Ms. Placid and the Boysenberries
A short story inspired by Gertrude Stein
Once there were two gray maidens, one a slate always on the verge of silver and one a gray of rosedust and blue with platinum potential that had become too cool; one fair and one less so, one plain and one more so. Both maids, caught in a gray scale. Ms. Peppy, the silver-lined one, never truly got peppy for any old berry or any old boy. Ms. Placid, the one less so and more so, never truly got peppy for any old anything, least of all a boy.
On one rare occasion, however; Ms. Placid, who with a pure and noble interior could not deny her own ductility, did react with the prestige of a thumb through a giblet sack to another one of Ms. P’s gray-green eyes crested in seasilver. Placid the Catalyst formed a smile of platinum nuggets at the electric sight of the much-lighter Peppy the Silverbush of Conductivity. The two became allies by alloying, fast, and were led, nugget by nugget, into hybridity’s brambles.
As they dashed off into the brambles, Ms. Peppy was more than peppy for another, rather drab, Ms. Placid, who was not nearly peppy enough for her own liking, let alone for conduction. Within those unripe brambles, a shower of forgetting fell. As it were, over the years, the metal gray maids lost their metals and themselves in the bush where so many berries were said to grow. Most ironic of all was that Ms. Peppy’s peppiness did a bait-and-switch on her, and poor, disillusioned Ms. Peppy turned out to be more of a Ms. Placid than a Ms. Peppy (or even a Ms. Placid). All that was left of Ms. Peppy was in Ms. Placid, who grew a sort of hardened peppiness that would not be believed.
Poor Ms. Peppy was more of a Ms. Pokey when she, wandering aimlessly through the wiry troubling of the boysenberry bushes, ran into Ms. Placid. For a second time, under a full bramble-speckled moon. Ms. Placid didn’t seem herself when she felt Ms. Once-Peppy-Now-Pokey poke out at her from the behind of one of the berried bushes. Ms. Placid was rather alarmed and, it seemed, reliably-(n)unreadable Ms. Placid was on the verge of an emotion that only Ms. Perhaps-Peppy would recognize as being that of shocking peppiness.
Ms. Placid found her silver Peppy while separating a cluster of boysenberries, feigning hunger and satisfaction. Starling Ms. Peppy, once again peppered in and peppering her peppy at the sight of dear Ms. Placid and her dreadfully ill-fated cluster of boysenberries, did run too excitedly toward her stoic counterpart and quite carelessly knocked the boysenberries queer out of Ms. Placid’s malleable clutches.
That Ms. Peppy would not be contained was abundantly clear in her incessant puckering and popping. Ms. Placid was platinumized at once and could not maintain her gray. It was only moments later that Ms. Peppy had pushed the metal on her brambles and encroached— crushing the boysenberries while embracing her dear liquefied Ms. Yes, Ms. P landed on the boysenberries with all three phalanges on each delighted foot(note) and colored the grass a brilliant shade of boysen to alloy pep and place. The grass was green no more; the nerve of metal mistress toes, ever towing the line!
The uppers of her leveling feet were huckleberry messengers lined in luster, shriveled and merloted into a most staining shade of boysen, and were rising in gleaming, quarried peppiness at the feel of their pressing. The thermal center and its extremities did rise, the orbital energies did overlap. The boys came off the berry bushes. Chromium and nickel berries grew immediately in their absence. Ratios shifted, bases became current, metallurgy gained a new aspect, as the loaded loganberry uppers of Ms. Peppy’s did land themselves again on the beds and painted toes of Ms. Placid. How they landed! How tightly bound and shining they were in landing! It was no surprise to Ms. Place that Ms. Pep would color her toes and turn them to cosmos, yet it took her by every bit of her minor and muted surprise when she, Ms. Place, did feel her… toes dance unbeknownst in Ms. Pep’s boysendance.
