Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Acrylic – Oil – Watercolor – Charcoal – Colored Pencil
This is a modified version of the business cards I have just made up to start trying to rebuild my business that crashed on me about 6 years ago. The jobs and the economy dried up, and then parallelling that problem, the arthritis in my right hip grew worse until I was unable to work, period, and barely walk. At least one commission ended, I strongly suspect, because the employer realized I was gay. (not anything I could "prove" and if I could it would be meaningless in this area of the world.) I lost a house and a car. A little over a year and a half ago, I had my hip replaced and the surgery was highly successful. I have managed a small return to painting murals. I can't say that the economy has improved; however, interest in my work appears to be growing. And my beloved Dreamweaver is encouraging and supporting - and helped the non-geek here get the business card template to work! (I did design it.)
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
I had a conversation with my dad earlier this evening about that day, just to make sure of the tangle of memories I have . Here is what occurred. My grandmother, Cameron who was my fathers mother, was in town and staying with us; Lolo,who was my maternal grandmother, lived with us - or rather us with her. We had moved in with her very shortly after I had been born, into the huge old house where my mother had been born decades before in the upstairs room.
So we were all there together, both my grandmothers, my parents and me, in one room, watching television. I was immobilized in a leg brace due to the diagnosis of a childhood illness - little did any of us know that I would not walk for four years because of this. It had already made me into a quiet precocious child, reading before I ever got to kindergarten, more aware of the world outside me than most 7 year olds. I had a few toys with me, that I was playing with - a little toy astronaut of sturdy white plastic, and the toy Lunar Landing Module that went with it. I had the astronaut bravely exploring around the blanket I was on, in the shadow of his Lander.
On the screen before me, tiny and reduced to a small moving figure, an astronaut also bravely explored the ground in the shadow of his Lunar Lander..."One small step for man, one giant step for mankind. I was happy, excited, understanding that this was an enormous event in history - I was enthralled with space and the moon - Dad and I had looked at the moon through a small telescope that he had bought us, both of us hanging out my parents bedroom window late at night when there was a full moon, to the amusement of my sleepy mother. I believe even then, at 6 going hard on 7 years of age, I grasped the momentous meaning of what I saw that day, had followed what was happening when I watched the mighty Apollo rocket lift off to take these men to the moon.
What I came to understand later over the years was how momentous it was to two other people in the room that night - Hannah and Cameron. These two women were born in the days of horses and buggies, kept chickens, farmed, raised families when there was no TV, or space ships. Hannah was, unknown to us, nearing the end of her life - she would pass away before the end of the year.
Cameron was to live into the 1980's, reaching her 100th year. Cameron, known to me as Grandmother, had raised 9 children to adulthood, through the horrors of the great Flu epidemic. Deathly ill, and told that neither she, nor her children would live through, she put her children in the bedroom with her and rose from her sickbed hourly to nurse each one - she and all of them pulled through. Now with her children grown, she loved to fly and travel, constantly visiting her scattered family from state to state. This night she sat with her youngest son, my father and his family.
Hannah was a determined career woman, in these decades when women did not hold such jobs. She was county payroll master and a federal marshall - her memories of my home town extended back to it being a muddy main street with patient horses pulling buggies up the steep hill, and later the installation of a street car, sparks flying, whose track now lie buried deep beneath years of pavement. She was a firebrand who's temper was well known, as well as her deep compassion - on top of all this she also raised four children to happy adulthood. Her youngest daughter, Jane, now sat near her with her family.
Both of these women remember this town, this planet when it was a different earth - when men did not pass though unbounded space to reach out and touch the very face of God. They remember milking cows, and dealing with unruly horses, chickens that came not pre-prepared at a store for supper, but instead must be caught and dealt with in the morning, live and flapping, to be dinner that night. They remember a world where science fiction was fantastical; when in grand imaginary stories men told that Mars had canals built by strange in habitants or the Moon was a Nazi base unbeknowst to heroic Allies. These two women lived through the very real horrors of the great World Wars, the forgotten anguish of the Korean War, the shame of Vietnam raging even then as we watched the TV that night 40 years ago.
And that night, these two women, their children, and their granddaughter, me, watched with the rest of the world and marveled as we - the human race - journeyed further than anyone had ever dreamed possible, to set foot upon the Moon. The Eagle had landed.
