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26 June 2012

Rwanda in July

Soon, very soon, I'm off to Rwanda.

I have a post and a painting to finish up for Magaly's Art, Passion, and Heart-Told Tales, and I have a few last minute errands to run. A duffle bag to buy. Some paperwork to fax.

But for right now, I'm missing my Archer, and I haven't even left yet. He's busy with work; I'm busy with preparations. I saw him briefly tonight, for dinner. He was so tired and stressed out from work, I wanted to cradle him, make everything ok, make his worries go away. None of which was possible, in the circumstances. It's ok. We'll spend Thursday night together, and he'll see me off from the airport Friday morning, along with my mother and my child. And then I'll be off.

I'm spending the month of July studying primates in Rwanda. [W00t!]

I don't know that I'll have time to post while I'm gone. I'll try to get a few posts done, and scheduled for posting during that month. Regardless, I'll be back and posting in August.

22 June 2012

i is for interrogations: balancing and Bast

Interrogations... Heavy topic, eh?

My perspective on interrogations seems, from where I sit, commonplace. That could probably be explained by the company I keep. I spent five years of my young adulthood in the Army; four of those years, I was a qualified interrogator. For one of those years, I actually did my job. Not a lot of experience, as these things go, but from a broader perspective it's far more than the average citizen ever gets.

That one year, that year in Iraq, I met Bast. Not exactly her home turf, I know, but that's where she found me. Or I found her. Whichever you prefer.

I was focused, that year. I was passionate, confident, and invested in each and every case. Every single person I interrogated, was a person. They had families, lives, loves, hates, and fears. They all made their way to me through a series of bureaucratically-motivated migrations; they had been with us for weeks. Each was accused of something, but they had not been arrested. They were detainees. They were morassed in our impermanent prisons system, but better to be in ours, than in theirs. Some of the accusations were plausible; some were not. Many saw me as a ticket out, as a way home. Some saw me as an obstacle to their cause.

To many, I was kind. Some saw me as foolish, cold, or too hard. Truly, I cared. I wanted to ease the pain we all felt. I wanted very much to find the Truth. I was in control, but the human mind is not subject to an outsider's wishes. I didn't always get what I wanted. But I worked, and I knew I could do no more.

For that year, my state of mind was intensely focused. I was on a mission. I was perhaps in the most masculine state of mind I have ever been in. I needed balance. Bast brought me that balance. My lovers saw the fruit of her gift.

I remember when I first realized she was near. I was attending an Open Circle ritual - yes, we had those in Iraq, even - and a young cat came to watch our activities. She was slender, probably a mother, and certainly hungry. It was a special occasion - we were barbecuing steaks that night. The priest and I had bought them from the PX, and brought them to share with everyone. We shared one with the cat. She came back every time we held ritual there, but never on the days we were there just hanging out. I, and others who were there that night, felt a presence, just before we looked around and saw the little cat peering at us from edge of the deck where we stood.

Later, I came to believe that little cat was Bast, or a representation of Bast in some form. She was cautious and didn't get too close to us, but she was calm and clean - which was very unlike the rest of the feral cats in that place. After first seeing her, I began researching Bast. I didn't have enough spare time, then, to really dig into her lore, but the connection I felt resonated with what I did learn. I began making small offerings to Bast, and I continued feeding her cat, when the cat came around. And although I didn't make the connection at the time, I see now that my life overseas became more balanced in the following months. Specifically, I cultivated a more balanced romantic and sexual life, which had been the most out-of-balance aspect of my self at that point in time.

I wondered, when I left Iraq, if Bast would come with me.

I don't think she did. Or rather, I don't think I kept up my end of our relationship, perhaps. Or maybe my own mental health problems got in the way of my spiritual path. I don't know what happened. I do know that when I got back, I quickly felt adrift. The balance I had found between my romantic life and my professional life had a huge gaping void - on the professional side. I wasn't doing my job anymore. I wasn't allowed to go on leave right away. The whole group I had deployed with was kept on, to help another group deploy - we were finally sent on leave several weeks after we got back from Iraq. But our "help" wasn't really needed, and we spent most of our time in uniform doing... nothing. Or nothing of value, at best. One side of my balance had faltered, and I plunged head first into my romantic life, which devolved into a primarily sexual life.

