Yestereve I gave words to what scared me, spoke words that were heavy in waiting, and my period, often irregular, came at long last. And in my dreams I came into a dark and beautiful landscape of deciduous green forests and untrodden fields. In such peace my companion and I passed through abandoned school playgrounds on this frontier where hope was forsaken, for better than hope had been found. We traveled further into this unknown land, the unmarked trail our guide, until we fell into a happy festival of friends and singing. And how we cried for those we loved and missed, but we were not lonely, nor any longer heavy-hearted. The music of friendship and laughter alighted around us, and I lay in happiness as harmless stampeding souls thundered around me in a great wave of hilarity. It was the eve of the end of days within this World Who never ends as I climbed the limbs of unknown trees. There is no map to this place beyond every map’s end, heartaching Pilgrim, but that you are the compass, aligned. – Gentle Jeffrey Pine.
Beloved Creator, God of the Universe, open my inward vision to the beauty of your hidden presence. This morning, each day, in all places, may my mind be seeking you in love and delight, most Beautiful Presence. May I be able to see you and know you when you appear in the grace of the world. Fill my mind with good thoughts and deep joy. You are the One who looks out through the eyes of all creatures. Inspire my words and actions to reflect your delgiht, great Light who never expires. You make the darkness shimmer in the night with the stars of your inmost light.
Originally Written April 2nd, 2016
Journal Entry from 7/24/2016
My cats are relatives of lions! –of large and small wildcats, they are relatives to them all. My cats are “guardian spirits” to me, my “familiars”, with their bright yellow-green jewel eyes and same stripedy patterns of their wild cousins. It is a blessing and a delight they have come to settle in with us human domestics, to purr at our feet, begging kibbles and bonking our faces with their adorable ways. A story goes that cats became domesticated so that humankind would have the pleasure of snuggling the tiger. Actually, the truth is probably nearer to the opposite: humans became domesticated so that cats could have the pleasure of sitting on us!
Baby Mawzawoo, at three months old, is Mr. Independent Bug Hunter who pounces and tumbles over the small woolen toy I made for him, practicing for prowling in the wilderness like a big tough kitty. He will not go into the wilderness, but he brings the vitality of his wildness home to us. His brother, Aiboorah, is my big goofy cuddle-baby-lion who doesn’t lose an opportunity to sit in my lap or on my back as I stretch out on the floor. His way of “hunting” is to be a lazy paw-swatter on his pack, like an over-confident comic male lion. I love these little cats more than I can put into words, so much it makes my heart hurt in that extraordinary way. House cats are hilariously wild and yet merely big kittens for life.
We humans used to know the names of all beasts and plants and called them our friends. Wandering out of Africa into deep green and dark northern forests we met our Neanderthal cousins, sharing their likeness. The world was endless then, when all hominids hunted their food and gathered from the plants. The world itself was sanctuary and home. I get the sense that, finally, I may be lucky to be living at a time when this way of loving The World as our permanent home is returning to us.
Little Kitten, descendant of great beasts, bless us with your wilderness condensed into your small body, the wilderness you carry within your snuggly, tiny self, little stripes and spots of the tiger, heart of the lion. Your energy is boundless and full of vitality in every muscle, paws eager to seek out the path of the jungle. Little Cat, remind us that we too are like you, The World within us, and that we have not “fallen” so far from your happiness. Give us persistence to find our way home in The World.
Little kitties, is this why you came to snuggle us in the Neolithic days? You could not have known the changes coming for our species, that we would come to love you so dearly. It is the Lifeworld we want, and this you greatly bring to us, The World that you live in, that you carry within yourself, pounces and bright eyes alert and at the ready to purrs. It is this vitality we long to be reborn to. We have loved you and called you friend, miniature Tiger, tiny Lion, herald of happiness. May happy landscapes await us where the night is more joyful, the dawn more delighting, and lively animal forms are pouncing unceasing in lovableness along the paths of our lives.
It is a risk to talk about the truth of personal experience because we are afraid others will think we are crazy or bad. But the truth is that most other people have quietly felt the same way, and by truth-telling you are liberating not only yourself, but the honesty of human experience.
