The Dismemberment Journals: Part V, A Eulogy To Our Otherness
Two weeks ago, I was out with the elkhound at sunset, while my relapsed son was sleeping on the elk-hide bed in my office. There was medicine there, even if I couldn’t remember mine on that particular night. He slept, stirred by fits of rage that didn’t wake him up but caused him to throw things around the room. In his sleep, he was held by the very thing that held me but which I could not feel in that moment. Out on the land, Coda and I walked through fields made pink by a brilliant last-moment go-for-broke ordeal between the sun and the gathering clouds. We walked past hawks, their bellies, speckled sunset rouge and full of field mice. We sank up to our ankles in springtime mud. I bent over to see the tiny sprouting field artichoke already, just barely, coming in. It was deep dusk as we got to Owl Alley; a stretch of trail alongside the creek lined with towering old Cottonwoods, home to at least five or six Great Horned owl families. That night there was just one, and he was calling out to his others. A lone forlorn sound echoing through the naked tree branches. I could not see him yet. But his call was like a beacon, bringing us closer. I called back to him and he sped up his hoo-hoo-hoo-hoooo. He responded right away, perhaps excited not to be the only one out that night. Eventually we found ourselves directly beneath him. He was large and mature. Sitting about forty feet up, staring down at us as if, perhaps, he was imagining we might be dinner. His horns were magnificent and tufted. He was restless. Stirring on the branch, his wings opened and closed as he shifted his weight from one furry foot to the other. The elkhound was mesmerized and sat down, absentmindedly, in a deep mud puddle. The owl and I called back and forth though surely by now he’d figured me out. Surely I was disappointing to him, me in my humanness.
And then I realized this is the learned story: that I am ‘other’. And in this insidious story, that is not mine, my otherness is actually an otherness of deficiency. My exquisite nature - everything beautiful about me - becomes a deficit in my longing to be loved by this One. Tears fell down my cheeks. Tears that had desperately wanted to find their way out all day long, ever since getting the terrifying call from a sobbing Henry saying he needed me to come get him, that he was in trouble. Tears fell down my neck and into my shirt. I keep my owl calls coming, though by now they are crackling and broken as my tears choke my throat. But my duet partner does not seem to care. His calls are strong and consistent. I drop to my knees in the mud puddle Coda is sitting in. I put my hands onto the wet dirt: prostrate to the impossible perfection of this moment and how much I am loved, how much I am not 'other'.
I remember a recent voice lesson, my teacher Eve sitting with her back to my back. On that day, my tears for the heartbreaking process of my marriage to the Earthquake Man, coming fast and furiously. She presses herself into me, rocking me gently and says, “Don’t stop...” and I’m singing ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ like it matters. I am determined to figure this out. I am determined not to lose my way out of my voice due to this grief. And so, with her at my back, I make it through, tears streaming down my face, my voice warbling, “Where troubles melt like lemon drops....” and still I make it through “away above the chimney tops” deep breath, yes, still making it through “that’s where you’ll find me”. And by the time the song is done I am transformed in my grief. The voice of my grief has been met by the strength of the heart that accommodates it. And I am alive here.
That night, knees in the mud and hands on the wet earth, hooting my forlorn message of longing, love and grief, this wound of otherness was challenged, yet still it lived in me. While I was reminded that I am part of this process, that I am not a bystander or worse, an interloper, that I am part of it all, I was not liberated from the story itself. While the Beast of forsakenness did not have me for supper that night, it was still stalking me.
Then, one week later, last Sunday, I knelt in the wet field behind my home, as this story of my otherness – the oldest living wound story in me – loosed its mooring and finally left me. At the age of 7 I experienced the first chapter of, and the initiation into, my core wound – I experienced in the most painful way that humans would not, could not, love me in my wholeness. I experienced that I would never be loved well or deeply by the very humans whom I wanted and needed to love me most. This is the deadliest and most common wound story of our times: that we are not loved by The Other. This catastrophic wound was self-inflicted and made manifest when we wrenched ourselves from the arms of The World. When we wrote the stories of our independence, our sovereignty above all other Life, we carefully knotted the noose of ourselves as The Other. As we did this with such cerebral, even poetic, deftness, weaving into the tapestry of our orphaning all the knowledge of white academe empiricism everywhere, everything of most value, most importance, of most meaning to our human souls, was lost to us. And in the gaping space left by this orphaning, grew a human rage, abandonment, futility, collapse, meaninglessness and despair that would proceed to shape and efficiently destroy an entire world. The World.
Perhaps it is simply the mandate for those of us paying attention in these times that we bare witness to this fact and all its horrors. And, perhaps we are also meant to remain utterly human here; to remain innocent, aware, wise, awake and In Love as much as we can. To make love in this carnage, to insist on seeing that Life and Death are still dancing in and around us in such magnificent ways. Ways that, to our human hearts, are as horrific and impossible to hold (the addiction of a loved one and the death of a partnership) as they are glorious and breathtaking (your hands deep in the cold spring mud, your voice declaring its inextricable place here in the on-going song of Life). To know that here, all these moments are just this: Life and Death. Constantly, World without end, No way to see where one stops and the other begins, No reason to discern. Just an invitation to behold, witness, remain awed, remain in love, remember our place here, our impossible place here in the most beautiful carnage of all time. To continue to make love like our lives depend upon it. Because they do.