...Perhaps it wasn't balance Bast brought, but a more robust romanticism, which created the balance I needed in order to maintain my deep professional involvement. When the professional drive was lost, that optimistic romanticism overtook the slack, and thus I lost my balance.


I still feel the pull of Bast, from time to time. Not so strong as before, but perhaps my need isn't so strong, in the way that it was then. Lately, she's been on my mind. Maybe it's time to call on her again.

be kind

(I didn't create this picture; I stole it off facebook.)

m is for marriage

I have been married twice. The second was more foolish than the first. One could argue over which was more disastrous, but it's beside the point. I knew better, before both marriages. I held personal philosophies that were anti-marriage, and I got married anyway, to make other people happy. Those other people were equally worried about their own happiness. So in that way, we saw eye-to-eye.

Before the first marriage, I thought: marriage looks an awful lot like a trap. If someone loves me, shouldn't they just want to be with me? Why is legal enforcement necessary? I don't want the government involved with my relationships, and I don't want to be irrevocably tied to one person, anyway.

When I got married to husband #1, it was with the understanding that I was sacrificing my personal happiness, for his. I was ok with that. He was far more traditionally-minded than I was, and he needed that reassurance provided by marriage.

Later, I would say that H1 was worth it, until he stepped off the deep end. We did love each other; I was satisfied with my sacrifice. I was happy enough. Then mental illness took over his life, and he became a danger to our child. I didn't leave because I stopped loving him. I left to protect our child. Much later, when the mental illness subsided and he became a different person - a person who didn't bother much with his child, who lumped that child in with his "old life" and didn't look back - that's when I stopped loving him.

Before the second marriage, I thought: well, I didn't really think much. I had my own mental illness to deal with, and at the time, it was managing me. Politically, I was against marriage as a government institution. But H2 spoke the words my depression needed to hear, and I didn't listen to reason.

Looking back, I can see what happened, but I was blind at the time. H2 was a fool, and I was foolish for believing in him.

Nobody ever asked if H1 and I were ever going to get married. Nobody asked that of H2 and I, either. Those relationships were too short - pre-marriage - for the question to be raised. And maybe people were hoping I would see the light, sooner than I did.

These days, that question seems to be coming from all sides. Archer and I have been together over a year, and it's probably obvious to people who see us that our relationship is stable, healthy, and happy. (Yes, that is a first for me, thanks for asking.)

This past spring, I met Archer's parents, siblings, and extended family. When we got back, a dear friend of mine saw that as a signal that he and I were destined to marry. "It's been a year?! And you Met The Family?! It's done!" She was so happy for me, until Archer burst her bubble, saying, "I would never demote {Bones} to a mere wife - she's far too important to me." (Or something like that... hopefully he'll correct me if I've misquoted him here.) That friend is a little confused now, but still ever-optimistic for an eventual marriage of Bones and Archer.

She's well-meaning, and a wonderful friend - and if I ever were to require someone to set up something traditional, she would be my best resource - but being committed without intending to marry is a tough concept for her to wrap around.

It seems that we - our western culture, perhaps specifically Americans - have come to equate marriage with commitment, as though the two concepts were nearly synonymous. A relationship can't really be committed if it's not headed toward marriage; being married means being committed. Buuuuuut.... You're only committed until you get divorced. And then you're free to commit again.

Serial monogamy is ok with us, just ask H2. I found out after we married, that I was his 7th or 8th wife. He married one of the earlier wives twice, which explains the confusion over the numbers. But he was committed to each and every one of them, for at least a week or two.

I would like to separate those two concepts. I am completely, irrevocably committed to my relationship with Archer. I don't need documentation, signed by a judge, to tell me that Archer is equally committed to our relationship. That judge is less qualified to make that call than either Archer or I. I see it in Archer's actions, and in his behavior, and in his words. The judge has to rely on the words of the couple coming to them.

At the end of the day, if an official document is all that's holding your marriage together, then what you have isn't a marriage, it's a contract.

In my opinion, contractual marriage - legal marriage - is the antithesis of romance, and I am a romantic at heart. Every day, I chose to 'marry' Archer all over again. Every day, he does the same. It's a process that is both more romantic and more truthful than attempting to rope him into a legal contract.

