Holy compost, and holy makers of compost. Great billions unseen working with water and the broken. I know the broken open and the broken apart are the bells that call you to the table and the aromas that stir you to life.
I’ve got something for you. I’ve got something for you to worm into, wind into, water into; to grind, combust, exhale to the great catcher of sighs above; to excrete, purge, cast, and fix – fix it dark and humic, fix it grain and clump, and bond to the end of my mistakes countless ions of magnesium and calcium to be the distant cracked hickory meat for some hungry belly a hundred millenia from this very local ache.
Oh eyeless playmates of rupturing time, it isn’t like I didn’t try to break it down on my own. I’ve been digesting the wool and amethyst body of all this almost as long as I’ve kept cold lightning in these nerves. It isn’t, blessed heap, like I lack cunning. Artifice, I relinquish. Craft, I rush. It’s cunning now that calls me to call to you. This is the time to give over remains to origin and finish.
Take these mistakes and take the squirming veil. Take the distance between my eyes and the soul of the world. Take them and grind, combust, exhale, excrete, purge, cast, and fix – fix the exhausted rider and mare to the mother place where they wait the time it takes starlight to echo, to be born again by hydrothermal vent into some other epoch of the world.
Whatever grows from you in my own time, I will taste. May I be here to peel the rind of some of what grows from what you make of all these endless shuddering thoughts. May the holy wish to love that’s behind every fleeing thought be the sweetness in the fruit that finds my mouth – growing from you, wretched pure pile, mound I dorm with, kidney of my garden, decay midnight sage.
Aboutness: a hand moves and our eyes follow, forgetting anything else ever existed.
Here is the aboutness of my offering.
In 2015, I took a Permaculture Design Class at Wild Abundance in the mountains. Near the end of it, a storyteller who would later break me open again four years after told us the story of the climate and the way it could alter even our sky’s eternal blue color to the impossible algae green I’d already been watching it turn in my dreams for years. He told collapse as twilight meteorology in toppled marble and stormwater. That night in sacred fellowship like the builders of a Stonehenge the circle of us watched the last human habitable dusk come upon us with a spiteless whisper.
At the end of that story I sat between two great ceremonial tobacco plants with leaves like the faces of saints of compassion and tilted my head to the stars I’d somehow stopped looking at when I moved to North Carolina. And the stars looked at me.
This was the first time I ever felt stillness.
In early 2016, by the doors of friendship and incalculable synchronicity, I was found by a tradition where that stillness I’d felt was taught, not with hollow words nor reason, not from any guru nor decades spent sitting on a cushion. Stillness was taught here by the undeniable and generous immediacy of its music like breathing is taught by the mother and then air.
In the first flame of that still candle, the silhouettes of what lives in me were clear and traceable against the earth. They gathered around me, court and standing stones under starless sky waiting to hear a single true word; and I, no running water, canoe on still shaded lake, undegreed and freelance in garments perennially and maybe permanently unlaundered, began to become someone who could bless each weird inner branch as were and is.
In 2012, I met Pickle. I fell all the way in abiding love. Two teeming bundles, leaves cast on a zephyr holding hands and soaring with immediate recognition. All the while, molting and leaving clumps of fur around us we packed into one den after another. Dreaming of the den that wouldn’t rush and the den that wouldn’t sink. We were like stoned beavers building dams out of saliva and vintage repair manuals. It is was worth every stab of pain as the stone now passes.
In mid 2016, I quit my weird fluke of a well-paying secure non-profit job and went to a commune in the mountains to learn to live on earth without constantly tearing up her face. In my first visit, it felt like I had found the planet I came from. So much about it didn’t make sense in exactly the way I never could. The sound of the frogs in the garden at dusk was blinding. When I went outside to pee each night I could overhear the stars. They were so close.
Pickle waited for me at home while I studied permaculture. I alternated between the animal ache of missing her and the laughing liberatory terror of my first time experience of people living together in a way that seemed to actually sort of really work. My bones remembered this: having and being had by a people and a home. I felt something else I’d wanted for most of my life: an existance finally free of that daily barb wire around the soul that is the constant peripheral awareness that meeting my daily needs was clear cutting forests and enslaving people I’d never have the chance to know the names of. Here, the stories of how I had food water joy and shelter were not greenwashed press releases but the unburdened poetry of a passerby’s face on a creek bent path.
So deep in love was I with the valley, the air, the scent, the lifeway and all its radiant messes, that I was afraid I’d never be able to come back to Pickle from this place where I’d gone to study for the dream we’d been entangling ourselves in already for two years. For weeks my heart wanted to part down the middle. In desperate heaviness and despair I for the first time brought my need to the base of a tree. The mother beech held me as I stumbled toward prayer and after a time told me to open my eyes. A few feet before me a coyote walked through my sight. I wept. I had tried talking to a tree and a tree heard my prayer. My life was changed.
