Tag Archive: beauty


It comes on slowly, creeping up like crackling frost fingers blooming in slow motion across a windowpane. Just a few careful skeletal fronds at first, adding a pleasant accent to the view outside. White dancing patterns frame the bare branches of the trees outside, just barely brushing against the depth of the field and woods disappearing over the hill. Moonlight makes those fingers glow, and lures you into believing that they’re an addition, not a mask.

The hours pass. The fingers curl around more and more of the glass, deliberately and unstoppably greedy. They begin to caress the larger branches, crawling up and over the grass stubble at the bottom of the window, a measured crackle that whispers “mine, mine, mine” as it encroaches. The clear glass in the center gets smaller and smaller, all the fringes being nibbled away one “mine” at a time.

As the fingernail sliver of moon rises over the ridgeline, there’s more and more hard silver glitter making the whole outside world look different – ethereal, unreal and hyperreal, and all of it covered in “mine, mine, mine.” After a while, it’s easy to hear the things you can no longer see, because they’re all joining in the whispers of possession. It’s a rising susurration of desire and ownership. It claims as it clutches, and it throttles as it loves.

It’s beautiful, still. It will always be beautiful, even as it strangles. It is a thrilling, fascinating death.

You would never know anything had ever been any other way, coming in when the window is all covered over with greedy beautiful fingers and fronds. The only thing to be seen is the glow of the moon – you would never know there is a field out there, and woods, and a ridge. The only thing left is the glow, refracting off the prisms of clutching frost fingers, making shards and slivers of what used to be a lush, warm landscape.

It’s beautiful. It’s fascinating. It’s death, one “mine” at a time.

It bears no resemblance to what it was, what it could be. In the fallow season, the ice changes everything, even how the land breathes underneath its cold mask. It kills as it hides. It destroys an inch at a time, and it doesn’t understand how to regret the destruction it wreaks.

Eventually, the fronds and fractals will cover even the moon’s glow. Watch long enough, and you can see it move. It’s a beautiful death, fascinating even as it cloaks.

You will never know which was the first inch, where the first “mine” was whispered, hungry in the silver glow. If you’re very, very lucky, you may be able to see which one was the last.

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Companion

The power of the companion is this: they walk beside you, for a little while.  It is an immense and awe-inspiring power, and one that is hard both to quantify and to notice, except in its absence.  Companions are the people who understand, even in pieces, the pitfalls and joys in the path you are traveling.  They have turned their ankles on the same rocks, and seen the same vistas of wonder and grace.  They empathize, in the most intimate possible sense, with your experience.

Companions are the company you keep.  Companions are the strong hand in the dark.  Companions are the laugh that harmonizes with yours.  Companions are the reason to keep to the path, or the landmark to indicate where the path doesn’t fit anymore, or both.  Companions are the descant to the melody of your life.

Cherish your companions, because they are all irreplaceable.  Tell them they are beautiful, because they bring out the beauty in your self, and let you see it from the outside.  Do not fear the love of companions, given or received, because it is living art.  Do not mourn overlong when they pass away from your path, because the beauty and love and art is impossible to steal, impossible to lose in any permanent way.

Companionship is one of the greatest gifts of being a thinking, social, empathic creature.  Companions are angels and demons in a human skin, flexible and fallible and fixed and fickle, just as you are.  Their lessons are indelible, and their faults are lessons too.  Learn what they have to teach, hear what they have to say, learn their song and add the parts of it that fit to your own.  Create and engage with them, taste the colors of their hearts.  The beauty you will gain from them, and they from you, is worth every risk.

And remember, in all of that, that you are a companion, too.  Companionship is your gift to offer, to anyone who resonates with it.  Do not forget the power of the companion, in yourself as much as anyone else.

We cannot follow the steps of your dance, Lady.  Our hearts tremble at the pattern of your making and unmaking.

Burning Mother, hear our prayer.

