Wednesday, January 19, 2011
full moon, owl's flight
It's been a while. I've been hibernating in Narnia. For real. Tonight, the full moon is shining on the trees, with leaves and needles encased in crystal and silver and the ground sparkles and glitters and reflects. The world is frozen and still. Icicles are daggering off the roof, channeling the light and it's hard to sleep.
I've been thinking about the dark. One month ago tonight, the full moon eclipsed on solstice eve and I walked in the woods with no light but the moon to guide me. We can talk a lot, during these winter days, about becoming friends with the dark, about letting ourselves give into the shadow and lean back into the night, but what does is really mean to get intimate with the darkness?
A few years ago, a teacher of mine challenged me to walk in the woods. Alone. At night. I was terrified and also I wanted to drop out of the course and also I wanted to think of a really good excuse not to. I am a city lady! I love the forest and the dirt and the stars, but I am also scared of axe murderers and being eaten by monsters and other totally irrational, but visceral childhood familiars that come alive when night falls. As a witch, I want to make love to the night, but as a trauma survivor and as a person who hears and feels spirits often, I don't love wandering in dark forests... but I knew I had to. Stepping out into the cool redwoods that night, I could hear my pulse in my ears and my feel my breath shallow in my chest- somatic hints humans employ to survive.
My teacher said that walking in the dark expanded your awareness, both energetically and psychically and grew your field, demanding all of your senses to magnify and attune. I felt at once both incredibly human (loud walking, two-legged, thought-having being) and deeply animal (calling upon all senses, part of the landscape, hidden, slow, aware, and vulnerable).
Make friends with night, I kept singing to myself, make friends with this dark..
On solstice eve this year, I woke up, stretched, looked out my window and into the face of an owl, perched on the white pine outside my office. To make sure I wasn't hallucinating, I went outside in the frosty morning, marched up to the tree in my slippers, and met it's round brown almost mechanical eyes. I fell on my knees and said good morning.
The next day, I went walking in the woods near the house and again, met this owl, who flew above me, her wings cutting through the air so loudly it was like a child blowing in my ear. Since then I have seen her 5 times, and each time she looks me straight in the eyes. The owl is a dear friend to me. My mother's mother was an owl lady who wore owl necklaces, had owl statues all over, and even was known to be able to talk to birds of prey. She taught my mother and my mother taught me that when an owl asks you for your name, you must tell it your full name and show proper respect. The night before my grandmother died, I dreamt that an owl came into a tent I was sleeping in and wrestled me. It was the size of bicycle and we tussled all night, until it finally drew blood from my neck. When I looked at my own blood on my palm, it said, "now it's your medicine." The following morning, my mom called to tell me grandma died.
There is a lot of lore about owls. Owls seen during the day are said to mean someone you love is dying, or perhaps you are dying. Last week, my dad called to tell me that the owl that lived outside our house during my childhood, who had left sometime after I left home and hadn't been seen in 10 years , showed up again Monday night, hoo-hooing in the trees. And Tuesday evening, my beloved paternal grandmother, Lucile Elizabeth Dimond, died.
Is fear of the dark like the fear of death or the unknown? I think I feel less afraid of death than I do the dark, but they are both just as nebulous and infinite- seeming. Perhaps making friends with darkness helps us cozy up to death, something I have been working towards and will probably continue to until the day I die. Even though I am still afraid sometimes at night, doing healing work requires me to love the darkness we carry and also bear light into that shadow to see the shapes and stories that only materialize in the dark. I love the darkness in the clients I work with and run my hands over it like a dear animal that both comforts me as I comfort it.
When someone you love dies and you talk about it, people say all kinds of things like, "I'm sorry" or "That sucks," but the truest is often, "I don't know what to say." We don't talk about death in the same way that we avoid the dark. We live in an electrically saturated bright world where we rarely have to be in the dark and where when we die, we are still supposed to look alive. This weekend, as we lowered my grandmother's body into the ground, there was astroturf covering the the sides of the hole- as if it was uncouth or too raw or too close to the truth to see layers of soil - 8 feet of dirt- that this body was descending into. With chemicals, fancy caskets, make-up, and strangers tending to the body- we have gotten so far from death and it feels so weird.
The rabbi spoke about how actually the torah says that when my grandma died, all of the women in my family would gather around, wash her body, stay with it for 7 days, wrap her in a simple muslin shroud, place her body in a pine box, and bury her in the ground of her homeland. For diasporic people (which is most of us) where is home anyway? Brooklyn? the Jersey Shore? South Florida? Romania? Palestine? The earth is our home, so in some ways, anywhere we lay our bones should do.
It got me to thinking about death, about the dark, about fear. So here I am, awake under the bright full moon, making friends with the dark, and not knowing what to say.
at 10:54 PM