I still pick at my skin as a coping mechanism in anxiety and grief. I have had hormonal issues since I was a teenager which have given me skin very short of flawless. I have had acne, scarring and male-pattern hair growth that have attacked my ability to feel normally female, much less attractive. This experience has given me great empathy with those who suffer other physical disorders. At age 26, I am starting to get the condition under control, and have had years of expensive and uncomfortable skin treatments administered by professionals that has, luckily, made leeway into solving the aesthetic remains of this pain. I used to pick at my skin constantly, because it helped me feel that I could do something about the feeling of ugliness and undesirability that weighed on me. I still do this to comfort myself. I see that this method of coping is not unlike an alcoholic’s, but is less disruptive to functioning in life. It is a compulsive behavior of self-soothing.
One time, when I was a kid, my mom told me to wear a headband, to get my hair out of my face, to pull it back so other people could see my face. So that I could be a thing being looked at instead of doing the looking. It’s a fucked up thing to tell a kid to do to her hair what will please others, do to her body what will please others, but not herself, don’t please herself because what good is that for a woman, and don’t you want to keep your hair long so you can be pretty for boys? I didn’t want the headband. Later, she told me that men don’t like girls with scraped knees. I thought, Grown men aren’t supposed to like girls at all. I’m still a child! Leave me alone! And even if she had said “boys”, and not “men”, I would’ve said “fuck you”.
I never had a problem with alcohol. Not because I’m good, but because I’m lucky. I’m oriented to cope in other ways, like picking my skin or dancing alone to my own music. I don’t pick my face as much now as I used to. But when I did pick at the skin of my face, it was not only to cope with anxiety and grief, but so that others couldn’t have my face, so that I could keep it for me. I hated the pressure of doing to my face what pleased others without also pleasing myself. Because I am not and have never been the people-pleaser sort, it has never been so for me that what pleases others necessarily brings me pleasure in turn. The two are not intrinsically connected. Now, I don’t pick as much. I was looking for catharsis when I cut my hair three inches long at age twelve. By fourteen, it was shaved. I’d never felt better at that time, because that Borderline wraith who used to be my parent couldn’t control it as an extension of her hyper-sexualized self. I made sure those knees were scraped, too.
My desire and instinct is to do the active looking at males. Beautiful androphilia.
Humans in general have a real problem with controlling people’s bodies for the benefit of the powerful without regard to the lives and experiences of the people living in those bodies. Here, a possible relationship is cut down, where real love and mutual affection could have flourished between humans. This is the foundation of all movements for equality. In anger at the breadth of injustice, it is easy to think that to reach equality there must always be some struggle, but struggle alone only breeds sour animosity. If we pull back the layers we see that anger is a response to a severed relationship, as a teacher of mine once said. Anger is the wrapping for grief in response to human beings not in right relationship with one another as they should. It even goes for two strangers. If somebody cusses you out for accidentally bumping into them, and you feel angry, it is because you rightly expected they treat you with respect, at minimum. Respect and courtesy would have been the right relationship, if even a brief one, passing on the sidewalk. When right relationships become severed, connection is not speedily repaired.
Sometimes I still feel agonized in frustration when the stray hairs fall in my face. So I wear bandanas. My mom didn’t wear them. She always wore piles of makeup, which I never do, and it was her shield against all vulnerability which she volleyed on others, on I who was trapped and could not get away because she was looking at me like somebody who wouldn’t or couldn’t stare back with ferocious knowing in my own sight, seeing her horrible, abusive personality disorder. She told me things I shouldn’t have heard at a young age, completely inappropriate things about her stupid personal life and what she thought about men, at a time when female children are in need of joyful empowerment, not stories of predation and victimization. She spoke un-lovingly even of herself, not thinking how parents pass these beliefs onto their children, whether they consciously intend to or not. And she never once apologized, sincerely, without angry blame in her next breath. To this day, she lacks all serious self-awareness. I saw her six months ago and I don’t miss her. I told her by the shape of my back that I do not miss her. I always saw that white wine glass on her nightstand when she lay in bed, complaining before me that TV was her only joy. I remember asking her, when I was a child, if she loves me. She said she loves me but she doesn’t like me, with biting spite in her voice. What the hell is a kid supposed to think when a parent answers that way? She watched Lifetime misogynist terror, mistaking victimizing sensationalism for a worthy use of her spare time. Dante said the gates to hell are locked from the inside. Often, she locked her bedroom door against, and I couldn’t get in to comfort her, not realizing I was trying to be her parent, because I thought it was my job to save her and help her.