Remember this day.
Words and Music by Leslie FishWorlds grow old and suns grow cold
And death we never can doubt.
Time's cold wind, wailing down the past,
Reminds us that all flesh is grass
And history's lamps blow out.
But the Eagle has landed;
tell your children when.
Time won't drive us down to dust again.
Cycles turn while the far stars burn,
And people and planets age.
Life's crown passes to younger lands,
Time sweeps dust of hope from his hands
And turns another page.
But we who feel the weight of the wheel
When winter falls over our world
Can hope for tomorrow and raise our eyes
To a silver moon in the open skies
and a single flag unfurled.
We know well what Life can tell:
If you would not perish, then grow.
And today our fragile flesh and steel
Have laid their hands on a vaster wheel
With all of the stars to know
From all who tried out of history's tide,
Salute for the team that won.
And the old Earth smiles at her children's reach,
The wave that carried us up the beach
To reach for the shining sun.
Apollo 11 commemoration ("Hope Eyrie")
Thursday, July 16, 2009
(years and years later, comparing life events and time frames with The Back Porch Priestess, we discovered that she was Magenta on the stage below the screen at the performance I attended! Wonderful!)
Little did I know....
What is "Drag"? After blundering around looking at etymology - "Drag" - early 20th centurey Brittish slang for clothes", "Queen" for ether a flamboyant woman, or a gay man (and Drag King was the natural step from there for the opposite number), drag might be defined as dressing for entertainment performance purposes as a member of the opposite sex as a proffession or a hobby or as an art form. There have been and are now straight performers who do drag, as well as many in the gay communities. It does not nessesarily reflect a desire on the part of the individual to *be* or live as the gender they are portraying on stage, or in other venues. Its not about dressing like a woman or a man by a man or a woman - it's about portraying and amplifying the ideal or the concept of Man or Woman. As Rue Paul once said, ""I do not impersonate females! How many women do you know who wear seven-inch heels, four-foot wigs, and skintight dresses?" He also said, "I don't dress like a woman; I dress like a drag queen!". There is clearly more going on here than just changing ones clothing.
And there are all sorts of genres within the world of drag - from lip-synch to freak drag, from men and women who delight in creating seamless illusions to enterainers who go for shock and full beards with their bangles. It has become high entertainment and many such as Rue Paul or The Lady Chablis who player herself in the movie "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" have achieved mainstream fame.
Another famous face is K. D. Lang - who while not perhaps a drag king performer per se, bends gender into a pretzel with her masculine presentation...and oh, that voice!
I also have lived with drag queens - bless them. To keep this post short and on topic, I am going to sum up that time frame in one phrase...
Three Drag Queens....Two Lesbians....ONE bathroom. You do the math.....
I should write a book...
However...heres my confession (and all my friends *snort* here. as it is no great secret.)
I have done drag...not just my usual gender confusing self-presentation that I do every day like the air I breathe (I had a man appologize to me the other day for taking me as a woman!) but full on - get the spirit gum and the gymn sock out and attempt to fool the eye....
I dressed at a SciFi con as a man in a Rennasaince costume with a mustache - I managed to not only fool a proffesional costumer, but train-wrecked two friends of mine whom I see yearly at the con. They finally grabbed my name badge trying to figure out what they were seeing, which was no help, as I was not using my name, but rather a boys name on the badge. I am not sure they ever quite caught up with what was going on (yes, I have pictures, no, they are not in the computer and I would have to go find the box - when they surface I will scan them in and post 'em. )
I also went one Halloween as a Scotsman in a full kilt and claymore with beard stubble - Misbehavin was there that time....on our way into the dance hall, a woman stopped Misbehavin' (who was living with us at the time) and gushed "Oh, who is the adorable little Scotsman?!" Misbehavin' cheerfully lived up to her name, and gleefully with evil intent, replied "Oh, SHE is my roomate." and sailed blythly on her way, leaving the poor woman gaping! (it's a good thing she did too - I did not need anybody tipping that kilt!)
So...why do I enjoy drag? It's fun, of course, like all costumes are, when you are able to step out of everyday life and be someone else for awhile! It is fun to present fully as a male and be taken for one...and then it's also fun to blow the illusion and watch the train wreck when people realize what they are actually seeing. (I do have a sense of humor that should be kept in a cage, if you haven't figured that out by now...) I am hoping to do drag this Halloween as we are intending on attending a Gay Pride that will coincide with that High Holy Day of Witches, Dragqueens and and all such good folk!
