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Tuna Wraps, Vultures and Demons, Oh My!

Photo by Harry Lette on Pexels.com

Pliant rough tortilla

Unfolds under fingertips

Revealing creamy innards

Spread out

Like the ritual of long ago

.

Piercing the fishy mound

The tomato laced mash

Rides aboard fork tines

And is placed onto tongue

Vulture

Outside my window

Circling

Circling

.

There’s a bitterness

And a fleeting fear

Of being poisoned

Of writhing in death

And agony

Only to come

.

Clearing past lives

I continue the mission

Chewing

Then surgically extracting

Lifeless leaves

I take them in

Feeling what’s left of their

Withering limp bodies

Lodge in between tooth an gum

.

Cold flesh

Of tomato guts

Bursts across palate

As molars decimate

And I remember smoke

And I remember suicidal hotel rooms

.

Now a blue jay

Sits on the line

Below the vulture, circling

As if waiting, waiting

.

Chewing

I entertain

Just for a moment

That it might answer

And ask if it could help me find home?

.

Chewing

There is no answer

But this next bite

Saturated with brined saltiness

The seasoned mash

Sloshes between cheeks

And I am grimacing

Tongue dislodging

Pieces from the cracks

.

Blue Jay is gone

As is for vulture

And I

Feel so very alone

.

Remembering, remembering

I can’t help

Remembering

That smoke

That loss

That yearning

To go Home

.

And the shame

The shame

A professional seeking re-admission

Into the only home

She’s ever really known

.

Chewing

These last overseasoned bites of innards

Before the tortilla

Becomes my only focused goal

.

I saved it for last

Like so many years ago

Where meals were skeletal

And the next allowance might be days away

I saved it

I made it last

I made it last

Peeling apart layers

Most eyes don’t even see

Extracting, surgery, pieces

Making it last

.

This time

I feel the impatience rising

The tidiousness of this ritual

However necessary it might have seemed

A decade ago

I pick up the rest

And roll it, feeling a welcome denseness

Compressing, masticating

And I swallow

.

This time, unlike that time

I am exhausted by the ritual

But this time, just like that time

I try to ignore

The Demons

Writhing in my gut

Still they greet

At each attempt of feeding

.

This time, just like that time

The Demons are still there

Waiting

Waiting

They’ve been there

A very long, long time.

. . .

Thanks for reading. Please join me next week as I re-create the food memory, “Carl’s Jr.”

**If you’d like to learn more about the Food Memories book I am referencing for these posts, you can support a small bookstore by purchasing it here: 

https://www.ebookwoman.com/book/9781689839075

or by searching for Food Memories by Reagan Lakins on any major book selling website.

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“Recovery” Oatmeal and the Witchy Nutritionist

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Fears

Of too much

And not enough

On the one hand

I see just how far I’ve come

Yet on the other

The same old structures

Circle round and round

.

Recovery?

Re-cover

Me?

Un-cover

Dis-cover

Alchemy?


Silky oat water

Slurping

An unfamiliar lacing

Coconut oil, savory

And a thickness

The watery gruel

More substantial


What will this recipe

Cause in my stomach

For years eating different

Will this set of measurements

Bring pain?


As the chirping

Of the dark morning

And swaying periodic chime

Surrounds me

I risk, I open

To this momentous

Yet sorry challenge

(while

the

world

goes

hungry)


And when it’s over

There’s no pain at all

Dark Goddess

She whispers in my ear

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This week, my self-assigned re-enactment was of a memory of eating oatmeal.

But not just any oatmeal–this oatmeal was what I deemed at the time as “Recovery” oatmeal. Far from the low-calorie, Quaker Oats package with only water to swim in. This oatmeal was laced with silky almond butter, coconut oil and a hefty serving of chewy flattened groats.

The recipe for this oatmeal was provided to me decades ago whilst under the care and guidance of an eating disorder nutritionist. I’d hired her to get me out of the underworld once again. But she was no ordinary nutritionist…she was a witch.

She called herself a Kitchen Witch. She encouraged me to sit with the pain of eating more, kneeling at a Dark Goddess altar she’d had me create to give the lessons of Anorexia a home. She encouraged me to track the moon, to honor the time when I would be menstruating but wasn’t, to create a ritual to hold space for it to come.

She grew and crafted Vitex and Skullcap tincture to help my hormones, to soothe my anxiety. She encouraged me to honor the pain.

It was this deep experience I was attempting to re-create, eating this recipe and sitting with the pain once more, honoring it, listening to it.

Yet as I was preparing the meal, I was amazed at the amounts she’d listed in her original recipe. Today, these seemed like measly amounts. I remembered writhing in pain after eating said recipe…how could this be true?

