Walking the Dark Road VII

This floating in the abyss stuff is really starting to get old.  Going from corporeal to goo and back is a worse punishment than having to visit all of these people.  I still don’t understand what is going on and why I can’t just get to my destination already.  I feel that familiar tug.  I’m shifting back into a form.

I land in a dusty field.  Looking around, I don’t see anything but trees off in the distance.  Any one direction looks as good as another, so I start walking.  It’s at least a mile to the trees in any direction.  I sigh.  “This is just about right,” I mutter to myself.

Bugs are buzzing around me.  The sun is beating down on me.  I’m kicking up a trail of dust with every step.  “Well, this is going to be a miserable trip,” I muse as I crest a small hill.

A June Bug flies full force into my forehead and bounces off.  “Ow! You son of a…” I rub my forehead and look down and the beetle lying on its back in the dirt, legs flailing as it tries to get up.  I watch it use its wings to flip itself over and it takes off again, undoubtedly to fly into something else hard.  Down the other side of the hill, there is a small grove of trees.  I start toward it, hoping that I can get some relief from this summer sun.

As I approach the shade, I see that the grove hides a pond.  I hear splashing and whispers.  Slowing my pace, I ease behind one of the larger trees and peek around it.  There’s a couple in the pond laughing and splashing.

I watch as the woman swims up to the man and looks directly at me over his shoulder.  She gives me a smile and a wink as she reaches over and bites his neck.  Crap.  I’ve been caught.  I duck back behind the tree.  I hear laughter again.  “Come on out!” She calls.  “We’ve been waiting for you.”

I close my eyes and sigh.  “Of course you have,” I say to myself as I step out from my hiding spot.

“It took you long enough to find us,” she says in a drawl that I can’t quite place.

I am still quite confused by this journey.  I nod at the duo and sit on the bank.  “What?” He asks, looking at me for the first time. “You ain’t going to join us?  It’s damn hot out here.”

“No,” I respond.  “I’m not too hot as long as I stay in the shade.  I’m Val.”

“He’s Clyde.  I’m Bonnie,” she responds. “Pleasure.”

I nod in acknowledgment.  This is great.  I’m sitting in the afterlife with Bonnie and Clyde.  Bonnie. And. Clyde. “So, you were expecting me?” I ask awkwardly.  “Why?”

Clyde raises an eyebrow.  “You know, we could rob and kill you right now and no one would be any wiser.”

Before I can respond, Bonnie laughs.  “But we won’t,” she says, “because you are just passing through and we know you aren’t going to give us up.”

I shake my head and sigh.  “No, I’m not going to give you up,” I respond.  “I can’t find a reason to.  Why am I here again?”

“Well, you’re here to learn something you silly thing, “Bonnie answers.

The two move toward the edge of the water to get out.  I avert my eyes so I don’t offend either of them.  “What am I here to learn from the two of you?”

It’s Clyde’s turn to laugh.  “You’re here to learn that love is madness.  Even in the happiest of times, you can go crazy with the person you love the most.”

Bonnie laughed and threw herself into Clyde’s embrace.  “Not just that, honey, but when you find the right person, your madness doesn’t seem like madness at all!  You will know it when other people try to stop you and they can’t.”

I watch these two psychopaths paw at each other for a minute before I clear my throat. They both laugh at how uncomfortable I have become.

Bonnie sashays up to me, mirth and danger in her eyes. She put her finger in the center of my chest and begins to poke me threateningly with a sly smile. “Love is the only thing in this life worth living for,” she says.

We are walking backward. I know I am going to be walking into the pond soon. “Madness comes only after love. Madness comes from being alone.”

She pushes me into the pond and as the water covers my face, everything goes black and I am floating in the void again.

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Walking the Dark Road VI

Once again, I’m in the dark.  Floating.  Having a few minutes to think, I revisit the thought that I’m actually dead.  I don’t remember anything before the darkness.  I don’t know what could have happened that could have killed me.  Now that I think about it, I could have just been old.  I have no idea.  Instead of fear or panic, I feel resignation.  If I’m dead, I may as well enjoy the ride, right?