Sometimes I dream of female demons, soulless and angry and covered in sharp long nails and makeup, and I never want to wear makeup or fake nails in my life. In my dreams they come to corner me, but I fight them by songs and invocations to Joan of Arc and Artemis, who came to me in my Queer teenage years with their short hair and muscles to defend me and teach me to fight. When I was young they would show me the way through mazes to women who I wanted to be like, who weren’t horrible excuses for empty, angry, promiscuous, addicted, emotionally reckless, abusive, un-nurturing, terrifying self-absorbed moms.
I talked to my counselor; She says that once couples are together for a while, you feel more secure that you can sleep-in without thinking the other person will be too lonely. But she herself has been divorced. I don’t take my relationship with T for granted. Instead I say to him, if its my insecurity that keeps me so devoted to caring about our relationship, then so be it! Maybe there’s good in it. He says he agrees, this is the best possible expression of insecurity, which makes me care more about every precious moment together. “Every moment is precious,” he says, one night when I decide to go with him to fencing practice instead of staying home alone to write. We both feel the same way. Now, when I need to sleep-in, I have him tuck me in lovingly, saying “tuck tuck” with a kiss, that way I know he is alright, and won’t be too lonely.
“Maybe, whatever you’re doing right now is the right thing to do,” says T. To sleep well and long enough, or tend a space or finish a hand-crafting project is a fine way to be together in domestic love.
Grandma dreamed of Great Grandpa. He had Bipolar, what they used to call Manic Depression. I was told that he was put in a hospital for this in the days before better compassion. I wonder what it must have been like for Great Grandma, to see her husband who she loved so much suffer this way. Was she the rock of the family? I have no records from Grandma about it, only that it happened, long ago.
In Grandma’s dream, dreamt in her old age long after her father’s death, she revisited her father. It was his brain she remembers: lit, with electricity, gold-sparkling yellow in coursing beads of dendrite flames in the night of the mind. The current of his brain appeared to her as sparklers traveling in the black of midnight from the base of his cerebellum, back of the neck, top of the spine where the nob of reptilian green evolution wells up in bone-memory of scales turning into to feathers, to fur, and finally to skin, tightened over the rare dome of the prefrontal cortex. Through these places the night-sparkler traveled up around his right ear, a railroad of electric-lit wires between one thought and another. Somebody said they cut the two sides of his brain, left divided from right side to save him. Who did this to him? Why did they think it was right? I only know of the story she told me: it was a breakdown. A loss of stability, while the two watery balancing boards of each inner ear tipped in slow-time, then suddenly spilling into the sea of Psyche. The ship of sanity surrendered, sending its planks overboard into the black waters below. I do not know where the sparkler stopped, but I remember that he was wide-eyed and strange when I, as a small child, met him in his ailing years. But my Great Grandmother still loved him completely.
Walking an hour to a cafe this morning in the clear light of day, sunscreen and hat applied, I realized I was going along without so much pain or heavy depression. I pick a spot in the shade under a tree when I arrive, not minding the faint smell of the garbage cans nearby. So it is. The smell goes away in the breeze. The air is cool to perfection on my skin, life in the sensory world. Wisdom comes from the life of the land and of animal bodies, who do not worry about the past or the future or the endless ghosts which plague the minds of humans. Our human heads are too easily filled with ghosts. I put them aside. It is said to us that we must right down these moments of insight before losing them, but I now know the other side to this fear of forgetting. We humans do not want to lose a part of ourselves, even it is better to keep it no more. Animals do not worry about always remembering. I want to remember their wisdom. They will remember what they need to, and not solely the aversion to trauma. To be happy is good because we hold something worthy inside. I want to always be an animal. The earth will remember the rest, remembering all.
I try to keep
the living room clean
but it always
gets filled up
Image © Gentle J. Pine. All rights reserved.
My earliest memories are obscured in darkness, but this is what I do remember. I was being carried in a large paper bag by someone whose face I don’t recall. They took me to a place made of stone, a big building with lights and strange smells and someone put me in a little cage. I was cold and scared there and I cried for my mom, but she was nowhere to be found and couldn’t hear me. I had water and food and a place to relive myself, but where was my comfort? I was so small.
