Mother was born in the Oort cloud, an icy sphere at the edge of our solar system. A place comprised of debris bouncing around this cosmic pinball machine, our little piece of the galaxy. One day she decided to zig instead of zag, her mass built up just right with a heaviness of ice and forgotten bits left over from the Big Bang. She’d heard of a planet, named Jupiter, with the power to get her closer to the sun. Having always wanted to visit the all powerful Sun, that great star they revolved around in worship, she gathered up the last pieces of mass she could find and pushed her way toward Jupiter.
Sungrazers they call them and she was on her way to becoming one. Many cheered her on as she passed them by. Her spectacular tail growing the closer she came to the Sun, curving and sparkling with magnificent beauty. Her request to Jupiter had been simple, she only needed to be near him, this spectacular center of her universe whom she had admired for so long. She wanted desperately to feel the tingle of his radiation and was more than willing to pay the price of coming so close to the great life giver, her star. Jupiter obliged her by using his gravitational pull and his great mass to send her onto a path leading straight for the glowing ball of fury, their God. With all his might he threw her harder than any other comet that had come before. How brave she was, my Mother.
The Sun took in her growing beauty as she came nearer and coveted her above all else for it was a lonely position, to be the center of attention. The planets and comets in his orbit flow around him day after day but never dared to come so close as she. He watched her approach, tail glowing, with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. There was a reason few dared such an extraordinary feat for even he could not control his power.
The day finally came, she was ready, and as she lowered her mass in reverence to him he felt a great pull. Something deep within his core recognized her as the one he had always needed. With an interstellar sigh heard throughout time, in a powerful tidal force of cosmic love, I was born.
Father bid farewell as Mother continued her path back to the Oort cloud and I, evidence of their love, made my way toward his most beloved planet Earth.The day I entered the atmosphere of my new home was glorious. Father, so proud to gift me to this precious world of his, looked on as I burst through each layer of gas to meet my final resting place. Scaly heads tilted in awe and enormous trees bowed before me. A trail of his fire and smoke signaled my royal lineage when I landed. An impressive tidal wave of dust finalized my coronation, a testament to my Mother’s greatness.
Father looked on with pride as the world reset, regrew, and from the ashes his Stardust children were born...
The spider in my door
sometimes i forget,
others do not know my stories.
i carry them inside of me like seeds.
I can still hear the echo of screams coming from my guest bathroom. Upon finding a tiny black spider innocently minding its own business near the toilet, my adult sister unleashed her inner banshee. Not knowing what to expect I threw open the door like a S.W.A.T. team leader. The spider and I watched in stunned silence as she continued to scream in horror while gripping her toddler's arm as if she might rip it off to fashion a weapon. My poor niece hung from her grip absorbing the spider fear from her like an electric shock. A rag doll, she stood on trembling toes tips dangling awkwardly by her cubby little limb begging me with her free arm to save her from her terrified or should I say terrifying mother. The view that spider and I had was scary, but I felt the most compassion for my niece. The evanescent innocence of collateral damage.
Then my sister screamed, “KILL IT!”
I never used to have a fear of spiders. At least not the kind my sister carries. While my sister possesses a primal fear of impossibly small critters that move too fast, have too many legs, can bite, and sometimes have too much hair, my spider fear is fused with religion. Looking past the impossible number of legs (which come to think of it, why does that bother me at all on a spider but not an octopus?). It’s not the spider but the fusion of memories the sight of a spider invokes.
When I was about three or four years old, I used to play with the huge family of daddy long legs spiders on my screened farmhouse porch. They were my only friends save the gigantic German Shepard that came slowly out of the woods while I was playing in the front yard by myself one snowy day. He approached me hunched down like he was stalking prey or at least that’s how my mother remembers it. She came running from the house having spied this hungry dog about to pounce on her three-year-old daughter from the kitchen window. Apparently, he looked like he was planning to eat me. Even then I had an understanding of dogs that my mother never seemed to hold because I did not see a scary creature but a new friend. Riffraff, the name of my furry friend, and I would sit for hours on that spider porch and build a city made from assorted items scavenged from around the house. My favorite building material was the green plastic baskets that strawberries came in, they made the best towers when stacked exactly right. I built an entire world for my daddy long legs spiders and gave each one of them a name. Then I’d sit with Riffraff and watch the evening summer thunderstorm pass by while my spider clan crawled through their new city of wonders.
Farm life is tough. One minute you're slopping the mean hog with the smelly bucket of kitchen scraps determined to become friends with him and listening to his angry grunts. Then the next a rooster is attacking your chubby little legs as you leave the barn distracted with thoughts of the hog and why he’s so angry. One minute you are facedown, screaming, with dirt in your eyes and the next your stepfather is wearing his scary face demanding you identify the guilty party, “Which one hurt you?!” I still feel the sting of dirt and guilt as I clumsily wiped both from my eyes to blindly point at one of the roosters in the lineup. They all looked the same and how was a small child to know which one was which? I’ve never tasted such delicious fried chicken in my life.
