Sunday, November 20, 2016

Mourningstar

I am the Mountain
I am strong, resolute
I am immovable, unshakeable
I am the higher ground
I am the shelter from the storm.
yet do those who take shelter in me
know of the smoldering fire deep inside?

I am the Fire
I am the candle, I am the lamp
I am the hearth, I am the forge
I am purifying, sustaining
I am the warmth that brings comfort.
yet if I break my bonds, only ashes shall remain
in the wake of the firestorm

I am the Storm
I am the lightning and the thunder
I am the wind and the rain
I am the rage and the fury
I am the dreadful Hand of God.
yet life spreads behind me in my wake
from my waters of life and energies of rebirth

--Jes'arra Mourningstar


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Phoenix Pinions

I've been thinking about my name, off and on, the past week or two.  Not the name that I go by in public, that's printed on my driver's license and other such IDs, but the one I chose for myself seven years ago when I was finding my path with Earth-based spirituality.  I had read something about 'choosing your Pagan name,' which would be the name that felt true to you, the name that the Goddess might call you by.  I worked on it for a while, and settled on "Jeska Moonwillow."  "Jeska" was based on my mundane first name, of course, and "Moonwillow" to combine the quiet, peaceful, spiritual light of the Moon with the elegant and stoic bend-but-not-break spirit of the Willow tree.

What I've been thinking about is how I'm not really that person anymore--it no longer feels true to me, it is no longer the name of my soul.  I think Jeska died back in April.  Maybe that aspect of me--that piece of my broken soul, if you will--is the one that I placed in the niche, as the one-winged angel that is standing guard by my soulmate; maybe that is why the 'me' that remains isn't her anymore.
Maybe it's not quite that dramatic, and things have just changed too much.  While I still consider myself a Moonsdaughter, I find myself increasingly drawn not only to the Moon but to the darkness that surrounds her, and to the tiny pinpoints of light in that darkness that often struggle to be visible in today's always-on, artificially-lighted world.
And I think I can no longer be the Willow tree; "bend but don't break" isn't me anymore, because I did break.  I can't be the tree, because I am the splinters, the ashes, the fallen leaves.

And so, I think it's appropriate, on this Blood Moon,* to mark the passing of Jeska Moonwillow, and to embrace and celebrate the birth, from her ashes and splinters and fallen leaves, of Jes'arra Mourningstar.

Jeska may not have survived the fire and the storm; I am the fire and the storm.  So Mote It Be.


*:  Yes, Blood Moon; I name the full Moons my own way.  I'm not wrong, and neither are you.  The second Moon of Autumn is my Blood Moon because I need it to be the Moon that can fall on astronomical Samhain, which is usually November 7th.



Friday, November 4, 2016

Circle of Protection: Black

I've been obsessing a bit the past couple of weeks, although the underlying emotions may have been bubbling up for longer than that.  I'm going to try to be a little bit more vague in this post than is usual for me; I think I can unfortunately be prone to oversharing, so hopefully I can learn how to open up partway and keep some discretion at the same time.

I've been feeling very unsafe recently.  Some of it is probably residual from the anxiety attacks I had a month ago, some of it is probably from my recent back pain making me feel less physically able, but it also feels like there's more to it than that.  I'm having what feels very much like a premonition that soon I will be in a position to need to defend either myself or people around me.  A Tarot spread done for guidance seemed to confirm and solidify the feeling. It's turned from something that's been in the back of my mind, to something I feel like I have to do now.

It led me to go out into the backyard and test the little pepper-spray thing that Joanne had bought for me, which I had stupidly never done before.  It was... disappointing.  I aimed at a tree from less than ten feet away, and the stream never made it far enough to hit it.  It rather seemed like in an emergency I'd be just as likely to get it on myself as anyone else, and overall I think I would be just as well off trying to poke an attacker with an ink pen to get them to leave me alone.  All this time, I felt like I had something to protect myself with, and I find out it was just an illusion.  Just a talisman, just a ceremonial "weapon", like an unsharpened sword.

As a witch I do believe in the power of charms of various sorts; crystals, herbs, spells, and other talismans of protection.  But I also believe strongly that in order to work magic in the spiritual plane, we have to do the groundwork in the mundane first.  Like, a spell of prosperity is all well and good, but I still have to go fill out the job applications or else there's nothing for the spell to help me with.

So, I'm starting to lay the groundwork to get myself into a place where I will be actually ready, and actually able, to protect myself.  I'm glad to be making some progress already but I find myself feeling frustrated with the length of time it will take, especially the part about getting into better physical shape.  I think I worry that I've already waited too long, that I won't be ready 'in time.'  In time for what, I have no idea.  But I worry anyway.

Then to make it even more complicated, I've also let myself think about the effect this all might have on my spirituality.  Does preparing myself to be able to use harmful force for defense push me further down the Left-Hand Path?  Will I still fit in at the UU?
I end up thinking, I'm just being crazy.  Actually, I hope I'm just being crazy, because then nothing bad might happen after all.
All I know right now is that I have to do this.  The premonition, the uneasy feeling, isn't going to go away until I listen to it and get ready.  I can't not do this.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Unwanted

So, it seems my social calendar has suddenly emptied itself out.  On Tuesday, I extended to a friend an invitation to my home for today, which at the time I thought was accepted.  So I had prepared to make a nice meal and even bake something nice for dessert, but upon touching base with my friend last night, she was no longer able to come.  I assume that in her mind, the plans were never finalized, since she had felt no need to advise me of the schedule conflict until I reached out.  I sometimes wonder what it is I do wrong to cause these misunderstandings to happen.  In any case, I am having a quiet day by myself today instead.  It's probably just as well; I was probably destined to be embarrassed by my clutter.

At literally the same time as I was finding this out, yesterday, I received a message from my sister-in-law to let me know she was not going to host a Thanksgiving celebration this year.  As a corollary, this means I am definitely not invited to her celebration, since she isn't having one.  She said she needed to find her "new normal" in her new life without her sister.  I said it was probably just as well; Thanksgiving was Jo's favorite holiday, and I doubt I will be feeling celebratory that day either.
(For some reason it does make me wonder if there is a larger context to it, and whether it's a sign, or a hint, that she and I might end up going our own separate ways after all.  I think the loss of her sister is incredibly painful for her, maybe the most painful thing that has ever happened to her, and if what I am is a reminder of what she has lost, then maybe that would be just as well too.)

I checked my email last night, and there was an email in the UU mailing list asking for another participant in the special Samhain service that the Earth-Based Spirituality (aka Pagan) group is doing this Sunday.  I replied and said I could do it.  Today there was another email that said they had filled the opening, with someone other than me.  I wonder what it is I did wrong when I tried to sign up for the Earth-Based group, that I wasn't included in the planning in the first place; I don't remember ever getting a message about it.  It's probably just as well though; I'm not even sure I want to go, so I'm not sure why I was volunteering for it, other than thinking that I'm a Witch and I am surely capable of helping with a Pagan service.
It's also probably just as well because the truth is, even though I've been asking about it at church, I've been having mixed feelings about sharing the details of my spirituality with other Pagans.  I guess I worry that it'll just end with a bunch of Wiccans trying to tell me all the ways I'm doing it wrong.  Which wouldn't change me, necessarily, but it would feel like yet another rejection.

I end up thinking, it actually might be just as well if I just plan to keep to myself for the most part.  I do have a lot of work to do if I'm ever going to actually get my home in order.

Of course, then the bad side of keeping to myself is the thing that Joanne was most scared of before she met me:  Now that I'm alone, if something bad happens to me, I rather expect nobody will notice until I fail to show up for work.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Reclusive

I'm feeling very withdrawn and reclusive this weekend; other than a possible trip to the grocery store, I rather doubt I'm going to go anywhere.  Probably not even to Facebook.

