BREATHING LEGACY

This was originally written as a guest blog on The Balanced Witch at:

http://thebalancedwitch.com/family/breathing-legacy/

Unfortunately, the page is down and it was never archived by the Wayback Machine. Luckily, Seba had a backup copy which is replicated below.


Art by “Firethrower”

Art by “Firethrower”

"My body tells me." What a thing to say. There was a band once, 1988, Everything But the Girl, and a song they threw out there called "Apron Strings." And I remember breaking down in the kitchen with a little pixie girl's dress in my hands, smelling her, so young and still recovering from so much loss. "I want someone to tie to my apron strings" sounded across my kitchen while I leaned hard on a porcelain sink, hanging on for dear life.  I think I knew then that she would leave me one day, hate me, want a better woman for a mother. I sensed that the love affair would be short and sharp. My body, walking around, wishing it was not mine.

I remember, also, casting for this child. We all do this, of course, but magic has been made so guilty of itself that we often cannot name it. Brown hair, an Aries like me, I told the universe, and I knew the moment she became real (although it took a bit to turn blue on a plastic stick). Still, my body knew.

I've been thinking a lot about the idea of legacy and what it means to the flesh.  So much time is spent denying the earthly body in Paganism--or at least disregarding it as the vessel that carries and manipulates legacies.  Long before I understood that there was a divine voice that dictates the great mysteries, I knew that my body had something to say. I remember being enthralled by it as a child: the way sun smells on chlorine-basted skin, how salt dries there like white freckles, how it could balance me in a somersault or hold its breath in that moment before blood appears.  This beating, pulsing, warm and waxing body of mine has held lectures with me on the dangers of smoking too much, drinking too hard, and even empathized with my broken heart by literally forcing my chest to ache.  It was the first sure sign that there was a universal force beyond my bedroom in 1978 when it began to cycle and bleed.  I spent that afternoon staring out the window, the strange scent of copper all around me, in utter astonishment at the wonder of it all.  My mother's legacy was this body of mine, my legacy is the body of an elfish, fire-thrower female child who sprang from my womb, and all of this (I contend) is the profound language act of the Goddess.  Why, she couldn't have said it better.  I am cyclic.  I am love.  I am the Alpha and the Omega.  I am Legacy.

Twenty-five years have tripped by like so many careless fairies and she, my chestnut-haired Legacy and I, are finally chatting on porches and drinking red wine together.  Her struggle to define and shape her womanhood up against so much female history is a testament to the fact that we all need to press our identities into the seal of time.  I have found my separateness from my mother, as we all must, but I also discover her within my fleshly frame daily: the unbearable amount of time it takes for her to tell a story, her gift for smelling a lie, the way her eyes flash green when she is betrayed, and her fondness for waxy lipstick all echo my maternal benefactor.  See, her body told her "create." Mine told me "you have created." My child's body is telling her "you will create something other than flesh." (But, man, you ought to see her art.)  Somewhere there, in this matriarchal conversation is the malleable voice of Legacy--listening is just the hardest part.  

A friend of mine recently reminded me, again, to listen to myself. Now. I'm aware of all the moments I could undo if I had always done so in my life, if I had just listened to what my body told me. Harrowing things that I will not lay upon the memory of any other human. Even so . . .

I am also aware of those things I would have missed if I had not listened, against all rationale and cajoling, if I had resisted those mystical urges of my core. This bag of living I carry would have been much neater, organized and aesthetically pleasing to the mind's eye. Still. Here it is. The results of listening to what my body tells me:

Child One, Two and Three. (AKA Thing One, Two and Three.) Brought into this world screaming-red perfect, despite financial or marital security and before I knew a thing about babies. Don't know nothing 'bout birthin no babies. Never will. It's pure magic. Baby One has my body, and the scent of my skin. Baby Two has my rage and feet. Baby Three? Well. Just ask me after his fifteen-year-old butt walks up and puts his lanky arm around me, all "you're the best mom, eva." Yeah.  Makes me whole.

Cooking. I can whip up some comfort for your bones, but that's the place it comes from in myself. Deep. I have been known to dance and sway, drink and sing, and use my body (in questionable ways) to create everything from grilled cheese to chocolate torte in this chaotic manner. I secretly believe that those who cannot cook cannot dance, either. Or lose themselves in sex until they fly. Or live. Magic is just the five-letter word for living.

Grow a garden. See Cooking.

Have a real friend. Who are those folks who don't kiss the fleshy cheek of a friend? Pull them in close for an embrace regardless of the sweat of June? Say the hard things in order to keep them? Find a physical flaw and celebrate it as if it were art? You know you are my friend if you remember me loving you, hard and physical and in your face. I know how all of you smell. Everything else is redundant.

Keep those who have left the ground alive. This is the real one, folks. Hanging on for dear life to how my father's hands looked, how my grandma patted my mine, how my friend sang when he was two-bottles-of-Jameson-in-deep is how I dig on ancestral acknowledgement. The pain is visceral and real and we must remember, for in the forgetting they are gone. There's no crying in baseball, and there's no pussing out in loving. Hold on to them. Rock their memories against your chest where it bleeds.

A teacher of mine once told me: "if it were easy, everyone would do it." What if it was hard and we all still did? Felt and listened to our bodies, danced like we were bringing on the rain, loved like we were babies? I believe that we are all still convinced that we, unlike those we have lost, will live forever.

Funny, isn't it? The ones that have impacted me the most were those who risked everything for one moment that was real, all of whom are part of the universe now. I suppose, then, that they will inherit the earth every time I say their name. Brian. Grandma. Jim.  Someday, my children will say mine.  I plan to listen.

Southern as I am, we have skipped all around the mulberry bush here and yet, body tells me . . .

The connective tissue that wraps my life to the earth, to those souls whose elixir I have tasted, to those that wrapped their apron strings around my time on this dirt, insists that I listen. Bound to this body am I? Well then.

Blessed Be.

Seba O'KileyComment