Some of my favourite YA and Middlegrade books are about characters who say Yes. Meaning: characters who make choices and live by them, who dive in with their eyes open, who strive.
I am a fairly fearful person when you get right down to it. And fear is enough to keep me frozen in one spot far too long and far too easily.
I’m fearful right now, as it happens. The tarot reading I did for my birthday included the Tower card in the “future” position, and – while I think it might still wind up being A Good Thing – I am absolutely DREADING what it means. What’s going to crumble? What’s going to fall apart? I’m scared.
Scared enough that I put the pictures away and haven’t done a full-scale interpretation yet.
Scared that I’m going to lose someone I love (because isn’t that my deepest fear, right there?)
And yet… Yes.
Yes, because I’m still chasing ecstasy (in a two-steps forwards, one step back kind of way); still singing, however intermittently; still taking baby-step after baby-step towards fully practicing my polyamoury. Every tiny Yes makes the next one a little bit easier, every tiny Yes brings me closer to myself.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
Xylos – as in “xylophone” and “xylitol” – is Greek for “wood”. So, yes friends, I’m talking about trees today. You do what you gotta. (It was that or reprising Xmas for another year).
We are edging towards the longest night of the year up here in the northern hemisphere, so it’s likely that at least some of you are putting up douglas firs (or imitations thereof) in your living rooms. I’ve got my Fake Spruce wreath on the door, and my Fake Holly garlands to string up and decorate as well.
But those aren’t (exactly) the trees I want to talk about today. Rather, I want to talk about trees in general, in the context of Getting To Know the Neighbours. What trees grow in your neighbourhood? Can you recognize them when their leaves have dropped? Can you recognize – to choose folks who live in my neighbourhood – hawthorn, crab apple, rowan, evans cherry, choke cherry, serviceberry, apple, maple, poplar, oak (to name a few) by their bark, by where they grow, by the way their branches bend (or don’t), fork (or don’t), angle (or don’t)? Do you pay attention to what flowers when, to which fruits you can eat (and which fruits you can’t)? Can you tell the difference between juniper and cedar? Can you recognize a Norwegian Spruce at all? Do you know how to tell a pine tree by its needles? How to recognize a waxberry (bayberry) or harvest the thick, white berry-covering and melt it into vegan-friendly candles?
Long Nights Moon is about to crest, and Snow Moon is on its way. Frost and fire, ice and stone. Do you know your neighbours when dressed in skin and bone?
Meliad the Birch Maiden
 Er… I don’t. I mean, I can recognize them, sure, but I haven’t tried to make candles with the wax yet at all. And, while I can usually spot a poplar (size), crab apple (shape of branches + shaggy bark), choke cherry (almost-weeping branches), and maple (bark… ish)… I certainly can’t recognize all of those trees.
Xanthra Phillipa MacKay. I never met her. Surprisingly, hadn’t even heard her name until she died in February of 2014. I went in to work one morning, and, when I asked my boss how he’d spent the previous evening, he said “Mourning”. I wrote a little bit about it here. Xanthra MacKay is, among many other things, an artist, a sexworkers’ rights activist, a poet, and dead.
In so many ways, she is my ancestor.
And, yes, I’m using her as an example because her name starts with X. This could have just as easily been titled “W is for Wendy Babcock”, “L is for Leslie Feinberg,” “M is for Maria Callas,” “S is for Sappho,” or “N is for Nizzi”. Just as we can choose our families, we can choose, or find, our ancestors as we go.
Del has a post on ancestors & beloved dead who are not blood-relatives, and this is, in part, whence this post of mine stems. It also stems from Kathryn Payne’s essay “Whores and Bitches Who Sleep With Women” (in Brazen Femme) wherein she asks her readers “Do you know your lineage?” and last October’s sacred desire ritual at Unholy Harvest wherein we had the opportunity to acknowledge our sex-radical forebearers – our queer and trans (and both), sexworking, and kinky chosen ancestors – our lineage.
My ancestors include my bio-relatives, for sure. When I burn candles for the ancestors, I burn them for the people who gave me my face, my skeleton, my skin. But I also burn them for the chosen family who came before. The sisters and grandmothers whom I never knew, but who showed me my reflection in their poetry, their stories. The aunties and uncles and cousins who put words around my queer, bloodsoaked desires and let me name them.
So here’s to my ancestors, the ones who bore me and the ones who brought me out.
Thinking of you always.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 A local leatherman we lost to suicide this past year.