When I think about it, it seems strange that I write here when I'm feeling more private, because since I never make public posts on Facebook, it is arguably far more private than this blog, which is fully accessible to anyone who finds it.  I think it comes down to the expectations; Facebook is a "social media" site, so when I put something there, there's the expectation that the social circle will see it and give it little 'thumbs up' or 'heart' symbols or maybe type a little comment.  I can put something here with the expectation that nobody but me has to ever see it; and if someone does find it, and read it, and hopefully get something out of it, there's still no unspoken 'obligation' for them to say anything to me about it (although they could if they wished).

It also seems telling to me that the times when I feel withdrawn and reclusive are also the times I feel the most spiritual--and following from that, it is very interesting to me that it seems the times I am feeling the most spiritual are also the times I am least likely to want to go to church.
I think it's because, for me, spirituality is a very personal and private thing; it's something I can only fully experience alone.  (I knew I had really found my one true soulmate when I realized that I was able to feel spiritual 'together' with Joanne.  Being with her was very much like "alone time.")  A spiritually fulfilling day for me is the day where I stay at home, light candles, put on my apron, put my Cauldron on the stove and get a big pot of chicken stock (or something) started, and just be in my Kitchen, and my Cottage, all day.  And it's the quiet times in the days like this when I feel like I can reach across to the other side, and have a conversation with my love, who is no longer here physically, but spiritually still is.

I suppose that, even though it sounds backwards, it's really no true mystery.  Going to church is a very social thing.  Even for a progressive non-dogmatic church like the Unitarian Universalists, going to church is religious, not spiritual.  You get together to share ideas about how to find your spirituality, or how to express it, or to join with others to do the positive things in the world that your spirituality draws you to do.  But you don't go there to be spiritual while you're there.  (Or at least, I can't.  Maybe there are people who can be social and spiritual at the same time; maybe those people get something different out of it than I do.)
So if I'm feeling the need to be spiritual, this weekend--the need to draw down the spiritual energy, to recharge, and once again become a Force of Nature--then that is what I will have to do, and then I can go back out into the world once I am ready again.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Preparedness

According to the forecasts, in about six hours, there is going to be a big windstorm here, which is predicted to cause widespread power outages.  The news is being rather dramatic about it this time; they're even comparing it to the infamous-in-these-parts 1962 Columbus Day Storm, which supplied the region with wind gusts of up to 160 miles per hour.  (It was likely more than that, but many wind gauges were destroyed by the wind and stopped measuring things.)

I'm as ready as I'm going to be able to get for this time around; I have my kerosene cookstove brought in and set up, and all the non-electric lamps in the house are ready to go.  I took a go on Thursday at stocking up on some things that'd be easy to cook on the kerosene stove, like soups, pasta, and that sort of thing; unfortunately, as happens when you wait until the storm is announced like everyone else, the shelves had been picked over pretty well for things like canned goods and staples.
I don't necessarily expect to lose water service since I am on a public water supply, but I did fill my empty canning jars with water just in case they might come in handy.

So, I'm probably at least as prepared as anyone else around here.  But, I sit here this morning and think of all the ways I could have been even more prepared.  I haven't bought any kerosene for over a year, and I am down to about half of what I originally stocked; I could have had a better plan for keeping fuel in stock.  I have some canned proteins in the form of tuna and salmon, but it could have been nice to have canned my own chicken or ground beef to have in the pantry.  I could have a better plan for stocking emergency water, dry goods, etcetera.
And of course I could have had the tree service people out this summer so there weren't those one or two worrisome trees that have the potential to fall over onto the house.

None of that is meant to "beat myself up" for this time around, of course.  But, it sounds like a worthy and satisfying goal to work on after this current 'crisis'; it'd be nice to be able to know I'm well prepared for a power or water outage--all the time, and not just when the storm is announced--and just not worry.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

On Sexual Assault

My mind has been in a very odd place today.  Mainly it has to do with Donald Trump and the "Access Hollywood" footage heard-round-the-world, although I am going to do my best not to make this directly about politics.  Like everyone else, I found Trump's words--and even more than the words, the ease with which he said them--extremely jarring and unsettling.  But it wasn't until I found the tangent news story, about the author who started a movement of millions of women sharing their sexual assault stories, to put faces to the women--no, the victims--like the ones that this man was bragging about being able to "do anything he wanted" to, that my mind went to its dark place.

That particular dark place is there because, sadly, I was able to add an experience of my own.  If my love Joanne were here, she would be able to add hers as well.  I may be the only person she confided it to.

Before, when the story was just about the "hypothetical woman" that was the subject of the 'locker room talk', it was jarring, but at least it was over there.  But by taking me back to that place, now, suddenly, he is talking about me, he is talking about my Joanne.  Now I hear him say that he, through the power of his fame and popularity, can grab my crotch with impunity, and I would be powerless against him.

Unfortunately, experience tells me it's true; even with no more authority than being the children of the head of my church, my abusers had the hopefully-unwitting support of my parents, who at the time characterized my protests about going to evening church services as "the Devil trying to tempt me away from Jesus."  So I have no doubt that the then-celebrity really did have the impunity he believed he had.

I'm watching the debate tonight, and I can tell my point-of-view has been altered.  Where before, I might have seen a 'bully,' tonight I see an abuser, a predator.  I notice him interrupting, domineering, making sure to position himself behind Ms. Clinton, looming in the background as if to use his size and stature to intimidate.

It occurs to me that there's probably really no such thing as a "bully."  All that is is a 'cute' name for an abuser.  "Bullying" is just abuse that, by semantics, is being minimized into something less threatening.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Bulls and Bears


On Saturday I had a brief conversation with a friend and coworker about the stock market, in which I casually mentioned that I had "lost $5,000" the day before when the market had a selloff.  It felt like a fun thing to say for conversation's sake, but it's the wrong way to look at it of course; I actually had exactly the same number of shares on Saturday as I did on Thursday.  I can't really lose anything unless I decide to sell the investments now for a loss, which would be very silly of me, since the retirement I'm investing for is another 15 years away at the soonest.  So the watching of the value is just an interesting diversion to me right now, it's going to go up and down and up and down a bunch of times before I'm ready to use it.  And historically, the long-term trend has always been 'up.'

Still, I keep looking at the charts, with the peaks and the valleys, watching the values go up and down, like it means something, which I suppose it does.  It occurs to me today, as my mood is experiencing a "downturn," that maybe it's a metaphor for the grieving and mourning process.  It isn't as simple as each day being just a little better than the one before.  Sometimes today isn't nearly as good as yesterday.  Sometimes the thing you bought for $80 is only worth $70 today; sometimes the thing that felt doable yesterday feels insurmountable today.
There are the bull markets, which are all full-speed-ahead and happy, right on out into the realm of "irrational exuberance" and that false sense of security, of indestructibility.  These are the good days, and you're happy to see how much progress you are making so quickly... but if you're not careful you can forget that things don't always keep going up, and you can commit more of your resources than you should have.
Then there are the bear markets, where things start going back down, or crash, or even lead way down into a depression.  Those don't feel nearly as good, and it can make it hard to have faith that the long-term trend is still 'up.'  It can make it feel like you just can't even do this anymore.  Everything was going so well!  What just happened?  What is the meaning of this?

At least in the stock market, often the best thing to do when things are down is to invest even more, even though it doesn't feel good to do it, because that can be exactly when the investment can do the most good--prices are down, so you get more shares for your money than you would during the happy exuberant times.
Maybe the metaphor means that on the 'down' days, when things feel insurmountable, then if I can find energy enough to 'do it anyway'--however small a thing 'it' might be, as small as finding strength to send a text to a friend, or even sitting down here to write a journal entry--then those are exactly the times it can make the most difference?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Claiming Space

It feels like for the past three years, and especially the past two after my extended run-in with the psychic vampire, I have very much been a Witch in name only.  Admitting this feels a bit like going to the stereotypical AA meeting:  "Hi, I'm Jessica, and I am a WINO."  But admitting it to myself is what I have been doing this past week.
I'd still been going through all the motions, of course; I always know what the moon phases are, and I mark the Wheel of the Year on the Solstices, Equinoxes, and the four Cross-Quarters (the 'real' astronomical ones, not the Roman-Calendar-ified ones--sorry, Wiccans), like a good little Witch.

