Tag Archives: week 3

And the third theme of 2014 is…GROWN(-)UP.

I’ve been keeping a deck of tarot cards on my bedside table (Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck, for anyone interested in knowing).  It’s been a source of inspiration sometimes, as well as a starting point for much-needed introspection for me.  Also, oddly enough, it makes me take the time to pray.

I haven’t been a prayerful person in years, and I’m still trying to work out what prayers are and whom they serve, but it has always been my habit to say some sort of prayer before drawing a card, doing a reading, consulting someone (or something, in this case) for better perspective.  It all started when I bought my first deck of tarot cards.  I was in middle school, I think, and my mother took me to Seven Stars (back when it was in Harvard Square).  After poring over many beautiful decks I chose one that was painted in watercolors, big fat lines and blurred edges.  I had three favorites: the Star (a naked woman in a lake, surrounded in varying shades of black and green), the Six of Cups (two chubby-legged children playing with the fairies and rainbows that spilled from golden chalices), and Death (partly because I felt badass to know it wasn’t a negative message, partly because it was a skeleton with a butterfly floating from its pelvis).

In the car, my mother reminded me to put on my seat belt, then asked me to promise her that I would always take a moment to say a prayer before a reading, for the benefit of the seeker, of myself.  In deference to God or some other higher power as I dabbled in esotericism.  I took this tarot thing very seriously, and I always said a prayer.  Something solemn but perfunctory.  God, let this go well.  Or, God, I don’t mean to offend.  Something like that.

The other night I asked the air for advice, for insight, before drawing three cards to see what I needed to know at this stage in my life.

Tonight I held the deck to my heart and thought of all my fellow Kindreds, some whom I know quite well by now and others whose expressions in this project give me a better understanding of who they are and how they work.  I wished for you, specific wishes and vague, but always concentrating on you.  I drew this card:


I had never seen the Six of Cups reversed before!  Upon reading some more about what this means, I learned this card can suggest that one is clinging to one’s past in such a way that you inhibit yourself from experiencing the present and moving into your future.

This particular guide said something that really stood out to me:

“The Six of Cups is a card of nostalgia, childlike love and generosity, and a carefree, naïve outlook on life. Reversed, it suggests that you may have had unrealistically rosy ideas about a particular stage of life, based on your dreams and ideals from when you were younger. For example, you may have always pictured yourself as married with children by 25, only to realise that once you hit 25, you had other goals in mind. Or you may be disappointed that you have reached a particular age but have not fulfilled your childhood dreams just yet.”

When I said it stood out, I mean it sang to me.  I keep making fun of the idea that, at age 30, I’m still not an adult.  My expectations of myself as a child were so huge that I may never be an adult.  And the more I complain about this, the more I realize that most people feel this way, at one time or another. But it’s not that we’re all living in the past, and it’s not that we haven’t matured (do you see how my tarot prayers and uses have changed?) – we just aren’t living the lives we expected.  And frankly, who does?

So I ask you all kinds of things: are you living up to your own expectations? What have you wanted for yourself?  Has that changed over time?  Do you feel like you’re moving forward?  How might you be holding yourself back?  And if you’d rather this weren’t so introspective, tell me this: what is a grown-up?  Who are your favorite grown-ups?  Make one up for me.

I say this as a person who just bought a Little Prince sweatshirt, as a person who just caught up with her best friend from elementary school (over drinks!), as a 30-year-old who lives with her father, as the girl who first stood up for herself because she wanted to be Peter Pan in the school play, as the college dropout who is taking an acting class simply because it is impractical.  But also as the woman who just bought a juicer, as the woman who is trying to commit more to yoga…

That’s actually all the adult stuff I’ve been up to of late, but you get the idea.  But good luck!  And let this go well.

Jess Mullen

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The Dangling Conversation.

It is remarkably silly that I suggested last week’s theme, sage, and am only responding to it now, a day overdue. It turns out that the biggest reason I chose that word – that it is full of possibilities – is what has held me back most of all. There is just so much to write about! When I think of sage, I consider my mother’s home in the high deserts of New Mexico, my favorite pizza at the place where Dylan and Baez used to sing together, my first year of college when a friend used a smudge stick in her room – something I should have done that year, even though the green linoleum and cinder blocks had made everything seem all the more hopeless. The word came to me as I was trying to think of ways to purify and detox different aspects of my life – the way I eat, naturally, but also in my habits as a writer, as a student, as a sometimes insomniac, and as a grown-up (a title I will have to live up to one of these days).