We trust in the shadows of your song, knowing its melody is beyond us.  Our days are metered by the clack and hiss of your loom.

Burning Mother, hear our prayer.

Be gentle with us, your children.  Hold us warmly in your hands.  We beg you for light, for shelter, for understanding.

Burning Mother, hear our prayer.

Be kind with us, your acolytes.  Teach us when we err, guide us when we stumble, show us how to follow your world-shaking steps writ small.

Burning Mother, hear our prayer.

Be fierce with us, your disciples.  Bring us order in chaos in order, demand that we burn with you in the dark places, expect no less of us than we expect of ourselves.  Grant us discipline.

Burning Mother, hear our prayer.

To each of us, your children, grant the blessed, burning love we plead for.  We are yours.  We see you, and we ask only to be seen by you.

Burning Mother, hear our prayer.

To love a person is to learn the song that is in their heart, and to sing it to them when they have forgotten.
Arne Garborg

 

Come sit by my fire, and I will sing you a song, so that you can sing it with me while we sit together, and sing it without me, when the time for you to sit by this fire with me is done.

I know a woman whose heart sings a beautiful song.  It is a song made of hope, and dreaming, and not a little sadness and pain.  It is a song made of all the things a complex life is made of, and it is a song that you already know the pattern of, because it is a song not very unlike your own.

It is a little more full of sadness now than it was, because her heart forgot how to sing it.  Not for long.  Just for a little while.  Just for long enough for the part of her that is her to decide it wanted to be somewhere else instead.

I will miss the woman I know.  Most days, I will talk about her in the past tense, because it is easier for everyone that way.  But we know better, you and I.  Because we are singers, and storytellers, and we will not stop singing her song.

We know that even if her heart forgot for a little while, the song doesn’t stop.  We know that some songs do not have a true beginning, or a true ending.  They only have changes, and movements, and patterns.  Music repeats.  It never truly stops.  We never stop singing.

My friend and I will never have coffee again.  We will never have that long catch-up conversation that we’ve been saying we would have for so long.  She will never graduate college, as she was so close to doing.  She will never see England.  She will never be married.  She will never do so many things that were songs of hope and joy and dream in her life.

That is a song of pain for me.  But her song is not over, because we are still singing.  I refuse to stop.  And I am grateful for your voice, raised with mine.

Every human mind

One must get rid of the idea that educated and intelligent test persons are able to see and admit their own complexes.  Every human mind contains much that is unacknowledged and hence unconscious as such; and no one can boast that he stands completely above his complexes.

Dr. Carl Jung

 

Every human mind believes that it knows everything that is important  to know about itself.  Here’s the secret: we’re wrong.

That thing?  You know, that thing you think that you’ve  successfully distanced yourself from, that you’ve decided not to become, that you’ve worked so hard not to be, that you’ve spent years or decades denying and reviling and excising from yourself?

That’s not a secret to anybody but you.  Everyone else already knows.  They see it in you every day.  You are the only one who doesn’t realize that it is a part of who you are.

Here’s the corollary to that secret: it’s okay.  They already know.  They love you anyway.  They want to be around you anyway.

Today’s lesson, O Best Beloved, is that you are loved because of who you are, not despite it.  Stop fighting.  Stop denying.

Listen to the unconscious mind, which knows the things you are shouting at it to shut up about.  It’s very often smarter than you are.  It knows things about you that everyone else does – why don’t you want to know them?  Why deny yourself that information, and that acceptance?

Be who you are, as fiercely as you can.  Be all of who you are.  Stop being ashamed of the parts that don’t fit neatly.  Stop trying to make yourself into someone else.

I promise you this: if you will stop trying, so will I.

Sleep tight.  You are loved.  It’s okay to be loved for all of who you are.

The boy who married an eagle

Was just thinking about Dr. Clarissa P. Estes.  I write a lot about women, and a lot of my writing is influenced and informed by her astounding brain.

