Pia & Raven at the Kitchen Table

Pia and Raven sat around the little round table in their kitchen, the remains of a good meal and a good story in front of them. Their black mutt Yew was curled up at their feet. Raven sat as he often did with his chair kicked back on two legs. To Pia it always seemed that he was balanced too precariously, yet over the years, she’d learned that nothing short of an earthquake could tip him over.

“So you had a powerful magical encounter this morning and it confirmed the feelings you were getting that we’re not meant to take on that eco-tourist business,” summarized Raven, picking kale strands out of his teeth.

“Do you mind? It’s not that the business isn’t meant to happen or that our thinking will go to waste….”

“We’re just not meant to be the ones getting the fruits of that planning.”

“Yes,” she agreed wryly. “As usual….”

“And we have to find the people who will take it on. Plus you have to discover what it is that you are meant to be doing. Okay. That’s cool. I can live with it. Can’t argue with the Voice of Gaia.”

“Thank you for being so understanding.”

“Did you think I would be anything else? You’ve put up with plenty of my scatter-brained schemes and about faces in the middle of the road.”

“I knew you’d understand. We’ve never followed the usual routes before. I didn’t think you would mind this time either…. still….”

“Where will you start since the Voice didn’t hand you a playbook?”

“I’ve been thinking about that all afternoon, of course. I could talk to the Conservancy Trust crew. Rumor is they’ve gotten purchase options on some special land along the estuary.”

“Really? Where? You didn’t tell me?”

“I was told in confidence. I can keep secrets when I need to, unlike some people I could mention.”

“Humph,” said Raven pretending to be surprised and offended at the same time.

“Anyway, they’re about to launch a capital campaign and are hiring someone to run that campaign.”

“Do you think you have the energy for that work just now?”

“My question exactly. Yet it feels like a practical step to take on behalf of the River. The money side has always fascinated me. I have the contacts from the fundraising we did to get the Housing Trust and Elk Ridge going. This will be easier. Certainly less to explain. Preserving estuary lands is as conventional as motherhood and apple pie these days and Owen says our Bay is high on the state and federal lists because a large percentage remains undeveloped.”

“You just expressed an energy drain around doing that sort of work. As worthy as it sounds, it will take over. I’m not sure it’s the side of your brain you should be working from.”

“Am I being too noble again?” she asked plaintively, a side of her that few people ever saw.

He cocked an eyebrow at her.

“Okay, maybe I should follow up on the hospice caretaking for the money side…. That’s still noble, isn’t it?” She smiled ruefully. “But working with the dying is hands-on and direct so it uses a totally different energy. It’s almost like it turns me on…. At the same time I’m going to figure out – or more likely be open to guidance about – a ceremonial way to honor the Salmon and the River that includes the native peoples. Perhaps a festival at salmon return. Plus something else to keep them in the forefront of our minds during the year.”

“You know the whole thing smacks of your Pisces Rising. You’ve been wondering what that means. You’ll be conjuring on behalf of the fish and the river. Learning the watery side of yourself.”

“Oh, Raven,” she breathed. “Why didn’t I think of that? My magical fish self that I am here to learn about. Yee gods and little fishes. You’d think I could’ve figured that out. Guess we can’t always see what is right in front of our noses. Good thing we have each other…. and our community.…”

“Awk!” said Raven, putting his chair back on four legs and pushing away from the table. “I’ll do the dishes.” He reached into the cool box to put away the yogurt. The cool box was a cupboard he’d built it into the house because he hadn’t wanted the noise of a refrigerator thrumming. It was insulated to the inside and open at the top to vent out naturally rising heat. He and Lindsay-the-Architect had worked hard to see how close to zero energy use the houses in Elk Ridge could be.

“So we need to manifest someone for the aforesaid eco-tourist business,” mused Raven.

“Is it enough just to think it or should we get a conjure crew together?” asked Pia.