I feel like this nebulous mass of goo, slipping along a current of darkness.  My arms and legs are not distinct.  If they were, I would probably be flailing.  This must be how amoebas feel, indistinct and oozing.  I don’t feel anything pushing me along, no wind or water.  Everything is just blurred at the edges, even me.  Relaxing into that blurriness, immediately gets me spit into a garden.

I look around.  Judging by what is planted, it is early to mid-April in the garden.  I remember my grandmother’s garden.  It was much like this when I was a child.  Behind me, I hear a woman muttering softly and the gentle clink of garden implements.  I turn to see a tiny slip of a woman in a large, floppy hat, a too-big long-sleeved flannel shirt, and work gloves walking toward me followed by two cats and a dog.  She’s talking to the animals, giving them their instructions for today’s gardening.

“Quit playing in the dirt, Child,” she gently chides.  “If you are going to help me weed, you need to get up and take this rake.”

She hands me a rake that has a broken handle.  It is almost perfectly sized for a child.  I rise from the dirt and look at my own grandmother.  I’m sure that if I were alive, I’d cry, but I’m not, so I just look at her.  I watch her twin ginger tabbies circle her once, tails sweeping her legs, and stalk off into the leaves looking for a gift for her.  Her old mutt sits out of the way, silently watching, her sentinel.  He alerts her to snakes coming her way.

“Gram,” I say, walking down the row of young okra.  “How have you been?”

She raises a wise eyebrow at me.  I never would have asked that question as a child.  I was far too blind to the manners of adults.  She indulges me.  “I been fine, just runnin’ the farm.  How have you been, Child?”

“I’ve been just fine, Gram,” I respond.  Seeing my grandmother one more time, I am just fine.  I don’t need to talk to her about being dead or anything.

She goes back to loosening the dirt on her end of the row and I do the same.   This was our way when I was younger.  I helped her in the garden and she gave me little jewels of wisdom that I wouldn’t come to appreciate until many decades later.

After several moments of silence, she looks at me. “You look thin.  Are you sure that you have been just fine?”

I smile.  “Yes, Gram, I have been.  Can you tell me about some of the plants?”

“You know about these already,” she responds.  “Why are you out here in the okrie without long sleeves?  You know it’s going to eat you up!”

Smiling again and focusing very intently on the dirt at my feet I respond, “I’ll be okay, Gram.”

She tsks at me and keeps scratching the dirt.  George (maybe it’s Sam, I’m not sure) trots up purring loudly and lays a half-dead snake at Gram’s feet.  The orange tabby is so proud of himself and says so with a loud meow.  He is sitting tall and grooming his paws.  Gram looks sternly at the cat.  “Now George, I told you not to kill these King Snake babies and what did you do?  You brought me a King Snake.”

Gram is the only person I have ever known who could confuse a cat.  George was confused.  She leaned over and patted him gently on his head.  “Georgie, thank you for saving me from this snake, but it really isn’t the kind of snake I need saving from.  Why don’t you go off and try again?”

George perked up after being chastised.  He wound around Gram’s legs once and with a chirp bounced off to find his brother.  “You see that, Child?  If we listened to our very nature more, we wouldn’t be confused.  Those cats are out there hunting mice and snakes.  They don’t hunt them so I’ll pet them and tell them how good they are.  They hunt them because that is what they are supposed to do.  They bring them to me because cats think we are terrible hunters and are going to starve without them.

“Do you ever wonder what happens when we humans listen to our own nature?  We stop hearing the chatter of the people around us.  Life slows to a crawl and we notice everything.  God reveals to us some of the mysteries of life.”

I’m standing there watching my Gram with her garden rake and listening to her words.  “What’s one of the mysteries God has taught you?”

Gram tilted her head slightly my way and gave me a sidelong glance.  “Talking to things.  God has showed me how to talk to anything.  He’s showed me how to talk to the animals.  He showed me how to talk to the plants.  I can even talk to the clouds, only, they ain’t always ready to listen.