About a million years ago, she did an audiobook about men – The Boy Who Married An Eagle.  Seems to me it’s pretty hard to find these days (being circa 1995 and released on cassette), but if you can hear it, it’s probably got things to say about being a man that will change your views, as she has mine on being a woman.

Go hunt, go gather, go write!  Love to you all, women, men, those in between and those who are something else entirely.

La loba

I go out into the dark desert all the time now.  I still keep track of when it should be her time, la loba‘s time, just as the sun begins to fall deeply behind the mountains, taking its rest.  But when there is no sun anymore, what does it matter?  I go, and I go, and I go.

No supplies, no packs, no animals for this traveler.  Stepping from the scrub out into the cutting wind that howls across the desert, seeking invisible prey, I go.  I pray that if I am lost enough, desperate enough, last enough, la loba will hear my cries and take pity on me.  If I am lucky, she will sing me back together, so I can be a whole creature again.  If I am very, very lucky, she will sing flesh onto my bones, so I can be what I once was; so the wind will be forced to keen around me, not through me, and I can go home.

Because, of course, I can never go home unless I am a person again.  Everyone knows this.

 

I have gone out of the safety of the forest and into the desert a thousand times, a million times.  Every time I wake, I gather legs underneath me and walk.  It is the only task I have left.  I must find la loba, or convince her to find me, so that I may be whole again.

Sometimes I find creatures, torn and left naked and fleshless in the sand.  They are sad, pitiful things, and if I do not help them, the sand will eat even their bones, so nothing is left.  So I will hold myself this way and that, making the wind sing through me, and let them come together again, and be something whole, if not quite the same.  They say thank you, la loba.  I tell them, over and over, that I am not la loba, and please will they put in a kind word for me if they see her.  And they put their heads to the side, thinking I am crazy, and say yes, yes, of course.

I have not found anyone to help for a very long time.  It is lonely and alone, in the desert, but I pass the time learning the song the wind is screaming.  Maybe, if I can find la loba, she will give me ears to understand the wind.  Will I warn its prey, or help it hunt?  I do not know.

 

There is a place, on the far side of the keep, where the wind is loudest and nothing grows.  The sand is bold and carefree there, lapping right up to the foot of the sharp mountain stone.  I twist my ribs, my arms, and convince the wind to sing  a little fire onto the sand; just a few flames, to warm me and to tell the dark where I am.

Soon I hear footsteps in the dark sand, and a sliding noise.  Who would be out here, in the barest part of forever?  Who would come here but me?  I only spend time here when I have almost given up, and I am thinking of letting the sand eat my bones where no one will find them.

“Come, child,” rasps a voice like two wooden sticks out of the dark, “let an old woman share your fire.”

Shocked is not the word for it.  There is no word strong enough.  “Of course, lady,” I say politely, bobbing my head.  “What is mine is yours.”

She comes shuffling out of the dark, dragging a canvas sack that is gray with age and almost empty.  She is chuckling, a hollow sound like water in the back of a cave.  “It seems to me that what is mine is yours, also.”

“How do you mean, lady?  I would take nothing from you that was not given freely.”  I am afraid, now.  This search is all I have left; her mercy all I have to hope for.  What have I taken from her?  “If you think I have taken something of yours, please, have my apologies.  I will give it back, if I can, and do anything in my power to make amends.”

“How does one make amends for the theft of a name, child?  They call you la loba in the wild places, now.  They hope for your mercy in the dark.  You did not take it, but it is yours now, and no argument.  They know me not, hope for me not, but your mercy is their prize.”  She chuckles again, full of merriment.  “You are the only one left who hopes for me, and I came to see you to find out why.”

“Well… well, because, la loba, that is why!  Because, I beg you, sing me to life again, so I can be free and whole!”

“Who teaches the sand to shift?  Who teaches the wind to sing?  Not I, child, not I.  I came to find you, and to seek also your mercy.”

