As I sent light to Aretha Franklin in this morning’s meditation practice, my phone randomly began playing her cover of “My Way”; a second later her death hit the wires. I chalk that synchronicity up to Aretha’s magic, not mine, because she was the most powerful musical conveyer belt of our time and always always sang everything, and I do mean everything, the best. She wrote and performed amazing songs, and she improved on everyone else’s by giving them the most soulful, the most heartfelt, and the most empowering interpretations. Hell, even Otis admitted her take on “Respect” eclipsed his, though he recorded it first. Whether she was producing, performing, or stepping up with sisters like Angela Davis, Aretha always did do everything “her way”– probably even decided when it was her time to go. But I will sit shivah this week anyway. Formal mourning is required when someone in your family passes over, and though I never met her in person, readers of this blog are well aware that Aretha Franklin raised me through her shining example and songs. I’m crying as I type this, and “99 Tears” doesn’t begin to cover how many more I will shed in her honor.
Praying for Aretha, who reportedly is gravely ill. I have loved her since I was a toddler, named my family cat after her when I was only 2, listened to her albums on autorepeat all through my childhood, adolescence, womanhood too. Her music has made me feel strong and seen through every heartbreak since I was a tween, has given me a soundtrack for every hard-won victory. She’s the queen and knows it because royalty always knows its worth. If it’s her time, I send light and love for her passage. But selfishly, so selfishly, I wish this woman to stay on the planet as long as I’m here. Through her unblinking glamour, her everything-and-the-kitchen-sink musicality, she’s guided me more than anyone else ever could.
Today’s new moon corresponds with our final eclipse of the season, omgoddess. Eclipses release a tremendous rush of energy, and new moons signal, no surprise, fresh starts. As all this takes place in the sign of Leo, the lessons at hand are ones of self-love. How can we nurture our darkest corners, our most private hurts? How can we shine light on all of ourselves, not just the parts we deem fit for company? When I think of this powerful moment, I think of Marge Piercy’s quote: “Live as if you loved yourself, and it may happen/reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in./ This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,/for every gardener knows that after the digging, after the planting,/after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.” Loving yourself is not the same as narcissism; it is in fact the opposite. Self-love is accepting that you are not perfect but whole nonetheless–a tree, a star, a mountain lion–regardless of whether anyone else ever tells you so. Start here, and you can move whatever and wherever you need. Blessings and love, dear ones.