up holding the bird in a towel, the young woman who’d been sort of helping said, “How did you do that?” I think I said, “I have a bird of my own, I’ve done this before.” But really, I just did it. Throw a towel, scoop up bird. I had respect for his beak and claws, but I wasn’t afraid of him. And he seemed to know that I was a crazy bird lady who would do anything possible to help him, including taking him back to my home while carrying a knapsack and a shopping bag and walking with a cane.

This morning my Facebook notifications are full of praise from my birding group for helping tiny raptor, and I feel very blushy. On the other hand, I also feel… kind of heroic and empowered? I did something most people wouldn’t even attempt, and it was No Big Deal for me. Because I am Crazy Bird Lady! *strikes superhero pose with fists on hips*

Here’s a bad picture I took of tiny raptor while sitting on the hotel steps about three feet from him:

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Tiny raptor friend

And here’s a better picture of another of his kind:

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Male American Kestrel, photo by Greg Hume from Wikimedia Commons. Little but fierce!