I wanted a feast day to commemorate the one year anniversary of my concussion (consussiversary?), and you will be unsurprised to learn that I got so caught up in trying to solve one small detail related to how I wanted to feast day to look and feel, that I wore myself out and the feast part itself didn’t happen.
In fact, the feast, rather aptly, turned into a Recovery Day.
That’s okay. Feast days are an evolving practice, really an ongoing study in the relationship between ritual and compassion, and each time I attempt one, I learn more about why (and how) they are complicated and challenging, messy and hard.
I re-learn this truth: feast days can be complicated and challenging, messy and hard. This doesn’t mean a feast day is not a worthwhile endeavor, it just means I want to approach with more kindness and lower my expectations.
And while my tendency with lowering expectations is to lower them in small increments, they actually need to be lowered by a lot. I keep learning this.
And then I forget again, the blessing-curse of this new mind, or, who knows, maybe my mind was always like this, I don’t remember, and can’t tell you. Or possibly the forgetting-again is a human constant that I forget about too.
Complicated and challenging, messy and hard.
What is the menu for a feast day that honors these qualities?
Another thing I am learning: Maybe I like menu-planning more than I like feasting. Can I make some room to be okay with that? Do I wish to investigate further? Maybe the menu-planning is the ritual.
Commemorating anything is complicated and challenging, all the more so when the [whatever it is] being commemorated is fraught or painful, marking the moment between The Before and all that came after.
I got into a late night fight with a (possibly haunted?) chair in June of 2021 and I don’t know what happened, I can only tell you that found myself slammed against a wall, blood running down my face, eventually it became clear that I now had a different brain.
The chair stole so much of my ability to focus or remember, or to even care about the things I apparently used to focus on or remember, and then Covid knocked me out in January and took what was left.
Honestly I don’t even remember what to mourn, I just remember that I used to care about things, I think I had goals (???) and worked towards them (???), now I can’t seem to hold one in my head long enough to even determine out a possible next step, never mind take it.
Anyway. That’s a hard and painful thing to think about, never mind to actively take time to reflect on, no wonder I didn’t want to sit down for a feast, even one whose purpose was to celebrate marking a year of new brain.
I want to make a lot of room here to genuinely give acknowledgment & legitimacy to the grief in this perception and assessment, and, at the same time…
I also want to remember to keep asking What Is True And What Is Also True?
Can I let in the also-true reality that I do sometimes have flashes and glimmers of goals and desires again? And a flash is not nothing. A flash is hopeful. A flash is a beacon.
Disinclination to pause…
You have probably heard me say this, I think it’s something we need to regularly remind ourselves of.
We exist inside a culture that is go-go-go, no time to process, deliberately built to keep us from reflecting, invested in making sure we don’t get to grieve, feel, experience, contemplate, shift in relation to. There’s too much pressure to keep moving.
And it turns out that creating a container for this work, taking intentional time or making intentional space to reflect is really scary and intense, no wonder we try to skip that part.
Somehow nearly three months have passed since the proposed feast day. And a few more weeks since I wrote this essay that you are reading and then forgot I wrote it, until today.
Three months? That makes no sense to me, but the calendar says it’s true. Do-overs forever!
Maybe if I try for a feast day each quarter, eventually I will end up with cake. Possibly even a cake I really like.
Chop wood, carry water, wash one (1) top
The other day I needed to hand-wash a black top that can’t go in the laundry.
I made the bed and then carefully laid out this garment on top of my bed so that I couldn’t forget, like a flashing sign. SOMETHING IS HERE, PAY ATTENTION!
Then each time I passed the bed, I wondered what it was doing there, because I forgot. Then I would pace, trying to remember what it meant: clearly a clue, what is it a clue for?
In the late afternoon, I suddenly remembered why there was a piece of clothing on the bed, so I washed it out in the sink, then rolled it up in a towel like a burrito to coax out excess water. I knew I needed a hanger to hang it up, so I set off to find one, only to forget what I was looking for.
Keep in mind that I live in a tiny house on a trailer, and my entire home is 150sq ft, not that many steps to walk front door to back door (and nowhere else to go in between), so it’s not like I’m going up and down stairs or forgetting because I am distracted by other rooms, there are no other rooms.
In the evening, I found the rolled up towel, wondered what it was, discovered my black top, carried it with me to a hanger, and put myself to bed.
