Calling My Yaya

Originally posted on Pagan Bloggers.

I'll see you again when the stars fall from the sky, U2, One Tree HillToday is my Yaya’s birthday. She would have been 85 today.

On the ancestor altar, she is represented by a tiny set of ceramic cats she let me have years ago.

I’ve written about her in bits and pieces. She took care of me as a small kid when my parents were working, and on school breaks and snow days until I was old enough to stay by myself. She taught me to hand sew, and thus I think about her when I embroider now. I used to make little pouches and dolls out of her rags.

She and my grandfather bought a small house and stayed there, in a small city that grew into a medium suburb. When I was a kid, all sort of stores were within a few blocks walk and the really fancy ones like the Woolworth’s were only a bus ride away. Time and the economy have chipped away most of the places she used to take me as a kid, but the lessons remain. I live in a walkable neighborhood now, and I knew I wanted that a long time ago.

She taught me to ride public transportation; she never drove. Being comfortable getting around on buses from a young age gave me a lot of independence. As a teenager I was able to take summer classes at the University near that old Woolworth’s. When I studied overseas, I was unafraid, even eager to conquer the public transit system there and get around on my own.

Tonight I tried a couple of times to tell stories about her to Bug. It’s always hard to tell how much she’s taking in, but there’s plenty of time in the future.

I brought down one of the little ceramic cats, the black one, and set it on the working altar. I lit candles.

Bug wanted me to “turn on all the candles” and I had to explain to her that there were enough.

I asked my Yaya to help me take care of my Bug, the way she’d helped raise me and my sister, my cousins and my niece. I could use the guidance, and Bug can use all the help I can get her.  I miss her a lot, but I also feel like she’s listening.

Our conversations used to be a lot of silence too, in person and on the phone. Lots of stopping and thinking, I guess.

I still think about going left, and whether I had anything else to say to her, but even tonight, or last year on Samhain, I feel like it’s more silence than poetry. Our relationship wasn’t complicated: I love her, she loves me, she cared for me, she taught me. She let me be and didn’t ask questions, so I didn’t feel like I didn’t know how to answer. She let me play my weird little one person imaginary games in the yard, or lock myself in her room when my sister was driving me crazy in the afternoon. If I hid out in the attic, or spent the morning scribbling in the old steno pads or dollar store notebooks she gave me, well, that was fine and did I want a Tastykake with my sandwich for lunch?

That’s the parenting advice she wants me to take from her, as much as she tells me anything… She let me be weird. In turn, I have strong memories of learning to talk to spirits in that attic room, of feeling safe in those spaces to exist and to do what I wanted without being questioned. I want Bug to know that she is loved unconditionally and without explanation needed. I want Bug to do better for herself than I did, just like Yaya and my grandfather made sure my dad and my uncles were able to do better.

So I call to her, and I think of midnight at her kitchen table when neither of us could sleep and we weren’t bothering to talk, either, just co-existing in a way I wouldn’t have the vocabulary to appreciate until much later. We don’t have to talk much. Ancestor work is much more about presence than working with the powers, maybe because ancestors can trip a full array of memories I associate with them in a way other powers can’t; the vocabulary isn’t there in the same way.

Maybe that’s why I struggle with working with ancestors I don’t have personal associations with, now that I think about it. It will be a challenge to bring Bug up honoring a great-grandmother she doesn’t have that kind of experience with, seeing if the relationship becomes real for her in some other way or if it remains an abstract sort of honoring.

Sweeping the Sun In, Slowly

I spent a good chunk of this weekend cleaning.

Like many other things that are good for me, I’m much, much happier when I’m keeping up with the housecleaning, but it’s very hard to do when I’m in anxious or depressed. On the other hand, cleaning is one of the very few things I can use as a redirection when my OCD is getting the best of me, so it’s often the easiest outlet even if it’s a little… earth scortchy.
(When I’m cleaning in OCD mode, whatever I can’t deal with tends to just go in the trash. It’s not the greatest for the environment or whatever but it lets me get on with things so it’s a compromise I live with.)
Creatively, I feel as if I don’t even know how to write. I managed a short reflection about my grandmother’s death and… that’s it. I’m still not sure how I’m allowed to feel about her death. It’s as if I’m not entitled to my feelings, because I’m so cut off from my family. I know that’s not how feelings work, and yet I circle around it.
My grandmother prepared cards for upcoming birthdays ahead of her death. I didn’t know this until I opened the mailbox the other day and there was an envelope for my daughter’s birthday, addressed in her small, neat handwriting. (Maybe that’s where I get my tendency to write so small.) I won’t lie, I sobbed there in front of the mailbox. I put the card in my bag without opening it. That’s the kind of woman my grandmother was – she was dying, and she was making sure her grandkids and great grandkids would have birthday cards. Considering nobody else in my family sent my daughter a birthday card except my parents, knowing that’s the last one is hard.
I feel better, though, for cleaning. Hekate was right to push me, The energy’s been stagnant in the house for a while – I was very busy with work during all three new years this year, and I feel like I never got a proper start. But it’s getting warm outside, and that sunlight burns away a lot of things.
I’ve been scared to move forward, but I need a change. Pretty much everyone is agreed about this, from my spouse to my deities down to a recent tarot reading I got which I’ll be talking about soon. I don’t know how to move forward, but I have to pick something before I go crazy.