“M-mercy, la loba?  What can something like me do for you?”

“SING, child!  You know the way of it.  You see these bones creaking together, and you know how to build me a new life out of the sand that eats everything.  Sing, so you can have my sack, and we can both be free.”

 

There was nothing to say.  What to do when la loba, keeper of my dreams, comes to me as the keeper of hers?  So I twist my bones, careful, careful, because the wind cuts wild and high in this place.  She sighs like an old tree falling to rot, and collapses flat on the sand.

I am petrified, terrified that I will get it wrong, that she will be trapped and I will have no hope left.  So I keep bending the wind, squeezing it up between my ribs and out my mouth, forcing it up to a wild ululating wail of freedom and pain.

La loba‘s bones shift, and her flesh runs like water over the new shape.  A wolf, black as sand and glinting in the stars, shakes itself all over.  It dips its head to me, and lifts its muzzle to howl along with the screaming descant that the wind and I are creating together.  I feel strange, powerful, raging at the death of the world, for just a second.  Then the wolf’s howl dies away, and it runs off into the dark, invisible and soundless.

 

I do not go back to the scrub anymore.  There is no need to hide to sleep.  The sand covers me well enough when I do not want to be seen.  They still thank me, the creatures I find.  They call me la loba, and praise be to her singing.  I bid them welcome, and tell them that they owe me only one thing for rebirth.

“Tell the mountains,” I tell them.  “When you see the mountains, warn them that the wind is coming for them.”

Monster Enough.

What is Monster Enough?

That question started out as a rumination on how those of us who dream we are monsters are always afraid of not being Monster Enough.  We are pragmatists.  We know that no matter how good you are at your game, there is someone who is better, or faster, or just luckier today.  We bank not on being the best monster (because there is no best monster, o best beloved, only the monster who wins right now), but on being Monster Enough to win right now and to scare away all the need to win eventually.

When you ask it that way, what is Monster Enough, there is no real answer.  It is a hard question, I think, but not a true question.  It is a question for the place between childhood and realism where you can dream that all your fights will have a winner and a loser, that everything really is that simple.  Certainly, if you pick enough of that kind of fight, it seems like that’s the only thing that’s important.  But that blows away any chance of knowing Monster Enough.

Ask it another way:

Who is Monster Enough?
I am.  You are.  We are.

We are Monster Enough to make the people who love us feel safe in our arms.  We are Monster Enough to make the people who try to chain us tremble when they think of the word “reckoning.”  We are Monster Enough to be soft and good to cuddle, and Monster Enough to roar loudly in pain and fear at the dark.

My Monster Enough is big, and loud, and cuddly if you are nice.  She makes pancakes and knows how to sharpen a knife.  She dries tears on her fur and sings songs while her den falls asleep, and tends the fire and watches the dark outside the cave, just in case.  Monster Enough is not afraid of “going soft,” just because she loves.  Love makes her fiercer, stronger, more desperate.  Monster Enough knows that things which are too hard are brittle, and break easily.  Monster Enough is not afraid of being unready.  She knows that she was ready when children came, all unexpected, and that she was ready when danger came, all unannounced.  She does not have to plan to be ready – she just is.  She is Monster Enough.

My Monster Enough is not afraid to be weak sometimes, because being weak sometimes makes the strength she has stronger, more lasting, more tempered.  She is not afraid to nurture, because nurturing takes more strength than yelling, even if it is not as loud.  She does not need to prove anything, because she is already Monster Enough.

She and I are not the same, and may never be.  But she is someone I would be proud to grow up to be, and I am grateful to have met her.

Who is your Monster Enough?

You are beautiful.

(Author’s note: I started thinking about “words mean things,” and was paging through some other historical stuff, and ended up here.  Where here is, I am not sure.  But we will see.)