One minute you are excited to be having a big gathering for what they call a roast and the next someone you have never met is telling you it’s the mean hog roasting on a spit that smells so incredible. That distinct BBQ aroma, heavy in the sweet Maryland air and the excitement of having people over to learn from mixed with the horrific understanding that a creature you nurtured no longer exists. You run to the empty barn for confirmation and mourn for the mean old hog who must have known his fate. To be fed until fat enough to consume. Trapped, miserable, controlled, and contained with an innate understanding of his purpose. Why else would he be so mean?
This collage of memories came flooding back to me today when I discovered a spider living in my car door. He’s a tiny thing about the size of my pinky nail. Brown, slightly hairy and with what looks like one big eye. He crawled from the space where my window disappears to sit on the interior sill of the driver's side door and watch me. I’ll admit, my first reaction was to squish him which comes from another childhood memory and the one that gave me my spider fear which I will share shortly. But I’m older and wiser now, or so I like to think. The reality is I’ve been in his position. I know what it’s like to be a thing to squish. To be a target for those who are bigger than me, for those who fear me because I am different. At first, I tried to relocate him, but he retreated to the safety of my door time and time again. That’s how my car came to be his home. It can’t be a rich existence. Can it? There really can’t be a great many bugs for him to eat and the car is only temperature controlled when I’m driving. But I suppose it’s dry and he does get to travel. I want to travel too so I can relate to that idea. Maybe he’s longing to travel and see the world from my dirty car window? I’ve named him Herman.
It’s my car but I bought it for Himself (my partner for over a decade) to use on his long drive to work. A sensible choice with excellent gas mileage, it’s a cheap manual Scion nearly a decade old. Most used manuals are cheaper because not many people can drive a stick anymore. Being able to claim the skill of driving a stick shift is an indication for my generation of how poor you were growing up. The rich kids in my school were given new automatic cars and poor kids like myself had to save up for old, rusted stick shift hand me downs. Himself grew up poor as well so he also drives a stick. He’s been through so many cars in the 13 years we’ve been together that I’ve lost count. He cannot seem to stick with just one before becoming bored. I on the other hand have owned only this Scion and my beloved FJ Cruiser for the last 15 years. She was Voodoo blue, my FJ, and the only vehicle I ever bought brand new. I sold her last fall because her veracious appetite for premium gas did not fit into an unemployed 40 something college student's budget. The smart thing would have been to sell the Scion and FJ then buy the little use 2020 Kia Forte outright but Himself was once again between vehicles having sold his truck last spring for gambling money. His gambling addiction has ended but he still doesn’t own a car. So instead, I’ve somehow ended up driving the commuter and he has the Kia. That’s how I met my new spider friend.
My mother never seemed to care much about my education, religious or otherwise. She was always there in the beginning encouraging me to think for myself and pulling a book out to read to me until one day I was reading to myself. Later in life I will discover that not everyone’s parents read the Ugly Duckling to them and wonder if that is a reflection on me or my mother? Did she know that I was different and wanted to prepare me or is it an example of poor parenting where the other kids are concerned? What about Aesop's Fables? Did they not have that read to them during the years of learning before school began? That was my version of the Bible. It all made perfect sense whereas the Bible was filled with strange stories and twisted interpretations. A sense of control, power and greed always permeated the book. But once school took me, she faded away or perhaps it was because my baby sister was born shortly after. Her job of building a simple human foundation was complete with me so she focused on my sister. I discovered other parents sat at the table to do homework with their children and wondered what was wrong with those kids that they needed help from their parents. So odd. Maybe this is why she didn’t care if I learned about other religions? Because her work was done? She’d fed me, burped me, taught me to read, and encouraged me to problem solve on my own. Then she dropped her child off at school each day and made sure I had a home with food for my belly. No questions about school, about how I was doing in class. Just a quick glance at a report card twice a year and nothing else.
Spiders and religion. Seems like a fitting combo, webs to trap and save the food to feast on when needed. From what I learned of religion over the years this makes perfect sense. I came to associate spiders with religion one morning at a Way International breakfast. I was about seven years old. I can still see the brown corduroy pants I was wearing. As an adult I’m wondering why I wasn’t wearing a dress because all of the other girls were but as a child I didn’t care at all what the others wore. I loved those pants. I especially liked the noise they would make when the fabric rubbed together. I remember being hungry and the weird Sunday school class about asking God for money. They sure liked to talk about money for a place that preached on how unimportant it was. The teacher mimicked tossing a bag into the air that got heavier and heavier until it squished the man. I remember thinking that there were much better, less confusing (I mean, nobody is going to toss a bag of coins in the air and watch it get bigger), stories in Aesop’s Fables to make his point with.
