Seeking Beauty

May 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

You cannot wait, passively, for beauty to find you, if you wish to live with beauty daily.

Oh, sure, the climactic splendorous lovelies will find you in your passivity, and may do so in such a bright and brilliant way that even the most complacent can’t miss it: the most panoramic of sunsets like Midas touching the sky, or snow-capped mountains majestic and proud, or… Well, perhaps not. I’ve seen people ignorant of even breath-stealing sights like that, visions I’d thought impossible to miss, yet it’s easy to sit and curse the rush-hour traffic or endure tunnel-vision of getting from point A to point B.

You have to be aware of beauty, and open to it. Notice your surroundings: see, smell, taste, hear, touch. Engage. Feel. There are sights so classically lovely that they’re easy to spot, but it takes a closer look to find the little things.

There. A spot of green in the sidewalk crack, beaded with dew.

Or there. The crinkle at the corners of a smiling woman’s eyes.

Even there: the reflection of blue sky and scudding white clouds in the gleaming mirror-glass tower of a downtown building.

I am lucky to live in a place of great beauty. Denver is a lively, fascinating city full of art and a diversity of humanity, nestled at the meeting-place between mountain range and plains. I see mountains on my daily commute home, not far in the distance, a skyline that changes with the light. The high plains greet me as I leave my workplace, just past the parking lot, all rushing wind and gold-green ocean of prairie grass. Always, there is the sky: we’re closer here, higher up, less atmosphere to fog it up with gray, and the ever-present wind moves the clouds swiftly along to keep it clear, sunny, achingly blue until the sun sets behind mountains and dust. We have the most incredible skyscapes.

But there are people who say Colorado is only browns, unappealing, unlovely. Yet the brown bit, that desolate lonely beauty of autumn prairie and cactus canyons, is the part I love best.

You have to look from many angles.

There’s a serpentine part of me, fanged and hungry, that finds a scintillating pang of beauty in the tart coppery keen of human pain. There’s a fiery feathered part of me that finds equal loveliness in the constant struggle to be free, the transformation of the self, the soul’s tenacious fight to change and heal and live and grow… in our capacity for adaptation. I have been awestruck by the rare moments of illumination in a treatment center, those points of realization or breakthrough or fragile gifts of trust despite everything – made all the more precious by the grime and darkness and trials these moments grow in.

There is beauty in the things that frighten, in the things that safeguard, in things that hurt or heal or cry or sing. The entire range of emotion, experience, existence. The large things. The small things. The long-lasting things, the fleeting things; the ancient things, the brand new things. The bits in the cracks, refusing to quite fall through into obscurity. The cracked things. The cracks themselves, and the caulk that seams them.

Finding beauty is like finding myth, or magic, or the divine – though perhaps these are all the same things with different names. You have to see, and seek, and notice. You have to be open to it.

I am always happier when I remember to live in that open seeking mind-space.

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I Believe

May 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

I believe there are layers of reality, there is more than just the physical, and that the subtle (energetic, spiritual, etc) reality/realities affect the psychological and spiritual, just as much as the mind affects the subtle and the physical, and just as the body affects the mind and the subtle.

I believe there are multiple explanations for any experience, and all can be true simultaneously, for the reason stated above. Are you tired all the time because you are depressed, or are you depressed because you are tired all the time due to improper nutrition, or are you tired and depressed because of an energetic blockage, or do you have an energetic blockage because you are not eating right and you are depressed? I am more likely to believe you are tired because you are depressed and you have improper nutrition and you have an energetic blockage, and all these factors must be addressed for optimal health/improvement.

I believe that mythic truth is just as valid as factual truth, especially as memory and perception are unreliable: your brain lies to you. I don’t believe we can truly, completely be certain of anything, and one’s schema and experience and functionality is far more important than whether it is literally, factually true or not. Does it have meaning? Is it aiding or not affecting functionality? Is it adding to your life experience? Then it doesn’t matter quite so much.