And then I saw her. She was so beautiful, enormous compared to me, a giant so much larger than me that she could hold me in one hand without effort and put my whole head in her mouth if she wanted to, but she didn’t try to eat me. Instead she picked me up and nuzzled me into her neck, and I loved her at once. I realized she was only a little one of their kind, even at her size. I decided I would make her mine. She made a weird sound come out of her mouth, a string of noises I would come to understand meant “unconditional love”.
After another strange happening where I was being carried by another big someone I don’t remember into a room with metal shiny things that poked me, I woke up with a shaved belly and a green “x” tattooed on me. Who knows what that was about?
And then SHE took me home, my little-big one I chose to love forever. She became my Real Mommy and she gave me a whole backyard to play and explore in and practice hunting bugs and rodents. One time I caught a dove in my mouth that was about twice my size and to this day I don’t get why the bigger ones of her kind her yelling like they were horrified because my Mommy thought it was awesome. I brought it to their door as a most sincere love offering of my talents.
It was a year into my young life when the unexpected happened. My heart was nearly broken when another little one of my own kind showed up at our house. The nerve! Was I forsaken? Suddenly unloved?! My mommy assured me I was still #1 in her heart but this little pipsqueak was invading MY territory. I was about to bite his little head off in revenge when I decided, no, I would spare his life because he is cute, and I can lick him and give him comfort. And I let him know who’s boss.
The years passed on and soon I was approaching my early middle age after a successful young adult career of hunting, fastidious grooming, patrolling my land, campaigning the big creatures for more and better food with my calculated vocalizations, olympic snoozing, and most importantly, snuggling my Mommy, who was always there for me and loved me every minute. But soon I came to realize that, although my big mommy loved me and would never leave me, her mommy was mean to her and yelled at her a lot and it scared me so my Mommy took me to live with her in many new places over the next half of my life until now. Besides, my mommy had reached adulthood of her own by this time. In truth, though this loss of my first precious territory and the little guy of my own kind was difficult for me at first, I soon adapted elegantly and put ever more of my security and love into Mommy as my mobile territory, you could say.
This was, however, all nomadic movement within one great landscape of similar weather, trees, smells and colors. I loved this place, it’s dry air and stony warms I could have my sits on outside of our houses. My favorite part of all was the grand, beautiful, snowy, pink light-spangled mountain range to the east and the delightfully sparkling blue-green river snaking down the valley from it, just out our backyard. Even though my kind are little creatures who frighten easily at too much travel in those big rumbly boxes that move really fast, we can still sense deeply in our hearts the presence of beautiful lands around us and nearby –we are territorial, after all. How do you think we stay so entertained when we are home alone all day? We go prowling for joy in our visions.
Alas, I am old now and a year ago the time came again to move, but now to leave this place I heard them name “California” with the mouth-sounds they make, and go with my mommy to the place called “Washington State” where it is rainy and dark and green but still so very beautiful, and in the summer it is sometimes not so different-looking from my homeland. I like these forests very much because I could hide and pounce in them easily if I were a younger dish. I stay indoors only now because I need an inhaler twice a day to breathe and I can’t hunt for noms outside now at my age, but my mommy loves me still, and she has a mate who I love very much, too. He’s good to me and he lets me sit on his head and he gives me loves, kisses and pick-ups like Mommy does. I hope I will live for a good few years more. I am old now, and I hope to spend the rest of my days in snuggly peace in Mommy’s arms, dreaming of my wild ancestors and the purr of the beautiful universe.
Originally written January 15th 2015
Rest in peace, little Rosie, first beloved kitty of mine. January 2003 – November 2015
Images © Gentle J. Pine. All rights reserved.
There has been a visitation here;
what creature’s tracks of forefoot and rear
are present, signed their name into the sand?
What perfect pressure of heel pad or tiny hand
has loped or softly crawled or slithered,
out of skins of other lifetimes withered?
Into places that I cannot go, they go:
the spirits of the world in fur,
my familiars of the Maker– Her
imprint kissed the quiet ground
for hominids like me to know;
perceiving shapes and hearing sound,
a story of the living world below.
Image © Gentle J. Pine. All rights reserved.