Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Wave Goodbye To The Patriarchy

I'm devoted to blogging again. This time on a website I created about my art. WaveGoodbyeToThePatriarchy.com  Check it out and tell me what you think. Doing this on Beltane is a spell for the life force. May we defend the sacred. May we wave goodbye to the patriarchy. May we veer steadily towards kindness.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

what is remembered

In the past week, a week I've been missing writing, two different people told me they had read this blog and wondered why I didn't keep writing. The second person, someone new (several years) to Reclaiming, the spiritual "community" that I was part of for the bulk of my life,  asked me questions that continue to be hard to answer. As I lay in bed last night I thought about what I wrote to that community's email forum back in 2016 and  knew I should post it here. It does not include, of course, the hubbub.  I knew that, as per usual, naming the elephant would bring castigation on my head. And of course, it did. I was accused of getting into other people's personal business, of once again gossiping about something that was not mine to talk about. What really should be saved for history is the reaction to articles and posts I wrote over the decades in Reclaiming. They, to tell the truth, are the real story. They are hard to explain, to fathom. Readers not entrenched in the energetic field of Bay Area Reclaiming can't understand why the strong reaction, why me writing about my experience and thoughts were (are) so threatening. What I wrote below was publicly denounced. And, as per usual, the public denouncements were balanced by double the private emails and calls of support and gratitude. How to explain this to someone new to the community, or someone outside it? I can't, really.  So, here, for the record, what just might be my swan song in Reclaiming. 

Charlie Murphy, songwriter, singer and activist,
died on August 6th, 2016.  Charlie was an important and beautiful
voice in the burgeoning Pagan and movement of the
1980’s.  His work elegantly blended Pagan and Queer
themes. When I listen to his album “Catch the Fire” I
remember what it was like to be a San Franciscan Pagan while
an epidemic raged and our magic and action was required. His
song “The Burning Times” is as close as we come to
having a Pagan anthem.  What is remembered, lives!  Long
live, Charlie Murphy!

His death has me also remembering the decades of
merriment and magic that centered on the Black Cat house,
home and shelter to so many Pagans and activists over the
years.  One of my best memories of both Charlie and the
Black Cat was on the occasion of Starhawk’s 40th birthday
in 1991.  The house thrummed with possibility, joy and
power.  I was pregnant with my one and only child and
remember singing a quiet private song about this being
exactly the right circle of folks to be born

And it was the right place for so many things
for so many years.  The Black Cat was the epicenter of the
Reclaiming community.  What happened there impacted and
sometimes shook the rest of the community. Initiations,
meetings, mediations, truth or dare games, relationships
that began (or ended) at one of the legendary parties, for
decades what happened at Black Cat influenced what happened
in the larger Reclaiming world. 

And now, something is again happening that is
impacting Reclaiming, or at least our local community. The
last of the original members, other than Starhawk, of the
Black Cat are leaving.  What happens to the house is not
certain. There is a cornucopia of stories, whispered,
implied on Facebook or list messages, talked about at
gatherings, and murmured at meetings about the dissolution
of the household. It’s not my place to tell the stories
I’ve heard or explore the whys and wherefores of what has
happened.  I hope that at some point this can be done by
the participants in the spirit of healing… for I firmly
believe that what happens not only at Black Cat, but in our
personal lives, impacts all the lives. To be a Witch means
to make meaning of our personal lives and ask each day, if
life were a dream, what does this mean?  I hope and trust
this will eventually happen. 

As many of you know, I think a lot about gossip
and how it serves and disserves community. There is a lot of
gossip now about Black Cat. It’s reached a point that it
is not serving community anymore unless we openly
acknowledge it.  I stepped out of that role consciously
years back. I step back into it now now as I mourn the
demise of Black Cat and the hopes and ideals that were
imbedded in it.  Everything comes to an end.  Every life,
every relationship, every household. It is part of my
spiritual path to honor those endings and remember what was
beautiful and good in the flourishing. 

