blog description

Old women talk about old things: history, myth, magic and their
checkered pasts, about what changes and what does not.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Visit With the Mother

A small cabin sits on the shore of a quiet lake. It is made of wood, tightly constructed. One room, with a steeply pitched roof, it is snug and dry and comfortable. On the side facing the lake there is a roofed porch running the width of the cabin. Between the porch and the lake there is a picnic table, fire ring, and a few trees. I am stopping here for only two days, but even the shortest break from the busyness of home is a welcomed one. I quickly settle in.
I listen to rain fall all night, but I wake to sunlight and air that is fresh, even cool for August. After breakfast,  I set up a place on the porch. With the cooler in front of my chair, I am lounging in a lovely forest room. I pick up my laptop and begin writing. It is a revelation at first. I am using this tool for the first reason I had for buying it. It is a word processor. Without the distractions of an internet connection, it works amazingly well. I write long after noon. Lunch becomes dinner and after editing my work at the picnic table, I am ready for a break.
I return to my seat on the porch with a book – a Kindle in fact. These electric tools seem out of place, but they do not intrude on the silence. I am reading the second chapter when I notice movement on my left. I look over and down at the short space between the rails and the floor and there is the body of a black snake. The body is moving, and moving, and moving but there is no head or tail in sight. As the apparent length of this fellow dawns on me, a tiny head looks over the foot rail well around the corner, nearly in front of me. Its face has a very small rounded nose, tiny eyes, and a smooth line that is its mouth. My visitor looks rather friendly, as if this hesitant movement, and the pause during which we look into each other’s eyes, is a meeting of alien minds. We have the same needs: green leaves, blue sky, rippling water, and, well, we won’t dwell on food right now. But the need we are satisfying at the moment is companionship. Woman or snake – we all need someone with whom to enjoy this day, this sun, this world.
Finally, the snake sticks his tongue out at me and breaks the spell. I know the boy and girls at the next site would love to see this handsome snake, so I invite the family to cross our short divide of small hill and slender trees to get a look at a real, wild snake.  They rush over and check him out, ooh and aah at his size, and embarrass him right off into the woods. He reproaches me for a moment, heading toward my feet, reminding me that we might have been quiet friends. I hope he knows I love him but wanted to share him. Okay, I wanted to show him off. He disappears in moments.   
Days later, I will learn that in many cultures a snake is seen as our umbilical cord to the Mother. He was a messenger to me, reminding me that I am tethered to this Earth. In my mind, I thank the snake for blessing me with this message. I wish him many baby snakes and a long life.
When night falls, I light a small fire in my metal fire-ring. As I look at the light reflected on the leaves above me, I hear a plop in the water below me. Thinking I might have heard a ripple meeting the shore, I continue watching the fire and the lights reflecting on the far side of the lake.  The next watery sound I hear is definitely caused by a swimmer. I step down to the shoreline and place my hand against a tree to steady myself. I wait for a while but find myself enjoying this moment without added drama. The tree’s bark is surprisingly smooth and warm to my touch. I think of her roots, deep in the ground, drinking happily from the muddy water inches from her trunk. Some low branches brush  the surface of the lake, and I imagine all the life that might be sleeping, eating, or simply being there in the shelter of her green leaves and small stems. I share her view across the lake and I listen for anything she might like to tell me.
The idea that occurrs to me, after a motionless time, is “eternity.”  The knowledge that this tree will grow while these stars shine and this water whispers for a time I cannot measure fills me with a fullness, a roundness. I cannot describe the happiness I feel at being a small part of such a vast existence. There is comfort in seeing and being and letting it be enough of a contribution in this quadrillionth of a speck of eternity. So I tell the tree, “Thank you for this blessing.”  And I bring this interlude with me when I return to my busy life – always there, always inviting me to return. When I experience my oneness with our Mother, there is no need for anything more.

Monday, August 18, 2014


by Orb Weaver--an old friend who wishes to remain anonymous--
about the effect of daily knives in the heart

Do not go gentle into that good night…

This has been a wretched week, not just for me, but certainly for all of humanity.  Wars rage on throughout the Middle East, and thousands of Yazidi refugees perch on a mountain in Iraq, their only crime their choice of religion; the streets in Ferguson, Missouri are blazing in retaliation for yet another shooting of an unarmed young black man by a white police officer; half of the continent is flooded, the other half is in drought and/or on fire; and Robin Williams finally lost his long battle against depression and addiction.  To me, that was the worst of the lot, the rug pulled out from under one of the brightest stars in the universe in a cosmic vaudeville-like stichk, but without the laughter to break the fall. 

No one saw it coming.  Really?  I was shocked beyond speech, yet not surprised.  I have watched his manic antics for over thirty years, laughing until I could not breathe, and yet … and yet … there was something else there, something sad, something scary, that he struggled to conceal, to fight, to push under the surface.  His genius was undeniable, like others before him.  Richard Pryor.  Freddie Prinz.  Andy Kaufman.  Lenny Bruce.  John Belushi.  All of them absolutely bat-shit crazy, and Robin was their King.  Without exception, they all suffered from depression and addictions, and in the end, they all lost their battles.

Let me tell you what I know.  I know about depression.  I know about addiction.  And I know that I could never explain it completely to anyone who has not experienced it firsthand.  Knowing someone who suffers from either or both doesn’t count; not even if they are a blood relative, not your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, your child.  Because all you know or see or experience is the fallout from the illness.  And that won’t explain it for you, because you’re probably tired of dealing with the family drunk or the neighbor nutbag, or your teenager who just seems to be in a rage all the time, for no good reason.  Your only question seems to be “Why?”  It’s like riding a Harley; if I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand anyway. 

I was diagnosed with clinical depression in my late ‘teens, although I know I suffered from it way before that, as far back as elementary school.  Happiness didn’t exist for me but people didn’t understand that.  I was smart, I was talented, I was a loser.  I had hints of personality disorders.  It was the ‘60s.  Enough said.

I’ve been on medication for years.  A couple of times I’ve attempted to wean myself off the antidepressants and the sleep meds, to no avail.  The affliction is truly worse than the cure; and at my age, all I want is to get through the day, and sleep through the night.  If I don’t take the meds, I crash, very quickly.  My brain chemistry goes into freefall.  I spend days in bed, in the dark.  I withdraw completely, from friends and family alike, with no explanation.  How do I explain what I don’t understand?  I cry.  Or I laugh inappropriately.  Everything in the world seems lost, without redemption, and it seems pointless to keep struggling.  I have had one very close call with suicidal ideation; I spent several hours late one night, by the water, with my .38 pressed so tightly against my forehead that the barrel left a red, circular indentation that lasted for days.  Even though it’s long gone, I can still see it when I look into the mirror.  It’s a constant reminder to me of just how bad it can get.  I believe that was a Waterloo moment for me that for some reason I was able to overcome.  I do not think about the next time.  I am a total work in progress; an hour at a time.

I have learned, through the years, that most folks consider depression a self-induced pity party, and tend to offer suggestions in the line of “Shape up,” or “Things will get better,” or, my favorite, “Count your blessings.”  I have also learned to ignore these directives, because while I believe them to be for the most part well-intentioned, they are also worthless.  If Robin Williams could not save himself, what chance have I?

And so, I compensate.  I use the good days to be creative, to try and be functional.  I read, I sew, I quilt, I listen to music.  I sit on my porch and listen to the owls and the peepers and all the things that go bump in the night.  I go sit by the ocean and pray for dolphins.  And I get by.  I wish that someone, somehow, had been able to save Robin, not by reaching out, but by reaching in. 

Forget about trees for a while; hug someone crazy instead.