I recalled how I teetered on the brink in those days, and how lucky I felt to have met this witchy woman at a women’s herbal conference, she coming upon my sobbing mess while ladies of all shapes and sizes frolicked merrily around me. I remembered the depth in which she looked at me, I remember feeling held.

I remembered feeling courage to do anything to face this seeming demon inside of me once again. I remember her holding me–and it–with such fierce care it astounded and changed my perspective forever.

And so it was with that heart that I made this meal that day so many years ago, and braced myself for the pain. And pain there was–for hours and hours. I was somehow able to hear her voice, this nutritionist witch, and maybe the Dark Goddess too.

I was able to hear them guiding me to sit with the pain, to honor it, rather than the usual running, starving, anything I had done to make it go away. I remember being with that pain so deeply, deeper than I’d ever been. Understanding it as not just “too much food” but as an intense, unconscious trauma reaction.

For some reason, fullness was avoided at all costs, and I had not at this point taken a conscious look at the this reason. I just remained confused at why if I wasn’t worried about my weight, why the fullness terrified me so much. Why I needed a treatment center, or hospital, to help me face it and not run. This woman, and perhaps the Wise Darkness, spoke to me that day, through my sitting with the gurgling mass of oats in my abdomen. That day I learned something profound and new, even though I could not put it into words.

This time, while preparing the recipe that triggered such intensity, I was nervous. I was perplexed. What would this meal bring, even though it didn’t seem to be such a challenge volume wise anymore? I found myself wondering if I might constellate discomfort regardless because I was expecting it, exploring it in this exercise.

Yet slurping and chewing the oilier, thickened mass, I found myself listening to my body, listening for it to tell me to stop, listening for the pain. But it didn’t, and the pain wasn’t there. My body was…still hungry.

And I knew what the lesson was. The lesson from the re-enactment was to show me how far I’ve come, even though I still measure my food. The lesson was to help me remember the deep teachers that have met me along the way and what insanity my body has gone through with me.

I spent the time after the meal thinking about all of this, grateful, yet still perplexed at not really knowing how to describe just what has happened between then and now (aside from some obvious metabolic rehab), but that a lot has. “Recovery” isn’t quite the term I’d use, but something momentous has alchemized within me.

So there I sat in the early morning hours, darkness still hanging heavy in the sky, and thought of Her. In all Her forms, that has come to guide me through this storm. At one moment, posing as the enemy, and at another a helping hand. How She has always been with me, teaching.

And then, I got up to eat some more.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*Thanks for reading. Please join me next week as I re-create the food memory, “Tuna Wrap.”

**If you’d like to learn more about the Food Memories book I am referencing for these posts, you can support a small bookstore by purchasing it here: 

https://www.ebookwoman.com/book/9781689839075

or by searching for Food Memories by Reagan Lakins on any major book selling website.

Featured

Pan-Fried Trout: An Excerpt

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I have a squiggly, wet fish in my hands. I am crying. Uncontrollably.

Its slick skin slides out from my grasp, and it somehow manages to jump away and onto the ground. As I am set up so far away from the pond, its panicking thrusts don’t manage it back to the water. It flops, to and fro, and there is so much grief in me I feel I will explode and crumble beside it as it dies.

I decide I cannot let it suffer anymore and search frantically for a way to end its pain. I pull out the fish knife in my belt and hold the blade edge carefully, thankfully it is still sheathed so as not to slice me open. The hilt protruding from my trembling fist, I walk up to the squirming fish and thwack its head, aiming hard so I won’t have to try again. I squeeze my eyes shut reflexively as I make this jarring motion. I wait for a moment, listening, my arm reverberating. My eyelids peel back open, afraid to see what I’ve done, but apparently I have succeeded. The body of a lifeless fish rests before me.

I go to my bag and pull out the ceremonial cloth I’ve chosen to wrap the body in, to honor its life and the part it is playing in my rite of passage. I feel the scratchy linen cloth, and through it a wet seeping onto my hands. I stop for a moment and feel this body, this cycle I have chosen to put myself in, remembering the struggle and the blood of just moments ago. All is peaceful now, and I feel as if I hold a precious sacrament in my palms. I do. I am.

I place the carefully wrapped body in the cooler I have prepared. I close the lid down and take a breath. It is done.

I gather my rod and equipment and head back to the car. Things seem very slowed down as I walk back along the path that before held my trembling steps. I hear birdsong echoing in the forest around me, and although the ripples of sadness are still flowing through me, there is a peace that has taken over my body. It is a pulsing feeling, deep in my bones.