Ms. P’s toes danced with Ms. P’s phalanges riding on them. The two of them, peppy and placid – not knowing where to lay the boysenblame, danced onto the berried and amorphous ground with their futurist feet unbound so long and hard that the boysenberries were no more than skins for the labor and toil of the the meadow-meanderers, the ground no more than a canvas of awakening, a brambling banging of cabernet midnight carbonated with the crystals of osmium. Ms. P and Ms. P driftly dancing across their canvas, boy-free, mixed with violet platinoids and argenites, shooting thornless on their uppers and lowers, not knowing which Ms, which P.
The two Ms. Ps, how they danced and crashed zig-zags through the bushes until they waltzed their refined staining through the once-gray greenery, into the dirt, until they turned the boysenballs to red mists and musts, until they garnered the earth a new, flying rug of boysenlove, a preserve of aggregate, unorthodox, who-am-I, who-are-You, whoo-m-and-whoo-m solid girlsenberry girlsenhood. The two (n)unidentifiable (_)lasses march-ed lofty, advancing across a mess of minerals –Pacific, European, Himalayan, Common, Dewy– across the elevating fields, now boysen meadows without boys, in their boysen and girlsen allyship alloy, and were never known as she-and-she again. They, making mineral-grass of berry glass of the parched floor and reflectivity of the gray bush, became Shhee. And Shhe. And Shhey. And Shheye. Alloyed. Double e’d. Berried. Buoyed. Nunloosed into the boysengirlsenberry bush, their sanctyewairy. P x 2 = 2P. Shh-ee-d. Ms. P.
Beyond Dead Horse Point
The two of us smiled into the lens of what was likely to be our last picture together. I could hear the words we were not saying.
“You’re graduating, correct? Why did you wear white?”
The moment was stealing away from us, her pinned flower was pressed to my cheek.
“Why, to you. Why the black.”
“I am dressed for a funeral.”
“I am dressed for a wedding.”
Which of my parents took the photo of us, holding each other, there, in the bustling crowd? She, with her arm around me, captured. And I, with her hand over my bare shoulder, my face at her shoulder, captured. There we were, entered into the vortex of a disposable Kodak camera. Relics of the past, a relic of our past, with love with a capital L, plain for all to see.
In some other universe, one in my mind ever since, I slipped her a note into the pocket of her dress, I seized the opportunity, I made it a wedding, not a funeral, invited her into florality. Not the carnational kind.
The wild commotion of being a flower overcame me. I had to grow, just had to grow. Her yellow carnation and its red bow had hugged my cheek. My youth and the carnation met. We were mirror images. I was the flame flower, the flower-shaped flame. So I hugged my funereal Sappho, and in our embrace the pin in her chest-plate corsage was let loose, the flower falling between us. “Whoops,” I giggled. I caught the flower in my hand basket as we separated. “It’s yours now” she announced. “Thank you!” The green in my eyes must have grown greener, because something in me was sprouting at that moment. I was then determined to bring home the gold. To be her flower.
Before I followed my family out of the crowded Center for the Arts, I said, “Don’t forget to read your note!” She gave me a wink and I ran away, off toward my great grandmother’s wheelchair. It was only right that I should leave her a special note on my graduation night; I had left her hundreds and hundreds during our time together. On this one, I had drawn an hourglass.
It read “Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days until I leave for college. Don’t make me wait; come get me tonight.”
Who doesn’t like a good soap opera metaphor? I laughed my way over to the next photo shoot with the family. Beside me this time was my ninety-two-year-old great grandmother, whose prominent osteoporosis-induced hunchback always reminded me to notice that my shoulders hunch forward, too. She was a few thimbles shorter than I, because over the century, she shrank. This reminded me that I started out shorter and would shrink even more. We were the incredible shrinking women, born at two different ends of the 20th century. We were matching, too: her cardigan sweater matched my dress. I thought about pinning the flower on her, and how sweet that would be, but I could not give up this flower, not even for little Gramma.
On the way home, I rode in the back of our big blue van. I started to try to pin the flower to my chest, but instead I just stuck myself with the needle, piercing myself like I was my own voodoo doll. The white dress would never be white again. But I wore it for her and the whole event was over, so what was the big deal? Wedding dresses are meant to be stained, right?! She saw me in it. That was enough. Bridal thoughts floated through my mind: black suit, white dress. The man wears the flower on the suit. She wore the flower on her suit-dress.
