Dispatches from the Underground #1

Welcome, readers, to your very first Dispatches from the Underground. Toward the end of each week, I’ll be bringing you a chaotic collection of short observations, opinions, insights, total garbage, and most often some combination thereof — in much the same manner and covering much the same ground as is familiar to readers of The Wizard of Monadnock.

Let’s start with something light and obvious, like how much the month of February absolutely sucks. I’m not even sure which complaint to begin with. We’re two full weeks into the month of March and every single day at least once I am consciously thankful that February is gone.

I’ve lived in New England my entire life, but it’s obvious my blood is not of this climate. I’m pretty good with will power, and I can steel myself ahead of time against the winter, for survival purposes, to ensure I don’t mind too much, that I’m not too mad for three or four (or five) whole months of the year. I choose to do this at least once every other year, but even in the years when I do, I’m out of steam by February. There’s like no animals — except this weird bobcat creature we saw — the novelty of snow is long gone, even in a year that didn’t see a super high amount of snow. The cold is lingering like a festering disease over the land. The vitamin D supplements are just barely cutting it anymore.

Look, talk to me all you want about how the leaves go to sleep but the damn roots do their work in the wintertime, I mean, that’s great and I totally get it conceptually — and I’ve spent this winter DOING roots stuff — but by February, if you want to insist on this kind of outlook, I am likely to swear at you.

Stop pretending, February sucks. It’s demoralizing — and yet it’s also when you start getting those little hints of what’s to come. Most of it is in the sun. We remember now how warm it can be.

It’s good that it’s March.

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I tend to make good use of my weekends, generally, because I like to have a good time, but last weekend was extra fun. Since my sister is SKIPPING HER NEPHEW’S 5TH BIRTHDAY PARTY this coming weekend, she decided to take us all down to Westford, Mass to this butterfly place that’s actually just called The Butterfly Place. It’s exactly what it sounds like — a big greenhouse-type room filled with hundreds of butterflies.

DiLoreto photo. Sometimes the signs are just clear.

They also play like ambient flute music in there. It’s very serene — certainly for us and presumably for the butterflies, although they do have a lot of signage regarding butterflies trying to escape, so maybe that’s an open question. Beyond the serenity and the very simple joy at being in this place (this Butterfly Place), a couple other big things came to mind.

First off, the prettiest butterflies were huge and they had this wonderful blue-blue…well I want to use the word “plumage”, but that’s obviously not right. The point is that their giant wings were a very vibrant and attractive blue color. Then there were these other, creepy butterflies that sat everywhere on trees, with their great big wings closed. The wings were brown and they had these deeply disturbing markings on them that looked like lidless, forlorn eyes. It was enough to make you uncomfortable if you looked at them or thought about them for too long.

DiLoreto photo.

At one point, one of them landed on Kellie’s arm and basically refused to leave. This posed a slight conundrum given that you aren’t supposed to touch the butterflies — in fact, they reserve the right to kick you out for such an egregious infraction. “If one lands on you, just let it fly off on its own,” they said. But what if it doesn’t want to fly off? They hadn’t prepared us for this.

In any case, though, the punchline is that, when the creepy butterfly opened its wings (at my, uh, subtle encouragement), we learned that the creepy butterflies are actually the beautiful butterflies. It’s just that you generally only see one side of their wings or the other. When they fly, you see the blue. When they land, you see the lidless eyes of Death. There must be some kind of lesson here, I’m sure of it.

DiLoreto photo

The other thing I was reminded of was Grant Morrison. Very early on in The Invisibles (don’t even get me started, just read it immediately and prepare for your entire world to change), perhaps even in the first episode, one of his characters says something about how humans are just absolutely consuming everything in sight in like a horribly disgusting orgy of, well, destructive consumption that’s just wildly out of whack with anything else in the environment or ecosystem. The only other known example of such behavior, the character said, is the caterpillar — who consumes everything in sight just prior to its metamorphosis. I think about this line sometimes when I run out of hope for people and for our future. Maybe we’re doomed. Maybe it’s all over — maybe in our lifetimes or our children’s lifetimes or their children’s. Maybe it really is all that bleak.