“Let’s see how it unfolds for the moment. I don’t have time or energy right now….” replied Raven, his hands in the dishpan. “…. Actually I have something else I was going to bring up tonight that’s been nagging at me again. The Trickster has been nipping my butt – Spirit Raven or Coyote. Uranus coming on strong, as you would say.”

“Fire away,” said his partner, beginning to fiddle with the saltshaker. What other agonies was this day going to hold?

“Ummm…. well…. it’s sorta about fire.” Raven took a deep breath and turned around drying his hands on the raggedy pink dishtowel. “It’s about our sex life. We’ve been avoiding the issue for a while – giving it a rest so to speak but I don’t think ignoring it is doing us any good.”

“It’s not like you’ve made yourself available when I’ve made overtures,” retorted Pia sharply. “During the holidays when I put on the sexy negligee my sister sent me….”

“You know I can’t stand to have someone come on to me. It’s all too reminiscent….”

“So what the hell am I supposed to do? You think I’m seducing you if I try to lure you into bed. Which I am, of course, but…. How else are we supposed to get there? It’s such a fuckin’ double bind.”

“So to speak.”

“Ha ha.” There was sarcasm and bitterness in her voice. “I feel hypocritical about how non-existent our sex life is. Everyone thinks I am so voluptuous and out there. You have that rep too, Mr. Flamboyance. You have to admit we consciously play that up. I know I slept around a lot in the old days. I don’t even know who Arlo’s father is…. Besides someone at one of those wild parties during the demonstrations that spring…. A black man….”

“Presumably,” he said equally sarcastically. “I still don’t get it why you aren’t into making love when I do show interest. It’s like you are taking revenge on me for those other times.” Raven eyed Pia fiercely and she glowered back.

“Maybe I am. But not on purpose.”

“Goddammit, Pia, we’ve been over and over this. You know in detail, ad nauseam, how I was abused as a kid and find it hard to let go into physical intimacy. It’s not like you don’t have your own issues. I hate the way we’ve been sniping at each other constantly, while pretending there’s not anger there but….”

“I’m not saying we don’t have issues,” interjected Pia, skipping over the sniping part. “But when I’m feeling horny and want you to know it, you go deep into a book or project and I can’t pry you out of it.”

“When I’m turned on you can’t seem to find the spark. It’s like one of us always has to be unavailable. You seem to choose the times I’m otherwise absorbed to approach me. Like you know it’s safe because I won’t want to respond….”

“It ain’t news anymore that we both have wounded places that are shut down,” she interrupted again. “Our counseling work showed how perfectly matched we are, you and I, to keep each other at a subtle distance. Not to mention the beginnings of menopause which is obviously slowing me and my juices down. Yet, I know there is something deeper to be had between us. I so couldn’t bear it when it seemed like we were only rubbing body parts without really connecting. Yada yada….”

There was a pause while each thought back to the awful days when they were first wrestling openly with all this, not knowing what was at the root of their problems, each so resentful of the other. Anger. Spite. Confusion. Self-sabotage. And yes, even a little subtle revenge had crept in. It had taken a lot of June’s sand tray therapy and some journeying with Owen’s teacher in the city to achieve a sense of equilibrium about it. Now, despite the fact that the conversation was taking place while the sun was in Libra, it seemed balance had become a stale state as well. What could shake them up again? What magic could get their blood flowing? Resignation was a safe place to be but hardly the most creative, and not what their personas seemed to be “advertising” and presumably asking for.

Pia broke the silence. “I agree that leaving it alone isn’t getting us anywhere either. Will starting the Ecstatic Spirit Dance will light some sparks in us? I like your poster, by the way.”

“Dance certainly is body centered so I’m kinda hoping it will shift the energy, but who knows. Your belly dancing phase opened up some tight places in you but that was at a point when I was particularly shut down after all those revelations about priests and Boy Scout leaders. Hit a little too close to home they did.”

“Should we go talk to June again?”

“We’ve had therapies up the wazoo. Somehow I’m not sure anything new will come out of that….”