Consumed with bridal thematics, I had not adequately attended to the Lady Macbething of my dress. In wiping the blood away, I had smeared and made it worse. I thought about how I might tie-dye the dress to salvage it. No one seemed to notice what I was doing in the back seat. It was dark, and I had my knees up in front of me. The red ribbon had detached from the carnation, and I thought about just pinning the red ribbon onto my dress. I was not going to risk tousling the flower any more than I already had.
When we arrived home, I wandered around the yard holding my flower, staring up into that tree, ravished by spring, all whole and green and brimming with petals, at the tail end of dusk, while everyone was busy with something else. The moon sat among her branches, watching the red-stained white flower below. I held the flower toward the sky and told the moon, “Your namesake on Earth gave this to me!”
Moon flower, her flower, waiting for some beyond.
By the time I abandoned dusk, which was on the verge of turning to night, to dance my way to my room, the yellow flower had been speckled red. I thought it legitimately looked like a flame and wanted to enhance the effect, so I dipped my fingers into a Dixie cup of water and sprinkled drops onto our now flame-flower. I had left a compact of blush on the dresser, and proceeded to brush some of the powder onto the edges of the wet petals.
While the blushing flower and the dress and the girl that I was were still dabbled in dew, I ever so lightly and carefully sponge-painted a small flower of crescent moons on my bedroom ceiling. The rose moon carnation made a poor sponge, but the blush brush was a helpful artist’s tool. I was able to make a flower that looked to be whimsical eye, that looked to be a flame, that looked to be a Greek letter.
Rose petals made by an illicit carnation.
I felt chilled but wanted to stay in the dress, to sleep in it if I could, for she had been against it and me, so I tugged up some leggings and sulked into a saggy green shawl, and wrapped my arms around myself, around the dress, clinging to her in my mind. With the flower to my cheek, I writhed in longing and dreamful sleep for two hours. I didn’t even dance in front of my window, nor down below the tree, nor down the street, nor in the parking lot across the street. I didn’t even wait. My nightly moonwalk had been abandoned. I figured she would take my invitation for a prank and write me the next day to tease me. The candles were burning so low they were burning themselves out. Love was everywhere. Hope flickered on all the walls and through all the windows.
That was when her apple hit my pane.
It was my she… my shay! She had come! A moon after her sunshine. A flower after her flower. A galloping spirit in the night.
The time had come. I had waited long enough. What’s two long hours, two long months, two long decades, two long centuries? I knew how to make a getaway; I just needed a ride. How many times had I thought up this plan? I did just what I said I would do in the letter and lowered myself out of my window. I also twisted my ankle and tore something in my calf. Not part of the fantasy. Melissa Etheridge was clearly to blame— and thank. I winced and dropped the flower by the mutant evergreen shrub, in near-silence, as the MoonShe dragged me down the wooded lane to her silver ride. I, her flower. She, my moon. Silver, our chariot.
Once we were riding, I let My She rub my ankle while I sniveled, “We’re gonna go. We’re gonna do it.”
“Wait,” her voice was styptic. A hysterical silence then followed.
“I have nothing. So what will you do with me?”
“What’s with the blood, Lady Macbeth?” She meant to distract me from the question-asking with her own question.
She reached to caress my ankle.
“I have twisted my ankle after painting my ceiling with blood and blush after climbing out my window after an apple was thrown at my window.”
“That’s some journalistic reporting,” she offered. Her tenderness met mine, finally.
“Did you see I left a flame on for ya?!”
“That, I did.”
“Well, it’s about time. That flame has been on every night for like my whole life.”
“Have I ever told you, you’re very beautiful when you exaggerate?”
“I think I’m understating when it comes to the lifespan of my waiting!”
“Have I ever told you you’re quite the makeup artist, among other things.”
“No, and now is a good time for you to tell me. So tell me everything. I have many questions for you. And thank you; I like makeup. I also like making up with you.”
“That might be able to be arranged. If you will make out with me.”
“I’d love to make out with you but not until you come out to me!”