Or maybe it’s the other way. Maybe we’re just preparing for the next thing.

Bringing this up is questionable because I know I can’t say much about it, but I’m doing this really crazy thing for Lent. It’s not a sacrifice thing and it’s only partially a Christian thing. It’s like 1/8 Christian. The point is that it’s intense — designed to get myself right as rain in a spiritual sense (which, after all, I mean, what is Lent for if not that?) and also to prepare things personally and even beyond that for some of the tricky shit likely in store for us a couple months from now.

(If you haven’t heard, 2019 is gonna be a crazy year. A crazy year in a time of crazy years. Buckle up, friends.)

Anyway, sorry (not sorry) for the tease — I think I’ll share more as things progress — but the point is that even at this early stage, even though I’ve screwed up my routine on more days than I’ve held to it, I already know that by the end of it the transformative and protective and perhaps even creative energy is gonna be game changing.

*

Interestingly, I recently completed the audiobook of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. It was an enjoyable experience, particularly because it was narrated by the author himself. So I really wanted to like it more than I did.

It’s not Neil’s fault; I’m a big fan. What I found, though, was this weird inability to connect in any way with these myths. And for those of you less familiar with me, I’m a lover of myth. I actually think this goes back to the same root cause as my fundamental discomfort with winter and cold. Much as I sometimes want to imagine myself as a Man of the North (which mainly happens when I watch Game of Thrones, which is a lot), I’m a Mediterranean, through and through. The stories of these snow-people are just fucking weird to my inner soul, perhaps to my DNA. I even like the idea of them, I just can’t understand for the life of me what this deified world is really all about and what in the absolute hell is motivating any of these beings to do basically any of the things that they do.

I just don’t get it. (Wikipedia)

Perhaps that’s the point, and it’s not entirely lost on me — but for now I’m headed back to southern Europe or perhaps further afield, mythologically speaking.

Something new to me — I’ve begun experimenting with the Rider-Waite tarot deck. I take great amusement in the fact that the classic deck is so utterly foreign to me after over a decade of reading cards at this point. Insanely, way back then, I chose to go with Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck and I’ve scarcely ever touched another. This should not have worked, but it really did and has. I absolutely adore the Thoth deck and have built deep connections with many or most of those cards that I can’t even begin to explain with words.

DiLoreto photo.

Why mix things up, then? Why mess with a thing that’s working?

Fair questions.

On the one hand, I’m not actually messing with anything — my weekly readings will still be conducted using the Thoth deck. But I do honestly feel remiss to have spent all this time doing tarot and remaining so ignorant of the classic basic forms. On top of that, I absolutely adore the art. It’s not as psychedelic (or nightmarish, take your pick) as Thoth, but the images hit so deeply with volumes behind them. What’s interesting that I’ve found so far is that at least according to the (kinda crappy) guide I’m using, there seems to be VERY little overlap in meaning between the corresponding cards in each deck. That’s fine, but what I expected to be the learning of a new style is really a lot more like learning a new language altogether.

It’s fun, though! And toward that end, I’ve begun doing a three-card daily spread each morning, and then teaching myself what it means. If you’re interested, you can follow me on Instagram — I’ve been posting the daily spread most days in my stories.

Whether you know it or not, you are in a two-way relationship with the world. The world bears and abides all things — you included, not always an easy task (or so I imagine). You get this forbearance from the planet — and what do you give in return? I’m not talking about recycling or kindness. Try to think a little deeper than that. You’ve got the fuel deep within you fueling the fire of your will and all before you is there to seize in a great embrace — among other things. Think about the forces and factors that stand behind you, backing you, feeding you. I hope so, for your sake — and likely, there are at least some.

Keep this in the back of your mind for a couple days and see what a difference it makes.

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Christopher J. DiLoreto

Christopher J. DiLoreto

The Wizard of Monadnock. Parent, UU, mystic, presider of celebrations.

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