In an effort to home in on an aspect of sage that inspired me to share something here, I looked up the healing properties of the herb. A homeopath might recommend it for any number of my chronic physical complaints, but what struck me most of all was what it can do for the mind. It is an anti-depressant, it eases the pain of grief, it calms a hyperactive mind. And it’s used in all different ways to heal wounds, physical or emotional – as a tincture to be taken, a scent to be drawn in with a deep breath, and as a salve spread on a burn.

In my life what I have used most to calm my mind is music, and these days the music that works the best feels like a salve. I love music that washes over you, tingles, massages the scalp in slow ripples. A friend told me not long ago that my taste in music is too slow, boring. And, barring the fact that he ignored my penchant for 60s pop and anything good for dancing like a fool, I can almost see where he’s coming from. But he doesn’t need to be entranced in a beautiful sound that is almost as natural is nighttime rain on a window, or lyrics that are as musical as the instruments that accompany them. When I need to be calmed I listen to Andrew Bird and get lost in his labyrinthine words, or I listen to Nico and imagine the shadows of the clouds over the heathered hills of Tralee.

When I lived in France, I came home from a long trip to Scotland and felt broken. That’s how homesick I was. And I felt so helpless, and no matter how anxious and sad and useless I made myself, I couldn’t bring myself to sleep. Until I listened to Simon and Garfunkel.

When I listened to them at first I was brought back to those nights when I was 13 and just started slacking off in school, almost always feeling like my mind could be read. The anxiety that I put myself through then so that I would have more time to – not do homework, at any rate. I drove myself crazy, afraid that I would be found out, as a liar and a constant daydreamer, all the while listening to what is still my favorite of their albums, “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.” The effect of songs like, “For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her” was the same as what I look for now when I have a glass of wine and stare into the fire after dinner. It washed away the gadflies of the day, and propelled my daydreams upward with a buzzing hopeful feeling – all mental flight.

That blanket of a Lyonnais January, unseasonably cold and grey and sparse, was sometimes hard to endure, but that loneliness and uselessness was salved by a healthy dose of acoustic guitar and hushed harmony. And from listening to Simon and Garfunkel I progressed to watching Woody Allen movies, laughing, pining for New York if you can believe it, and from there I could start to plan my next adventures – Ireland, and home. School, and the writing that I had ignored that whole year.

And so this week when I think of sage it is only natural that I think of Simon and Garfunkel. And I leave you with what I still think is one of the loveliest songs ever written.


by | January 22, 2013 · 9:00 pm

Diviner’s Sage

Advanced Sonic Cleansing guaranteed to transform:
                                                                             see the invisible
                                                                             feel the untouchable
                                                                             say the unspeakable
Listen to what your demons have to say to you.

blow it out.
Make them disappear.Image



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in my mind sage is
burnt green smoke
like ashes of your past
wisps of ghosts
Sage is a forest pixie
who knows your memories
and cleanses them
for the price of nightmares
detox for the air
like you cut out sugar
and eat kale instead
burn, consume, repeat

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Plato’s symposium describes the wise old Sage as one who does not love knowledge, because he knows it, and love lacks the object it seeks. Laying here an invalid on this bed, I’m feeling much more the role of a philosopher. Why is it, that with everything I have learned, all I have done, and seen…that I still lack the object I seek? I’ve learned the world is harsh, but now it’s scarier than ever. I could defend myself then….I could get away….my voice was heard, like it or not…

These are just the rantings of an old man sweetie, you need not waste your time listening to them…but I thank you kindly if you hear me out. So few people listen when I speak anymore….I lost my mobility, not my mind, you know! Anyways….you sure are sweet for sitting with me. I never was a rich man…never really found love neither. I was the baby of the family with a good sized gap between be and the next oldest , you know, a big one….baby, gap, and family…heh heh…..yeah….I sure did love them….my nieces and nephews all grew up and had babies, grand-babies even, and I sure do miss them too. I never thought I’d live longer them….even though I was the baby, what with the hard life i lived in my youth, and all….heh heh….guess I really did pickle myself……yeah….there were a lot of fun times back then. I even worked as a vaudevillian performer….but….I didn’t have the look, and old age set in before I ever got anywhere….I was born here in Missouri, you know….I traveled around, but….never really made it out of here….