Pretty sure that was all I got done that day, having the brilliant idea to wash one (1) top, eventually washing it, eventually hanging it on a hanger to dry, continually losing focus and refocusing on the world’s smallest task took an entire day.
It wasn’t even on my List of Ten Thousand Very Important Things I need to do.
It wasn’t the metaphorical chop wood carry water of repetitive daily life chores.
Just the ongoing experience of trying to hold a thought long enough to act on it, and not being able to do anything about this wish.
I can still find my way in the world of concepts.
Unfortunately though, we exist in the world of things, and I am a stranger in the world of things.
Sure, the world of things was never my home, I was always just visiting, but I used to be able to fake it, and now I really don’t understand how to get around at a basic level.
I am out of tea lights, ran out when I was trapped during the monsoon floods. I like tea lights, they are cheery, and I use them to heat the loose incense I make.
Scent helps me focus, it helps me remain calm and remember to breathe.
Regular incense is sometimes overpowering, sometimes too smokey, and it costs too much. Burning loose incense by way of a tea light gives me many hours of diffused scent. I like this method.
I don’t like burning loose incense on charcoal, it involves remembering where the charcoal is and how to light it. That’s too many things to remember.
A tea light in a glass jar, with a sink strainer on top, the kind you can pick up at the grocery store, that’s my method. The strainer holds the loose incense, the tea light slowly heats it from below.
There is something cheery, steady, and calming with this method, the light through the glass, the wafting scent without smoke. Love an easy solution that is elegant in its simplicity.
Elegant in its simplicity
All you need is a tea light, if you can remember to procure tea lights.
Which I can’t.
There are no tea lights within a three hour drive that I have found. Unless you count scented tea lights at Walmart, but I don’t wish to give them money for anything, never mind candles that smell like fake vanilla or pumpkin spice or rum raisin, I can’t remember what unappealing synthetic variation on a food flavor they had for candles, but it was a clear and easy nope.
In theory, I could order tea lights online, but I only get wifi a few hours a day on a good day, and despite having written TEA LIGHTS in large letters, underlined many times, on many pieces of paper, I have not once remembered to do this.
Burn after naming
During the wild rains, I made three new loose incense blends.
Interestingly, the last time I made a loose incense blend was on concussion-anniversary day, so: maybe incense-making is a form of feast day celebration too.
Maybe it was a feast of scent and sensations instead of a feast of foods.
Smashing scented-things with a mortar and pestle is a delightful rainy day activity, and something I like to do on the new moon as well if I remember, which is a maybe.
But my favorite part of making an incense blend is the naming. And after you name it, you burn it.
So of course my favorite name of all the names I have come up with for [magic that I name and then burn] is Burn After Naming. Would you like to know my favorite names for incense blends?
Villanelle Tea Party
Villanelle Tea Party blend is the new name for what I used to call Sonoran Sorcery, a mix of cedar, creosote, rosemary & cloves, it reminds me of the desert on a summer evening.
Villanelle Tea Party was also name I came up with for the feast of forgetting.
Villanelle is the antagonist (though possibly the protagonist, depends on your perspective) in the show Killing Eve, she is the one intent on killing Eve. Though sometimes it seems as though Eve might be the one who will end up killing Eve, or, who, through her obsession with Villanelle, loses herself, and so obsession itself is killing Eve, if that makes sense.
And for me, because I grew up with Jewish feast days, a holiday always begins the evening before, the pre-, the Eve Of, It’s always the Eve of something.
So Killing Eve is a spectacular double-meaning, it is about killing Eve (who is to be killed? Eve), and it is about the BEFORE of an ending, the eve of the killing, something must end and it is the eve of that, the eve of things were one way and now they are not, the eve of it’s all over now, baby blue.
More about Eve (but not all about Eve, and also not All About Eve)
Eve is also the English version or transliteration of my very Hebrew name. And in some or possibly many senses, I was killed the night of the concussion. I am the Eve of, in the phrase “the Eve of”.
I am Eve, and I am the eve of.
Killing Eve is also the show I binge-watched during the ten days I spent in bed after the chair beat me up.
So I had a lot of time, because I live in the world of concepts and because the world of things was entirely unavailable to me, to think about Eve and being Eve, and what Killing Eve might mean, but also to study Villanelle who was utterly fascinating to me.
More about Villanelle
Villanelle, in the show Killing Eve, is a sociopath, a serial killer for hire, who works for bad people and does bad things. And has a lot of hot sex.