“I know what you mean. Maybe this is another of those things we need to let season some more.”

“Sigh. I brought it up cause I want you to know I’m conscious of it and want to move forward in some way. I’m wondering if it might help if we could start talking about it in Medicine Circles,” suggested Raven.

“You’ve said that before and I suppose we should but I can’t quite bring myself to. Too scary. Hypocrisy again.” Pia began to cry.

“Aw, honey. No need to go there. Our hormones ain’t ragin’ and we have so much in every other area….” He reached out for her and their two tall figures blended into a hug, though each was still awkwardly stiff, not knowing where to take this moment of intimacy. They knew they had ancient karma to work through that they’d explored some over the years of their relationship, but obviously at this point the impasse seemed insurmountable. Although the destructive nit-picky snarling at each other had been on the rise again of late, at least the subterranean anger blew through faster….

“I do think that others may be having more trouble than we think,” continued Raven, “If we could open up the subject with our nearest and dearest, we might all gain something….”

“Not yet, Raven. Please not yet. Maybe something else will arise….”

“Like my cock?” He chuckled. “That would be a breakthrough. And it would be lovely to have you juicy again. I had to bring up the subject, though. I know it’s really hard for you to talk about so I appreciate the effort that took.”

“Thank you, I guess, though I’m still feeling pretty grumpy about it. What a day. All my shit seems to be up. I should go check what Uranus and Chiron are up to.”

“Maybe your fishy river thing will bring on some flow.”

“It might. I know it strikes a deep chord in me, why not in the sexual arena as well as the spiritual.”

“We could go snuggle with a movie.”

“A sexy one?”

“Why not? Might as well have a vicarious thrill. But let’s take the pup out and wish on a star first.”

Yew pricked up her ears. It was good her humans were airing that sex business again. However stale the issue she hated it when their tension about it was on the rise. Why they couldn’t just tumble into bed was still a mystery to her. She sighed as she clambered to her feet.

The three of them went out together into the night.

Pia’s Morning 2

The Bay was peaceful, a slight drizzle making lovely little splashes on the water. The hills across the way were fogged in, hiding the crest above with the craggy tree they climbed to sometimes for ceremony. The tide was coming in, so the river was flowing backwards, the salt sweeping the fresh water upstream as it did twice every day. What a potent dynamic. She wasn’t exactly sure how far up its influence was felt, but she knew it flowed back and forth in front of the land upriver where they hung out in the summer and even further up, one was wise to take the tides into account when kayaking.

She took a deep breath of the all the watery influence, the clean rain and salty ocean mixing with the tang of the mud flats. The ocean’s sound was faint today on the other side of the dunes, though the buoy at the mouth clanged every few minutes. Waterfowl twittered out where the tide flowed.

The River. For a moment she could feel its current through her body like the flow and saltiness of her own monthly blood. She could also touch into the river of her growing up years in Michigan, as well as the river by her college campus and even the storied rivers of the earth…. the Tigris and Euphrates, the Amazon, the Mississippi, the Nile…. Arteries of the earth. Lifeblood of the Mother.

She pulled up the hood of her sweatshirt and, leaving her tennies by a log, walked along the shore. Acclimated. Attuned. A little ways north she turned to head across the inter-tidal area towards the edge of the woods. Not much of it flooded daily this time of year, but it still had a boggy quality to it. It was do-able in bare feet but she had to pick her way carefully to avoid the slightly prickly stems of silver weed and grasses, as well as a few broken bottles and other detritus of the summer visitor season. Picking the latter up and putting them into the plastic bag she carried in her backpack, she splashed through little pools, enjoying the squishy places, and climbed over silvered logs that had drifted ashore last winter and would no doubt be moved about in the return of the stormy season. Many of the logs had been journeying hither and yon in the same vicinity for years.

