I have recently moved into the isolated cabin in the New Mexico woods that my father built as a prayer cabin when he was alive. It had been rented out for decades, but just as I was winding up my seven years traveling full time, it became available, and I was able to make it my own sacred home. Miracles find me daily here. (Granted I see miracles where most people see mundanity, but I still contend that they are miracles, as all of life is a miracle we can’t begin to comprehend or explain.)
Today, I had two magical visitors. One was a rainbow that literally bit my Isis and Osiris candle holders in the butt. I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from, but I thought it was beautiful, so I took a pic of it. Just after I snapped the pic, my amiga Joyce’s Wycoff’s incredible masterpiece, Corona Wisdom, which melds stunning visual art with gorgeous writings surrounding the pandemic, came in the mail. I’d known it was coming and was eagerly awaiting its arrival, as Joyce had written me and asked for my address so she could send it. What I didn’t know is that I was included in its pages.
Joyce took this photo of me when I was teaching at the San Miguel Writer’s Conference in 2017 and then turned it into a goddess-y work of art. I love that she paired it with this Brian Adreas quote. He is one of my favorite writers/artists ever, and this is my favorite poem of his. I am deeply honored to be included in the pages of this masterpiece at all, and am especially honored to have my image enmeshed with such exquisite, empowering words.
When my mom visited me this afternoon, we sat on the bench in front of my house and leafed through the stunning pages of the book. (Buy it, kids. It’s a revelation. I mean that.) She was wowed by the photo of me and commented that Joyce had turned me into Medusa. No one (including my mom) really knows this, but in my heart, Medusa has been the primary symbol of my growth and transformation during the past year. Myths speak deeply to me, and I often find that a mythological figure will start showing up in my life at every turn when it has something to teach me. Medusa taught me about embracing my anger, a gift from the divine meant to let me know when my soul was being violated. She also gave me permission to take action to protect myself when necessary, even if it made me “not-nice.” (Oh, the horror.) Before I met her, I was pretty much willing to let anyone do anything they wanted to me, in the interest of being “nice.” (Boy, did that cost me a chunk of my soul. I had to fight like a mo fo to get it back.)
Right before I had my near-death experience (not sure what else to call it) in Philadelphia almost exactly a year ago, I taught a session about Medusa to my Writing to Access the Feminine Divine students. We talked about how Medusa’s snakes could be viewed as symbols of women’s rage at millenia of abuse and rape, and also as symbols of their willingness to protect themselves from further violation. (If you aren’t familiar with the myth, Medusa is a beautiful goddess who is raped and then transformed into a monster with snakes for hair. The snakes kill any human who dares look upon her. Though Medusa is traditionally viewed as monstrous, I view her as a symbol of feminine empowerment.)
During the past year, as I devoted myself to solitude and recovery, I grew in ways I can’t even begin to describe. The first part of that process was accepting and working through my rage over some very real abuses that had happened to me. Since I’m a writer, my primary method of working through trauma is writing. As I was coming to terms with my past, I wrote persona poems featuring Medusa often, and although they were probably the most rage-filled things I’ve ever written, they were also some of the most healing. In a radio interview I did last year, I spoke about embracing my rage and said, “I got my snakes” to explain the change that was occurring within me.
And just last week, I finally found the courage to tell my Feminine Divine students the entire story of a life-altering rape that happened to me in my 20s. (The rape in Beauty of the Broken is a very fictionalized version of that experience.) I had never shared the full story with anyone. I’d tried to put it into words during the Me Too movement, but the words simply wouldn’t come, and the attempt to bring them wrecked me. But now, I felt strong enough to do it. I rarely share such personal stories in my classes, but this class is pretty special to me, and for some reason, sharing that age-old trauma with them felt right. I was terrified after I let the story into the world, but my students, most of whom have been working with me for years, bathed me in all the love and light in their beautiful hearts, and it felt so healing, as if I finally let go of and made peace with that part of my story. But I had to walk through the rage and find my snakes (my willingness to tell my truth and protect myself) first.
So for my mom to say that Joyce had turned me into Medusa felt incredibly empowering for me, like a wink from the universe saying I was at the end of the process of true healing that began when I started living on the road seven years ago, and racheted up to epic proportions after I almost lost my mind/died withdrawing from a Xanax prescription a year ago. I knew that I had completed the process of embracing all pieces of myself and my past, including the not-so-nice ones.
Joyce, you amazing creature you, thank you for the exquisite work of art you sent my way. You have no idea what it means to me. I will be sharing its magic as often as I possibly can!
P.S. Here is a poem I wrote last year, in the throes of coming to terms with my history and my anger. It’s furious. It’s not necessarily pretty. But it was a huge part of my acceptance of self, and for that, I am so grateful.
Who knew that when her redemption came
it would clatter in bearing the name “Vendetta”
wearing snakes for hair & a cloak sewn from rage
& 1,000 pages of an autobiography gone wrong
or right to the door of her true, badass-bitch-goddess self?
What seer could have foretold that her salvation would strike
like lightning, melt her skin, wake the lioness crouching
within her ribcage, swallowing a growl, suppressing a roar,
filing her teeth down daily in an attempt to be nice, bland
like white rice, conventional like canned split pea soup?
But now the flaming phoenix of her rises screaming
from smoldering ash. Her past is on fire & she doesn’t mean
that in a good way. Every day she almost died is tattooed red
just behind her third eye, writhing inside her cobra haloed head
as she ascends shrieking, reeking of hell dust, wearing a crown
forged from rusty nails & splintered dreams. Her seams
are splitting, spitting smoke, near misses & a hit list
with the words EVERYONE WHO EVER RAPED ME scrawled
at the top in blood. She has made peace with the seraphim
who disguised themselves as snakes & sewed their souls
to her skull. Day & night, they lick her, watching monsters
stalk her. Her hair whispers, hissing:
Rise up from the abyss. Steal one more kiss.
Rape us, mother fuckers. We dare you.