“Oh no, you don’t!” Gram said, raising her hoe and bringing it swiftly down in the dirt with a thud.  “Grab my shovel, Child, and come over here and finish cutting the head off of this snake.”

Dutifully, I trot over and grab the shovel.  Gram has a Copperhead writhing and trying to wrap itself around the handle of her hoe.  Calmly, she looks at me. “Go ahead,” she says, “and put the shovel close to the hoe and stand on it like you are going to dig a hole.”

I stand on it and I feel the snakes head separate from its body.  “I don’t like nothin’ to suffer.  That old Copperhead there was coming straight for me.  I saw it three rows over.  Them things are mean.  So much for the dog and cats,” she said to me with a grin.  “You get the head and I’ll get the body.  We can take it to the end of the row and bury it.”

After burying the still-writhing pieces of snake, Gram and I walk back up the row.  She begins gathering her gardening implements.  “I think we’re done for the day,” she says.  “It’s gettin’ too hot for me out here already.”

“Okay,” I respond as I pick up my short-handled rake.  “What are we doing now?” I ask.

“Well,” she says, pausing to look at me, “am going in the house.  You should go out to your Pawpaw’s shop and get the barn cats fed and watered so I don’t have to go back out there.  Can you take all of the gardening tools with you?”

As she’s handing me her gardening tools, I realize that I am being dismissed.  I look at Gram and smile.  “I love you, Gram,” I say.

She smiles back, “I love you, too, now go on.  I’ll go in and fix us some water.”

I turn toward the shop knowing that I won’t be going into the house.  Yet, I smile and respond, “Okay, Gram! See you in a minute!”

Pawpaw’s shop looks just like it did when I was a child.  I open the door to the storage closet where the tools are kept and step out into the abyss.

 

Encounter with an Air Elemental

I’d been home alone for several days when one of the guys from the cave expedition called.  “Hey, we are heading out tomorrow to find the next elemental.  You in?”

“Of course,” I reply, not sure if I wanted to be in or not, but I was not going to miss a weird thing happening.

We started out before daylight and we drove.  We drove east and hurried the sun’s daily birth along at 70 miles per hour.  Then, the clouds came.  They were ominous, completely blacking out the horizon and the morning sun.

We turned down a dirt road and got out of the vehicle.  The clouds were thick and rolling but didn’t seem to hold any water.  There was only wind.  Dust kicked up from the road.  Debris was dancing across the ground.  Our vehicle rocked gently.

Then, a funnel dipped toward us.

Before we could react, we were pulled off of our feet and into the air.  The being that met us looked so alien.  Its head and tail swirled like the funnel and its arms, with its exaggerated hands and fingers, looked like lengths of twisted rope.

We all hung in mid-air, not really still, but not being violently thrown around, either.  “You have no fear.  Why?” It asked.

Its voice was like the whisper of butterfly wings.  It was there, but gentle.  We all looked at each other, confounded until I spoke.  “We seek to know your mysteries.”

The being’s laugh was that gentle breeze that catches your hair and makes it tickle your face. “You can not hope to know all of my mysteries,” it replied, “however, since I have already introduced you to flight, I will also introduce you to whimsy.”

With that, we began tumbling within the whirlwind.  We went up.  We went down. We circled each other in an ecstatic dance none of us were in control of.  Only when we were all laughing hysterically with joy did the being put us down.

We landed on the grass of the ditch bank on our rumps.  Our sides hurt.  Our cheeks hurt.  We were all out of breath.  I was the first to look up.  The sky was no longer black.  There were no clouds.  That show, I think, was just for us.

Then, a brightly colored butterfly fluttered toward me and landed on my forehead.

The Earth Element

This piece began as the preface of a Wicca 101 blog about the element of Earth.  This elemental story has, kind of, taken over my brain.  There will be 5 parts to this, and the first 4 are already written. 🙂  Enjoy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

And we walked for hours, finally arriving at the mouth of a cave.  Rivulets of sweat race down my brow from both exertion and fear.  The darkened maw beckons us into the unknown.  We arrive.  There is an electricity in the air, something prodding us all forward.  With a collective breath fortifying us, we face our fears of darkness and closed spaces; crossing the threshold. Into the womb of the Mother.  Into the place of our ancestors.

