August 24, 2016 § Leave a comment
Written because Jess asked me for a story about a fox and an apple tree that won’t bloom.
Once there was an apple tree on a grassy hill, and as far as the eye could see were waves and waves of long golden grass like a great windblown sea, dotted occasionally with graygreen sagebrush. And this was great for hunting rabbits or prairie dogs or mice or pheasant, so it was paradise to the fox with the greygold coat who arrived on black stockinged paws to the wide sky-crowned plains.
The fox crept through the grass, ate well on too slow mice and an occasional vole and sometimes a rabbit or hare. And as the season wore on and the plains turned to all shades of ochre, the fox knew it needed a home to hide and stay in before the winter snows arrived. So the fox found a hill with the only tree visible as far as the eye can see, a gnarled apple tree with low crooked branches as is often the way of apple trees.
The fox thought, “ah! This is perfect! Apples will draw all kinds of tasty creatures, and sometimes I like a bite of fruit too. The tree will shelter me from the storms and the roots will support my den and protect it from caving in.”
So the fox began digging and digging and digging with its sharp clever paws and pointed black tipped snout rooting around in the earth.
But the tree was already asleep although its leaves had only just begun to flame with autumn colors. So the crooked apple tree simply dreamt a quiet dream of scratching fox paws and a wet cool nose against its roots, of soft fur and a hollow place where solid earth used to be, of cradling rather than being cradled as it was used to. The tree’s fading crisping leaves whispered with its sigh, though no one would be able to say if it was the kind of sigh that comes with furrowed brows and discomfort or concern, or if it was the kind of sigh that comes with a settling into comfort and satisfaction.
Winter came with its cold winds and blowing snow. The fox huddled in its cozy new den lined with fur and sage and prairie grass, cradled by loam and apple roots. The fox hunted across the fresh snow blanket, listening with pricked ears and tilted head for the quiet scratching sounds of mice tunneling beneath the white, pouncing with its tail streaming behind like the streaks of golden sun at the gray stormy dusk.
Spring dawned slowly, the sun thawing the ground into slick mud and soft loam. The prairie awakened into pale green grasses tipped with white so that the wind rippling the plains looked even more like a foaming sea. The crooked apple tree stretched to the crisp blur of the sky and yawned its creaking-branch yawn and sprouted tight-curled green shoots of leaves and new twigs growing slow.
And the fox leapt about with pent up energy. Soon there would be treasures of pheasant eggs and barely-furred rabbit kits if only its clever nose could sniff them out. The fox had grown lean of body but lush of coat in the winter cold and now it was time to eat eat eat until it regained muscle and fat and glossiness. Spring! Spring! Spring!
“Oh,” groaned the tree in sluggish waking startlement. “Oh who are you who has dug a hollow beneath my rootbones where solid earth once supported me? Who are you who yips and scratches and snores against my hidden skin?”
The fox paused, because it had never been talked to by a tree before. The trees of the wood it came from were busy talking leafy gossip to one another, or the aspens who lived as one connected root system and sang deep harmonies among their roots and melodies in their tinkling gold-coin leaves.
“I am Fox,” it said, “sharp of ear and quick of paw, pouncer and leaper in the snow and grass.”
“Leaping Fox,” creaked the apple tree, “why do you disturb my roots?”
“I needed a home and you are the only tree as far as my sharp eyes can see. Trees are excellent for burrow dens. And the birds and rabbits and mice will come eat your apples, and maybe I will too, and it will be excellent easy hunting.”
The tree shuddered against the sudden stillness of the air. “Pouncing Fox,” it said, “do you see any sprouts from appleseed children, or nest-remains in my branches? I do not flower and therefore I do not fruit. I am barren and if you stay here you will be barren too. Nothing feeds or shelters with me. None disturb my dark places, except apparently sharp-nosed foxes.”
The fox thought about this. “Still,” it said, “the grasses are rich in meat and only the coyotes and sky-hunters compete with me for it. You are the only tree around and you are excellent shelter. I suppose the lack of apples isn’t too terrible.”