Sunday “school” over, I sat at a big table with my parents, baby sister, and other adults from the cult (that’s what the history book in high school will call it anyways) in a large auditorium packed with people sitting at round tables and strangely quiet for such a large gathering. The expectation was to wait until the head of the table began eating. Then the food would be consumed, and words would begin swirling through the air. Once the words started, I was allowed to interpret them as best I could, but I absolutely was not allowed to make the words myself. No matter how badly I wanted to ask questions. Being the good child that I was, I of course waited and swallowed my words while my stomach protested the lack of sustenance. But just as my stepfather reached for his fork to signal chow time, a sharp burning pain traveled up my shin to my thigh and through my stomach. It seemed to pierce my heart which jumped in surprise. I threw myself to the ground to wrench my right pant leg up. A little, hairy brown spider stared back at me in defiance. A red mark with a strange silvery rainbow-colored spot in the middle marking his anger toward me just under his belly. That’s it. That’s all I remember. This memory somehow melded spiders and religion together for me. From that day forward I would examine each thoroughly and then squish them before they could bite me again.
My stepfather didn’t like me to learn any religion or custom that didn’t involve God. Ironic really when you think of how Christianity got its roots and the mysterious way that religious holidays coincide with old pagan ones. No tarot, no palm reading, no books about the mysteries of Stonehenge were allowed. He confiscated those books while my mother silently watched. Colorful words of anger laced with hatred flowing from his mouth as he snatched them from my treasured library book stack. Everything was always done with such anger. I was permitted to go to church with any God loving friend though and since that usually meant staying the night somewhere else on a Saturday, I went to church. Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Jehovah’s witness, but I could not read a book about palm reading. All I could think is, why? Why does this scare him so much? It only made me want to read them more because the best way to eradicate fear is to educate yourself on the subject.
I am an adult now. After meeting Herman this morning, I bought a used book on Celtic religion and told him about it over breakfast. He seemed to approve. Watching me with his cyclops eye while I indulged in a free Chick-fil-a breakfast sammich and flipped through the book to read the highlights aloud for him. Afterwards, he returned to his door cave while I started the car up so I could head home to do chores and study for exams. He will be there waiting for me tomorrow as will this new book filled with interesting facts about old Celtic customs.
Not all spiders bite and not all religions are laced with greed...
I have always assured people that if I am running you had better run with me because something is most certainly chasing us. The chuckle at this memory sticks to my lungs which are too busy sucking in oxygen to deal with something as frivolous as a laugh. The statement is still true though I am being chased. Memories of choices made and those made for me snap at my heels. A string of looming mountains observe my attempt at exercise and mental escape in silent judgement to one side. An endless expanse of mini sand rivers dotted with sharp bushes spread out on the opposite side to form a welcome mat at the foot of those great wise mountains. A mat to wipe the dirt from our proverbial shoes, to leave behind the filth of our journey. In a few weeks, I will meet someone who explains with the purest sincerity that all mountains were dragons who became stone upon death and their spirits remain to guide us. Had I been aware of this theory I would have tried talking to the dragon.
Playing a clumsy game of frogger I hop around the sharp tentacles of hungry bushes. A trail of dust fades in the breeze behind me. The sun is low in the sky on this chilly May morning working hard to warm the air. My breath rises in little puffs to sail above my head as I keep pushing despite the pain in my lungs. If I were the sun I would be annoyed at such obvious signs that my efforts to heat the area are ineffective thus far, but it is comforting to know the sun will not give up either.
I stop abruptly and the dust trail circles my feet like an excited puppy while I consider the possibility of running forever in this wild land. Would the welcome mat remove these heavy bits of regret that cling to me like parasites? Maybe even sweep away the crumpled little dreams floating along the tide of my subconscious? I look down at my feet, my running shoes have gone from gray to tan, and the snow from early morning has left without a trace. The sand rivers have marked me, I think to myself, and that’s when I notice it. The Labyrinth of Life my sister told me about now sits before me. It is bigger than I expected at about 15 feet in diameter. A low round labyrinth with no dead ends built into this wild river of sand and bush. A memory of the Mayan calendar is pulled from a rusty old vault somewhere in the depths of my mind looking very much like the design of this labyrinth. Rocks the size of my foot or smaller have been painstakingly placed by an unknown friend to create a beautiful labyrinth, a path of meaning meant to be experienced. Its location has been carefully chosen, well placed between the mountains and the welcome mat of razor bushes. An excellent place of contemplation nestled between dirt mounds whilst hidden from human view but not from the towering ancient mountains who preside with encouraging silence.