Someone flicks on their flashlight.  The cave gobbles up both the click of the on-switch and the feeble beam of light.  For a moment we stop, gazing in awe at this cavern, its dimensions so massive our LED ‘s look like penlights in a closet.  Then, I notice the cold.  I notice it seeping in nearly unnoticed, wrapping its heavy tendrils around my legs, waist, arms.  Its caress like a familiar lover, whispering in my ear, lulling me.  That is when we hear the voice beckoning us into the darkness.

“Come to me, Children,” it says.  “Come, sit at my feet and on my lap.  Come, let me tell you a tale.”

Our lights drift toward the sound and we walk, as a group, closer.  It is like hearing the trees speak or the robin’s song, the promise of spring.  We don’t know the words, but some part of us understands them.  That part of us feels the pull of the Mother.  After several steps, she appears at the edge of our light beams.  She is round and soft-looking, like the Willendorf statue and sits upon a throne of worn stalagmites.  We stand in shock, disbelieving what we are seeing.  “You come to this place seeking me and you are surprised to find me?”  Her black jewel eyes glitter with mirth.  “Come.  Sit.  Be.  I shall tell you a story.”

 

And Then, She Stepped Off of the Edge

It was high summer, last year, when my life took a ninety degree turn and I, not expecting it, stepped gleefully over the edge of the sheer cliff face and into free fall. His easy manner and kind eyes tripped me up in the most beautiful manner and I found myself having to trust my all too broken wings.

We had been friends for some time, years.  We enjoyed each other’s company tremendously, but life never allowed us to have time alone, until that point. He believes in being a gentleman. He believes life is to be explored.  He believes the unknown should become the known. He believes to be fully human is to live fully. He believes that he is not human, but other.

The two of us, coming together, two halves of a whole, yet complete unto ourselves created ripples in the aether.  Without a word spoken, we know what the other needs. Without a painful word, we know what the other thinks.  We came together last summer, two children of the night, recognizing in the other that kindred spirit.

Our hearts had been shattered by others.  Our souls splintered and afraid of what was to come.  Our bad days outnumbered our good days. Our lives were full of people, yet we stood on the periphery, watching, listening. Individually, we stood and looked at those we loved and admired and we looked at those who loved and admired us.  We couldn’t understand why.  We couldn’t understand why they loved us, why they insisted upon being in our company. As individuals, we could see and feel just how different we were from them, but we wanted to belong. We wanted the friendship. We wanted the camaraderie. We wanted to be seen and appreciated for who and what we were.

It wasn’t until our coming together did we understand that what makes us different also makes us a beacon for others.  It wasn’t until our coming together did we understand that we do not, necessarily, need those around us, at least no in the same way that they seem to need us.

Our romance was whirlwind.  In two months, we spent nearly every spare moment together.  We gave to each other the things we knew, instinctively, the other needed. He brought me gifts unlike any I’d ever received: incense, robes, a sword. I gifted him body jewelry and (my pride as a southern woman) hearty, home cooked meals. We shared knowledge we had gained on our individual spiritual paths. We opened up latent gifts within each other.

As children of the night, we peered curiously into each others abyss. We gazed into that darkness, always the same, yet different, and embraced it. We looked into each others oft tortured souls and acknowledged the pain and hurt there, soothed it with the balm we each so terribly needed. Without judgment, we opened ourselves to each other.

In another month, we began planning a wedding. A month after that, we wed.  In less than six months time we realized that each other was what our life had been missing.

Becoming the Sacred Fool, stepping over the edge of the cliff, has opened a great many doors. The only trouble now has become deciding which door to walk through.  No matter the shadows, no matter the light, no matter the obstacle, we work as a team. Life is not easy by any means, but it is easier because we work together.

I let my demons out to play with his and they began a dark and macabre dance. He and I reveled in their joy. We reveled in their happiness. We reveled in their bloodletting. We still do. We stand in awe of each other, flanked by our demons, accepting each other for who we are. Oh, we still butt heads. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. Yet, when our demons decide to not play nicely together, we manage to find a way to tame them.

