Whenever I visit a new place, there’s a protocol I have to follow. I always feel tremendously unsettled until I make offerings to the city spirit, the genius loci. If the flight has been a rough one, as long plane trips generally are for me, it can take me a day or so to fulfill this part of my working etiquette.
When I arrived in Eugene, I was uncomfortable and agitated until after breakfast the following day. I did a bit of quick divination and realized that a large part of my unease was that I’d not honored the spirits of the place yet so I immediately set out to remedy that. I poured out offerings to the spirit of Eugene but didn’t feel quite as though I was finished. There’s always the question of where to make offerings and for me, certain sites tend to resonate most strongly: any site connected with the military dead and, generally, cemeteries.
My husband lived in Eugene for many years and took me first and foremost after that to a memorial to honor those incarcerated in Japanese internment camps during WWII.
There were paving stones honoring individuals, and also soldiers and specific regiments. I gave offerings of tobacco and prayer there.
I also cleaned up some trash that someone had left. It makes me angry to see memorial sites desecrated. I think there should be more respect for our dead.
Later on that day we visited one of the local cemeteries. It was beautiful and serene and I was able to make offerings to the local dead (and to Hermes). The moment I poured out offerings to the dead in Eugene, I found myself feeling far more rooted and I was able to prepare myself for the weekend’s retreat ahead.
This year I wanted to give my mom something special on the anniversary of her death. My friend Neve, who has a powerful gift for creating ritual flower arrangements, offered to do something for my mom. It felt right, especially as Mutti always loved flowers, was an avid gardener, and too great pleasure in the peace and beauty of her garden.
I arranged things with Neve, who took the resulting bouquet to the Pacific shore (also appropriate, as my mom adored Big Sur). This evening I heard from my friend, who sent me an account of the small ritual he did, and some gorgeous pictures, of the bouquet offering, the spot where the rite was done, and a cavernous passage through which he passed to find exactly the right spot to honor my mom.
“This morning I arranged a bouquet, transcribed your letter and took a train to the ocean, and walked the beach looking for the right place. I walked the entire length of Ocean beach until I reached the cliffs north of the beach. I had a strange feeling of being pushed further, challenged in a way, to climb way out into the cliffs, through a tunnel, and out to a ledge that I might usually be too cautious or afraid to go to. The whole procession I sang a little hymn I composed…
On the cliff, I lit a candle and sang the hymn three times. As I sang I felt sort of frenzied but also terrified. The ocean began roaring and the waves were crashing intensely. I prayed to Hermes in his role as messenger and to Flora as the mother of flowers and asked them to bring the flowers to your Mutti on your behalf. I poured out offerings to them. At this point the waves reached a height of frenzy and I felt the presence of the Gods, and also a motherly presence, who I believe was hers. I threw the bouquet from the cliff and a wave reached up, tore it apart in mid air, and the flowers disappeared into the water. Then everything was calm. I felt a deep sense of peace and gratitude. The waves stopped for a moment and I left, singing the hymn again, slightly changed to offer thanks as I went through the tunnel.”
With the offering, I sent a prayer:
I miss you every day. My life has shifted again like sands under a tumultuous wave and every day I worry that I am losing the things you have taught me, that I am moving farther away from the daughter I was to you. I worry that the best parts of me followed you to the grave and ironically even as I feel separate, I know that each day brings me closer to reunion with you too. We did not have enough time. We could never have had enough time and yet, I am so very grateful for you, my miracle mother, and so very grateful for the corporeal time we were given, and so very grateful for the choices you made even if they scoured my soul raw in the end.
I wish you were here now in the flesh to see the person that I’ve become. I am a jumbled mess at times but the palace of my mind has opened its doors to places and things, ideas and insights in a way that never could have happened before your care. Because of you I can say “ich bin gut gebildet” and know it to be true. Because of you I did not wither away in agony more than a decade ago. You gave me the only life that truly counts, even if it was not one of your body.
Oh I am so tired, Mutti, so very tired and yet at last I feel I can begin picking up the broken pieces of me, knitting myself together with the remembrance of you, and moving forward. There is so much left to do. I must learn to love the Gods again—it was so hard to let it lie that you were gone. You are still my marker, my example for all that is good and right and proper in this world. I wish to be the kind of person that you would respect, always, and I often worry I am falling short.
