tatiana de la tierra
Oh, to be born! To seed the soul into a pre-selected womb, to grow from a sprout into a skeleton, to feel the pulse of a heartbeat, to be suspended in an ocean of amniotic fluid, to hear what it’s like out there, on the other side: bells, burps, bambucos, birdsong, guttural tones, a particular consistent cooing that one day you will realize belongs to your mother. And to pop out---poof!--in physical form. From soul to sprout to humanoid, in nine months of Earth time, just as planned.
Hello World! You check it out. Baby blue walls and nervous nuns. The mother spent on a cot. You smile and faces smile back. If you knew words and had the ability to make them flow, you would have said, “Hello earthly humanoid mother, thank you for providing the vessel of my becoming on this plane. I’m gonna check out the joint! See ya!”
It’ll be a while before you can say and do this, though. First you have to go home, greet a river, meet the sperm-delivering earthling, your father. You have to suckle your mother’s breasts and let her read you poetry. You have to grow legs, develop muscles, expand the gray matter protected inside your skull, learn a few social skills. You have to play your part in the family system you chose. It appears your soul wanted a challenge, and it got one, in this nuclear family. You’ll have lots of drama, from illness and murder to international tailspins and notable meltdowns.
You wanted to know what it was like on Earth, and you discovered a gem: It’s complicated.
Here you are, fifty years later. You are looking back, in the midst of unearthing almanacs and journals you wrote in since your teens. The avocado green junior high notebook you kept for first period English with Mrs. Berman entices you with its frayed edges and colorful quotations: “Nothing is ever so desperate but we may find therein some ground for hope.” --N. M. And “Within you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” --H. H.
You marvel at how philosophical you were at fourteen. You pull out a short story you wrote, “A Lesson Learned the Hard Way.” It begins, “My name is Linda. I’m 12 1/2 years old. I live with my family in Homestead, Florida. And I’m alive.” It’s a hitchhiking-gone-wrong story, with a best friend, a guy, a gun, a blood spill, loss of consciousness, and a slew of reporters and detectives.
You realize you’ve made a grave mistake, too caught up in drama and poetry to realize the obvious truth: You were meant to write novels. Today, you are fifty. Is it too late to start now? Or do you need to exit the planet, come back, and start anew? Better yet, is there a way to press rewind and do things differently in this lifetime? Pretend you didn’t spend decades on songs, poems, activist publishing, academic writing, encyclopedia entries and literary journalism, and go right for the fiction?
You move on to 1983, to the journal entitled “My Book of Shadows.” It starts with The Witch’s Chant: “Darksome night and shining moon, harken to the witches rune. East and South, West and North, Hear! Come! I call thee forth!” You jump up, grab the travel knife and hold it like a dagger. “By all the powers of land and sea, Be obedient unto me. Wand and pentacle and sword, hearken ye unto my word.” Your heart is beating with the desire of a witch who left the coven long ago and yearns to don her black hooded gown and join the pagan sisterhood again.
Then you remember. Now, instead of casting a circle, you invoke sacred space, beginning with the South:
A los vientos del sur
envuélvenos con tus
espirales de luz
envuélvenos con tus
espirales de luz
como dejas caer tu piel
asi soltamos el pasado
de un solo golpe
de un solo golpe
To the winds of the South, Great Serpent. As you shed your skin, I shed my past. This is your wicca now. This is your call to the earth and sky, your connection with the planet, your place in the solar system, your language to luminous beings, stars and beyond.
You have many more journals you could peek into now, but the great Serpent of the south that you call on, she sheds, lets go, moves on, slithers upon the rich loam of the earth. She is your guide. The past. What will you do with the past? Cut it? Burn it? Bury it? Store it? Make fiction out of it? You are fifty years old now. Figure it out.
You think about last month, how you magically got on a plane and landed in snowy Utah for a week of wimmin’s rituals. How you went to the countryside at night to sing and throw sticks and flowers into fire. You all built a spiral out of branches, rocks and pine cones the next afternoon. You were the first to enter. Wimmin chanted and drummed in a circle as you danced the past, peeling it, unloading it along the way, giving it to Pachamama. You dropped to the center of the spiral, head first, to receive Earth’s charge through your crown and danced back in great joy.
In the days that followed, you became a springtime maiden, dressed by your sisters in a kimono with a brass lion on your forehead. It felt oddly right to spend the day as a Japanese muse. In the ceremony of the maiden, your sisters bowed, left hands on their womb, right hands extended to the heavens, in each of the four directions, chanting Strength my sister, Love my sister. You wear a Herkimer diamond around your neck now, a keepsake of this sisterhood.
You all drove out to glittery snowy countryside one morning. You walked in silence, crunching ground with snow boots, stopping to admire landscape of frozen trees. A drumbeat called to the gathering point where twenty-five wimmin assembled. Fire was burning, the sweat lodge prepared. You all disrobed, rattled prayers, entered turtle womb, heads bowed to the earth: To all my relations. Bodies pressed together in that womb of earth as hot grandmother and grandfather rocks entered, one at a time. It got hot in there. You all sweated it out, singing and sweating, stating words that melted into those rocks, each of you as sacred witnesses. Your words were heard in the steam, they came out through your pores, pools of prayers upon the earth. You became one big body of wimmin, each connected to the other. Hours later, when the door opened, each of you crawled out to the snow, reborn.
Happy birthday, crone. The good thing about being fifty, or any age at all, is that you can always be reborn. Remember to listen to your inner witch. The Goddess of Fictitious Truths is calling. She’s the one who made you discover that trove of journals, so that you can write novels, mysteries, chronicles, memoirs, pamphlets, whatever. Just write. Ahó.