Earlier (yesterday now–I had something come up in the last five hours that I wasn’t expecting which delayed this post), I alluded to making the present post.
Remember this post from a few months ago? Prepare for something similar.
Much of my Saturday–the last day of the month of November of 2013–was spent dwelling in and dealing with aspects of “the past” for me. The morning was a kind of recent past, specifically the period of late June 2007 to the first few days of January 2010; and then the evening was spent with a more distant past, as I met up with a friend from high school who I only see every couple of years, who was in town for Bithynia Day and asked last-minute if she and her husband might come and visit me. Of course I said yes, and so we had drinks (and I actually had an alcoholic one!), food, and donuts for the last four hours or so, and good conversation about the past, present, and future, and the many people who intersect those dimensions of time in our various lives.
But, it’s to the more recent past earlier today that I shall turn for the remainder of this post. The period to which I’m referring is the time that I spent living in the library of Erynn Rowan Laurie, who as most of you know is a fili and geilt in the Celtic Reconstructionist traditions, as well as being the first Luperca and a Mystes of Antinous in the Ekklesía Antínoou, and the only other person (to my knowledge at present) who has written about experiences within the Ekklesía Antínoou and had them published. She is a good and dear friend, colleague, co-religionist, and quite honestly, if it weren’t for her, I might not be alive today.
For that period from late June of 2007 to the first few days of January of 2010, I had no home apart from what she allowed me to live in (rent-free, I might add), which was her spare bedroom/library. I occupied that space and filled it with even more books, which eventually spilled out into the hall, and then also eventually took over almost her entire garage with my things from a storage unit. In return for my advice, knowledge, and research capabilities, and some direct help on certain projects, I would have the privilege of her good company, her hospitality, and her various resources. While the first time we met (in October of 2005) was a meeting in which we hit it off immediately, I had never expected that when that first meeting happened, I’d eventually be living under the same roof as her. I also didn’t expect that I’d be staying there as long as I did–I was thinking six months tops, but because jobs did not come about that would allow me to afford my own place, my stay persisted longer than I think either of us would have preferred. When I got the short-term job in Michigan, I moved everything into a storage unit that I didn’t take with me, and when it ended a few months later, I moved back and have been living in non-ideal conditions with family members ever since. (Again, I hoped it would be temporary, but full-time work that pays well enough for me to be able to afford rent has been entirely elusive at this stage…but let’s not dwell on that too much for now, shall we?) I have seen Erynn many times since then, and have enjoyed her hospitality for shorter stints when I’ve been in the Seattle area.
We remain good friends on a huge variety of levels, and I suspect this will continue in innumerable ways until whichever one of us happens to croak first goes for the bucket-field-goal-kick that lands either of us in the respective afterlife we have attained…no, I take that back: I don’t suspect this will continue, I know it will. It’s as simple as that. Even though I’ve only known Erynn since 2005, she is probably one of the very best friends that I have at present, and will remain so as long as I have anything to say or do about it.
Due to various health difficulties, she can no longer live where she did, and rather than resigning herself to a life of non-optimal adjustments under those circumstances, she has decided to make a new life for herself and some new adventures in Italy. Thus, she has been spending the majority of the last six months (and more) preparing for a move, that became final in its planning in early October.
Today, she had a garage sale of some last household items (mostly) that she is not taking with her, and so myself, and a few other friends of ours, came over to help her with that, as well as buy things. She wrote a bit about preparing for that here (and you should check out that new blog generally, as it details all of the specifics of why she’s moving and the whole process of doing so, as well as its plans as a continuous record of her adjustment process once she’s over there).
I said to her several times during this process that, if I had the space (i.e. my own place to live) and/or the money, I’d just say “I’ll take all of it.” While it breaks my heart that she is leaving and will no longer be a few bus rides (or a shorter car ride) away from where I am now, it also broke my heart to know that a home that she built and loved, and everything in it, is now being scattered to the four winds. As animists and polytheists, we’re apt to love physical things a great deal more than many others, I suspect (the anti-materialism that some modern pagans have is entirely from new age and Christian influences, for reasons I’d prefer not to digress on at present), and I could look at almost every item being sold today as something that has a story behind it for me; I can’t imagine how much more so this is for Erynn, who had many of these things around for much longer. And, yet, I was also surprised by how many things there were around that I had literally never seen before…but those, too, had stories that I might never know, and that their future owners might not ever know either.
Let me tell you how important Erynn’s house has been to me. One of the first things I wrote that went out to a larger community than strictly Antinoan folks in modern paganism, way back in April of 2006, was a piece on syncretism at WitchVox, which used her house’s decor style as a visual/physical representation of syncretism. As I’m somewhat known for having a rather advanced theoretical-practical knowledge and theology of syncretism now, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have started down that path and writing about it publicly had it not been for some direct inspiration as a result of having visited Erynn’s house several times before I lived there!