That said, I believe it’s important to examine one’s beliefs regularly, and to consider multiple possibilities for one’s experience, and subject experience and belief to scrutiny and logic to see if they stand up to basic reasoning. This may seem like a contradiction to my earlier statement. It’s not. I have found that as someone who favors logic over feeling, it is easy for me to lose the experience in an endless cycle of scrutiny, skepticism, questioning, and considering possibilities, going in circles again and again without ever reaching a real conclusion about things that I cannot know for certain; and in doing so I lose the emotive and personal meaning of the experience, I become actually ungrounded by completely intellectualizing my reality. Yet I have known people who have done the reverse, have gone completely dysfunctional by not examining the use or meaning or validity of their experiences or their interpretation of their experience, and lose sight of physical reality as they dive into a fantasy land.

Thus: functionality, meaning, scrutiny, balance.

I believe in a variety of spirits: spirit of place, spirit of land, spirit of plant and animal and object. I believe in gods, and gods with distinct personalities and desires and motives that must be treated as individuals even as I believe They are connected to one another and sometimes blend in and out of each other and a greater essence. I believe some gods and some spirits are involved in the lives of people and some gods and spirits just don’t give a damn, and sometimes spirits don’t give you much of a choice in the matter and demand service, and some will take your service if you are foolish enough to offer but aren’t going to seek you out.

I believe that there are many humans who contain within themselves the essence of something non-human. I don’t know what the nature of that essence is, but I have seen it, again and again, in ways I can’t deny. It may be part of being human, and some people are just more affected by that otherly-essence than others. But it is vital and it is fascinating and it is beautiful.

I believe that there is an explanation and cause for all of human behavior, but sometimes it is so layered and complex that the behavior seems inexplicable or random.

I believe in reincarnation. I believe in an afterlife of some sort, though I don’t know if it’s just continual reincarnation or if it’s a return to some cosmic all or if it’s rest in the dead-lands of one’s culture/beliefs or if it’s a combination of all of the above.

I believe that belief affects reality, and so does will because will is often just an active outward believing, and perception shapes our reality. Dragons exist. Is it because our monkey-brains remembered ancient terrible lizards and fabricated dragons out of that inkling of memory, and that mythic telling shaped spirit-stuff into dragons; or is it because dragons existed, and we experienced them on some level, and told stories about them in our myth? I bet it’s a bit of both: that there were spirits that were like dragons, and we experienced them even as we remembered a bit of giant lizards long extinct, and our perceptions did not quite match the reality of those dragon-like spirits, and they shaped themselves to our perceptions or our perceptions shaped them or both, and now there are dragons.

I believe the stories we tell ourselves and the myths we create and live are as real and important as any age-old religion.

I believe that there is truth in every myth, every faith, of some sort: personal truth, emotional truth, spiritual truth, mythic truth – something to be gleaned from every culture and every person’s story. The human experience is fascinating and wonderful even when it is terrible.

Platonic Crush

May 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

Words

choking at my fingertips
my heart thrums them, they flow
through my veins, down my arms
clot together in the crackling ache
of my wrists, and I clench down
on them, refuse to let
them out, they’re
too sentimental, too
full of feeling –

This is the oddest crush I think I’ve ever had.

It’s not quite romantic,
nor quite that rush of hormones and endorphins.
There’s no sexual tension,
and I’m not even sure there’s any desire like that
on my part.

But it’s a crush, nonetheless,
strangely mental –
I once called myself sapiosexual, 
attracted to minds and personalities and people
rather than bodies, but then I made peace
with my distinct preference towards the feminine
and dropped the identification –
but this,
this whatever-it-is,
this feels like that.

Attraction to an energy,
to an intellect,
to a disciplined Will and
a well-ordered mind.

I’ve always been fascinated,
but it’s grown into… this, this biting down on
words of liking, clenching back on
expressions of emotion, because
that’s not how our friendship is.

So I find my feelings leaking out
in hints of caring, disguised with a light tone
that I am both terrified and hopeful
will be recognized.

flayed

May 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

there are times when i feel

raw

flayed, all the skin
stripped from me, leaving
my heart open to
air and dust and
jostling impact

all the muscle pulled away
bones laid bare and
they are not so
supportive then,
without tendons to
hold the joints up

my coverings removed,
this skinsuit, this meat,
dissected until the spirit
is showing, vulnerable,
egg-wet,

until even the lightest touch
of your breath
and your speech
(all of you –
every one)
shakes my core
to trembling

i am cut open
i am peeled flesh and sun-baked skin
and every sound
every touch and every sight
even every thought
sears across
the bared stuff of
my soul

please be quiet

please don’t come near

everything is overwhelming right now,
this is not a plea for comfort,
your attempts at comfort will burn worse,
your very presence hurts –

i need silence
and room
to breathe.

