Yesterday was all about the moon.
I woke at 3:40 am, which is when my highest self tugs me out of slumber when it has no other way of making contact. Lately, I’ve been waking at that time a lot. Seismic changes are afoot and because I keep my head down during the day, my guides have no other time to download information. No longer night, not yet day: 3:40 is soul time.
When I woke, I was awash in menstrual blood. It wasn’t an enormous surprise—my period was three days late—but nonetheless I felt a cold shock. Waking on fresh white sheets pooled with your blood will do that to you, I don’t care how many years you’ve been getting your period.
I should say at this point that menstruation is on the shortlist of topics that I—and most people—never discuss on page. Also on that list: shitting habits (which is too bad; the Crapicorn in me absolutely adores discussing shit) and the quality of sex with your partner. (People disclose quantity but never quality, which is a land from which you cannot return.) But it is a new moon, and mentioning the unmentionable is necessary in order to achieve my month’s goals.
Anyway, I woke up in my very own horror movie, and sighed. I had so much to do that day that it almost was not worth going back to sleep. But everything on my list required a well-rested brain, so I padded into the kitchen—Gracie hot on my heels in the hope I’d decided now was a grand time for breakfast—and swallowed four tablets of ibuprofen. I changed my sheets, put Stevie on the stereo, and begged the gods to let me be for another few hours.
I woke at 7 am, refreshed enough to write the review due that afternoon, as well as a telescript for my NY1 taping. I washed my hair and shaved my legs (if not my pits) and eyed the candle burning on my altar. On it was a very clumsy drawing of the African mermaid goddess Yemaya. The drawing was clumsy because I’d made it myself.
Three nights before, I’d woken at 3:40 am suffused in blue and sweet syllables of gibberish: Yamamamamama. I’ve been an intuitive long enough to recognize such moments as invitations to scavenger hunts, so I’d smiled and gone back to sleep. In the morning I’d told the story to my witch friend M, who laughed gently and said, “You and Yemaya.”
“Yemaya?” I said.
“Yemaya,” she said again, clearly feeling I belonged in remedial witch school. “She’s the goddess of the sea. I always see her around you.”
This was news to me, so I googled Yemaya and found a dark-skinned woman in blue with sweetly tipped eyes. She looked very beautiful. She also looked like the mermaid version of a painting K had sent me a few days before, so I texted him for more information.
He sent a few images of her standing with a similar-looking woman clad in flowing yellow robes. “That’s Oshun, the river goddess, her daughter,” he said. “She’s one of my favorites.”
That night, I took out my markers and construction paper and drew the Yemaya formed in my mind’s eye. It was crude because long ago I decided visual artistry could belong to my mother, but I felt great pleasure in selecting colors for my new friend. Then I carefully taped the drawing to a blue candle, and meditated for a while, Grace purring on my feet. Finally we lit it, and slept soundly for the first time in weeks.
Now looking at the burning candle, I realized waking in my blood at 3:40 am meant I was being shepherded. It was the day of the new moon, and my blood had been drawn out like every other tide. Yemaya was here, healing, helping, whispering.
I moved through the rest of the day like a stately old ship—slowly, with an uncharacteristic, massive grace. Despite the heat and my cramps, I completed the afternoon’s work well, but as the sun began to drop, a terrific longing washed over me. I was not hungry. I was not thirsty. I did not crave small talk nor empty-calorie fun. I wanted old-school, one-on-one, paws-entwined love. In the absence of that powerful connection, a terrible sadness entered my apartment.
I picked up my purse and, as if in a dream, walked down the street to the Williamsburg waterfront. It is not a short walk, and it is one I avoided for years because my lost love lives there with another, but tonight my need for a river—for Oshun and her mother —transcended the tinniness of a romance gone bad.
At the river, I sat on an empty, dark bench, and breathed and listened.
I smelled the coffees and beer weaving in the night air around me. I smelled the burnt flesh being eaten in nearby restaurants. I smelled a city suddenly cooled. I smelled ancient, brackish water from everywhere and nowhere.
I heard the players putting game on their girls and the drifting voices of young people not listening to each other while slurping their drinks. I heard a small poodle say his owner was not kind, and felt sorry his owner could not hear. I heard two Hasidic men in love though they could not admit it. I heard the hum of the power grid and, beneath that, the river’s rush. In it, I heard Yemaya and Oshun’s song.
This made me cry, though, to be fair, I’d had to cry for a while already. The country I love falling apart. The years before me without that paw in my own. The grief had been rising and I’d had no place to put it. Now it was pouring out of me anyway, like everything else that day.
I looked up at the streaked sky and did not see the new moon. Do you get to see her when she is being birthed? Or do the heavens clear so they can start from scratch?
I thought of the person for whom I feel no small love—with whom I may be in love—and wept some more. How to ask for something new when the body has already begun its demise. How to seduce when you’re no longer girded by the entitlement of youth.
I looked again for that new moon. I listened for any wisdom the water goddesses might choose to share. I thanked them for everything they’d already offered.
Finally, I rose and found some pennies in my purse. Standing up, I whispered three requests to three coins and left them carefully at the river’s edge.