An Amazing Adventure

* Detailed instructions for making comments are in “News Items.”

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I didn’t tell you what I was going to do over Christmas because I didn’t want to jinx myself. A couple of people who learned about it tried their hardest to talk me out of it. I took their concerns seriously and thought of canceling, but decided to do my best to reassure them and go ahead and do what I wanted.

I went to Alaska for a week with two dear friends in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights! I had seen them in Maine as a kid – Northern Lights, not my friends – and remember them as being beautiful. I would lie on my back on the grass and watch them partially obscure the zillion stars visible on dark nights. They looked like sheer white curtains edged in green, waving slowly in the breeze. I knew that, if I saw them again, they wouldn’t look like my childhood Northern Lights, but I was sure they would be gorgeous.

Our adventure started off inauspiciously. We had to change planes in Portland to get to Anchorage. The flight we were supposed to take was canceled because of mechanical problems. There was no back-up plane available, no empty seats at all on any flight on any airline to Anchorage . . . for the next three days. It took us a while to figure out that we couldn’t return home unless we could score a rental car. So it was probably Portland for the next few days, like it or not, assuming we were lucky enough to find a hotel with unbooked rooms. Luckily Portland is the home of Powell’s Bookstore, the world’s largest independent bookstore. ( https://www.powells.com/ for those planning to visit Portland soon.)

Suddenly the airline agent announced that there was a “Christmas miracle.” A free plane with seats for all of us was on its way from Seattle! Talk about pulling a rabbit out of a hat! We got to go, after all, just a few hours late. Happy, happy, happy.

As we landed at Anchorage, we were welcomed with Solstice fireworks celebrating the slow return of real daylight. We grabbed some food and staggered into bed for a few hours’ sleep before getting up at five to be driven to the train station for the nine-hour trip to Fairbanks. 

There were only about four hours with enough light to see the scenery. Dawn faded into twilight, and the sun never got over the horizon. I love trains so much! It would have been a treat even if it had been pitch black the whole time. It had a proper dining car and a cafe with snacks and cards and toys for the kids.

We saw a bald eagle, a lot of large ravens, and eleven moose. The moose were in pairs, a mother with her calf, pawing the snow to uncover small trees with tender bark. No bears; they are all asleep this time of year.

Another quick dinner and a few hours of sleep. We spent the next day on a small bus to Coldfoot Camp, which is half-way between Fairbanks and Deadhorse, on the Arctic Ocean. That’s where the oil in the Alaska pipeline originates.

Alaska is vast and sparsely populated. An Internet search yields these statistics: there are only 736,855 people in the whole state; 297,832 of them live in Anchorage, the largest city; 33,645 in Fairbanks, the second-largest; and 84 in Coldfoot. (By the way, there are about 750,000 caribou and 200,000 moose in Alaska.) The reason Coldfoot is that big is that it is the only place to get gas in the 500 miles between Fairbanks and Deadhorse. It also provides amenities for the truckers: overnight truck parking, a restaurant, a bar, showers, parts for minor repairs, and a chance to connect with old friends. Recently, small rooms for tourists chasing the Northern Lights have been added.

On our first night in Coldfoot, we joined a group of young Chinese tourists who had come to see the Northern Lights. Our group had the use of a small log cabin with a wood-fired stove to hang out in. Every now and then, somebody would go outside to see if there was any action. At times, there were very faint lights, barely visible to the naked eye. They looked better in photos with a ten-second exposure, but not by a whole lot. We amused ourselves with short trips to the outhouse. It was thirty below zero – I kid you not. The trick is to sit on your mittens, so you don’t get stuck.

At about three in the morning, we were ready to give up, when the sky exploded with green streaks. They rose from all parts of the horizon and met at the top in swirls. They moved slowly and changed shape for about ten minutes and then faded away. It was absolutely breath-taking.

During the day, we caught up on sleep and took a dog sled ride. Fun but bitter, bitter cold, what with the wind chill factor. Those puppies run fast! The next evening we went back for seconds on the Northern Lights, but there was nothing. It’s okay. I got my wish, and it was far better than I had imagined.

We took a small plane instead of the bus back to Fairbanks, which was fun. Christmas day, we were planning to visit some hot springs outside of Fairbanks, but we were so sleep-deprived that we settled for watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” and a nice meal at the hotel. And then it was time for Anchorage and home.

