Fog. Full moon. Vernal equinox. I half expect to see a phantom Jack the Ripper or wild creatures, half-earth/ half-other world emerge from the mists that have swooped and swirled about me, drifting over the local realm this past week, the earth a simmering cauldron, containing a multitude of mysteries, undulating and pulsating within, ready to release an unknown with a wild abandon that has no bounds. Meanwhile, Earthly Alchemy, our own special magic we are so far out of touch with, our primordial instincts fuzzy with the static of this so-called modern life, I fear we are on the brink of losing it forever. We humanoids are perhaps in danger of becoming the ghost in the machine.
Off bright and early for the monthly Irish breakfast with DadHe’ll be talking craic with the waitresses as we have a few particular favorites — Ilkay from Turkey, Evie from Ireland and Neko, who joked she was from a little village in Ireland called “Bosnia” when I first met her. Both my dad’s parents came over from Ireland in the 20’s, my grandfather from County Cork and my grandmother from County Limerick. Today’s my granddad’s “official” birthday. He was in the IRA by the time he was a teenager, something that always thrilled me, and he’d been imprisoned for a time during the Civil War for anti-Treaty activity, going on a hunger strike, etc. which just made the story all the more scintillating for me. He was delighted at the prospect of a grandchild, me being his first but sadly he died two months before I was born — he went into the hospital for gall bladder surgery and died of a heart attack on the operating table. He was only 58. Fortunately, until the age of 9, I had my great-Uncle Billy around, my grandmother’s bachelor brother. I was a merciless pest when it came to bothering him in the front den as he smoked his pipe, trying to relax in his cozy corner chair. On the other hand, he’d slip me dollar bills once in a while for various treats. He lived with my Gran and uncles by the time I was born, and he was my stand-in. I used to call him “Grampa” because I wanted a grandfather (my grandmother was the only grandparent I had), and he was certainly old enough. He always reminded me he wasn’t my grandad and of course, I knew that, but I could pretend, couldn’t I?
Having a Louise Brooks moment these days. Louise, quintessential flapper, on why she would never write her memoirs:
“We flatter ourselves when we assume that we have restored the sexual integrity that was expurgated by the Victorians. It is true that many exposés are written to shock, to excite, to make money. But in serious books characters remain as baffling, as unknowable as ever…I too am unwilling to write the sexual truth that would make my life worth reading. I cannot unbuckle the Bible Belt.”
These twice a year time changes we do — forwards in Spring, backwards in Fall — feel so arbitrary and counterintuitive to me. Perhaps rather insolent on the part of the powers that be who instituted it in the first place. Measuring our days and seasons by the rhythms of the natural world (including my own biorhythms) makes more sense to me, and in the early days after a time change I tend to say “it’s really —— o’clock,” until I finally “feel” like it’s the time it’s now “supposed” to be. I find calling it “daylight savings time” to be pretty funny, like it’s some sort of special “time outside of time.” It‘s still the same amount of daylight every day, regardless of what a clock says. And what are we saving it for anyway? Where are we going to put it?
Orion Magazine is one of my favorite reads. A variety of thoughtful essays, poems and stories describing the wonders of our natural world and contemplating its impending loss. The following passage struck me this morning from Martha Lundin’s essay, “Siren Song,” about the storm that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior back in 1975. I hear naming a ship after a man is considered bad luck. If anyone knows the answer, I’d love to know why. Here’s an outtake from the article:
“We name women who spend too much time with nature “Witch.” Dub her dangerous. Unpredictable. Call her “Other.” The land is something to fear or exploit. To be a witch is to love the natural world more than the things human hands have made. And so we burn her. Or we revere her. We tell stories about her to frighten children in the woods or the water. Though some of us may ask her for help. Or maybe just mercy.”
This morning we’re off to the local St. Patrick’s Day parade which has happened every year for the past 16 or so, with the exception of 2021. In 2020 we went, and within two weeks other parades around the country and the world had been canceled. We felt doubly fortunate — that we made it to one of the few St. Patrick’s parades that hadn’t been canceled, and that the momentum hadn’t yet started that could make it a super-spreader event. My dad marches every year in the parade, carrying either the American or Irish flag for his club, the Sons of Erin. He has marched in torrential downpours, high winds, even snow, and every once in a great while (actually it WAS ONLY ONCE in a great while) in warm springlike sunshine. The only year he didn’t March was when he was the local Irish Man of the Year. That year he rode in an old Packard along with the Irish Woman of the Year. It’s a grand time, everyone is in high spirits, and later on it’s what you’d expect — hijinks and Guinness. Because Guinness is good for you. And the next day? Drive by the Sons in the morning and while it might look like they already have a full house at 10am? That’s just all the folks who left their cars overnight because they were in no condition to drive home.
