Friday, August 31, 2007

finished chapter three

there's nothing sweeter than the sound of a final draft printing. thirty pages revised... two hundred and sixty five to go.

What Tarot Card are YOU?

scroll down to find out. i lifted this link off a very nice lady's blog.... hope you enjoy!

got VIBE?

i VIBED* yesterday.

i also blew bubbles, lay in the sun, had a chair massage, bought some echinaecea and ginger tonic to boost my immune system, took a long salt bath and a mud mask courtesy of my dear friend, rose, who is kind enough to read and comment on this site :)! (rose - i love your mud mask/face wash stuff. it leaves my skin feeling very soft and not stripped.)

i picked up raine eisler's book, the REAL wealth of nations, but didn't make it any further than the introduction before the heat and the whisper of the breeze in the trees conspired to lure me further into dreamland than i had really intended to go.

i ate some good stuff - like this wonderful almond milk, almond butter, frozen peach smoothie and three bottles of acasia juice - and some not so good stuff - like potato chips and shortbread cookies with my coffee. i justify the not-so-good stuff by figuring that if this happened to be my last day on earth, would i want to have eaten the chips? since the answer is always damn straight, i can pretty much justify eating anything i want. (fortunately i seem to expend a lot of energy doing other things.)

it was such a delicious, decadent day, and i let myself savor every minute of it. if it had turned out to be my last day on earth, it surely was a good one. so let me leave you with this today... if yesterday were your last day on earth... what did you do, and what do you wish you had done?

*VIBE'ing is a form of energy healing.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

progress on jack

two chapters are finished... i'm up to the first paragraph of chapter three. this is another major revision scene, which requires me to weave pieces from a previous chapter in with new stuff, while deleting probably two thirds of the existing scene. but enough for today... i leave jack staring at a rain-coat clad waif in a white raincoat while all around him, a vampire party dissolves into a drug bust....

you can't take care of anyone...

until you take care of yourself.

last night my youngest, libby had to write her first essay for high school. she was given a four or five paragraph excerpt and asked to write a response. in it, a father exorts his daughter to "make herself the center of her own story" and then holds up for her, as an example of someone who did just that - che gueverra (sp?).

i'm not quite sure what resonated for my daughter, but the character's words certainly resonated with me. they sounded, at least last night, suspiciously like the words my own father said to me when i was going through the darkest days of my agonizing divorce. i wanted to do what was best for my children, but i needed to make decisions - such as whether or not to come to connecticut and graduate school - that would profoundly affect them. i remember i was discussing my options with my daddy, and he said something so True, the words seemed to sear themselves into my soul.

honey, he said, you can't take care of anyone until you take care of yourself. with that single sentence, my father snapped my whole confused world view into focus. i wish he hadn't waited until i was 35 to say it, but maybe he DID say it before then, and i just wasn't ready to Hear.

and so today, i'm taking today for ME. i had lunch with my dear friend, laura, yesterday and i will have tea with another dear friend today. i will lie outside and blow bubbles and i will watch the breeze in the trees and i will listen to the hum of the crickets and the frogs. i will whistle back at the birds, and watch my puppies roll around in the grass. i will wallow in my time with jack.

and i won't go to see my grandmother today - not once!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

jack's back

...and he feels good.

he wouldn't let me blog this am though.... he kept distracting me, whispering to me, demanding my attention. i don't know if other writers experience this - the siren seduction of a truly insistent character. not all characters are like this, you see.

some demand to be wooed. some require cajoling and some must be made to try on all sorts of abuse before something touches the place that makes the character sing. some must be conjured, and some step out of the grayish mists i think of as "central casting" fully enfleshed and real.

uwen in silver's edge was like that. he leapt off his horse and into the story with his crooked grin, his arms spread wide, his sparse red-hair scraped back off his face. "i'm uwen," he announced, and there he was. he was so Real, i realized he deserved to be a Hero.

jack, on the other hand, doesn't know he's a Hero. jack doesn't know a lot of things about himself and that is what makes him so fascinating to write, i think. even i don't know what he's up to next. the first scene is finished... or at least, as finished as it's going to be. i'll keep you posted... ten pages down, 285 more to go :).