The shrine was tucked into the clutter of logs, salal, Nootka rose and huckleberry at the edge of the marshy area. To get in she had to duck under a low hanging branch, but other than that the way was clear. It would be a different story come spring. By April the logs would be scattered like matchsticks against the rise of the bank, a new configuration every year. Either Raven or Owen came out before the annual Mother’s Day re-dedication ceremony to make an opening again. Some years the way in was cleared from the north end and some years from the south, depending on what was moveable or could be climbed under.

The sand was still dry in the tiny clearing, the large overhanging Sitka sheltering it from the slight precipitation. She called a quiet welcome to the space, and kneeling, swept aside a million tiny crystals with her hand. There was the stone. Flat granite from the Mountain, carried here 15 years ago by her tribe. The Fibonacci spiral at its center seemed to wink up at her and as always her finger was drawn to trace its double curves. She poured a few drops from her water bottle as a libation and then settled, legs crossed, to breathe in the stillness of the place.

Well, almost still. A jay squawked insistently from overhead and a squirrel chittered, both announcing her presence to the woods further inland. It was quiet again for a moment and then a heron honked a greeting as it passed by out on the water. Was it the same who had sent her this way?

She certainly felt she was in the right place. The angst of her morning had been left behind. The River flowing by had put things back in perspective. She was prepared now to listen to its song. How wonderful if it had a message for her….

She thought of the native peoples of the place who had summered in this area. Perhaps camped in this very spot as they clammed and fished, enjoying the bounty of the season before the higher tides and wild winds of winter chased them upstream and inland to their more permanent long house villages. She loved to think of them squiggling their feet in the sand as she and the children of her time did around a campfire under the summer stars.

Another loud squawk reminded Pia of the year a crow kept noisily complaining to the small group present for the dedication. It had swooped in and out every few minutes and scolded them roundly each time. Towards the end of their communion someone had looked up and there above them was the half eaten carcass of a salmon dangling precariously from a branch no more than ten feet over their heads. It could have been disgusting. It could have fallen on their heads. Instead it made Pia feel they were an intimate part of the sacred round of eater and eaten and as such it was like a blessing. No wonder the poor crow had been so upset, its feast interrupted and, as far as the bird knew, in danger of being stolen by these larger intruding five fingered ones. They had apologized and, their ceremony over, had left soon after.

The memory of the fish now had Pia thinking of the salmon and the meager flow of them compared to the time of the Old Ones. A university student passing through a few years ago had spoken of his work for the return of the Columbian Condor, sighted by Lewis and Clark not far north of here and last seen towards the end of the 1800’s. A worthy endeavor, certainly. But as a local wildlife aficionado had pointed out later to Pia, the condor depended on huge numbers of salmon and the area was no longer rich enough in this resource to support that piece of the cycle. The salmon were still giving of their largesse, but the wiles of the white “civilized” branch of humankind had brought them dangerously close to extinction and ruined much of their healthy habitat. The hatchery fish were no match and lacked the nutrients and hardiness of the native ones.

Salmon. That amazing magical fish, creature of both River and Ocean. Spawned up towards the headwaters of every tributary, even the tiniest, they swam out to the ocean and then years later, made their way back to the very spot from which they had come. Such a dance of instinct and mystery. They were honored by the native peoples, the first fish of the season celebrated and every fish thanked. No one could imagine then that they could ever become so few.

Pia lowered her head as tears of sadness, then frustration, then of rage swelled and broke over her. Her own salt mixed with the salt of the sand, her own water spilled to mix with the water of the River. The Salmon. How had her people come to be so out of touch as to perpetrate and allow such damage?

Now is the time to make it right.”

Pia’s head snapped up. She looked around for the source of the voice but knew she was alone. “You are one who can change the story,” the voice came again. Images of the Native peoples flashed again in her head – the campfires, the laughter, the storytelling. Fish drying on sticks or passed around on cedar planks. Savored. Cherished. The story of Salmon Boy told again and again so the children could learn of nature’s cycles and the right ways to hunt and to honor the creatures that gifted themselves for the People’s sustenance.