After that small rite, my intolerable longing for home departed on the wind. I was whole, I didn’t need to decide between partnership or paradise. Pickle was my home again. Our patterns and our problems would be my belonging. I found the will to leave the mountains behind and dreamed daily of our tearful reunion. I promised to my loneliness and my village-struck vision of human beauty that I would make my own village in the Piedmont as if a village were just so many mud bricks to carry.
On the Summer Solstice I went home to Pickle and after a joyful reunion, I found myself unwittingly immersed in 6 months of stark, sick, social isolation. Unemployed and alone most hours of the day, my new village was inhabited by me, memories, ideals, and whatever lived in all those ubiquitous screens.
We were launching our dream to create a community on land into the unfeeling sea of utopian concepts and property listings. We had a big whiteboard of the ten thousand things we needed to do by when or else. We argued about whether to have an inverter for our solar power or whether to have fifty people or ten live with us. We ended up in therapy for the first time. We paid $800 to have someone show us how much better it was when we listened to our bodies instead of the screaming toddler dressed as a statue called reason, and we promptly and equally forgot the lesson completely.
In mid 2015, we got married. It was the best day of my life. The trembling of Pickle’s face danced every fiber of me. Blessings made a portal in the air and washed us and our people with laughter and tears. Our beloved community formed a little nomad yurt village together and we were sure this scene of firelit communal intimacy prefigured the life we would create together in the woods. Our people watched, our mothers and fathers watched, the ones behind us watched.
Holy compost, holy makers of compost. Let me not hold back a morsel. Eat this now crumb and course, and if when it’s my time to lay in your fragrant arms you choose to show me the perfect fullness of this ceremony just once more, I will look and be unmade.
In 2017 we moved into the 256 square foot Yome. Canvas riff on an arid steppes dwelling air dropped into a loud hot humid forest land, arena for our shadows, hastened prayer, end in the beginning.
The fissure beneath my heart began to open again. Magma came through, cauldron light, aqueous fire. As the underground river beneath us rose and fell I kept carrying my longing to the bases of other trees listening for coyote.
I was willing, am somewhere inside still willing, to sacrifice my longing before any god not yet tired of me. Look at the finer and finer blade I have honed; the rarer prayer that I speak; the more gravitationally true the tears that I water the roots with before asking them to shred this pleading for kin and a homeland into something others find workable.
For three years I faltered and prayed, ending at least a thousand of those days silently resolving to leave as soon as possible. There came to be a mineral pride in learning I could transform anything. I forged increasingly ornate black gates from the heart magma. At least once, I swam our underground river. I learned to let every suffering become a call to stranger kinds of wholeness.
Maybe most of all, I was shouting to some story I inherited about men, I don’t know from where, that I would not run, I would not give up, I would not look away. If there was any lesson to learn in staying, I would hollow out more and more of my ego to let it come through and water these poor tired seedlings.
In late 2019, this horse got involved. It didn’t have reigns or a saddle. There was the story about the hundreds of thousands of horses killed in Eastern Europe by the soviets. There was the horse-hide drum I’d begun playing at night. The need to be free was given a shape.
Around the same time, the stillness I’d been studying and that had been studying me decided to take up residence. Beyond words and from a candle I had learned something wholly new.
Friends said I seemed taller. There was this final wrought gate I stood by every night for months. When the sun wouldn’t set and the sounds wouldn’t stop, I learned to be the evening star so I could sleep. I didn’t move from the gate. It wasn’t even so great a struggle. Stillness was the only response to the moment. Clarity was the only word on my lips.
One day whatever was meant to happen beyond the gate I was tending happened and just like that, my post was over.
This is where I am. The virus, nucleation of ten thousand causes and conditions, spread and it all stopped.
I have just been shook loose from a tightrope a moment after being reminded how to fly. Yet in eternal mystery, a great palm rises before my face signaling: “Wait. Pause. Hold on.” I sit in my strange wizard hut thinking, “hold on to what?” My partnership is over. The thread of my purpose has gone underground. The land I live on will probably not hold me for much longer. Our world reconfigures itself. Every obvious move is sanctioned. My toolbag is full yet for the first time in my adult life, I have nothing to work on.
I have shards and ash tracing arrows and runes. Kin. Find kin. Mountains. Go be with them. Trees. Where you can plant trees. Body. A body that recognizes yours. Water. Enough to immerse in. Song. So less often sung alone.
Joy. Worth following. Worth changing for.
Where will I be next year? What will I be doing? How will I help?
This is the first time in so long that I do not know.