Monday, August 27, 2007

standing at the crossroads

a full moon and an eclipse last night puts me in mind of hecate, goddess of witches, crossroads, and garbage. she is traditionally celebrated after the first harvest festivals because her preferred offerings are compostable trash. she is the Original Recycler, the one who turns old stuff into something new.

tomorrow my youngest daughter begins high school. tomorrow my oldest daughter will be seven weeks away from her due date. tomorrow i will begin the third draft of my new novel. today i will work on the white wooden chairs i brought from my grandmother's kitchen.

my dear husband was appalled i wanted to bring them, let alone do anything with them. they were filthy, covered in the same greasy pall that layers all my grandmother's things. "they're garbage," he said. "don't even bring them in the house... leave them in the garage with the trash."

i sanded and scraped them yesterday, sheering away years of paint, layers of grime and dust and history, imagining as i did that i was also dissolving years of anger and acrimony in the scream of my sander. i forgot to wear a mask - which was dumb because the paint was old and most likely full of lead. i saw colors i didn't expect to see - dark blue, bright red, leaden green, startling sunflower yellow.

today i will put a new coat of paint on them, a very pale green to match the little table i painted and stenciled for my grandmother's new place. i might even stencil a strip of blue checkerboard across the backs so that they match the design on the table.

today i will dedicate my work to hecate, goddess of the liminal times and places, where things are not quite one thing, and not quite yet another, of endings and beginnings, of twilight and of dawn. tomorrrow i will begin to refinish a dresser, a mirror and chest of drawers for my first grandchild. i will take the "new" table and chairs to my grandmother, and i will thank and bless the Goddess for this most amazing view.

great aunt kate

we never called her kate.

to my grandmother, she was kitty. to my mother, and thus to me and my brothers and sister, she was aunt katherine. if my grandmother is the family's little black rain cloud, aunt katherine was its sunny day.

everyone loved her, simply because she greeted the world with a smile. she always had a joke, a question, a funny story. she died at 91, after having sold her home of many years and gone into an assisted living place (nowhere near as nice, according to my mother, as the place my grandmother's in.) even so, the church was filled at her funeral, with neighbors and friends and friends of her only son, johnny, who unfortunately inherited not only his mother's merry heart, but a propensity to drink, from my uncle's side of the family (of course), as well.

he died a couple years before aunt katherine, and in a way it was a blessing, because to say she didn't have an easy time of it with him is an understatement in deference to the dead. she didn't have an easy life in general - my uncle jack was sick for a long time with various chronic illnesses that required her to spend a lot of time looking after him. (actually we used to joke about uncle jack that he was like a timex watch or the energizer bunny because it seemed like everything that could possibly go wrong in a human body had gone wrong in his, and he kept on going.)

she never had a title or a profession beyond secretary, den mother or housewife, but she is indisputably one of the brightest lights in my memory. to this day, my mother tells me how she misses aunt katherine telling her she loved her, and i know why. because when aunt katherine said she loved you, you didn't just hear the words, you felt them too... a great surge of pink perfumed cashmere, that wrapped around you like a hug, and left you feeling warm and full. she is one of the few i think of when i hear the words "great lady." She was great not because she was rich or powerful, but because she was kind, generous and accepting. of all the old women i have had held up to me as role models, aunt katherine is one of the few who ever made me want to be as good as she seemed to think i was.

she is also one of the few who ever showed any kind of awareness regarding my grandmother and her behavior. in her last years, she told my mother that she realized that the family had not handled my grandmother well at all - that a belief that they needed to coddle to her to make up for her lack of a husband had somehow turned her into the pretty awful person that she can be. when my mother told me aunt katherine had admitted that, i was not only stunned, but for the first time felt validated in my own belief that my grandmother's behavior was part of a systemic issue that ran through the family like a vein of arsenic, poisoning the family tree. my mother seemed to believe that my grandmother was just this evil person in the middle of an otherwise healthy loving group of individuals, the one worm-ridden rotten apple in the basket of otherwise beautiful fruit. but i knew that couldn't be so. aunt katherine gave me the lense, finally, through which to look back at the forces that shaped my grandmother.

one of the last times i saw her was at my fortieth birthday. her husband, uncle jack, had died a few years before, and aunt katherine was in her eighties, but she was still volunteering at Chestnut Hill Hospital outside philadelphia a couple days a week. she told me how a doctor had approached her, and had asked her, rather sheepishly, if she was dating "yet." when aunt katherine protested that she was an old lady and was not expecting to date, ever, the doctor blushed like a teenager and said, "but mrs. rosa, i'd love to take you to coffee or dinner if you'd let me."