But, it's all been very academic and intellectual; the very definition of, as I said, going through the motions.  Yes, I know when all the holidays are.  Congratulations, Jessie, you've grown up to be a fine calendar.
I'm making light, but I'm also serious:  Knowing when they are is a job for the paper chart on the wall.  Remembering what they are at their roots, and experiencing the spirituality of it, that is the job of the Witch.

I think I'm admitting this to myself now because it's starting to change--because my spiritual nature is reawakening, starting to heal from the damage that has been done to it.  If I had to point to an event that started the change, I think it would be the trip to the Mukilteo beach, being with the Water and putting my feet in it, sitting under the Moon, and sharing time with a good friend who is also a spiritual person (and, I'm beginning to suspect, a fellow Witch, though she hasn't said so).

Like I was saying to Joanne's sister last night, I think the most important thing I can do from here to help this change is to spend less time in the "virtual world," and get out into the real world more.  There's no spirituality to be had on the internet.  The closest thing you will find are writings that may remind your intellect that there is a spiritual world to be experienced, but in the end I do believe you have to step away from the keyboard if you are to experience it.
I need to go to the Water more.  To stand under the Full Moon and feel the cool moonlight.  To feel the energies of the tall evergreens, whose reach to the sky dwarfs my own.  Maybe one of these days, even go visit a Mountain.

Most of all, I need my soul to remember that, like the wind in the trees, like the water, like the mountains, I, too, am a Force of Nature.

Then, I will be back to truly being a Witch.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Shining Half

Apologies to my sister for plagiarizing her old screen name for the title of this post; it seemed short, catchy, and appropriate to the subject.

As people around me have doubtless noticed, I've been off in a dark mood lately.  After yesterday's visit to Joanne's shrine at the columbarium, though, I think that is changing.  I had considered trying to message Jill to see if she wanted to meet with me while I was there, but I let time get away and didn't end up doing it; I think it was actually for the best for the trip (dare I call it a pilgrimage?) to be just about me and Jo, to be able to sit and have a quiet time to try to commune with her, and not be worried about what time it was getting to be or any of that.  I feel like it renewed and re-strengthened my connection with her.

I'm happy to be 'back into the light' for now, but I sort of have this feeling like it's my destiny to go back and forth between the darkness and the light for the rest of my life.  For the past couple of weeks, during my dark mood, I've said to myself over and over again that I feel like I have died already.  To an extent, it's true; while it's hopefully obvious I'm not literally dead, an important piece of me did die, back in April.  And a decade before that, I did experience what would be described as a "near-death experience."  So while I haven't truly died, it does feel like I have a bit of experience with it.

It gets me thinking, it feels like it's my lot in this life to be 'in between worlds' on a lot of different things:  Alive, but having experienced death.  Female, but having experienced living as male.  Pagan, but having experienced being Christian.  Maybe it's why that image of the asymmetrical being, the One-Winged Angel, light on one side and dark on the other, has always resonated with me.

(As an aside, I think it's interesting that the "dark side" is called the Left Hand Path in modern occultism; whenever I visualize myself as the dichotomous being, the "light half" is always on the left and the "dark half" is on the right.  It's probably just because I'm left-handed though.)

Spirituality, especially earth-based, Pagan spirituality, does seem to revere the dichotomy; light and dark, day and night, sun and moon, fire and water, wind and earth.  The Wiccan 'Charge of the Star Goddess' asks for the blessings of "beauty, yet strength; power, yet compassion; honor, yet humility; mirth, yet reverence;" all these are dichotomous phrases, and it is meant that the ideal is to possess both at once.
So maybe, hopefully, there is strength and not weakness in existing on both sides at once, the way I seem to be?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Burning

As of sunset, tonight is the Fire Moon (at least according to me).  It will be the fifth Full Moon since Joanne passed.

The Eternal Flame I lighted for her back in April has yet to be extinguished; it has survived two different multiple-day work trips (using a very-long-burning oil candle) and other than the nights I was away from home, I have tended it every night.  (Except one; I had too much to drink one night and missed that day, so it is nice to know the lamp will actually go 48 hours if necessary.)  It is a daily ritual that still gives me comfort, and it feels appropriate to mention it and give thanks for it on the Fire Moon.

I've still been very slowly, and somewhat painfully, trying to go through some of her things; I recently encountered her engagement ring that I gave her in February of 2011, and that has made its way onto her altar as well.

Tomorrow, I will go to Seattle, and visit and decorate the niche like I have done each Full Moon's Day since I enshrined her over there.  It will be the first time I go just to visit--to sit with her, and leave flowers--without having other business with the funeral home and cemetary; it almost feels a bit weird.

I think I've written before that "I know she's not really there," although I don't know if I was talking about the niche or about my Heart relic.  Either way, I want to correct myself.  I know she is there.  I know this, because I placed her there myself when I Enshrined her.  I chose icons to place with her that have strong meaning to me, and therefore hold strong power, even if only for me.  Not only is she there, but I am with her, on her side of the glass, because I've also placed powerful icons that represent myself.  Now, I'm not going to say her spirit is there 24/7, because I think that would be very boring for her, and she wouldn't like it and so she just wouldn't do it.  But when I am there to visit her shrine, our niche, I can feel she is there with me, and I am there in the niche with her, and we are there together.

I'm not completely sure why I'm restricting myself to going there just once a month on or near the Full Moon, but I think it might be that I want to make sure it stays special.  If each time, it feels like it's been a little too long, then I won't take those times for granted.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Sinister

...as in its etymological meaning, "left-handed," naturally.

Or do I mean more than that?

Okay, start at the beginning.  I think I've been questioning matters of faith and spirituality of late.  Specifically, I think I've decided that all those ideas about "karma" or "The three-fold rule" and other variations are crap.  Not only is it crap, but it's the same crap that I already turned my back on once, the whole "through faith you can move mountains" thing.  If only you have enough faith, if only you send enough positive energy out, if only you follow The Secret, good things will happen to you.

These things all sound good until you realize that, logically speaking, the contrapositive is also implied to be true:  That if good things don't happen to you, it's because you didn't have enough faith, didn't send enough good into the world, weren't positive enough.

Joanne was as positive as anyone I have ever met; she always wanted to look for the good in people, and never spoke ill of anyone, even in private.  She pushed herself to do things that weren't easy.  What did The World give her in return?  More difficulty, more strife.  Constant pain from degenerative disk disease, mobility problems from lymphedema.  And, once she had found the love of her life that she said she had been waiting for for fifty-one years, The World gave her death.

Interestingly, it's possible that Gerald Gardner himself never intended the "three-fold rule" as it is taught by modern Wicca today.  According to this blog, in his book 'High Magic's Aid' he described the rule completely the opposite:  The witch should note when a kindness is done to her, and attempt to return the kindness three-fold.  That's significantly different than "give X so the universe will give you 3 times X".

In among all of that, I also ended up reading some things about the Left-Hand Path, the "dark side," if you will.  I think I had already had thoughts down those lines without really knowing it.  Rejection of religious authority?  Check.
Seriously though, I like that it seems to give you agency.  Instead of waiting for some cosmic 'karma' force to reward you for your good deeds, you take control.  You reward others' kindness with kindness of your own, and punish others' bad behavior; in other words, you teach people how to treat you.
You put yourself first because nobody else is going to--looked at from a positive view, you put yourself first because you damage your ability to take care of others if you neglect yourself.

I don't know.  I suspect, much like with everything else in this life, that the truth is somewhere in the middle, the narrow path between the two ditches we all end up running off into for most of our lives.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Moonless

New Moon tonight.  I think I'm back to wandering the Dark Black Forest again, and there will be no moonlight to save me this time.