Yet I feel your care like a warm comforter wrapping around me, ever and always and still you pour gifts into my hands. I know how deeply I am loved even now, especially now. You have become a most holy sancta to so many people in our community and while I know you are probably appalled by the whole thing, I think it only right and just. Your time in the world, as hard as it was for you did not go unnoticed. You brought sustenance of the spirit to so many and you continue to do that now. I’m proud to say that you are my mother. even if sometimes it seems obscene that the world spins merrily on without you in it. How dare it exist when you do not? I wish that I had gone into full mourning for you instead of pushing through. It has helped me to mark passage in such ways because every day I feel your absence. I do not know how I survived when you were gone. I’m not quite sure how I am still here.
I love you, Mutti, auf Zeit und Ewigkeit. I could write a book of longing and sorrow, joy in remembrance of things shared, and all things that I would have shared like a child holding out its first drawing had you still be enfleshed when they occurred. I know that you know these things already. Instead I will only say that I hope you have a measure of peace dearly bought and dearly earned with Loki and Sigyn. I hope you are whole and healthy and happy. I wish for you joy, oh my miracle mother. I wish for you contentment.
I love you so much, it flows through the veins of my heart and soul like blood: I love you I love you I love you. that is all I want to say. I am so grateful to all the Gods for bringing us together and I love you. My friend Neve offered to make this beautiful arrangement — a blessing gift, something beautiful and holy for you — and I hope they adorn your world and bring you delight. I know you loved flowers and they remind me so of you and of Sigyn. Know that I am well and safe and know that every day I still feel how deeply, eternally I am loved by you. Thank you, my mother. oh thank you.
On this day of your death, I send this forth.
(All photos by Neve)
Today is the anniversary of my adopted mom’s death. I will be writing more about this in the evening, but I wanted to share this for her now. Someone contacted my friend Raven Kaldera and commissioned him to write a poem about my mom, as a gift to me. I am very grateful and can think of no one more worthy to be memorialized with the gift and grace of poetry. This woman, unassuming as she may have seemed, was a powerhouse and she transformed my world, sustaining me, teaching me, and giving me life as only a mother could. i am so profoundly grateful for the time we had together. Ich habe dich unendlich gern, Mutti, auf Zeit und Ewigkeit.
Loki’s Pride, Sigyn’s Joy
by Raven Kaldera
(Dedicated to Fuensanta Plaza, as a gift for her daughter Galina.)
Daughter of dwarven delving,
Granddaughter of gleaming gold,
Linked to the Old World and the New,
Stern-eyed ascetic one moment,
Drunk and laughing the next,
No child of your body
But an ancestress of many,
Mystic prostrate before many Gods
Who advised us all on cleaning products,
The riddle that was you
Wove in and out of our lives
Like the brisk salt wind from the sea
Cutting through the fog of everyday life.
Daughter of fire and endurance,
You were the first to hold the bowl
For the grieving goddess,
The second to hail the Waves
By name and by number,
The third I knew who’d seen Flame-Hair
In his hungriest, neediest form.
No one would have guessed you for
A devotee of the trickster,
Yet the quiet changes you made
To the lives of those you touched
Witness a deft hand and a deft word
Worthy of his sharp-eyed subtlety.
Child of breaking and mending,
Your equally sharp eyes saw flaws
And cracks in the faces of many,
And sometimes you stepped forth to mend
In the way that you knew best,
A not-faery godmother with a magic wand
Made of gold, and sometimes you simply
Raised an eyebrow and a scorching word.
You’d earned the freedom and the right
To do as you pleased, when you pleased,
And no longer needed to prove
Anything to anyone, Lady Putztoefel.
May we all remember that courage,
All the way to the bitter end,
Which you chose, thoughtfully
And with careful consideration,
Leaving little to chance or fate.
You were an iron anchor of belief,
And you would have died for all
You believed in, passionately.
Yours was a belief as strong
As that of a woman who could sit
With her beloved for a thousand years,
Watch his torment, and never think
Of leaving that dark, dank cave.
May we all remember that courage
When we are pelted with public opinion,
Like an iron bowl that can withstand
A thousand years of dripping venom.
May we remember how little you allowed
The cries of fools to sway your decisions,
And may we be inspired to hold our lines
And quietly honor what it is ours to honor
In spite of all the noises of the world.