You live in Nekelew – place of the Salmon. You must honor us here. You must restore the balance. Tell your people. Do not let another year go by or we will all be gone. We want to flow again. We can even thrive again. But you must fulfill your mission.” The voice was thundering now like the River itself at full flood over the falls upstream. “It was for this that you were born. It was for this that you made your way to this place.”

“Who are you?” asked Pia.

I am River. Mountain. Sea. Marsh. Field. Salmon. I am Gaia.”

Pia was on her knees now, hands clasped at her heart. “I honor you. I serve you.”

I know that, Daughter. You dedicated yourself to me and serve me and your people well. I ask you now to dedicate yourself to the part of me that is this River and its people, the Salmon. Kelew. And this place of Salmon. Ne-kelew.”

“What is it that I am to do?”

Pia waited quietly for an answer to her query but the potent energy had left the tiny clearing. Tears ran down her face at the chance to have had even that much contact. Part of her was non-plussed at not having a specific assignment but she knew enough about voices and oracles to know that she had been blessed with more clarity than most. She had only to state her willingness. The rest would unfold.

Still kneeling, she dug in her pack for her Swiss Army knife – the athame, ceremonial dagger, of her Wiccan influence. She cut a tiny slit in her middle finger and as a drop of blood welled, touched it to the center of the spiral on the Shrine rock. “I honor this place, Ne-kelew. And I honor the Kelew itself and the River of its flow. I open myself to guidance as to what I am to do.”

“No wonder I have been at loose ends lately,” she thought as, protecting her cut finger, she gently and lovingly pushed the sand back to cover the shrine rock allowing for its discovery by those who were meant to find it.

When she crawled back out, she realized the sun had appeared while she was under the sheltering Sitka. She blinked at its brightness and peeled off her sweatshirt, gasping a little when she realized the connection of its Nekelew High School message – Arlo’s alma mater. Yet another sign. It was a thoughtful walk back across to the beach. Everything was sparkling now rather than the silvery grey of her earlier trek. Both states were beautiful, but her heart was lighter now and her step inspired rather than driven. The time was 1:11.

Pia Morning 1

Pia sat playing solitaire and feeling rather dull. Ace of Diamonds. Jack of Clubs. Why was it that she liked the clubs least of all? What did that say about her? Queen of Hearts. Now there was a sweet one. But where was the Jack of Hearts that needed to go on top? If it was buried she was done for.

As her fingers and mind played with the silly combinations and coped with the frustration of starting over and over, she was also idling like a car engine waiting at a train crossing for the arrival of someone – or something – so she could move on.

There were a lot of things she could be doing today. She could go over to the Zimmer’s and talk with them about beginning to connect into the hospice situation with their grandmother who had just been moved into their “granny flat.” They’d advertised recently for caregivers. She could write the article she’d promised Cali for the next issue of Squawk! She could at least decide the subject of the article. She could search out Raven in his studio garage at the bottom of the hill and have a talk about whether or not to do the retreat workshop coordinating business they’d been fantasizing setting into place….

King of Diamonds needs the Queen…. which is buried under the six of spades. Yes! There is the Seven of Spades free to give the six its spot…. If I can just find a place for the Three of Diamonds….

She’d told Charley and Ursula the other night that she was ready to search out the first speakers for the long dreamed of workshop series and ReTreat business. But she had not been speaking the whole truth. She knew how to make the initiatory calls. Among them all they had enough contacts to get a good line up for the first several at least. She knew how to do the PR and where to find a place and…. and…. She even knew the steps to take to launch the larger effort that they could pitch to potential funders as “economic development” and which she thought of as “local brewing.” But she hadn’t been able to get herself to make the calls. She wasn’t really sure she wanted to do it at all….

She could text Ursula right now and ask for a tarot reading. That might help her get over this hump or at least give a clue what the resistance was. She could climb the Mountain and see if some inspiration came to her on the hike…. “That’s a good idea,” she told herself heartily. “Maybe aerobic exercise will get me out of these doldrums.”