“No, Quick of Paw,” said the tree. “I do not want hollows in my roots or chatter on my hill. Go somewhere else.”
“But I have made my home here already, and you are alone. I am good company, I sing well and have soft fur and bright amber eyes.”
“A tree is no company for a fox,” groaned the tree, “and there are no other foxes here. You will become lonely and leave, for I am a crooked barren apple tree who bears no apples.”
The fox was confused and also annoyed at this point. That den took a lot of work to dig and this place was an excellent spot. Also the tree was talking nonsense. “You are still a perfectly good tree, smelling of apples in your wood, providing storm shelter with your trunk and gnarled limbs, and your roots are very strong and deep. Besides, if I get lonely I can find another fox and bring them here and then the hill will be merry with singing and there will be playful kits and we will dance beneath the stars and your branches.”
The tree shook and protested a third time. “A fox is no company for a tree, and there are no other trees here. You cannot break my loneliness with your dancing and red yowling, only disturb my rest and remind me that I am alone. Then my heartwood will break and my roots will rot and you will be disappointed or harmed or devoid of shelter.”
The fox circled around the tree and circled around its own tail. It looked up at the crescent moon and down at the greening grass. It listened to the creaking branches and sniffed at the messages the wind brought. It thought very hard, which foxes are not good at doing because they are impulsive creatures of feeling and action and in-the-moment cleverness, not of planning and contemplating. That sort of thing is more for wolves and grasscats, you see, who are rather less successful than foxes overall.
“You want me to leave,” the fox said slowly, ears laying back. “You want to be left alone. You do not like fox songs and moon dances and soft fur in your roots. You would rather the distant chime of stars and whisper of grass and nothing warmer or closer, and certainly nothing nestled into your roots.”
The tree was silent for a long long time, until the fox began to think it had imagined the tree ever talking at all; after all, trees normally only talk to other trees, and sometimes to birds and worms and bees. And the occasional ivy or fungus, to scold it.
“I… might like fox songs and moon dances, eventually. I might like soft fur in my roots. I would not like an empty hollow that you dug so inconsiderately; I went to sleep with solid earth beneath me and awoke with a hole filled with a fox. If you leave or die, it will be an empty hole and I can’t move to fill it in. There is little else that lives on the hill to replace a soft furred fox, and an empty hole in my roots is a terrible gaping weakness.”
“Ah,” said the fox, beginning to understand. “I see. Foxes live ever so less long than trees who live for many lifetimes, and sometimes we are impulsive and follow the moonsong to new places and different homes. And you are a tree who cannot follow wind or moon.”
“And I do not flower nor do I bear fruit. I am visited by neither bee nor butterfly to bring me whispers from other trees beyond the sight of the hill. Nothing would come to replace a fox who reminds me how alone I am by tricking me into conversation and companionship.”
The fox thought a while longer (and remember that this is very hard for foxes). It really liked its den on the hill in the rich greengold plains with a single tree for shelter and shade. It rather liked the lonely gnarled apple tree, even if it didn’t bear fruit or flower, and really that was a blessing for a fox den as fewer prey nests meant fewer bigger predators and less to eat the kits.
“I will travel to find a fox friend who will dance the leaping fox dance with me and sing the song of stars and amber moon. I will return and we will make sure the hollow beneath your roots will always be full of warm soft fur. Sometimes there will be no kits and we will both be hunting and the hollow will be empty for a time but then we will return and fill it again. And you will shelter us with strong crooked branches and deep holding roots.”
So the tree agreed, and the fox went away under a path of silver moonlight and windswept grasses until it was swallowed up by the prairie sea and the rolling distance. And as the tree waited, it was keenly aware of the hollow in its roots where once cold solid earth had been. And it missed the warm fullness of soft graygold fur and a sharp black nose. It felt lonelier than it ever had before because now it knew the emptiness of dark earth and a claw-carved hollow that once held a fox. And the tree became sad and scared and angry all at once. It never asked for an amber eyed Leaper to dig out a place in its deep solid roots. It is a barren apple tree who not even the bees visit and it had lived just fine like that for many years. What right had the fox?
