Blood Moons and Birthday Plans
Today is my birthday. 27 years ago, my dad excitedly helped my mom outside to see a full lunar eclipse in the starry night sky as my mom gazed up distractedly (it’s hard to appreciate the full beauty of natural phenomenons when you’re in labor.) I was born just after midnight after the Winter Solstice under this Blood Moon; I like to think I was waiting for a sign the sun was indeed going to return before I made my debut. This day has always felt really magical to me. It’s when the days are just starting to become longer, a day when the anticipation of Christmas has not quite yet hit its peak, a day when families are gathering together around fires and lights to stave off the darkness. It feels especially magical this year, since there’s a full moon in the sky just as there was the night I was born.
I often don’t do much to celebrate my birthday because of the chaos of the holidays. People are busy traveling and shopping and recuperating after another office party. Usually, I am content to do something simple with my family, who do a great job of making it a special day for me amidst the busy-ness. But this year was a little bit different. This year I realized I could use my birthday as a way to ask for exactly what I wanted: help with a project that means a lot to me. I announced a while ago that I am working on a series of artwork to gift to victims of the Camp Fire in California this year. People who’ve lost their homes and sentimental belongings have been sending me the ashes gathered from what they’ve left behind, which I will transform into glazes for hand-crafted ceramic pieces. (I’ll start an album of in-process pics from this project on my Facebook page if you want to follow along.) It’s my hope that the objects I create in their honor will help them transition during this time of grief. They’ll be a way to hold on to what is lost while beginning new collections of sentimental items in the future.
I was inspired to do this project by a woman who lost her home in a fire a couple of years ago. Upon seeing pictures from my event Ember, which was about using the concept of embers as a metaphor to represent something to either bury and let die or fan into flames, she sent me an emotional message telling me how much that event meant to her and how it just seeing pictures of it had helped her in her healing process. I was moved by the letter and I sent her one of my ember teacups. She was deeply appreciative and told me that it was the beginning of a new collection, a new chapter of her life. A year later, she sent me another note thanking me again and telling me how much comfort it brought her. I can’t express how much that meant to me, to know that the work I’d created had become such a treasure to someone going through a tragedy like losing her home. But with this project I want to take that intention a step further by incorporating the ash from the places left behind into each piece itself. Developing the ash glazes is a fascinating process, but it involves a LOT of testing. That’s why I decided the best gift my close friends and family could give me this year would be to come spend some quality time together while we make a lot of little test dishes.
This year has been filled with its own grief and sadness for me. I’ve been sicker than I ever have been before. My body feels broken, and I spend a lot of my time in bed, wishing I was well enough to work on the projects that make me feel passion, to plan the events that bring me so much joy. A drop of my blood shows what’s holding me back: lots of the tiny little spirochetes of Lyme disease hiding in my blood vessels and body. But this year has given me a tremendous reminder: that every single day is a gift, and that I shouldn’t take anything for granted. A bite of food is a luxury my body cannot afford every day, so being able to eat is a huge pleasure. Similarly, I am often too weak to move and walk, so being able to take my dog on a long hike feels like heaven.
I was born to the darkness on the longest night of the year under the eerie glow of a blood moon. Perhaps the ability to see through darkness runs in my blood, or perhaps it’s something I’ve taught myself over the years of struggling with my own. Either way, I want to be a source of light in this world, a beacon for others to look towards during their own dark journeys. I can’t pull them out of them, but I can add a tiny bit of light along the way.
Sometimes, the best gift is to give. Sometimes, healing is more important than getting. Sometimes the best way to feel love is to spread your own as widely as you can.
So my friends and family will gather around tables filled with clay and homemade pizzas. We’ll laugh and chat in the comfort of my home here in Idaho, secure in the knowledge that we are warm and safe. I am proud that my people are always up for an adventure, something unconventional… that my birthday party might not have cake and alcohol, but it will have something that means a lot more to me: a deep sense of community.
As I write this on my birthday under the glow of the same moon that gazed down on my birth, I feel full. I feel connected. I feel magic. Today is going to be a great day.
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