On Monday night, Kai led a trance to ask us what we would pledge to Brigid and I went down to Her forge and did that, which means I will go ahead and do what I don’t want to do, today, Scarlett O’Hara be damned.
Trance is a way to visit your unconscious, or your “deepest self,” or the mystical source of “radiant beauty”,” depending on whether you want to think like Jung, or Starhawk or Einstein. It’s actually not all that hard to get there, in the right hands, but you do have to slow down, and be still, and breathe, which is how Kai started. He started with the breath, like you do, and then he invited us to imagine ourselves going down a flight of stairs. He let each of us create our own vision of those stairs and he took his time, and I took deeper breaths, and slowly the room melted away.
The steps were stone and they led down into a steep tunnel, with dry sides of yellow, sandy earth. There was a warm light, from somewhere, like candles, but I saw just the gray carved stone steps, the yellow walls with pieces of burlap sticking out here and there. (Why burlap? Maybe my unconscious has been sheet mulching. I’d like to think my deepest self is into permaculture, wouldn’t you?) By now, Kai’s voice has sort of faded away and I am picking my way carefully in the dim light. Stone stairs feel hard under foot, there is no give, they are slightly damp, and the angle is 45 degrees. They go down and down and down and then all of sudden they just end!! Stone edge, darkness! With the sandy yellow earth spilling slowly over the edge into nothing.
I’ve been down into the nether (if you’ll forgive me) regions of my soul before and there’s never been an edge! I could hear Kai still talking about stairs, from far away. Everybody else is still going down! I must have made a mistake! I turned , ran back up, and back down again. Like I was rebooting my laptop… Maybe this time it will work?
But no, the sand still fell off the edge of the hole. I looked down. My body is in so much pain these days, the idea of leaping into a hole and landing maybe on something hard… It feels like it would break me apart. So I turned around one more time, go back up and down again but by now I know it’s no good, because what has popped into my head is my favorite saying from my 20’s– “Leap and the net will appear.” I said it over and over until my friends mocked me. The yellow grains arced slowly down into the darkness and disappear. But in this place, if not in my waking life, I trust.
I did not fall long. I landed on my sacrum a pile of burlap. Burlap again! But either I was only half feeling my trance body or it for real didn’t hurt. I looked around. There was a round oak door ahead, with ornate black iron hinges. I pushed and around the open edges came the moving orange light of fire.
It was a cave. On the left, a deep recess in the wall was filled with glowing embers and front of it was an anvil. She stook with her back to me, intent on Her work, tall, red-braided, gowned in green. To the right, the mouth of the cave opened to wet grass, a wide dark river and on the other side of the dark water, the sparkling night skyline of Seattle, if Seattle were just as majestic, tall and ambitious, but held by the giant silhouettes of a rain forest and an undimmed starry sky.
I turned around.
“Give me your hand,” Brigid said. She was standing next to the anvil and She had a knife.
Why is it always knives??
Back in Kai’s living room I became aware of my body again. Left hand, or right hand?
“Your writing hand.”
On the floor of the living room I stuck out my right hand and felt the sensation across the meaty part of my palm, not like a knife though, like ice-cold water dribbling in a perfect line.
It dripped blood on her anvil, which sizzled and then she nodded toward the forge. The heat hit my hips first then my back and my shoulders. Maybe I was in there for five seconds, maybe five minutes. She pulled me out. I sat naked on the anvil, still curled up knees to chest, waiting for the hammer. But instead she ran her fingers and her palms down my back, down my arms down my neck down my head. She kissed the top of my head. Fire mother.
This is not the Brigid I started out with. All through my late twenties and early thirties, I experienced her as a taskmaster. Never loving, never kind. She felt stern, fierce, unyielding to me then. But this… this maternal sweetness, this is how she comes to me now, when I am finally, finally being kind to myself.
From far away, Kai’s voice says, "What would you pledge to Brigid? What does she ask of you?" I look at her.
“Will you tell the truth?” she says.
I know what she means. She means, will I say all the things that will be embarrassing or weird or might make my family think I'm crazy.
“What about Forest?” I say. “Can I protect him?”
“He has his own path,” She says.
“But will I be able to love him?” I say.
(Excuse me, but what a dumb thing to say! This is like in the horror movie, when there is a noise in the dark back of the house and you are like, Pick up the phone!!! Turn on the fucking lights!!! And instead the stupid bitch walks into the dark or asks the dumbest question: Who’s there? I mean, of course I’ll be able to love my son. That’s not what I’m looking for!! I want a guarantee he’ll be safe, and that me telling the truth won’t hurt him or affect him in anyway, that I can be a wild truth-telling revolutionary and he can grow up like the son of the president of the PTA who looks like Kelly Ripa.
But for some reason, in Her forge, I don’t articulate that. I throw a softball.)
“Of course,” She says. (A little smugly, I might add, in hindsight.)
So I nod. “I will tell the truth.”
So, here is the first truth that I am so, so reluctant to disclose: I am 44 years old and as of last month, I had to ask my parents for help.
Fuck, that hurts. I’m just going to stop there for now.