She’d been a busy girl most of her life – doing the good things that made it possible to have the good life and community she now enjoyed. This stalled feeling was a strange one for her who had always known the next steps. They had been so obvious. Pregnant and alone? Seek out a group of women to connect with for support. Want a home birth? Start a network to support the midwife she had just met. Have a child who needs friends? Round up the homebirth families for a preschool playgroup. Then a school. And who better than her to be the school secretary? It meant she was able to be near Arlo but not often in the classroom…. growing the crop of children that would carry out the next steps of the dream….

Her own Jack of Hearts did come along. Raven had swooped in with a passionate embrace of all that the community and its environs meant to her. He understood immediately the wider picture of what the bunch of them were up to. Plus he had been a perfect substitute father as Arlo entered his teen years and could benefit from the mentorship Raven offered. There had been some rough patches as the two guys learned to share her but the delicate balance of a triangle had been achieved with relative grace and Arlo had bloomed into a beautiful man.

She’d left the school office to Cindy a few years ago, wanting to try out her wings in some new endeavors. Raven’s success as a “trash” artist, combined with odd jobs and teaching art at the community college had meant a little freedom for her from the press of wage earning. She – and then they – had always needed very little to live on. When it became obvious that the house she’d lived in for years would be sold when the elderly owners died, she and Raven had set about organizing the Housing Trust to create the cooperative neighborhood of their dreams. Elk Ridge achieved, she had a little income as coordinator of the development and now as nominal manager. But…. she was restless again.

A cup of coffee would perk her up and give her the energy to do whatever it was she decided on for this day at least. She could even walk down to the restaurant and have a latte if she wanted. Not even a skinny soy one. The possibility of that treat gave her comfort and allowed her to muddle a bit more.

She kept getting the feeling that she shouldn’t be doing admin stuff any more. She envied Ursula for having created a nice new niche that seemed to involve less organizational shit. Plus Charley had the Cedar ReSource Project going and had some income. She and Raven didn’t need much but she ought to be contributing her share….

Could the astrology thing be formalized a little more and become a money source? She didn’t know enough to get professional on that score…. She couldn’t even figure out what was going on astrologically with her own self right now and couldn’t afford the training she would need to do it right. In fact, she generally wasn’t inclined to get more training in anything specific. “Making it up” as she went along had always been her modus more than going to school.

It bothered her that she and Raven had publically insinuated that they were actually going to do the ReTreat business (or whatever it was going to be called). Would it be a terrible copping out to just not do it? She didn’t like to be seen as flaking out on something she “signed up” for. Of course, who, but herself, was making her do it? “Surely you have enough of a track record of accomplishing what you’ve set out to do,” she chided herself. “Nobody will think lesser of you. They’ll be disappointed. This is something we’ve all visualized. Is it up to you to make it happen?” She didn’t think Raven would care. He was counting on her to do the organizational part of it anyway. Maybe there was someone else they could help get going on it….

What if this was like her aborted vision quest back when Arlo and crew were doing them as part of finishing high school. Someone had to model coming down before the end. It had gotten cold and rainy. Late March was a dumb ass time for a solo in the woods with only a tarp for protection. Nevertheless, it had been hard for her to sensibly give up and walk down off the Mountain without even a single night alone….

Round and round her thoughts went. Maybe she should climb the Mountain – visit the Shrine – see if there was any guidance to be had up there.

But as she was putting on her faded purple sweatshirt (Nekelew High Class of 2000) and scarlet tennies, another thought occurred to her. It had been a long time since she’d been to the River. If she went through the State Park she could walk around where the River neared the ocean and visit the Bay Shrine. The mate to the one on the Mountain. With this thought a heron flew over heading towards the estuary. Long legs sticking out, it gave a single throaty honk of greeting which seemed to confirm the notion that her watery side needed addressing rather than the earth and fire of the mountain. Checking her watch, she grinned to see 11:11. It was always a good sign when the numbers were the same or lined up in a sequence, but all ones was an especially significant omen.