Lessons for saying goodbye from JM Barrie

“Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away, and going away means forgetting.”

~ JM Barrie,

Peter Pan, Or the Boy Who Would Never Grow Up

James Matthew Barrie, a child during the Victorian Era, grew up to write one the beloved tale of Peter Pan, Or the Boy Who Would Never Grow Up. As a child James’ older brother, David, died during a tragic ice skating accident. To aid his mother in her grief James – aged 6 – would wear his brother’s clothes and whistle in a similar way to the way his older brother had before his death. James and his mother found ways to grieve together, and shared the happy thought that David would remain a boy forever and never leave her.

Death, of course, is such a final goodbye, especially in such a tragic experience as losing one’s child to a traumatic, unexpected situation. Grief is hell, we all know that. But what about regular goodbyes?

I’ve never been one who is good at saying goodbye. Back in the late 2000s I worked at a large financial institution helping people give their money away to charities. The organization was moved out of state – twice – and my husband and I decided to stay here in New England (both times). It was a series of goodbye after goodbye. Most days when I knew someone was departing the office I would find my way to the kitchen for a coffee, or suddenly need a bathroom break. I don’t like the finality of goodbye. The awkward hugs, the “Let’s stay in touch” comments you aren’t sure have much meaning.

Maybe it’s my Pisces sun – flowing from situation to situation, like a fish swimming upstream and not getting too focused on what’s behind me. Maybe my empathic heart can’t stand the finality of knowing I might see someone again. Maybe everyone feels the same way and I’m way over thinking this.

I don’t know.

I met an amazing number of wonderful people working at that financial institution. Though it’s been five years since I stayed in Boston and they all moved away, I’m still friendly with many and would definitely high five them if I saw them walking down the street.

One person in particular has become a dear, dear friend. And later this month he’s moving on to another adventure out of state and I’m so fucking sad.

This friend become one of my immediate BFFs upon meeting each other. In any other circumstance our lives never would have crossed paths. We’re in different age categories, we have different lifestyles, and we DEFINITELY don’t read the same books (winky face, friend).  My heart knows I worked at that institution because the universe knew we needed each other.

I’ll never forget a day this friend was going through an extremely difficult situation and CALLED ME. I almost didn’t answer – who CALLS PEOPLE? But I did because I knew that he needed me. I sat on my bed and we talked for a long time. He reminded me what it meant to be a good friend to someone, to really help them.

We had adventures, too. Only with this particular friend would witchy, vegetarian, animal welfare activist, New Englander feel comfortable going to the State Fair of Texas. What an experience. We had deep friend cheesecake and saw a famous giant cowboy statue thing that burned down a or so year later. I sat shiva with this friend for the first time in my life when another person we both know had to say goodbye to her father. He even attended Baby Girl’s birthday party wearing a tutu because it was a mermaid/fairy/pirate party and he wouldn’t want to pass up a good theme.

This friend was also among the first I spoke to after a traumatic event in my life last fall. There was no judgement, and I knew I could share and over share and ask for help when ready. And he was there.

Today we had lunch, this friend and me. I was nervous of course – I wanted to hide in the bathroom and ignore the goodbye. But I know I would have regretted not saying goodbye. It was a quick get together – I have a tendency to always run late and had to work in the afternoon – but it was perfect. The sun was shining, the food was amazing, we went to a bookstore, and I got to hug my friend and make plans to stay in touch when he’s settled in during his next adventure.

Yes, a huge part of me feels like a giant part of my life is hoping on a plane and I’ll never see it again. But at the same time, we didn’t say goodbye. Goodbye is too final. I’ll always have this friend in my life, and can’t wait to go out and visit him for another crazy adventure in a place I’d never expected to go.

Love you, friend. I can’t wait to eat seven cakes and fourteen pancakes when you’re settled. -rk


New Moon in Gemini ~ Mind, Body, Spirit Reading

New Moons are a time for fresh beginnings, new starts. To celebrate this new moon, which began in Gemini and is currently in Cancer, I brewed some detoxing Dandelion Tea and pulled a 3 card, Mind, Body, Spirit tarot reading.

I have a tendency to live in the clouds – to dream and day dream without thinking through actual steps toward a goal. Sometimes it gets me into trouble ~ this reading tells me to stay focused, and not get distracted in the multitudes or choices.

I’m working on an exciting large project “behind the scenes”, and it’s coming together so beautifully. There are bumps, as there always are, but if I can stay focused on tangible results (not my day dreams) and remember to rely on my friends and loved ones all will go well.

Who do you want to be?

✨When they asked me what I wanted to be I said I didn’t know.✨

~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

It’s easy to get stuck on being a “profession” – but that’s such a capitalist notion.

