Ahhhhh memories. Snowmageddon in Alabama, this week in 1993.
I was 14, and I remember my dad yelling at me because I would not come inside once it started snowing. I had never in my life seen snow like this snow – I was completely fascinated. It was different snow. I swear it was physically different than any snow I’d ever experienced up until that moment in my life.
I remember being out there in the backyard, in the dark, at something like 11:30PM, bundled up and just sitting there letting the snow fall on my face and consciously feeling the snowflakes melt on my skin in a way that connected with my soul. I remember thinking about magic and all these ideas I had that were “sinful” according to the cult I was raised in but that were so beautiful to me and how it WAS magical, even if the biblical God created it.
Like, how could those two things not go together, in my mind? They believed in a “holy ghost” that they willingly allowed to possess them and speak in unknown languages through them that wasn’t supposed to be real unless someone in the immediate vicinity could interpret the message.
First of all, why couldn’t God just give it to them straight, and secondly WHY? That was me from about age 2 until the day I die. WHY? What? Constant curiosity. Constant trying of new things. Constant exploration of self and soul and consciousness and the physical earth. None of it ever made sense to me from a religious aspect. Why couldn’t it all just be signs and magic and the fates and wonder and beauty? I still want to know that – where do people go in their life experiences that makes them forget the magic? The spark? The music…?
And yet, here I am. Deep in the depression and what to others seem to be mere suicidal thoughts when those thoughts are really so much more than that. But, we will visit that notion a bit later on…
I remember the “good” things but I remember the “miserable” things, too. And in reality, they weren’t miserable things to me. No power? That’s fine. We had kerosene heaters and propane gas in a tank outside that I used to pretend was a horse and I couldn’t tell you how many cows I roped that were actually logs I’d stood on end or how many criminals I’d captured by shooting them in the leg with hip shots that were actually soda cans I was shooting with a BB gun. We were warm. It was fine.
I remember not having power because I remember the coolers on the back deck that were buried in the snow with all the cold stuff in them, and I remember my dad being a smart ass and using the BBQ grill with an iron skillet to cook eggs just because it was “a fun new way to grill chicken” even though we had a gas stove. Ha! But I remember being completely unbothered by the lack of power. Why? Because of the time I spent with my dad. I remember my dad building a snowman with me that he named Larry and making a tiny one with me that I named Mo.
Curly never got made (built) because that was my mom’s choice but she never came outside and my dad said that if Curly was being built she had to make him with us or her snowman wouldn’t be magical (without her energy in him), so there was no point building a snowman with no magic in him. My dad was an evangelical deacon and that was the first time I ever heard him mention magic from the perspective a kid would and not from the perspective of evil. My mom said to my dad, “oh, fiddlesticks. Magic is not reality.” I will never forget that. It crushed my soul in some way. What happened to the “magic” that had brought me into her life? Did that not exist anymore, or had it ever existed for her at all? That was heartbreaking to me.
My mom did play the piano, though. And instead of being filled with the sounds of Andy Griffith and Lucille Ball and Perry Mason, I was surrounded by the comforting sounds of old (what I thought at the time were just) Southern hymns like, “It Is Well,” How Great Thou Art,” and “I Surrender All,” and classical “hits” from Pachelbel’s “Canon” and beautiful Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” I adored Beethoven. I adored romantic era classical music. I adored music washing over me. I adored my dad’s voice. I adored singing with him. There was that…and laughter. Not so much my mom because she was busy with needlework and knitting and incessant organizing, but my dad and I were having a ball.
I remember walking in the woods behind where my grandmother’s giant garden always lived in a path he cut out for me in this deep ass snow – we walked to this specific place that he would often visit just to sit and reflect on life in the quiet (and magic) of nature, crossing the frozen and snow filled wet weather stream and climbing over mounds of snow on fallen limbs and logs on the way and me being glad the fae that lived in the holes in the bank had “moved away,” as my grandmother had told me, so that they weren’t blocked inside their little fairy houses and if they were ok (the fae in the holes turned out to be snakes, I later learned when I tried to catch a fairy at the age of 7 and ended up pulling out one of those little grey ring neck snakes that I tried to keep as a pet but that went suspiciously missing overnight, only later to learn that my father had let it go – I was so distraught and depressed by this reality that my grandmother literally told me they’d just moved away or gone on vacation and the snake was protecting their homes…ha!).