A cold breeze moves across my face pushing its way under my sunglasses like a familiar friend. For a second, I see figures in the distance dancing amongst the bushes. I shake my head and they retreat to my imagination. I think of the thousands of humans who walked this land before me to use the hot mineral waters for healing of mind, body, and spirit. Mother Earth's nourishing elixir, fed from deep underground and filled with the energy of life. Summer Lake, Oregon has been a peaceful meeting place for tribes going back over 14,000 years. In my brief time here, I have found the desert to be full of character and color with a fourth dimension to it that requires a sense I have not yet fully developed. I am told the oldest record of humans in North and South America was discovered in caves near here, but I don’t need archaeologists to tell me that. I know it to be true, not just because books tell me so or even because science has proven it but because I can feel it, the collective energy left behind. I can almost hear them in the wind whispering in a language I do not know but with the universal energy of love. They encourage me to take the journey.
The sounds of other early risers making their way to the bathhouse ride the wind to enter my cold ears. My sister will be waiting for my return to join her for breakfast, but I want to listen to the ancestors and take the labyrinth journey before more travelers wake. For once I want to put my own desires above those of others. I want to walk it alone with only the mountains and ancestors as company. How many have had the honor of standing in this very spot and asked spirit to guide them? To answer their questions of woe, of life, of a deep need to discuss the existential musings we must all face at some point in our timeline.
Toward the end of this summer journey, I will meet a lady who claims she speaks to her own Native American spirit guides. I will find myself jealous of her and wishing that I could speak directly to my own guides. I will picture tall, stately men wearing glorious feather headdresses standing over her, protecting her. I will wonder if mine look like hers or if they abandoned me long ago when I was an innocent three-year-old girl begging for love. But for now, on the precipice of my journey, standing at the opening of this Labyrinth of Life, I do not know that this trip will last longer than the original three weeks I had planned and stretch into three months. Oblivious to my fate, I ask those that came before to guide me on a healing journey through this maze and fill me with their wisdom. But then again, maybe those who came before me stood in this very spot just as perplexed and they’ve no more wisdom to offer than any other being.
The way you go into the labyrinth is the exact same way you come out. The path is only the width of my small feet placed side by side and my eyes follow along to find it narrower in some places than in others with the occasional bush or rock making it harder to walk. I wish I hadn’t left my windbreaker at the cabin as the inquisitive desert wind inserts itself with ease through fabric designed to wick away moisture and encourage ventilation. I take a tentative step forward, surprised when my foot does not fumble. I’ve grown used to expecting awkwardness from this out of shape body I’ve forged. The dust settles quickly, unable to meet the wind’s embrace. Bending down close to the river of sand, I find a small stone, a memento of this experience. I clutch it in my right hand like a divining rod that will offer my chaotic thoughts focus then take another step. The stone does not speak but it does offer an unexpected calm. Quickening my pace, I move along the twists and curves until the path becomes so narrow that I worry I will disturb a rock with my dusty sneakers. I choose to walk with more precision, placing one foot carefully in front of the other like I’m on a balance beam while my thoughts wander to the life I’ve left on the East coast.
I marvel at the fact that two months ago I was lying on a couch mid-fight with a novel virus and now I’m in this desert painting. To survive I became a caterpillar and wove a cocoon tightly around myself while my body worked overtime to save me from Covid. My bones were shards of ice and my skin a ring of fire. My parts became fluid contained only by the outer shell without which I would break down into the most basic elements of our earth to slowly seep into the couch cushions. Nothing but liquid stardust left behind to mark my existence. The process of survival was excruciating. When I finally emerged, I was no longer me. My face was mine, but my being was hollow waiting for my soul to return. With this vital piece missing I felt lost, empty, incomplete. Then my biological half-sister, whom I’d only recently discovered through a DNA test meant for fun, invited me and my newly acquired antibodies to the West coast to finally meet the tribe I shared genetics with. I heard myself answer, “Yes” with these newly formed ears of mine. I do not recall my emotions at the time other than a deep desire to finish becoming and this awful feeling that I had been wearing my skin too tight for nearly a decade.
I wish that future me could tell my current self that this Labyrinth of Life lesson is real. That this journey I am on the precipice of is just as transformative as my instincts have been telling me. That the diet and exercise will pay off, but the journey will take more from me than my excess fat. That it will break my heart. That my dog, my baby girl, will die unexpectedly before I return home when cancer takes her in a matter of weeks. That the rushed moment before leaving for the airport when I pressed my forehead to Lola’s and said my usual, “Mama’s baby girl” then gave her a kiss between her big brown eyes on her soft black fur where a delicate white line marked her third eye, as I had done thousands of times before, was the very last time. That I would never again hear her respond with her own version of love. Her “Woo-woo-woo" that I thought was a growl the first time I heard it, but turned out to be her way of saying, “Lola loves Mama.” That my entire being will shatter into a thousand pieces when I break up with my partner of 13 years and I will swear I can feel the molecules of my body vibrate with the pain. That I will fall into the arms of yet another damaged soul as punishment for myself until I finally learn the lesson of what draws me to them and how to let that part of me go. That it will strip everything from me and leave nothing but insight in return. But that isn’t how time works. The lessons must be endured until we manage to learn from them.