But I worry a little. Dreamweaver has never seen me do drag. Will it be fun for her, or will it fuel her fears that I might someday choose to transition? I don't exactly turn into an umbearable ape, but I do present a lot more masculine in drag (DUH!) - can't explain it...it's like a switch going on. It's been years since I did drag - will it still be fun, or will it collide in my head and create confusion, now that the genie is out of the bottle in my subconsious about being GID? Will the freaking spirit gum work this time - we had spirit gum failure at one attempt - hence the beard stubble and not the goatee. Do I remember how to Zen breathe around duct tape, ace bandages and a sports bra? Oh, the things that go through ones head in the dark at night
I am looking forward to Halloween! I think it's gonna be a ball. I will probably recreate the Scot in a kilt out fit - note, this is the full medieval kilt of 4 yards of tartan plaid hand pleated into a kilt! I did some widgeting with the computer art program (not a good one and I am not a computer graphic artist, so those out there that are, yes, this isn't the best in the world.) But just for fun...here my drag alter ego is. He's kinda cute, isnt he! And Shhh- don't tell anyone this, but he's got this crush on a beautiful woman named Dreamweaver; he's hoping she will be his date to the Halloweenfest this year? Do you think she might go?
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Margaret Fuller (1810 - 1850)
Monday, July 13, 2009
One of the discussions that has arisen obliquely is the exact definition of Transgender. First off, who defines "Transgender"? For that matter who defines sexuality and gender in general and how is it defined? As members of the GLBT community, a minority group that many do not even acknowledge as a minority in the strict sense of the word, we live daily in conflict with the dominant paradigm of society. Our over all culture here - and largely throughout the world is Heterosexual, divided into to 2 categories, male and female. This is a binary definition where society dictates that there are two boxes, if you will, one for male and one for female. Certain characteristics have been assigned arbitrarily to each box. Some are physiological - such as primary and secondary sexual characteristics, some are traits that have become associated with genders - being strong and stoic and good at directions, etc with being male; being emotionally expressive and intuitive, good with children etc with being female. (and I know there are immediate howls going up out there about the fact that no individual actually fits these boxes...yes, that's my point!) The trait list is a long one and includes how we dress for instance. Women tend to get away with a LOT more variance on traits and dress then men do...(the reasons for that are related to patriarchal world views and that is a WHOLE different blog entry unto itself - not going there right now!) women may dress in androgynous clothing or in out and out male attire, hold the same jobs as men, and be tomboys. While "masculine" women *do* come under fire, we seldom are treated as savagely as the men are with any gender variance.
I for instance (with the notable exception of "The Dress" for my stepsons wedding!) dress completely male - I wear NOTHING that does not come from the men's department except for the sports bra, people! LOL! And yet, when I have pointed this out to some folks, even those that are close to me, they are suddenly completely non-plussed when I point out that I am cross dressing quite deliberately! And that is because so many straight women are wearing similar clothing, if not the same, even if they don't present as male. Basically, as my startled bemused psych professor pointed out - "You couldn't 'cross dress' if you wanted to!" Men, of course are allowed virtually NO variation whatsoever...they cannot shop in the women's department for clothing and blithely wear it at will...they cannot in any way present as female, or they get kicked out of the gender box, violently ostracised and endangered physically and emotionally! Not to say that women who don't conform to the stereotypical gender schema DON'T risk prejudice and danger in certain areas, it's just that we do have alot more leeway today, which has not always been the case. A look back up the history of women's suffrage - there was a time when women were forbidden by law to wear masculine clothing
There are SO many men and women out there that by these "definitions" are failing the gender box test utterly. For instance, to look at the male gender box, if being sensitive and gentle, working well with children, lack of mechanical ability, being bad at directions, etc.(and this trait list comes from one of those on-line discussions that has been on-going, if you are wondering where I got that list from) means that a man is not a "real" man, then men with these traits are flunking the Gender Box by binary heterosexual stereotypes.