I call on those who have done the following in
the Black Cat House: initiated others and/or been initiated
,who met in coven or circles who did ritual there, who
attended meetings or classes, who went to parties or sabbat
celebrations, who are friends and family to any who lived
there.  I call on you to remember the good times, the times
that brought out the best of us, the times we worked
together, the times we knew we were working magic within
those walls that would impact all the worlds.

I am sure it did.  What is remembered, lives.
Long live the Black Cat House. 

And I give my love and  support for a either a
new vision or a letting go.  More than anything, I honor
the decades of magic done in that dwelling. It is part of my
own personal history and the history of the Reclaiming

Long live the Black Cat!!

Love,Deborah Oak

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Bowl of Cherries

I go religiously to the Alemany Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. I’ve been going for decades now. Farmer’s markets have sprung up all over the city, but I am faithful to Alemany. It now has it’s share of “foodies”, of which I have to be one of the first, but it remains wildly diverse, a relic of the San Francisco I refuse to let go of.

I’ve been a Pagan since my early twenties. It was then, after my father’s suicide and the death a beloved cousin, that I moved to a small town on the Oregon coast. Recognizing the cycles of the moon and the turning of the tides became a lifeline as I moved through the shadowland of grief.  When I got sturdier, I moved to San Francisco.  It has been here that for most of my adult life I celebrated the turn of the wheel at public rituals.

The days of public ritual are past, but the farmer’s market remains. Here, I celebrate the first asparagus and rejoice during the brief weeks that asparagus, fava beans, and cherries are all in season.  Winter means root vegetables, Napa cabbage and empty booths. The woman who sells zucchini, summer squash and berries also sells sweet peas in early summer, replaced by sunflowers later on. The cycle of the earth around the sun is marked by the bounty of the earth through the changing seasons. 

Last Saturday was no different.  A close friend had surgery on Friday and our fears were confirmed that she has ovarian cancer. She had a ticket to fly to Italy that Saturday, the first trip to Europe in her lifetime. Instead, she is in the hospital trying to fart so she can eat something other than broth and jello. I was going  to see her on Sunday and my quest was to bring her a bouquet of fresh flowers and to get my usual provisions for the week.

So, I move through the market, collecting delphiniums  sweet peas and roses. I’m happy to see there is still spring garlic to buy and notice there is no longer a fava bean to be found. And then I go to the booth on the southwest corner where I get cherries.

Picking through the boxes of ripe cherries a man next to me says to the farmer “Is this the last of them?”  This startles me. Cherries have come early this year, I think because of the drought. But I expect them to last through June and into July.  “Next week will be the last, most likely, so get your fill”, says the farmer.

And I lose it.  Which seems to be happening a lot these days.  I say “NO!” with more emotion than anyone around me is prepared for and the tears start.  I am blubbering and saying I am sorry, my good friend has cancer  and I can’t stand that it is the end of cherry season. Then the guy next to me and the farmer get embarrassed and kind all at the same time.  There are lots of “I am sorry” and while that is happening I somehow buy 20 bucks worth of cherries.

Life is indeed bowl of cherries. Sweet, lush, and only here for a short time. I go home and make a cherry clafouti for dessert that night and put the flowers on my altar to charge up for the hospital visit the next day.

What can we do but honor  the place we are on the wheel and fully taste it?  And in the tasting, to be mindful that some are living on broth and jello. My dear friend doesn’t fart until sometime Wednesday. And, there’s a huge bag of pitted cherries in the freezer with her name on it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Unusual Alchemy

“It's a highly unusual May.”  The nature guide repeats this phrase several times during our excursion near Ketchikan. Most of the clothes packed for this trip up Alaska's inner passage have gone unworn - no need for the wool sweaters, down vest, or fleece jacket. It's t-shirt and flip-flop weather.

Bald eagles soar overhead, waterfalls tumble down granite cliffs into the glittering sea, otters and seals scamper wetly, and every shade of green seems represented. The beauty of this balmy day is indisputable. 