Now that I am home, how do I feel? Very grateful, but still sleep-deprived! And all sneezy from a head cold. Happy to be back in familiar surroundings, with my cat and my very own bed and temperatures well above freezing. I’m still feeling high from being out of my comfort zone, proud of my courage, and sated with beauty. I’m not 100% percent home; I’m startled that the sun rises at 7:30 and doesn’t set for nine and a half hours. The Internet feels like a luxury – one click of the mouse brings me contact with survivors, my people, my kin. I know there are survivors in Alaska, but I didn’t know how to find them. The days of feeling crazy without constant validation of my past are long over, and I do fine on my own now. But it is so nice not to be alone!

When I sort through our photos, I’ll try to put something up on the blog header, replacing the Christmas tree. I hope there’s a good picture of the Northern lights that will fit the space. No promises – these are amateur photos, remember!

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Oh, a note about the reading by Joy Hargo. The first poem she read was the one I posted!!!! My heart swelled, and I burst into tears. She was speaking directly to me, “Put down those potato chips…”

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Upcoming Holidays

January
1/13 Satanic New Year
1/17 Feast of Fools/Old Twelfth Night/Satanic and demon revels
1/20 St. Agnes’ Eve
February
2/2 Candlemas/Imbolc/Satanic Revels
2/8 Full moon
2/14 Valentine’s Day
2/25 Shrove Tuesday/ Mardi Gras
2/25 Walpurgis Day
2/26 Ash Wednesday
March 
3/1 St. Eichstadt’s Day
3/9 Full moon
3/13 Friday the Thirteenth
3/17 Spring Equinox
3/17 St. Patrick’s Day
3/24 Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups=
1/30 Hitler named Chancellor of Germany
2/10 Tu Bishvat/Tu B’Shevat (celebration of spring)
3/10 Purim (Deliverance of the Jewish people from Haman in Persia)

(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices and the equinoxes)

Self-Indulgence?

I’ve been so conscientious about posting on this blog – three posts a month, rain or shine, whether I wanted to or not. I only missed a couple, and, in my mind, I made up for that by posting extra animal videos.

But now I just don’t want to write anything and I have decided I won’t. I have also decided that skipping one – or maybe (gasp!) even two posts – doesn’t make me irresponsible or uncaring or an over-all bad person. It just means I want a break and there is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with a few chocolates, while I am at it.

I hope you all stay safe over Christmas and New Year’s Eve and Day. I will be back definitely in early January, perhaps a few days earlier.

I wish myself a meditative and nourishing break, and I wish that 2020 is happier and less stressful for all of us than all the years that have preceded it.

Suppressing One Emotion Suppresses All

* Detailed instructions for making comments are in “News Items.”

* Additional information on Yule/Winter Solstice is available at:
https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/yulewinter-solstice/

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We survivors of ritual abuse have every reason to be afraid of a lot of things, because a lot of things were used to abuse us. A lot of situations, too. Just about everything they could think of was used in a perverted way. So of course we are afraid!

But if you live your adult life being afraid, you cannot do much of anything because you are paralyzed with fear. You might be afraid of eating, or showering, or even getting out of bed each day. Let alone going grocery shopping, or having friends, or having a job, or raising kids, or …just about everything.

So the sensible thing to do is to suppress the fear and to pretend you aren’t afraid. Stiff upper lip, head high, looking as confident as everybody else. And feeling confident! “I’m not afraid – of course I can do it. Easy peasey.” Perhaps it’s not so hard to suppress fear; perhaps you have practiced it since you were a child and it’s now second nature. Perhaps all the terrified parts are hiding way down inside you, alone and voiceless as always.

Yes, you get through life looking like you are doing well. But you feel numb, sort of robotic. And why is this?

Because if you are good at one way of handling your emotions, the mind applies that technique to all emotions. You aren’t afraid, you aren’t anxious, but you are also not happy or playful or joyful. Life feels flat, dull, empty.

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I follow a life coach, Katherine North, who shares her organizational techniques and gives tips for overcoming adversities, large and small alike. By nature, she is pretty scattered, so she has test-driven these techniques. In sharing, she is vulnerable and real. And she writes like a bandit – her words are bursting with life.

I would like to share excerpts of her weekly letter to her followers because she wrote about losing and regaining the capacity to experience joy.

If you want to sign up for Katherine’s newsletter or read a few of her blog posts, go to https://www.declaredominion.com/

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I said to my husband Nick, “Babe. I feel like there’s a twinkle light in my heart that isn’t turned on.”

He laughed at me for about ten minutes, and when he recovered, he asked me why.

I didn’t have a good answer. We were doing all the holiday things; the tree was up; the presents purchased; stockings hung. But something in me wasn’t feeling the same glowy cozy feelings I usually feel this time of year.