The extended time off from work has probably been a good thing, as good as a thing can be these days.  I've been having violent mood swings though.  It's enough to make me question my sanity.

Thanks to Facebook "Memories to Look Back On Today", I ended up delving off into some stuff from six years ago, personal private stuff that was between Joanne and me while we were already a couple but separated by distance.  It is funny how we became so inseparable in just a week of being together in person; I think we were both grieving the loss of the other one while we were apart.  The long distance relationship was hard.

I've been saying I'm not in denial, but maybe I'm in denial about being in denial.  I mean, I know with my intellect that she isn't coming back.  But it doesn't feel like she's not coming back.  It feels more like it did six years ago, where we were very much a couple but just weren't together right now.  It feels like I am still in a relationship with her.  I guess I am still in a relationship with her.  Maybe I always will be.

Then I of course fall off into the rabbit hole of thinking that, you know, we talked about a lot of things during that long-distance part of our relationship, and once we were together, it seems like things were different than we had imagined, and a lot of the things we talked about never happened.  And I end up thinking to myself, I hope I didn't disappoint her too badly.  I hope I was really as perfect for her as she was for me.

She believed in reincarnation (as do I); she felt strongly that she had seen visions of our previous lives together and she often talked about them.  She thought I was always a woman, but she went back and forth between being male and being female over the course of our lifetimes, and until now things had always happened (I drowned, she drowned, I was a geisha and couldn't marry her, I was a witch and got burned at the stake, she was an airman and was killed at Pearl Harbor, etc.) where we never had long enough together.

We didn't have long enough this time either.

But I try to take comfort in the fact that if she thought that I was her one true Special Someone who had shared multiple lifetimes with her, if we had conversations together about how we wanted our next life together to be, then she must not have been so disappointed with me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Lost in the Dark

You may have to bear with me, I think this is going to be a little more disjointed than usual.
I feel like I should put one of those "viewer discretion advisories" at the top... "the following may contain graphic depictions of grief."

When I first received the heart-shaped relic of Joanne, I stumbled a bit with what to call it.  "Joanne's heart?"  "Joanne's relic?"  "Joanne's memorial?"  Recently I've noticed I've settled into calling it my heart.  She is, literally, inside "my heart" forever, as she should be.  It also feels right that "my heart" is not inside my chest; symbolically, it has been torn out.  (Does that mean that when I am missing Jo and press "my heart" against my chest, I am symbolically trying to put it back in?)

[Unzip my body, take my heart out]

I have this innate sense that all life is sacred, even my own, and interconnected in the sense that we are all, in the end, pieces of God.  Within the interconnectedness, I also have Joanne's idea that everything happens for a reason, even if we don't know the reason and even if the reason isn't about us.  The net result of this is that I don't believe in "ending it all" myself.
But that doesn't mean I'm not ready for this to be over so I can be with my sweetie again.
It's oddly freeing, if I think about it right.  I don't need to be afraid of anything anymore.  So what if something kills me?  Then it kills me.  Death can take me the same place it took Joanne.  I don't need to worry about death, if it comes then it does.
I don't need to be afraid of pain, of suffering--in a sense that's real enough to me, I'm walking around carrying my heart in my hand.  What pain can the world possibly show me that is worse than the pain I already have?  I don't need to worry about pain.  I've already survived the unsurvivable, three times now by my count.
I don't need to worry about anything anymore.  There's nothing left for me to worry about.

I get off into this mood, and then it feels silly to me that I am all fixated on building our retirement funds, when I'm sort of hoping I don't have to be here that long.
But I might be.  We never know these things.  I was reading something this morning, a quote from an atheist writer, that uncertainty was a beautiful thing, because where there was certainty, there was no more possibility.
My life still has possibilities.  All I can do is see where all it takes me before it gets to the end.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Rededication

Today (tonight, and until sunset tomorrow) is the Full Blessing Moon.  I have to admit the name of this moon holds no meaning for me right now; the concept of "counting blessings" or looking for "silver linings" or the like just sounds like the type of irritating platitudes that would make me want to cut someone's thread, and not anything that would be useful or inspirational during grief.

However, because it was a Full Moon, it was an auspicious time for me to go bring our niche "up to code."  As it turns out, one of the items I put in our niche to represent Joanne wasn't technically allowable by the columbarium rules; the Hummel 'Her Guardian Angel' print was made of paper, which would have deteriorated and thus been less than permanent.  At first I was very upset and hurt by this, but Joanne's sister told me about some other Hummel items that were also very important to Jo; they had been her mother's, and were the one thing that Jo was insistent that she got when her mother passed.  So, today I removed the Guardian Angel, and placed her Apple Tree Boy & Girl figurines.


Even though I still found it difficult and painful to reach into this sacred space and disturb it--I tried to do it in as ritualistic and reverent a way as I could, and I still felt the need to apologize to Jo as I was removing her Angel--in a way, I might have to admit it might look better this way.  It looks a little more balanced, I think, and the figurines aren't quite as hidden behind the urn as the print was.

Joanne was a firm believer that everything happened for a reason.  From anyone else that would be yet another of those above-mentioned irritating platitudes, but from her, it felt like it was true.  So, I was thinking back to when our relationship was just starting; I still lived in Missouri, she hadn't even met me in person yet, and I had just lost my job.  She wanted to give me something that would protect me, so she took her Guardian Angel, the one she'd had her entire life, and boxed it up and mailed it to me.  She was perfectly serious that it was obviously going to protect me, too; for her, that item held great power, just like I talked about her relic in the last entry.  And when I was going through a hard time, she wanted me to have that power and that protection, even though it meant she would be without it.

Looking back, that 'hard time' of losing that job seems insignificant compared to how hard it is to have lost her.  I could imagine that if she wanted me to have her sacred item back then, then if she were able to, she would probably want to box it up and send it to me now as well.
And now, it's back home, next to my bed.  Our bed.

I swear I can almost hear her telling me that this happened for a reason, that it is the way it was meant to be after all.
If anyone else said it to me, it'd piss me off.  But if she says it, I guess it has to be true.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Sacred Relic

Today is three months since Joanne passed away.  I think this has probably been the toughest month so far, emotionally; even aside from the panic attacks, it just felt like I fell off into that starting-to-be-familiar pit again, but instead of hitting what I thought was the bottom, I crashed right through it and dropped another hundred feet.  If I hadn't already had the time off around my birthday, I'm not sure if I could have made it through without missing work.

I did have something positive happen this month; last week I went to Artful Ashes in Seattle, and they made a glass monument for me from some of Joanne's ashes.  Wednesday, I was able to go pick it up.


On Wednesday night, I was a bit down, like I was feeling as if it hadn't been the comfort I had hoped it would be, but now after a few days, I think maybe it has.  I've been taking 'her' to work with me, twice now, and being able to pick this up and hold it when I feel like I need something has been nice.  It's not the same as holding her hand, but it is what I have.  I can be holding something that is--or was--a piece of her.

And based on results, I think it must have made some kind of difference; on Friday, I was able to push myself to do some things in the house that hadn't been getting done, and even to do some yard work in the front lawn, which hadn't happened yet this year.  And today, even though I was worried how I would hold together at work, with it being the three-month anniversary of her death, and it being a Saturday like it was then, and with me being at work in the same place, making the same drive home, I think I did a pretty good job of staying strong.  My co-worker commented to me that she could tell I was "melancholy," and I did carry Joanne's relic around with me a lot during the day, but there were no paramedics, no crazy screaming-and-sobbing freak-out sessions... I did good, compared to how I had been worrying I would be.

We did good, Joanne and I.

I know she's not really there, inside the heart, any more than her soul is attached to my Eternal Flame; I know she is on the other side.  But if this object--a chunk of glass with some calcium swirled through it--can help me feel connected to her, can help me pull the broken pieces together well enough to shamble onward, can help me find strength to face the world as I am, in all my shattered glory... then it does have power, even if only to me.

