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Between Earth Day and Beltane

Desert At Dusk

Getty Images/ClaudioVentrella

“It might be time to learn to hunker down, pace ourselves, and try to marinate in all those daily small wonders.”

Since I came home from Ohio and tending my brother’s Dave’s death, I’ve been sleeping hard and deep. Occupying dreamless space. Just gone somewhere. I’m not waking until Jupiter is leading Saturn and Mars across the pre-dawn sky. I’ve been watching them for a while now, bunched up then stretched out, three bright planets—recently meeting up for a few days with the waning moon. They’re striking but for some reason slightly disturbing—as if they’re trying to convey some malign portent or omen that in my drowse, I can’t quite grasp the meaning of.

That’s my start most mornings this spring (outside world in turmoil or not) quietly staring at those planets staring down at me. I wrestle with my pillow to keep Jupiter in view, tug the quilts up over cold shoulders, adjust my sore hip, snuggle closer into the cat curled behind my knees and watch the light come up, pink and silver-blue. Dwelling in some liminal place in that dawn-thin time, I slip back and forth between sleep and awareness, physically uncomfortable and restless, I feel the weight and press of the times maybe, or sense a call to unashamed lamentation, or know bone-deep the disappointment of just how unprepared I am—how untrained—how unskilled.

The things I need, we need, our culture needs, have been lingeringly ignored or cruelly suppressed or carefully hidden for so long there’s barely an echo. I’m old now, (nearly two lifetimes of my Neolithic forebearers) my opportunities for schooling in these things limited by my culturally triggered ignorance and inexperience, my time seemingly too short in human form for ever learning the intricate critical things necessary for a true and trustworthy life—too short even to identify exactly what those intricate critical things are. In the silver-grey light of daybreak, I feel a sort of keening soul-regret, a suspicion I’ve been inadvertently betrayed by my people. I feel demoralized and disheartened by my culture, suffering an ongoing, grief-inducing, irreparable loss at an ancestral, cellular, anthropological level.  Maybe that is the sad message in the planets I half perceive, why they disturb me in their cold elemental beauty.

Nonetheless, the days move on—come and go. I walk in the harsh, desiccating spring winds. Find bear tracks in the dust and smell juniper. Do studio work or gardening. Prepare food. Brew tea. Think and study. By three or four I fall asleep again, hard and deep. Afternoon comes and I’m away with the faeries occupying more dreamless space. For a few hours, I go someplace nameless, unmapped, dark, and enduring. I’m just gone. Absent. It’s strange, spending so much time with this blank, bottomless visitor, sleep.  A visitor that used to be elusive. And who is, oddly, at the present, bestowing on me hours and hours of black, empty company. Welcome company, I think, but still peculiar, an uneasy stopover, like a friend you haven’t seen in years appearing on your stoop—and though remembered, the renewal of acquaintance feels slow and awkward.

I wonder sometimes where I’m going during those vacant hours. And what I’m doing. Possibly, I’m learning something on the slant that I can’t understand or make conscious. Or maybe I’m just exceptionally, profoundly tired. Doing absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. No story. No meaning.

Speaking of strange, odd, malign, tiring, and profoundly peculiar, 2020 continues its haring path of uncertainty and drama. I’ve been following the news cycle more than normal (more than is good for me I’m sure) because I can’t help being perversely fascinated by the global sociopolitical story—it’s so much like a mix-up of a daytime soap, Saturday Night Live skits, and noir fiction. Theater of the Absurd writ large. Whew—no wonder the sandman is after me.

One of the virus juxtapositions that left me tender and wondering is the wide gap between how old people are perceived by the Navajo and Pueblo peoples around here, and Western cultures in general. I’ve heard such venom in #boomerremover; the far right’s willingness to sacrifice life for “economic stability” (whatever that is) implying that it’s just a lot of old people, people of color, and low-income folks dying anyhow, and the sort of Marie Antoinette, “let them eat cake” entitlement of the rich—going to small, remote places to hide out and play while potentially bringing the virus to under-resourced areas of the world. The Navajo and Pueblo people are deeply concerned about losing their elders—their wisdom and love and presence. It’s so different—living in extended family multi-generational households, perhaps not having access to running water, often being in more remote places without medical services. So different. I’ve come to resent the whining about not being able to go to hair salons (my roots are showing!) and enjoy meals out—what terrible sacrifices people are making! It’s ludicrous and embarrassing as so much is about modern culture. Sigh.

At any rate, I’m hoping each of you are well as Beltane nears, wearing your mask in public places, and making the best of this kind-of-half-good-half-bad pause in “normal” life. It does beg reflection, no? There’s been some shrewd, thought provoking things said by people I respect. It’s hard to predict what will happen next, but my expectations are low. There’ll be more perils to come with greater frequency I imagine, and it might be time to learn to hunker down, pace ourselves, and try to marinate in all those daily small wonders. Sometimes I think all this is just making what’s always there more visible—uncertainty, our illusion of “progress,” our undeniable interconnectedness with the ecology of the planet, our uneasy relationship with death, our unending desire for meaning. 

Here’s hoping we all find a new way through the hills ahead.  Maybe create a ritual, simple or intricate, that befits you in this volatile “now.” Build up your psychic fire so I can find you in the dreamtime.

Let me know how you’re faring—how things are hitting and landing for you. I’m curious.

Yours, within the protective smoke of a Beltane fire. Much love, Susan

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