They may present totally as male, and be "straight", but their competence as Real Men is judged and found wanting by those standards. In fact, the above describes my father completely - he is sensitive, gentle and kind and great with kids, barely able to hammer a nail the right way, and SUCKS at directions! I don't know HOW many times I have gotten lost because I trusted directions he gave me and wound up totally in outer Mongolia! I now thank him profusely when he tries to tell me one of his *alternate*routes and then go find a map!!! (or consult my Dreamweaver - I am as directionally challenged as he is - the difference is I will admit it! LOL!)
And he is a very straight man - in fact he is a reactionary old wing-nut Conservative whose right-wing rhetoric more than makes up for any "sensitivity" he may have! (wonder if its over compensation? A way to fit the Masculine Box despite his supposedly non-masculine traits?) And anyone who has ever encountered a dour redneck shade tree mechanic who scorns anyone who cannot work on their own car knows that the prejudices are real! So...the question is that if we don't fit certain stereo types, ask yourself are these failures of the Gender Check list...or are they simply Human traits that are uniquely combined in us to make us the unique individuals that we are? There are no tests, no grades, and the Binary gender paradigm is a social construct, an illusion that dominates us falsely.
So if there is an over laying Heterosexual schema that dominates us, how does that inform or construct Transgender schemas? IS there such a thing as a Transgender socially constructed check list, paradigm, or Box? I think that one of the difficulties today is that there really isn't.
Understand, people of both sexes have been passing for centuries as the opposite sex. To give several accounts of this here - there was a woman named Jennie Irene Hodgers born in Ireland in December 25, 1843; by 1862 he was passing as Albert D. J. Cashier and was enlisted in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He fought in 40 battles, was captured once, but escaped back to the union army and mustered out at the end of the war, his secret undetected. For the next 48 years he lived quietly as a man, until at the end of his life, he was committed to an asylum for dementia and his secret was discovered. He was immediately forced to wear a dress and identify as a woman until his death in 1915...surprisingly he was buried in his soldiers uniform and identified as Albert D. J. Cashier on his grave stone! . In the 1970s, over 55 years later, a second tombstone, inscribed with both of his names, was placed beside the first tomb stone. There is a good illustration of the Heterosexual Paradigm at work, that society would feel driven half a century later to make sure the grave was identified as that of a woman, even though "he" had no heirs or family after him to care.
The second example is that of Billy Tipton.Billy Tipton was born in 1914. He began living as a man full-time by 1940 at age 26, and “passed” completely as a male. He had a career as a jazz and swing pianist and entertainer and a common law marriage (unregistered but publicly accepted), and three sons by adoption. He recorded two successful jazz albums and had a successful career. Billy evidently pulled off his deception in marriage by a story of having been injured in a car wreck that affected his "genitals" and necessitated his chest to be bound. He was discovered to have been female-bodied after he died in 1989 at the age of 74 due to a hemorrhaging ulcer that he refused to have treated. (a very common thing for those who were passing back then and before – they routinely avoided medical care in desperate fear of being exposed, and this often led to death in serious medical issues. And I am hunting a reverse tale of a man or men who chose to live as a woman - when and if I find it, I will add it in.)
However, "transgender" is a modern word only a few decades old. It popularised in the 1970s to initially attempt to describe people who wanted to live cross-gender without sex reassignment surgery. In the 1980s it began to include all those whose gender identity did not mesh with their gender assigned at birth. It now also has a political dimension to define alliance of all those who have at some point not conformed to gender norms, (gee - would that not include the entire human race at some point or another!) and is used to question the validity of the heterosexual paradigm. Included under the transgender "umbrella" today are terms like Transsexual, Crossdressing, Transvestite, Drag kings and queens, Genderqueer, people who live cross gender, Androgyne, and more - and please note there is a raging argument going about whether any of those terms belong under "Transgender". In other words, the umbrella is LEAKING!