"so what do you think of that," she asked me. "can you imagine some old coot asking me out, looking at me like i was a piece of spring chicken!"

"well, aunt katherine," i remember replying. "you may not be a spring chicken, but on my fortieth birthday, i sure am glad to hear how i come from a long line of hot old babes!"

Sunday, August 26, 2007

on kindness

when i found a thread about kindness on a RTA list im on ... (reply to all list for the uninititated) it really struck a chord with me. yesterday we moved my grandmother's stuff from her house at the shore. i drove down on friday and yesterday, my four boys - my husband, my son, my stepson and my son in law) worked harder than anyone ever should have to on a SATURDAY when the august heat and humidity are in the 90 degree range. the furniture was old and heavy and solid - two of them were needed just to carry the armchairs down the steps. did i neglect to mention anywhere that my grandmother lived on the second floor of her house? there's two flights of steps.... both steep; one so rickety, it's falling apart, and the other dark and covered in greasy dark gray carpet that got laid around the same time as mae west. and i guess the reason the thread struck such a chord with me was because when it was all done and everything was moved.... my grandmother said not one word of thanks. to anyone. for anything.

yes, the adjustment's hard, and yes, the decision isn't easy to live with. yes, she misses her home and her place in the world. but the sad fact of life is that things frequently don't work out the way we want them to, or don't even start off the way we'd like, and it's not what happens to us in the world that matters, but how we rise to meet whatever comes our way.

and when it comes down to it, you can be open and anticipating and thankful, kinda like a child on christmas morning, or you can be grouchy and closed and resistant and angry and you can totally neglect to see the miracles unfolding all around you in each and every instant.

what i saw yesterday was a family come together - of all different shapes and sizes and stages. i saw men and women work together cooperatively, i saw grace and strength and endurance. i saw kindness and i saw love. and i saw an old lady lying in the middle of this big, laughing, loving, expanding (have i mentioned my oldest daughter's seven and half months pregnant?) family seeing nothing but misery and something that was not what she wanted.

i will go back today, to clean and sort and set up, to create an atmosphere of love and kindness, and i will meet my grandmother's anger, my grandmother's misery, with tolerance, with grace and with equanimity. at winter solistice, last year, i told the Great Mother i was ready for any test, for any challenge She might choose to send my way. i told Her that i since i was confident that She would provide all that i would need to bear whatever burden with which She might bless me, i accepted whatever She might send.

my last morning in the house, i blessed and smudged the place and asked, among other things, for a Sign. i need to know, i wept, to my ancestors, that you bless my actions, that i am doing the Right Thing, because this is not what i ever wanted. i wasn't too specific, which is not actually a good thing when it comes to asking for a Sign, since Universal Energy perversely seems to function best when you give it focus and direction, but i was upset and just sort of blabbered on about how i wanted to know if the path i was following was correct. mostly i think i wanted reassurance that the house would sell quickly, so i would not continue to be financially burdened while taking care of my grandmother.

and when i came home at last, last night, i found a message on my answering machine, from a party interested in buying the house, who got my number, from of all people, my grandmother's home health aide, Giftie from Ghana. i don't know if he will ultimately be the person who buys the house, but it DID give me reassurance that im on the right path, and i DID get right on the phone with Dan the Real Estate Man, who told me there'd been a lot of interest in the place, and in fact, he had a showing in the next week or so, but was holding off until he heard from me. (hah - i was waiting to hear from HIM).

see, i don't think the Ways of the Universe are mysterious at all. i think the way we treat people is what comes back to us. i think if each of us simply treated everyone we meeted every single day the way we wished to be treated, with kindness and empathy, this world would be transformed. it is when we give to people we get back. my grandmother in her misery does not see that for me, she represents my greatest challenge to date in treating someone how i wish to be treated, and not how i'd like to treat them.

because please, let no reader have any doubt. i would happily abandon my grandmother. i don't like her. she has no more interest in who i am as a person than she has in a random stray kitten in the alley. she is infantile, manipulative, sneaky, paranoid, stingy and racist. i hate the way she has treated my mother and my stepfather. i hate the way she favors me over every other famiy member. i do not want this albatross.

but no one else wants her either. so what do you do, when you are faced with the very thing you never ever wanted? well, as i said before, you can greet life one of two ways...

tomorrow i will write about my Great-Aunt Katherine, my grandmother's younger sister, my godmother, and the Old Lady i intend to be.

