I think it’s poignant that my Twitter archive was finally ready to download a little before midnight, which means I could finally deactivate my personal account. Fifteen years of doing the same thing, and now that chapter is closed.
It’s technically November 1st now, but my room is lit by the candles on my ancestor shrine and the light of my two computer screens; and outside my open window it is foggy and smells of autumn.
I practice a form of ancestor veneration that is being taught to me. I have a space that I use for a shrine, and there are various things on it that remind me of who I am and who loves and has loved me in my bloodline. There are things on it that represent the love of my chosen family. There are things that represent the wild part of me that I don’t usually speak about. True things are true even if they aren’t necessarily shared — which is only interesting if you’ve been here for a little while and know that I have a tendency to get really vulnerable.
Tonight I am remembering the ancestors that have already died, the ones I knew in person and the ones I only know from photos and patchy genealogical records. Most of my ancestors were not indigenous to the land where I live, and although I can’t find all their names or know who they were, the land probably remembers them. It is not for me to wash the blood from the hands of my settler ancestors, but it is for me to remember what was done, and is being done, and let it guide my choices.
Tonight I sang some old songs I remember; I can hear my Mamow’s voice singing fragments of them and the sound of her laughter. I remember the songs I sang over my children when they were babies, sitting with them in the darkest part of night, both loving them so hard it hurt, and hoping that when I got up to put them in the crib that they wouldn’t suddenly wake.
Tonight I shared some whiskey with my ancestors. Its burn on my tongue helps me remember where I am in time and what today means to me.
Tonight I remember Eldest Ancestor: fire. Fire brings us together, it purifies our water, it cooks our food. It shows us where the boundaries are. It gives us safety. It is a weapon, and a dangerous tool in uncareful hands. Fire lets us see into the darkness, casting light outward to make shadows. Fire is heat. Fire is life. Fire is death.
I cleaned the candle holders and put in new votives. I washed the water bowl and refilled it. I set out a dish for the spent matches and a cigarillo, smelling of sweetness and tobacco. I lit a stick of incense. I hoped that they can see me honoring them and I hope they are proud of the person I am and the person I am becoming.
Tomorrow I will write out the new month in my journal, and make plans for meals when it’s my turn to cook dinner next. I will forget to finish my coffee and it will be cold when I pick it up. I will probably wake up with a pain somewhere, a reminder that I am aging, and will one day be an ancestor. Note to my descendants: strong coffee and filtered water are good choices, although unless you’re asking for something, I don’t need to be especially picky.
Tonight in the dark, smelling the candles and the incense, I remember that no matter how long the night, the day will come. The light will return. There are always things to fear; and there is always hope.
To be a huge nerd, Galadriel said the above quote about the light of Eärendil — their ‘most beloved star’ — captured in a bottle that she gave to Frodo as they passed through Lothlorien; Galadriel is Elrond’s mother-in-law, and Eärendil is Elrond’s father, which makes the two of them kin by marriage. I suppose Eärendil is immortal in a way, being set above in the sky to shine forever.
Even the longest-lived of immortals can bless each other by being who they were meant to be — who they were lucky enough to be. We are all lucky enough to be who we are as well.
featured image is my own work