So, do we have a paradigm for Transgenderism? I would argue not. And while some people abhor labels, labels and paradigms and schemas are also about forming identity. No, no one individual fits a stereotype or paradigm perfectly, but all of us as we form our identities through out life do tend to fit more or less into certain ones and find that an important part of individuating and shaping our identity. The problem is not only do we not have a good definition for transgender, the whole concept of transgenderism challenges the Male/Female Heterosexual Stereotype at its very foundation. For that matter, it challenges the identity formation of everyone around the transgendered individual. When a GID / Trans individual elects to completely transition, the changes are huge and go far beyond the physical. Emotional and personality changes occur too. Floundering and struggle for identity and authenticity can wreak havoc as trans individuals struggle to work through the stereo types they have in their head of what male and female can be, and to realistically present their target gender. (and yes...the two individuals here started out life as the opposite sex from where they are now - Lynn was a man and Jake was a woman.) Male to Females struggle with presenting authentically, as they can begin by being far too the extreme of a feminine stereotype, drawing unwanted attention and scorn. Female to Males can struggle with male identity - wondering if they can live up to the stereotype, wrestling with temperament and behavior changes brought on by Testosterone treatment. This road is NOT for the faint of heart...
And it is a dangerous road too, for all too often, society can react violently to trans individuals, whether they are male to female or female to male. (for that matter, that is an issue all GLBT individuals can face.) Brandon Teena who's story is told in the movie "Boys Don't Cry" who was raped and murdered for presenting and living as a man and dating a young woman known to the murderers. Gwen Araujo who was murdered when she was discovered to be a young man biologically. Go to this link and see the list of names - it is a sobering thing. http://www.gender.org/remember/index.html And it is a reminder of how incredibly reactive and violent the reaction of those who can see nothing but the Heterosexual Binary as an extreme - remember that their violence is driven by fear and misunderstanding so huge to a hatred so deep I cannot begin to comprehend it. This is not a safe path to walk.
A straight partner of a trans man or woman, suddenly finds themselves being "identified" lesbian or gay, whether they wish to be or not, with all the prejudice and loss of heterosexual privilege that goes with it. A gay or lesbian partner suddenly finds themselves identified as straight, which can be unbearable after years of identity building and self individuation as gay in the face of a hostile heterosexual society. Spouses of transgenders suddenly find themselves with spouses who are no long the sex that they themselves are attracted to. And it is extremely difficult for a non-trans individual to begin to wrap their minds around what the actual experience is like for the trans person going though it from the inside out. It was suggested to me the other weekend by a trans person's spouse that it is impossible. It is extraordinarily rare for relationships to survive one of them transitioning. The experience can be so devastating that it becomes impossible for many to even try.
However, some rare ones do - Helen Boyd and her wife Betty are one of the most publicly known couples that are together and strong and are surviving the changes it has wrought on their relationship. (They can be found at http://www.myhusbandbetty.com/ on Helen's blog, en/Gender and I highly recommend her books on their journey through this together) I have also recently heard of a couple who are a man and his now male partner who was his wife who are still together, which appears to be even rarer than the other way around. Think about it...the husband is now, in so far as the world identifies him - a gay man, since his wife is now his male lover. Mind boggling!
I actually know one couple who live near me -pictured here - he was an FTM; they are happily together, with kids, and to the outside world, they would "appear" a straight couple. I invited them to come speak at a class with me on trans issues; he had to work, but she came - her words were powerful and positive as she spoke of their relationship and the journey they have had together. So...it can be done! And they are a shining example of it!
And just because I am looking at all this gender bending wildness, don't forget the guy who began life as a woman...and then after transitioning, and marrying, he and his wife discovered that she could not have children to term. So he, having not undergone a full below the waist transition, undertook to bear their children. Frankly, I thought that it was an absolutely beautiful human gesture of faith and love on both their parts to do this. However. the level of freak show, nasty hateful treatment they received was heart breaking, when it should have been treated as a triumph of the human spirit! (and talking about gender bending relationships and stereotypes! - fixes things, takes out the garbage AND has the baby! Talk about the perfect husband!!! LOL)
So....where I am I in all this craziness?
For my part, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am male in a female body. What I see in a mirror does not match what I am. (talking about avoiding full length mirrors like the plague!) ....however I also know, just as deeply and profoundly that the things that are feminine about myself that would be changed by transitioning, I am not willing to give up either. I have a very strong identity as a lesbian that I am very comfortable with. I feel a part of the Lesbian Community as well as a part of the Trans. Thats important to note - most FtMs that pass through identifying as Lesbian on their way to Transitioning find that it is a poor fit. They may be in a woman's body and attracted to women, but they are NOT women. They are men and the dynamics are completely different. In my case, its as though I feel like a man in a womans body AND a woman who is a Lesbian. I have a Trans Identity and a Gay Identity. Go figure....I can't explain it - I don't think the English language has invented the terminology yet. The genderqueer community is trying, but I think until and unless the primary straight binary paradigm is altered to become simply an inclusive human paradigm, our struggle to express concepts like this to other people are doomed to failure.