Villanelle is also hilarious, fun, glamorous, witty, playful, perceptive, a wild sensualist, honestly a delight of a character.
I was surprised to discover that I found Villanelle enormously relatable. And I think her relatability is intentional, showcasing the brilliance of the writing. A high-likability assassin is partly what draws you in.
Mmmmm, and I also think, more specifically, that I found a sociopathic serial killer so relatable because there is something deeply sad and very blank about this character, and deeply sad and very blank is possibly the best way to summarize what it feels like after your brain has been knocked out of its orbit.
Not to mention an appropriate tagline for these difficult times.
2020-2022: Deeply Sad And Very Blank.
What’s on the menu
But while I often feel distraught about the blankness and my inability to care about or remember the things I had once cared about, Villanelle revels in not caring about anything, other than Eve. Villanelle loves to care about absolutely nothing, Villanelle loves a good obsession, Villanelle sees no paradox here.
Villanelle is a NIHILIST but also a HEDONIST and an OBSESSIVE, and there is something extremely appealing about that combination.
When something gruesome happens (something that Villanelle, for once, is only indirectly the cause of), she shrugs and says, “We must get ourselves a very good meal now.” What an approach. I love this.
Yes, a good meal. A feast. Let me plan the menu, I love that part.
When sad and blank, a party
Villanelle wears a party dress to her psych evaluation.
What does this sad blank situation need? A feast day. Solved by cake.
What am I still excited about even when I believe I have lost the thread?
What am I able to celebrate and, more importantly, what’s on the menu?
More about a tea party for Villanelle
Villanelle loves dressing up and being glamorous and eating dessert, and so I wanted to make a rich chocolate lavender cake for Villanelle, to commemorate a year of everything is different now.
I wanted the cake to be very small, and to sit on top of an overturned wine glass. Villanelle loves presentation and display, Villanelle loves Use What You Have, Villanelle would kill you using the tiny chair just because it’s there.
But I got lost on the way to a lavender farm trying to procure culinary lavender, and wound up in a twilight zone, so that never happened.
Or, it hasn’t happened yet. I still have the recipe though. Chocolate lavender cake, and something about me making it for her, because Villanelle doesn’t bake, but I do, I have notes about this somewhere, let me find them.
Here are the elements and superpowers that Villanelle brings to a tea party, or to anything:
Something about Velvety Decadence, is that cake-related or bigger than cake?
Glamorous, Formidable, Witchy and I Was Trained To Be Devastating…
Luscious, Hedonistic, Attention to Detail
and a dose of Hell Yes, Over The Top!
Devastatingly Delicious, as in: this rosemary-rose horchata I made is so good it needs a more beautiful glass to honor it. Also feeling some Olivia Pope energy there. Popcorn and red wine. Over a cliff levels of dedication.
Villanelle is a Wild Sensualist, extremely primal & scent-driven, instinct-driven, this is about atmosphere as much as food, beverage, elaborate cakes on cake stands, and let’s not forget aphrodisiacs.
Don’t forget aphrodisiacs
Villanelle is only about APHRODISIACS, I’m about DIY.
And the difference between us is not that she’s a sociopathic serial killer but that she’d go to a cafe in Paris in pursuit of the best cake, while I need to DIY it because DIY is about sorcery and about independence, it’s fine.
Soll Sein Mit Mazal
Soll Sein Mit Mazal (Yiddish for “it should happen with good fortune” or “may it be with luck”) is my next incense blend: lemon balm, poppy seeds, cedar, nutmeg, cloves.
The name comes from a story about my grandmother, whose parents mostly spoke Yiddish and were old-country superstitious. They had a ritualized way of closing the windows before a storm, and they would say, I believe, Soll Sein Mit Chesed.
If you speak German, than you understand the first three words, even though that’s not really how you’d say it in German at all. It’s a blessing, or: the opposite of a curse. Chesed is the Hebrew word for compassion or mercy. So the phrase means something like, may god be merciful.
Something akin to “The good lord willing and the creek don’t rise…”
Luck luck luck, please, some good luck
According to a family story that is blurry in my lost-brain, my grandmother was quite young and at home alone when a storm came on. She knew she was supposed to close all the windows but she couldn’t remember the magic words, so she said Soll Sein Mit Mazal, may it happen with luck, may we be blessed with luck.
And now I say this.