But it missed the fox, and its branches creaked angrily about that too even as its leaves rustled with sadness. It never got to see the moondance or hear the yipping fox song. And the cold constancy of star chimes and grass whistle was not the same comfort anymore.
What if the fox never returned and never meant to return? What if the fox didn’t find a foxfriend to bring home, or the other fox convinced Sharp Ears to stay with them? What if another apple tree flowered and bore bright sweet red fruit and made a more appealing den?
The tree was alone and the loneliness was far more unbearable than before.
Or what if the fox died a short sharp fox death out in the wide world beyond the sight of the hill? There are grasscats and hunting hounds and wolves out there after all, and foxes are impulsive things.
What if the fox forgot the tree?
What if, what if.
The summer heat unfurled the tree’s leaves and singed their edges, because there was no company of trees to share shelter. The summer sun turned the greenwhite grass to amber like the fox’s bright eyes, and still no fox arrived.
A family of rabbits moved into the hollow, and their fearful pitterpat hearts and stamping feet were a different company than the fox. But at least the hollow had warmth and fur, even if the rabbits gnawed with their sharp hard teeth on the tree’s deep roots, and licked the sap that bled, and let the insects burrow into the wound.
Maybe there are many hills with a single barren tree atop them, aching with the hollow in its roots.
On one hill, the rabbit warren grows and grows and they dig a hundred hollows beneath the roots and chew the taproot for its bark and sap and the tree has no more nutrients to reach and cannot support such hollows though it tries, for at least the furry bodies are warm and fill the hollows they dig… but there is not enough solid earth and it collapses as its heartwood rots.
Or a small child comes with snares, or a coyote pack with hunting jaws.
On one hill the rabbits are killed and eaten, or they move on when they realize the tree will not give them apples to munch on, and the hollow remains but bigger and with some wounded roots, and the tree heals, and someday the hollow collapses and the tree is rooted enough to withstand it, and the fox never returns.
One hill’s fox is eaten, and one hill’s fox is tempted away. One hill’s fox is trapped, and another loses its way.
But on this hill, the hill of our story, our gnarled apple tree waits and bears the pain of rabbit warmth until one day, as summer gold cools into fall ochres, there is a flash of red fur and a flash of grey gold amidst the sagebrush and plains grass.
There is a Pouncing and a Leaping. There are rabbit screams and blood on the hill. There is contented munching and black stockinged paws scratching to reassert the den to its proper foxy hollow.
And there are generations of foxes forevermore to fill the hollow with warm fur and pointed black noses. And the tree is never alone for very long again.
May 30, 2013 § 1 Comment
If you fall in love with a wild thing, do not profess your affection with noise and flashy colors. She will startle and flee in an instant.
You must be patient and gentle. Do not lay traps; you may capture her presence, but possession is not love, and you will not truly hold her heart or spirit. Snares, collars, and cages only distress and injure.
Patience and stillness, consistency and awareness. If you approach, she will back away. If you leave, she is unlikely to follow. Instead, sit in the meadow and meditate in silence, or speak softly of the stories you know, or sing your heart’s song.
Entice. Be interesting, yet not too threatening. If a wild thing’s curiosity grows more insistent than her caution, she will approach. Pretend not to notice, and she may gain confidence and circle closer, until you feel a soft scenting breath on your neck.
She may draw near and dart away at the last minute. Yet if you are patient and intriguing, she will come by again and again, lingering longer each time.
Then, perhaps, she will love you too. Yet she is still a wild thing, and her trust is as wary as her heart. Strike her, yell, or run away, and you will have to start over from the beginning, but it will be harder and slower for your betrayal.
There are other ways to court a wild thing, of course. They (we) aren’t all alike, after all. It is this:
Become a wild thing yourself.