From a spiritual perspective, ...well is there any other way to look at marriage? Any other way that acknowledges the spiritual focus that marriage should have, I mean. Turning marriage into a legal contract imbues marriage with whorishness: you're entering a contract by which you are bound to each other, not necessarily in spirit or in love, but by finance. 'I'll stay committed to you, and we'll pay for it if we want to end our commitment.' If not by alimony, at least by the cost of the divorce itself. There's the difference between a cheap whore, and spendy call girl.


Yep, I realize that's offensive to all those happily married people out there. And I say this: good for you! If you found a philosophical way around my musings, I'm happy for you. Really, I am.

No really.

Whatever path we find to happiness, is good.

Your path isn't mine. I'm happy for you, but I can't say I understand it. At least not in a way that's complimentary. And because I'd like to believe the best of people, I'm going to assume that I simply don't understand - not that understanding isn't possible.


For those who wonder about the benefits that accompany legal marriage, I say this: there are other ways. There are legal documents which have the same results; if you're going to spend the money on a wedding, you might as well spend it on a lawyer who can hook you up. And that way, you get to customize your benefits, instead of swallowing the state-sponsored bundle. Win!

21 June 2012

enchantments echo, entangling everything

Yep, it's my E post for the Pagan Blog Project. Just a little late. And short-ish.


I don't do spells.

Oh, you guessed it! - I'm not a witch; I'm pagan who doesn't "do magic."

I pray, sometimes. My prayers are expressions of gratitude, or questions by which I hope to better understand my circumstances, to ease my path in difficult times. I don't pray for less difficulty; I pray for insight, to see me through.

Once, when I was fifteen, I asked the gods to make me wise person when I grew up.

That was a mistake.
My prayer was answered; maybe it's still being answered.
Wisdom, it seems, is not given, but rather it is earned through trials.

There's a reason I don't do spells. One prayer, with impeccable intentions, for something that seems like the best possible cause, resulted (arguably) in more trials in my young life than were probably warranted.

What if I had prayed for something that affected someone else? What if that prayer had been heard, and granted? I know that I cannot foresee all things; some inevitable results are beyond my vision.

I differentiate between prayers and spells in the expectations resultant from each. When one casts a spell, there is an expectation that it will work. Something will change in a material way. In a sense, a spell could be seen as a demand placed upon the world. It smacks of egoism, in my mind - that's another reason I won't cast spells. Who am I, to think that I know all the implications that might come from my intentions? Who am I, to say how the world must be? Prayers, on the other hand, are requests, caveated by the understanding that they might not be granted.

Still, I will never again pray for wisdom. Lesson learned. Irony accepted.

20 June 2012

of Archer

This post is a sneak peak, for followers of Magaly Guerrero's blog, Pagan Culture. Specifically, it's a preview of my entry for this: Art, Passion, and Heart-Told Tales

The icon's over there -->


I have loved you for a thousand lives.

Our bodies knew, but our minds were suspicious. We didn't trust each other, but we were bound together from the first moment, from the first caress of recognition. That charge between us, irresistible and ineffable, has been all that held us together, in the worst times. We're lucky that it did, but luck had little to do with it. Underneath our suspicions and behind our fears - down to our bones - this bond was always strong, despite our gravest questions.

You were late. But I was comfortable, sitting in the restaurant, sipping lemon-water and reading the e-book version of "Tender is the Night" on my phone. I was in a window seat, at a table with only two chairs. I was facing the door. 

I didn't know what to expect. I couldn't remember what your pictures looked like, but I wasn't worried - we would figure it out. The restaurant wasn't busy. There were a few other people there, but not many. And I was the only one sitting alone. 

You strode in the door, hasty and happy. You saw me right away. I don't remember what we talked about. You were so sexy and my attraction to you was instant, but I left not knowing what to think of you. 

Our first date had been spontaneous. We had planned to meet two days later, for lunch. That morning he had woken up hungry, and invited me to breakfast. It was the middle of the week; I dropped my child off at school, and went to meet him. We kept the second date.

We met for lunch at a cafe - the one that became our favorite, later - then wandered around town, poking around in antique shops, looking for old books. You were dashing, in the most genuine way, and I was delighted with the joy you took in simply being there. You bought me a birthday present that day, five months before my birthday. You said you had to get it now, in case you forgot my birthday. 

