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I’m leaving soon. I am leaving here soon after spending months longer than I ever expected here or imagined possible. The wheel of the earth seemed stuck in winter’s grip when I arrived, the day before a war began, a week before my mother broke four ribs, the same week I traveled back to one of my first homes to revisit roots and remember who I once dreamt I might be before I became her, to visit my father’s grave with an old friend who patiently walked the cemetary with me, to tell my brother that I loved him before returning through empty fields to my mother, whose pain prompted me to stay until I could bear to leave her. And yet I can hardly bear to leave her, bound as we are, in ways that love cannot explain or concern herself with understanding.

The lawns in my other brother’s neighborhood were muddled brown, the tree limbs stark against the night that came crushingly early until the days slowly lengthened, the sun as pale and as weak as I was 6 weeks later when Covid came for me and April sprung around me while the fever crested and broke, crested and broke, and my body shook as relentlessly as it did in the face of a long-handed man in his January rage and I prayed the old prayers for rectitude and restoration, for release and reorientation to the one path that only my soul could possibly traverse. Do the gods hear us when we call to them? Does the air itself vibrate around us when they are listening? Does the random spark in the upper left field of my vision mean they have heard me? Does the inexplicable flash of light that even my mother saw three days ago mean that there truly are angels among us, skipping timelines or kingdoms to accompany us into a world of chaos? The fever broke, and I threw out the remaining cough drops, promising myself that whoever that fisherman was to create them was no friend of mine, and I finished the CBD honey sent from a different mother of mine who stood in the sanctuary and told the 4 angels and the black wolf to clear the path for me to find my way back to myself, and back home to all of them.

Winter was a cruel tyrant this year, bitter and arid and bone-aching, dragon-breathing cold. He taunted spring when she dared cross his threshold, until her beauty won out and her warm hands held the land until the grass sprung and the wax casing around the tree buds broke open and the light grew stronger, warming the air, warming my bent body and my bit of battered hope. When the cough stopped, I geared up for a long walk when the poems still would not come, reveling in the rioting green, the creek running quick enough to clear dead leaves in its current. My mom’s ribs slowly healed, and the plummet of her pain level was reminder of how to breathe again. She revived, as bullet-proof as ever, and my heart beat on and the wintered birds returned while I step-by-stepped my way through each longer and warmer day, brushing my mother’s hair, saying her prayers with her at night, listening to her stories as deeply as I could when her usual unknowable distance abated and she wanted to be seen by me, by her only daughter.

Sitting in the living room in the late twilight made eerie by yesterday’s tornado warning weather with my nephew and his best friend and my mom, who got a new wheel chair this week, I was stunned to find that my nephew and his best friend had never seen The Matrix, so I had to try to explain to him and his best friend the construct of reality and the multiverse, how timelines can be crossed and how what happens in one timeline can affect what happens in another, and how it is said that some people can travel between them. I told him that some people say you can learn to recognize when one timeline collapses into another, when one reality bleeds into another happening simultaneously elsewhere.

How do you know when a different reality comes? He asked me. I told him that some people say that the light around you goes strange, like a spark or a sideways flash, and I told him about the flash my mom and I saw three days ago, my mom chiming in beside me to say, Oh, yes, that flash of light above your windshield. A few days ago. I remember that. Or you have a sense of deja vu, or all of a sudden feeling like you have been exactly here doing exactly what you are doing before.

Or how sometimes an almost impossible synchronicity happens that bridges two bizarrely unrelated possibilities, like the Halloween I dreamt my father was in the bedroom doorway telling me to get up and finish my book, the book that would go to press that day before I donned a Calliope costume to join my Wonder Twin best friend who was Mary Poppins for the day, but my Dad said my name wrong in that moment, calling me Doré, which is what woke me from the dreaming. I got my first mug of coffee while walking through my house asking him out loud why he’d said my name wrong, and when I checked my email with that mug on the glass-topped table beside me, I discovered an email from a man I’d once been foolish enough to try to love, calling me Doré. Doré, he told me, is a form of gold. I signed off on the final edits of my book that went to press as I dressed as Calliope to join Mary Poppins, and during the costume party a photo of me in profile distorted the light to the extent that it gave me the illusion of wings.