Feeling male or not inside, I really DO like things about myself that are female. I like myself as I am, even if it is confusing or difficult or stressful at times. I do not want to transition and risk these huge changes. If forcing me to deny what I am by making me try to present as a feminine heterosexual woman (and I did try, people, for 36 years of my life I tried!), then transitioning with testosterone, and surgery is also and equally a denial of myself as a lesbian woman. I also have physical issues that make transitioning completely a huge risk - I have had a hip replacement surgery and the risks of infection that can go with such extensive surgery are completely contradicted. I would have a very hard time getting a doctor to even begin to consider me for trans surgery, with those issues present - nor is it a risk that I want to run.
And perhaps most importantly, I am in a relationship with an incredible woman, who despite her fears and doubts, is utterly committed to me irregardless of my choices and working HARD to relate positively to the earth-shattering realization that her partner is trans. However, as I said above, transitioning is a life change that can and will shake a relationship to the utter ground. Very few survive it. While I feel positive that Dreamweaver and I would survive if transitioning was the right choice for me, I have no romantic illusions as to the cost of those changes on us and our relationship. No one who truly must transition to live will be stopped by relationships, even their most intimate ones. But since I am already sure that transitioning is not the answer for me, then it becomes infinitely even more important not to risk the most precious relationship of my life! Dreamweaver and I will find our own way through and we will do it together. (and yes, she is talking to her therapist and on a transpartner list - she is not floundering alone! We are doing all we can to help each other and communicate, clearly, often and always.) And I will remain her cute little butch dyke/trans boi, and the woman who is her wife! And I love her with all my heart!
For me, what makes my scenario so ground-shaking is that I since I will not be transitioning...therefore, where IS my balance, my path, my center? I am coming to understand that the difficulty is that I collide daily with that Heteronormative Binary Juggernaut of a cultural Paradigm every minute of every day of my life - as a woman in a patriarchial society, as a lesbian in a straight society, as a transman in a binary - focused society. Encounters at church, at school, in the store, trying to buy clothes, using a rest room (I have used the mens room by accident, yes, REALLY, and the guys in the restoom did not even realize I was a woman. I totally "clocked" as male. Really WEIRD moment!). I see it constantly in entertainment industry. in popular music, in the newspaper editorials and the news. I see it in the pain and fear in my parter's eyes as she goes through this with me...pain and fear for me and what I go through, pain and fear of the changes it has brought to our relationship. Even knowing intellectually, who and what I am, and knowing what I know about how society constructs itself, emotionally it is a continual shocking jolt, day in - day out.
I dont have an *easy* answer (as if tearing your whole life and body apart and putting it back together could be considered an easy solution! *snort!!!*) Androgynous does not explain me, it is not an equal blend, and yet I am truly both. I am learning step by step as a unique human being that my path will be unique as well...just as every persons path in life is. Mine may be a little more unique than some peoples...and that is not a comfortable feeling at all! But it is who and what I am and I am learning to value myself for that.
So...there are some of my thoughts on Transgender issues and how they can affect our lives....
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference."
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
SO OF COURSE, I now find myself wide awake, absolutely shaking and aware, having found my way to the heart of these dreams...for continuity, anyone reading this, go re-read my post "Dream or Vision from last night....Descent into the Abyss" Post, because I am picking straight up where I was plunged back into this.
...I am stumbling down the stairs in total darkness. And I have no sense of time, or space around me. My body is exhausted, my feet are battered, my hands are scraped and bleeding. I am chilled and naked, thirsty and tired and disoriented. I no longer am thinking about what I must be doing here, or feeling anything, I am simply running on instinct to arrive somewhere. And I still cling to the vast wall of the Abyss, moving so slowly, by touch and feel in the dark.
