First, kshandra came over Friday night, hung out with Roni and me as I fretted and tried to amuse myself with things Monty Python. It helped a bit, but only just. I was trying to tie my courage to where ever it would stick, often wishing for some for of spiritual velcro. Failing to find it I had the both of them encouraging me to go through with the memorial to Linda at Stafford Lake the following night.
I actually crashed with Roni (who otherwise wouldn't have had time with me from last Wednesday to tonight, Monday), managed to get something resembling rest. I awoke fairly early, spent some snuggle time with Kirsten (who didn't get to sleep until 3 as it turns out... perhaps I shouldn't have given her an account on my portable), and finally got her car loaded up with my simple camping gear by around 1. We actually didn't get there until 2:30, for one reason or another. After setting up the camp, we grabbed the shuttle they were running and got to the actual faire by 3 ish.
It seemed I got more queasy with every step toward the entrance. The site is stunning, perhaps the least infected by modern trappings in the surrounding hillsides than any site I've been at, save perhaps Black Pointe. The trappings of nature, the lake itself, the wild life... I kept thinking how much Linda would have loved it. My eyes watered every ten steps, but I felt more or less in control.
I paid for the tickets -- that in itself was weird. I hadn't actually paid to get into faire for nigh over 10 years, thanks to Linda's seemingly endless supply of comps. But actually walking through the faire...
Recently, penguin_goddess showed me the natal charts that she had created the last time she was in sacramento. Many people dismiss astrology as pseudo-science. Myself, I view it and other forms of divination as tools, methods to examine the self. If it doesn't work, don't use it -- but don't refuse what does work simply because there's no "scientific" basis for it, at least not until so-called "real" science can adequately explain the workings of the human mind, much less that of the heart and soul.
One of the things mentioned as a part of the chart analysis initially struck me as completely inaccurate. If I were a sane, responsible scientific method kind of man I could have simply laughed it off. Instead, I decided to walk my walk, and think about it. For the curious, it was the following:
"Yohannon's Moon in Scorpio
"You probably have carried over some emotional scars from your childhood and are very clever at hiding your emotions from others. The truth is that you are extremely sensitive and can be downright secretive about your feelings, which makes it somewhat difficult for you to enter serious relationships."
Most confusing about this was it seemed, at least at first, to be half correct: Emotional scars? Hell, I show them off like a certain shark hunting character from "Jaws". Extremely sensitive? Fuck, yes I am.
I took issue with the "hiding your emotions" bit. Me? If this was HIDING them, then I certainly could be doing a better job! As for serious relationships...
Except that I began to think about it. Why I was having so much trouble with my relationships of late. Even the ones that are apparently going well are problematic, at least in my own eyes. Which brought me back to the idea of being emotionally clandestine...
And I realized it was true.
One of the first things I learned when exposed to the socializing influence that was the new york public school system was that emotions were bad. Laughing out of turn, or (goddess forbid!) crying was verboten, something to be suppressed or ridiculed. And anger... well, that was almost the worst one of all.
The true impact of what that meant didn't strike me fully until I strode through the faire, my stomach knotting, my head spinning. How much have I been suppressing, and for how long? Not that I was thinking that at the time.
I finally ran into some people I knew at the Green Man Inn. Molly of Jolly beggar was there, and she smiled so big when she saw me I felt less like an interloper for a bit. The rest of them were there: Matt, Amy, Rory, and others. Molly walked up to me and gave me a tight hug that she held onto for longer than one would to merely be polite -- she meant it. Of all of them, she understood the relationship Linda and I have the most. I trembled a bit, a wept slightly, and apologized. She assured me she had been doing it on and off for most of the day herself.
I was standing there for a bit when some girl of no more than 20 walked up to me and told me "this is a stage... you'll need to take off your sunglasses." I had forgotten that I was still wearing them, more to cover my reddened eyes than anything. I removed them and glared at her, and she gave me this unctuous little smile that I failed to return as she walked out of the gate. I was so NOT in the mood to be hassled by some pissant costume Nazi at that particular moment, and had seriously debated issuing some sort of cutting remark... but forbore.
Molly came close to me, and whispered "Never mind her... we BUILT the block she thinks she's been around". I loved her for the flattery -- I never thought of myself as a big part of faire. The best I could lay claim to was jogging around the block a few times. To even be placed in the same class as Molly was the biggest compliment she could have made to me.
