Dear Dad, A Spell and the Cosmos
some thoughts about life and family and comrades and 2021 desires shared with my dad
A note: This post talks frankly about life and its messiness.
This autumn my dad asked me to start a project with him. I suggested we write letters to each other based on how he used to write me cards as a kid. We’ve sent a few back and forth. It’s been beautifully healing.
We’ve both agreed to share them publicly. We feel it may bring some insight for others.
This is letter was written around 12pm PST on December 17, 2020.
More? Who knows?
I am so glad that you are home with mom and have been able to see the kids and grandkids. I know this last round of treatment was especially rough. I am proud that you listened to your own body and spirit and came to a decision that feels best for you. I know that isn't easy. It's even more difficult when hopped up on cancer drugs that make everything cloudy. Speaking with you over the last couple of days, you sound much clearer. Like the sun is shining again.
I woke up this morning wondering exactly what to write. There's so much happening in the world, and I'm trying to be present for as much as I can. All the while, I still am trying to survive in this COVID-19 warped world and be as available to family as possible. It can feel sometimes a bit disorienting. What do I pay attention to when everything seems so important? What seems most crucial is answering the phone when you or the family call. It's always nice to hear your voice.
I've been hearing a lot from friends and readers that they appreciate our letters and are grateful I'm publishing them online. I have you to thank for that. Your suggestion to share what we're going through has been healing for a lot of folx. One dear colleague lost their pops this year too, and reading these stories has given her life. The fact that we've had this time together will forever stay with me.
This time has also revealed quite a bit for me in relation to my own desires for 2021. So many people are hurting. I see it everywhere I look, and I cannot turn away. COVID-19 really is a fucker; it's exacerbating so many inequities and revealing just how tenuous our society and government has always been. This is not new to me. It's just in incredibly sharp focus.
Here in San Francisco, our Mayor was trying to kick out formerly unhoused folx currently living in Shelter-in-Place hotels because of COVID-19 before Christmas. I listened to the Board of Supervisors meeting about two weeks ago where folx living in those hotels begged and pleaded with our Supervisors to not kick them out because doing so would lead to them living back on the streets with precarious health. They fear death, and our City is the one compounding their very real fear by threatening eviction. It is, simply, cruel. I have no other word for it.
Our Supervisors passed an unanimous measure pushing back against our Mayor. It will keep those currently in Shelter-in-Place hotels in hotels as long as the federal government foots the bill. But...and here is the kicker, our one gay Supervisor wouldn't pass the resolution without adding in a clause allowing the City to evict if and when the federal money runs out. He said keeping people housed “might be the moral and humane thing to do, but it’s a $70 million to $100 million project.” He is the same Supervisor that holds the seat Harvey Milk once sat in. I've always been told, Milk fought for the poor because queer and trans folx were poor. I guess getting some basic rights like marriage and being in the military cloud one's ability to really care for folx that need some caring for. It is a weird thing to feel ashamed of one's supposed community. I really wonder how people can be so cruel.
I try and do what I can with what I have. I write my Supervisor. I call in for public comment at Board of Supervisor meetings and Commission meetings. I follow budget negotiations and try to understand the funding mechanisms, including which has public oversight and how to influence that oversight. I stop my neighbors from calling the police on unhoused folx. I give away food or money when I can, and try to do so even when not asked. I donate to a local food pantry. I try my best to understand policy and how that impacts the lived material reality of my neighbors. I want my neighbors to not just survive but thrive. I believe we have the resources to do so. We just don't have the political will.
Being there for you and mom and watching how we as a family unit are talking openly about how shitty this whole fucking thing is and still finding deep moments of joy and laughter and love has renewed in me a deep commitment to care for my families of blood and of choice. For 2021, I desire to be in closer, more intentional communities of mutual care and aid that are dedicated to caring not only for our selves but for our neighbors, too. In order for me to be there for my neighbors, I need comrades, those who I know share similar values of liberation.
I count you among those comrades in 2021. You will always be close to me, and this year especially. When I need a laugh, I will draw on your goofiness and sarcasm to find joy even amidst the shit. When I need to say something deeply personal, I will write you a letter and confess my heart. When I long for home, I will look to the stars as we did together when I was a child and know that you too are looking at those same stars and know that you are beside me no matter the distance between us. When I need to feel loved, all I have to do is think of you. Our relationship will be my 2021 guiding star.
This letter is getting long, and I am feeling a desire to move. I need to go for a walk and be amongst my neighbors here in San Francisco. I will walk with eyes and heart open, and snap a few photos to share with you along my journey. I love sharing the world I see with you.
And... to reveal just a little bit of my own process, this email is only a part of what it takes to compose a letter to you. This morning, I knew I was going to write you, but, as I mentioned, I did not know exactly what. So I set myself an altar pulled from items around my house that make me feel connected to this cosmos -- fire, plant, bone, water, air, metal. I then pulled a card from something called Oblique Strategies by Brian Eno and Peter Scmidt. Then, I drew three runes from a set gifted to me by my dear friends Dan and Tomas.
I sat with all the wisdom and insight contained within the altar and runes and Oblique Strategy, and I then crafted the spell below. This spell feels incredibly prescient for me, as if it portends what is to come 2021.
Image description: A drawing of the spell I cast this morning. At the top is the rune Raido / (re)unite. On the bottom left is the rune Algiz reversed / (re)join. On the bottom right is the rune Ansuz reversed / (re)set. At the center are the words, “Once the search is in progress, something will be found,” which comes from Oblique Strategies by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt. On the outside connecting Raido and Ansuz is a curved line with two arrows that reads “(re)unite heaven and earth: be Thyself, here and now.” On the outside, connecting Ansuz and Algiz is a curved line with two arrows that reads, “(re)set in The Nadir: here and now be new life.” On the outside, connecting Algiz and Raido is a curved line with two arrows that reads, “(re)join longanimity and comradery.” On the inside, connecting Ansuz and Raido is a curved line with two arrows that reads, “let go of futility and failure.” On the inside, connecting Raido and Algiz is a curved line with two arrows that reads, “you are not burdened by what is left behind.” On the inside connecting Algiz and Ansuz is a curved line with two arrows that reads, “do not add to the burden of others.”
Photo description: an image of the above described altar set on my wooden table.
When I look at it in its totality, I see shapes familiar to me from childhood. I see a balance of a trinity, a holding of harmony between all that is above and all that is below, of all that has come before and all that is possible, of Thy Heaven and Thy Earth. I also see a molecule and its component atoms holding balance through tension and dynamics. I see no distinction between faith or science or reason or emotion. I see it all as part of this great big cosmos, a cosmos I will never fully know and one where you will always live.
In deepest love,
Image description: Photo I sent my dad this morning while contemplating my letter. It is looking west towards Sutro Tower and is framed by a gingko tree. The sun is just rising.