Under The Gothic Moon

     These things don’t happen in the dead of winter as the earth slumbers a deep and soundless sleep, heavy under the blankets of snow and rocked by northern winds. These things don’t happen in the spring of the year when life is like the tenderest of buds bursting with the green freshness of potential nor in the pregnant summer when the earth is in its full bloom. The twilight moment between the cycles when the earth lays down to rest away another year, in between waking and sleep, finds this sphere open to influences beyond the ken of this world.

 

     The black cat arrived on our doorstep a little over 2 weeks ago on a dark moonless night. We had just lost our family pet, a long hair Maine coon cat, less than a month before. Her loss didn’t come as a complete surprise. She was a city cat, it was her first autumn outdoors and the corn was high in the fields around our lonely house. A cat, no matter how domesticated we might think, is still a cat. They will roam and they will hunt and they will walk in the wild places because they must be true to their nature. Most of the time they come home but sometimes they just get lost. 

     The new arrival was a beautiful cat, unusually large with short sleek black fur the colour of a raven’s wing and eyes a deep emerald green marked by amber flecks of gold. Even for a cat he was strangely confident and self-possessed. Our dog, normally curious about all things moving, took to staying in the kitchen immediately after the cat’s arrival but this was quickly associated with her young age and her leanings toward the dramatic. The dog was told to get over it; the cat was christened with the name of Michael and was adopted into the family.

     My husband is a shift worker on the 11pm to 7am shift. We lead separate lives of a sort. He likes to keep the same sleep schedule on the weekend and as a result I sleep alone every night, that is, until Michael came. Instead of wandering at night as most cats do, Michael quickly took proprietorship of the empty side of the bed. His heavy purring was much more melodious than my husband’s snoring and it was nice to have a warm body beside me as the nights began to turn cold.

     I’ve never had such vivid visions. I’ve never dreamt such dreams. My sleeping eyes find me under a night sky silvered by the gothic moon. The light is the blue light of the full moon. The yard is caressed by the waves of a cerulean ocean dripping with luminescent pearls. Fingers of breeze tug at my dress, exploring the fall of hair and the naked skin of my shoulders and neck. The shadows are as dark as a raven’s wing, soft as silk, sensuous as sable and they sing. It is October and my bare feet should be cold but they aren’t. The light of the moon embraces me with a heat I’ve never known. The voices swell and the night fills me till I wake at dawn.

     Each night for the past two weeks I’ve dreamt this dream, each night since Michael came. With each sleeping moment the song becomes clearer, the silver light becomes brighter. Each morning I wake to find Michael laying beside me, warm and dark, his emerald eyes sharp and intent. Tonight is Halloween. On such a night, it is said, the doors between the worlds open. Perhaps, if one was called and if one dared they might pass through. Tonight will also be graced by the fullest of moons, the gothic moon. It is a moon that will be so full and so bright it will rival the sun in power and beauty. Like a lantern this moon might light the way and show paths never seen on any other night. I know it is the moon of my dreams.

     It is just midnight and Michael is calling me. For the first time since he’s come to stay with me he’s ready to roam the night. I will go with him out under the moon. I can hear the voices clearly now. They are calling me. Under my waking eyes the yard and the fields are changed, fey and transparent, my dreams come to life. Out in the moonlight Michael looks the most different but I already knew he would. Standing on the back step I’m ready to walk a new path. I won’t look back as I take Michael’s hand to walk under the moon-blessed sky and let the night fill me up as we step into the fields. Sometimes we just get lost and sometimes we find our way home again.

 

 

 

 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Summer’s Grief

Persephone lingers in Demeter’s reprieve while the season hangs on the winds of change. The cold hands of Hades wait to claim a bride. The austere sky plays witness to a torment never ending. Pomegranate rubies seed the clouds with tears of a sanguine lament. The evergreen keeps its own council. It will wear no heart upon its sleeve. It is the oak and maple, elm and ash that will harrow, hurt and grieve. The bowered heights blush an agony of wounded crimson and gold. The fury of a sweet season’s ruination screams upon the wind to wail and moan and rend autumnal robes leaving only outstretched arms stick gaunt and naked against the darkening sky.

