Weeping Woman

7.10.16 Planning Yellow Warrior Wavespell

The storyteller finishes his tale. He’s seated on a stool made of walnut, four legs, round top, no back. He’s been perched on it for hours, his beard glinting in the spotlight; the only light in the dark room where all the chairs are filled from front to back and the passageways have people crowded together sitting anywhere they can having come many miles to listen to this man speak. His shadow is enormous on the white cloth behind him, a dark form that moves when he moves, shifts when he shifts; sometimes a giant sometimes a monkey, sometimes a heron stalking fish. There he sits on the walnut stool in his red and green plaid shirt, sleeves rolled up, blue jeans creased, barefooted. The crowd has been enraptured as his voice rings around the room, echoing and bouncing; stringing tale after tail in a necklace of pearls that nobody can touch or carry away, yet all have beheld and shared in this dark room, gasping, startled, for two hours. Has it been two hours?

It feels like a lifetime and I watch the people stand and stretch, some stumble out of the room, others walk up to the storyteller, shake his hand, bristling with excitement, he’s changed their lives! They’ve never experienced anything like this one night, where is he performing next? How can they keep up to date with his goings and comings? Does he teach? One by one the people move. Slowly and surely the room empties out and the spotlight flickers off, the dim lights in the room come on and the storyteller looks at me where I’m glued to my seat, tears rolling down my cheeks, still.

“Why do you weep woman?” he asks in a rumbly crumbly voice, “Tell me, tell me why you weep.”

A spotlight comes on, this time it’s shining on me, and the lights in the room fade away leaving him in the darkness. My voice comes out in a broken croak.

“Your words have dismembered me into a remembering, of long ago, once upon a time, when like you I too was a storyteller holding a well of words with which to quench the thirst and feed the parched hungry people.

I weep for your words, they have stirred up the deep long forgotten well within where other lives I’ve led lay buried and now bubbling up to the surface of who I am, they show me in their reflection who I was once upon a time . . . .

A storyteller, a midwife, a shaman, a druid, a warrior: many times lived over and over in different carnations mixed with deptford pinks, bindweed, and borage, crowned with wild roses, sage and loosestrife in hand, feathers and reeds in my bags, dressed in deer skins laced together with nettle strings; the clothes changed from robes to armor to bear naked, clay inking my visible flesh while my hands inked parchment and rocks and mud walls, adorning anointing anointed upon my feet I walked the worlds with a singular purpose each time.

I weep for now I remember what I gave up when I came into this life believing I could write my own fate, shape my own destiny; bring my singular thread of solitariness over into existence face to face with a family and somehow change the lone wolf within into a creature that runs with a pack.

I weep for the lone wolf howls in the silence of the night when the owl is out hunting and the fireflies flicker in conversation with the stars and he cries for he is trapped, neither here nor there, and my tears tumble because it’s harder than I thought, to change, and I’m alone and afraid that it is a futility I have chased and I am bound to live it out and see it through its end.

I weep for what I once was and could have been again, spinning tales on that walnut stool, like you, travelling from place to place shining light into the darkness, moving and stirring up wonder and enchantment in fertile ground with bags of chamomile, clover, and skullcap close by, a jar of frankincense on hand for anointing the new born lives entering into the world with a holy basil welcome; instead I chose a different road and it’s riddled with unknown challenges and the unfamiliar ground of a tribe, and it’s not how I imagined it would be at all.

I weep for your words, they have stirred up the cauldron of too many once upon a times when I had a sea bass voice that hummed and strummed and made grown men charge into battle after a three day fast of blood clotting brews I’d infused up with alfalfa, barley, yarrow, and plantain that they’d drink and become near invincible and brave, fearless, dauntless, god’s among men then I’d send them to die gloriously and afterward, I’d sing the story of their lives to their newborn babes in the circle that went around on fishing lines bearing trout caught knee deep in cattails while wild geese honked overhead.

I weep at the dismembering and remembering that you have wrought with my voice sung back at me waking up the mockingbird who taunts me with his catty chirp, repeating over and over,

“Did you, did you really think? Think you could change? Did you, did you really think? Change change change destine-E-EE?”

And I can only weep and nod, Yes, I did, I did, I did, I do.”

The room is quiet and the storyteller clears his throat, then he speaks in a warm voice, thick and molten, like molasses cooked in a vat, stirred, smelted, gooey stuff concocted from golden sorghum grasses once waving in fields, promising dreams to come when it’s licked off a spoon, leaving it shiny and clean, reflective..

“Tell me more,” he says.

“I was reeled in, hook, line, and sinker,” I begin, “Baited by an illustrated book that held the lure of having a community, a circle of friends, a pack on it’s beautiful pages. It spelled out what I had to do, made it seem so simple I never stopped to wonder, why, in my many other lives, I’d never thought to do this before.