And that makes it a sacred thing.  Even if only to me.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Into the Dark Black Forest

I understand more, now, why I felt solitary this morning, why I couldn't make myself leave home.

I woke up early again this morning, at 5:30, despite staying up late last night.  I thought about making myself stay in bed just to try for more sleep, but I could tell it wasn't going to happen and all I felt was stiff and uncomfortable.  I don't think I've been able to sleep past 7:00 even once since she passed.

Once I decided I wasn't going anywhere, I tried to get myself organized by making a list of stuff I should work on--cleaning in the kitchen, organizing in the file cabinet, putting together a grocery list, trimming the puppy's nails (and maybe doing mine too)...

I was taken aback this morning by how much I hurt today.  My legs ache, my back is stiff, my shoulders are sore.  I feel old.  I feel like I've aged fifteen years in just a couple of months.

Looking back, I should have seen the wave coming.

But I didn't, so I surprised myself when I had one of those 'tsunami of grief' moments--crying, collapsing on the couch, wailing and screaming, sobbing.  Energies I had saved up leaking away, spilling out of new cracks.
That hadn't happened for a month or so.  I had been hoping I had moved to the 'next stage' but I guess I knew it wasn't that simple, wasn't that linear.

Bodie has been clingy since then.  He doesn't like when it seems like there's something wrong with his mommy.  He's going to have a tough weekend anyway.  Fourth of July sucks.

Not much has gotten crossed off of the list, although the Kitchen did come to life a little bit.  I made myself hashbrowns for the first time since I've been alone; that might have been the trigger, especially since they turned out so well, I thought it was a shame she never got to try my hashbrowns made in the new All-Clad skillet.  I've resisted the urge to order pizza again, and I'm making some tacos and Mexican rice instead.  That is something, I suppose.

Oh well.  It's a holiday weekend, and tomorrow is also the New Moon.  I have three more days off before I go back.  Things will happen as they happen.  I think it's starting to sink in that there are parts of this process that can't be speeded up, that have to come in their time.

The night lasts as long as it lasts, and no amount of effort will bring the sun any sooner.
Better to just accept the darkness, and look to the moon and the stars.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Against the Tide

Sometimes I think I'm making progress, but I don't think I've actually hit that point where the grief starts giving way to mourning and I start actually rebuilding things.  The house hasn't changed much; her jacket is still hanging on the back of her chair, most of her dirty clothes are still where she left them, her desk is just the way she left it except I stacked the estate paperwork on it.  It took me over a month to decide it was time to turn off her computer, for goodness sake.

I've had over a week off now, and it surprises me how absolutely exhausted I still feel all the time.  I want to do things; I want to get the yard mowed finally, I want to clean the kitchen, I want to get the house straightened up and organized so I can feel like it's ready to have company over if I get the notion to invite someone.  At least, I want to want to do all those things.  When I get up intending to do something, though, it feels like I might as well be trying to roll a boulder up a mountain, and I mostly end up pacing around a bit, marvelling at how amazingly tired I feel all of a sudden, and then sitting back down.

I've let the thought cross my mind that I should see the doctor about how I'm feeling so exhausted all the time, and get checked for like sleep apnea or something, but I know better.  I'm sure there's a very simple and obvious answer for why I don't have energy, and I'm sure it has everything to do with the fact I am still grieving--the waves have just settled a bit, so the sudden and unpredictable outbursts of severe emotional distress are fading, and giving way to a more general malaise.

Maybe I just need to try to be more patient.  I am usually very good at being patient, but I am realizing that I am not at all patient when it comes to judging myself.  I know, or at least I've read, that things will come, it just might take a few months, a few years.  I don't want it to take a few years, I want to get up and have all the energy I had before, right now, I want to make her proud of me that I am carrying on.
It makes me think of waiting at the service station.  I might want to get going right now, but it would be a lot smarter to wait until the oil gets put back in and the tires get put back on.

Monday, June 20, 2016

At Rest

Today is a dual Holiday; today is Litha, the summer solstice, and until sunset, it is also the full Lover's Moon.  The main thing I had planned to do today to honor both of these events was to finally get our niche completed (since there were no name markers one Moon ago when we placed the urn).  I'm not really thinking of anything poetic to say about it, except that if it had to be delayed, I am at least glad I was able to have another auspicious time to re-open the niche and add the missing parts.


I asked to take pictures before they re-installed the glass front; I am glad I mentioned wanting that in advance, because when the moment came, Jill had to remind me to take my pictures.  Now I finally have a picture that won't have reflections in front.
The urn has the two medallions, and I used two of Joanne's silver serpentine necklace chains instead of the ribbons that came with them; we looped the longer one around the neck of the urn and it turned out just perfect.  For my side, I added my Chalice, my Tree of Life bracelet, and one of the quartet of my little glass angels.  I actually think this particular little angel represents me perfectly.

It does feel good to finally have the niche completed, but it also feels a bit strange; it feels like getting to this point has been my focus for the past two months, and now it is finished, and it's sort of weird to realize I don't have to worry about that anymore.  Anyway, once the niche was sealed again, I walked down to the little flower shop on the corner, and got a flower for her, just because I could.

I'm planning to make myself some Japanese food for dinner (teriyaki salmon, with rice, miso soup, and sunomono) but I think I am going to be fairly low-energy for the rest of the day.  I think I've actually finished most everything I was pushing myself to get taken care of, and now that I am giving myself a little bit of permission to rest, I am realizing I am just about spent.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Icarian

I gave myself a bit of a wake-up call yesterday--along with a 911 call.  I was at work, in our back office; it was crowded at the moment, also being the "conference room" where all the doctors come to talk to each other (usually about politics or such and nothing patient-related).  I suddenly started feeling really light-headed, I thought I would pass out or worse.  I was hanging on to the desk with my head down; and I sort of remember thinking that there were five medical doctors right there in front of me, and I was going to fall over and die without any of them noticing.  One of them did notice, though; I think he asked me if I was okay and I answered 'I don't know.'

That doctor, the neurologist, takes my pulse, tells the psychiatrist to call 911, and the next thing I know, they are all in "MD mode" and whisking me off to one of the exam rooms to make me lie down.  (This is all during the busy time of the day, mind you, and I am hearing myself protesting that I need to go back to my desk and keep working.)  EMTs came and checked me out, and my pulse was back down to normal by then.  I took a half an hour or so to eat lunch and get myself settled, but ended up staying at work (despite recommendations that I do otherwise).  In all likelihood, I managed to give myself another panic attack (the second one of my life).

I think I've just been pushing myself too hard, and looking too far forward, and I forgot to stay grounded at all.  I fixated on that idea of "this can't be my life" and instead of just living my way through it to see where it will go, I think I was getting frustrated and discontent and wanting things to happen right now, and not giving myself credit for being as strong and resilient as anyone should expect for someone in the early stages of grief.
I'm standing in the middle of the wreckage of our life together--of my life--and instead of taking the time I need to pick up and sort all the little pieces to see what I might have left, I'm letting myself get disappointed in myself that I don't have a skyscraper standing here by now.  Joanne did always tell me I was too hard on myself.

In the Greek myth that everyone knows, Daedalus warns Icarus not to fly too close to the sun, or else his wings will melt and he will fall into the sea.  (Icarus was, apparently, roughly as sensible as I've been being, and plunged to his doom anyway.)  So I think I need to just let things go for now, and focus on the day-to-day that's in front of me.  Take care of the things that are in front of me now--the last of the estate administration stuff, and also the normal things that I haven't been keeping up with, like dishes, cooking, laundry, yard work.

