As deep as my sorrow, that high is my joy.
In the midst of emptying out my heart, I try to remind myself of this balancing wisdom. On Good Friday, ancestrally not such a good day, I had opened myself to a process with this phrase in mind:
“May all that is not rightfully mine be released from me, & may all that IS rightfully mine be returned to me.”
It may very well be still working its work on me today. Perhaps the seemingly endless tears are simply the flood of all that is not rightfully mine being released. And maybe, as well, they are the tears of homecoming for all that IS rightfully mine. For much of my grief these days, this past year, feels centred in gratitude. I often feel so grateful for loved ones–their love of me that nearly astonishes me–& my love & appreciation of them (though I’m sure I don’t show it enough) that I am overflowing, verklemt.
Verklemt has a sort of pain in it that I can relate to, while effulgence has a sort of elegiac radiance in it that I’d like to relate to. Both describe the overflow that I feel from my heart into the world. Although I have to admit I generally feel safer keeping myself to myself in these sensitive moments. Which is not so easy when you’re living in community. Today my best bet to have space & time to feel into it all was to lay down next to a trickling stream & cry into the straw, admiring the ants for their patient, hard work. Making note to do the same. Patience, I whisper to myself, & then cry some more. Nearly every description of Aries I’ve come across has admonished me to develop patience, so it feels like one of those super-powas that is also my downfall. I can have heroic moments of patience that are marvelled at by others which are then quickly followed by heroic levels of impatience, mostly with myself.
For example, this pattern of being attracted to men who can’t meet me (for some reason, & believe me I have encountered nearly every reason imaginable in my vast search) & jumping impatiently into relationship with yet another man I am convinced will be “the one”, the mate to match me, to dance through the world with me, to co-create family with me. And because I have not been patient enough to do due diligence on the claims–both his & mine, I discover I have stepped into yet another incarnation of the same pattern. It’s enough to raise the white flag, if only I could. If I could really & truly give up it would likely all fall into place so much faster. That’s what people say–when you give up & get on with other things, that’s when Life surprises you with exactly what you’ve been pining for. But I can’t pretend to give up. And, as it turns out, I have a stubborn streak. My web guy has even called me ‘as stubborn as a mule’. When I am convinced something is possible, I can’t let it die until it comes to be. Or I’m exhausted into surrender.
I mentioned Good Friday/Easter weekend has not been her-storically a good time. This was when Lady Rebecca, as Pocahontas/Matoaka had been renamed by the colonists (who had abducted & apparently raped her), died. In Gravesend, England, which I visited last year. Took a train out from London, a city I had an extreme allergic reaction to–literally. I found Gravesend dismal, befitting its name. The church was locked. The statue of Pocahontas matched the one in Jamestown, Virginia with her open-handed gesture of innocence, peace. Elderly folk & a few odd fellows walked through the church grounds that otherwise looked like they were used for various addictions. It rained not too long after I finally found a corner of the yard with enough overgrowth to do the water song for her, for this place where her remains had been interred, without seeming any odder than the other vagrants.
Exactly 5 years after her death (no accident this timing, I am very sure) her uncle Uttamattamakin led a teaching tactic against the colonists, who saw it differently & called it the Easter Massacre. It wasn’t at all a massacre, though it easily could have been had the Powhatans decided to make it so. Instead they strategically attacked where the colonists had overstepped the bounds of land they’d been given. It was a teaching, a way of saying, “thus far & no farther.” Of course we all know how that turned out. The difference between warfare tactics that are tolerant & even respectful of the “enemy” & those that annihilate to the point of genocide…Yes, we all know how that one turned out.
And then 78 years ago my great-grandfather decided that the divorce his wife wanted for his unfaithfulness wasn’t going to wash. She had said “thus far & no farther” with his errant ways, so he answered with his rifle by annihilating her, & then himself, leaving their 6 children to be scattered to the four winds on Good Friday. Not such a good Friday, I say.
3 years ago I unpacked this ancestral baggage & came away from it reborn, free, like a newborn child with no way of clinging to identity, yet. It was an odd sensation for a 40 year old to be passed from person to person like an infant, to trust in the hands of the world, because, as it turned out, I ‘could do no other’, as the phrase came to be in my mind.
Something I found astoundingly affirmative in my research for this life-changing, skin-shedding show, was that the moment my great-grandfather Rolfe shot my great-grandmother Willie-Ann (& my mother’s 15 year old mother, Phyllis, witnessed it), the sun, moon & earth were in the same exact signs/constellations as they were when I was born–Sun in Aries, Moon in Scorpio & Earth’s horizon in Sagittarius. My birthday falls near Easter & in the past 4 years I’ve had 2 different Virgo partners drop me in terribly unskillful (as the Buddhists like to say) ways, within days of my birth-day.