Maybe I wasn’t tired enough, before, maybe my solitude was enough, maybe I’d never longed for something new to do, in those other lives, content to serve over and over again, maybe I though this finding was a gift, a reward for all the service rendered, maybe it was a trap, a trick; whatever it was I swallowed it and spat out my gift of speech in exchange for hewing the shape of this turn, away from the repetitive cast of predestiny.

Always I had been musical, eloquent, loquacious. Words spilled from my lips like honey from a hive healing, soothing, a balm for those who needed it, or depending on the carnation red hot like a poker setting alight the heat in the hearts of men to step forth and live brazenly valiantly bold, oh, no matter the time, always I was articulate, clear, singing ballads and songs to lift the spirits or tickle them into cheer, at the hearths and firesides where mead was passed or wine, songs for rain and thunder, songs for plentiful harvests, songs to summon the birds and butterflies and bees to come and share and spread the bounty, songs to ask the hawk for a flight with his sight, songs of thanks and gratitude; I knew all the songs and all the stories and I would perform then with elegance and grace and vigor and pride.

Then I gave it up, spat it out and came into this life with the caaw of crow, the croak of toad, the rasp of the rusty gate creaking on its hinges. I didn’t think it would be the way it is, to be devoid of speech yet to be able to make sound, while inside, the irony, it all sounds as it did, before! Only, when I open my mouth what comes out is not what I heard in, and I wonder, would I have been better off mute? Yet here I am, with speech, yet speechless, speechless, speechless; a mockery to be sure, I mock myself and laugh until I roll about on the floor at the change I have wrought and I wonder what would be the cost, for my speech to be bought, fleeting flashes that run through my mind in splashes, sometimes when it’s pitch as tar, and darkness has eaten away all but one star.

It is that lone star that members me back, lifts me off the ground and bids me move even when I don’t know where I’m going, what I’m doing, or why; to keep moving forward. It is that star that twinkles and whispers to me,

“I know how you can get your voice back. I know the way, all you have to do is give up all of this, and in the blink of an eye, with your voice you can play once more, just like before.”

And I laugh in the dark night, below the lone star bright. I laugh until I weep, for I will not trade this for the promise of bliss at the return of what I’ve once had enough times over to know what I’m missing and no matter how hard and riddled this new life is with challenges and mistakes and uturns and curves unanticipated, I will not exchange it for the old life that I’ve seen before; for this one, this one moves me along, even when it’s sometimes dragging me until I find a place like this, where a storyteller like yourself speaks words that remind me all is not lost, am I not sitting here listening to my voice spill from your lips?

Was there not a room full of people who sat raptly, attending to what they heard, my voice from your mouth, quenching their thirst, feeding their hunger, sparking the fires in their belly to carry away and kindle with them? Does it matter who shapes the words and sends them into the world? Who the words come from? The work gets done, the words undone, it is the words that live and the person before them, like the sheet behind you that displays your shadow; pull the drapes down, remove the face of the clown, what’s behind? Mind, the words remain.

Indeed, you see me weeping, yet I laugh at the well, beside the stream, at the edges of the ocean where the surf lays in pretty bubbles before dissolving into the sands. In the wandering there is much to be found, on this new path much to be learned, and I’m learning still how to stitch it all together until it shows itself, for I’ve never been a weaver before and have as yet to warp the loom.”

We sit then, in darkness, the lights are all out. The storyteller nods his head, I return the nod. I stand up now and lift my arms up. I shut my eyes and speak, the sound is unmusical, slightly crude, rough.

“Come,” I say, “Come and carry us away.”

The ceiling splits open and there is a terrific flash of light. Lightning streaks to the walnut stool and brilliant blue and white, silvery electricity, splits it into shattered pieces that scatter like shards of broken glass.

When the smoke subsides I am seated at a dining table of oak. Behind me there is a curtain of seafoam through which comes a salty breeze, the roar of gathering waves rising, rolling, crashing. I hear the squeals, cries, and laughter of children.

I know, were I to draw the curtains what I would see would be mirrors. A wall lined with mirrors and behind them, drywall and wooden posts.

I know, were I to tear away the dry wall and wooden posts what I would see would be a forest. A forest filled with trees, springs, frogs, butterflies, bees, bears, honey, breezes, rainbows, flowers, mushrooms, fairies, fires, a house, a pond where herons come to dine, where dragonflies sip wine, a garden singing praises in beautiful splashes of color and sweetest scent to the universe while children squeal, cry, and laugh.

Outside the window there are men fishing knee deep in cattails, geese fly overhead honking, and a father in green and red plaid bikes by with his children behind him.

In the woods there is a woman planting a ring and a stone. She makes a blood offering, the blood of an innocent, it drips bright red streaking the lunar earth, soaking it.

I am seated at a dining table of oak. There is grilled sea bass on my plate, brown rice, sauteed red onions and carrots, sprinkled with hijiki. I am Weeping Woman who once was . . . .

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