And the wall is suddenly gone, as I feel with my foot for the next endless step which is not there and I go sprawling to the ground. It is still pitch black, cannot see the hand in front of my face, but realize that I am no longer on stone but on the ground. I eventually struggle to my knees and crouch there, confused and frightened: the wall was at least some way to orient myself no matter how many times the stairs switched back and forth, no matter how many times I fell. Now I am completely without guidance, and I know that I cannot go back the way I came. I don't even try. All I can do is stand and edge forward into nothingness, a blind man walking, a child trusting.
And then in front of me, almost beneath my feet a wall of fire rises. It is so abrupt that I am blinded for a moment, and so intense, I stagger back in terror of being burned. I look around wildly, but there is nothing visible but the dark and the fire...I look down at myself and realize how bruised and cut and scraped I am from head to toe, but that I am still marked with the dark spiral of the One who sent me down the path.
Behind me is still the featureless dark, before me, above my head and out of sight to either side stretches a sheer raging barrier of flame. I have one choice, one way to go...I stagger back a ways, and run head long into the flames, closing my eyes and leaping at the last possible moment. Behind my closed eyelids I see nothing but red and gold, and feel burning pain beyond words, and then I hit the ground rolling. I might be screaming, I don't know.
Time must have passed. I realize that I am huddled into a ball, but alive. I get up and the fire is behind me. I am singed and blistered and hurting, but appear to be whole enough to continue, so I start limping slowly forward. The light of the flame slowly dims behind me, and I am almost in darkness when I feel a movement of air across my skin. It becomes a breeze, cooling and soft on my stinging burns and cuts. It strengthens, a wind and then it becomes a howling primal force in the dark, pushing me randomly one way and then another. I go to my knees and then the ground, clinging desperately, fingers dug in as dirt and rocks blast against me. Then the rain begins. I find myself in a pouring wind driven torrent - a storm in utter darkness, pounded by a vertical flood of water stinging mercilessly on my bare skin. Lightening strikes all around me with great drum rolls of thunder. I realize I am actually laughing and I roll on my back, eyes closed against the onslaught to open my mouth and gulp down the water.
The rain slows, the wind drops, and I get up slowly as the last few drops spatter here and there. I shiver a little, cold and wet and muddy, and begin to move blindly forward again. Slowly I realize, that the ground is rising, then I stumble over a stone...more than one...a line of stones. Feeling my way, I am aware I am finally on a path lined with rocks on either side, not very wide, going up the side of a hill. My eyes strain and ache trying to see something, anything in the darkness, and I feel my way with my feet, staying in contact with the rows of rock. The rise has become steep, and grows softer under foot. I begin to smell grass, and earth - a powerful green scent, overwhelming in the blackness. The climb has grown so vertical, that I am now on my hands and knees, crawling upwards.
And then I top what is obviously the edge, and I realize that I have been dimly seeing for awhile. I see shadows of grass and stones, and my own shadow silhouetted against the earth. I resist the temptation to look about or up for a moment, and press my hands and face into the soil and the green growth there, savoring the feel of living earth on my sense deprived skin. It has grown colder and I can see my breathe vaguely hanging before me as I lie there. I am crying, but I don't know why and close my eyes. Finally I rise up on my knees and slowly open my eyes...
I am at the top of a great hill, and before me is a stone circle...it is old, ancient old. The rocks are cracked and covered with dark patches that must be moss, but they are whole and none missing. It is as though I see Stone Henge, or the great Avebury Circle before time and chance brought them down. I still see dimly - my hand's shadow moves on the stone in front of me and I look up and gasp. Above me are the stars, but they are not the stars of the world I have left. These are what we saw before the invention of time and electricity and light pollution. These are of this world, this place and are what our ancestors saw - the milky way so bright that it is casting my shadow around me, each star individual, brilliant and vivid beyond compare. I see great Orion to my right like I have never seen him before - Betelgeuse glowing fiery red, Rigel cold crystal blue, and I stand transfixed - the cold, the dark, the strangeness, the very vision itself forgotten. Tears run down my face for I know I will not see the sky like this again in this life. Finally, I begin to walk the outside of the henge, touching the stones one by one. I feel and faintly see spirals, runes, triskeles, Celtic crosses carved into the surfaces of the rock beneath my hand. I know that I am to go in...but where? I wait to see what I may see as I walk and finally there is a path I come to, leading in between two great tors. It is, as far as I can tell in the strange light, on the opposite side of the circle from where I came up, and I know it for my road out and up and home, once I have seen or done what I am meant to see or do. I step up between the stones, brace myself against them and step through.