Friday, August 24, 2007

i've been tagged!

You have to use your own belief system for the meme. No fair using someone else’s to make a joke or satire. Being humorous about your own religion is encouraged!
You have to have at least one joy and one trial. More are encouraged. And no, they don’t have to be equal in length, but please be honest.
You have to tag at least one other person. More are appreciated!
Please post these rules!

Sense of connectedness to all that is, was or will be.

Acceptance of my Divinely Feminine Self as a true manifestation of the Divine Feminine.

Understanding what magic really is, what it isn't and how it works.

Living a congruent life.

Knowing the Goddess in all Her forms.

Waiting for everyone else to catch up

Struggling to find the words to explain what i Know so that others can Know it, too.

Doing the Work.

thanks to Jane at semi-charmed!!!! i tag... vale of evening fog!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

double, double...

i can feel the story stewing. like a warm pot of stew on a cold winter day, it wafts through my head at unexpected times in unexpected places, surprising me and comforting me. i'm here, it whispers. i'm here, and i'm not quite yet done.

but, oh, the ideas that are burbling. i get a glimpse now and then... faces of new characters... three of them voices, new wishes, new needs. adding them into the story will not be as daunting as it might seem... it helps a lot that these three are all ghosts and secondary characters. i just need the courage now to cut and prune and paste, to gently extricate stuff that isn't working as well as it should. i need the courage to make it better.

i can do it. i know i can. silver's bane required me to begin again after i'd completed around 90,000 words. i saved around 30,000 intact... ripped another 45,000 out without mercy, and fudged around with the rest. the book ended up being 135,000 words. but that was an unfinished draft. i was writing the story off a synopsis that clearly wasn't working.

this story is a finished draft, so it feels like a whole thing... a lumpy, lop-sided thing, maybe - but a whole thing nonetheless. but it isn't DONE... it isn't right... it doesn't WORK. don't ask me how i know this. it's like an itch under my skin, a vague gnawing apprehension like maybe you got forgot to sign your tax return. every now and then i think about reading the manuscript. i know exactly where it is, behind the drivers seat in my car. i've stopped carrying it in and out but it comforts me to keep it close. but each time i think about reading it... i hear a choir of little voices whisper NO! WE'RE NOT DONE! GO AWAY - DO SOMETHING ELSE!

.... and i bless the Great Mother who's given me so much else to do. :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

one day at a time

every so often, i've noticed there are points in one's life when you can feel the turning of the Wheel. the end of summer is like that for me, as is the beginning of the spring... for some reason i am acutely aware, at those times, of the slow slide of one season into the next.

i am acutely aware, now, as i prepare to go down on friday and begin to pack up my grandmother's house. i would really rather not do this ... not because of her pain, but because of mine.

this House looms large in the iconography of my soul. forever it has stood, big as a battleship, an incongrous green, the foundation of all i call Home. it is not a house i ever actually lived in for any period of time longer than six or seven weeks - it is, however, the House of my Tribe. forever i will be the One Who Sold the House.

i always liked ocean city. i love the beach, the smell of the salt air spiced with stale popcorn, cotton candy and amusement park grease. i love the small blocks, that got smaller as i grew, the neatly logical way the streets were laid out so that even as a small child, i remember taking comfort in the way i could always calculate my way home. i loved the dark wet sand under the boardwalk, the slick smooth jetties that beckoned with their secret tidal pools.

of course i can come back. of course i can buy another house. of course i could live there if i so choose. but i know - or at least i doubt - if i will. my life has taken me to other places, shown me other ways to live, offered me other options even more lovely, rich and rare. the world is a bigger place than the towns those dusty beach roads lead to, and i have not bound myself in any way at all to the strictures of the past.

but i will go down to the beach at dawn... i will plunge my fingers in the sand. i will breathe in the scent of the waves and i will weep at the cries of the gulls.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

that which does not kill us...