“Very funny. Now what’s with the blood. Menstruating?”
“Yes, it’s my first time.”
And with that, there was an uproar of laughter.
“Yeah, actually I am. But I think it’s my virginity calling out to you.”
“Oh? And what is your virginity saying…”
“Take me! Take me on a honeymoon!”
“If this is a honeymoon, then your hymen will need to be dealt with, with care.”
This was nothing like before. I prayed that I was still a virgin.
I wanted to tell her the candlestick and the pipe-cleaners meant nothing.
“It can be a HymenMoon. It’s like a honeymoon and a School for Scandal all rolled into one.”
“That, it is, indeed. I concur.”
“If this situation were a Kentucky Derby horse, we could name it Silver Scandal!”
“Why are you so good at naming things and making words sound ancient and Socratic?”
“I believe you are the one who has been dubbed a ‘neologism whiz,’ Kid.”
“Yeah, but your vocabulary is more extensive than mine. Um, can you still be a virgin if you’ve had a foot-long ruler inside you?”
She laughed, heartily, again. “What on earth have you been doing up in that room of yours? Virgins should be without rulers, in my book. Also, that sounds painful.”
“I agree! I mean, I never did that; the thought just popped into my head. I bet someone out there has.”
“What else is popping into that head of yours?”
“I’m wondering where we’re going and how you’re driving so safely when I’m so distracting. Remember that girl who almost drove me off the Grand Island Bridge?”
“Didn’t you almost drive her off the bridge, talking about me? Not everyone is meant to go over a bridge with you.”
“Do you want to go over the Rainbow Bridge with me?”
“Yes, I’m going to have to go over that bridge now that I’ve come this far.”
“Do you feel like you’re home now?”
“Of course, Ithaca! As soon as I can stop this car and hold you, then yes, that will be true.”
She was driving with her sleeve almost covering her fingers. Her eyes were on me. We were lucky we were the only ones on the road.
“Are you nervous? Why would you be nervous around me? I’m your soul.”
“It’s not you; it’s the rest of the world.”
“Is graduating a metaphor for going over the Rainbow Bridge or is going over the Rainbow Bridge a metaphor for graduating?”
“Well, as the graduate and as your flower, I just want to point out Who didn’t get Said Graduate a bouquet?”
“I was there with you, Casta Diva. Plus, I did give you something, if you remember. I gave you my flower.”
“Yeah, but that was an accident… wasn’t it?”
“It was a moment of divine intervention, as you have so often called it in your journals. It wouldn’t be fair to give you a bouquet when I didn’t give anyone else a bouquet. Plus, your mother would have gone nuts. But I gave you my flower, anyway. And even if I hadn’t given you anything, I still would have given you my flower.”
There was a long, floral, flamey pause. She continued.
“Maybe you didn’t see the bouquet, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. If that makes any sense. Wasn’t it better, being pressed up against each other, and watching the flower move from me to you?”
“That is so sweet. I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live.”
She sighed. I really wanted to pull over right then, so I could dive into that sigh.
The moon was full and fully visible, and high in the sky.
“Can we be Thelma and Louise?”
“It’s fitting enough, but what about the ending?”
“Well, we can skip the ending, or make an alternative one. But, seriously, which one are you?” I asked.
“The one who shoots the gun.”
“I forgot which one shoots the gun. But I’m glad that’s you. I could never shoot a gun.”
“Neither could I. Unless I had to, like, to save you.”
“Good, because I need someone who can protect me and keep me safe. A gun isn’t necessary. A fast car is good enough.”
“Leave tonight or live and die this way, eh?”
“Is that why we’re doing this?
“We’re doing this because they’ll never understand.”
“The man people?”
“No, the people people.”
“So we’re fleeing because of the people-people. This could be trouble.”
“Isn’t this what you wanted? For us to go back in time and do what you wished we had done when we were together and young?”
“I did imagine you coming to my window, and letting me climb into your car.”
“What happened after that? How did it end?”
“I never got to that point in the fantasy. I got to the point where you and I were loving each other, where our bodies were together and free and alone. In that world, we had nowhere to be, no one to answer to, just time together.”