It says to be important you must be someone who contributes to an economic institution. But what about emotional intelligence? The feels of the world?

Who do you really want to be?

I want to be kind. I want my soul to scream love. I want to be me.

Who do you want to be?

witchy musings with a gregarious bibliophile

An avid reader, I love dissecting cultural studies about the history of women healers – midwives, women who used natural healing methods – and the political ramifications of the patriarchy on their work. In addition to smashing the patriarchy through my writing, I’m an animal welfare activist and would love to read your tarot.

I live in the Great Witch City, just North of Boston with my sleepy Greyhound Poe, my favorite little girl who ever existed (and who likes me to call her Angel Monkey Baby Face), and my incredibly patient husband who supports each of my endeavors with fervor.

My Heart is a Secret Garden

🌺 Her heart was a secret garden and the walls were very high. 🌺

~William Goldman, The Princess Bride

Last week I began helping a friend create and tend to gardens in her yard. We picked out lavender, pink bleeding hearts, and some adorable little flowing flowers I can’t remember the name of.

Today we checked on our green babies and added herbs to her yard – flower boxes full of citronella, basil, and rosemary.

And I felt right at home.

I joke with the women I work with about how they get manicures and I show up to work with dirt under my cuticles. I love getting dirty – hiking in the woods and getting lost, planting herbs or salad plants, pruning my roses and turning the petals to rose water.

As a girl my sister and I wandered the woods in our neighborhood and those surrounding a local cemetery (more on that when I get around to sharing another ghost story!) for hours at a time. I’ve always appreciated the natural world around me, and find I feel most at home when my nails are dirty and my body is sore from too much sun.

Last fall, at the height of my depression I couldn’t being myself to buy mums. Every year I plant mums and hope they come back the following year. They never do, but each September I head to a flower shop and hope for the best. Not last year – I was so consumed by my mental sickness I couldn’t see the point in bringing the deepest purples, burnt oranges, and vibrant reds to my yard. I didn’t even look for the pre-potted ones that are all set to plop at the front door and call it “fall”.

Today, I listened to the robins chirp as they wrap up their search for worms because the sun began to set. I really paid attention. I focused on the warmth of the sun. The rays shining their last light on things they hadn’t yet seen. The way the rays somehow find a way to shine on an entire space at some point of the day – even if just for a little while.

And I feel alive. I am alive. I’m ready to get out and get dirty.

And it feels so good.

Real Magic: Family & Friends

My beloved recently celebrated a special birthday. To celebrate, we had a tiny party at home with baby girl last week, and a fancier celebration with family and friends today.

Guests traveled from all over Massachusetts (and Maine!) to join us, and we enjoyed delicious food and wonderful company.

Whenever I’m surrounded by so much love and kindness, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed with gratitude. There are so many amazing people in our life, and we are so thankful.

As we departed today’s celebration, we stopped in at a local wand shop (Yes, of course we have a wand shop here in Salem!). Baby Girl got her first wand – one handcrafted from unicorn hair and maple. All afternoon she used her wand to make magic and @mikegiannopolo and I spent a lot of time dropping things as she Expeliarmoused us.

I’ll never tell her magic isn’t real. Of course she can’t really force people to drop things. But the love we feel in life when surrounded by family and friends is magic in its own rite – and I hope she’ll grow to love and appreciate that feeling.

I hope she will always know that our actions – big and small – can have an incredible impact on those around us. I hope she’ll always want to use her charms to celebrate those around her… and that she’ll learn more spells than Expelliarmous because dropping something you’re holding over and over again can become rather monotonous.

Happy New Moon in Taurus, Witches. Enjoy your earthly pleasures, like family and friends. 🖤

Neurological Disorders: Illustrated?

Tonight I attended a lecture at Salem’s membership library, the Salem Athenaeum. Dr. David E. Thaler, Neurologist-in-Chief; Chairman and Professor, Department of Neurology, Tufts University School of Medicine (phew!), shared with us his incredible initiative to create a more welcoming space for patients at the Neurology Center at Tufts University by adding creative pieces of art reflecting neurological disorders, but in a mainly unscientific way.

Here are some of my favorite pieces included in the exhibit (Descriptions are a good ol’ copy/paste from www.tuftsmedicalcenter.org/Neurology-Illustrated).

  • This Machine Kills Fascists“: Woody Guthrie used his music to champion the poor and downtrodden and bring attention to political causes and social injustices. Growing up during the Great Depression, Guthrie lived a wandering lifestyle, traveling and living all over the country, producing music that connected with the everyday man who was down on his luck. Guthrie helped to popularize folk music, bringing the genre commercial success. In the late 1940s, he began to show signs of Huntington’s Disease, a condition later understood to have been inherited from his mother.