I came away from the time we spent together today with a much greater number of items than I ever expected, because some of them I just couldn’t bear going away elsewhere where they may not be appreciated as much as I think they deserve, or because of the ways that they helped and enhanced my life when I lived with Erynn, and at other times as well. As one example among many, she had a large metal salad bowl, which on many occasions became a bowl that we used as a water basin in rituals on Foundation Day to represent the Nile river. As I did one of many sweeps over the items present to see if there was anything that I could not bear to see go elsewhere, I looked at it, saw that it was $1, and said, “I shall take the bowl that is the Nile,” and we had a laugh about how that works on so many levels (including how it could be parsed as “the bull that is the Nile,” which has a variety of meanings, too!). Every time I look at it, it will be “the bowl that is the Nile,” and I suspect it will get used for that very purpose on many occasions in the future (it wasn’t at this most recent Foundation Day, but I honestly missed it!).
I have also come away with two sets of shelves–not as many as I’d have liked to take, but all that I have room for at the moment–which once held some of her books, and will likely be holding mine for however much longer I’m in my present location, and at the next future one as well.
I admit, part of this was just a further excuse of helping a dear friend by paying her to take away some things that she doesn’t need or want any longer (as it was with some of the books she sold earlier this year); and very definitely, part of it feels like a necessity due to the significance (whether ritual or not) of some objects for me that were a part of my life during that period; and, of course, there’s just the “memento” or “souvenir” aspect of it, too; but, another part of it feels like a wish for continuity, that when one day these are a part of my household objects in my own apartment, it will be a carrying on in a direct physical way of the “House of Poets” that she maintained there for many years, including the years I lived happily under her hospitality. I feel a need for that sort of continuity even more now, as if it is a kind of wish that I hope comes to reality soon–that just as she is entering another phase of her life in another country and is leaving everything behind, that likewise by being a person who takes some of those things, it will be a beginning of a new phase for me, too, of my own life out on my own in some other place (with a job!). There are further magical reasons that I acquired some items, which I hope to put into practice in the coming hours initially…
I will see her again in a week before she leaves, and will see her again likewise in a few months when she comes back to Seattle for a visit, to gather some last things from storage, and to get her dog Chris to take back with her once she has a place of her own in Italy. And, she’ll be back to visit for PantheaCon and probably at least one Seattle visit yearly in perpetuity, most likely. This is very definitely not the end (even independent of the almost instant contact we can make across thousands of miles these days via technologies like the one you’re enjoying presently!).
And yet, with some of these final material objects being dispersed, it is the dissolution of something that was much greater than any of these objects can encompass in themselves. We will very definitely miss her physical presence and all of the wonderful things that she brought to innumerable local communities and individuals by being as engaging, intelligent, insightful, sensitive, proactive, fierce, creative, fervent, and in every respect beautiful as she was able to do in all of her years here, most certainly; but, for me, as a CR practitioner, and for one that has the specific physical history that I do with her and with where she lived, it’s also like watching the last true bruiden, “hostel” (i.e. a place where hospitality is provided) be burned to the ground and a passing of the old order, at least for the foreseeable future, in the Seattle area. And this is a tragedy almost equal to the lack of her presence that we shall endure in the future here: it wasn’t just the house that she kept, it was how she kept it and what ideals she brought to life in doing so that not only made it special, but likewise the way she kept it made her special in a further way…
So, I cannot allow this series of events, as her presence there dwindles over the next week, and her physical presence in our region as a resident ends soon after, to pass without some reckoning of it, and praise of it in the way that filidecht not only knows, but requires in a situation such as this.
A Splendid House
There is a library I once knew
in a house–a hostel, if I speak true–
maintained by the prominent poetess
who honored Brigit the goddess.
Ever a friend to the ones in need
with black Garuda, once, as her steed,
Ganesha protected her journeys far
with other spirits on windshield of car.
But the lady above her hearth’s mantle
was Saraswati, learning’s candle;
and Seshat of Egypt and Thoth Twice-Great
stood over the desk where she wrote and ate.
Suibhne the hero was much like her,
though she made her home not in oak nor fir;
in truth, she was much like Neith as well
for whom lamps burn as her own lamps sell.
In her library Antinous was enshrined
when circumstance placed me in a bind;
it was an altar in that location
which became the idea of The Bus Station.
In the library was a scholar-poet’s bed
where e slept, and not-slept, and cleared eir head,
and, a few times, fucked, and wrote, and prayed
and for two and a half years safely stayed.
The end of the hall was Airmed’s place
where candles burned away disgrace
for healing and for insight’s gift
amidst the world’s tumults and shifts.
A chamber for incubation she also made
where dream-shadows for poetry played,
and gods aplenty shared her room
through nights of difficulty’s gloom.
The feasts of gods in kitchen was cooked,
and what words were written were found all booked,
and in fire burned offerings on vigil nights
when tales were told of past heroes’ mights.
Erynn’s was a splendid house; sad
her parting, and those left not glad–
I shall remember all the joys my life through
I had there in the library I once knew.