...makes us really tired.

since we made the decision a week ago last sunday - was it only last sunday? - to move my grandmother up here, life has certainly speeded up a notch. it's been difficult, too, with my two youngest daughters being in california, visiting my father. my stepmother, alice, has alzheimer's. daddy hasn't put her in a home yet, but i think she's going downhill fast. the poor woman can't remember that the girls are staying there, and keeps asking them why they are there. meg and libby will be home on friday.... but i will be in new jersey then... shutting up the house.

in the meantime... THIS house is in need of some serious TLC. i have the house divided into "zones" ... (check out for some amazing tips on running a household).... and today i will focus on Zones 1 and 2 - meaning the entry ways, and the kitchen and the deck. i bought a cute table at the used furniture store to refinish for roey's little kitchen area. i got it sanded sunday, and so i will put a first coat of paint on it today. i want to put a checkerboard stencil on it and some flowers... maybe a heart or two... so i need to go to the craft store. i also noticed my grandmother could use some new socks. today is my grocery shopping day and i want to get food so there's stuff here for the girls when they get home. but first im going to give myself an hour in the garden... and then a nice long soak in a lavender-scented tub :).

Monday, August 20, 2007

back to work

my 13th novel is stewing. i managed to finish two drafts before all hell broke - i mean, before my gramma moved up here. my hope was to finish a third draft and turn it into my agent by august 15. but on august 15, i was Otherwise Engaged.

in the meantime, im carrying the manuscript around in a green silk bag, with a few sheaves of rough notes of ideas i dont want to forget for good measure. my husband wants to know when i'll get back to it...the truthful answer, much as i want it to be august 27, is... i really dont know.

this would've bothered me before. i used to think that writers Write, that if you aren't Writing, then you aren't a Writer. then i had to write the last book in my most recent trilogy and i learned the hard way that all the Writing in the world doesn't do you much good if you haven't let the story cook. i have found that for me, the process of writing can involve as much time spent Not Writing, which can sometimes be problematic for those around me. after all, how can i be working on Anything, if i seem not to be working at all?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

neither god nor the devil...

my mother is convinced that the reason my grandmother hasn't crossed yet is because neither god nor the devil are willing to put up with her for all eternity. according to my mother, the argument going on sounds something like this:


"like hell..." sniffs satan. he inspects his fingernails, buffs them against his black silk lapel. from the garden of paradise, he plucks a single pale pink rose, which withers instantly the moment he puts it in his buttoniere.


"so what - she prays to YOU." satan raises one brow, refolds his pocket handkerchief with a flourish. a day in HEAVEN is a breath of fresh air. he raises his scaly armpits, flaps his pock-marked wings. these arguments with the DIVINE PRESENCE always leave him feeling so.... fresh.


"but what have you done to disavow her of the notion that you do? EVER?"

for one eternal MOMENT, the breath of ALL HEAVEN suspends, while YAHWAH debates whether or not to obliterate this Great Prentender's ass for all eternity with one well -placed cosmic bolt. an angelic chorus swells, a mighty plea for mercy for The Fallen Brother, and reluctantly, the wrath of the LORD OF HOSTS subsides. "WE DO NOT PUNISH THE TRANSGRESSORS."

"but YOU use them," whispers satan as he slithers back to hell.....

Friday, August 17, 2007

granny wants to go home

roey wants to go home. it's hit her that she can't.... that she really can't.... and she's sad. the reality is sinking in and i don't think it's a truth she's ever expected to have to deal with.

i wish i could say something like... roey... you knew that someday you were going to have to leave the house forever, right? you knew at the very least you were going to die, and leave the house behind? and when she agrees, i wish i could wave my hand and say... well... maybe you could just pretend you died and went to heaven?

and when she blinks at me like i've once again taken leave of my senses.... i wish i could say....

well, look around you... you're in this beautiful place, surrounded by paintings, and flowers and kind and caring people who's only job is to serve you and take care of your every possible need. you have your photos and your favorite chair. you have your tv. you have clean clothes and soft sheets and blankets. you have your own bathroom, your own sitting room. you overlook a golf course and can watch the trees change through the seasons. and best of all, you're surrounded by the people who love you, who are happy you are close enough to pop in and have a cup of coffee or lunch with. how much closer to heaven is it really possible to get?