“A picture of Heaven.”
“But we need a plan. You’re creative and I know you will think of something clever.”
“You may be overestimating me.”
“Plan A was to live happily ever after, together. Are you saying you prefer Plan B?”
“Plan B is the only way.”
“If that’s the case, find somewhere to pull over right now so I can show you something.”
“I want to sit on your lap.”
I found it a marvel, to watch her steer us out of danger. It was a thing to see: raucous courage in the innately meek.
“On the way to Dead Horse Point, I want to ride with you. On your lap. I’m too far away from you over here. Plus, I’m scared. Do you have the GPS on?”
“There are no GPSs. Thelma and Louise came out in 1991. You graduated in 2002. There are no GPSs right now.”
“What year was it when you came out of the closet?”
“This is it. It’s just up ahead. The cliff.”
“It’s just a banned book I’m going to write.”
“Oh, is it? Well, I think we may just go off that cliff, after we go off Lit Cliff.”
“I wanna go over Lit Cliff with you, too.”
“We did that, a year ago.”
“No, we started that journey eleven years from a year ago. Well, we also, kind of, started it twenty years ago. This is our Lit Cliff twentieth anniversary.”
“Who says you’re bad at math, Kid?!”
“How are you at surviving the edge of a cliff?” I want to go over the edge with you; we’ve waited long enough.”
“I don’t think I can face the edge while we go over it. I need to be facing you.”
“You can face me.”
“Either way, we’re both going somewhere, together.”
“We’re getting close.”
“Can I come to you now?”
“If you’re a catwoman, you can. Are you sure you’re not still a little girl?”
“How many rites of passage do I have to endure to sit on your lap like the cat that I am? To go over the Rainbow Bridge with you?”
“I see your point. Climb onto me now.”
I climbed over her sweatshirt, onto her lap, head to shoulder, her flower.
I noticed what she was wearing.
“You have a lot of academic pride. You’re going to die wearing a Cornell sweatshirt? Lord, take us quickly, while she’s still wearing her Big Red sweatshirt! I wanna go out of this world with Big Red, the Lesbian Bear. Are we going to Ithaca? Is that what’s beyond Dead Horse Point?”
“If anything is beyond that point, it’s Ithaca.”
“Here, by flood and foaming torrent
Gorge and rocky dell
Pledge we faith and homage ever
To our loved Cornell…”
So, did I get it right? I’ve been practicing for years. You know I have trouble with memorization.”
“You hit every note perfectly! Gorges!”
“Thank you! Oh wait; I get the joke!”
“Sorry, had to.”
“By the way, it’s a song about lesbian sex. I always knew this.”
“It’s a song about a cliff.”
“Same thing. Remind me again why we must go over one? Who made that a rule?”
“It’s not so much a rule as a metaphor.”
“You mean us?”
She pressed on the pedal.
The petals inside me, pressed.
I jolted forward, into her, my forehead to her cheek.
She took her feet off the pedals.
I felt hers, she felt mine. Petals.
I started clinging and closing my eyes.
“Umm. Can this be the Cliff Not Taken?”
“This is the cliff less traveled by. This, my Ithaca.”
“What about the cliff’s notes?!”
“Good one! But what if ridicule and reputation loss and alienation are on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge?”
“That can’t be! Why, you ask?! Love is there.”
But Love was here, already.
“I should have known I would have to die for this to take place.”
She was stiffening.
“And there’s always retrospect…”
“Yes, keep singing and making me laugh, please, because the cowardice is rising.”
“Is cowardice your rising sign?”
“Right now, it is.”
“Don’t worry; we’re about to get free. We’re gonna finally be able to just be ourselves and be together.”
The climax was arriving. With fear, with anticipation, with heart-racing.
The clinging for life.
The petals went flying somewhere over the rainbow.
Then, the mode of transport came to a halt. After some bouncing.
No condemnation. No broken bodies. No impaling. No death.
Only two warm mythic creatures, revived.
“I love you and we didn’t have to die for me to tell you that.”
“I love you but are you sure we’re not dead?”