They don’t much like my kind here. Never did. I always thought we could change that….make people just let love exist, without objectifying it…by the time we finally accepted it as a nation, I was just too old and set in my ways to ever find someone. That’s….that’s why I’m in the bed alone…waiting to die.

I’m sorry honey, I don’t mean to bring you down. Please….you don’t have to sit here in this gloomy old room with me, you don’t even know me. I don’t want to be a bother, I’ll let you be on your way. You sure? If you insist, I sure do enjoy the company…they don’t talk to me much…I think I’m in the “too broke to pay, too alive to bury” wing.

You know, I wasn’t a complete waste of a human being….I had friends the world over, I saw some of the most amazing bands that ever existed, saw lots of natures beauty….had my fair share of the human form too, if you get my drift…heh heh…..just never found the right one.

When I got sick….I didn’t have health insurance…I could barely afford my home…they took that when I could still get around…..by the time the government stepped in, the disease riddling my bones had so far progressed that I was in a wheel chair that I never walked again. I’ve been in this room for 6 years….no, I’m sorry 7…..they don’t even take me for strolls down the hall, or to the dining hall for dinner. It get’s so lonely back here. I haven’t heard someone play music in years, and it aches my soul so.

The way they treat me…..it’s not right….at least when I was a kid the bully’s bruised who bruised my body, and called me names, they took pride in it……these people are vindictive snakes, lurking in the shadows to strike.

I’m sorry, you don’t need to hear this deary, nothing you can do about it anyways…I’m just a broke, old, helpless fag……that’s what the boy who delivers my food on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays calls me as he sets my food tray just out of my reach. They wonder why I never drink my juice or milk, but no matter how many times I tell them I can’t open it, they always forget the next day.

It’s not everyone’s fault…..there are a lot of us old philosophers in here….they get so busy….but they often forget to turn me over…..I just don’t have the strength to do it myself, and it’s always been so hard to sleep on my back. Sometimes, when there are new workers, I hear the trainer whispering to them about me. Telling them I don’t have aids, so don’t worry to much….then they can’t look me in the eye, and tremble as they speak. One guy refused to clean me, and quit. I tell you, I haven’t had sex in 30 years, and I haven’t had the desire to in 20….I”m not some old pervert looking to play grab ass……i couldn’t get a hand full if I wanted too…heh heh. I would have killed myself already if I had that much strength.

I’m just a little black rainbow over here, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you cry….I hope it’s better for kids in your generation.

So, I try to pretend it doesn’t bother me and play nice, because the last time I tried to complain about that one night terror, Nurse Ratched, pulling on my catheter too hard changing the bag, the head nurse, she called me a mean old liar, and no one ever brought me my pain medicines that night…I just smile and wait to die. It’s hard to feel this helpless…to know that this time, you won’t find a way to stand up for yourself…..this time, it won’t get better.

I’m sorry, it’s been nearly an hour that I’ve been talking your ear off, you’d better get going home before it get’s too late, no sense in driving home in the dark if you don’t have to. You don’t have to stick around for me. Honey, no…I’ll be OK ..nothings killed me yet. Well, thank you. Are you sure you don’t want to talk about something else? something of the times, something hip. Oh, you don’t use that term anymore? ha ha ha *cough* …heh heh….guess I’ve been in here longer than I thought….”Old and In the Way”…..now I know what Jerry Garcia meant with that one…hehe….you like bluegrass? no, probably not. Oh really? In school, well…..glad to hear people still care for music.

Anyways, as I sit here waiting to die, pondering the meaning of life, and love…I feel like I just don’t know. I don’t know what to say that sums it all up. I am not the sage I once thought myself to be….I still love wisdom…..I till love love…….I’m just a broke old helpless fag. I can tell the guy across the hall doesn’t know your here…..he always yells when he hears people coming to my room….he warns them not to catch my queer sickness….tells them to watch their little boys…don’t let the faggot pack your fudge, he screams……..before they took his legs, he used to sneak in and clamp my oxygen off, pop the cork on my catheter bag and dump it on me……he is a mean man….I don’t hate anybody, or wish them hurt….but I’m glad that he can’t just walk in here anymore….I thank every God and Goddess ever praised that his wheelchair has a squeaky wheel and they hear him trying to leave the room…..sometimes they get too busy, or just don’t pay attention, and he gets in here….but he hasn’t been healing very well lately….he’s getting weak like me….can’t waste so much energy on mischief.