Adolescence

May 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

there is a place in time –
your time, the ribbon of your life –
when it goes multicolored and chaotic
shifting, spinning,
fraying and remaking.

it’s terrible and beautiful,
full of wonder and full of fear,
but most of all,
full of potential.

do not believe them when adults say:
“these are the best years of your life.”
their memories are blurred with nostalgia,
colored by what they see in you:
your passion
your struggle to be free
your struggle to be you.

i remember hating that idea,
that this was as good as it gets –
high school, adolescence,
the shifting currents of identity
of social circles
of mood and thought and belief
the fight to rip loose of
parental bindings and
parental expectations and
the me that others wanted me to be –
because it’s awful.

it’s stress and chaos and pain,
the push-pull of
accept-me but let-me-be
let-me-grow, let-me-become
release me to breathe
but not too much,
needing support and stability more than ever
because nothing is stable inside…

later, not too many years later,
i found my adolescence laid out in bullet points
in the pages of a textbook.

It is not so bad a thing, this shared experience.
It means this: You are not alone.
You do not suffer singly
unless you wall yourself away
and shut yourself inside.

This is real:
your loves and hates, your feuds and friendships,
your hurts and your triumphs.

They’ll try to belittle that, too –
try to say “it’s just a phase,
you’re just a teenager,
you’ll grow out of this or that,
it’s just teenage hormones,
puppy love,
adolescent drama
” –

Don’t listen to them.

This is real.
You are real.
Everything ends,
even this,
but that doesn’t mean it’s worthless
or should be dismissed.

Listen, listen:
you are incredible,
you are iridescence barely contained
and so few of you realize it.

Be angry!
It gives you strength
and often it’s well-deserved.

Be passionate!
You are more powerful than you know
and it’s this tumult of emotion and desire
that fuels your might
and sparks your wonder.

It stabilizes, eventually;
the chaos settles out,
you find a balance
and if you’re very lucky
it’s the one you need.

But first there is the transformation
you are all shapeshifters, half-formed.
This is when you form yourself,
this is when you shape your identity,
this is when you separate, thread by thread,
from the hard-carved grooves of upbringing.

Not everyone makes it.
So many remain trapped
in the patterns of their surroundings –
i’ve seen it, again and again,
where the wounds are cut too deep, too often,
roots bound too tight in shallow earth
to ever expand,
despite the raging
despite the fighting
to be free
to move
to live.

It can take a lifetime
even for the kindest of histories,
but now is when it starts.

Surrounded by Wonder

May 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

My life is full of magic, and too often I forget to notice.

This weekend I drove into the mountains, greeted fellow dreamers, and dressed myself in soft shining coppers and blues, something out of medieval fantasy. Horns on my head, long ears extending from mine; I became someone else, let the passionate emotional direct side of myself out to play, and stepped into another world.

One full weekend. Live-action roleplay at its worst is just play-acting, “let’s pretend” for grown-ups. At its best it is theater, it is magic, it is transformation: I am immersed in another world, everyone playing their part, and I am drowning in the magnification and characterization of an oft-buried aspect of Self. It is magic when I forget myself and become that character so deeply that I feel the rush of adrenaline, I am shaking in the satyr’s rage without meaning to, I am a hurricane of fury and pain barely kept in check. Let go, and be.

Once the weekend was over, my lover and I let our shadows out to play and dance and struggle. Immersed in a different world altogether, inducing fear even though we both know there’s no real risk of harm, fear on the edge of pain that bubbles up into my throat stretched bare by a hand in my hair, the pull burning at my scalp. Trapped there to flutter in panic, pulse like a living thing held in place by a tightening grip that knows exactly how far to go, when to pause, where to stop, how far to push without harm. And this, too, was magic; two shadows consuming and consumed in a dynamic tension.

