Owlie bird

January 12, 2012 at 9:02 pm (brood, crossroads, life! a lover!)

The earth has taken almost a complete wander around the sun since my last lonely letter into this void, and a number of things have changed.

A family has grown up around me the way that I’ve seen old trees grow around old bicycles. Just now a gorgeous woman has her legs tangled with mine, my hands working to remember how to form words by manipulating a series of buttons, hers busy in her knitting. Three daughters are off at three different schools, and tea is cooling in our mugs. Stepmotherhood suits me well, if I’m infrequently as evil as I may have hoped.

The youngest is five, and in accordance with her grandmother’s and against my wishes, attends a Catholic school. Proper theology, I think, I could stand. I was taught by nuns myself, which left me with a rebellious streak, a lean in the direction of weird mysticism, and, no small thing, educated well enough that I was capable of educating myself. But sometimes after school while we walk to the bus, her hand held in mine, she chatters away, explaining nonsense like, “it’s raining because Jesus is crying.” So I try to give her other options, like maths and science the school incorrectly thinks too advanced for preschool, really good books, strange old gods, and shiny bits of magic.

While picking her up after school yesterday, one of the other little girls asked her who I was. “That’s Jack,” she explained. “Jack is one of my moms. I have two moms.” My partner and I shared a smile over it. I’ve only been living with the bairn for six months, so it still (and might always) feel like I’ve won a prize when she calls me her mum. And that she explained it simply, and the other girl didn’t think to make much of a fuss over it, felt nice. Our youngest doesn’t have much need of words like lesbian or queer, but she does know that there are two of us who will make her oatmeal in the morning, read her stories, take her to the doctor, convince her to eat her vegetables, take her for walks in the woods, and listen to her made up songs, and that would seem to be enough for her to like explaining it and want to brag about it a little.

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Too Many Crows.

October 27, 2010 at 10:46 pm (crossroads, crows, life! a lover!, Uncategorized)

In the European mythologies of which I am fond, the land is often personified, deified, implored or commanded or feared, as a horse spirit. Horses are not native here, though. The First Nations words used to describe horses all seem to translate as, “it’s something like a cross between a dog and an elk.” Instead, in the moments in which I speak to the land and hope to hear some mysterious rustle in the underbrush to answer me, I think of the deer that my family saw when I was small and we went for a walk in the woods on midwinter. It stayed still, and we were so silent that we barely dared breathe, and we watched one another from a distance so close that, small though I was, I could have reached to touch its nose. It was the truest form of reverence I’d yet known. I think of the bones of a buck, marked by beak of crow and tooth of fox, that I found scattered in the woods one year ago. The land here is silent and skittish, hidden everywhere, caught only in glimpses before bounding off, or crashing into your car at a high speed.

Three things, of late, have been happening.

My partner and I keep marvelling to discover that we’ve both managed to fall in love with someone who is actually good for us. How unusual. She’ll be moving closer to me in June, once her children are done with school for the year, and getting them here is a task which feels monumental and difficult, and like a truly worthwhile and romantic endeavour.

I’m being sent to a store far outside of the city, a sort of civilised fishmonger missionary to the savage and untaught. A promotion should be forthcoming, and once that is made official, I’ll have to move there. I’ve been saying for some time that I’d like to get out of the city, and, unsurprisingly, the prospect of actually doing so terrifies me. The bicycle ride from the train station to the store, however, is magnificent: trees dressed in their high autumn finery, streams bangled with bridges, crows cawing and white tail glancing at me coyly over their shoulders.

My lover and I have a mutual former partner, someone whom we both loved and love dearly. They no longer speak, and he and I speak infrequently, but I think that we have all been having one another’s dreams. Old scars throb. In quiet moments when we are alone, we feel one another tugging, wondering, waiting silent and invisible in a corner somewhere. There are threads of longing and hope and uncertainty and rage that pull at my chest, that tangle across the world. I’m not normally particularly psychic, but the three of us are becoming increasingly noisy.

So I surround myself with the bones of that buck when I work. Skull and antlers, coccyx and vertebrae and ribs, mark the boundaries of the real world. A trance often feels like something I chase, something I seek. This last time, before I thought I’d found the correct slumped ritual posture of the moment, I felt myself to be surrounded immediately by Too Many Crows. Too Many to see beyond, there was only the black of eye and feather and wing, innumerable black, staring eyes, filling the sky and the earth, keeping only the distance technically required by a small circle of bones. I continued in my usual methods of seeking, thinking the ritual best not broken, wanting to see how the Too Many Crows reacted. They followed. Under water, under ground, they followed. I flew and they gave chase too quickly, moving not like the gliding carrion seekers that they are, but fleet as thought. All of these small crows were one large crow, cells in an infinite body. I chased and they swallowed and kept flying, and their belly was the size of my circle. I thought of Cerridwen, and chose not to have been swallowed, but to find myself riding them, possessing them while they possessed me. There is meaning in this, simultaneously elusive and obvious as a crack in the windshield and a dent in the hood of your car.

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Whiskey, you’re the devil.

September 12, 2010 at 6:17 am (adventure, bicycles, life! a lover!, urban exploration)

I’ve learned recently that perhaps one oughtn’t announce that one has a new blog at the same time that one obtains a new bicycle. Writers, take note.