I know what I will see almost before my foot comes down.
(I know on some level that where ever I am, what I am experiencing is also called forth out of my deepest symbols in my subconscious, however real my aches and scrapes and burns may feel.)
I stand on the beginning of a labyrinth - not a maze, but the old unicursal labyrinth found in almost every ancient culture back to the dawn of man. I breathe for a moment, and let go of all things, all thoughts, all self and begin the walk. It goes back and forth, circling in and out, coming closer to the center, then turning away from it. The night grows colder and I have lost count of steps and turns. Fear returns a little...in this place I could spiral forever and not come to the center. And then with one last abrupt turn I step out of the pattern into the middle ring - the center - evidently the heart of where I am suppose to be. I stand...and wait.
And I wait.
I am cold. I ache and I am hungry and thirsty. I become lonely. I am afraid, and suddenly know I will be left under this mad sprawl of stars forever. I become aware that I am pacing. I make myself stand still. I am bored. I become frustrated. I am angry. I realize how great my fear has become.
I hunker down on my heels with my head in my hands and wait. I become nothing but silence and stillness and I wait. And then a glimmer of light, a mist, a blaze, a growing fire in the center before me rises and I stagger to my feet. But this is not the hot red fire that blistered me before. This is soft and shining and beautiful beyond words...it is white, with color - all colors - shifting and turning. I stand awestruck and try to fathom it as it grows higher and higher. I want to touch it. And it seems wrong and it seems right. My heart cries out. Finally, daring to do what I hope must be done I step forward and into the center of the center, into the fire and the light.
It does not burn, in that sense, but it fills and overwhelms every sense I have, too much, too great...I am aware of life, of lives, of the living earth beyond the Abyss, beyond vision, beyond comprehending...it is connection. It is what I must some how serve with all that I am for the rest of my life and I am so small and insignificant by comparison - and yet I am a part of it. It is holy, it is sacred, it is...there are no words...
I realize I am sitting in the starlight, crying. The light is gone, fading, I cannot hold on to the moment, but I know that it holds me - I am a part of it and in it's keeping forever. It is not Deity, but the world, the life I am meant to live and be. I am exhausted, and I look around and see there in the center with me a cave formed by rocks with posts and a lintel. I do not question anymore the strangeness of what I see, but crawl to it, into a darkness that feels safe, unlike the blackness that I have crossed to get here, and fall asleep in my dream. What do you dream, within a dream? I waken, in my dream, in darkness that feels like a beating heart - all safety, all warmth, all close and still. More than ever, I feel the duality of my situation...the ground beneath me, the stone around me, the faint light of what must be the night sky and those amazing stars beyond me through the dolmens entry way. And yet on another level I know I am in my warm bed, with cats curled up around me, my dog stretched out beside the bed, my lover asleep next to me. I have been an eternity in the Abyss....perhaps only seconds pass as I sleep. This is lucid dreaming which I have never before experienced or understood until now. I never want to move again. No child wishes to leave the womb. And yet, at some point I must waken, must journey, and go on. So I crawl out the opening, back to the labyrinth and the night sky. And I begin my walk out.
I come to the ending of the Labyrinth far more quickly than I reached the center going "In", and I hesitate. Next to the path "Out" , is the ending of the path right into the center. One step sideways. Beginning and ending. Alpha and Omega. One and the same. I have to take the final step out and begin down the path beyond me through the great stone ring into the darkness of the Abyss. The star light will not follow me there. The next time I return to the Abyss, it will be different and this great Center, this Living Heart of the World will not be there. But it will be here, within me. I must trust that. I look down at myself. I feel rested and whole, but I am still filthy and muddy, cut and burned, beard stubbled and naked. Strange reality for a dream. I realize though that the great spiral that the Horned One drew on my chest is no longer crusted blood, but rather a dark tattoo of a spiral - permanent, perhaps even burned into my skin. I am forever marked by this and I call myself blessed. I finally take the steps between the giant stones and head down into the dark....
And woke into this world, tears running down my face, tangled in the sheets, three cats on my legs, the dog snoring, and Dreamweaver curled against me. I have no idea if I have reached the ending of these visions, or if I must follow the long dark back out as well....Only time will tell.