In the details of the myth that not as many people know, what Daedalus actually told Icarus was that he had to fly at a moderate height--if he flew too high, the wings would melt and get ruined, but if he flew too low, the wings would get wet from the seaspray and get ruined, and the only way to make it across was to fly in the middle of the two extremes.  But I think for me right now, if I can make myself keep going forward, and keep up on the day-to-day obligations, and start working my way back into my Kitchen, that will be flying high enough.  Once that stuff starts to feel simple again, then that can be the time to go a little higher and look a little further forward.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Going Forward

So I started off the week a little bit rough; as someone I know from a former life in Missouri might say, I "decided to suck on the pity titty."  You know, I've been acting like I didn't see the outcome coming, and maybe I was a little taken aback by just how fast/early I got out of control, but if I'm really, really honest with myself, I was probably trying to get drunk, before I ever poured the first one.  And never doubt that a witch will accomplish whatever she puts her mind to--if I wanted to be drunk, then drunk is what I became.

I think I'm finally finished with that subject now; I've been processing it all this week, and I think I realize that actually, no, I'm not the victim of some addiction I can't control, it was just a decision I made.  If I didn't like it, I can choose differently next time.  And that's as easy as that is.

From there, I made good progress on the administrative front; I think there's only a couple more big things to do, and then the rest will be the little "we're sorry for your loss" calls as things like utilities come in that have her name on them and need to get changed over.  It's been a good week.

I've been feeling the kitchen calling me this week, and tonight I decided I would craft a proper meal for myself.  These country-style pork ribs I had in the freezer got pressure-braised in my newest cauldron (an Instant Pot), in my special Witches' Brew (which might or might not include a splash of Scotch), and I made mashed potatoes and green beans.  I have to say, as many restaurants as I have been taking myself out to, this is probably the most delicious thing I've had in a couple of weeks.  It makes me remember how much I love to cook and how much I love my own cooking.

I think my concern for the immediate future is that once I am finished with the administrative stuff, the emptiness is going to start feeling big.  It's like I've said to a couple of people recently:  When I was with Jo, she was my life, and the things like This Job were the means to the end, and it was fine.  Now it feels like the main thing I have is This Job, and I say with some conviction that this can't be my life, there needs to be more meaning than that.

I was talking along these lines this morning with a Wind spirit (who knows who she is) and predictably, she suggested I throw caution, well, to the Wind, and go charging after my dreams.  She's probably mostly right, although I will obviously have to do it my way and plan everything in exacting fashion.  A river doesn't change its course quite as easily as a gust of Wind.  But then, there are few things in the world as inexorable as the flow of Water toward the sea.  I will get to where I need to be.  I just have to decide for sure where that is.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Day After

I've noticed in the past that the day after a holiday can be a bit weird for me.  Especially since I have been together with Joanne, it seems like what would happen is that I would start planning things--like what food I am going to make, how the day is supposed to go, and all that--like a month or more ahead of time.  I would focus on getting everything together, making sure I was all prepared.  The day-of would be a whirlwind while I was doing and making all the stuff I had planned.

And then after all the gifts were opened, all the food was served, there would set in this feeling of, "Okay, now what?"

I think I'm feeling that especially strongly today.  I had made it important to me to make sure this holiday weekend was a tribute to her that I felt proud of, and I think I did that.  Her birthday was good.

But now her birthday is yesterday.  It is in the past.  So now what?
Do I have an answer for that?

Long term, no.  I don't.
Short term, I suppose I do; there is still a house to be cleaned, documents to find and legal-y stuff to take care of.  There is still a German Shepherd who needs me.  Maybe that is good enough to look at the short term right now.  Feed the puppy, do laundry, do dishes.  Look for the car title, start calling places that need called.
And maybe try to remember to take care of me.  I actually set a reminder on my phone for 7:00 pm each night that says "Make sure to take care of yourself."  Sometimes it still doesn't get done.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Birthday

(Note: If I buy a "selfie stick", this will be the reason.
It's impossible not to get my reflection in the picture.)
I have two reasons to honor my love today.  As it is Memorial Day in the US, I honor her for having served as a Captain in the US Air Force, KC-135 pilot in the 340th Air Refueling Wing, 11th Air Refueling Squadron.  She was proud of her service, and I am also proud of what she accomplished during her time in the Air Force, and her determination that allowed her to successfully graduate in the first class of female cadets in the Air Force Academy.  This morning, I went to the columbarium and decorated her niche, and stayed with her for an hour or so.

Today, May 30th, is also her birthday, the first one she isn't here for.  She would have been 58 today.
This is harder, because it's so much more personal.  I decided the best way to honor her birthday would be to go ahead and cook the birthday dinner I had promised her this year, so yesterday I bought a fillet of Copper River salmon.  As of yesterday, I didn't think I would be using the grill, but once I got home today it was such a beautiful day, and I decided I should do it right, the way I would do it if she were here.  So I mowed around the back steps and the concrete landing enough to clear around the grill, and then I grilled the salmon on a cedar plank.

I didn't get too fancy with the sides, just some rice (with salt and black sesame) and some asparagus from a can.  But, that is pretty much the way I would do it if she were here; if you're having cedar-planked Copper River salmon, nothing else on the plate is going to compete with that anyway.  As the finishing touch, I also served her favorite champagne.  I think that was the most emotional part of everything, when I 'popped' her bottle of champagne.  She always loved that, she said it was such a happy sound.

I have every intention of finishing that bottle of champagne for her tonight; it is a holiday after all.  I will be okay, I might just sleep good tonight.  If I made it through that first month without becoming an alcoholic, I think I am probably out of the woods.

All in all, it was a good day, albeit an emotional one.  I am proud of doing what I did today, and while I was eating the dinner, I felt very close to her, as if I could almost hear her tell me how good it was and how proud she was of me for making it.  It sort of makes sense to me; I am a kitchen witch, and my 'spells' are my recipes.  So, what better way to reach across to the other side and be close to her, than to make her favorite food and drink, and eat it at the table next to her altar?  That is what I think, anyway.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Elemental

I am the water
freely flowing
bubbling along

soothing, refreshing
healing
life-giving

but what about when
going with the flow
is wrong?

My world is rocked
waves crash
back and forth
out of control
need to stop the waves
need to hold my ground
but my ground
is not there
to hold.

Water can be strong
Water can be like the ground
But only if it is very cold
frozen

I can be the ice
but being cold is painful too
and the world hates the ice
it chips away at it
tries to break it
melt it

Is this my choice?
Be swept along with the waves
or be the glacier of ice?

Maybe someday the storm will die down
maybe the waves will not crash as hard
and then I can just be the water
freely flowing
bubbling along

Monday, May 23, 2016

Precarious

I thought I was actually doing pretty good today, earlier.  I got up, I got dressed early, made breakfast; I needed to go to Costco so I decided to have lunch at "our" sushi place in town again while I was out and about.  The first time, a couple of weeks ago, I wasn't ready yet and it was just painful to be there without her, not to mention the owners asking about her and I had to let them know she was gone.  But this time was nice; it felt good and there were memories there--it's where I proposed to her, and we were 'regulars' while she was working.  I even ate one of her favorites and told Jo "this one is for you."

Then a string of frustrating stuff all happened more or less at once--at Costco I couldn't find the furnace filters and got bad directions from the first employee I asked before the manager finally showed me where they were, then as I was finishing up there, the fire alarm goes off, and while the fire alarm is going off, my financial advisor's office calls wanting some IRS number nobody has ever mentioned yet, and then I get home and there's an upsetting email...

And suddenly, I'm right back to going on little crying jags and pacing the house and feeling sick to my stomach and yelling at the puppy too much.
It's like I'm in this deep pit, and there's a narrow winding path that looks like it leads up out of it, so I try to walk up the path, but with every little distraction, every little misstep, every little nudge in the wrong direction, suddenly I am picking myself back up off the bottom and starting over again.
"...how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, 'I never realized my loss till this moment'? The same leg is cut off time after time." ― C.S. Lewis

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Incompatible

I think loss can sometimes beget more loss.  I just had to cut the thread to someone I actually liked.  I hate it, because this person is going through her own personal hardship right now, but sometimes things just have to be.

