I will love you til the end of time/ I would wait a million years/ Promise you’ll remember that you’re mine/I told you that no matter what you did, I’d be by your side/’Cause I’m a ride or die whether you fail or fly . . .
I. Our Hands Are Joined
N. and E. handfasted Jow and me a few weeks ago. We decided together that we didn’t want to have anyone else present so we didn’t have to worry about what X would think about Y and we could do exactly what we wanted. N. and E. got our favorite Jamaican food for us and we enjoyed a cozy dinner, wearing our best side show style clothes. We rubbed on Fairy Ointment and had our ritual in candlelight in front of N & E’s altar where we were wound together in ribbon as we weaved together our love for each other, our gods, our ancestors, our Muses and our nature spirits together. After the ritual, we drank the infused wine Jow and I had made and ate sticky pastries with a tiny pink Jack O’Lantern winged demon and a tiny blue Krampus as cake toppers.
“I believe in you and I believe in your dreams,” Jow had said over our shared mead cup during our handfasting. “I believe in our shared dreams. I love you.”
He holds me in his big arms/drunk and I am seeing stars/ This is all I think of/ Watching all our friends fall/ In and out of Old Paul’s/ This is my idea of fun/ It’s you, it’s you, it’s all for you/ I heard you like the bad girls/ Honey, is that true?
II. A Samhain Tale of Love
After leading her last Samhain as our Senior Druid, we were sitting outside on the porch avoiding everyone. I had given her the three strand black ball of yarn with silver glitz inclusions that I spun throughout the ritual. N. joked that she needed something to touch give her a shock to the head once the headache from this ritual had faded. Her husband E. joined us as I was playing with the wisteria which has grown so big that we’re pretty sure it’s growing out of a drain pipe a block away. N & E find random college student clothing in it periodically so we’re fairly certain it’s eating students now. I’ve had dreams about the wisteria taking over the inside of their house and eating N & E but so far so good for the last 15+ years. The wisteria is sort of like our grove’s cosmic owl.
A few other grove members joined us and we started talking about weddings because someone there had become newly engaged. My filters were low from the punch drunkness of having too many exes in one room, the ritual itself, the lack of food in my stomach and the big change in grove officers that was about to happen. Years ago, when I was a baby witch, N. informed me that my ability to get people to share information about themselves that they wouldn’t usually share bordered on dangerous. I have taken pains in the years since to attempt to not stack the deck unfairly in conversations and to only use that particular trick consciously and in rare specific situations. But since my filters were low all around, I decided to ask how N. and E. got engaged.
N. and E. are way more punk rock than I’ll ever be. They were punk club kids in the 70’s, like to go to Mexico City for the Day of the Dead and keep nocturnal hours for their editing business because it’s what they’re used to. Their house on the inside is sort of like a modern livable McKittrick Hotel and I’m pretty sure in their hey day they could have rolled with Hunter S. without too much difficulty.
I wasn’t sure if there would be a story, really. My parents are contemporaries of E&N and they were together long enough that there wasn’t a big formal engagement proposal. They went to the jewelry store, my mom picked out a ring and there was a party. N. thought for a moment. “Well,” she said. “We knew I was going to lose my job soon and we knew E. would have a job for at least another year and a half. My dad really wanted to see us married and he was dying. I was terrified of the institution of marriage but we knew I needed health insurance and we wanted to make my dad happy. I’m losing my job, my dad is dying, obviously this is a great time to make a huge life decision, right? So we started to look for a ring we really liked and we found one. Then it was just a matter of time going to the Justice of the Peace. Our parents went with us and we had a couple of bottles of champagne for the Justice of Peace. I told her, ‘I have to be honest, I’m having some reservations. I’m not sure it’s the right thing to do.’ She said, ‘How long have you been together?’ I said, ‘Eighteen years.’ She said, ‘Get in here, already!’ During our vows, the JoP started saying terrifying things like, ‘Will you be able to stay married even if you’re dirt poor? Even if he’s really sick in the hospital? Even when she has PMS and is acting really crazy?’ and our parents took this really great picture of us both looking sick and looking towards the door. We still have the picture. Even though we were really scared, we both said yes. And here we are, years and years later, still together.”
Remember how we used to party up all night/ sneaking out and looking for a taste of real life/ Drinking in the small town firelight (Pabst Blue Ribbon on ice)/ Sweet sixteen and we had arrived/ walking down the street as they whistle, ‘Hi, hi!’/ There she was, my new best friend/ high heels in her hands, swayin’ in the wind/ when she starts to cry, mascara runnin’ down her little Bambi eyes/ This is what makes us girls/ we don’t look for heaven and we put our love first/ don’t you know we’d die for it?/ It’s a curse/ Don’t cry about it, don’t cry about it/ It’s all going to happen . . .
