Or more accurately, a “dry continental climate bordering on a subtropical highland climate.”
Also known as the “high desert,” here ringed with lumbering mountains still tipped with snow. Glimpsing the mountainline is like glimpsing the moon: every time I fall still and silent. Every time is like the first—some things refuse to become familiar, even with repeated viewing.
I have been surprised by how gentle this high desert feels. Even when winds whip up cyclones of dust, even when rain is visiting in sheets, I sense an underlying calm. The sheer number of sunny days seems to create a comforting regularity, an inner knowing that everything will soon return to baseline. Everything will return to blue.
In the register of sky-blue days, I would like to name the past two as some of the bluest, goldenist, crispest, and sweetest to ever visit planet earth. When I most needed a rest, the weekend blossomed into a cloudless bastion of warm hues and sharp shadows. Curled in a chair outside, I remembered how much my skin likes the sun, and perhaps even the sun likes my skin. It left a mark—and in the suddenly odd-looking light of the bathroom mirror, I find I have grown a shade darker. Or perhaps just shed a winter skin, revealing the summer child waiting within.
Also with seeming suddenness, the evenings are not so cold. I can remain in my favorite perch on the patio, watching the sun sink away behind the northwest wall (rudely ignoring my petitions to please stay a bit longer), until I am sitting under the authority of the constellation Cepheus. Then the moon swims higher and higher from the east: and I fall still and silent.
These are of course strange times in which to be the inhabitant of a female body.
It seems I went to sleep one day, and woke up the next in a world that had pre-labeled me a bigot (for believing in same-sex spaces), cissexist (for speaking about my body without a string of qualifiers), and maybe a host of other nefarious things like femmephobic, transmisogynist, TERF-y, SWERF-y, and sex negative (if I could figure out precisely what these mean).
Like most women, I have never been accused of holding so much power, and the allegation is dizzying. It seems we small, endangered species of radical feminists — who live mostly on the fringes of society without resources or recognition — somehow hold the fate and wellbeing of all trans individuals in our hands. The men who actually harass, threaten, and physically attack the vulnerable are not the focus, only we women who “violently misgender” in our heads, and are “irrationally” concerned about penises entering our restrooms and changing rooms.
In this brave new world physical sex is a dowdy construction, and gender an innate, liberatory force, too vast and meaningful to ever be bothered with defining itself. (A neat inversion of the traditional feminist theory of sex and gender.) Also overnight conservatives became sort of concerned about male violence (so long as it occurs in public), sexuality turned into a bewildering and yet definitive catalogue of preferences, and everyone who ever spent an hour on tumblr was rendered an avowed expert on feminist theory.
In this world that is increasingly a simulacrum of meanings “without origin or reality” I find refuge, as always, in the words of women. Through ages of assault and erasure, women have patiently, fastidiously woven and rewoven the stories of our lives. Whether we are accused of colluding with the devil or “sex essentialism,” whether the going word is witch or bitch or SWERF, the cord of this lineage is forever wavering and yet unbroken. Buoyant in the web of women’s words, I am reminded feminist writing is always the most lucid, most evocative, most discomfiting, most thoughtful, most raw, most honest, and most hilarious.
And last night, somewhere in my orbit through the interweb, I found this heroine standing in the halo of her own courage:
I fell asleep with her words a tangle around my head, haunted by the verses:
Because that part of me that is a wild and free woman has gone. And that was my assumption, that it was still here somewhere, just hiding out of sight, ready to come back in and save us all. No, that assumption is wrong because that thing is successfully destroyed. Dead and rotted. No fairytale endings here, just the crows to pluck and the wind to suck.
And so I considered the parameters of my own domestication. I found within myself the “wild and free woman” is still here, if underfed and hoarse from shouting. But she does not live alone, for out of my own consciousness patriarchy has crafted a watchman for her, who is large and cruel and always awake. And questioning if I am the wild woman or her keeper anymore, I know only one is never far from the other.
It is no coincidence that the response to radical feminist theory is not a different theory, not an invigorating debate or a fresh exploration of words and possibilities. For there is no need to engage women when it is so much easier to silence them. These silencing tactics have been perfected over thousands of years: the biggest threaten death and rape, and then a million smaller voices suggest we are overreacting, mistaken and confused, and (ultimate horror) hurtful and selfish. At these words the watcher in my head grows fat and satisfied. No further pressure need be applied: I will continue to silence myself with murderous fervor, provided the alternative is to be the horror of a publicly ridiculed woman, not womanly at all in her grotesque need to speak and the insistence that her unpleasant truths be heard.
Except it doesn’t always work that way: I find the web of women’s words has just the necessary nutrients to feed my wild woman and soothe her throat. Word by word, thread by thread, I learn the pattern and join in the creation of my own liberation.