Life can be so complicated, can't it?  Sometimes, there's someone who is honestly a good person, but they just aren't good for you.  Not all good things mix well.
Like, hamburgers are really good.  Ice cream is really good.  Hamburgers with ice cream on top would not be good.
Playing with my German Shepherd Bodie is good.  Going to a glassware store is also good.  I wouldn't dream of trying to do both of those things at the same time, they wouldn't mix well.

I just got home from my wife's inurnment service.  It went very well, by the way.  Her sister was awesome and gave a very moving and emotional goodbye; I stood next to her trying to give her strength, and I think I got strength in return; I was even able to say a few things myself.  The Air Force Honor Guard was a great tribute; they played 'Taps' on the bugle and made me cry my face off.  It was very pretty and just the way Joanne would have wanted it to be if she had planned it herself.

Anyway, during the service, I naturally had my phone set to "Total Silence" mode--there are still some places where noisy smartphones would be totally inappropriate.  It turns out that it was a good thing I did, because sometime during the service I received a private message on Facebook that was one of these chain letter things, basically "pass this on to 14 friends within 10 minutes; if I don't get it back I'll know I'm not a close friend to you".

I just couldn't ignore the insensitivity, since anyone who would be my close friend would know where I was and what I was doing today.  So I replied, telling this person that I was at my wife's service and her message was really offensive to me.  Just as I was getting home, I got a reply back apologizing and saying she "didn't mean to send that to me," which made my decision a little bit harder, but I decided that for my protection, I had to let her go.  It was the second time since Jo's passing that she had inadvertently been very insensitive to me, and I just can't have that right now, it is hard enough--I am broken enough without letting a reckless puppy in to play with the pieces.
"If I cut you off from my life, chances are, you handed me the scissors."

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Vampires and Parasites

I feel like I want to stop short of saying "I hate people," so I will just say that I am sometimes reminded that the human species is, by far, the world's most vicious, intelligent, and voracious predator.

I got a personal-looking letter in the mail today (the day before my wife's inurnment service).  I couldn't quite place who the sender was but the name didn't seem totally unfamiliar; I imagined it could be a friend-of-family-friend sort of person.  So, I opened it.

Inside was a form letter that never mentioned me or Jo by name at all, superimposed on a faint picture of some puppies:

"First and most importantly, may I offer my condolences on the passing of your loved one.  I am sincerely sorry for your loss.
The reason I am contacting you is I understand there may be a house available for purchase.  If there is real estate that needs to be sold, I may be able to help.  Please note that I am not a realtor and do not wish to list the property.  I would like to BUY the property.  I understand that losing a loved one is very difficult and the property being sold may not be a priority for the family but taking care of this now will save the estate time and extra estate/sale fees.
I am able to pay cash, settle without contingencies, and close as quickly as you'd like.  I buy the house "as is" so you don't have to worry about repairs or updates.  You can leave unwanted items in the house and you don't even need to clean.
I am available to discuss the details with you and would also be interested in purchasing other items in the home.  If what I do seems like it may help you, please call me at [666-VUL-TURE]."

Firstly, I find myself feeling sorrow for all the people who are too desperate, and too bereaved, not to just be offended by this--who reply and sign up to be, presumably, taken advantage of.  There must be a lot of them, if this can be what she does for a living.
I think it would be less offensive if the letter were businesslike and the name of her home-flipping corporation were on the outside, instead of all this handwritten-envelope and hazy-puppies stuff.  I don't know this person.  Although I do know her kind--a Belmont knows a vampire when she encounters one.

And then, there's just a part of me that is feeling like, you know, it is hard enough to try to push back against the darkness right now, when my star is feeling further away than ever; and then there's this letter that I think might be sympathy from someone who cared about her, but no, it's just a letter from a parasite.
It's like if you were drowning, and then there's a ship, and you think the person on board is throwing you a life preserver, but then they throw you a shark instead.

I won't say I hate people.  But I do hate vampires and parasites.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Adrift

Today, right about now, marks one calendar month since Jo passed away.  Right about now, it is also almost exactly one lunar month since I stood underneath a waxing moon and asked the Goddess of the Moon to watch over her spirit and keep her safe until my spirit can join her.

I feel like, in a lot of ways, I'm not doing as well now as I was then.  Maybe that's not fair to say, since on that night there was a lot of shock and a lot of people around, and other than a miserable drive home after receiving the call from the police, I had had very little chance to feel anything yet.
It really does feel like it is getting harder and not easier, though.  This week was really difficult; the work trip felt all wrong, because there would always be lots of texts and emails and phone calls when we were separated, and this time there wasn't.  Coming home to an empty house on Saturday felt really bad.  Then the internet was down all weekend, which took away my primary sources of communication and entertainment, so mainly, I just sat around and cried a lot.  That might actually surprise people, since I seem not to do that very much when I'm not alone; honestly, I'm not nearly as strong as I probably come across in person.

I really need to figure out what it is I still have left, besides work; I feel like I've lost my connection to basically everything.  Our game doesn't feel right without her; I think I'm feeling committed to seeing the end of the current story arc, but if I haven't re-connected to it in the meantime I will probably need to let it go.  Even cooking is hard; the actual preparing of the food still feels okay, but eating alone without her makes it tough.
Worst, I feel like my spiritual connection has been damaged; I am having trouble finding a connection to the other side right now.  This is especially bad since that is where she is at the moment, and if I could have that back maybe she wouldn't feel so far away, maybe it wouldn't feel so empty to talk to her.
I'm telling myself that it is probably just the grief that is blocking all those things, and with time I will find my way again.  It will probably have to be a new way, since I had intertwined my way with hers so completely, but I will find it eventually.  Maybe a month is really just not that long when it comes to these things.

One thing I have noticed about myself, which is probably not doing me any favors, is that the worse I am feeling, the harder it is for me to actually reach out to someone.  I guess that is something that Jo and I had in common, that wish to never be a burden for anyone.  I don't do it on purpose, it is just hard.  Like, even if I decide who it is I would want to talk to, I never seem to get past the part where I figure out what I would say if I called.  I guess until I figure that part out, writing will help; I can get some stuff out, and nobody has to be obligated--'burdened'--to respond.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

On Second Sight

The more I think on things, the more I convince myself that she knew it was her time.

In our relationship, while I was the Healer, she was definitely the Seer.  Despite not going quite as far as identifying as Pagan with me (she would always shun the label, and just say that she was "spiritual" and not "religious"), and despite that I was the one who would read Tarot for us (or at least try to), I realized early on in our life together that her Second Sight was much more keen than mine.

I learned to trust her feelings on timing, like when to leave for work:  She would occasionally pressure me to leave for work very early, like over 30 minutes earlier than I would usually need to.  I would do it, and without fail there would be some sort of traffic snarl that usually hadn't even happened yet when she got her 'feeling', and I would be the only one to get there on time.
I learned to trust her feelings on the weather; sometimes she would make me carry an umbrella to walk the dog, even though the sun was shining, only for there to be an unforecasted rain shower while I was out.
She always just knew.  She would be apologetic, saying she knew she was just being weird, but she just had a feeling and better to be safe than sorry.

So then, when I think on our life together, I think of how, about three years ago, she suddenly became insistent that we needed to be married right away, and she needed to get copies of her birth certificate and her military discharge papers.  She started talking about how we should get to an attorney so we could make wills, which unfortunately we never did.
And it seems like it was also along about that time where she started always wanting to make sure we had as much time together as we could possibly have.  When I was planning a shopping trip, she would ask if there was anything I had to get that day, or if I could wait and just stay home with her.  If I started cleaning the house, she would tell me I could do that stuff later, and she wanted me to come sit with her instead of working.  She even stopped wanting to sleep in in the mornings even though her insomnia during the night was as bad as ever; she wanted to get up so I would come out and be with her.  She wanted every last moment she could have, as if she knew there weren't going to be enough of them.