1970. A customized train ready to roll from Toronto to Calgary on a five day Canadian concert tour featuring Buddy Guy, The Band, Janis Joplin, Flying Burrito Brothers, Grateful Dead and more. Blew me away. Especially Janis belting out “Piece of My Heart.” That girl had some pure soul, and after listening to blues all day I realized — that is the music I like to listen to — especially during tough times, sad days, world weary — not because it brings you further down, but because it lifts you up. There’s a kind of hope buried in it that can’t be explained — you either feel it or you don’t. Bessie, Big Mama Thornton, Janis, Buddy, Howlin’ Wolf, Levon Helm and Robert Leroy Johnson — if you’ve yet to feel it, try listening to any of them, you’re gonna feel it. A concert movie that prompted me to order more concert movies to while away, what else? The blues.
Leaving you with a quote from Janis:
“Playing is just about feeling,” Joplin said. “It isn’t necessarily about misery, it isn’t about happiness. It’s just about letting yourself feel all those things you already have inside of you but are trying to push aside because they don’t make for polite conversation or something. But if you just get up there — that’s the only reason I can sing. Because I get up there and just let all those things come out.”♥️
“When you pray, move your feet.”
– West African proverb
After 9/11 I danced. Before 9/11 I also danced. After we started bombing Iraq, I danced again through tears, dancing out the horror and pain of the women, children and all the people who suffered through that.
Still dancing these days, always wanting to do more, but only managing random moments here and there. I miss the dance classes and a studio space to gather in with other kindred Goddess dancers.
When I returned here, to this place where family still resided, where I’d spent some of my growing up years, it was a broken time for me, for my kids, for our little family. Many times I question the sanity of my return here. In hindsight, the evil twin of foresight, would I do it again? Personally? I hope to Goddess not. But my story for Vermont will have to wait until another day.
This is my Dancer story. I never thought of myself as a dancer…or a writer, for that matter…until I moved back here. My long-time friend from my library days turned me on to Raks Sharqi or Raks Baladi. Westerners know it as “belly dance” but “Khadijah” (our teacher) despised the term and it’s a perfect example of how the language we use does matter. (Too many equate the dance with stripping, and while it can be an erotic dance, it is not a striptease.) It can feel almost sacred sometimes. Khadija did say that perhaps it came to be known as belly dance because of the misinterpretation of “baladi”— “raks”meaning “dance” and “baladi” or ”folk.” At any rate, I found my way to her Egyptian dance class, and before long she had me dancing with the rest of the Kharamana Dance Troupe at the monthly Evenings in Egypt she hosted every month at the coolest, now defunct but memorable Prodigal Son Coffeehouse/Bar. It was always a fun evening, full of friends, family (kids included), other dancers, fans and curious passers-by.
Writing this takes me right back to the magic and mystery, the wonder and sense of discovery of those days, my reawakening as I began following the path of the Goddess Dancing. When words fail me, I dance. And dancing always helps me find the words again. So round and round we go. Dancing my own curious circle dance in a place with no beginnings and no endings.
Spent the afternoon listening to lots of blues from Otis and Buddy, a bit of Etta and a splash o’ Nat mixed in (although Nat’s not really blues, is he? Someone clue me in here, please.) Music begging to be danced to. So that’s what I did. And another photo shoot. Meanwhile, tempting as it’s been to share Ukraine stuff, when I see a photo of the Russian bombing of a Ukrainian kindergarten over there, I have to stop myself and say, but wait, that’s what my country has done — in Iraq and Afghanistan most recently — and I imagine countless other places — so I certainly can’t point my finger. So what to do? Yes, we can send money, yes we can protest and send troops, but frankly, what ELSE can we do, people? Because this is what governments do — and by governments I mean people in power — because people in power, whether you call them King or President or General, Duke, Lord, Colonel or Princess — this is what they do. They are NOT us. Not Trump, not Biden, not Clinton, McConnell, none of ‘em, Democrats or Republicans — NONE of THEM are US. I think this is why I’ve come to love science fiction in my later life. I’m realizing how close to reality many of the books I’ve read in the past few decades actually are. I’m thinking science fiction has maybe been the canary in the coal mine all along.
When I mention the Red Lion Inn to my friend, and suggest she join us on a future getaway there, she tells me it would probably just make her sad. Even though her John has been over four years gone, it’s a place she has said would just flood her with memories of him and the loss, and I agree, I imagine it would. I’d like to think I know how I’d feel, but we can’t ever really know until we’re in it. We can only imagine. So in the meantime, until I’m in that place, I like to think “what if?” about her mate…what if his spirit hangs out there, waiting for her, hoping she’ll revisit for the happy memories, and stay for a spell, to join him in the liminal space between the two worlds? I’ve been to that place. The Dreamtime. Seen my mother there, my aunts, a beloved great-uncle, dear friends. There are places we go, places we’ve been, that hold this enchantment. Red Lion is one of those places. It is haunted there, you know, at that old inn. The landscape around it is alive with ghosts. I believe by many ghosts, some happy, some sad. Perhaps there are others like John, who wait for their lovers to return and join them for occasional trysts dancing together between the realms. I’m telling you, it’s magic out there, and when it’s my turn to haunt or be haunted, I’m returning to the fourth floor, with its dusky stillness, where I can feel the moonlight as we glide along its beams and dance between the stars–