One of the things that had almost made me lose it earlier was seeing that Jolly Beggar was scheduled to perform at 4:30. When I saw the posting all I could do was point and make odd noises, and Kirsten propped me up until I was ready to walk again. Standing there in the Inn I stood and listened to the remaining members of the group as they rehearsed, yet another honor -- it was akin to letting someone read one of my first drafts, after all. I honestly don't recall very much about getting back to the stage and getting a seat at the front, and that show... poor Molly must have lost it several times, especially when they closed with "Bells of Norwich" which was one of Linda's leads. Someone asked for "all around my hat", but Molly couldn't do it, saying "That was Linda's" and leaving it at that. I'm pretty sure she noted that I was wearing a willow wand around my own hat (itself one of Linda's old straw ones), taken from one of the trees as I entered the grounds. For those of you who who are unfamiliar with the song, the chorus is:
"All around my hat, I will wear the green willow,
All around my hat, for a twelvemonth and a day,
And if anyone should ask me the reason why I'm wearing it,
It's all for my true love, who's far, far away."
I doubt any would argue that she wasn't.
It wasn't until we reached the bit before the jousting area that I began to understand what I was thinking, and even then I tried to reign it in. I was sitting under a tree, in the shade, when I knew what was wrong, and the realization threw me down and trampled me under foot, leaving me to slump over and finally crack open.
I was looking for her.
Linda always made sure I had time to wander the faire. I'm certain she thought I spent the entire time flirting and carousing, but mostly I would just sit in just the same sort of shady, comfortable spot, and watch. I loved people watching. Most of all, I would wait until I saw her coming, riding her cart, and walk up to her, perhaps unseen until I rested my hand on her shoulder, leaning over to kiss her neck, the smell of roses mingling with her sweat under the hot sun.
I was still looking for her. I think I managed to say as much to Kirsten, who understood, bless her. Her understanding seemed to make it worse, somehow. Like a part of me wanted to be told how foolish it was, and to straighten up and be a man. To somehow shore myself up, make myself presentable to the world. To be logical.
Logic be damned, and so should I be, because I was still looking. I could almost hear her voice, singing, during the show. And when the show was over, she wasn't back stage, waiting for me, perhaps surrounded by an entourage of acolytes and fans alike.
Kirsten says I will probably always be looking. She's right, and it frustrates me... I was finally beginning to feel like I had stopped looking for someone, only to lose one.
As I sat there, huddled into her arms, someone from security walked up and asked if we were alright. Kirsten explained to him that we were there for Linda's memorial, and you could just sense the compassion in him. He remembered sitting on Linda's knee as a child, and he was pretty darn near 30... and it struck me how short a time I really got to know her. He clasped my hand with Kirsten's, and for a moment felt something important, except it slipped away before I could capture it. I wish I had gotten his name -- but even not knowing it, I felt a kinship toward him that gave me strength.
While I had been babbling incoherently (at least I thought I had been babbling) Kirsten had pressed something into my hand. I didn't know it was there until after we three parted our grips, and it almost fell out. While pouring out my grief in great honking sobs, I apparently begged the goddess for mercy, for the strength and faith to believe she was really, as lavendersage told me shortly after I heard the news of her physical death, flying free from pain and the immobility that so taxed her spirit. I begged for forgiveness for my weakness, and declared I cared not what happened to me... that I just wanted to believe, more than anything, that someone I loved (anyone, for that matter) went on to something better.
Maybe the answer was more immediate than I thought.
Somehow, I managed to get to the front of faire, by which time I was actually COLD. I think of all the years of faire I had attended with Linda, the hot dusty affairs they all were, and I had to laugh. Even funnier, I hadn't even bothered to bring the warmer garb. Even my "civvies" were a simple hawaiian shirt and slacks.
We grabbed a fast dinner, and somehow made it back on site. I had been worried that security would be a challenge to get past after closing, but I needn't have: We literally walked right onto the grounds and over to the stage next to the Green Man, where the memorial was already underway.
There were songs and stories, laughter and tears. If I hadn't already been humbled by the realization, I would have been ashamed at my arrogance, thinking that somehow my pain was any greater than those who knew her, not merely barely more than a decade, but DECADES. There were people there who knew her before I was even in high school, who loved her as much, and were even suffering more than I. As frightened as I was by the intensity of my feelings, there it was: Something more intense. Perspective can destroy a man, and perhaps I can think more kindly of myself for bearing it well.
