this morning my son told me he had carved my name in his palm. he was calling me from santa cruz. i could hear cars in the background and i pictured him standing on the street. i wondered if he was a little stoned. when he had come to visit me a few months earlier, i realized all my friends were stoners too. i sighed, you can't win them all. i asked him if he had gone to a coffee shop called pergolesi's. "oh yea, i love that place", he said and sounded proud to know the joint. i used to go there, when i was his age. 17 almost 18. before coffee shops blew up, before there was a starbucks on every corner, there was pergolesi's, a victorian gingerbread house on the outside and a gothic nightmare on the inside.
i had been there a few weeks ago, before i came to ohio to write. it was intimate to know we had both been standing on a street in santa cruz only two weeks apart. when i went back to pergolesi's that trip, i was walking down memory lane. i was almost giddy with my memories of my youth. it felt good now to have an experience to share with my son. he had been upset and not speaking to me for a month, but now he needed his social security number to apply for jobs. i am so glad when he needs something from me that i can provide. he said he put ink in the ridges where he carved my name to make a tattoo. it is strange, but i think there is something quite beautiful about that. he made a flesh offering to the gods of mothering. being a mother always humbles me, makes me feel like a very small and unworthy participant in the beautiful pageant of life. how could this beautiful life have come from me? his eyes are dark, intense and often troubled. he's got a dramatic tango with life. he will burn brightly and not go quietly into the night.
i worry for him. i made a flesh offering too. at sundance, a native american ceremony, i had offered 24 pieces of flesh from my arm in a prayer for me and my son to get a long, to be in a good way. it's not much to brag about, just a little bit of scarring on my left shoulder. looks like a cat scratched me maybe. but every time i look at it, i remember my prayer. there is a superstition around the practice, that the harder your prayer, the more you bleed. and my arm was dripping with red blood that day. i cannot quite describe the feeling of the tiny bits of flesh being removed. maybe the metal scalpel was cold, or maybe the air was cold touching the newly naked nerve endings.
the man who did the flesh offerings carried a silver aluminum briefcase. he set up a little altar of sage and a buffalo skull. there was a long line to give flesh offerings, my friend rachael and i laughed when i cut in line to join her, "just can't wait to give flesh offerings". somewhere, women are shoving and cutting in line to buy lingerie at a nordstrom's. when it was my turn, they told me to turn clockwise to enter the sacred space. i asked if i could turn counter clockwise, the witchy way. he said, "sure, i love that". and then i held the sacred pipe while he took the offerings from my arm. i felt the cold blade, the raw nerves, the warm blood beginning to drip down my arm. it made me focus on my prayer. the cold feeling from the cut made me feel like the spirits were touching me.
the night before, they had a night dance in the dark. the rest of the sundance ceremony is done during the day, in the light and heat of the sun. the night dance felt different. while the drummers played, and the dancers danced, the supporters would stand also and dance facing the sundancers. but looking always in the distance, to the sacred tree. i was so tired waiting for the ceremony to begin, i had fallen asleep in the itchy grass with my blanket. when the drums started i felt as if i was in a trance, like a heavy hand was holding me down, it was so hard to get the energy to stand. when i did face the dancers, i felt the cool night air, the blue-black sky and i saw the black silhouette of the tree. i began to pray to the tree. "creator, i will be dead someday. please take care of my son." and i wept. i have so little control over my son's life. he is becoming a man now. he has his own river to navigate.
flesh of my flesh
fruit of my womb
some people pray to their ancestors
i pray to the miracle of my child
to the life that runs in the river of time before me
and gives me faith in life