It turns out, getting one’s nosed pierced feels like: a funnel screw ripping out your nasal skin folds and cartilage. Because of, that’s exactly what’s happening. I’ve waited nigh on forty-six years to descend upon my face this level of brutalization, and truth be told, would not have done it if a goddess of a child hadn’t prodded me with: you aren’t backing out on me, are you? I had consumed a glass of wine, was exhausted, and YES. I was planning on backing out. But, her text shot through the universe and landed in my lap and it was time. And I ain’t chicken.
(Y’all should never drink before a piercing of any body part, on account of the profuse indignation of blood that hollers on a hot minute. In her defense, Page didn’t know how I spend a Saturday late afternoon.)
Much like any self-inflicted wound, it’s not quite pretty yet, still hurts a bit and feels awkward against my skin. Afterward (still wearing my plaid pjs that I belligerently wore to Voodoo Needle), I was whining on to Terrin (the Southern-fried-crazy husband) at which time he looked at me quizzically and announced: I remember looking for this on your face when we first met. I kept thinking, where is it? Like it was supposed to be there . . .
Yupper. It was supposed to be there. And my little witchy ass had resisted the pain, didn’t want to spill the blood on the floor, for what wanted to be part of me. As fate will have it, and She will, yesterday I quit my moaning and fussing and let the sweetest child in the world take my flesh. Damn it all if it don’t remind me of every other critical push I’ve ever felt from the universe. (I’d like to just give the universe a big ‘ol raspberry some days. Right across her righteous tummy. Phppppttttt!)
But . . . what I will take away from this moment with the most salt and solidity . . . young girl, sweet turquoise eyes, wiser than her years, being steady for me without taking my pride, wiping my blood gently and smiling. Ah. The next generation. All of our love, all of our wisdom beating young and thick, strong and gentle, waiting to step into our old crone shoes and save the world. And perhaps? Us in the bargain.
I have a memory of the girl I was: tiny Cherokee, tiny Dancer, dancing in the pines, swinging my skirt like innocence against guilt to the tune of fireflies in summer sweat. Wrapping my arms around “my” tree, leaning into his whispers to my heart of other veins, other heartbeats, and promising him–my young lips pressed against his sappy chest–to not fail. Be a tree one day, child, one with layers, protection, arms, a heart and a history. Be a tree.
Later that summer, I watched a man with a chainsaw “clear” that tree, along with his sisters, in order that our neighbors might awe at the view of our Spanish mini-mansion from the road. He never screamed, for he had passed the sweetest sacrament of all on to a Cherokee chile. His sap/blood spilled across a driveway that had once been a woods, his arms that had harbored and born birds, squirrels, and small girl children with chestnut ponytails. Pierced, he had been, the years before–swings of rope, feeders driven against bark/skin in rusty nails–and all of it had readied him for that moment of ultimate sacrifice.
I saw a bumper sticker the other day: Inside of every old person is a child screaming, what the hell happened? You became a tree. It was bound to happen.
And, so, here I am. Pierced by a goddess chile, blood all sopped up in cotton, steadying my trunk for the inevitable moment–still a bit on yonder–that I will become the wood for the fire to keep the rest warm.
Ah, hell. I was really hoping on being forever young. Whatever happened to that rebel child, bandana across her head, riding wild on a Harley across years of beer and smokes and sin? Ah, hell. She grew into a tree.
And one day . . . a bedframe, a side-shed, a chair. Well. Fuck me sideways with a chainsaw. Literally. At least . . .
And so, I teach. I reach down into the bones of my ancestors and the grit of Alabama clay and I lean in and whisper against the soft cheeks of saplings: Be a tree. Everything else is bullshit. Everything else is EGO. Everything else is . . . formica.
But–today I want to give reverence to a whole blessed forest of trees. I’ll settle with Granma.
She was in her eighties, bit her nails down to bloody nubs when she “studied” on a thought, and one day on a porch with a glass of tea in our hands I asked her: if you could do anything, anything at all, what would it be?
Biting of nails.
Then: I want to run. Fast. Like when I was a child. Through trees and grass, just ruuuuuunnn. I’ve always been unable to swim. But I remember “standing” in the river and the swoosh of my leg against the water. I want to run.
I suppose, even trees miss the days of bending against the wind, the risk of it all before our trunks have become the formation of our souls, and the wild run of unbearable, unaccountably free youth. But one day, our limbs will not bend in those fluid ways anymore, will not sustain the wild tornado wind of time. So . . . .
I teach, then, all thick and scarred and pierced. I am finally the tree. And Page: run, baby. Run like there’s no tomorrow. And never forget the smell of green. But oh, sweet goddess child. One day, long, long away from here, be a tree. 🙂