Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Vultures: A Story

So glad to finally get to this; I told you I might, and I did! Here's to long return flights with a solidly-napping babe! Coffee. And a splash (or two) of somethin'.

As independent study credit during my last (official) year of undergrad school, I assisted Kentucky writer Normandi Ellis. I went to her home every week, did editing and cataloging for a book, and other interesting stuff. She was a powerful mysterious woman around 50 whose personal veil between the seen and the unseen worlds was thinner than most ~ perhaps by nature or by practice, probably a little of both. Her home was cluttered with time-collected detail ~ art, trinkets, dark velvet ~ and thickly dusted with incense and cigarette smoke, feminine and witchy energy. Normandi was a scholar of Egyptian myth. As she was writing her second book on it, it permeated her life. Around the first corner past the entrance, guarding a plush burgundy couch, her living room showcased a large print on papyrus of an Egyptian-styled vulture - gilt, black and red. I had grown up thinking of vultures as harbingers of decay. However in Egyptian understanding (as in Nature, truly), vultures clear away the old to allow for the new; A crone-wise harbinger of Change. The ancient Egyptian pantheon reveres a vulture-headed deity.

As I studied and worked with Normandi, I steeped my own subconscious deeply in mythology. I also found myself engaged to my four-year boyfriend, Gemini Cricket. More importantly (to us), we were readying ourselves (as much as one can) for a bicycle voyage from our homestate of Kentucky to the west coast of Washington state. As our departure (and wedding) drew close, we set out on a dress-rehearsal overnight tour of Land Between the Lakes in western Kentucky. That night after starlit pre-nuptial campsite fun, we lay in our brand-new tent, sticky with self-generated humidity. I dreamt in technicolor detail that that ancient vulture from Normandi Ellis's wall was scratching at our zip-up screened door. Pulling and tugging. Peck, peck.
Change indeed.
After that, vultures and buzzards appeared to me in my waking life as a friendly indicator that I should take note for potential life change.

Winter, seven years later, I tooled down an unfamiliar road, waving my hands and sing-shouting along with every word of Ani DiFranco's Evolve. It was an unseasonably warm and crisp day so I was able to open the window and howl at the countryside; I sing when I'm nervous. I was on my way to meet my mom for a meal and try to make like all was fine and "normal" in my life. I passed a tree ~ an old, tall, solitary fencerow tree ~ that was so loaded with buzzards, it appeared to be clothed in black leaves. I almost ran off the road.
That next Spring, Gemini and I filed for divorce.

Time passed. Wounds healed. Life renewed and blossomed. I forgot about vultures for a long while.
I set up the camp kitchen in the shady shelter of the neem tree for our first day of several weeks camping at Lumbini Gardens in Baja Sur, Mexico. The gusty wind made setting up the tent impossible and frequently knocked off my sunhat. Anjali sought the comfort and shelter of the Land Cruiser. While Sealion labored in the elements to establish electricity, there were things I could do to make our outdoor living area feel a little more homey. I made a batch of "limón tea," organized and wiped the desert dust off the blue-with-white speckled enamel plates. I separated produce that can be in open desert air vs. produce that must be kept in the coolers. As I worked, I noticed the long slow shadows of birds flying in my periphery and thought, "Uh-oh. I hope those aren't buzzards; that seems like bad luck." It wasn't till later that I remembered my connection with those prescient creatures. Everyday a few of them (they are turkey vultures down there) made their rounds, scouring with their senses the desert scrub that surrounded us on all sides.
"You too?" I thought to them. "Oh, good - so it's not just me; this is a big one."

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