Enjoy it while we can. It's a familiar feeling now, this mix of primal joy for the sunny clear day and abstract terror of what it signifies. I live in San Francisco, where the occasional fog keeps up a semblance of green in a state of aching drought.  But the sunny days in San Francisco are increasing. More of our days have become like this one, on the small boat steering along the coast of the Alaskan Tongas Rainforest with the sun shining brightly.

I turned sixty this year and this trip is a gift from the woman I've been dating for two years. Oh, who am I kidding? We are in a relationship. It’s only recently that I cleaned out a drawer for her in my home. To take this amount of time for that is highly unusual for lesbians, where the well-known joke of bringing a U-Haul to a second date is all too true. Oh, who am I kidding? That’s been true for me with both men and women. It’s taken me over 40 years to learn that having good sex and good conversation does not mean you should move in together. You aren’t seeing clearly when you are on the drug of new sex and good conversation. It takes time to ascertain if you both can veer towards kindness in a somewhat consistent fashion while not losing a sense of humor and desire.

So I've tried going slow, warding off my not so abstract terror of where this relationship could lead, (heartbreak, craziness, loss of self, boredom -I've experienced them all) while applying myself to the task of loving and being loved, which does not mean merging bank accounts or merging - period.

That work led to gratefully accepting the gift of a week's vacation together on a lesbian cruise ship.  Which led to this day excursion where there is something in the guide's voice, an awareness and a foreshadowing he's communicating that raises my minor body hair, sets my sixth sense abuzz, and brings about an alchemical reaction. Alchemy as defined as  “a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.” 

It's such a glorious day, to not feel the joy of it feels like a sacrilege, like dissing the life force herself. There’s so much beauty around me and also such clear awareness of things changing, like the climate, that I feel my heart is going to explode or break, it’s expanding so much with combined feelings.  How can I feel such joy when this day is not only unusual, it's a harbinger of possible doom? At that moment, the terror is no longer abstract and it’s more than fear - it’s grief, rage and sorrow. And it is inexplicably mixed with ecstatic joy.  So, I breathe deeply, try not to sob,scream or laugh uncontrollably and thankfully I manage to discretely quake and let tears flow without notice. Standing against the rail of the boat, I reach for the hand of the woman who gifted me with this adventure and then someone points out yet another Bald Eagle in flight. And I smile.

I don’t need a photo of that moment, it etched in memory and fully embodied.  The combined feelings of awe and gratitude at the enormous gift of the complexity of life forms on this planet, mixed with the keening awareness of moving steadily into this unusual time where all bets are off and I will never be sure what to pack has transformed into one precious verb. It’s alchemy and it’s magic.

Its name is love.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Brigid Poetry Fest in Cyperspace


We wait
Patiently, not so patiently
We wait
Worried, praying, distracted

Not for Spring
Who bursts thru the door uninvited
With her hyacinths, daffodils and blossoms
We wait

For You
To drench the earth
To fill the reservoirs and streams
To greet the salmon
Waiting off the coast
To give the bears a reason to sleep

Here you are, at last!!
Please stay awhile,

Thursday, November 22, 2012

heart swells

We are in Mexico. We is myself, my sister, and my brother-in-law. He has never been out of the country. My sister and I have. Many times. We went to Canada and to Mexico with our parents as children and at 15, I traveled with my sister, 3 years younger, throughout Europe for six weeks on our own. And I do mean on our own. But that is a story for another time. 

This story is about being here in Mexico and about gratitude. It turns out this week is the week of the Mexican Revolution. I was happy to fly out of San Francisco. I love my city but it  has has been a party that will not end for weeks. The city has been crowded with celebrations for the The Giants, Halloween, Day of the Dead, and the exhaustive re-election. The City and I are weary with gratitude for all the wins and the dead working with us. Victory is exhausting.