During the monsoon and the flooding, the river rising and rising, I said it each time I looked out the window at the wall of rain. We should be so lucky. May it be lucky. The good lord willing and the creek don’t rise, compassion, compassion, compassion, mercy, mercy, mercy, luck, luck, luck.
Whatever works, right? Whatever fucking works. Whichever magic words are at your disposal.
Burn After Naming
Burn After Naming is my very favorite name that I have ever come up with for an incense blend, because it’s literally what you do: you name it and burn it.
Copal, sandalwood, sarsaparilla. Naming is wishing and invoking. Burning is the process by which the scent is released, like the prayer flags tattering so the prayers can be set free. Destruction as alchemy.
Burn after naming makes me think of the Coen Brothers movie, Burn After Reading, it’s the phrase of spies and top secret files, it’s classified, you read it and burn it (or I guess nowadays you declassify it in your mind, if you are the most embarrassing and dangerous former United States President).
Vital intel is meant to be consumed, in the sense of taken in, and consumed again in the sense of destroyed by fire. Learned and forgotten.
The moment of epiphany, the moment that it’s gone. The scribbled note to remind you of a dream, but the note makes no sense.
Put this in your mouth
That movie is such a wild ride, entirely tied together by Brad Pitt’s oral fixation, that man just keeps putting things in his mouth for the duration, who can say what happens or if anything happens, it’s kind of just one long series of snacks.
So again, my interests are more centered around menu planning (Villanelle, come to my tea party, I made something for your mouth) and less about content, because I can’t follow the plot these days anyway.
Make this delicious thing, set it on fire.
Make this delicious thing, put it in your mouth.
Obsess a little, it’s all we have left really. Sensual pleasure, scent, the moment of igniting, the fleeting joy of a good obsession.
I have been on the prowl for gluten-free cookie recipes that I can make one at a time in a waffle maker, or, also one at a time, in my tiny EZ-bake style oven, because I don’t have access to a real one yet.
I made a batch yesterday, and they did not turn out the way I wanted and I got so frustrated with my broken brain, my inability to navigate the world of things.
This particular recipe contains coconut oil, coconut flour, and shredded coconut.
The first two get blended into the batter, and the last goes in at the end right before the baking. I mixed these up despite checking the instructions easily a dozen times, my brain just reversed them, and so I left the coconut oil out of the batter, instead of reserving the shredded coconut.
I get so upset with myself. So many monsters of self-criticism, about how I am wasting ingredients and time with my mistakes, why didn’t I double-check (I did! Just can’t remember anything!), why even try anything if I’m just going to ruin it, I screw everything up, it’s never worth it, etc.
I’ll give this to my monsters: they are nothing if not consistent.
Mostly falling apart
Of course they turned out fine, my panic was overdone but the cookies were not. They’re cookies. Cookies are delicious, even weird-looking ones that, like me, are mostly falling apart.
And not-yes cookies are still a clue about true-yes cookies.
And: I will get better at this.
Everyone makes mistakes, and a lost tourist in the world of things possibly makes more mistakes than they expect to, but okay, that’s part of this too.
What is the real story?
Is the story really that I screwed up making cookies because my brain doesn’t work, or is the story that cookies, like incense, are a form of alchemy, that experiments are intrinsically valuable, and that my intense disproportionate panic over outcomes is a step I can eventually remember to skip.
Just skip that part. Omit that ingredient. Maybe that’s aspirational, but maybe that’s okay too. Maybe just remembering that this is an option is the new step, whether I can pull it off or not.
Here are the superpowers I named (yes, burn after naming) and asked for to help me in this moment of falling apart over falling-apart cookies:
Bob Ross Happy Little Accidents
What If The Easy/Wrong Way Is Just As Good, Or Even Better?
All Experiments Are Useful Experiments
All Cookies Are Good Cookies Because Oh Hell Yeah Cookies
Hey What If This Is Unfuckupable Actually
Falling Apart Is Part Of The Process
All Points For Trying
Now We Know What To Try Next Time
As well as any other related or unrelated superpowers I haven’t thought of that could be of help here, I call them in, come in, powers of Sweetness.
What would Villanelle do? Devour three cookies and get right back to the mission.
Soll sein mit mazal. All luck and good fortune to us.
It’s all over now, baby blue
Bob Dylan, hilariously described by Israeli songwriter Meir Ariel (at possibly the last concert he did before he died) as one of the greatest Hebrew poets of all times, can write a hell of a poem, that much we know, and It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue is a masterpiece about endings.