I won't tell you the things spoken of, for the most part. If they wish to tell the tale to anyone other than those who were there, they will. Some things are more personal than anything we shallowly label as such, even more than sex, bodily functions both absurd and sublime, or even faith. I would tell you of what I said, except that weird inspiration thing that can happen to me when I don't know what to say came on full force.
I remember the crowd falling silent, some hundred or more, waiting patiently. I took a deep breath, and began to speak. I thanked them all for accepting me into their home, a mere dilettante compared to the time and effort that even the least of them spent at faire. I spoke of that first moment I met Linda, and quoted "Love is an angel, disguised as lust" (which was cheered... it wasn't until later I realized how appropriate the phrase was when speaking of her), and how I later realized I had fallen completely and totally in love with her from that very moment. How she had shown me so much that I might never had noticed, learned so much I might never have even considered. And I brought forth the Bottle: 21 Year Old Balveinne Single Malt, the one we both had shared. From across the clearing I heard someone say "I know THAT bottle!", and I felt a surge of strength that got me through that last terrible wave of grief, and I pulled the cork with a loud "pop", and screamed out "TO LINDA!" as I raised it, and we all drank. I heard someone yell "Drink it dry!" and I almost did... save there was someone I wanted to be sure also got a taste.
And a taste Molly got. I hugged her, and thanked her. She thanked me for loving her. I wanted to say something, perhaps to point out that was not unlike thanking me for breathing... except she already knew that. That's why she got one of the last sips from the last bottle I shared with Linda Underhill.
There as one last thing: The distribution of Linda. A box full of bindles, each containing a small, perhaps half a teaspoon, of her cremated remains, to be given out to those who would take them to someplace she loved, or would have loved (with the admonishment that she would NOT like to be taken to a certain golf course taking up the physical space, if not the spirit, of the Black Pointe site). Molly said she was taking her to the Eiffel Tower (which engendered the comment "She'll always have paris!" from a decidedly tipsy Yohannon), and others would be taking her to points in England that she loved. I'm hoping someone manages to get her to stonehenge one day...
One of the last songs of the night had a chorus that, unlike earlier in the day, I managed to sing out loudly and strongly:
"Here's a toast to the company,
And one to my lass...
Let us drink and be merry,
All out of one glass,
Let us drink and be merry,
All grief to refrain,
For we may and might never,
Be here again..."
Somehow Kirsten and me stumbled back to the car, and eventually I made it back to the camp site. I had cried so much that day, weeping openly in ways that I now know I haven't let myself in years, much less since I knew she had gone on to a place where I could no longer follow her. When we got back to the tent it wasn't long until I indulged in that most common reaction to grief, and made love to Kirsten, made all the more remarkable by the quantity of drink I had quaffed.
Now, technically, there was no reason why we couldn't have driven home that night. K wasn't drinking, and the memorial was over by around 10, and we could have slept in my own bed by 11:30... except that Kirsten thought I should, in her words, get back on the horse.
I knew she was right. Linda would have been very sad if I never went to faire again, a thing that I loved and hungered for even before she met me. Still, it was hard, and I might have run from it even then, but I decided to go for it. Kirsten debated eschewing the garb and going mundane, but I figured that if I was going to do this, I would do it all the way.
As we entered the grounds again, I explained to her my rationalization: That, after over a decade of free admittance and obscene discounts obtained thanks to Linda, that I had several thousand dollars in reserve to spend at faire. She agreed it was a mighty fine rationalization, and I proceeded to follow through, purchasing some wonderful stained glass pieces, a skunk carved into Jasper (which earned me the tale from the seller of the man who once fired a loaded skunk at Black Pointe), and perhaps the finest gift of all of a decent bodice for Kirsten. If you've never been to faire, you won't understand what a wonderful sight a well fitted bodice can produce even for the NON busty.
Actually, that's not quite the finest thing. I also purchased, from one of the jewelers, a memorial pin they made to honor Linda... a silver moon with her face on it. She would have adored it. Me, I placed it next the the brass heart favor she gifted me with about a year after we met. She had told me that she knew I wore it on my sleeve, and wanted to give me one that wouldn't break.
We wound up spending nearly four hours there, watching the belly dancers and getting K's hair braided. In some ways, I hated to leave, but she had a long drive back to San Jose, and I still had a date with lavendersage that night. Before that I required a serious shower (that part of faire will probably never change!), and it was already after 3.
penguin_goddess was here when I got back. I tried to tell her and Roni everything I've written here, but felt I could only touch upon too briefly. Kim did make an observation that there was something different, a little bit of peace that wasn't there before.
She's right. Just a little bit... but it's a start.