“I didn’t have any food, any water and it was very cold, very cold. I thought, I thought if I could save just one, but… he was so heavy. So heavy.”
The Silence of the Lambs
“I’m a survivor. And like the moon, I have a feeling it would take a truly spectacular event to keep me from taking my place in the scheme of things, waxing, waning, and eclipsing notwithstanding.”
Janet Rebhan, Finding Tranquility Base
“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”
And then . . . it was spring again. Funny how it always seems to be so far away. This year, I was convinced that it had taken the last train to Georgia, then hopped a boat to Jamaica. I reckon most of us magical folk knew something was beginning. As always, beginnings are the harder part for me–mostly on account of they always ensure endings.
For me, there was this . . . noose I wanted rid of, and fast. It had choked and clogged my magic, dampened my faith in humanity and variously had become the plaque in my witch arteries. Twasn’t easy. Some nooses become embedded a bit in the folds of the neck, so much so that they become a part of how you breathe in and out. I knew that dislodging it would cause some bleeding–even dangerous bleeding–but I also knew that I could no longer bear its clutch. To begin again, I had to face an ending.
And I have paid dearly for that freedom. My life was worth it. And now, I am faced with nurturing the wound, bearing up against infection, and assuming the permanence of a scar. “Shit fire and fall back in it,” my Grandma would say, ‘ary time. We know we are daring the flame when we dance in unholy ground–regardless of our reasons, justifications and rationalizations. Denial, methinks, is the luxury of youth. And my time in that realm is long gone.
My priorities have shifted their rather voluptuous asses directly in front of me, and now, I can see everything clearly. I remember Grandma, biting her nails and spitting them across our front porch, leaning into my naiveté and pushing against my carelessness: Anyone who asks you for everything is trouble, baby. Anything that asks is already asking too much. I wonder at our human impulse to give past our reserves. How often do we do this, this depleting of our own life blood, in some misunderstood attempt to assuage our own bleating and torn childhoods?
I find irony here. Very Silence of the Lambs, as Hannibal asks Clarice: “And you think if you save poor Catherine, you could make them stop, don’t you? You think if Catherine lives, you won’t wake up in the dark ever again to that awful screaming of the lambs.” Yes, she says. Yes, I said. Against all logic and sense, I think we all are just trying to stop that awful screaming from our innocence. If I could just save one . . . And somehow, we don’t consider ourselves as an option. We trim our leaves too thin, wear the bark of our core down to tender, all in that valiant effort to stop the screaming of the lambs. It’s a good intent, I suppose. Noble, even. And stupid, stupid, stupid.
Lesse, what’s that rule again? Don’t take more than a third of the plant if you want it to live? Something like that, if I recollect it straight. When I stopped the cull of my own spirit, there was very little left. Sort of betrays the mission, yes?
But I did stop it. Both feet down, arms crossed, against the wind and with very little green left in my stalk. And it had nothing to do with me. Turns out, my kin think that I’m integral to their lives. My children have suggested that I have yet to fulfill the title of “Grandma,” my own self. My husband, fallible and innocent in his own way, balked at the inhumane theft of his time with me. Somewhere, in the razor edge of a winter gone unnatural and vengeful, I decided to accept the scream of the lambs. To live with it, to accept its tenacity and to accustom my ears in such a way as to hear the sounds of crickets and laughter over its tenor. Tiny shoots have reappeared along my heart this month, although I should not have survived this winter.
Must be magic, I reckon. That noose broke against the growth of my trunk and all that is left is a scab. A permanent reminder, of sorts, of the nature of nooses. Beginnings are always at the altar of endings; sometimes, we need the scar to mark them. My first lesson lies somewhere in lamb country, circa 1975: when I was very small, my mother had a cactus. And I loved that cactus. It flowered from time to time until one day, someone ran slap into it. I remember that the diagnosis was grim. It was to be thrown out into the fall air, done for and over–all were in favor, except for one little girl who found a box of Bandaids and cast a tiny spell that it would heal. It would be strong again, even taller for its pain.
When I last saw it, it was five foot tall. At its base was the scar: brown and knotty and deep. Every inch below it looked thin, and every inch above it was thick and full of milk. Proof of life. Sometimes, the scars push us to stronger places. I’ve heard that broken bones knit themselves concrete thick where they are fractured, a belligerent testimony to the efficacy of energy. In the end, it has something to do with nurturing our bones, saving a little something back for the fight of life and . . . magic.
This post will be short as I am learning to parcel myself more carefully. Supper’s on the stove, y’all (Cherokee succotash, roasted chicken, mashed taters and cornbread, yum yum!) and I’m swamped with grading, phone calls and, um, “stuff.”
But more than anything, I am healing. If life has taught me anything about the process, I’ll be flowering by late summer.
And on the way home, I bought ground lamb. (I always did love a good Irish stew, y’all.)
*My own childhood was rife with nightmare and pain. Grandma always silenced my lambs. Now I must do this for myself. Bless you, my soul mother. You will never be forgotten.