I went to Volpe Cycles on their first day in the new center city shop after their move from Fishtown. I admired their collection of art nouveau bicycle prints and accepted their offer of a locally brewed coffee porter and my first taste of Marmite, offered by a young man from the town in Staffordshire where it is produced as a by-product of beer-making. Once we’d attended to that business, I got to inspecting their newly arrived collection of Linus bikes, who bill themselves as “a simple, affordable, elegant bike for riding around and doing stuff,” and cite midcentury French film as a primary design influence. I’d planned on getting their three-speed cruiser. I’m used to hand brakes; I like being able to go up hills. But seeing the machines in person, I was strangely drawn to the roadster classic, the pretty simplicity of it. I asked if I might ride it around the block, expecting a brief romance, some taste of what other people’s bicycles might feel like. On the third leg of the block I paused next to a church to dismount and admire, to collect my thoughts alone before going back to the shop. It was a lovely little thing, weightless compared to my first cruiser, and fast. A man in the church had a microphone, and was serenading us with the love song from Ghost.

Needless to say, the bicycle and I embraced, and when I did return to the shop, I was flushed and speechless. Once I managed to compose myself with the aid of another cheese and marmite hors d’oeuvre, I asked if I might try the Dutch style bicycle. On the road, I couldn’t believe how sluggish it felt despite its being quite light. I paused at the same spot in order to reflect, and the gentleman in the church was singing a sub-par love song. My choice seemed obvious. I got the single speed roadster in cream with brown leather, and I named him Errol Flynn.

My first bike, a red vintage Dutch-style cruiser by Schwinn, was a mad, desperate love affair. I talked about her constantly. I’d joke that my bike was a fat girl, but I loved that fat girl, and couldn’t imagine hauling anything else up and down my front stairs every day. She was always broken and breaking, but she got me to work in half the time that it took to walk or take the subway, and she turned getting there into such a grand adventure. I called her Whiskey Glitter Run Away, and I sang her Irish drinking songs while I laughed and dodged cars on these tiny South Philly streets. She’ll always be my first love, but I see now that I tried to make it work for far longer than was reasonable. I imagine the poor old girl seething in the basement, cuckholded by this prettier, faster, more expensive toy. I do intend to take her into the shop to force her back into a reasonable condition, mostly because I’d like a winter bike that I don’t mind beating up with road salt and bad weather, but for now I’m too distracted with riding this pretty young thing to think about it.

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Horsies, and people up and down.

August 20, 2010 at 8:52 pm (adventure, crossroads, life! a lover!, seduction, the sky gods)

I made a pilgrimage to the north, to my lover, to celebrate the skies crashing down. She invited me to join her for this year’s Perseid meteor shower even before I was certain that I was to her what she was to me. She brought me there to meet her children and some small sampling of her immense band of relatives; certainly she is connected by blood, through a series of diplomatic, mysterious, and occasionally romantic ties, to half the North American continent?

We walked from her house to the river where we sat at the end of a dock, dipped our feet in, held her youngest daughter’s hands and let her play in the current. We collected smooth river stones. Had we chosen to swim the short distance across, we’d have climbed ashore in Canada. She took me through the woods, showing me tangles of brambles, high reeds, shifting sunlight, ogham carved in a birch, strange mushrooms.

And she took me out of the town in the middle of the night to a dock in the middle of a lake. We wrapped ourselves in blankets and clung to one another for warmth. Every three seconds a star fell, writing its name across the whole length of the black of the sky. I grew up in cities, you see. I’d have been amazed if they’d stayed still, impressed by their numbers alone. But she brought me there so that she could make the stars dance.

I made my way home in a small propeller plane, watching the sun pour itself in flashing sections from one bit of serpentine river to the next, from one lake to another, fire caught in the land, an undiminishing cordial shared as it is passed from cup to cup to cup. The earth split under me, showing the gold pulsing beneath. It hasn’t escaped me that water and land, sky and fire press close and writhe together when we meet.

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Goddess of the Crossroads.

June 25, 2010 at 9:12 am (life! a lover!)

An old bit of witchcraft recommended drinking blackberries muddled in wine with a touch of honey to cure passions of the heart. Lover, we have been drinking from the same well for years. Now we drink from the same wineglass, you and I.

You came here and I gave you your first taste of mango, the Atlantic ocean, and lesbianism. I liked the surprised joy on your face as I fed you the pieces of overly ripe fruit. The ocean met us, rough in its affections: it pressed our bodies down, tried to strip me, stole our breath, made our skin taste of so much salt.

And you. Gods. We bled for one another, this first time that we met, our bodies offering sacrifice. There was blood on your lips, your chin, pooled in the dip of your throat. There was blood on my hands, my thighs, and where your fingers marked my chest. You painted me like a cave. We are hunters, magicians, men who shout into the night. We are the ideas of beasts. We are prey.

I’m drinking the glasses of water we left scattered around my room in these last days, making a sacrament of taking the last of what is left of you here into my body. I give some to my plants, and I’ll kiss them some night, like a woman whose lover’s head was buried beneath her basil.

I had to offer you to the sky three times before the crossroads gods allowed it. You came back to me twice, and still you left me bruised and wanting.

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