Perhaps you are half wild already. Yet we all have wildness within us, hidden in the marrow of our bones and in the deepest shadows of our psyches. There is primality in the hindparts of our brains, in the reactivity of the limbic system. Even the most domestic of dogs remembers the wolf lying deep within the spiral dance of his genes.
If you fear and deny your own wildness, how can you accept and love the wildness in another without seeking to capture it and break it and tame it?
Touch the primal place within. Greet your wildness with savage joy. Become feral, and meet the wild thing you love as an equal. Meet as two feral hearts at the edge of a tame land, kindred spirits in the timeless dance of challenge and chase, hunt and quarry, courtship with claws and teeth.
Love your own wildness, and the wild things might draw near to court you.
May 30, 2013 § 1 Comment
When I speak of hawk, I speak of Buteo lagopus, rough-legged hawk in North America, rough-legged buzzard everywhere else. I do not speak of the true hawks, accipitrinae, goshawks and sparrowhawks and such, bigger and rounder than falcons but still sharp-edged. I speak instead of buteo: heavy-bodied, opportunistic hunters, not too proud to scavenge; broad-winged soaring birds.
There are far more tales of falcons than of hawks, and often people mistake the two. Horus is a falcon, not a hawk, and certainly not a buzzard; Freyja is falcon-cloaked, not hawk-cloaked; and so on. Finding legends and myths of hawk as hawk – not falcon mistaken for hawk, or conflated with hawk – is nigh impossible. Searching for totemic interpretations of hawk just brings up “messenger, protector, visionary” over and over, and a lot of writing about red-tailed hawks.
How to discover myth within rough-legged hawk? I could begin with a list of facts: northern bird, rodent-hunter who won’t pass up carrion, feathered all the way down to its talons. Buteo lagopus will hover over open ground, looking for prey; it’s one way to tell it apart from other hawks. It nests in cliffs and Arctic treelines; it hunts in tundra and prairie from the air or from a perch. It builds its nests from sticks but sometimes even from caribou bones.
It’s a poor start, little more than bones and air. It’s difficult to extract symbolism from something that is so tactile, so present, so here-and-now. Hawk is the hollowing of my palate into a beak; hawk is the cramping of arms into wings; hawk is prickling feathers beneath my skin; hawk is high-alert, sensitivity to environmental stimuli, birdpanic; hawk is the sense of the eternal now, present-moment without real awareness of future days or past weeks. Hawk is an ever-present experience. How do I view it as myth and archetype when I can’t even find cultural myths to guide my sensing?
I’ll start with symbols. Associations.
Rough-legged hawk is not air so much as wind, spring wind and north wind; it is the rustle of high-plains grasses. It is a sun-bird, too, but not the hot southern summer sun of Vulture, nor the fierce pounding warrior-sun of Falcon. Rough-Legged Hawk is a colder star, arctic sun over tundra and winter prairie, warm enough to ease the chill of winter, bright enough to illuminate mouse-skitter and hare-movement.
Rough-Legged is a creature of borders, nesting where cliff and tundra meet, prairie and treeline. Hunter and scavenger both. Rough-Legged Hawk feels like early spring, late fall, the edges of winter – as contrasted with Red-Tailed Hawk, which I always associate with warmer times: late spring, summer, early fall, the warm summer sun; more direct. Rough-Legged Hawk is a bird of in-between times and places, transitional.
If I were to make my own stories of Rough-Legged Hawk, I’d write how he came by his colors. His chest feathers are like an impressionist’s watercolor painting, as if Monet dabbed his brush on the rough-legged’s breast. Or like snow on frozen high-plains earth. That’s what strikes me each time I see one up close, at the local bird rescue, or in pictures; rarely in the wild, so near the bottom of its winter range. Did the snow fall on her as she nested, and she refused to move, and the winter left a smattering of white across her head and chest? Was he too foolish to find shelter in a storm, or too stubborn? Did the spirit that painted the animals run out of paint when it got to Rough-Legged Hawk and have to spread it out as best it could?