Later, when my husband asked me how it went, all I said was, "good, I like him." He asked if I wanted to have sex with you. I said I didn't know, and that was mostly true. I didn't tell him that I still didn't know what to think of you. You didn't fit in any of the boxes I was familiar with.

He still doesn't fit in any boxes.

I still don't know what to think of him.

But I know that whatever happens, he'll be here, and that's right where I need him.

10 June 2012

dichotomy: survivor v. whore

This painting was titled "Survivor" when I completed it last autumn. It was Archer who named it. I was playing around with generic names like 'dancing girl' - names that just described the picture, without speaking to the power or emotion of it. I had painted it, but I didn't know what to think of it, yet. Then he suggested "Survivor." That's what it made him think of. He saw me in that painting. He saw me as a survivor.

It fit the painting. The name, once spoken in front of the painting, latched onto the artwork like an acrylic seal, forevermore inseparable. It stuck.


Archer bought that painting from me last November. He loves it.


Then, it happened. That thing, which I've mentioned before but never been able to talk about. Yeah. That.

Last December. I had flown to Iowa, with my child, to visit my mother. Archer was supposed to follow a few days later, so he could meet my family. I still am not going into the nitty gritty on this one. In a sense, it has become another blocked memory. I recall vividly the pain, the fear, feeling-of-rock-bottom, and sound of Archer - angry, righteous and drunk, his voice turning the phone into a weapon. He was right; I had lied to him. Earlier in our relationship, I had cheated on him. I had excuses, but not reasons. I had been fearful. I hadn't trusted him. I hadn't believed that, if given the truth, that he would understand it or believe it, or love me. And maybe he wouldn't have, I don't know. But of course he deserved to decide that for himself. At the time, I was in a furtive sort of survival mode; I was reeling from ending my second marriage, and reeling more from having been in that marriage at all. I didn't trust anybody. I didn't yet believe he loved me at all. I suspected I was an experiment to him. He was embedded in the traditional, vanilla, straight-man, suburban mindset, and he expressed a desire to understand my very-different background. His interest was guided by a genuine desire to understand the woman he already loved, but at the time I thought he was only interested in dissecting me. When he was done, when he had passed the negative verdict I expected, I would be yesterday's news, just another fucked up kid with no future and no value. Someone to tell jokes about at the next suburban gathering. I didn't believe in his integrity. I didn't believe in his love.

All these: excuses, but nothing that actually excuses the act. There is no reason for treating a person the way I treated him. Even if I had been right about him, I should have been right in my own actions.

I was too weak.

In the night before Archer was to fly to Iowa, these things came to a head; he decided not to come. Our relationship seemed unlikely to survive the week. Devastated does not begin to describe what I felt, having finally been forced to face how my fears had affected my treatment of him. I realized, then, that I had finally found a lover who was everything he said he was - trustworthy, true, driven by his ethics, and in love with me - and I had pushed that lover away in the most dramatic, decisive way possible. He should have left me then. By some miracle, he didn't. I considered leaving him, for several days. I believed he should have left me, and I was prepared to leave him if he lingered. Not because I couldn't bear to face the shame of being with the person I had wronged - if there's anything I am accustomed to, it's shame - but because I believed it would be right for him to leave me, and I wanted very much to do "right." I have never been so blessed as I was in the moment he decided to stay, and I lacked the courage to leave. Maybe it wasn't so much a lack of courage as a realization that this was my chance - he actually understood why I had lied, that I did love him, and that I was very, very wounded; he actually Loved me. I wasn't an experiment. I wasn't a project or an orphan to be saved. He wanted to help.

I came home from Iowa the day after New Year's Day, spiritually bloodied, literally shaken, and completely fearful. But also, stronger. Not stronger yet, but with a glimmer of hope that I could be strong, and that I could be the person I wanted to be. I don't remember having ever been so certain that I needed to and would work to become me. It was a tenuous start, but I knew I had to do it. I was afraid of doing it alone, but would have if it had been necessary. I'm very, very lucky that it wasn't necessary. Archer has been there, every step of the way, and his support has become stronger and more capable as he understands more of my psychoses.