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  • Alice in Wonderland“: John Tenniel brought Lewis Carroll’s books to life with his engaging, and often humorous, illustrations. A political cartoonist at Punch magazine, Tenniel’s sharp style was well-suited to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. His illustrations became famous around the world as the novel and its sequel proved to be great successes—as they still are today. Here, Alice finds herself in a room that is much too small, or she is simply much too big. Named for this moment in the story, “Alice in Wonderland Syndrome” is a condition where one’s sense of body image and perceived scale is altered. This is thought to be an unusual variant of a migranious aura; Lewis Carroll himself was known to suffer from migraines.

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  • The Creation of Adam“: “The Creation of Adam was painted on the Sistine Chapel ceiling for Pope Julius II by the Renaissance master Michelangelo. Instantly recognizable today, God’s outstretched arm reaches toward Adam, about to fill him with life. An extensive restoration effort in the 1980s led to a renewed interest by scholars in deciphering both the meaning of the ceiling as a whole and the individual significance of this moment. In 1990, Frank Meshberger, MD, proposed that Michelangelo (known to have had an interest in anatomy and to have performed human dissections) deliberately painted God’s cloak to resemble a human brain in profile. Dr. Meshberger argued that Michelangelo was intending to convey through this imagery that God was about to give Adam humankind’s most valuable trait: intelligence.
  • creation.gif

In honor of one of my beloveds I going to throw in a Lily Allen video song because it’s my 100th post and why the hell not: Dr. Thaler, presenter, asked us to consider whether Michelangelo did this because humankind was God’s best creation, or because God was humankind’s best creation. 

What are your thoughts about this? Email me – bookwitchsalem@gmail.com.

Anyway, I was awed by the thought that went into the selections of art and the consideration of various neurological diseases – from FDR to Lou Gehrig (a Boston legend), from cult classic fantasy writers to practically unknown artist from ancient Egypt, an amazing number of situations were covered. The art historian graduate student who did much of the research & writing wasn’t present so we couldn’t understand her decision making, but as I thought about the decisions some questions struck me.

Dr. Thaler made note of famous artist Vincent van Gogh’s life in stages that were normal or “maybe” epilepsy or bipolar disorder. This mention of “normal” as we discussed a series of remarkable people and their “unnormalness” (pardon my created word) as a way of demonstrating neurological disorders perked my senses. My empathetic heart said, “Wait, hold up. Who decided which tendency is NORMAL?”.

After his self-mutilation (the removal of his ear by his own person), van Gogh’s neighbors called him “fou roux” (the redheaded madman…) and testified that he was unsafe around the public. Van Gogh listened to their concerns and self-admitted himself to asylum (a building in which many of his famous works were created).

While at the asylum van Gogh was treated with foxglove  – a natural remedy used to treat heart problems (but not epilepsy or bipolar disorder, one or both of which he was being treated for…).  Consider this: an overdose of foxglove can cause individuals to see an abundance of the color of yellow – a favored color of van Gogh as an artist and many modern interpreters believe this might have led to his use of the color in his paintings.

Dr. Thaler made note of the phases between van Gogh’s “normal” days and his “not” normal days – he asked us to consider whether we would be able to appreciate this amazing art of he’d never been admitted to the asylum. I take issue with this – Who decided what was “normal” and what wasn’t? How was this determined? Is someone experiencing epilepsy or bipolar episodes “not normal?” If someone isn’t “normal” and suffers in their life with self-mutilation or depression should we ignore their plight and only appreciate what they’ve done for our own pleasure? 

Um, no. 

During the Q&A I asked:

“You mentioned ‘normal’ when talking about van Gogh. You then reviewed a series of remarkable people. As you pulled pieces together for this exhibit, was the team purposeful about representation from various ‘normals’ – for example regarding skin color and sexual orientation.” 

The response was basically, “Oh, no. We didn’t do that.”

From what I understand, because he is a neurologist he only thinks about brains and spines – never skin color or orientation.

And all I could think is “I don’t see color” and how detrimental this statement can be. 

I know so many wonderful people who use this phrase and don’t understand how it erases the horrific histories of indigenous and African people in America. Their hearts are in the right place – they want to be kind and thoughtful, but they sometimes misjudge and unintentionally ignore important feelings of others around them.

A “Neurologist-in-Chief; Chairman and Professor” at a world renown school of neurology didn’t consider representation during a very time consuming and expensive art project undertaken at his school of residence. This is certainly no “knock” on his education – in any way whatsoever. But it’s a knock on our society for not making representation a more important part of every conversation we have.

We can’t be “color blind” and assume cis/white/male is “default”. People of Color need representation. Women need representation. Non-binary people need representation.

We need to do better.