She said it to me, over and over, in more languages than either of us really had.  But we played at it, finding new words to use to say the same things.  You are beautiful.  I love you.  Words just foreign enough to be a little work, but close enough to our native tongues that we understood what was intended, immediately.

You are beautiful.  When we met, I was bald and reactionary and touchy and thought I knew a lot about being a dyke in a world that makes assumptions about what women are and what they want and need.  Now it’s years later, and I am bald (again), reactionary and touchy (still) and I think a lot less of what I think I know.  But I can still hear her voice, that first night.  You are beautiful.  I love that you dared.  May I?

And so we circled around each other, for months, and eventually came together.  Then apart, then together again, and now… Now we are somewhere very else.

But still.

You are beautiful.  Nothing changes that.

“Watch their hands.”

Once upon a time (because all the best stories start with once upon a time, O Best Beloved), there was a boy.  Because this is a love story, in parts, there must be a boy – because I am a girl, and at least one of the stories I will tell you across this fire and under a lying moon is about the kind of love that stories usually tell.  A boy and a girl, who are lost and crossed in love for one another, that will never come to be.

 

So, once upon a time, there was a boy.  I met him because I was a girl who wished not to be a girl – I wanted as hard as I could to be a boy, to live naturally in a boy’s world, and forget ever having been a girl at all.  I met him because I climbed trees and drove cars and rode motorcycles and picked fights, and at least the last three of those things will earn a boy money, if he is fast and reliable and good in a pinch.

There are two kinds of fights you can be in: a pretty fight and an ugly fight.  You have all seen pretty fights, O Best Beloved.  They are fights where boys hold each other back and only make contact to score points with the crowd.  They are fights with rules, and with courtesies.  Ugly fights are the different sort.  Some of you have seen them, and any of you who have will never mistake the difference.  Ugly fights are fought to win, and have no courtesies.  They only barely have rules, and almost always, those rules are about when you have won, and nothing else.

In the same way that people will pay small money for a hockey game that is pretty, and big money for rinkside seats at a game where they can be confident that they will see someone else’s face sliding, gap-toothed and bloody, down the rattling plexiglass inches from their eyes, there is a pay gap between pretty fights and ugly fights.  Ugly fights pay better, because they are not legal in most civilized society, and because they are higher risk for the participants, and because people who are not civilized who must live in civilized societies will pay very good money indeed to see thoroughly uncivilized engagement.

 

So, I met a boy.  He taught me the difference between a pretty fight and an ugly one, and how to win when there is no one saying “Hold me back!” in a brawl.  I was brought to a ring with him to learn to win, because there is money in the unexpected, and a girl mean enough to win in an ugly boy’s world is often unexpected.  So I met him the first time, and he looked at me.  We stood apart from each other in the ring, and he began speaking.  “Watch their hands,” he said.  (Every time I met him, O Best Beloved, he would say that to me.  And the sound of his voice is something I only got back later, lives away, in a pretty little therapist’s office.)  “Watch their hands, and their feet.  You’ll hear people tell you to always watch their eyes, and their center of mass.  That’s a lie, and a fucking dangerous one.  Anyone can lie with their eyes and their chest with a little practice.  Almost no one can lie with their hands, and their feet, with any consistency.  Watch their hands.”

Now, anyone who has been in a fight will know this for idiocy.  In a fight, an opponent who watches your hands and feet is an opponent whom you can eat for breakfast, because he is watching the easiest and most minute things you can control, so you can control his eyes.  When you control his eyes, you win.  So, while I listened to the words on his lips, he broke my skull.  He ate me alive.  I lost horribly, and fell in love.  The next time we met, I ignored the words of his mouth, and watched the language of his body.  Watching his body, hearing the words his spine gave me, I made him work to win.  Once I made him work to win, I started fighting on my own.

