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March 9, 2017
It has once again been a long time since I updated this space.
This time, I wanted to write,
Things felt so changeable, so uncertain, that committing those thoughts and experiences to writing would be somehow unjustified, even a curse. I was right; what I would have written feels foolish in retrospect.
So much has happened, and I've not spoken even to some of my closest friends about what I've experienced. That’s so out of character that it's worth noting.
The last week and change, I've been cloistered in upstate NY with relatives. This winter storm took our light and the Internet with it. The first draft of this was written by hand under candlelight, crystal glass of Riesling with the rim precisely chapsticksmudged in one spot, the ridges of my lips visible in those oils shone through with flickering light. Now I’m in PA on an adventure, on to NYC after this, the back to the snow-bound hills of the hudson river valley.
On September 11th, 2017, I was walking down a buckled sidewalk in west Philadelphia when I saw her: a cicada cracked open on the sidewalk. Her eggs spilling out the fissures—an earthquake in a small body’s carapace. Fatality: 1, but countless if you think in possibilities and potentials.
I walked a block further before I turned back and gingerly picked her up. Cupping my hands around her. Protecting her from a world that cut her short and didn't even look to see. I wondered: had she been hit by a car and flung through space, or merely stepped upon with the kind of carelessness humans seem to excel at?
Either way, she found herself broken at my feet.
Someone important to me was hurting in ways I can't-won't-wouldn't share, but it fit. She struck me, metaphorically, with a velocity not unlike the fatal blow that brought us together. So much of the meaning seemed uncannily right.
The Victorians saw cicadas as a symbol of eternity, of rebirth. This individual had been cut from that cycle—
it was so poignant,
it pierced my heart.
I cleaned her, thanked her, saddened by lost possibilities sticking to my fingers. Lost possibilities carefully cleaned with water and cotton swabs and brushes.
Carefully, I took her wings with a blade.
I ran to the nearby vintage store. They had had one of those small hinged frames the Victorians reserved to memento the mori of lost loves. It had been there for weeks, but now it was gone. Immediately, I ran across the street rushing to the trolley. Keeping a fast paced clip–practically jogging to and fro a favored haunt across town filled with dead people's’ hair and dead people’s possessions.
I had a sense of urgency to timing and placement that compulsed/required perfection in composition. That’s how I am, that’s how I feel, when I’m really being myself: I know what I need to do and I feel an itching impatience to do it now. I’m done with patience after years of it foisted upon me.
I found a Victorian bubble glass frame; small, lacy gold-hued metal, the Virgin Mary with eyes trained above, mourning the loss of her son. Correct.
Carefully, mounted half of the set of wings on palest blue fabric.
Driving pins, cut to length, restraining those fragile slivers of translucent chitin with the kind of heavinessbreathlessness you have no choice but to feel when nailing down flightless flight. I was terrified of ruining this gift from her to me, this gift from myself to another.
I cried as each tiny metal rod pinned those iridescent appendages down, tears for potential lost and couldhavebeen unnoticed, for the recipient who’s pain I cannot share here.
Those wings now live where I no longer do.
The other half of that set of delicate translucency need to be recovered when I return to move my things. I need to finally frame them for myself.
I'm ready to go through that pain again, I'm ready for the meaning in ways I somehow intuited I was not before. They’re kept safe in a vintage lidded sugar bowl, waiting for me all these months.
I don't know how I knew it wasn't right before. Now I think of her potential lost and know for sure what I didn't know I even needed to know before: I am not her. I am not her. I am not her.
Cicadas burst forth from the ground every 2 to 17 years, depending on the species. I burst forth from the ground in the dawn of 2010.
They eat and eat and eat until there’s no room left in their exoskeleton, grabbing onto the nearest surface for dear life. A pain I imagine feels as death. Some grab onto the wrong things, unable to achieve enough torsion to remove themselves, dying half realized and stuck.
Clinging to the rough bark of a tree: are they scared, or does their instinct know? They burst forth into flight, discarded skins are reminders to us if we look, a careful incision along the ridge.
I wonder if they remember what came before the drive to mate, then die. Cycle anew.
I was terrified, there were no instincts to soothe that fear as I was psychically rent apart. This new self was terrifying and painful to realize as I imagine a cicada would feel if it could, readying to burst from its shell. This new self burst through the old, leaving that shell behind but gracedcursed with the memory of what came before and how now came to be.
I left my skin, my former self, behind—I will remember it, though it feels as though it's no longer me. I feel as a different existence. Metamorphosing into something that's the sum of my past, but entirely new.
I became too big for the shell of who I was.
Almost eight years to the day I ran away—bursting from the soil on January 10th 2010—my skin finally shed. It’s a process that has stretched over two months, more. My wings are still unfurling, but flight feels inevitably close an unknown but familiar precipice I'll embrace with flight. It’s instinct, something I somehow knew without knowing I did.
I don't know if I'll ever commit any of what lead to that shedding to words; I feel like I must guard that pain dearly. Those words may only come when there's such a large distance that touching them doesn't feel like utter devastation.
That pain is sacred, almost, a fiery lancet through my aortas and ventricles.
I have so much more, now, to give myself and the world. I see so unbelievably clearly the path forward that it feels incomprehensible that I couldn't see it before. I had to turn a bend and know where to look; the openings of paths are not always obvious.
I'm sad but no longer depressed, where before I was happy but ohsodepressed. What does that even mean?
All I know is that I'm utterly calm in the face of a storm of uncertainty. Everything will be fine. I will be fine. I know how to do this, I know the steps I must take to move forward. Some of it is familiar because I've done parts of the dance before. Some of it is like people who wake from a coma speaking a language they've never heard or spoken before: the incomprehensibly known instinct. Like breathing. Like blinking. Like a bird's first flight.
I'm sad for what I've lost, and while it means everything it also means nothing in the face of what's to come. How is that?
I wish that a lost someone specific were with me to share that, but they couldn't possibly be. These wings wouldn't be here if they were. Maybe that will change someday.
I will have things to say soon, future outlooks, so many words. I'm looking forward to sharing them.
As always, yours. Mine now, but still yours in ways I could never be otherwise.
All my love,