How and why does he hover, when so few birds his size know how? Did he learn it? Rough-Legged Hawk isn’t so clever to steal the knowledge from others, like Crow or Raven might have done. But perhaps he scavenged it somewhere, if another bird or insect were so careless as to leave the trick of it lying about.
Hawk has taught me mindfulness, living in the here-and-now, present-moment. To really see, not just move from point A to point B without noticing my surroundings. To sit apart and watch, observe, focused and quiet. Open awareness, unblinking hawk-gaze.
For me, Rough-Legged Hawk in particular is about flexibility, practicality. He is not so consummately opportunistic as Grackle or Crow; there is a consistent core of constancy about Rough-Legged. But he is flexible within that core, not passing up elk bones when looking for nest material, not passing up carrion when looking for food. No use in being rigid, but remain true to what you are.
Simplicity. Too often I make things more complicated than they really need to be. Things are simpler for hawk: soar, nest, hunt, perch. Human-anxiety is a thing of words and worry, of racing thoughts, too much stuff, too many concerns. Birdpanic is a thing of too much stimulus, overwhelmed by the over-abundance of noise/sights/activity in an oft-human environment, my mind gone wordless, thinking reduced to pure sensory input. There is a distinct difference between these two types of anxiety for me, and I experience both. When I am human-anxious, it helps to become more hawk: simple, focused on the now, tactile, experiential; soaring, perching, feel the wind in my feathers. When I am in birdpanic, it helps to become more human, focus on human-thoughts and human-skin to shift away from sensory bird-mind; and it helps to indulge hawk-need, to remove myself from all the noise and bustle of a crowded place, get into open air where I can see sky; breathe. Both approaches involve simplifying – simplifying my thoughts, narrowing my focus, reducing the complexity of the situation.
Transitions, borders, the in-between. Nest in one environment, hunt in another. Migrate. Movement within a range. There are things that are Hawk in general and there are things that are Rough-Legged Hawk specifically; being a border-dweller is one of the latter.
Perhaps I’ve been more connected to Rough-Legged Hawk as symbol, myth, and spirit than I ever realized.
- Sohl, Terry L. “Rough-legged Hawk – Buteo Lagopus.” South Dakota Birds and Birding. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. <http://www.sdakotabirds.com/species/rough_legged_hawk_info.htm>.
- “Rough-legged Hawk, Life History, All About Birds – Cornell Lab of Ornithology.” All About Birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Web. 05 Apr. 2011. <http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Rough-legged_Hawk/lifehistory>.
May 30, 2013 § Leave a comment
I’ve written on what phoenix means to me, and what it means (for me) to be phoenix. I’ve talked about how it manifests in my spirit and mind, the traits within me that I attribute to “phoenix”. I’ve written a great deal on expressing hawkness, on maintaining a necessary balance between hawk and humanity. But what about expressing phoenix?
First, you must understand that – for me at least – phoenix is intensely abstract, all myth and poetry and spirit where hawk is tactile and neurons and heartbeat. It is not something I need to manifest on a physical level, not like muscle and strength and short-cropped featherhair with hawk.
Yet it manifests all the same, merely in subtler ways. In social interactions, falling into the role of mediator, networker, connector, translator of differing communication styles: diplomat. Phoenix expresses when I bring people together, introducing kindred spirits, or when I make a new connection.
It is in the way I greet the sun when I step outside, tilting my face to the warmth and heat and light, drinking it in. Far more than fire, phoenix is a solar bird.
I express phoenix through ritual work. If I go too long heavily shielded and grounded and guarded, bindings upon my spirit and self, shut off to the subtle realm, phoenix suffers – trapped, chained to earth, unfueled. I have done this before, three years of locked-down isolation of my own making, bound in stress and fears of falling into delusion. It did me far more harm than good, a slow suffocation. Beginning ceremonial magic, structured though it may have been, felt like freedom.