III. Can This Marriage Be Saved? An Open Letter to my Muse
I don’t usually see you as a Jack, more of a Serena, but my thoughts about you have never stopped you from being who you are. And there you were in J.’s body as Jack o’ the Shadows during Samhain, perkily reminding us in your most upbeat Buffy Summers tone that shit is real every day. This is your last moment, so what am you doing? You know you’re going to, like, die soon, right? You’re a blip on the cosmic radar so are you doing what you need to do? You with your shiny yarn? You’re just adorable, aren’t you? How could you possibly think that you would be okay dropping dead in your cubicle with nothing accomplished, nothing finished? How could you ever think that you would be okay living your life in a cubicle again? And still you try. You apply to jobs promising safety, promising health, promising security. You think you could make yourself fit. You think you could just settle. Everyone else does, why not you? You don’t want to die alone, sick and scared. You’ll mortgage everything I’ve ever given you to avoid that. Security is the whore in you that never lets you fly. You’re so close. You’re so close. Don’t give up on me yet. Don’t give up on us yet.
And later in N.’s body, as Jack o’ the Lantern, pleading with me to understand that you can’t sleep. You can’t rest. There’s a fire in your head. There’s. A. Fire. In. Your. Head.
Fires spread. Fires take over your head, your heart, your life until you’re a crucible or phoenix, lighting everyone else on fire around you. It’s the nature of fire. It’s Jack’s nature. It’s Serena’s nature. It’s the nature of the Muse.
It’s my nature.
Choose your last words/ this is the last time/ ’cause you and I/ we were born to die/ Lost but now I’m found/I can see that once I was blind/ Don’t make me sad/ Don’t make me cry/ sometimes love is not enough/ and the road gets tough/ I don’t know why/ keep makin’ me laugh/ let’s go get high/ the road is long/ we’ll carry on/ try to have fun in the mean time . . .
IV. Love Among the Ruins
Psyche didn’t care that she never saw her bridegroom or that all the help was invisible. She didn’t need to see him to know him, to know that they belonged to each other. And she definitely didn’t need to see her maid to know her laundry was getting done. Still, her older sisters had a way of making her feel dumb despite her best efforts. Their unending text messages (“i bet he’s a hideous monster lol” “Are u sure u even have a husband? Maybe he’s ashamed of u.”) had a way of wearing her down. When she met them at Starbucks for lattes, she found herself cornered by them and unable to explain what she knew in her heart to be true against their unending stream of logic and reason. They had been right before about other things – how to sneak out without getting caught, that bangs would be a bad idea for her, Fifty Shades of Grey. Maybe . . .they were right about this too.
She waited until he was asleep and then lit a candle, seeing his beauty for herself for the first time that not only was he not a huge snake but a god. In her relief, she tripped on her slipper and spilled some wax on his sleeping form. She held her breath and quickly blew out the candle. But even as the flame extinguished, she saw the betrayal in his eyes and he left without a word.
She wouldn’t accept this. She would do anything to get him back and her mother in law knew it. From demanding that Psyche take her wool coats for dry cleaning to the most dangerous part of town to manually uploading her entire CD collection to iTunes, Aphrodite had Psyche right where she wanted her – without Aphrodite’s darling little boy and under Aphrodite’s thumb. She thought she’d see the last of Psyche when she sent Psyche to Hell’s Kitchen to see Persephone about giving her some of her special edition La Mer beauty cream. Surely, Persephone wouldn’t part with such a great thing for a too-pretty upstart mortal. But Aphrodite was wrong. It wasn’t so long ago that Persephone had found herself in an untenable situation, sick with love and obligation. Not so long for the Queen of the Dead at least, she still had the taste of those seeds in her mouth no matter how many years passed. Besides, Aphrodite could be an unbearable bitch who thought she was too good to visit Persephone. Why not stick it to her? She gave Psyche the tiny box and sent her on her way.
After everything she had been through, who could blame Psyche for wanting a little comfort? She tried a smidge of the cream before swooning straight towards a gutter. But there he was, swooping her up off her feet onto his Ducati. Nothing would part them ever again.
Oh, my God, I feel it in the air/ Telephone wires above, all sizzling like a snare/ Honey, I’m on fire, I feel it everywhere/ Nothing scares me anymore . . .
Are you at the height of achievement and personal prosperity? Are you committing acts great and small on the altar of beauty and wonder on the daily? Do people praise your name for all the good that you’ve done for yourself, your family and your community? Do you have a reputation of having grace under fire? For dreaming things into reality? Are you creating things full of joy and réclame? Consider this your invitation, one lifetime only.
Every now and then the stars align/ Could it be/ that you and me are the lucky ones?
VI. A Nice Soft Place to Land
Hardly anyone gets to live their truth at all times. It’s hard to feel glorious when cleaning up cat shit and making grocery lists. But just because living your truth is incredibly hard, scary and impossible to do at all times doesn’t mean that gives you an excuse not to. No one is going to pick you up out of obscurity and give you all the tools you need to have to live your truth. No one is going to hand you a bucket of money and connections. It will always be painful and uncomfortable. It’s always going to be scary and uncertain. So what? It’s the end of the Year of the Hustle, what do you have to show for it?
I believe in you and I believe in your dreams.
Even though we were really scared, we both said yes.
Fires spread. Fires take over your head, your heart, your life until you’re a crucible or phoenix, lighting everyone else on fire around you.
She wouldn’t accept this.
Consider this your invitation, one lifetime only.
Just because living your truth is incredibly hard, scary and impossible to do at all times doesn’t mean that gives you an excuse not to.