i wish i could get her to see that places are just places and where you are is never as important as who you are with. maybe that's the Lesson she has yet to learn... and why roey can't go Home... yet.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

feeding the bubbe

it went well yesterday... my grandmother fussed a bit and said she didn't want to be there, but everyone was kind and patient and caring with her. at one point she looked me in the eye and said, who put me here, to which i looked back and said, "I did." they promised me they'd scrub her. i'm hoping when i go over there this morning i have a fresh, clean roey waiting for me.

she asked me why i put her in a nursing home and i explained she wasn't in a nursing home ... she was in an assisted living complex and the apartment she was in - which is much larger than the two rooms she'd reduced herself to living in - is ALL hers. she asked me for her pocketbook, and actually perked up when i showed her the pretty new one i had bought for her. she perked up a bit when i showed her the pretty new dressing gown i bought, too... all soft sages and rose pinks.

one reason it went so well yesterday was that i was able to rely on my dear sweet generous husband. for some reason, i Knew i was supposed to assign him the task of doing a small shopping for roey - skim milk, rice pudding, a soft apple cake, bananas, ice cream - all the soft, sweet gooey things you should have as much as you want of when you are 94. the most convenient grocery store on the way is coincidentally the kosher grocery store, the one where my husband routinely stops for all the foods he remembers from his brooklyn childhood.

i didn't understand why i was Supposed to ask him to do this. i didn't understand why he was the one who was supposed to bring her the food, or why it had to come from there. all i know is that somehow, he was Supposed to do this.

until last night, as we were reflecting on the day. he leaned over and said that while shopping for my grandmother, he had a spiritual kind of experience. i never really had a bubbe, he said...his died when he was very little and most of his memories of her are terrifying. and inside myself, i felt a piece of something click into place. something healed in don yesterday, some small deep piece so far inside his soul, even he was barely aware of it. but i could see it in his face as he gazed at me with tears in his eyes. i never had a bubbe, he said again.
but you do now, i replied. he grinned like a little boy and he said, yes... yes, exactly... that's exactly how i felt..standing there, buying her food... i could tell the old lady who dishes out the kugel, i'm buying this for my bubbe.

something sacred happened in that moment, something divine was present in that oh so mundane moment of procuring food for an old sick lady. i looked at don, i saw the healing shining in his eyes, and i thought... wow.... if this is that good for HIM... i wonder what's in it for ME? (i'm a witch, not a saint.)

last night i attended a workshop on hawaiian huna magic. one of the stories we were told involved how pele tests those who seek her favor by appearing as an old woman in need of kindness. if you scorn her, watch out, but if you help her, and respond to her with gentleness and caring, she showers you with abundance and blessings.

the goddess is alive and magick is afoot! blessed be!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

living too long

my grandmother has lived too long. it's sad, really, because she wasn't a happy person and never had a happy life. now she's outlived not only just about everyone she used to know, she's even outlived her house. and yet, she's terrified to die.

but how do you explain to an old person that from where you happen to sit, death doesn't look like such a bad thing? why rage against the dying of the light when it's inevitable? why "fight" the Grim Reaper, tooth and claw? why allow needles and pokes and proddings, icky medicines, dehumanizing treatments? why be so afraid to die that as a culture we encourage people to try ANYTHING - rather than simply pass gracefully into that good night that comes eventually to us all?

my grandmother is miserable. she's been miserable for years, of course, but ever since she turned 88, it's been worse. you see, my great-grandfather died when he was 87 and my grandmother never imagined for a minute she might live to be older than him. i imagine she's awakened every morning with the same sense of disappointment I'd wake up with i was overdue with one of my babies.... that feeling of .. "oh, shit, i'm still pregnant." in my grandmother's case, i imagine its more a sense of "oh, shit... i'm still alive."

but she's so scared to die.

one christmas, in the middle of one of her histrionic attacks to which she is prone, i asked her what the worst thing was she thought could happen to her. she looked at me in disbelief and said, i could die. and i said... well.... wouldn't that put you in a better place than this?

and that's when i realized why she's so scared, why she's so frightened. for all my grandmother's rosaries, for all her masses and prayers to jesus and the saints... she's not sure. she's not Sure of what happens after we die, and that's what scares her so much she's clinging to a dried out shell of a life with both hands and all the teeth she's got left. she doesn't really believe. because if she Believed, the way she would tell you she SAYS she believes.... she couldnt be so afraid. she'd Know.

