I’m sitting in the afternoon sun now, eating, inhaling. Mouthfuls of wild mushroom and dark broth—rosemary, shallots, thyme, cod. I dip the dense bread in, that the man who made the soup, brought to go with it. It tastes like medicine. I’m listening to the new Ryan Adams album—a change from the Janelle Monae, Alicia Keys and Beyoncé I’ve been consuming regularly. And that too feels like medicine, a soft male voice amidst the angry ones shouting out everywhere. My body is aching from last night’s wine, used to cover something else inside that I have no name for but which makes me want to cry, what feels like, all the moments of the day. But, the wine isn’t working and the tears won’t come. It’s late winter and too warm, too still, too empty. I’m looking for medicine of some kind. I’m waiting for snow medicine or spring medicine; I’m waiting for a lover to hold me somehow in a way that goes beyond my body.
Just that word even, feels like something I may only understand a little. Feels like a word that likely doesn’t belong to me. In the sweat lodges I’ve been in, they talk about medicine and they pray for it, offer it, to each other and each body offers healing as it opens and begins to contain the heat. I like the lodge as hot as I can stand. I feel this way about baths, about tea. It’s as if I want all the heat of the universe inside me, every morning and night. I want my skin to burn. A few weeks ago, up in the forest with some friends, we had a wassail. A wassail is an ancient tradition, though I’m not sure where it comes from exactly. You heat some of last year’s cider from the trees and you go out to bless them, to cry out to them, to wake them midwinter, to ask them for another bountiful harvest for next year. And you sing. We raised our voices in blessing and asking, together in the deep snow and it was beautiful. And at the place where the wassail happens, there is a sauna as well. There were nine of us in there that night.
And much like lodge, I watched our bodies open up to the night, and to the sound of each other’s voices and the heat. Though many people walk in and out, jump in the ice-cold pond, roll in the snow or pour cold water over one another, for some reason, I do not. I never do anymore. I’d like to say it’s because I don’t want the shock or the cold. But really, it’s that I want only heat. I want, almost, to burn myself up to ashes, or maybe, it is more like a melting, a dissolving, a disintegrating away from who I know myself to be now and to be re-formed as something I might someday become. The crackling of the wood, the red-hot stove, the steam, it makes me feel like I am going home, like I am home.
I felt my breasts changed with age, and my skin still soft, I felt my body across the cedar seat. Maybe this is medicine? Even if I don’t know, I want to begin to know. I want to begin by simply naming the things, I now, in these last weeks, think might be it. A car ride with Suki, and our laughter and her bright eyes, the quiet at the end of the road, my sister’s babies in my arms, where Gisselle says before sleep “Auntie, tell me a story out of your head,” the sound of that perfect breath beside me in the knells of sleep. All this, medicine against the tyrant at the door and his hideous minions, medicine against our fears, medicine against our loss, against our uncertainty, my own trepidation at keeping my heart open, my imperfections and those of everyone else, because, let’s be real, if perfection is a requirement for love, for solidarity, for action, we’re all gonna fail every time. At least, I will. Because I do not have a perfect heart. I try to remember that too, every day.