The last year of my life, 2016, did not even begin until June. My own eyes were closed to life and living until that moment. It was only when my darkness touched a kindred dark did I begin to see.  When I began to see became the moment I began to live again. It took another child of the night to remind me that sometimes we must waltz with the shadows to be fully awake.

 

 

Being

I am a being of the light and dark
Walking
Weaving
Wand’ring
Sometimes it is the morning
Happy
Hopeful
High
Sometimes it is the twilight
Lucky
Liminal
Low
Always it is the midnight
Dark
Dangerous
Damned
I creep and slither
I rush and waiver
Ever wand’ring
Ever searching
Ever seeing
I am a being of the light and dark

Walking the Dark Road: Part V

I walk down the path in the woods.  Already, I miss the old man at the house, but walking in the dappled sunlight of the forest is one of my favorite things.  The cool dampness and song of the birds divert my attention.  My feet are sure, so I simply walk.  I take in the wholeness of the scene.  Everything is doing what it should, when it should and as it should.  Nothing could be more perfect.

Ahead, I hear a bird calling, warning of danger.  There’s no mistaking it.  There seems to be a predator ahead, so I slow my pace.  I step off of the path and hide behind a large Alder tree.  After listening to the bird for a few more moments, I realize that I am ready to run in the other direction.  Then, I realize just how dumb that is.  I’m already dead.  I’m pretty sure that there isn’t anything that can make me deader than I already am.  So, I forge ahead carefully.

The bird is not longer sounding a warning.  However, I am still hyper-aware of every sound in the forest.  Successful predators are silent.  I keep watching all around me and above me.  Still there’s nothing, so I let my guard down just a fraction and pick up my pace.  I don’t really know where I’m going, but I figure that I might, at least, do my best to try and get there quickly.

Suddenly, the normal forest sounds stop.  The only sounds are my muted steps on the grass pathway.  I hear the giggle of a little girl echo around me.  I didn’t know, until that point, that dead people could get chill bumps.  I freeze.  Maybe it’s fear.  Maybe I’m trying to figure out where this little girl is.  I’m not sure.  The sound echoes again.  It’s chilling.

Slowly, I press forward.  “Come play with me,” echoes through the forest.

Again, I freeze.  Even dead, I’m creeped completely out by this.  Laughter.  “Come play with me.” More laughter.

I hear a dress rustling.  As I hear another round of laughter, I see the tail of a dress and blonde curls disappear behind a tree.  I follow.  “Little girl?” I ask hesitantly.

It seems sacrilege to speak even at a normal volume.  There’s nothing behind the tree when I get there.  “Little girl?  Are you lost?”

“Come play with me,” is the response.  More laughter.

I shudder.  “Little girl!” I say with a little more urgency. “Can you come where I can see you?  Are you lost?”

At this point, I notice the mist.  It has surrounded me and I can not find my way back to the path.  I sit on the moss covered ground at the base of a tree.  I’m trying not to panic.  I hear the little girl laughing and running, her dress rustling against the trunks of trees, her laughter echoing off of the trees and all of the unseen forces in the forest.  I’m panicking.

Drawing my knees up to my chest, I rest my forehead on them and take a deep breath.  The laughter and rustling stop.  I strain to hear anything.  Then, a tap on my shoulder and a “BOO!” just about give me heart failure. (Well, if I weren’t dead it would have…)

In my fright, I jump away from the tree trunk and end up supine on the moss covered soil.  A laughing little girl walks up and looks at me.  “Did I scare you?” she asks very innocently.

I sit up and look at her.  “Yes, you did,” I reply.

She laughs again.  I’m irritated.  “Don’t be mad.  I was just playing,” she says.

Silently, I take in this child of, maybe 6 years old.  Her golden pigtails hang in ringlets on either side of her head and are tied back with pink ribbons.  Her little black pinafore is accented by a pale pink shirt underneath.  She’s also wearing black patent Mary Jane shoes with lacy socks.  She looks like she is going to church.  “Like my dress?  Mama made it,” she says, watching me, watching her.