 We arrive to Puerto Vallarta to find it also on a bender, flooded with folks from Guadalajara. Warmer shores are something all people tend to head for, especially during a national holiday.  Between the Americans fleeing Thanksgiving and the Mexicans  on vacation, the town is jammed.   Perhaps this is the reason our reservation has been lost or mistakenly given to someone else. After some time at the reservation counter we end up in what has to be the best room at the resort. We have three bathrooms, a kitchen , a view to die for and the beach is our front yard. Waves of gratitude for fortitudinous mistakes.

Years back, seeking warmer shores, visitors to Puerto Vallarta had to gird themselves against an army of small bright eyed children selling Chiclets. Even those who never had and never would chew gum had to buy.  To do otherwise would be cold hearted. And good vacations by their nature entail the heart swelling or stretching. 

There no longer is an army of children selling Chiclets. That army has been replaced by an army of young men and women with bright white Chiclet like teeth, offering vacation sweeteners  and asking only in return that you come to a presentation. Time share presentations. Do you want a spa day and massage , a jungle tour, a bay cruise,, a hundred dollars off your car rental, a bottle of tequila, a feast on an island?  This can be arranged.  You just have to give 90 minutes of your time and take a tour of fabulous property… breakfast buffet and day pass included.

I steered sister and brother-in law past the gauntlet of Chiclet teethed young people at the airport, only to lose them when I was renting a car. They took up conversing with what they thought to be one of the rental agents. Next thing I knew they had us signed up for “Rhythm’s of the Night” – a boat trip to islands and a dinner and show and $150 was coming off our car rental. All this merely for using a day pass to a swanky resort. A day pass because I said absolutely no to a time share presentation. I said it many many times and the Chiclets flashed and the head bobbed and bobbed in reassurance. Just a day pass.

But then, things changed. It’s hard to say no, jobs depend on it, please just go along with it, it will be fine, my boss will be mad at me. So we end up far from our old fashioned small time resort where you walk right out to the beach and we drive down the road to Nuevo Vallarta  to the sky scrapers where they compare the grandeur to Dubai and indoor ice skating and  swimming with dolphins and show you the site the traditional Mexican village is going to be put in and Disney will be there too. And Casinos. The Chiclets are being flashed like crazy and you can see the edgy greed in the tourists eyes, being offered a taste of living like the 1% , high in skyscrapers with an oceanviews and jacuzzi’s on the deck., able to order up anything they desire. Margaritas, beach cabanas, golf, private massage. Because there is always more and more to be had and to be added.

I am honest, firm, but kind, and it gets us nowhere. We are caught in a play of many acts, and all must be seen out. We are passed from one sales person to the next. I get told I am only the second person who does not like the place.  My sister says she does not like caged dolphins. We don’t mention the fake  Mexican Village. That is just too painful. Hours later we are let go, but not without one last pitch involving many black rectangles drawn on paper showing for just a thousand or so a year, we could be part of this development, swimming with dolphins and having buffet breakfasts to die for. Having everything we could ever desire.

There is some truth in that if we can afford a vacation, we must be able to buy both Chiclets and time shares . We can fly easily across the border, even with my sister’s dog chewed passport. The sales people cannot. They press for us to buy, to help, for us to all share in the dream of doing better and having more. And, none can seem to really believe it is not what we want, this dream of being in Dubai which is really the dream of being on any desert that now is anything else you want  it to be because there is lots of money.

We escape, and drive to an actual Mexican fishing village up the coast. We get a table on the sand and order guacamole and chips and I get some skewers of shrimp from a passing vendor.. Children come to our table offering small stuffed animals. My sister buys one. Then she buys some coconut macaroons. We are happy and relieved to be buying things we understand and can taste and touch.

I write this back at my Villa del Palmar, on my beach chair. My brother-in-law watched the news last night and we learned about the big storm hitting  the Northwest coast and the escalation in the Middle East. Who knows what will stay and what will remain in the coming decade.

I look around, feel the ocean breeze and the waves lappng the sand just a few feet from me. Life is so sweet as it is. I am grateful to be here. Now.  And happy to have exactly what I have. Which is a lot and more than most. My heart stretches in thanks.