I digress – as usual… Anyway, we got to this specific place and my dad and I sat there on a log he had cleared of snow. He proceeded to have this talk with me about my religious beliefs and the difference between that and spirituality. He didn’t yell at me for being a sinner or for not believing in or for questioning the cult (obviously, he never thought of it that way but I always did – even before I understood cultism – it NEVER made sense to me how this was love and freedom). He simply quoted to me for the first time in context two scriptures that have always stuck with me (hey, the literature of the Bible is really rather brilliantly written – it has everything good and terrifying in it).
He explained his thoughts on death and salvation to me and I remember very specifically and vividly him saying to me that it didn’t matter WHAT I believed, really, about religion. What mattered was that there was, in his perception, absolutely life after death because how could there not be? Our souls had to exist before we were born in order for them to enter our bodies, he said, and so we must logically still exist once our bodies died. That made sense to me.
That was the day – maybe two days after the snow had fallen – that he told me that the only real truth was the truth in my heart, and that was always the truth I should follow – and seek out, and sometimes chase in times of great despair. “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” It’s Philippians. Chapter two I think (I’m not looking it up, I’m lazy right now).
And then he told me – at 14 and a fourth years old – something that I remember very clearly but am struggling with since he (since they all) died. “We all die, but we never leave the ones we love. I will always be with you. Our Gods may not have the same name but they are one and the same being – love (which I questioned deeply and still do because the God of the Bible is only rarely ever what I would call “loving” – he has to invent a son before he becomes that, which to me is kind of this whole personification of the experience of growing and learning and becoming better and letting go of who you thought you had to be in order for life and your world to work).
Then he quoted another scripture to me that has been my north node for the past five and half years since his death. “And Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”
I want to believe that they are still here. I used to be so faithful to the idea of spirit and energy that it didn’t matter whether I could see the energy with my eyes in a physical manifestation of itself – it was just there, even if it wasn’t, in some form. Now? I don’t know what I believe anymore. Do I still believe that? Absolutely. Scientifically. I mean, hello, gasses that can’t be seen or smelled but can still kill you. Energetic, invisible death.
But in that sense of spirituality and magic? How does that energy put pennies in my bathtub or place heart shaped rocks and leaves directly in my oath where there should not be rocks or random fallen leaves (like in paved parking lots or on concrete pathways in well manicured city parks? I don’t know. Where do the random smells of bacon cooking or the paper mill or even jasmine and smoke when no one is smoking (Dorie) come from? Where does the audible sound of the piano or a typewriter come from when there are no working typewriters in my house (a couple of broken ones, though) and no one is there but me and I’m not playing the piano?
Are these experiences a mere wishful figment of my imagination? Or are they my people, who are still in some way my people, that have not left me? DO THEY still dwell where I dwell, just in a different dimension?
I want to believe that. I choose to believe that. But sometimes that belief hurts…because when I “feel them there,” it’s not enough. I want to hug them and hold them and say the things I didn’t say to them and apologize for things I did say that I wish I hadn’t said. I want to feel their warmth and hear their breath and their voices. I long to just sit with them for a moment and hold their hands in mine. To sing with them. To laugh with them. To feel the safety and the gratitude of their physical presence. But none of our bodies are safe. They will die. They are literally dying now – and have been from the moment we were born. But what about our souls?
I want to go there. I want to know. So when I say I’m ready for that trip? It’s curiosity and it’s existentialism and it’s wonder and in all of my thoughts about it, that place is so much better than this one. It’s not that I don’t deeply love and want to be around the people I love and call friends and family now. It’s missing the soul connections with those people because the physical gets in the way of that in this society and in this world today. It’s not as magical as it used to be.
Things are no longer filled with so much color and shine – although for a moment they were again, for a recent moment…a moment I sometimes wish I’d never had now because the taste of that and then seeing the mirage that it was…that hurts almost worse than losing my people to death, because maybe, just maybe, they still exist where that never did.
These are the thoughts in my mind tonight – or this morning – at 3:33AM. I know they may sound a little delirious and maybe they are. Are my thoughts any more or less real than my soul? Or are they one and the same? This is why I studied and continue to study human behavior and human cognition and spirituality and philosophy. Because I NEED to know. And one day, I will. But not today – because today things need to be cleaned and washed and taught to the boy. So not today…and I should try again to sleep.