Friday, November 30, 2012

mourning moon

Every so often, I paint a picture of our family.

I draw it in pencil, then I stain it with watercolor. My old paint dries to my plastic palette. I reactivate it with water, and it gently spreads across the paper. I love the process of making this dried old smear of paint come alive, and useful again. I fall more in love with all of them when I sketch them out. It doesn't seem possible, but my heart center expands. I try to capture Thomas Harry's little mouth just like him, his smile which is both sweet and shy. And the way Beezus always tilts her head off toward her brother every time I pull out the camera. I put the lost babies on my dress like appliques. The raven and the ladybug.

My husband barely acknowledges it. He likes photographs, honestly. I'm not offended. But I like art, stacked together, making something like a symphony of images. Maybe he has made that concession for me, but he never questions the ever-changing art wall in my living room. Artwork from all the people I love, pieces I adore, and work that is significant to us as a family. When I explain it to people visiting, my husband seems just as interested in hearing the whys of each piece.

The process of painting our family has become an inadvertent yearly thing, or maybe every other year. I replaced the painting of me and the children from when Thomas was only two weeks old with this new one. There is Sam and the dog. We are all smiling and Sam's arm is around me. I almost put no background in this painting. Us on white, but in the end, I painted all that negative space yellow, because it is positive space too. The space of possibility. In the last painting I did, Spring 2010, everything was grey and mostly colorless. There was no Sam, or Jack the dog, or Lucia or Michael. It was just me and the kids, but mostly me. Sad, but grateful.

There is a circle of women that I have joined, both a virtual circle and another in real life, and my soul feels alive again. I see images for them--goddesses, angels, vistas I cannot control, pictures that have no context. As this sight opens in me, something else closes. Doubt and attachment, I suppose. I resided in a place of rejection, or rather, perhaps, I sought to paint the negative space around everything that I actually have first. Gratitude an afterthought. With this opening, the fear of alone closes.

This month in the healing circle, all the women chanted our own names, staying on the last sound.


Like an Om. The vibration of our discordant names together resonated through my spine, my cheeks burned with the truth of it all. It felt close to the sound of God, or compassion. Many years ago, I remember my friend Sid and I reading poetry to one another. And she said, "When a poem is really good, my cheeks vibrate and I can feel it in my jaw." And that is what this felt like the vibration of truth.

I have never felt so free to be Angie, a person that I cut off for years with booze and resentments. The uncool believer in things unseen. The joyous clapper in a gospel choir. The psychic who believes in her gifts. The weird little kid who cannot wait to go on vision quest.

I admit that depression has seized me the last few months, crippling despair almost, but not quite. I couldn't keep up with everything, or anything, really. The process of letting go seemingly a paradox of impossible odds, almost Sisyphean in its absurdity. My health issues gripped me too, and then I was all body--injured and unsteady, weak and damaged. But the letting go was simple once I let go.

In the last thirty-almost-nine years, I have needed confirmation and witness to every single thing I have felt. Love. Friendship. Anger. Resentment. Fear. Kindness. Hurt. I sought it from everyone around me. It is only now that I have realized I do that. Tell my sad story, or my happy story, paint a picture of it for judgment, for a nod of understanding, for justification of my solitude.

I think of the end of the Prayer of Saint Francis as the talisman behind the talisman card I draw this morning, (perhaps I should see that one as the joker).

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort that to be comforted,
To understand than to be understood,
To love than to be loved.

This last moon, the Mourning Moon, comes on me strong. I wrestle in the night with sleeplessness and exhaustion. They grapple, roll over me, kick me in the jaw. Athena asks us to look at the moon in June, what happened then. For now, you should see the completion of that cycle. What have we released?

The new baby was just dead then, and my breeding years died with him. (I am not lamenting, just stating.) I spent these months releasing one lousy resentment, understanding it, letting go. But it was a much bigger process than just that one resentment of that one person. It was about letting go of judgment of myself, of that person, of the situation, of Lucia's death and the repercussions of grief. I forget what the resentment was about some days now. That is magic. Truly and completely magic. But it is more than that.

In June, I went to a spiritual counselling session. It is not exaggeration to say that she changed my life. I didn't see it then, but now I can see this path she laid out in front of me, suggesting I take it. When I asked her about my circle of friends which seemed depleted and gone, she told me that those souls needed to leave, so that resonant souls could come in. She told me to release them. And I skeptically smiled. I got what she was saying, but the last few years of grief had still been an deeply painful process. I didn't have to release them, I thought, they left.

I needed rituals, prayers, candles, sage, meditations, dreamwork, and conversations with them that ended in hugs and a letting-go. I needed to truly release them, so I myself could be free. I sent them off with prayers of everything I wanted for myself. Those rituals of release and opening have brought friends, resonant vibrations, I suppose, people I love and trust and laugh with, where I can just be corny and psychic and recovering from the spiritual malady that has plagued so many of my people. I can see the cycle from the Flower Moon to the Mourning Moon as this journey of less of becoming who I am and more of releasing who I am not.

My cheeks vibrate with the truthiness of it all. When I paint my family, it is the beginning of the circle of trust and love and non-judgment, and it spirals out into the world. This is the talisman I draw--protection from painting what isn't.


  1. I had a discussion with my bil over thanksgiving. He's experienced his own grief journey the last several years. And something he said really resonated with me, and it's too long to go into here. But it's a sort of releasing statement for himself, and it helped release me a bit too.

    I'm here...reading. But not always commenting or posting much. I love seeing your pictures, and hearing what you're discovering about yourself and how things are going. Always sending love though.

  2. You're a beautiful soul. I feel lucky to have you in my life and to be able to share in your wisdom.

  3. Sending love. A million times over.

  4. An incredibly beautiful post, Angie. One I needed to read. Thank you. And I am not sure how you are able to capture the essence of your family with lead and water and a little bit of pigment, but it feels to me like you do. I see this painting and you might as well all be standing right in front of me. What a gift.

    I am feeling a little closer to the person I should be free to be...but not quite there yet. It's a journey. Thank you for sharing yours. Like Curls, I haven't been talking much lately. But I'm here. Reading. Soaking it in.

  5. I can't tell you how much I love your painting.


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