And if it were true that she had a premonition and knew her time was near, I think she would have acted exactly the way she did.  I think she wouldn't have told me, because she would know that would change things; she wouldn't have wanted me to put her in a hospital to try to save her, because that would mean less time at home together, and she would have wanted me to be happy; maybe she even had a 'feeling' it wouldn't change anything.  She wouldn't have wanted me to be upset during the small amount of time we had, she would have wanted us to be happy together as long as she was here, and have as many happy moments as we could possibly have.  And that is what happened.

In a way, it is kind of a comfort.  It means I don't have to keep beating myself up over all the things I might have neglected, or all the things I could have, should have done.  Because if I think she knew, and if I think she faced it exactly the way she wanted to, then how can I tell myself I should have taken that away from her?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Waves

I was told at the beginning of this that the emotions would come in waves.  I think today must have been a high tide.  I don't think I'm functioning as well today as I was yesterday; I don't know if that's because I didn't have to, with it being a day off, or what.

Even though I went out this morning, I'm feeling kind of isolated now.  Strangely, that seems to make it harder to actually reach out to someone.  I think it's the dark side of being the healer, in a way; it is so easy to make connections when it seems someone needs me, and so, so difficult to request a connection when it feels like I need...

Need what?  I guess that's part of the problem, I don't think I know.  I feel like if I did connect, I might still be all mopey, and then I'd get "oh, so sorry for your loss" and all that stuff that people say when there's nothing they can say, and it wouldn't make me feel any better, and all I would be is a burden dragging people down.
I just feel like I'm adrift with no sails today.  And even if I had an oar, I wouldn't know which direction to row.

While I was working on writing, I got a delivery of flowers; it is a sympathy basket from my work 'family.'  I am blessed to work for and with good people.  I think it must have made me feel good; although, I think that today I am just so flooded with emotions that all I really know is that it added more emotions on top.  The kitchen table is starting to become a nice altar for her.  I do need to figure out somewhere else for the flowers to go though, so I can actually use it for a table again.

I also finally built myself up to actually using the picture hangers that I bought over the weekend, and I hung up the two larger pictures of Joanne that I have.  One is above her chair, and the other is in the bedroom over our bed.  I do like that.

I guess I should feel fortunate that I have the time to just spend a day being 'down' now.  I can't help but feel like there are a bunch of things I should be doing, but I can't think of any of them I can actually do yet.  Soon, that won't be the case, and I will need to be strong.  Until then, maybe I should just go easy on myself.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Eternal

Toward the end of the week Joanne spent with me in Missouri, we lit this lamp.  The interesting thing about this lamp is that I can refill the oil without extinguishing the flame, and it will burn for well over a day with a full reservoir.  I kept the flame that we lit together as an Eternal Flame for the six months or so we were apart, only extinguishing it when it was time to pack the lamp into the U-Haul as I was leaving to go meet her at the Kansas City airport to begin our journey toward our life together.

Tonight, I lit this Eternal Flame for her.  Hopefully, it will be extinguished only when I leave to go meet her again.

I do understand I won't always be here to tend it, which is why I need to make a tall wax candle before I leave for my upcoming business trip; I think I can make a pillar that should last the 72 hours I will be gone.  I'm going to get some wooden lighting sticks to use for moving the flame out of the lamp and onto a candle.  Realistically, the lamp will need to be cleaned a few times a year, and the wick will eventually need replacing, so being able to transfer the Flame to a different lamp or candle temporarily will be a good idea anyway.

It feels good to me, it feels right.  It is helping me feel close to her.  I guess that is what the ritual of tending the flame is really about.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Gone but Never Forgotten; Rage Cooking

A week and two days ago, my amazing wife, whom I loved love more completely than I had thought possible, left the mortal world and crossed to the other side.  We had six years here together, which wouldn't have felt long enough if it had been sixty.
We never did have our first fight, the one everyone warned us about.  I guess we'll never know how we'll handle it now.

You have my heart with you, Jo.  And I wouldn't want it to be anywhere else.

I spent the first week or so being pretty numb; I can't say I even remember the first few days except for bits of the meeting with the funeral director.  Work the later half of the week was a blur too.
On Saturday, I heard back from the funeral director since I had inquired about the death certificate; she let me know that the hold-up was that her physician hasn't addressed it yet--even though I had personally called his office on Tuesday to let him know it was coming.

I got furious.  Like, smash-a-cleaver-into-the-back-of-his-head furious.  I resolved I would go there in person on Monday (today) and get it taken care of 'or else'.  And for the rest of the day, and the night, I really couldn't stop being enraged about it.  My soul felt blackened.

Then yesterday morning, something changed, and I couldn't bottle the rage anymore, so I started the oven, and I cooked all day.  I don't even think it was a conscious decision.  I baked Morning Glory Muffins.  I baked a loaf of rye bread.  I roasted a chicken and some asparagus.  I poured all of that angry, Fiery energy into the hearth, and at the end, I felt peaceful again, if still grieving.  (Also pleasantly full.)  It was cathartic.  Maybe this is at the heart of what it really means to be a Kitchen Witch.

"But wait," you must be thinking.  "You cooked with angry energy? What happened to 'cooking with intent?' You said you were feeling murderous! Didn't you just make a bunch of cursed food then??"

Maybe you weren't thinking that.  But I struggled with it.  I'd been struggling with it, all week--how am I ever going to cook again, if I'm not cooking for her?
And I think, this is what I finally realized, while I was figuring out what to do with a white-hot bottle of rage.  The anger doesn't have to be anger, it's an aspect of something else--all the anger was really just protectiveness of Jo, no different than if someone had blown her off for a week while she were living, except magnified by the grief.  And the protectiveness is also an aspect of something else; it is an aspect of my love for her.
So, once simmered down into its pure form, it is really my love for Jo that is cooked into the food.

I like this, because I am realizing that this is how I can go on.  I can still cook for her, even if I share the food with someone else, or no-one else.  My undying love for her will be Crafted into every dish I make.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Resolution we can Sink our Teeth Into

So we've greeted another year; holidays were a bit hectic with lots of overtime for work; we ended up not doing a large Yule celebration this year, but we made up for it at secular New Year with my first from-scratch Prime Rib Roast.  It was very good and it is now very gone.

Jo and I were pretty firm in our opinion that we didn't want to do any New Year's Resolutions this year; in fact, we had some conversations a few weeks back about how it seems that the whole world seems to have dismissed the whole New Year Resolution tradition as a laughable cliché.  The morning "news" shows seemed to make a joke of the whole thing this year, and even old standbys like cooking publications, who usually have "Light" recipes in January, seem to be skipping it:  Both Serious Eats and Food Network Magazine are headlining "Comfort Food" instead this year.

Speaking of Food Network Magazine and comfort food, though, I was going through the January issues I have to look for dinner ideas, and I found a "Fun Cooking" feature for "A Year's Worth of Chocolate" in the 2015 issue.  So I've ended up making a resolution after all, as a gift to my sweetie who loves chocolate and wishes I would make more desserts:  I've made a commitment to make all twelve recipes this year, one per Full Moon (less the Blue Moon that we will have this summer).  Last night was our Quickening Moon, so today on my day off I spent the afternoon making recipe #1, this Chocolate Blackout Cake with Chocolate Crunch (aka the Weapon of Mass Consumption).  It didn't turn out completely picture-perfect (the top layer crumbled as I was trying to assemble the cake), but it seemed to be a hit with the recipient of honor.

Of course, we couldn't shouldn't make a Full Moon dinner out of just a chocolate cake, but since I only have the one day off, I decided on something simple but homey for the main course, so we had this roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and asparagus.  This was actually a hit with the recipient of honor as well, she told me it reminded her very much of the Sunday dinners that her father would make, so the roast chicken might be something I can make more often too--it even does a good job of helping to fill the stock-bones bag in the freezer, so it will help me make sure I don't have to use store-bought broth (blech) anymore.

So overall, our Moon was filled with blessings, and we are looking forward to next week when I actually have a good stretch of time off that coincides with the Imbolc (Bridghid) holiday.  I've already picked out recipes for that as well, but that will be a story for the near future.