This was written shortly after Archer told me he had renamed my painting "Eala the Whore."

Eala is me. That's my spiritual name, and the name I sign my paintings with.

Eala the Whore. He renamed it while I was Iowa, when he was angry. Three weeks later, he told me. He mentioned it casually, like 'yeah, that's what I was thinking when I was angry.' It wasn't a big deal to him. I cried when he told me. Fresh salt on a grave wound that had hardly begun to heal. A reminder of the pain I had caused him.

I don't think he still thinks of the painting that way. He's gone back to calling it Survivor, I think. But I can't. Every time I see it, I think of the new name, and I cringe inside. It's a symbol of the pain I inflicted on him, and myself. I can't look at that painting anymore. It hurts too much.


Somehow, I have to find a way to face it. I have to find a way to rectify that dichotomy. Am I a survivor, or a whore? This is the next step on my journey. I don't know where my foot will land.

I asked my cards how I go about healing this hurt.

This was their answer:

1 Fire Dragon
2 Otter
3 Owl

Remember, the first card is the instigator, the second is the emotional manifestation, and the third is the concrete manifestation. 

The Fire Dragon energizes us and encourages us to overcome obstacles; he ignites inner fires to give us the energy we need to face problems and solve them.

The Otter is an invitation to stop worrying too much, to relax and let life happen. Remember to play; it's ok to 'be a kid again' sometimes. Try not to force things to happen unnaturally.

The Owl's story is one of overcoming obstacles, but not just overcoming them - the Owl turns disadvantages into advantages, and by so doing, succeeds.

I'm not sure, yet, how to use that advice. Am I worrying too much about how Archer saw that painting when he was angry? Can I really just - let it go? Or... can I overcome this hurt by embracing the memory of what happened as a stepping stone, rather than looking at it as a weapon?

... I'm going to sleep on this one. And ask Archer. I need his wisdom right now.

recognizing where I am

This morning I was at a local breakfast spot with the Amazing Archer, waiting for our food to come... Archer was busy reading the Adam Yauch article in my Rolling Stone magazine, and I had forgotten to bring any reading material of my own. So I pulled my oracle cards out of my purse (where they live) and thought, well, let's see what they want to tell me today. I shuffled and dealt with no particular question in mind. Usually when I do that I get a response which describes the over-arching dynamic shaping my life at that time, and that's exactly what happened this morning. Of course, I was with Archer at the time, watching his intensity, humor, and curiosity, all honing in on the article he was reading; his is a beautiful mind. So although I asked a general question, the focus on my relationship with Archer that you'll notice in the response I got, isn't surprising in the least.

I typically do a three-card spread. I think I've mentioned this before...? Maybe not. The first card is the instigator - it represents the instigating force or factor in the questioned situation. The second card is the emotional manifestation of the situation, and the third card is the physical, or concrete, manifestation. 

Here's what I drew today:

1 - the Goose
2 - the Water Dragon
3 - the Dog

The Water Dragon! Can you believe that? I was just researching that the other day... (check out the last part of this post).

Anyway, let's start with the Goose, since that's where the cards started. Geese are interesting animals, as they represent a set of behaviors which might seem dichotomous at first glance. They symbolize devotion to family and marriage, and great journeys. For many, family is linked to home, so great journeys might seem incompatible with devoting oneself to family. In geese, though, we see a different perspective on the purpose of families. Geese mate for life (unlike the average human), and are fiercely devoted to their mates and offspring. They're also migratory birds. So how do we translate this to a human lesson, when we experience various levels of devotion and generally do not participate in regular migrations (though some do)? My book - the one that came with the cards - offers this: the Goose is a lesson in understanding that a strong family or a strong familial partnership can provide the strength one needs to be capable of undergoing a strenuous spiritual journey. - Keep that in mind.