 

Thursday’s Child Has Far To Go

     The sun chose to stay abed on Thursday morning to avoid the leaden overcast October sky. It was one of those days that, having given itself over into self-pity, decide to drip away through all the chilly hours that remain. Thursday is the day before Friday and Friday is garbage day so Thursday morning’s tasks predictably covered preparations for the impending pick up and, most unexpectedly, a shocking glimpse into the mysteries of the universe.     

     The gilded doors to the unknown plane, oddly enough, swung open above the white hex tiled floor of my upstairs bathroom. As some of you may already know the unexplained lurks within the walls of my historical residence, in particular the back stairwell and upstairs bathroom. One might think I should be well acquainted with the mysteries of existence or lack there off. I would disagree and I must say that I am convinced that there will never be a time that a cynic’s heart will find me unaffected by the spans that breach and join distant worlds together.

     Thursday morning, the key that opened the door just a crack was my son’s hedgehog, Joe MacHedgie. I’m still not sure what happened. I could make a semi-educated guess. Joe was seriously overweight, he had a stubborn temperament and he was a slave to his own nature. Joe was a grumpy spiky Walter Mathieu of a beast. A foul-mouthed house gnome, Joe held a special place in my heart despite his temperament and abusive vocabulary of grunts and hisses. When Joe was young he was a playmate and active member of our family collective. Time and the teenage years sent Joe the way of "painted wings and giant rings" and almost overnight he disappeared into Puff’s distant cave. Certainly still loved in an abstract way but not always remembered.

     Joe was absolutely filthy, covered in newsprint ink and his own excrement that he’d managed to smear all over himself while he waited for me to clean his pen (he definitely knew how to make a statement when he was displeased). An unscheduled bath in the porcelain shallows was the obvious solution. Hedgehogs are great swimmers. Their quills act like a little life jacket to help keep them buoyant. Never the less Joe had never liked baths and his already stormy mood picked up speed and became a full-blown hurricane as the ablutions commenced.

     Joe stood in 2 inches of water at the deep end of the tub as I squeezed the facecloth above his head. Angry as always he hissed as the tepid water trickled over his face. He ducked his head into the water but that only served to irritate him more. As I continue to wash he worked himself into quite a state. I squeezed more water over his head and he curled into a ball with his head in the water again. The span of two breaths and I told him not to be so silly and rolled him over. He uncurled and looked at up at me his head just up out of the water. I picked him up and told him to snap out of it. I chided him, telling him that it was only a bath and if he hadn’t gotten so dirty he wouldn’t have needed one.

     Lying on his back in the towel Joe’s face contorted. He took a deep breath and his mouth opened wider than I’d ever seen. He cried out in a voice I’d never heard before and I realized that this was no normal temper tantrum. His head lolled back as his tongue extended out like some horrible cartoon joke.

     Panic-stricken I was caught, held by his eyes. They opened wider, and then wider still. For the first time in the hand span of what had been his life he was focused, seeing, really seeing…something. Mesmerized I watched emotions chase across his face, wonder or horror, certainly not fear, maybe surprise. His dark eyes were impossibly black and wider still, so full of visions. The whole sky could be lost in that inky distance. He looked inside me, through me and beyond. Full up with the universe the key broke and the door began to close. Wild and fast, the darkness emptied out like the line of a reel on a rod that’s been hit hard and fast from the cool weedy depths below or the tail of a kite that’s broken its line and flung itself across the sky. The door slammed shut and Joe’s head sagged forward, eyes drooping in an eternal slumber, angry no more. The rod snapped back, the broken string fell to the ground as fish and kite disappeared into the great unknown.

 

     Someone once wrote that death was so frightening because it was so ordinary and it happened everyday. As I stood shocked, full of profound emotion at all that had transpired, I did not feel fear but a lack of comprehension. What had been was now no more. All that was left, the broken rod, the string and the bobbin, was a pale shadow of the journey. Now after days of reflection on what I had seen and the context in which it was shown I could never call any death ordinary. For in this "small" death so to speak I had seen my own. The details and effects will differ but still in the end all that will remain is the snapped rod, the broken string and the bobbin it was once wrapped on.

 

It did not seem at all ordinary to me

The Collector

     The wind came in today to call an old friend out to play. It reached for the wings that time had stilled and recalled with a trembling caress the summer days of light and clover in meadows far away.

 

     I am a collector of things. I say things because although I think they have value, I’m sure most people would disagree with me. My collection spans years and has been tucked into the various nooks and crannies that make up my household. There are several themes that run through my menagerie but each item must meet one basic criteria…in my eyes the item in question must be beautiful beyond question. Often my treasures are discovered in out-of-the-way places. If I care enough to carry something a mile or two to get it home it HAS to be beautiful. I am aware that beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. If a thief was to break into my home I’m sure he’d bypass these particular trifles, as they aren’t jewel encrusted or Pentium powered.

     There are people who know my taste and like to keep an eye out for items to add to my collection. All contributions that meet the strict criteria are gladly accepted. The frailest of mementos have found a place on the windowsill and adjacent shelf in my workroom. The most prominent items at this time include the skull of a unidentified animal, two cicada husks, the teeth of a small rodent, a bird’s nest, a crab claw from Massachusetts, several fossils encased in rock and the remains of a large monarch butterfly. The condition of the butterfly makes it a rare gift, as it isn’t often that one would find such a specimen outside of a conservatory or museum. Found totally intact, not a scale or an antennae missing, it made the journey here reverently wrapped in tissue and encased in a lunchbox for safekeeping.

     It was found in a large industrial factory. This isn’t as strange as you might think. Many animals live in factories. Birds, raccoons and squirrels are just a few. Many different types of insects hitch rides and travel thousands of miles from their homes to arrive in our northern climes (black widows up from Mexico are some of the nastier surprises that might be found). The butterfly may have been one of thousands that journeyed south on the annual monarch migration. It may have lingered too long or traveled the distance only to find itself transported back to these northern lands. Either way the journey, as it once knew it, is over. No tropical oasis will warm its last days nor cold northern roadside mark its passing.

   

     Beautiful orange and black scaled wings, as colourful and delicate as the day they first emerged from the cocoon, reflect the sun as they tremble in the gentle autumn breeze that trickles in the window. The room is filled with the smell of earth, grass and leaves. Just for a moment the butterfly is reborn as the moving air breathes an illusion of life. The prismed wings rise as if to answer the silent call. Light and air dances round the room and like the hand of God stirs the spirit trapped within and carries it away.

      I am, as I have said, a collector of things, things that most people would hold in little to no regard. To me these are items of mystery and of wonder and a beauty that is almost too terrible to bear.

Destiny

What terrible poignancy that we are born with the spark of our own demise contained within us. All that our lives will be, the span that is allotted to each and every one of us, is held within that blueprint of our design. If we are lucky enough the roadmap will direct us to the second half of our crescent moon; that which rounds us out and makes us whole.

The metamorphosis is an uneasy and sometimes painful transformation but all growth requires sacrifice and pain.  The entirety of being, two divided yet one, reflects the light of love in the clearest of icy rays in homage to the creator’s brilliant radiance. The waxing and waning of the night’s face echoes the ebb and flow of our tides. There must be dark so that we may know the light. The constant is contained within the inconstant and nothing is given but the unknown epilogue.

 

Whispers

     The earth rises up in smooth grass covered mounds. Concentric circles, one within the other, mark the edge of a settlement. The outer rim was built first. Trees cut from the surrounding forest were bolstered with the blood of the earth to strengthen the guardian arms of the village. The second followed at some indeterminate time, a twin embrace identical in height and appearance. Dual breaks mark the path of a stream that danced through this place, waters now 400 years barren and dry. The bright sun of an October day shines down upon a world that was abandoned before the trees that now grace this land were even thought of. This was once a dwelling place of the Attiwandaronk.

     The sky that spreads out above this modern day earth also sheltered the longhouses and fields of a people lost to sorrow and time. The beauty of the day gives lie to the history of the land. Little remains of the Attiwandaronk who worked this land and lived out their lives in these verdant fields. The Attiwandaronks and the Aztecs breathed the same air. While stone eulogizes the life of the later only mounds of earth and the detritus of daily life recorded in shards of pottery, flint and bone remembers the faces of this northern tribe.

     The russets of autumn stains the bowering leaves above and below. A hand’s breadth over a decade marks the stain of a life left broken and empty upon the hidden swell of sweet green grass.  The elders gathered in this ancient place to heal what they could. A blessing and the hope for rest were sought but no concrete closure could be gained by way of The Releasing of The spirit ceremony. Does she linger here still, her life leeched into the flesh, the bones, and the blood of this place? Hope demands that she rides the wind, free at last from the demons that shadowed every second, every hour, every day of her earthly time.

     The land of the Attiwandaronk Nation once stretched from Kent County to the Niagara Peninsula. History records this tribe as the first permanent residents and farmers. The Iroquois would end the long reign of this mighty nation. What they did not destroy they assimilated or scattered into the wind.

     Refusing to yield the full tale of its journey the mute earth lays in terrible beauty quiescent beneath an autumnal sky. The ageless wind teases a distant whisper barely discernable as it intertwines within the rustle of leaves. The mysteries of time are here for all to see but the knowledge is coded in an unknown language with no Rosetta stone to provide the key.

 

 

 

 

“Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.” ~R. Inmon

I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn
sunshine by staying in the house.  
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne~
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 If you look for the truth outside yourself,
It gets farther and farther away.
Today walking alone, I meet it everywhere I step.
It is the same as me, yet I am not it.
Only if you understand it in this way
Will you merge with the way things are.
–   Tung-Shan
 
 

Visiting With The Dead

     Death is one of the great mysteries. It’s surrounded by theology, theory, speculation and emotion. There are deaths that are thought to be a blessing, a release from a life full of sorrow and pain. There are deaths that mark the end of lives cut short through brutality, chance or mistake in such a way that none can deny the tragedy. There are deaths that are the natural destination of the journey reached at last. Death is the universal leveler. It shows no favouritism or mercy for that matter. Young or old, rich or poor, we are all equal in the eyes of Atropos as she cuts the thread of each life.

     For centuries the living have memorialized those passed on through monuments, rites and celebrations. To that end tombstones, national holidays, scholarships, bursaries, schools and streets, bridges and hospitals all carry the names of those who have made their mark on this world, large or small. Stories are told, books are written and names are passed down from generation to generation. General philosophy holds that this phenomenon is for the dead but it is in fact performed by and for the living.

    

     Almost everyday the dead come and we visit. I don’t mean the ghosts that live here…they never leave. My guests come with the arrival of the daily paper. Sometimes their entire lives are laid out for me to see and those are usually the ones who are the most welcome.

     The obituary section of the paper is divided into two parts. The first is a small box that lists the basic details of name, age and date of passing. The second part lists the full entry, complete with most of the details pertaining to the passing and if one is lucky the story of the life lived before. Please don’t think I’m a morbid person. I don’t read the obituaries because I take joy in the misery of mankind. A passing of any kind holds tragedy and the death of any child in particular can bring me to tears. That being said, a full life memorialized in an obituary is like a good book thoroughly enjoyed. One is sad to see the end of it but thankful that someone took the time to lovingly craft the contents and then share them with the world.

     The obituary of a life well lived and beautifully eulogized is a testimony not only to the dearly departed but to those he or she has left behind. Although it records the death, it reaffirms the life and vision of the protagonist. The names listed, family and friends now left behind or sometimes gone ahead gives evidence to the world of the love both given and received. The mention of hobbies, travels, accomplishments or associations tells a tale of time not just spent but wrung dry of everything it could offer. It may seem odd to seek light where dark is thought to reign but an obituary can be one of the best illustrations of life affirmation to be found. It is the lives of the departed that these notices celebrate, not their deaths. It is proof concrete that despite sorrow and loss someone remembers. It is through those memories that a life, though ended, will continue on as a foundation for those who follow. 

     One of my favourite obituaries was published last year. It wasn’t very long but it didn’t need to be. The usual information was included but at the end, in lieu of flowers, mourners were asked to add to a garden or send some to a friend. There was a picture included of the deceased. His head was thrown back as his image was caught in mid laughter while he held the hand of a beautiful smiling woman. Although William, or Bill as he was referred to in the notice, was a stranger to me that one shining moment spoke to my heart in a beautiful tribute. In that captured image there were no questions, no mysteries, no tears.

     I’m not without reservations; I know that all lives hold some part of those things as well as tedium, insecurity and sorrows. But the course of a life is not defined by the bumps along the way but by the path we open up as we move through the wilderness. I think that Bill’s path was mossy, cobbled and garden lined, full of bird song and a sun so bright the occasional cloud could never linger long. That image, chosen by his children, represents what he engendered and left behind as his legacy. He left love, laughter, flowers and healing. What more can you ask of a man or his life?

 

When I can, I visit with the dead. It helps to remind me what living should be about.