Time has its own plan, and we must move with the flow of it. Maybe I hear myself after all (time is relative according to Einstein) because I feel something as I continue through the labyrinth. Winding around many times before reaching the center that I am forced to pass by frequently. I can see the goal and I can also see the long path ahead which makes me think I should stop and go back but then I realize that is the entire point. That we all have a choice to continue our life path no matter how difficult it becomes, how often we come so close to the goal that we can see it but not reach it or how many times the path takes us further from it. Sure, I could choose to step over the lines and go straight to it but then I would miss the journey. I stop at this revelation and take a deep breath of desert air. It is heavy with the scent of sand, reminding me once again that the ancestors are with me. For we all become dust. They whisper to me that the journey is about the little bits of colorful art tucked into the stones, the imperfect heart not yet faded by the elements that someone has sketched on a large rock, the tiny stone tower stacked by human hands and balanced with precision, the rough patch that requires a carefully placed foot, the break in the ring upon finding a stone missing.
I am no longer worried about keeping my sister waiting or the cold that fills my bones. The cold will be evicted with a soak in the healing hot spring soon enough. I proved this yesterday by soaking in the springs for the entire day and well into the early morning hours. I moved to the outdoor spring when night came and shed my bathing suit. With the sun away I could be outside without fear, able to enjoy the sensation of light snow landing on my exposed skin and watch the shifting clouds for occasional patches of starlight or a glimpse of the full moon. But it wasn’t just the healing waters that kept me all day, it was the people. People are fascinating gifts waiting to be opened and appreciated. So many came and went that I could not tear myself away for fear of missing the next mystery gift. Eventually things quieted down, and people went off to their cabins or tents. I sat with my thoughts in peace before making the trip back to the cabin at 2 am wearing nothing but boots and a thin towel wrapped around my naked form. Even the frigid wind and swirling snow could not penetrate my bones after an entire day of soaking up the warmth of our earth. Steam rose from my skin making me feel like a ghost, impervious to the elements. It was glorious.
I am pulled from my thoughts of being a ghost when my leggings snag on a bush and with that message reality beckons me back to the current journey. Its hungry branches trap me just as a small rock throws me off balance, or is it my thoughts that did that? My stomach seizes the moment to speak, reminding me that this new obsession with exercise and healthy eating comes with a price. The girl who used to joke that her Vampire DNA kept her from wanting solid food before noon now has an active, very human metabolism that has been kicked back into gear and her stomach is just as outspoken as she. I remind it that only vegetarian dishes await since that’s all they serve for this hippie gathering. It quiets for the moment.
The sun is higher now and I squint despite the protection of dark sunglasses. I have no idea how long I’ve been here (my sister doesn’t like watches), but I am starting to worry about my delicate skin. That sneaky Vampire DNA makes day walking without portable shade difficult for me. I finish making my way to the center of the labyrinth and sit for a moment in front of the tiny altar. The wind swirls in a circle around me and feels very much like a hug. I stand and begin my walk back. The only way out is the way I came but it is easier now that I’ve experienced the journey. Once again, I could skip the return, but I want to revisit the highlights which include the difficult spots. As soon as I am free from the labyrinth, I give it my thanks and jog back to the cabin as fast as I can to find my sister waiting on the porch.
“What took you so long?” she asks, pulling knots from dark curls nearly identical to my own but with more fluff, one side of her hair cut to barely half an inch. She and I shaved some of our hair in support of her mother, my stepmother, whom I had just met for the first time a few days ago and who recently survived a brain tumor. I shaved the left and she shaved the right.
I watch her work and mentally compare my sensible ponytail to her loose, wild hair waving back at me. I wish my curls had such life to them. My mind wanders to the intricacies of nature vs nurture given that we have many similarities but were raised without having known each other.
“I decided to walk the Labyrinth of Life,” I explain.
She stops playing with her hair and sits up straight. There is nothing a hippie wants to talk about more than messages from spirit.
“What did you learn?!”
I open my mouth to speak.
What I mean to say is that I learned I want to stand on Mars, the only occupant and look up to the red night sky pregnant with cosmic beauty. Behold our universe, naked in the absence of human-made light, a splendid masterpiece of twinkling diamonds.
I want to watch a black hole feast on a star and fly too close to the Sun.