“A stray cat is staring at us. Wouldn’t that be funny if a cat is what’s standing between us and the pearly gates.”
Two kittens were now staring at us.
Even so, we kissed. In the presence of little pusses.
The kitties were still staring, as if they were watching a movie and waiting for the ending.
“An audience of kittens. Su-purr humans beings! Not as judgmental as mere humans. Which is a relief. They like it when Nabokovian nuns have happy… well, when they survive lifetimes of anguish. They want us to be together and to have survived it all. “
“Aw, those two are awfully cute. And they look like you. We should take them home with us– to Ithaca!”
“Where are we, now that we’re together, now that there are kittens waiting on the next chapter in our story? Is this an end or a beginning?”
“Only time will tell.”
“Do you know you have dragon eyes?”
She cleared her throat and her eyes burned into me, seared edges of my petals into flames.
“Should we go off the cliff now?”
“I thought we already did that?”
“Should we do it again?”
“Not in front of the heavenly kittens! Look away kittens!”
The kittens were sleeping soundly on a bed of emerald moss.
My She horse. My moon river. My bear. My river. My cliff.
“Now for my return to Ithaca. That would be you, dear.”
Off we went, cliff to river and river to cliff, beginning to end and back again, without end. In other words, we repeated the scene and substituted its parts until we were satisfied, until we had reached an ending we could call happy.
Thelma and Louise not only survived the Cliff, but they never actually fell off it. They veered, and chose a future we could not see.
The two, never so alive, plunged into, paddled in, held their breath under, waded in, swam in, splashed in, stood in, kneeled in, snorkeled in, deep sea dived in, bathed in, and drank of a different river, a moonriver. They escaped punishment and death. They escaped violence, they escaped heteronormativity. We had to make sure of it.
We look back on our lives. We look forward, too.
Our mode of transport was found out, but we escaped; after all, we were two drifters after the same rainbow’s end.
The abandoned vehicle was discovered, and the only trace left behind was a note. It read:
Sir, if you are conducting a high speed chase after someone you cannot, and will never, possess, they were last seen flying over the edge of Dead Horse Point, at the speed of light, liberated into life!
Would a note be enough to ensure that we would be able to rescue Thelma and Louise? If we rewrite their story with our lives, will we add meaning to the ending? Will our meaning be read?
We look into the frame. Our hands, around each other.
We gallop with time.
My mother snaps the picture of us.
The goodness of her smile says what she cannot yet, herself, say, “Another beginning is possible.”
Strangely enough, or not enough, this archival space belonged to another writer whose life circumstances caused the writer, a year later, to need to withdraw their featured writer piece from MITA’s featured writer project. In order to rally against a disappearing archive, which is what this archive aims to do, but also acknowledging the ephemerality of the existence of this archive, I, the organizer of the project, decided to look through my own archive to see if I could hold space for the withdrawing writer by engaging in a substitutive archival act. In other words, in order to maintain the dis-order of the archive in its original form and to keep the month of April 2022 occupied, I decided to look into my own purrsonal archive to see what I might find, and upon discovering two older seemingly nun-publishable works, I decided to substitute two of my own archived, buried, long-dormant works for the former featured writer’s retracted name, works, and traces. But the traces are not gone, you see, because in telling this story and etched into this archival re-entry, I have preserved one trace of a history and one fragment of archival memory. On the slate of this ephemeral surface, beneath the layers of these words, imagine the words of the writer whose words came before these: the words taken back by the writer seeking safety and refuge. My decision to proceed this way, as an archivist, was to maintain the archival space but to re-arrange within it, while also honoring the shapes of rearrangement. How many of us, when we approach a chalkboard draped in a phantom layer, hidden in the powdered dust of remembrance, can see the tracings of symbols swiped into incomprehensibility? If the chalkboard is ours, and our memory is sharp, then perhaps we can recall the symbolic shapes that have come and gone: the layers of symbols, the language behind the language, the life of words, the shoreline of our linguistic gestures, disappearing and reappearing before our eyes.
