Sunday, November 16, 2008

And So It Goes...

We're sitting in our living room on a Sunday night. I'm looking right at the Old Mermaid on the wall. Ain't she beautiful? Mario is sitting on the floor making a box for a writing project he is doing. We're listening to some XM radio station called Spa. It's New Age music. I know what you're thinking. Isn't that close to musak? Well, no. But yes. No, it's real music and it is strangely soothing to my always over-hyped-up nervous system. Understand that every few minutes I switch it to the Led Zeppelin station. All Led all the time. One sound makes my ears bleed, and the other sound tells me it's all good that my ears are bleeding. The complete experience.

Had an interesting last few days. On Thursday, I went to lead a teen book club discussion of Broken Moon at one of the area libraries. Ordinarily I love going to these things. I like being with the kids, like hearing what they're saying, what they're reading, what's going on. I had a list of questions in case the discussion got stalled near the end of the hour.

I got there at 4:00 p.m. I started talking about 4:05. By 4:10, I was looking at those questions. There were eight teens and they hardly said a word. I was stumped, I was stymied, I was flummoxed. They sat there with their arms folded staring at me. The two boys talked a bit, and one of the girls said a couple of things. I didn't know what was up. I didn't know if they didn't like the book or they didn't like me or if it had something to do with the full moon. It was an excruciating hour.

When I was finished, I hurried outside. It was pitch dark, and I couldn't find my glasses which I need for driving at night. I was in a strange place, in the dark, and I wasn't sure I could see to get home safely. But I got in the car and started home anyway. (Only made a few wrong turns. Don't you all feel safer now?)

Friday morning I drove into Portland to teach the Faery Shamanism class. I was very excited and glad to do it. Almost the full class showed up. I told them what had happened the night before and said that I hoped the same thing wouldn't happen this morning. It didn't. I think I did all right, although I wasn't as articulate as I used to be. When I was a teacher and then when I was a branch librarian, I talked with people every day—I mean really talked. Had discussions. Had to present my ideas in a coherent way. I was good at it. After fifteen years of pretty much talking to no one except my characters (and Mario) on a daily basis, I have to learn those skills all over again. Who knew they could get rusty.

But I talked, they talked, I taught them the fath fith (the Celtic invisibility charm) and I taught them a Celtic way to lift an enchantment. They read me poems. We listened to music. We talked about words. And for the last hour, we moved away the chairs and tables, set up a sacred space on the floor, and I drummed while they journeyed. It was a very enjoyable four hours.

After class, I went to Stillmeadow for the weekend to learn an African grief ritual. (The teacher, Sobonfu, is from a small village in Africa.) We built a grief shrine, ancestor shrine, and forgiveness shrine. We built the grief shrine mostly from cedar branches. It was quite a project. We went out onto the land and got the branches (with prayers from us asking permission from the trees). We then brought the branches into the building and wove them together to make the shrine which looked like a teepee made from branches with the front open.

After we got to know each other and our sad stories, the ritual began. People went up to the grief shrine and expressed their grief. There was wailing, screaming, crying. Sometimes as I danced and sang, I wondered what the hell I was doing there. Once when I went up to the shrine, I heard someone yelling next to me, and I thought, "I am amongst crazy people. In fact, I am a crazy people." And I started to laugh. I covered my face so no one could hear or see me laughing. I wondered if I'd be stoned for laughing at a grief shrine. For the first two days, I was skeptical of the entire process. I already feel bad. How could feeling bad help relieve my badness feels? And, come on: I'm a little Irish girl. We don't start wailing until we've had large amounts of alcohol.

We weren't allowed alcohol, sugar, or caffeine. Since I don't ingest any of those things normally anyway, I had a little easier time than some of the other people there. By the end of the weekend, the ritual all came together beautifully, and suprisingly, I was laughing and telling jokes.

The idea is that we are a community. We shouldn't hide our grief from one another. We need to witness for each other. And once we feel our grief, the grief will drain away and we will fill up with joy—until something happens and we need to express our grief again. In our culture, we aren't encouraged to express any emotions, really, and certainly not grief. People are rewarded for not expressing their grief. "Oh, look how well she is handling it. She's so dignified." Etc.

When I got home this afternoon, a woman we know was raking leaves at the church across the street. I went over to say hello, and I learned that Evine's sister had died while I was out of town. I called her as soon as I got into the house. The memorial is on Wednesday. I doubt that anyone will wail. And we will be the poorer for it. But I hope I can use my new skills to support Evine in her grieving process.

I hope this makes sense. It is late and I is tired.

May You Wail, Dance, and Drum in Beauty!

1 comment:

Pat said...

Ah, Sister Kim, how lovely it is to hear your voice (even if just reading online). Your words on grief and life ring true. Thank you for sharing your process so openly. Walk in light.

Pat (Panther) of the North

 
All work copyright © Kim Antieau 2008-.