See dust swirl and float as I skip across the moon.
I want to view with my own eyes the magnificence of life on another planet and discover
the infinite possibilities of our universe.
White dwarf, dark matter, red giant...I want to behold wonders unseen!
To witness a supernova unleash its awesome power and glide through a nebula.
That I want to finally sit with the source and have every question answered. To ask if science is yet another religion. Is it simply our way of filling a desperate need for answers with all the logic we can muster, of trying to comprehend mysteries never meant to be decoded in this reality? Truths heavily encrypted to purposefully avoid mental consumption, forcing us to focus on the journey more than the goal. I want to ask why I was given such an inquisitive mind then shackled to the paperweights of others? I want to say that, so far, my life has been more like an afterschool special or Oprah Book Club favorite; the kind people want to read about but never want to live. It is painful to think this much, a dreadful never-ending ache. I am certain ignorance really can be bliss, but fear even the thought of not craving knowledge. Knowledge is my addiction. Devouring books and the knowing of others, like a greedy black hole gobbles an innocent star. Inciting the poetic chaos of my thoughts to birth their own galaxy of mysteries.
I want to say that I realize, in the end, we will only have the journey to revisit through our memories as we exit this world...
But how do you say that to someone you barely know?
Instead, the words that come out are...
“Life is all about the journey.”
the good daughter
I came home from work exhausted, smelling like popcorn in a wilted white shirt splattered with movie theater butter, and found all my things in trash bags on the frosted December grass. My entire life, all 17 years of it, fit into a few bags meant to contain the waste for trash day. The Gods used my Stepfather one last time to scream at me, his cruel words floating into the cold gray sky in great puffs like smoke signals. I think he has been signaling for help, but nobody else can see it or they simply choose to look the other way. They told us in school once to yell, “Fire!” when you need help because people are more likely to come to your aid. I’m not convinced that is true.
The grass crunched beneath my feet like eggshells as I loaded the bags into my car. A car so old the interior caught beneath my fingernail leaving a permanent scratch behind, my first experience with dry rot. I sold a lot of movie theater tickets to the rich kids I went to school with to buy my relic on wheels and popped gallons of popcorn so they could toss it at each other for me to sweep up later. You could fill a swimming pool with all the popcorn I’ve popped over the last three years. Popcorn sounds a bit like eggshells when you step on it, the butter is slippery as hell and it’s a tough smell to get out of your clothes but it sure beats being at home. To this day I cannot catch the scent of popcorn or crack an egg without thinking of my childhood.
You might be wondering what horrible crime I’ve committed to warrant being tossed onto the streets as a teenager. Did I run away for three days smoking, drinking, and doing drugs with friends like my middle sister will when she turns 16? No. Did I skulk in my room and talk back to my parents like my youngest sister will, repeatedly, until she leaves without a word one day at the age of 20 never to speak to anyone in the family again? No. Did I break the law? I believe you’ve guessed by now that the answer is, no. I have, in fact, been a good kid. Oddly enough you will find my Stepfather stating just that many years from now like an old tale that’s told around a campfire for friends and family. “The good daughter,” he will call me with a mixture of wistfulness and unspoken regrets, not on this day, but one day. My crime is not so easy to explain so I will instead share with you my experiences and let you decide.
Here I am at the age of three:
Mommy says he will be my new Daddy and I get to wear a fluffy white dress. I will be the girl with the flowers. We will sing and dance because marriage is the beginning of a journey that must be celebrated, or the Gods will be angry.
Maybe I didn’t do it right? The singing, the dancing, the celebrating...
I started kindergarten at age four:
My new Daddy is super smart! He knows how to catch a chicken and showed me the best way to slop the mean hog without getting hurt. He says I’m to get the eggs each morning, feed the hog and clean up after the dog before I go to school. He even plays the guitar and promised to teach me one day! I always wanted a Daddy who would teach me things. I’m excited to show him that I am a good girl and I deserve to have a Daddy too!
Maybe I didn’t do it right? I’ve never had a Daddy stick around before, but my friends say they protect you from monsters...
The Gods are angry. Do you think they didn’t like my singing? I won’t sing anymore, I promise. Something strange though, the floors are lined with invisible eggshells. I can’t seem to walk without breaking another egg and upsetting new Daddy. This is how I know the Gods are angry because they took over his body, his usually kind face twisted to look like a monster. He became a terrifying puppet, kinda like Pinocchio, moving on strings that shake with fury and sadness.
At five I was still trying to figure it out:
Maybe I didn’t do it right? I wore my slippers to protect the eggs and did all my chores before school...