This weekend, walking as a satyr brimming with emotion, I sat next to someone I’d met only briefly once before a year ago. He was a satyr too, though I don’t think that’s too far from his normal state – Mediterranean ancestry showing in angular features, curly brown hair, faun-dark eyes, mischief in his movements. There was something very familiar about him, and sitting next to him was comfortable, easy. I was just beginning to think of how he seemed so very familiar when he asked me if I, out of character, had been to these places, worked in those parts of town, something – because to him, I too seemed very familiar, like he’d known me for a long time.

Ah, well! Old friends I’ve never met, truly? Again, without calling for it, without wrapping my will around the tangle of lines in my chest and tugging? Magic. Connections never made this lifetime, only rediscovered.

A dragon lives coiled down the hall from me, dark eyes full of old knowledge and old pain. We share a bond older than our bodies and deeper than flesh, myth and memory braided so tight it’s hard to tell which is which. As if it matters…

I was reading through some writings, my perceptions of other people – poetry and rhythm, texture and imagery – and wondering at the amazing intense people in my life. Dragons walking in human skin, barely disguised, boiling with size and heat. Elves and fae, fitting better in their forms but burning there, consuming, spinning spirit fine as mist through their bodies and back out. Animal-folk with the wild deep in their gaze and feral movement, fur and feathers itching muscle.

And all of this could be mere story, mere archetype, simply myth – but there is no mere about it, for even without fact there is Truth here, mythic truth, mythos, and that is what feeds the soul. That is where the magic is, in the stories we tell and live and breathe.

Life Lessons

May 20, 2012 § 2 Comments

1. Becoming Music

I used to listen to music the way most people do: casually, in the background, maybe singing along while driving or doing chores. Sometimes there’s that song that means something to you – it’s attached to a memory, or a feeling, or a person – and you’ll stop and engage with it a bit more deeply; I had those songs, here and there throughout high school, like anyone else.

I have a friend, my brother in spirit and in heart. He boils with intensity and passion and emotion, battle scars on his soul evidence of a tangled past. It consumes him from the inside out, and so he finds time in safe places and safe moments to let it out.

He taught me a new way of listening to music. Of engaging in music, letting the words and notes and sound fill you until it pours out of every part of you. Immersing in a song until it is all that exists.

He didn’t teach me this in so many words, not in a direct way, not even intentionally. But I learned it from him anyway, through watching, and feeling.

I remember sitting on a couch while he pulled up a song to share with me. I don’t remember the song, now; I don’t remember anything that happened before or after. What I remember is this: him, not facing me, his eyes closing – the song pounding, raw lyrics – and the roiling, searing emotion radiating off of him. He sank deep into the music and let it slice into him, open up his insides. The dragon within uncoiled, danced the storm of song, released for a few minutes from the confines of his body. Pulsing searing waves of self, of shadow and pain and brightness and harshness and, all of it, draining out like infection from a lanced wound.

The song ended. I found myself hugging my knees to my chest, curled into a ball against the barrage of sheer feeling. I was both overwhelmed and awed, somehow. I never knew music could be experienced that way, at that level, so completely and intimately.

Now, years later, it is hard for me to listen to music casually. It’s why I enjoy fluffy pop music so much – it’s catchy but it’s not emotive, it’s not something I’m tempted to immerse myself in. I can listen to it in the background. Anything with powerful lyrics, depth of mood, emotional melody – I can’t listen casually to that. I engage it, I let it thrum through my bones and sing to my heart, catch the edges of my spirit aflame.

My favorite songs ignite the entirety of me and send me soaring, unbidden.

 

2. Learning to Dance

I was twenty years old when I danced for the first time.

Oh, I’d moved in a dancing way before – there was the year I played a gypsy at renfaire, and the dance mistress drilled us in bellydance on an outdoor concrete pad beneath a sticky hot June sun – and I’m sure there were times before that, though I can’t remember any.

But I didn’t really dance, not with all of my being, not truly – until I’d passed two decades in this life.