That’s it honey, I can’t sit here and sadden you so deeply. I just can’t remember much else to talk about, and that’s not your fault. Enough about me, what about you? Do you play music? You do?! What do you play? Oh my! What a thrill…I’m in the company of a multi-instrumentalist!! It’s been so long! OH, you sing too?! Please, dear, if it’s I haven’t asked too much already, could you sing me something? Any old tune will do…any new tune will do as well….heh heh…if it’s not too much? Oh your a shining light on my dark world. thank you.

I don’t mean to cry, please forgive me….it’s been so long since I’ve heard music. I’m not familiar with the song, but your voice is angelic dear, and I just loved it. If you play all those instruments half as well as you sing, you are going to go far young man. Just beautiful!

Oh! We woke up the grouch across the hall! You don’t need to hear that, go on home, thank you so much for visiting a lonely old man, I’m sorry I took so much of your time and made you sing….but I’m not sorry I heard it…heh heh. You know, I almost forgot I even had a door….they only draw the curtain around here…..oh, thank you for shutting it…he sounds so much better on the other side.

I’m starting to get a little tired…I’m just so weak….I haven’t had a conversation this long in ages. Listen…I just wanted to let you know how much the time you spent with me means to me. I haven’t been this happy since I was young and spy in my early 30s…heh heh…thank you, young man. You gave me one last song before I die, and that is the greatest gift anyone could ever give me. May your life be blessed with family, peace, and wisdom. Goodnight, sweet child. No need to come back tomorrow dear, I won’t have done too much exciting things between now, and then. Well, thank you darling. I would love it if you did play for me tomorrow, but you don’t have to go lugging a cello in here. Ok sweetie, goodnight, know peace.
“Uhm, Hi, I’m looking for the man who was in this room yesterday, do you know where he may have been taken? Is everything ok?”

“Well, I’m afraid he passed in his sleep last night. My condolences  I wasn’t aware he had any family, or I would have contacted you……..if it helps….he had a smile on his face…..I’ve been here since the day he came in, and I haven’t ever seen that.”


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Genevieve’s Week 3: On Sage


You remind me of glass,
mirror, water, winter,
cold. Hands flutter
bleak shadows on
the wall. The rains
struggle on.  I won’t
send you back the
postcard or the box –

their place is beneath
the bed, within the
linen closet. Your
song may be tender,
but it smokes as
strongly as sage burns.
It stings my eyes like
onion. You remind me

of clay, snake, brittle
leaf, quiet growl. We
have met before, I
think, though it was
years ago. Now the
chicharras do not sing.
They drop to the ground,
tired, and the ice thickens.

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Week 3: Sage


To propose a theme so early in a project such as this is nerve-wracking.  Ashley told me not to overthink it, to which I responded, “but that’s what I do best!”  And I’d like to say that I was half-kidding, but I wasn’t.  I am an expert in overthinking.  More than once in the last week I found my thoughts racing, swarming.  Something like this:

HOORAY I get to choose the next theme! We have had such good themes so far! I get so excited when it’s time for a new one!  And now it’s time for mine! And everyone will be so excited for my theme, which is…which is what?   Oh no, which is what? Thinkthinkthinkthinkthink.  Come on, Mullen, pull yourself together.  I mean, we had been talking about doing themes that were more like object writing, I mean this is object writing, sort of, but I’m thinking of objects – ocean, dolls, horses, glasses.  I did kind of like that idea, but I also like these broader, deeper topics, too, which are almost as flexible.  Well it’s my turn, I can choose dogs or headbands or telephones if I want, but we’re already on a roll with this broader, deeper stuff – do I really want to break that streak? But maybe other people would like to write about more concrete stuff, too.  Maybe they just need a voice.  But maybe they don’t! Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way! Maybe…

At about this point I would breathe into a paper bag.  In my mind.

This morning, I was reading “A Writer’s Book of Days” by Judy Reeves, and one word stood out to me as the solution to all my indecision.  On this week’s topic, anyway.  As you may have gathered, I am lousy at making decisions of any scale.  This word, which was not part of her prompts, allowed me not to decide.

The word is sage.  I’ve posted a picture of the sage in Taos, New Mexico, but sage can be so much.  A plant, yes, and a cooking ingredient, but also a wise person, a word describing a wise person, and so on.  This is a word that has such a broad spectrum of meaning in so few letters, and I want you all to run with it.  Sagely.




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