New Daddy was drinking that stinky adult stuff when I came home from school today. He let me try some once at a party, it tasted kinda sour and smelled like socks. I don’t know why he likes it, but his friends thought it was funny when I made a face and I do like to make people laugh. He is super strong when he drinks that yucky juice and he made Mama’s favorite chair fly through the window. He looked a lot like The Hulk which would have been cool if it weren’t so scary. Mama cried while he screamed in my face about my “worthless piece of shit father,” I don’t think he meant himself. I’m pretty sure it was really the Gods trying to tell me that I am worthless. Do you know how hard it is to cry without making any noise? It only angers the Gods more when I do cry but I can’t help it. I want to be a good girl and help them find happiness again, so I try to be quiet.
Maybe I didn’t do it right? Mommy says there’s a new baby in her belly, but they still want me...
I don’t think that babies know how to avoid eggs or their broken shells. I’ve only been around a few babies and they all seem helpless to me. I think I’ll have to take the blame if the baby breaks any. I’ll be brave, I’m a good girl.
At eight I thought I had a way out:
Maybe I didn’t do it right? But the rules keep changing...
I got on a plane! Old Daddy wanted to see me so I got to ride the plane and help the pilot, they even gave me gold wings and told me I could be a flight attendant one day because I am a really good girl. I asked why I couldn’t be a pilot like them, and they said I was too cute to hide in a cockpit. I didn’t get to visit for long though, old Daddy says all little girls need to stay with their Mommy.
He has lots of pretty girlfriends and they loved my curly hair, freckles, and green eyes. I think one of them wants to be my new Mommy and then I can stay longer. They told him how adorable I am when he took me to the bar and let me drink something called a Shirley Temple. It tasted way better than the adult juice new Daddy drinks, but I don’t think Mommy would like it. None of old Daddy’s girlfriends look like my Mommy with her long dark hair and unpainted skin. They like to paint their faces and nails like they are going into battle. I watched a show on Indians, and it reminds me of them. I did not tell old Daddy what new Daddy said about him.
Maybe I didn’t do it right? Old Daddy never called me like he said he would...
Mommy seems sad, I think the Gods are angry with her too. I’m getting really good at avoiding the eggs, maybe I can teach her? The rules change faster than the big board of letters and numbers at the airport but I’m smarter than they know. I have new spidey senses just like Spiderman and now I can tell when an egg is about to break!
Four long years later:
Maybe I didn’t do it right? The Gods are angry no matter how good I am and I am really good!
read those books,
speak too loudly,
look at me that way,
forget your chores,
Maybe I did it right?
The Gods called me selfish, ungrateful, and worthless as I drove away, bald tires spinning on the icy road. I left my childhood somewhere along the eggshell littered battlefield, and a tiny piece of my soul went missing, barely noticeable in the right light. Driving away from the prison I called home, I celebrated my Freedom Day by slipping on the special mask I’d been making to keep the Gods from noticing me. Strips of happiness painstakingly collected, one for each year of sacrifice, held together with a paste of tears and dusty memories. Hidden from the world under my new mask of protection, tears of relief mixed with trepidation rolled down my cheeks.
How to tell
There's a special way you can tell when someone is meant to be a lifelong friend. It's usually in a simple moment.
You'll know it.
You'll feel it.
Allow me to explain, for those who've yet to experience this phenomena.
I have a best friend. I have a few, actually. I count myself blessed to be able to say that the quality of my friendships in this lifetime are outstanding. Luck hasn't always been by my side but the day I met these treasures of humanity Luck was holding my hand. What's even better is that two of these gems get along perfectly and we often have girls' weekends together. What a blessing.
What's the point you may ask? Ok, time for me to get to it. I want to share with you a little excerpt of how two of my best friends discovered they were besties as well. It will also show you a little piece of why I love them so much...
This March I got Covid. I was sick for four weeks. It was hell. 'Nuff said. I had a 'Come to Jesus' moment in the midst of it. Stuck on my couch and incapable of moving, I realized that I had spent far too much time on that couch these last few years. Letting life pass me by as depression and I consoled each other. I also realized that one day my body will be weak and frail due to age and the shrinking of my telomeres. A fact of life. That one day I will feel this again and have no company other than my memories to entertain me. What does one do when looking mortality square in the eye?
Well, I'll tell you what I did.
I got better,
I joined a gym,
I changed my diet,
I started dancing,
I lost 30 pounds,
I spent more time with other humans and...
I starting taking Jiu Jitsu classes.
When my two pals learned of this plan they asked to join me. Curious about this strange new me who had already dragged them to a burlesque class which they enjoyed, to their great surprise. So, that's how two of my best pals ended up taking Jiu Jitsu classes, without me. You see, I went to classes and had a blast but then I left for the summer to spend it on the opposite side of this continent with my sister and they continued on without me.