And I wanted to feel them! Oh, I wanted them BAD.

So I rustled around inside myself for a while, looking for the answer. It was a lot like rustling around a big handbag belonging to a mom with many children: I pulled out some hopes and fears, some diapers and candy canes, the odd sock and a squished granola bar. And as I pulled out all these pieces of my heart and examined them, I realized something.

In order for me to feel the fuzzy cozy glowy feelings I want, first I have to feel utter heartbreak.

Well that was not good news. Not good news at all.

No, I don’t want heartbreak, I want candlelight and mistletoe and solstice rituals and lighting the Hanukkah candles!

But in order to have those things, first I was going to have to let my heart crack.

You see, I could feel that I had installed a little plastic membrane around my heart to hold it together.

This is a necessary move sometimes, because the world is so hard and terrible that in order to walk around and feed our kids and remember to put pants on, we have to instruct our heart that it simply cannot break – not just this second, not for at least ten minutes. But I had put on that protective membrane for an hour… and then forgotten to take it off.

And so there was a barrier between me and my feelings.

That brittle membrane that made me feel like I could keep my shit together was also keeping out the joy.

There was the joy, right there, twinkling all around my little grinchy heart, but it couldn’t trickle all the way down into the insides.

Sigh.

Reader, I did what I had to do.

I watched” Little Women” is what I did. The Susan Sarandon one, with my oldest daughter, and we both cried so hard we shook the couch.

And don’t you know, all those tears melted away that hard membrane?

. . . . Go ahead. Let the world break your heart. Let the flames of fury roar out your ears. Those intense feelings don’t make you weak, they make you awake. Let yourself cry, let yourself rage, go ahead and feel the suffering, but let it move through you and come out of you as some sort of helpful action.

The things I can do are small. But the doing of them heals me.

We can take food to our local food bank, give money to organizations that effectively do the work in the world we wish we could do ourselves, or invite over a lonely neighbor. We can buy gifts and books from truth-telling artists and support other makers. We can call our elected officials. We can tell our truth and listen to others’ truths.

Small actions, yes. Ridiculously small. But a million small actions add up.

So add yours to those millions.

Don’t be afraid to let your heart go ahead and break. Your heartbreak will show you where your energy wants to flow. It’s showing you the places where you can be useful, where your heart can meet up with the world’s need.

Remember that small is powerful. Remember that one person can make a huge difference, at least to one other person. Remember that together our small actions make us a mighty force to be reckoned with.

My little twinkle light is back on, dearheart. It might be tiny, and so might yours, but when we add all ours together, they shine like motherfuckers.

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After thirty years, I can slip into work mode and get things done, whether it is dishes or doctor’s appointments, or writing a blog post. But when somebody tells me their story, tears still fill my eyes. It is this deep sadness at the senseless cruelty of ritual abuse that keeps me listening and writing and gives meaning to my life. And, as Katherine said, the tears release the ability to be melted by the beauty of the first ray of sunshine each day. the small kindnesses of strangers, the soft fur of my cat. Hundreds of others things, too.

It is a circle: sorrow releases gratitude for the goodness that exists next to the evil, and the gratitude and joy soothe the sadness.

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Upcoming Holidays

December
12/15, 12/22 remaining Sundays of Advent
12/11 Full moon
12/21 Winter solstice/Yule/St. Thomas’ Day
12/24 Christmas Eve
12/26 Annular solar eclipse. Totality will be visible in Saudi Arabia, southern India, Sri Lanka, parts of Indonesia, Singapore, and parts of the Philippines.
12/31 New Year’s Eve
January
1/1 New Year’s Day
1/7 St Winebald’s Day
1/10 Full moon
1/10-11 Penumbral lunar eclipse. The moon will turn a shade darker during the maximum phase, visible in Australia, Europe, and Africa. Most penumbral lunar eclipses cannot be easily distinguished from a usual full moon. See https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/map/2020-january-10
1/13 Satanic New Year
1/17 Feast of Fools/Old Twelfth Night/Satanic and demon revels
1/20 St. Agnes’ Eve
February
2/2 Candlemas/Imbolc/Satanic Revels
2/8 Full moon
2/14 Valentine’s Day
2/25 Shrove Tuesday/ Mardi Gras
2/25 Walpurgis Day
2/26 Ash Wednesday

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
12/22 – 12/30 Chanukah
1/12 N Birth of both Rosenburg and Goering, Nazi leaders in WW2
1/30 Hitler named Chancellor of Germany
2/10 Tu Bishvat/Tu B’Shevat (celebration of spring)
(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices and the equinoxes)