Your lover who just walked out the door
Is taking all his blankets from the floor
The carpet too is moving under you…
IT’S ALL OVER NOW, BABY BLUE
I’m not sure if there is a better summing up of this specific kind of heartache-loss of an ending than someone leaving, and taking the floor with them. That really is what it feels like.
What was now isn’t. It was until it wasn’t, and this is the moment of gone.
What was now isn’t
The carpet too is moving under you.
The ground is suddenly unstable, not there, you have no balance, no proprioception, no way to even interact with anything that’s happening because it’s all been decided for you and without you.
The floor is not the floor, the ground is no longer the ground, nothing is how you thought it was, it’s all over now, baby, blue.
Strike another match
I like many versions and covers of this song, and don’t want to pick a favorite at the moment.
It does what it does, a perfect depiction of an unbearable goodbye, or, worse, an exit without a goodbye. It is also an accurate portrayal of what it feels like when the brain you have is not anything like the one you had before. You must leave now, take what you need you think will last, whatever you wish to keep, you’d better grab it fast.
It’s all over now.
But also: Strike another match, and start anew.
We’re putting our best guys on it
Speaking of the Coen Brothers, I keep thinking about that perfectly executed scene from The Big Lebowski, when the Dude is trying to get information on the whereabouts of either the missing car or the missing briefcase that was in his stolen car, and the car lot cop is entirely uninterested, and just gets more and more sarcastic about it:
Yeah, the briefcase, sure, that’s a big case, we’re putting our best guys on it!
Okay, I had to go to the library for wifi to look it up, here’s what he actually said:
“Leads, yeah, sure. I’ll just check with the boys down at the crime lab, they’ve got four more detectives working on the case. They got us working in shifts!”
So basically this but with my brain. Everyone is on the case, everyone is looking for it. They’re working in shifts.
Phoenix superpowers of from the ashes, burn after naming, remember and forget, forget and remember, start over, it’s a new day, strike another match and start anew.
Name it, wish it, set it on fire, start over.
Burn after: naming.
What does it mean to name something? What does it mean to name something when you have no working memory, no focus, everything is blurred?
It is brave to name things when so much has been burned. I think so. My monsters disagree, they think I should stop being a baby and just get better. Which is honestly a beautiful wish. To just get better. Okay! We’re putting our best guys on it.
Let’s name some feast days
So many things to mark and celebrate, or to mark and not-celebrate, to just pause and breathe and take note, again, remember, again, that some days are complicated and messy.
We will Bob Ross Happy Accident our way through, or burn things and cry, or eat a cookie. Possibly some combination of the above. We will make it through.
This week was autumnal equinox, which in the past was my ritual visit to the sunflower fields, but I don’t have energy for that, so the sunflowers will have to come to me.
And now it’s new years for me, Rosh Hashana, which begins with Erev Rosh, the Eve of the head of the year. Will I make a very tiny honey cake? Maybe. Probably not. Let’s start small and go easy.
October 8 is the one year anniversary of the fire in my tiny house, October 9 is the day my mom died. Maybe that chocolate lavender cake is still in the cards. We’re putting our best guys on it.
Strike another match and start anew.
What was, now isn’t. But what is could be exciting. Let’s find out, welcome in the unknown good surprises, make a new batch of cookies, try again.
Come play with me, I love company
You are welcome to play with any of the concepts here in any way you like. Come play in the comments!
You can brainstorm experiments, practices, rituals or feast days, cookies or menu items you would like to play around with, whether for your own times of loss, heartache or change, or for whatever you might going through, People Vary.
And as always, you’re invited to share anything sparked for you while reading, themes you’re playing with, or add any wishes into the pot, into the healing zone, as a friend of mine said, who knows, the power of the collective is no small thing, and companionship is healing.
If you received clues or perspective or just want to send appreciation for the writing and work/play we do here, I appreciate it tremendously.
I am accepting support (with joy & gratitude) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, and it all helps with fixing what needs fixing, currently focused on replacing three windows and installing a heater to make it through winter.
Or you can buy a copy of the my Monster Manual & Coloring Book if you don’t have it!
And if those aren’t options, I get it, you can light a candle for support (or light one in your mind!), share one of my posts with someone who loves words, tell people about these techniques, approaches and themes, send them here, it all helps, it’s all welcome, and I appreciate it so much. ❤️