Honoring the Ancestors: Inner Happiness

Hail to the man behind the mouse
And hail to all those who built the house
Hail to the Ink and Paint girls,
Hail to the imagineers
Hail to those who gave voices
And music and shape and motion
Hail to the eight old men
Hail to Lily and Roy
May we ever seek to build within ourselves
The happiest place on earth
And may we always strive to better understand what that means

T is for Those Who've Gone

My cousin R would have been 38 this week, if she hadn’t died earlier this year.

Writing about her is harder than writing about an author or public figure you’ve all heard of. Nobody who reads this knew her. Hell, most of my memories of her are when I was a kid visiting my aunt, playing Atari Bowling with her or keeping my grandmother company when she was in and out of the nursing home.

But she wasn’t that much older than me, and she died of cancer. She’d noticed the lump, but didn’t do anything about it until it had spread. She spent a year getting chemo and radiation. Her mother is one of the most giving and genuine Catholics I know, and she didn’t deserve to watch her daughter die. I suppose no parent deserves that, but if anybody I know warranted a miracle, it was her.

The first new year of the season is coming up in October, and it’ll be time to pay her tribute and wish her well and let her go. It’s hard, harder than I expected. I still struggle with it, more often than I expect to. I’m looking forward to that closure, but I think her birthday will be one I remember every year.

In her name and in her memory, I beg you, don’t let your health concerns go. If you can, if you have any kind of insurance or clinic or option, please, get yourself checked if you think something’s wrong. A mammogram might have saved her life. It’s very likely one saved mine. Don’t hold off.

Grover as Totem

Grover demonstrates Far

This post is a bit of an odd duck, in honor of Jim Henson’s birthday. But I’ve been chewing on it since last month when I did the Monster At the End of This Meditation,

Traits: enthusiastic, lovable, furry, blue

Grover has always been my favorite. He is a Muppet of Many Hats, who plays a variety of roles and can teach many lessons.

As the long-suffering waiter trying to please Mr. Johnson, he is an inspiration to the many people who work in customer service. He gets frustrated – he’s only human, er, monster, after all – but he never lets it get the better of him.

As Super Grover, he knows that there is nothing more important than helping people, even when you’re not entirely sure how to do it. The act of honestly trying is important, and even if you don’t succeed, the effort matters.

To know Grover is to know that there is always someone on your side, willing to help because helping is the thing you do. That’s a hell of a thing to know, when it’s dark and you’re alone, or you need company, or you’re just a little overwhelmed and you need a little help waiting tables or selling some slightly used letter Vs.

Super Grover always comes when you ask for help.

And Jim Henson is the man I have to thank for that.

(Also Frank Oz, but that’s another post.)

Honoring the Ancestors: Ray Bradbury

Starting out is hard.

I don’t know whether starting out was easier or harder in 1939, but I was thinking about it today when reading an article about a zine Bradbury did in 1939 and 1940 being available on Project Gutenberg.

Bradbury is actually one of the authors who made me want to write. I remember reading All Summer in a Day when I was about Margot’s age, nine or ten and all but friendless at school. I remember thinking, oh, this is what it feels like to be understood.

I remember wanting to give that feeling to someone else, and so I started writing.

Hail and thank you, Ray Bradbury! I may not be Rowling, but I am who I am because of you.

Honoring the Ancestors: Nikola Tesla

I’m a giant nerd, a fan of mad science, and a steampunk enthusiast. Of course I am going to honor Nikola Tesla on his birthday.

The thing you have to understand about Tesla is, I thought he was a fictional character until I was probably thirteen or so. I had just discovered those little Radio Shack electronics notebooks and circuits were the greatest things ever. My two favorite scientists were Tesla and Frankenstein. I’m not sure exactly how I’d come to the conclusion that Tesla was fictional – he wasn’t as much a pop culture hero as he is now – but learning that he was real and he was even cooler than I thought probably did wonders for my self of the relativity of reality.

I honor Tesla as a scientist but also as one who works hard without recognition. Tesla deserved more during his lifetime than he received. I think of him when I’m overlooked at work, or when I read about someone whose work is vastly undervalued. (I thought about him when Douglas Engelbart died.)

I think of him also when my OCD is on the edge of crippling. He most likely struggled with the same disorder and it contributed to the challenges he faced.

I’m glad Tesla is a little bit closer to being the household name he should be, and today, for his birthday, I raise an electrical arc to him in salute. Hail, Tesla, Lord of Currents!