I stand.  “Your mama is very talented,” I respond.  “Why are you playing in the forest?”

She giggles. “I live here, silly.  Where else would I play?”

Great, I think.  I have encountered a little forest kid who, do doubt, is the reason I had to come this way. “You have a point, my little friend.  What is your name?”

“I am called Tia,” she responds.  “I know who you are.  Will you play with me?”

“Tia, I am on my way to see someone.  I can not play right now.  Can you help me get through the forest since you live here?”

Little Tia looked up at me.  There was something strange about her eyes.  They were too close or maybe too far apart, maybe they were too blue or too large.  When she spoke her voice had changed.  All innocence was gone and there was an edge to it.  “You didn’t even ask how I know you.  Come. Play.”

“If you could just help me get back on the path, Tia.  I need to be going,” I responded as I took her hand.

As I turned and tugged her hand to leave, she planted her feet.  “Now, I am become death, the destroyer of worlds,” said a voice that was not at all child-like.

Once again, I get chill bumps and I freeze.  I turn and look down at the hand I am holding. It isn’t the hand of a child, but the withered claw of my greatest fear.  I am staring into the hooded face of Death.

The clawed hand grasps my wrist and pulls me close.  Cold trickles down the side of my face and neck as it speaks, “Will you hear me now?” it asks.

I can not make the words come.  I am the dead idiot who still fears death.  Yeah, that makes total sense.  I stare into the abyss under the hood.  I am silent.  I am scared.  Death lets me go with a sardonic chuckle.  “I thought you might.”  It seems to brush me off of itself and then straighten its robe before becoming Tia again.

“See?  This is much better, isn’t it?” the little girl says with a laugh.

I am still shocked mute, so Tia takes my hand and guides me back to the forest path.  It is at this point, I realize that the mist has cleared.  It is at this point that I realize that Death is, quite literally, my guide.

“Tia, I wasn’t expecting to see you today.  I know, now, that you are who I have been searching for.  Since I am already dead, what is it that you could possibly have to show or tell me?”

Tia laughed.  It wasn’t a child’s giggle, but a full-on, serious adult laugh.  “Death is not just the degradation of the physical body.  It is not just the spirit letting go of the physical realm.  Death comes in many forms.  You have seen this today.”

I nodded.  We have not stopped walking the path.  Tia leads me on as I listen to what she says.  “Death is but one part of a cycle.  It is birth, life, death, and rest before being reborn again.  Death is the literal and metaphorical shedding of the unneeded.  Whether one no longer needs a person, a habit, a thought process, or breath, the process is the same.  The connection withers and, ultimately, is no more.  It is a change, an evolution.  I am neither bad nor am I good.  I am simply a stage in a lifecycle.

“The mind must assign a binary to everything: good/bad, male/female, up/down.  Sometimes, things simply are.  Sometimes the progression from one stage to the other has to seem traumatic.  Sometimes the progression from one stage to the next is seamless and accepted.  These things are all decided within the mind of the one who is having the experience.”

We haven’t stopped walking.  I am enthralled by this child’s wisdom.  I am enthralled by her dichotomy.  She is the very essence of what she is saying.  She is young in body, yet older than time.  She is smoothed skin and playful, yet wiser than even the oldest person alive.  The forest is thinning out.  I am almost certain that we are coming to the end of this part of the journey.  “Tia, if I am truly dead and in the world of the spirit, then why was I so afraid of your cloaked form?”

The little girl looks at me.  Her eyes are no longer blue.  They are a hazy gray-green.  We walk up a rise that is leading to a clearing ahead.  She doesn’t speak, yet we keep walking.

The trees cease at the top of the rise.  I look down at her and she smiles.  “You fear me because you have yet to let go of your life and accept that it is time for you to rest.”

I nod at her, accepting her answer.  She kisses my knuckles, giggles and says, “Let’s play!” As she throws me off of the cliff we have just walked out to.

As I am falling, she leans over the edge and waves at me.  That is the last thing I remember before succumbing to the darkness.