I met him one more time, in a ring that had money on the line.  There were more than two of us, then.  All of us children who believed we were gods, ignoring the shit and sawdust in our so-mortal hair.  By then I believed I was a god, invincible and immortal, immune to the panic cries of my fallible body, driven by a will that was faster, smarter, and meaner than any of these pretenders to my deity.  I was wrong, and he taught me that with a kiss, and a promise.

He met me in the ring – I was near a solid wall, watching forward, and never heard him behind me.  He cupped my head gently, lightly, fingers sliding lovingly into my hair.  Fast, hard, firm, he bounced my head off the wall, clouding my eyes and ringing my ears.  I lost my balance, stunned, and he dragged me up by my hair and kissed me.  He kissed me with passion and fire, like we would both die in the next minute and nothing else mattered.  He kissed me like a god about to burn, and I drowned in that kiss and his fingers in my hair.

“Watch their hands, and get out.  Get out.  You are a girl, and this is not the world for you.  I won’t kill you, but someone else will.  I promise.  Get out, while you still can.”  He whispered, fast and fierce, into the cup of my ear, and pulled my head back to stare into my eyes for a precious split second longer.  Then he was gone, dropping me to the ground, limp as a rag doll and stunned.

The whole meeting lasted less than ten seconds.  The fight lasted less than three minutes more.  He found everyone in that ring who might do me harm, and did to them before they could do to me.  While he was busy doing that, I pulled my feet back underneath me, found my head again.  When he came for me, at last, I saw him coming, and I leapt at him.  I leapt at him with every piece of fire and agony and will in my soul, and I won.  By the skin of my teeth, I won.  He would not kill me, and I flew at him in carelessness and hopelessness, knowing it.  Because he would not kill me, I overwhelmed him, a tidal wave of craziness and despair in the form of a bleeding, silent, raging girl.

That was my last fight, and I won it.  I won it because he loved me, and I loved him back.

 

Now, I will tell you one more story.  It is also a love story, though of a very different kind.

Once upon a time, O Best Beloved, there was a girl.  She was a beautiful girl – brilliant and kind and funny and fascinating.  She was all the girl I had sworn never to be, and held it with passion and unassailable will that I had never even dreamed possible until I met her.  I loved her for it, for every inch of herself, and she loved me back.

Once, in a deep night, under fluorescent lamps and under a truth-telling moon, she asked me to tell her.  “Tell me what you see,” she said.  “Tell me what you see when you watch me, and what you know because of it.”  So I told her.   I told her what that nameless and much-loved boy from so long ago had said to me, the knowledge I had regained in the lifetimes since, and used so often and so well.  Watch their hands, and watch their feet.  They will lie to you with their eyes, and their bodies, but they cannot watch their hands and their feet.  Watch how they move, how they speak, whom they speak to and whom they do not.  I taught her the things I had gotten back from that time with the boy, and the things I had learned because of those first, basic lessons.

It was the first time I had told anyone what I saw in them, though some had asked.  My trust was not misplaced; she still loved me, even after I told her what I saw.  She still trusted me, even though I told her what I do with the knowledge I have, and how I make the people around me bend to what I want, because I know what they are thinking when they think they are not thinking at all.

 

And now I will tell you one more story, because this is a lying moon and all storytellers are liars in their hearts, and cannot resist the call of one more tale.  I will tell you, O Best Beloved, as I told her.  Watch their hands, and watch their feet.  Watch your own hands and feet – they will tell you things about you that you never thought to ask.

Watch their hands.  As I fall asleep, watching my hands with the eyes of my skin in the dark, I see the story my hands are telling.  They curl up on themselves and each other, like weasels in the nest.  They scurry and bury themselves under blankets and pillows and body, folding over and protecting the delicate, sensitive centers.  They tell me a story about myself that is truer than pretty lies, and more lie than a bright and cutting truth.  Watch your hands, as you fall asleep, and they will tell you a story about what you are thinking when you think you are not thinking at all.

 

These are the stories I tell you, O Best Beloved, across this fire and under a lying moon.

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