A series of personal reflections from a rowdy priestess
When I decide to leave Los Angeles the dissolution begins in earnest. She has been waiting on the sidelines, behind the curtains, watching me dance: the death mother with her desire too dark to name.
Now I have said yes in full to my surrender.
It has taken me months, maybe years if I am to be honest, to unclench my fingers one by one from the ledge where I rest. I speak in metaphors of course, because it is important for you to understand: where I come from, everything is real and nothing is true.
Or rather: nothing is real and everything is true. It is not for me to decide.
It is not insignificant that my name means she of the summit. Not everyone is suited to mountain life. You must know: I have resisted following the calling of her climb. How long have I stopped to rest? It was a dream that wasn’t mine. It was before me but it found me and so here I am, about to walk off the edge of my life.
I have fully surrendered to my yes but that doesn’t stop the great storms of grief from moving across my internal landscape. I spend the first few days in a waking dream state, watching people and things I love parachute out of my life. I find myself in strange rooms sobbing with relief. One could have regrets, but what would be the point?
All purging is turbulent.
I swallow the desire to run hard into the horizon until I burst into flames. I flap my heavy wings, fumbling, learning how to stretch into their reach. An old friend writes me out of the blue. They do not fully comprehend this search of mine; my searching for the pulse of life. And to be quite honest, neither do I. I only know that her presence has been there all this time: a restless energy that threatens everything precious and fixed.
I answer: death is a critical ingredient of aliveness.
Leave it to the French to bless this craving with a face: l’appel du vide — the call of the void. You might know its glitter in your periphery if you dared to look her way. The echo in your gut, a hiss in the wind — a feeling stirring awake the animal living at the bottom of your being. That one. In my memory body it manifests as light licking the water, gleaming over the deep; ominous and majestic. Preventing me from seeing clearly. Or maybe it’s that I don’t want to see things; maybe it’s that I know underneath lives this thing — a voice ready to betray my safety.
This voice with the texture of honey and a throat full of bees.
The voice isn’t news to me. I’ve felt her coiled in my heart like a snake since I was a young thing: the impulse to free myself completely, whatever that means.
So I become a seed in the wind. I drive down to San Diego to visit a new friend. On the way I stop at the dunes of Coronado Island to stretch my legs and smoke some weed. I find it helps when you’re time-traveling at warp speeds. The marine layer eliminates the harsh glare of the sun save for patches of light that stream through the shimmering haze. I take off my shoes and walk for a long time along the rippling water, following a handsome stranger with curling hair toward a rocky jetty. This is how I move through the world: a lioness with blood on her teeth.
The tide pools fill up and empty.
The waves are teaching me their language. How they curl toward land and the invisible cyclone at the center, calling them back into the deep. Their energy has two directions and each is in perfect relationship with the other. There is no fixed edge here; only an overlap tapering into extremes.
I hold out my hands to say yes I receive.
Messages find me as I forge deeper into the wilderness. I meet the first of many healers who will intercept me in order to illuminate some aspect of this journey. My salvation, the psychic called it. The first is a red dragon woman, tiny and powerful. She offers me a massage over breakfast and I accept. Our connection feels fated. In her small home on the side of a ramshackle hill I lay on the padded table positioned over a pentagram. I can feel the electric currents of energy buzzing up my legs as she adjusts my polarities. I don’t know what this means but I struggle to drive home afterwards, barely tethered to the earth now that a weighty shadow has lifted.
The second invokes the ancient masters over video call. The records are open she declares, channeling answers from nine beings who only wish to be known as the Council. Of all the things they know, what shocks me the most is their entreaty to heal the fear of darkness I had as a child. It will create more space for light and that will support you as you walk into the shadows. I do not ask why this is mine or what it means. With this secret key, I am already unlocking doors long shut in my mind. It speaks to the power of the psyche that what I did not see was right in front of me.
There has always been a place too deep to reach.
My revolution does not have a name but it feels ripe enough to knight her. Even though it is I who kneel before her as supplicant; warrior priestess with my sword sharp enough to slit wide a life.
I watch myself climb through this hole back in time.
Childhood is a crucible that wrings the future from our sacred liquids. We grow up and enter the world before we know how to taste the fruits of our dangerous places. Now that I know what to look for, the dark water dots my consciousness like a trail of clotted blood. I follow it back to the first lake I can remember: Copper Harbor, the metallic land of my ancestors.
Every year we would drive hours north to this old mining town in the upper peninsula of Michigan. There we would visit the ancient graves of the indigenous people, the first humans who conquered this land. Their bodies buried in the sinuous earth forms of a snake, a spoon, a low sloping square. It was here that the lake agates told me to put them in my pockets and take them home, to care for them and so I did; tumbling them to glossy globes that smelled faintly of fish.
Back then I had no word for God.
I didn’t equate this punitive wizard with the immense pressure at the center of everything; this sacred space dwelling within me, taking the shape of a lake. Her waters penetrated me; seeped deep, ran down my veins into the dark cave where no form exists because no light illuminates. Unlike the massive bulk of Lake Superior which swallowed ships whole in bad storms, Copper Harbor was placid and passive, a small puddle in the great woods. It was here that I first learned that fear and awe are intricately connected: that regardless of the light’s presence, darkness always brims at the edge.
You see, the abyss always reflects us.
I am writing the myth backwards, it seems. The further I climb down the hole of time the more clearly I see how contradiction has shaped my universe. Wonder is a mixture of fear and awe both: the recognition of power beyond human scope. The masters laugh at me when I ask How will I hold the everything? Now I know why they say the heart breaks open.
The absurdity is inherent in the answer: no body can hold the agony of something so perfect.
I follow the water to Mexico where I write you a letter sitting on the tiled terraza, wet in the heat, a flower fragrant with delicious venom. When you have transformed your pain it no longer lives in you a poison but a power source. I listen to the magical waters of Lake Bacalar reaching for the shore. So thirsty for more. It is not insignificant that I have traveled many hours to bathe in this freshwater lake, one of the largest in the world; that I’m here alone to adorn myself in the colors of the jungle.
I didn’t know it when I left but it appears I came here to baptize myself in the clear blue, to finally honor the other side of my name: pure one. So I sit on the edge of the long dock admiring the blue night and absorb the sound of her heave, her weep, her breathing. I laugh hard into the darkness. I go swimming in her quivering. Even as she whispers go further, you are not done unfolding.
Such is the lotus opening.
The desire to sacrifice oneself to the endless immensity is both subversive and sacred. It is the true desire of anyone who walks up the mountain or crawls into the sea on their knees. The Russians have a slightly different word for this holy immolation. Translated roughly, тоска means a yearning for something beyond human comprehension; a spiritual anguish born from that which we long for but cannot define.
I have a dream that I’m pulling a long string of wooden beads from my throat: a rosary. Each bead is the size of my fist. It holds an incantation I have imprinted upon the universe, a spell that I’ve cast backwards to seal the holes opened before I knew the scent of a wound bleeding. I am completed when I pull it out for each prayer is a perfect circle fully formed.
If I am profane, so be it. If I am too loud, you will allow me. Whatever is beyond me breathes me, and now I know that is everything.
That is enough.
Katharine Hargreaves is a writer, facilitator, and culture alchemist living and playing in California. A translator of tectonic patterns of transformation, Katharine invents interactive experiences and social rituals for a new humanity. She is the founder of ARKO, a culture lab for human connection and AWAKYN, a card game changing the world one magic moment at a time. Find more of her writing at The Fearless Experiment: a way to evolve your world through adventure or get on her monthly mailing list for raps from a real life wizard.