The Water Dragon is a powerful animal; it shows us the depths of our spiritual and emotional selves, and for me, serves as a reminder of the strength of hidden memories. It also reminds me that I must work through those memories, despite the difficulty of doing so. The toxic old memories, long harbored somewhere in my skull, have a strength of their own, and are capable of overpowering me, causing me to act, sub-consciously (though not entirely unconsciously - that's a long post all on its own, for another time), in ways that are harmful to my soul, and to the people around me. I must bleed the poison from those wounds - and I'm doing so, slowly, and as fast as I can. Something in my hasn't allowed me to go too fast; maybe it's the same block that kept it all hidden away for so long. Maybe it's just reluctant to crumble. Maybe some wiser corner of my mind knows I can't handle too much at once. Better to go little by little - so that's what I do. I'm pretty happy with my progress, overall. - It's a great journey, one I couldn't have even started without Archer's influence, and couldn't have kept at pace, without his continuous and selfless support. (Remember the Geese?)

The Dog is a symbol of loyalty and companionship; sometimes the Dog is a suggestion to question who you put your loyalty into, and sometimes to question whether you are rewarding the loyalty being shown to you. The Dog is also a guide, and helps us through a difficult journey, if loyalties are given and taken as they should be. This is the concrete manifestation of that which was instigated by card number one - the Goose.

Here's the take-away: In basing myself firmly in a strong romantic/familial partnership, I have gained the strength I need and the guidance I need to be able to make this great but difficult journey, the journey of self-understanding; staying on this path - in this relationship, with this level of dedication - I will find my way back to myself, and find the way to take my power back from my memories.

Did I know this already?

Well yeah. But it's good to be reminded, and to be reminded to recognize these things as the miracles they are. It reinforces my certainty, which is never a bad thing.

05 June 2012

k is for kundalini

The day after the solar eclipse, which happened just over two weeks ago, I went to see a wise woman. I should say: a Wise Woman. I've known her for less than a year, but it seems we've been friends for ages. Perhaps we have. The first time we met, she told me about my life, and about my self, in terms that clarified things I hadn't realized needed clarification. She did it again, this last time I saw her.

Using my cards, she did a reading and explained my life to me. I'd tell you what she said, but if you've read any of my blog, it would be redundant.
I'm still in awe of her ability as a seer and a healer.

One of the things she said to me involved kundalini energy. I understood it in the context, but lacked background comprehension that would have given full weigh to her statement.
Since that conversation, I've done my homework.

She told me that my kundalini energy was strong and was flowing from my root and through me unobstructed. It made me feel energized, and motivated, she said.

At first, I wondered if she hadn't just made the first mistake ever.

But, she wasn't mistaken. For that day - and the few day before, and a few days after - I felt good. I felt happy.

There were disappointments - not being able to see my girlfriend or my boyfriend on the way home that evening - but overall I felt like I could handle the disappointments. They weren't overwhelming. Emotionally, I felt like what I imagine "normal" people feel like about disappointments. That is, I was just disappointed, not hopelessly depressed.

Archer noticed the change after that trip, when I finally saw him the day after I got back. He said I looked happy. I was. I tried to understand what had happened to make me feel so good; I speculated that the road trip was good for me. I don't know that the road trip was all that happened. I don't doubt that it helped me - I do love road trips - but I don't know that it entirely explains my good feeling. I hadn't taken my medicine most of that weekend. That wave of good feeling was - is - inexplicable. Maybe it was the eclipse. Maybe it was the excitement of seeing something as awe-inspiring as the eclipse; I do think that was when it started.

Maybe I shouldn't analyze it.

But I'm going to anyway. Because that's what I do.

I'd like to be able to replicate it, if that's possible. If it's something I can make happen, or at least encourage, I want to know how. Maybe that can help me control my depression.


This was interesting, because it ties kundalini energy into another presence in my spiritual life, of late: the dragon.

Hm, "presence" might be too strong a word; but the topic has been coming up, and showing up, an awful lot over the past couple months.

In this Year of the Water Dragon (by Chinese astrology)... The High Priestess of my coven believes that a water dragon is near me, possibly as a totem animal. She says she sees his energy around me. Several months ago Archer bought me a silver-and-sapphire colored serpent bracelet that is reticulated and wraps intimately around me; I've come to associate it with Archer's protective embrace. I swear it warms when I wear it. Dragons have been showing up in my card readings for myself - something they've never done before. In particular, I've seen the Earth Dragon more than a few times; kundalini may be more closely related to the Fire Dragon, but I'm guessing the Root Chakra is more closely related to the Earth, and the Earth Dragon.

It's something to think about.