The visualization I was taught for the LBRP (Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentragram) involved imagining oneself growing taller and taller, feet rooted to the earth, crown reaching to the light at the center of the universe, lengthening towards it with each measured four-fold breath. I still use that visualization sometimes, but far less laborious and more effective for me is this: sinking into my Tiferet center and launching upwards from there as phoenix, all movement and soaring joy. The first time I did this was sheer ecstasy, flight after so long grounded, freedom to stretch, to move. I/phoenix spiraled up through space and stars to that central light, dove into it, bathed in it, burned with it, dipping and wheeling to catch brightness into feathers and beak and talons. Then a dive back down, down, a burst of divine light at Keter (“ateh…”), streaking brilliance through my body, down to Malkuth and bringing the light of the universe into the earth itself.
Ve-geburah, ve-gedulah, balance points, sitting wholly in my body, ablaze with light and will, connected with the Higher Self that I perceive as phoenix. Le-olahm. Amen.
Phoenix manifests in ritual and magic, though not always the same way each time. I can be a roaring fire, transforming energy into clean fuel, a veritable batter. This is ecstatic, a trance of connection and output, raising power, firebird passion. Or I can be still and controlled, intensely focused, heron-shaped, bennu or feng-huang in an edged Will.
There are physical expressions, too, though far fewer than with hawk. Phoenix is in the hennaed redness of my hair. When I take meticulous care in the grooming of my appearance, this is a little bit phoenix for me, odd as it may seem. Sometimes I dance phoenix like I dance hawk, ecstatic trance to music.
I want to learn fireplay, and firestaff. I want to dance with heat, and I want to light people aflame. I know someone local from whom I can take a fireplay class; it’s on my list of things to learn. Firestaff might be trickier.
Thus I express phoenix and manifest it in my life. Through the social dance and in physical dance. Through ritual and magic. Through precision and passion, hair and style, reverence for the sun, and perhaps someday soon an intimacy with flame.
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.
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.
November 24, 2011 § 1 Comment
Written in September 2011.
Listen close, my dear
and I will sing you a map of the world:
of living, of dreaming and dying,
with Here Be Dragons in bits of sea
and blank places about the edges
for you to fill in yourself.
Here are the tales of old:
Heracles and the Nemean lion,
Cúchulainn and the Morrigan,
Freya and her necklace,
Raven and the sun,
Amaterasu hiding in a cave –
of course they’re real, child,
as real as you and me
as real as yesterday
as real as glass, or time, or wind.
I’m telling you a map of the world,
and it’s not a thing of ink and parchment
(though I could draw it there
in words and wonder, if you like,
but it would take a thousand libraries
to tell it all)
nor a thing of equations and formulas
but rather a thing of stories
legends, myths. . .
There are new stories, too,
bits of this map redrawn and retold;
and sometimes, very rarely,
in treasured corners, added anew.
You’ll find them in books newly published,
and in amateur scribbles on the internet,
and drawn in comics,
and written on restaurant napkins:
these are modern myths,
news or fantasy or memoir,
all valuable lines on the map of the world –
yes, even the shallow novels
with lurid garish colors that we call
tripe and fluff, and scorn as fodder
for lazy minds and dim spirits,
because even trash romances
are lipstick-smeared maps of someone’s desires,
someone’s secret shadows.
Scorn no tale,
even if it seems shallow,
even if it is hard to hear,
even if it disgusts you,
even if it enrages you.
People will say that we tell stories for survival
because it binds a community together
passes along information
little red riding hood
nearly eaten by a wolf
and so: don’t talk to strangers in the wood.
stories around a fire
mythologizing the hunt
told for generations
so that all remember
how best to procure meat
Stories for survival
and that is why we have legends
and need to retell them.
All of these things are true –
their tale of the origin of stories
is just as real
as the ones I speak of now.
Our lives are composed of myth
sung in the stories we share
the dramas we make of the little things of each day.
I can tell you my story,
and this map I’m drawing is part of that.
You can tell me your story, then,
and we will see where our maps join,
how they overlap,
maybe fill in some of the gaps
(but leave the dragons alone
they’re real, and true;
let’s not draw over them)
and then find other tales
map a little of the alien shore of another mind
for nothing is as infinite
as the landscape
of the heart.