So, even though I felt reborn for the first couple years after PocaHauntUs premiered, the past few years have aged me again. And, try as I might to release myself from all that has come before–all the way back those 13 generations–that no longer serves me, I still feel it. In the show I attempted to transmute ancestral poison into potion for present & future generations, but one of Leonard Cohen’s last lines of his life has been rattling melodically through my mind these days:
I heard the snake was baffled by his sin
He shed his scales to find the snake within
But born again is born without a skin
The poison enters into everything
One of my First Nation teachers/elders has Snake medicine in her totem, as do I. And she says it’s difficult medicine to have. Tell me about it. Tell me about your snakebites & I’ll tell you about mine. I can take some small comfort in the first line of Jamie Sams’ Medicine Card on Snake:
“Snake medicine people are very rare.”
I admit I like being rare, although it does have its disadvantages. Rare is also un-cooked, raw, like being born again without a skin. I get that. Recently an online student encouraged me to do the Myers-Briggs personality test & it turns out I’m rare there too, as an INFJ. Again, some small comfort is gained in being rarified, though a rarified atmosphere can be hard to breathe in…
“Snake is a reptile that is able to shed its skin and live through a traumatic life-death-rebirth experience…Their initiation involves experiencing and living through multiple snake bites, which allows them to transmute all poisons, be they mental, physical, spiritual, or emotional…The transmutation of the life-death-rebirth cycle is exemplified by the shedding of Snake’s skin. It is the energy of wholeness, cosmic consciousness, and the ability to experience anything willingly and without resistance. It is the knowledge that all things are equal in creation, and that those things which might be experienced as poison can be eaten, ingested, integrated, and transmuted if one has the proper state of mind.
Snake teaches you to recognize that you are an eternal being experiencing mortality, you are constantly shedding anything that has served its purpose, in favor of something which is of greater value.
Transmute all poisons. Shed the skin of the past. Honor the change in progress.”
Seeing my experience through this lens makes the reality of living this way slightly more bearable because it gives me an overview of the value of just such a transmutation processes. I like to imagine it like being Peter Parker bitten by the spider & going through horrible pain that then becomes tremendous power & resilience as he mutates into Spiderman. And while I have to step gingerly to keep from re-hashing these old stories & wearing out my good cheer in this lifetime, I also appreciate having the centuries-wide perspective that enables me to see the slow familial evolution at hand as it moves through “me” & my existence, this incarnation, this iteration of the snake after another shedding of its skin.
Have you ever watched a snake shedding its skin?
Apparently it is a terribly awkward & uncomfortable experience. If it’s a pet snake that is accustomed to being handled, at this time it may resist being handled. Its skin & eyes change color & its vision becomes cloudy. And it eats very little. Loved ones have often been perplexed, judgmental, even frustrated with my need to regularly hermit away. I can only point to snake & say, “It’s nothing personal. I’m in an awkward in-between stage & I just can’t see past my own process in these moments, literally.”
Truly, I am fortunate. My lovers may not be able to love me as I’d like them to & they may be unskillful in how they tell me so, but at least they haven’t poisoned me as Pocahontas’s people say she was killed by her husband John Rolfe in 1617. And at least they haven’t shot me in the head & neck with a .22, leaving me to bleed while they blow their own brains out. Leaving me to relatives who couldn’t care for me in my debilitated, though not-yet-dead, form, so that I spend my last days in a mental hospital even though I am perfectly sane, while my children, homeland, & belongings are given to others. My worst dramas still don’t compare to these traumas.
I am fortunate to be on the diminishing end of this spiralic unwinding of a snakebitten pattern.
My greatest puzzle is how to break the pattern before my body won’t be capable of procreation. How do I attract my rarefied mate, the one unafraid of snakes, their need to shed, or their occasional bites? Where is the one ready to dance into life with me, to co-create consciously, to be reborn from our relational refuge? Snake may be skinless, & therefore need swift speed to retreat & fangs to attack when cornered, but I have other comrades at my side. And they are the ones who will not let me let up on this ride we call Life. I rejoice. As my friend Asif taught me to know, “All praise is due.” In-deed.
May your Easter season be an opportunity to release what is not rightfully yours as well as what no longer serves you, so that you have room to reclaim–to welcome home–what IS rightfully yours. May you be born again, even if it is briefly without a skin.
Much love, PocaNose (as my Uncle John calls me for the nose I share with my illustrious ancestor whose life I dare to honor with how I live & love my own)