Or that the world around you goes totally silent and still, like you are inside of a bubble, which is the space they call the in-between. In between realities? he asked. Yes, I said. In between realities, the place of utter stillness where the two realities are said to meet, where one bleeds into another. Have you been there, he asked? The in-between? I told him I think so. Where? Where were you? I told him: In the dreamtime, and on the praying grounds of South Dakota, and beneath a tree full of ravens in a field in Stirling, Scotland. On a train in the Drogheda station in Ireland, on a long run across an old battlefield in Chadds Ford, in a church in Long Beach on a Friday evening. On the night my father died and I held him as he left us when his watch stopped, and my mother gave it to me days later because I’d held him in his leaving. In 22 years of dreaming of a man with mutable eyes who I do not know, have never met, and how those meeting dreams end every single time we are about to speak to one another for the first time.

This morning I thought of the other times, when I landed on the page and could not write, so I started writing the times and the places and the moments of the in-between – or what felt like it at the time, anyway. Every time I have had a fever. When I was in a coma on Day 7 with spinal meningitis and Grand Mal seizures and there was an angel in the room that someone else, with a dark heart, had been able to also see. After surgery 7 years ago when I woke up crying and saying, please don’t make me go back there. On the road alone, in a prison church where I once gave a poetry reading to 320 felony convicts, the first time I crested the canyon and Taos spread out before me wrapped in sideways light. The sweat lodges, and sundance with sage smolder and the drum and the South Dakota sky, and the fire that called me by name. And in the car with my mom three days ago when I was exhausted from lack of sleep and inarticulable relief that she is still with us, that I am still with us, that the wheel of the earth has unstuck and spun to full spring with the lawns in my brother’s neighborhood now jewel green and manicured and the clematis and magnolia are opening like the dogwood on the front edge of my family‘s land, from which I bent one four-tiered velvet bloom that sits beside me as I write to remind me of home.

At least one of my homes, here in the little human suit with its density and ego, its bloodbeat and longing, its faulty memory of what came before we slid into the suit for the briefest of moments that flash like a lifetime here while we question elsewhere. Is it spring in the realm my mother sometimes drifts off to? Or where that man with the mutable eyes resides? Is the path littered with golden and scarlet fallen autumn leaves or honeysuckle summer tendrils dragging its edges? Do I dream of myself from there, or does my father visit from where he is, like wandering angels on road trips with a go-cup of coffee and a pack of American Spirit Blues, wearing faded blue jeans and maybe cowboy boots? The sky this morning is tattered lace, the tornadoes moved up the coast as I dreamt of the road and another place I call home, and of my mother laughing and someone calling my name again until I rose up and held the dogwood blossom again, skimming memories of home and of kingdoms of belonging and wondering which reality is the real one, the true one, the one in which I will next land and allow the briefest of claim of my fullest presence and my green-eyed gaze.

Last night with my nephew and his best friend, both a little blown out because at age twelve the possibilities are just beginning to bloom inside of their perspectives and the multiverse is a field of incomprehensible possibilities, my nephew asked me: “Is Jesus in all of them? Is Jesus in each one of those realities?”

How do I tell him that the kingdom of heaven is within him? That all of the gods and all of their legions of light are within us? Just like home is. Just like the love that saves us, like the unassailable truth of ourselves when everything else falls away, like every season and name and kingdom of belonging is. All within us, along with the love we bring to the moment and how deeply we listen to it all. I’m leaving here soon, but I carry it within me, as I carry my mother and the former versions of myself that have learned how to love and to forgive, to hope and to believe, and finally to dream again. If you can’t find me for a little while, I’m off in the light for a bit, skimming realities and ley-lines, kingdoms and realms. Look for me in the light flash around you until I land back here again. I’ll be right back. I promise you.

©/Copyright 2022 Dora E. McQuaid


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