It is a given I will never feel safe in this world, not for a day or even an hour. And I will never fully grasp the death machine of patriarchy, even while I struggle to subsist within it. Still somewhere there is always another woman, weaving the words, retelling the story, embedding her laugh into the thread, reimagining the pattern. We have no land of our own, no publishing houses or governments, perhaps no longer any spaces we can claim as our own. But somehow this planet is still my home, because somewhere there is always another woman, likely crazed and bruised, hopefully well fed and fierce, but regardless retelling our story, patiently reweaving the threads that become bloodied but never broken.
I made my first margarita yesterday. Yes, do add equal parts tequila to orange liqueur. And damn, tequila is strong stuff. Also it comes in a very large bottle, so this is a relatively cost-effective drink. Except the limes. Unless one is bequeathed with a lime tree, there is a substantial citrus investment.
It was something of an Ideal Day as the sun was … sunny, and the sky … blue, and these might not sound like unusual circumstances, but it was somehow just the right quantities of warmth and humidity and breeze and goldenness to make me wish the daytime would never end. Though it ended ideally too, in deep blue tones and one particularly pointed star. It was the first night not too chilly to be out, so I sat on the patio with my margarita and said nice things to the moon.
Did taxes. Confirmed feelings toward government. Discovered rainwater coming into apartment. Contacted property manager, who sent brusque and noncommittal messages before abruptly ceasing communication. Confirmed feelings concerning property manager. Went to Bernie Sanders organizing meeting, where two men enjoyed sounding outraged and superior over points they disagreed with. Confirmed feelings about men. Discovered the crab apple tree outside apartment is blooming. Confirmed knowledge that plants are the smartest creatures on the planet.
Capitalism has destroyed our belief in any effective power but that of self interest backed by force.
George Bernard Shaw
I feel those words resonant at the top of the spine, the area headaches tend to grow. I see the mountains decapitated by coal companies and the loaded gun cabinets of frightened men, and again drop into a cold void contemplating the last breaths of Sandra Bland in a cell patriarchy built. Every day it seems the self interest of a small set of men deadens the life force of all that is holy on this planet. My own feet, inclined to dance, feel clumsy and disoriented at each headline.
Yet I know all movement is no more or less than photons stirring, energy recycling through space. Nuclear fusion makes sunlight and the hydrogen bomb. Sharpened blades can cut heirloom lettuce just as easily as skin. And despite the scars covering every inch of my own heart, I continue to know the expressions of energy are infinite and not fixed. This is the alchemy of human existence: not an abstract “free will,” but the endless direction of anima.
However stupidly the energy is funneled in the monstrous, deadening tunnels of this society, there always remains the possibility of redirection.
The last time there was a strong wind I saw a tent collapse, and perhaps that same current of air passed through Sandra Bland when she raised her voice to a white man on the side of a remote highway in Texas. Yes, I worship at the church of the effective power of women. Because everywhere I hear them shout and sing, energy is transformed again, snatched from the cyclones of death and redirected toward our liberation.
Collective interest backed by force: that is the west wind I cast my prayers onto, knowing long after me another woman will stop in that gale and say her own name.
Image: Robert Thornton, The Night-Blowing Cereus, Temple of Flora, Plate 14, 1799 – 1807, via Abraxas Journal
It is remarkably easy to make the content of dreams conform to expectation … formulate a statement of intent … try visualizing a scene or image as you fall asleep.
It made me laugh a little, for the few times I have tried to gently prod my dreams in a particular direction, they ran of shrieking the other way. I find it interesting this method works for some, yet ceased desiring it long ago.
The other-consciousness has so little space and voice in our modern waking lives, complete abandonment in sleep seems a small and suitable offering.
I could again place my un(tamed)conscious at the beginning of a particular path and ask her to walk, but the moment my mind surrenders to sleep she would dart up the nearest tree and throw coconuts at my head, then unbind her hair and thrash through the underbrush singing bards and growling.
I can only wake up some hours later and groggily catalogue her sojourn, forever amazed at how much she can accomplish in a single morning.
But I will never again try to direct her steps, as the metaculture constantly realigns mine during waking life. I will make no -ology of the void, or topographic map of the womb, or extraction plan for a wilderness that does quite well without interference. It has never asked of me understanding, only reverence.
An unsuccessful visit to the Genie Bar. My brilliant and impassioned speech about the injustices I have endured—delivered to the floor manager—may have been more effective if I had not temporarily choked on tears and had to stop speaking.
Some consolation that after the floor manager went back to wherever floor managers go, the Genie Man conceded I was right. They are shipping my laptop to an unknown location, the cord is in shreds, Apple is evil, and the floor manager is a mean man, but I am right.
I will carry this knowledge with me to the grave, likely with one million frayed Apple cords.
* Note I do not believe in purgatory, nor do I believe in Apple, but this is a post on genies and liars.