As someone whose precious, fragile words, early in life, were wiped away and disappeared under the crushing hurt of a misunderstanding between two people who loved and needed each other but did not have a way of expressing it, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the importance of symbolic reappearance: or, the resurrection of words and communication, in spite of the erasures that too often threaten the connections we make with one another, across divides, across time. Similar to the writer whose words are now given shelter behind, or inside, mine, here, sometimes we need to disappear in order to reappear. Sometimes, our perspectives and worldviews and souls need to grow in love before we can combat our own erasure; sometimes our spirits need to grow in love before we are ready to reappear.
These two pieces, “Ms. Placid and the Boysenberries” and “Beyond Dead Horse Point,” are essays I wrote about ten years ago. They appeared and disappeared, and they are now ready to reappear. The first piece is inspired by Gertrude Stein in the sense that I see retrospectively in the piece a connection to Gertrude Stein’s playfulness with language and meaning. I had not read Stein’s work prior to writing it to any great extent, though I did encounter it during my first semester of college; but, now, I believe that Stein and other explorers and deconstructors of patriarchal non-sense must, in some sense, be buried beneath my words, somewhere. The essays are creative and Sapphic, and I wrote them about and for my reader, the reader of my heart, whose words and life and history, seen or unseen, erased or re-written, are bound to mine, whose soul ever travels with mine, and in whose reappearance I place my steadfast faith.
Julian of Norwich (b. 1343), a Medieval anchoress and mystic whose revelations I first encountered and whose life I began admiring in 2020, is the inspiration for the alias of Julian of NorWitch I created of late. I am a writer, a singer, and a performer (as in, theatrical performer), and I live out the wisdom of Shakespeare when Jacques reminds us that “all the world’s a stage” and that “one (wo)man in (hys) time plays many parts.” When I perform, as on a stage but perhaps in my own living room, as Julian of NorWitch, I am playing a part as Lily Tomlin would play Ernestine or Agnus Angst; but when I write under the name Julian of NorWitch, I am merely writing as myself but under that apropos substitutively created pet name. My Medieval-modern new-mystic riff on and queering of the figure of our lady is one way of helping her to reappear through me and my words, but it is also a way of shewing -or showing, if you will- my devotion to divine Love, which has shewn -or shown- itself to me, in me, in revelatory ways, ways to which, I hope, my life’s work is a testament. A mystic in my own time, perhaps, I have known my share of affliction and have written all my life about the centrality of love to the soul. The teachings of divine love (of mercy, reader) have been at the heart of my life and central to my own crusade for a different world, my crusade to re-fashion the world in the image of divine Love. In me and my own revelations of divine love here and elsewhere is a re-appearance of Our Lady Julian in my divine Sapphic Love. As my reader has already sur+mis-ed, it’s NorWitch-craft!
Mother Julian, as some called her, wearing her proverbial theologian’s hat (or veil), proclaimed God to be a mothering and motherly God– in other words, she recognized and proclaimed the mother in God and wrote of God as Holy Mother. As my godfather, Pastor Madsen, a scholar and narrative reviver of the saints and martyrs, first told me: “according to Julian, God is both our mother and our father. Julian believed that the mother’s role was the truest of all jobs on earth. She emphasized this by explaining how the bond between mother and child is the only earthly relationship that comes close to the relationship a person can have with Jesus.” Before ever having encountered the revelations of Julian of Norwich (long, long ago), I, Mother Jessica, had already experienced my own divine revelation of God as both mother and father. It was through this revelation that I also began to more consciously see and seek sacredness in the mother and father in the soul, and to witness God’s love in me and my unity with the ‘Holy Spirit’ as a unique divine pairing of motherly and fatherly. From there, my conception of the gender category of ‘woman’ expanded and what was possible within it expanded, too. I have, since 2012, felt that the image below, from one of Chagall’s stained glass windows, captures best the image of God as divine Mother-wi(t)ch.
“To the eyes of our soul, our heavenly Mother is good and tender; to the eyes of our heavenly Mother the children of grace are precious and lovely, with humility and gentleness and all the fair virtues which belong to children…” ~ Julian of Norwich
© Julian of NorWitch (Mother Jessica, Mother Lowell, Mother Mason)
in / deed!