It was my first time at a club, too. On the second night of a mini-conference of sorts for energy workers, vampires, and otherkin, we went to a small cramped goth club… I haven’t seen anything like that night before or since: a crowded floor absolutely full of mythic souls bursting the seams of their earthen bodies, stomping and flowing and twisting, spinning ribbons of energy. Energy work incorporated into dance – ecstatic movement that expressed emotion and spirit – the thrum of music spun by an elven DJ who adapted his playlist deliberately to the energy of the dance floor.

For the first hour – maybe two hours – I simply watched, entranced. Such passion and wonder! I’d never seen anything like it. A part of me longed to participate, to create beauty in magic and movement and music as well, but the self-conscious fear in me held back. I was still all beak and pinfeathers, high-alert bird amidst the crowding.

A fox-person encouraged me, teased me, asked me when I’d go dance. I demurred, and waited several more songs, longing but hesitant.

It’s colder than before
The seasons took all they had come for
Now winter dances here
It seems so fitting don’t you think?
To dress the ground in white and grey…

The first strains of VNV Nation’s Beloved began to play, and many who’d been resting leaped to their feet, called back onto the floor by the music. An intense but gentle angelic, the partner of my university roommate who’d invited me here, moved towards me with the music. He took my hands, beckoning silently, drawing me onto the dance floor and releasing me at its edge.

I must take the plunge alone.

We were once young and blessed with wings
No heights could keep us from their reach
No sacred place we did not soar –

I breathed. Closed my eyes. Let the music flow into me, through me; let my heartbeat match it. Let it pull light and power and flame into my hands, along my body. I stepped forward onto the black-and-white of the dancefloor, dove into the music, and flew.

Grant me wings that I might fly
My restless soul is longing
No pain remains, no feeling
Eternity awaits

I soared. I dipped, and wheeled; I rode the crescendo of the song like thermals. When it ended my whole body was pulsing, I found myself breathless and half-drenched, but the part of me that is hollow-boned and wind-breasted was sated, calmed, content.

That is how I dance, now. Not in any proscribed motion, not for form, not for beauty. I dance for catharsis, for release. I dance to trance, to shapeshift, to weave energy and emotion about me in a scintillating display for those who know how to see.

 

3. Learning to Taste

My relationship with what I consume has been erratic over the years. Often, food has been a necessary evil: refuel my body like pumping gas into a car, mechanically, because without it I tremble and sweat, and blackness consumes the edges of my vision. I’d try new and interesting sorts of food, just to say I had; and there were things I enjoyed, but rarely did I taste my food in any depth. I wolfed it down, cleared my plate, and then got back to productivity.

My lover grew up in New Orleans, that wet colorful city with its mixed heritage and chaos of sound and scent and people. He tells me there is a powerful tradition of food in New Orleans – hundreds of restaurants and food stands and shops. You connect with people over a shared meal; it’s a social bonding agent.

He has a brilliant passion for food. Tasting, consuming, cooking, exploring. He takes a bite, enjoys it, examines it; talks excitedly about its preparation, the spices within, the loveliness of its execution, its texture, its flavor profile. He tries to figure out how it was done, and sometimes he later attempts to create something inspired by what he’s tasted.

I began to do the same. I’m no cook, though perhaps someday I may try again; but I am learning to taste, rather than just eat. To be more mindful of what I put into my body, to experience each bite.

It’s an oddly synesthetic experience. Each component, each oil and spice and the preparation and the core ingredients – all of it – has a pitch, to my senses. A note. When my elf-lover asks me what I think of a dish he’s preparing, what do I think it needs – I struggle to translate.

“It’s all high pitched, upper register, sharp,” I said once. “It needs – I don’t know – a counternote – something balancing, lower-pitch…” Grasping for something practical. “A more earthy tone?” He understood then, tossed in some bay leaves and some pepper, and suddenly there was harmony.

It’s a fascinating experience. This dish here is the melody, and the bread on the side is the bass line, and the vegetables are the counterpoint. A meal becomes a symphony… and you wouldn’t give a live musical performance you’d paid to attend half an ear, would you?

I’ve found, too, that when I truly taste my food, I need less of it. I listen to my body’s responses, and stop when I’m full. I crave less sugars and fatty salts, because I’m able to detect and enjoy subtler tastes of more wholesome food. I eat more slowly, more mindfully; I engage in the full sensory experience, and it fills my heart and head along with my belly.

Where Am I?

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