and that's one reason why im sad for my grandmother, and one reason im sad for our culture. so many of us pay lip service and are in thrall to god they dont really trust. in god we trust, our money says... but really, in god we fear, would be closer to the truth. i wish i had the words to allay my grandmother's fears. i wish i had the words to tell her that i am not afraid, that for me, the OtherSide is every bit as Real as this. but that would require her to extricate herself from the belief system that forms the bedrock of her world, and i just don't think that's possible at 94.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

moving day

today i begin the process of moving my 94 year old grandmother out of the house she has always lived in.... the house described in yesterday's post, in fact. one of the hollies was cut down long ago... the other two are sick. the house is old and falling apart... and it's time to let it go.

lifetimes of memories are in that house - the air is thick with the Ghost of All That's Passed. my children are upset we are selling the house and as sad and as sorry as i am to see the old place go, there's a piece of me that understands that nothing is permanent, everything passes away, and the only piece of ground you get to inhabit forever is the one they bury you in. i am not going to be bound by my great-grandfather's idea of what and where a house should be, any more than i will be bound by what and who he thought a woman should be.

i used to wonder sometimes why this task has come to me... and then, this morning, re-reading yesterday's post, it occured to's come to me because i am the one who is strong enough to do it. and so i will go cheerfully into that good night, of anger, and hurt and fear, and i will remember my holly trees forever.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Wisdom of Trees... thoughts from a workshop.

my first connection with trees occurred on the day I was born… when my great-grandfather planted three holly trees in the garden by the side of the house.
This garden was a most magical place in my childhood, for one thing… it was very large and it was hedged so from child’s eye view it was very green. In the center, in a row… there were the three hollies. And throughout my childhood, this was a story that the family told to me and others… how the day I was born, pop planted these trees and so everyone always knew exactly how old they were. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that the planting of the hollies represented a visual watershed in peoples’ memories…. That unlike me… who only remembers my great grandfather’s house with these trees, there were battalions of people who didn’t. it became a kind of visual memory cue, that got mentioned at every family gathering.

And so these trees fascinated me. I was always sneaking into the garden and it was a place where I was absolutely forbidden to go… but the lawn was green and lush and there were buried sprinklers lurking in the grass, and I always had a sense that the trees were waiting for me… that they recognized me.. and welcomed me.

It was only after I began to study celtic mythology that I began to realize that my connection with these trees appeared to go deeper than simply this coincidental date. For one thing… one and three, three and one, separately and in combination, are numbers of great spiritual symbolism, and for the celts, magical power. I was born in march 31… and the three trees and me made another 3 and 1. now there were one male and two females, again another 3 and 1 combination… three of them, in fact.. druidic triad.

The holly is associated with the element of fire, and it is considered a masculine tree, as opposed to for example a willow, or ivy, which are considered to embody feminine energies. As an Aries, I have a lot fire in me… coupled with a lot of drive… and the work I do as a writer involves a very outward thrust into the world.

The word for holly in ancient irish is Tinne…which means link… and it is one of the strongest and the most resilient of woods and so it was used for objects subjected to stress, like chariot wheel shafts.
There have been long periods in my life, as I’ve reached the age where I can begin to look back, where I was subjected to vast amts of stress and I needed an incredible amt of resiliency and I realize now that my deep connection to these trees… provided me with this psychic reservoir that I could always draw from, even if I didn’t know I was doing it.

Holly is also a boundary tree… used from ancient times to demarcate borders and boundaries, hollies are frequently found in hedgerows. People who know, and even those who don’t, will agree, that while I may have may issues, boundaries are not one of them.
The ogham letter for holly stands midway in the alphabet, at the pivot point. It is the letter around which all the others revolve. And the occasion of planting the hollies did indeed engender this pivot point in my family’s history that somehow in the linking to my birth, somehow created this relationship between me and these trees that has continued to this day. These trees form part of the communion of energies that I feel around myself and have, I believe, fed me and nourished me and supported me at a truly deep, psychic-spiritual level.

Since then, there have been other experiences and other trees and each one has only brought me closer to the understanding that trees are sentient, they are aware, and like guardians and grandmothers, they watch over us, they support us, and they respond to us. They offer us gifts, and they will nurture us with them if we ask for it, and if we allow it.