One day, the Ethel to my Lucy met up with our now mutual friend whom we shall call 'Fearless', for the sake of anonymity. Now the thing you need to know is that none of us were in shape when I got this genius idea to sign us up for these lessons. Ethel in particular was struggling in class while Fearless surprised everyone by being a complete natural. She took to Jiu Jitsu like a python to a meal, literally, that's what she looks like wrestling men twice her size to the ground. It's beyond impressive. While I was on my soul altering pilgrimage (more on this another time), they were faithfully attending JJ classes. Sadly, Ethel was struggle and had spent some time at home practicing a backwards roll. Sounds simple but at our age, in our shape, not so much. After a great deal of practice she arrived to class one day ready to impress all with her new found ability to roll over backwards during warm up.
Everyone lined up on the mats and began rolling. Fearless went ahead of Ethel and of course, as usual, nailed it.
Ethel, eager to show off her new ability (the entire class knew she struggled with this), launched.
That's when it happened.
The fart heard 'round the world.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you have never farted in a large empty room with nothing but bare walls and gym mats, oh and about 20 onlookers...well, let me help you out...it echos.
Now this is the important part and the purpose of my story.
This is how you know.
This is how you know with absolute certainty that you have found a lifelong friend.
Ethel froze, mortified...but not Fearless, she was already standing and running to take her place back in line and without missing a beat she tilted her head toward Ethel and said, "Keep moving."
That, my friends, is who you want on your side.
Not one who will laugh hysterically while pointing at you, no.
The person who will give you the courage to pick yourself up and keep moving.
That is how you know you've found a lifelong friend...
(Of course, the conversation that followed, through huffs and puffs of physical exertion and a massive dose of embarrassment was, "When is Heartprints coming home?!" but I was on my own journey, making my own mistakes, and my own version of 'the fart heard round the world' but with no friends to tell me to keep moving. That was a journey I had to endure solo.)
I don't know if I'm the hero or the villain of my story yet, I suppose it depends on who you ask. Perhaps, as I put my experiences into words, you can help me figure it out...
my bones keep trying to j u m p
out of my skin
i reign them in
and they start again
can you hear the rattling?
should i let them go
will they walk or fly
an ivory kite
i watch float by
can you hear the knocking?
they’re trying to escape
begging to be free
if i let them go
will there be no more me?
when i love
i give my all.
of my tell-tale heart,
on a silver platter.
of true devotion,
a willing sacrifice.
i lift my king high,
words of love
meant only for him.
i see no other
for he is
i care for him,
feed his body,
of my pure devotion,
a delicacy to savor.
nectar of the gods.
my body craves his,
turning to liquid
at his touch,
with cosmic desire,
a physical ailment
water my soul
lift me to his side
and care for me,
in our kingdom
we will travel
A dragonfly can remain in it’s nymph stage for up to four years before fully transforming into the beautiful winged creatures we admire. They flit around in the water like little faeries, growing and becoming day by day. Perhaps some of them watch with longing as their companions take flight while they are stuck wondering when they will soar among the clouds. They may even begin to believe that their time will never come. That they are destined to remain a nymph and nothing more. Some might not even believe in the final stage, thinking swimming in the cool waters is all they were ever meant to do.
We humans are similarly complex beings in that some of us will take the full length of time to grow spiritually while others may require much less. Don’t try to force growth, your wings need to mature in their own time, life is funny like that. Follow your path with confidence that your time to fly among the stars will come. Always remember that the stage of transformation can be very painful. You must give yourself the love and patience necessary to survive it.
Rejoice in your journey.
Each special detail etched onto the wings of your soul belongs to you and you alone...
It’s waiting for us.
We have to read
we can finally
enjoy our story.
in the longing
of the soul
in the dark,
We must do the work first.
We are not yet complete...
Every morning I wake with a song in my head. Recently the old song ‘7’ by ‘Prince and the New Power Generation’ has been stuck in my head on replay for days. Like the high pitch ring of tinnitus, it plays softly in the background when I go about my day or listen to other music. Silence brings it forth with a renewed strength.
I am uncertain as to the meaning of this haunting but it feels powerful? I have never had a song play on my mind’s radio on a loop for this long. If you listen to the entire song you may notice that it seems like a prophecy steeped in religious connotations. Being agnostic, I feel less of a religious pull and more of an energy, a spirituality of sorts, linked to it. I would love for you to listen to it and tell me what your interpretation is.
Oddly enough, my sister (who lives on the other side of the continent) sent me a Marco a couple of days ago and said she’s had a lot of things surrounding the number seven lately. I hadn’t told her about my song yet...
“All seven and we’ll watch them fall
They stand in the way of love
And we will smoke them all
With an intellect
and a savior-faire
No one in the whole universe
Will ever compare
I am yours now and
you are mine
And together we’ll love through all
Space and time
so don’t cry
One day all seven will die...”
Listen to the whole song here: