Thank you, Tom Petty

We someone famous dies, we talk about them. Everybody talks about them. If they are like Tom Petty, mostly we just extend our gratitude that we happened to hit this mortal loop at the same time. Tom Petty had a long career and an impressive body of work – listen to the whole catalog – the texture of his work is neither glam-rock smooth like Bowie nor quite as unwashed as Mellencamp.  There’s a earthy, sexy grit to it, a forward groove, and a feeling that everything will be all right.

There are gems like “Runnin’ Down a Dream”, arguably the best driving song since Golden Earring’s “Radar Love”. “Don’t Come Around Here No More” stands out with its creepy Alice in Wonderland video. His biggest hit, “Free Fallin'” started out as a way to make fellow Wilbury Jeff Lynne laugh.

But when we praise the work of an artist, it is usually in terms of how their gifts affected us personally. What does the song mean to you? Which one got under your skin and cracked your heart wide open, leaving your brain in the dust?

“American Girl” was released in 1977.  The urban myth states that the song is about a college girl from Petty’s home of Gainesville, Florida who took LSD and jumped thinking she could fly.  I never read that part of the story til a few days ago. I’d heard the song hundreds of times, sang along, knew the words.

In the summer of 1989, on my first night in Paris, I was standing alone on a balcony at 3am. It was quiet, rainy and cool.

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My balcony at Hotel de la Cite Rougement in Paris.

 

Earlier that night, I had struck up a conversation in a cafe with a boy named Karim. He was swarthy and beautiful and looked vaguely like Jeff Healy’s drummer. We were both 20 and far from home – although he would not talk about his home. He asked if I would like to go to the Eiffel Tower.  Well, of course!  He had a car and we could be there toute de suite!

He was a very fast, very terrible driver. Worse than me when I started driver’s ed and nearly took out some trees. It was after midnight though and the streets were clear. He bolted down close alleys and jerked the gearshift. The little orange Citroen hopped and screeched. And then suddenly, there we were. We parked on the Seine side and got out. 1989 was the 100th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower (from the 1889 World’s Fair).  “100 ANS” was spelled out in lighted letters down one side. I had showed up in Paris at an auspicious time.

TE100ans

The air was heavy and sweet. And Karim kissed me and the clouds opened.  The rain drenched and pounded us, but we did not move from our place. We kissed and kissed because the moon was full and the tower was lit and the rain gods couldn’t stop us.

We both started to shiver. He drove me back to the cafe like a maniac.  Except now, he was a chilly, excited maniac. We agreed to meet for lunch in the same place. He kissed me goodnight and I didn’t want to let go, but I did.

I walked home slowly, cool insistent droplets pattering my head and hands.  Back to my hotel. Back to standing alone on the balcony.  Back to when I did everything I could just to be here.  I couldn’t help thinkin’ that there was a little more to life somewhere else. After all it was a great big world.

I stood there, stopped shivering, tasted the warmth of his kiss lemonade beer and Gauloises cigarettes.

I knew I would never see him again. Not my choice. My group was leaving for Alsace in five hours. I breathed in the night deep as I could.  God it’s so painful/something that’s so close/still so far out of reach. I wanted to make it last. Make it last all night.

I don’t play the what-if game. Life happens the way it is supposed to.  I am exactly where I need to be. Wherever Karim landed, I hope he is happy.  Whenever “American Girl” comes on, I sing along. It’s not about me, but it is. I appreciate what it means to me.

It got under my skin, cracked open my heart, left my brain in the dust for 3 minutes and 33 seconds.

Thank you, Tom Petty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art Makes Family: A Book of Love

Every year for Daz’s birthday, I try to make something original that expresses the way he makes me feel.  I made this little book for him, but I want to share it with everyone.

Art has become the catalyst for me – whether it is drawing or painting or writing or cooking or singing. It is my WD40 AND my duct tape. It smooths the edges and keeps us together. I have typed the wordss out under each picture, Please enjoy!

 

Art1

Art: noun, The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.  But what if ART is more than what we make? What if ART is what we are? What if WE are the medium – pulled together in a cohesive torrent of creative LOVE?

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ART brings us together in a masterpiece of the human tapestry. Our history in every language.  Our skin in every color. Our truth in every version. Our story whether small or epic.

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Our perspective at every angle.  Our memories at every age. Our love in every expression.

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We see ourselves woven and folded and part of beauty and the living tableau of ART.  We see with our eyes and mind and heart.  We feel color.  We hear texture.

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ART makes beauty and life and love and home. ART makes FAMILY.  Thank You for being my family, my partner and helping me create this life everyday!

Love, H.

No Love in Things

So this is a ghost story about how we are haunted by things.

In the mid-1980’s, my mother was a cross-stitch artisan. She made some absolutely flawless work. We had even tested out several design software packages to create our own patterns for images. I also created some pieces, but nothing as intricate or challenging as the pieces she made.  For my grandmother’s birthday, she had a brilliant idea of making an entire cross-stitch quilt.

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The quilt design was 25 squares, each with a different rose picture. My grandmother LOVED roses. I was to make 12 and my mother would make 13.  Once they were completed, we would have it sashed with green ivy fabric and quilted by the ladies at The Neighborhood House for a donation.

quilt1

Whatever else was going on, we made that happen. It was a beautiful quilt.

And this was a big deal to us.  My grandmother, the quilt’s recipient, had made a masterpiece of her own that had hung in a couple different fabric/quilt shows and museums.  She had make a double-embroidered quilt of all the birds and flowers from all 50 states in alphabetical order.  It was enormous! Five years of work, countless episodes of All My Children, holding her mouth just right while threading the needle.  She had a bent fingernail because of the constant pressure against the fabric to get the stitch just right.

My grandmother loved our gift. And being from the generation who lived through the Great Depression, she wrapped it up and put it away for safe keeping. I would not see it again for 30 years.

quilt 2

When my grandmother died, my mother moved into her house. She quietly gave the quilt to a childhood friend of hers. The quilt was still new – wrapped up and folded neatly in plastic. And in exchange, he gave her a lamp.

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It was no ordinary lamp. He had lovingly made a Tiffany-style pink and white lampshade just for her and attached it to an ornate metal base. It was a table-lamp and it suited my mother and all her pastel belongings to a tee.

Now these were two specific, unique and priceless things.  A great deal of feeling and sentiment were attached.  A great deal of creative work (including my own) transpired to bring them into being. The trade between my mother and her friend was one of equality and mutual admiration. And yet, they were THINGS.  Not people. Not loved ones.  Things.

When my mother passed in 2010, it was a chaotic time.  I am an only child and there was no will. I did my absolute best to put the nuts and bolts of her life in order and try to honor her in a way that would suit her. I did not allow myself to grieve in public or at all for at least another two months. I had help.  My mother’s friend Shirley and her close neighbors, Sonya and Emilio helped me immensely.  We sold as much as we could to take care of funeral expenses and set up a memorial service.

I held my breath for two months. I dealt with releasing her house to the bank and sending out death certificates to creditors. I felt loved and supported by people who just showed up and pitched in. Because we all loved her.

 

I held my breath and when I exhaled, I was alone. One night at 2 a.m. I just sat up in bed.  Her dog Doc, who became my dog, laying on the end of my bed staring at the closet.  Her ashes were on my top shelf. They had handed me her remains in a green velvet bag. I awoke and began to really feel the empty space in my life where she had been. We had talked daily often more than once. She made me laugh. She was the best grandma to my son. She was gone.

And there was not a THING that I wished to hold on to. None of it contained her heart, her soul, her spirit, her light. I didn’t need any of it because I carried the best of her with me. Always.

I had neither the quilt nor the lamp. And I was grieving and healing.

And it slowly got better. I miss her now, today, this moment. So does everyone else. And we live on connected by that.

So this is the haunting part, the life lesson:

A few months ago, my mother’s childhood friend showed up and found me.  He had the quilt. Honestly, I didn’t know it still existed.  But there it was, still folded immaculately in pristine plastic. He wanted to give it back to me. And, just for kicks, he wanted to know if I had the lamp. Because in his eyes, I had not been a good steward of my mother’s THINGS.  Because at some time while I was holding my breath and THINGS were being sold, I let the lamp get sold too.  Because when I was dealing with the tidal wave, I did not happen to grab his lamp and anchor it to myself while I withstood the storm.

aladdin

I was polite. I understood his point of view. I told him honestly that I did not know here it was or whom had it.  He talked on in a very heavy-handed way about disrespect.

“I’m giving this back to you because I know where things go.”

He was trying passively to shame me for not possessing HIS lamp. A lamp that was his then my mom’s, but never mine in the first place. A lamp that was so important to him still, that six years after my mother’s death, he found me just to emphasize its loss.

I remained polite. I much prefer people who speak plainly if they have an issue with me. But it was apparently that HIS lamp and HIS loss were not MY lamp nor MY loss.

I never wanted the lamp.  I never wanted the quilt back. It was given as a gift.  And my understanding of a gift is that once it is given, you do not take it back.

His attempt to hang six years of guilt on me for a lost THING didn’t work. In fact, it made me very sure that I will never charge another person with curating or keeping my THINGS.

marley
Jacob Marley wearing his chains of THINGS

I have the quilt, but I am donating it. The quilting is still crisp.  The stitches still look fresh.  In its 30 year existence, this quilt has never warmed anyone. It has never been loved. Its beauty has been made bitter by those who buried it away, suffocated it in plastic in the back of a closet. I am hoping that donating it allows the magic to finally grow. So much care and love went into it.

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My real hope is that whomever ended up with the lamp truly finds joy in it. Maybe it’s a beacon for a little girl reading stories. Maybe it’s the perfect source of light and comfort for someone who is alone. It could not be any of those things for me.

It was never my lamp.

Poetry: In the Midnight Garden – The Power of Dreams

One August night three years ago, I woke up blind sobbing.  I could not snap myself awake because this dream held on to me.
I dreamed of the man I love being called by Death.
Death is not a stranger to me.  My grandparents, parents – all no longer in this life. It is an honor to be truly present when someone passes.  I was there for my maternal grandparents and my mother. I held my grandfather’s small, blue hand and felt all of his memories pass through him; his life in rural Kentucky as a child, his mother’s face, his dogs, his children when they were small, his continued strength and determination and I knew firsthand the blessing it left on me.
mort
T-shirt design by Daz L’asrtist
Aside from my wonderful son, I have no immediate family. I have built one with friends and specifically with this man. This man who is fearless and kind and creative and magic and steady and real.
So when she came to collect, in this dream, in her guise – I made a deal.
Please enjoy the poem below:
In The Midnight Garden
She stole in through indigo bough under the weight and glory of
a full, gold moon
A ghost of a girl moving like breeze through gaudy forsythia
Her limbs birch white and eye pale grey blue like the pulsing
vein of a wild dove
Her ebon hair whipping savage and smile curving down
She sang her rain crow song, weaving through phantom
wisteria
She called to me with a lover’s voice by my secret name and
brought me out under the darkling stars
“I know you by your eye and your song.” She croaked softly
and offered me her cold hand as if gifting me a lily.
Her cool breath stole across my shoulders and slowed my blood. The
Death crow had coming to steal away my love.
Steal him from his life and waken in him another. A birth into
fretless abyss and humming oblivion.
To waken in me endless
empty hours and stillness without peace,
To tear him from his life and so from mine.
“How will you keep him with flesh that alters and weakens?
How will he love the finite and imperfect? When art and beauty
are timeless?
How can he stay with you? When I am Evolution and Omega.”
“I know you by your cold and illusion.” I sang softly and placed
my warming hand on her icy brow as if feeling a child’s face
for fever.
She wavered a bit but stood frozen, defiant. The Death crow demanded her treasure.
“I know you will take him. Into the desert darkness
where life is only a covetous idea.
I know he will love the journey and waken from the dream of
this life.And you may have him when my heart stops and me
too for the bargain.
But first listen…”
She smiled a curving downward crescent and let her head fall to
one side.
Her raven mane falling over the shifting planes of her
silver face altering into pain.
She heard
Loud and hard and hot and fierce the insistent beating of my heart.
The Death crow’s eyes grew wide as the moon. “I’ll be back.”
I smiled. “Take your time. We will be a while yet.”

Practical Magic for Ugly Children

I was raised by my maternal grandparents from ages 2 to 7, and then from 11 to adulthood.  My grandmother’s mother, Gertrude, did not like children. She had had six of them. And now had to put up with her offspring’s offspring’s offspring. It was more of a have-to with me. My grandparents lived close to them and took them to doctor appointments. Gertrude got to visit with me more than she would have liked.

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Chet and Gertrude

When I was six, I lost my top right front tooth as normal kids do. However, the tooth that took its place, came in twisted like a corkscrew. Gertrude bestowed the pet name of “Snagglepuss” on me.

Snagglepuss

She was the only one who called me that, but she did it as often as possible. I had the tooth pulled and actually had an extra tooth bud that came in straight. I smiled at her broadly every chance I got, hoping for release from the vile nickname.

Alas, Gertrude was 4’6”.  I was already nearly as tall as she was. And in retrospect, it must have seemed threatening to have a child your own size constantly grin at you like a homicidal monkey.

monkey

As I got a little older, I began to talk more with my great-grandpa, Chet. He was quiet. Never said more than was necessary. I know more of what was said about him that I knew him.  From my grandmother’s stories (his daughter), I knew he had a bad temper. I knew he kicked the shins of people who were rude at dinner with hobnailed boots. I knew he was part “Indun”, or Native American and knew some magic. I knew he was a cutthroat Pinochle player.

Lump

Grandpa Green and me (in my lump state).

It was a beautiful thought for an ugly kid. I came from magical people. Somewhere under this pasty nearsighted, greasy-haired lump, there was a continuation of a magical bloodline. Not a passing on of a cheap card trick or sleight of hand, not some $8 Bill Bixby linked rings nonsense, but real magic. Something that I could like about myself that no one could really see.

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The summer I was 11, sent back from my feral days in Ohio, I went barefoot every chance I got. My grandparents were supremely overprotective and forced me to wear shoes. With the damp and the heat and the wet socks and closed shoes, I ended up with plantar warts all over my right foot. I hid it at first, embarrassed and scared. But it spread and the toes began to look webbed. The pain of taking a step and desperate willingness to cut my toes off just to stop the infernal itching made me stay in my room.

They found out. My grandfather caught me without my socks. They took me to the doctor. Then to a dermatologist.  Dr. Dickinson prescribed a smelly, burning lotion that smelled bad and burned worse. Then Dr. Dickinson spoke about burning them off or freezing them off.  I’m sure he was a respected doctor, but to me he was a bald barbarian heaping fear and discomfort on an itchy foot wart volcano.

doc evil

And he never spoke to me or looked at me. In fact he was examining my foot and reached up with his gloved hand and separated my hair. He looked at my grandmother and said “I can give you some topical lotion for this oily dandruff.”  He then scheduled an appointment with them for a month later to either have my foot burnt or frozen.

I spent the next week crying. The idea that the oily, dandruffy, lumpy girl was now also going to be the limping, half-footed, clumsy girl too was crushing me. The burning and itching had not subsided. My foot seemed alien. Did I even care about it being burnt or frozen? Was it part of me still?

Enter magic. During a Pinochle game, the situation of my foot had come up in conversation. And my great-grandfather, supreme car shark and “Indun” had a trick up his sleeve.

He told me to take off my shoes and walk to the back of the yard with him. He told me to follow directions.  And he told everyone else that it was none of their business.  So I did.

When we got to the lot line, we sat down on the grass.  He took my foot and held it and looked at it. He took a large, dry navy bean out of his shirt pocket.  He considered it. I didn’t know that old people carried dry beans in their pockets. So I also considered it.

bean

He looked up and the sky and then at my foot. He rubbed the dry navy bean over the warts, humming a bit. I watched him, thinking that I was never going to eat navy beans again. Thinking that this was too simple to be magic and too weird to be anything else.

When he was done, we stood up.  He handed me the bean.

“Throw this over your shoulder and don’t look back to see where it falls.”

So I did.

The pain was gone.

Within three days, my foot was clear.  And magic was real to me.

I have never had a wart since. I have never eaten a navy bean in my life.

My great-grandfather, the magic “Indun” died at 93. In the years between, I was his friend and lucky Pinochle partner. He came to Thanksgiving a couple times. Gertrude passed before him and he married a lady 30 years younger than him about 6 months before he died. They traveled a lot. She took him to see the world beyond the Midwest. I was happy for him.

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Chet dancing at 93 with his new wife Ruby.

A tiny bit of belief, the smallest bit of magic can heal anyone. Everyone has a spark of divine within them, even old people, even ugly children. Don’t let it be lost to the mediocrity of every day. Allow it to be part of you, fight to keep it. Use it to do good.

Poetry: The Kiss as a Portal

Lancelot and Guinever – Florence Harison
“There’s a perfect kiss somewhere out in the dark, but a kiss ain’t enough.”
-Richard Butler, Psychadelic Furs, “Heartbreak Beat“, 1987
We don’t give credit the kisses they deserve anymore.  Somehow as we have evolved, kisses have been devalued of their magic. The common gesture, now in it’s meaningless variants, are an assumption – a throwaway.  We smooch or peck. We have even invented the “air-kiss” which carries no affection, just recognition.
Now there are different kisses with different purposes. But I am specifically speaking here of the romantically charged connection between partners. What moves us to engage beyond eye contact and embrace?  Are we like the wolves, signifying acceptance of the other pack members, by a kiss?  Are we simply following our intuitive drive to connect in the very place that words and speech and expression find their first primal outlet? Does it still carry the weight of a complicit fairy tale or is it simply the precursor to more familiar activities?
I’m not a romantic per se, but I do like the idea of a kiss being important, carrying an agreement with it.  It means something.  It means that you are willing to offer yourself -just as you are. To bring to this gesture all that is in your heart and mind.  Somehow the alchemy of the offered kiss transmutes everything into acceptance. Acceptance of the kiss receiver just as they are. Acceptance of yourself as worthy and deserving of such love.
Before I knew a great deal about Daz, I knew I had to kiss him. It didn’t really happen until the third time we spent time together. But I knew instinctively that it needed to happen.  And before I actually kissed him, before I even met him, I dreamed about it.
And I wanted to write about the pure weight of it. The deal I was striking. The genius of connection. The small spark of sweet lightning. It was a portal – a gateway to possibility of great adventure.
Please enjoy the poem below:
Last night, in the sojourn of starless sky and liquid hope
I dreamed of a kiss
My bare feet driven across velvet, verdant blades
Woven with wild violet and bergamot toward this hanging jewel
This pendant holy gem of joy and desiring
Suspended ripe just at
the corner of your mouth
Where dark angels and
easy laughter and silent words congregate
Last night, in the journey of unreal hours and libertine night
I dreamed of a kiss
My bare heart transgressing upon
wavering, wanton thoughts
Wild to possess and
devour this small, perfect particle of the soul
This gift hiding where
you curse and bless
and call dreams into being
Aching for discovery just at the corner of your mouth
Where hard wisdom and soft danger and loose words sleep
Last night, in crossing empty room and stricken shadow
I awoke from that dream
My bare mind riddling unyielding darkness, searching visions
Wishing to awaken both terror and beauty, both wound and salt,
Both disease and cure, both flame and its quenching
All that is ever created, living, dying, bleeding, singing and breathing
Where old histories and new languages and native tongue collide
rodin
Rodin, The Kiss

Poetry: Scarecrow – Hearing your own voice in anger, taking it back.

Healthy couples argue.  Anger is normal.  Sometimes you have to raise your voice.
Sure. But have you ever heard yourself when words fly out like ugly, winged monkeys? When you just can’t NOT finish the rant and it keeps going and you’re getting to your point, but there are crucial details and now NO ONE is listening?
And you know, the longer and louder you go on, the more ugly, winged monkey crap you will have you clean off your floor and furniture?
UGH!  Anyway, as justifiable as this is sometimes, I immediately feel sorry.  Not because I expressed myself or made my point. I feel sorry because I did not handle myself like an adult and instead became a verbal volcano, hurting the people I love.
The French word for sorry is “désolée” – literally desolate.  And after I feel sorry, I feel alone. Empty. And I am not sure where to sit. Or what activity in which to engage to make things better. The people in my life are precious to me. I love them and I am loved.
I’m not Vesuvius or Pompeii or Krakatoa. I’m not going to make cinder and ash from this little blaze that warms us and keeps us close.
I believe in all the good there is in him. I believe he tries his best everyday. And he reminds me to do the same. So I’ll stick with this. And him.
So here is my poem:
Scarecrow
In quick, ugly moments when
we occupy the same space
and sheer physics denies our
solitude, I morph into an ancient, dark crow.
My cackle jarring the blue, raw nerve of you,
My endless prattling caw about nothing of consequence
Grating to your sweet ear
My uncertain love song unwelcome.
Flutter of my weak wing scorching to your fine skin
My bright shiny eyes beholding you like a treasure
Magpies would surely steal away
I want so much to be the happy bluebird, the Gothic raven,
The garish flamingo, the mythic phoenix or
even the clumsy albatross.
But I am just an old crow who loves the flannel
pattern of your shirt moved by the wind.
The softest breeze carries wakefulness in
Your limbs and mystifies me. I know how soft
and warm straw can be.
How pieces of you have
been carried away and need reclaiming.
I understand the metal skeleton under it all
Hardened and yet soulful, the glint of wisdom
And truth you hide under the ragged hat.
I want so much to be the exception, the one blackbird
You allow close to the open radiance of your fertile dreams.
Even if I need to wear a disguise.
I want sometimes to be the match, the incendiary kiss of flame
That sets you alight, blazing like angry copper.
But I know if you ever burned, I would only fly
to your crumbling shoulder
And set my withering wing against your heart.

What The World Needs Now

So I had this song tickling the back of my brain..

In lieu of a complicated, wordy blog this week, I will simply present this video. It was made in 2 days. The artwork is my son’s – the awesome Connor McManis. He illustrated my story about Cougar: Fur Family. The voice is mine – such as it is. I’m literally sitting in the hot car with windows rolled up, singing into my iphone, downing herbal tea and ignoring my ear infection. Daz, my lovely artist boyfriend and skilled video editor, put it together for me. The words belong to the immortal Burt Bachrach – who is a master at finding perfect little niches in the human heart and celebrating them in song.

The world is full and busy and ugly sometimes.  I needed to do something quiet. And honest. And decidedly raw and from the heart. So from all of us here in our little house full of love and music and art, we send love. For everyone.

 

Poetry: Mermaids

The first mermaid legend came from Assyria. Sea goddess Atargatis was made half-human for accidentally killing her human lover. Sirens, undines, malevolent waves and crests, selkies stories are ancient. As old as lamia or Lilith or were-creatures. Each story built on themes of sex and and death and the desire to possess abilities and beauty without consequence.
A-ningyo
A-Ningyo
Why? There are enough earthbound mythic monstrosities roaming the haunted forests and windy moors. Witches and bogeymen aplenty lurking in caves and closets. Fear of our demise through the supernatural has been around since our common grunting ancestors heard something in the dark that was not familiar.  And then there is the sea. It’s no coincidence that historically, biblically and geographically that Mesopotamia (the cradle of civilization) is nestled between the Tigris and Euphrates. Water is life. But even greater, water is bacteria!
Fiji-Mermaid
The Fiji Mermaid
On January 30, 2017, Sam Russell published this article:
It’s a mind-blowing read. It’s the prequel to Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Eschewing the primate loop, abandoning the man with one less rib in a pefect garden. It postulates that the stuff that makes us the creature we are today, was basically a primordial kombucha batch from 540 million years ago. And we were NOT attractive in the least.
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A Saccorhytus. Our ancestors?
So what is it we fear with mermaids?
Drowning?  Losing our life by the pressure and glory of taking in all that salt, all that bacteria, all that magick to become fish food. To give our corporeal selves over to desire, drift in the siren song until our breath is not enough to sustain us. To attach ourselves in a haze to beauty until it murders us. To willingly love a creature whose world we cannot inhabit.
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Mermaid carved in a bench Zennor Church, Cornwall UK.
Or is it simply to give in to the call of what we once were?  To reconnect with ancestors in a way far deeper than anything that can be mapped through genealogy. What do we lose in ourselves when we blindly believe a theory?  What do we regain in ourselves when we allow a story to take root in us?
Are you a dreamer or an independent thinker?  Are you driven by love or fear?
egypt
Egyptian cave drawings depicting merfolk.
If mermaids are us, then they are that part of us that stubbornly refused to leave the ancient waters. They are the part of us that builds unseen, ornate kingdoms where only the imagination can visit without dying. They are the part of us that wants revenge on ourselves for buying into the idea that life is so much better on land.  Mermaids want to prove that they were right all along to stay in the briny, prehistoric depths where technology, money, fashion, celebrity and all modern human trappings mean nothing.
Remember what you where before you became what you are? Mermaids do. That is what their siren songs are about.  There is a beauty beyond all this earthly treasure, there is an authenticity to your being for which evolution provides no escape.
In my poem below, the mermaids have surrounded a drowning man. He is no more to them than a toy, an air-filled thing that has come untethered, an amusement.
Mermaids
You spring from the green
sea, a bloated
baby half-airborne, pink
fat nude bald sentient,
wheezing like some beached orca. Earth bleached salt
and scales from
your body.
You vanish; only your
sunburntscalp, salmon pink breaks the milky
surface.
Hairs on your back
prickle, clinging beads of ocean water.
Your hand, stripped of
its webbing clamors to your
sky-god. He does
nothing
to save
you.
You evolved from
dark ooze
without Him.
You bob against the waves like
some grotesque purple
ragdoll.
Your skin colored with madness.
You receive our briny kiss.
Lungs fail. Machines stop with hollow,
empty roaring like the inside
of a spiral shell.
We mermaids embrace you.
We wrap you in seaweed, pickle you in
brine, place green bronze coins
over your pale
dead eyes, and breathe into
your gaping futile
mouth;
It’s an old joke, still
it makes
us laugh.

Poetry: The Wolf Girl-Room Enough

So as my mother would tell the story, I was three. I was fascinated with “Little Red Riding Hood.”  I had the 45 RPM single narrated by Paul Patterson.  The cover showed the little blonde girl (and I was a little blonde girl) traipsing through the black trees with a dark purple sky.  And in the foreground, lying in wait, a black wolf with shifty red eyes.   He was meant to be sinister. I was meant to fear him. But I did not.
In my short time on this planet, much of it immersed in a fairy world of my own imagnation, I had already discovered that things are not always as they seem. I decided that wolves are friends. Dogs are friends. Forest creatures are friends.  I also decided NOT to be the little blonde girl.  I  wanted instead to be the wolf.  The wolf is easily the smartest character in the story.
When I was three, I traveled on all fours into the neighbor’s yard. I took off all my clothes and underwear. I proceeded to do what a wolf would do and pooped square in the middle of my neighbor’s front lawn. My mother charged across the street, red-faced and absolutely shocked.
“Holly Anne! What are you doing?!”
“I’m a wolf. Wolves poop outside, Mom.” I said logically.
She could not argue. She DID inform me that I was NOT a wolf. I needed to put my clothes on and go wash up.  She sent me home and knocked on the neighbor’s door to both explain and apologize.  I also had a visit to my pediatrician who assured her there was nothing wrong with me except a giant imagination.
Even now though, forty-five years later into this life, I love the story. I love the wolf. He shows up in my dreams – never as a threat – but as a guide, as a totem of family. Wolves care for their own.
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My first collage, posted above was in an art show last year.  It’s a 3′ x 2′ collage with natural objects, fabric and clay. The wolf is VERY furry.  I put a sign next to it in the gallery that said, “PLEASE TOUCH THE WOLF. DO NOT BE AFRAID.”  Because we are told in any art gallery to look and not touch.  But he is very soft and velvety and he is accepting a lovely friendship rose from our little blonde girl.
People – especially children – DID touch the wolf.  I sat at a little table and watched them.  I wanted to foster understanding instead of fear. Connection instead of separation.
The collage found a permanent home in the Lit. On Fire Bookstore. I am happy so many people see it.
So I decided to retell the story in the poem posted below. I hope you like it. If I have to be the little blonde girl, I would rather be one who trusts her heart.  I hope you enjoy this.
Room Enough…
I was so used to looking for wolves along the path,
I began to see everything as a wolf
Every shape or shadow shifting in the night,
Every light fair breeze rustling the bedcurtain,
Every man who might just be out to gather wood
And warm himself…
But that particular day, the daisies were grown tall and bright
And whispered that they would keep their chartreuse
Cyclops eyes peeled for any sign of lupine misadventure.
So I wandered among them, picking rabbit candy clover
And forging ships from billowy clouds and hummed
Little rhymes I knew as a child and
cast the net of my heart
Wide about the world
.
But daisies are liars or at the very least have short attention spans,
And wolves must be very fast because asudden, your fur brushed my arm.
I thought somehow I should be more scared, but my heart was open
And my mouth was still forming little rhymes.
I didn’t run and I did not scream. I did look you in the face for real.
For the endless second it took for your bottomless amber eye
To blink.
The door to my heart hung open, and all my fear of you and your legend
Became dust.
So I put out my hand and you put out your paw.
The better to love you with.
And I was sure in my bones that there was room enough
At Grandmother’s house for both of us.