I do not play music on the long, dusty road back to my home in the city. I listen to the silence; I feel the buzzing, how it etches out the lines of my body. It is as if I am humming, alive, and I want to really be in this feeling. I hear the rod jangling in the back of the car as I make my way over the bumpy roads, and finally I reach the highway and head home.

I pull up to the side of the house, cars rushing by on the busy intersection. I choose to leave my rod in the car for now, and only lift out the cooler with the fish body inside. I make my way up the stairs and into the house—no one seems to be home, which I am glad to see. My next task is to cook this offering, and to consume it. Decades have passed since I have eaten flesh, and my mind is nervous of how my body will react. I am grateful that I will be able to experience this transition alone, and I make my way to the kitchen.

I open the cooler and a wave of slightly fishy aroma rushes at my nostrils. I take another breath, and remember the Fish message I’d received:

We are here to nourish you, if you call upon us and treat this exchange with gratitude. We are happy to offer our lives so that you may thrive.

I have to put this message on repeat in my head. I have spent so many years protesting and activist-ing that this message is still such a paradox to me.

I walk over to the stove and place a frying pan on it, turning on the gas clicker and lighting a flame beneath. I splash a little oil onto its surface and hear it sizzle. I breathe.

I bring the fish body over to the side of the stove and unwrap it, placing its cool carcass onto a plate. I look at it, looking back at me, through the eye of its half-squished face. These eyes are glazed over and cloudy, and my crying heart doesn’t seem to react this time. I have become a little more comfortable with the fact that I am a killer.

I hover my hands over the dead fish and start to say my prayers. Prayers of gratitude for its sacrifice, for the worms and waters that formed it, to its fish mother, to the silky mosses it brushed up against and hid in. To the rains and the sun and whatever it is that made it possible for me to have this privileged experience, here, now. I wedge my fingers under the scaly underside and lift it up into the air, a gesture moving through me with no words. I bring it back down and into the pan, the sizzling intensifies, and I prepare myself to deal with the aroma of flesh cooking.

Surprisingly, as the fish body quivers and crackles, the scent is pleasurable. Savory, briny, smoky. My stomach begins to rumble. My stomach begins to rumble! My stomach hasn’t rumbled in what seems like…decades.

I am curious, and my mouth starts to water.

I grasp the spatula from its peg near the chopping block, and pry up the crisped skin of the fish body from the hot pan. I maneuver it somehow so that, in one fell swoop, I manage to flip it over onto its other side without a mess. It plops back and resumes its sizzle.

I am calm, reminding myself of the message. Guilt and fear try to creep into the edges of this experience, but the unbelievable fullness of the sacred overwhelms their tries. I look at the fish eyes again, and it seems the mouth is now smiling. The metalhead inside me chuckles at the grimness of a slightly smashed fish head smiling.

The aromas have taken over the air in the kitchen. I’m not sure whether or not the fish is ready, but it is now beginning to burn, so I remove it from the flame. I pull open the drawer next to the stove and pull out a fork, curious to see what it will look like, surprised again at the ease with which I’ve transitioned into this meat-eater persona.

I pierce the crispy flesh and pry into the muscle. I see it has hardened and its texture reminds me of fish-and-chips of so long ago. I decide it is ready, and remove the fork.

I slide the fish onto a plate and brace myself for the big moment. I breathe, body quaking again. The tremble has returned for some reason, and it makes my fork wiggle. I am called back to the wriggling of the fish, in my hands, on that mossy earth, dying, and how it’s now here, cooked, and on my plate. I feel tears well up, but they do not escape the rims of my eyelids, they just pool there. I lower my shaking fork down into the flesh of this dear creature, and lift a chunk of its cooked body up to my eye level. I look at it, fearing, but also in utter awe.

I place the fish in my mouth and close my lips around it. I slide the fork tines out and feel the saliva pooling around this new foodstuff placed there. All sorts of salty notes trickle around the sides of my cheeks as I begin to chew this strange, flaky texture. I close my eyes and breathe in, noting this ending of the rite it has taken so long to complete.

The tastes swirl in my head, and my stomach—and soul—is sated. I have received.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*Thanks for reading. This is an excerpt from my recently published memoir, Food Memories.

**Join me next week for my next memory re-creation, “Hot (Recovery) Oatmeal.”

***If you’d like to learn more about or purchase Food Memories you can support a small bookstore by purchasing it here: 

https://www.ebookwoman.com/book/9781689839075

or by searching for Food Memories by Reagan Lakins on any major book selling website.

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The Mocha, Existential Angst and Goth Fairs (Food Memory # 23)

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Clad in Death’s costume

The door opens before me

Inside, frothers and hissing espresso

Greet ears

Innocence takes order

Fumbling at first time transactions

Bright ponytails bursting

From watchful nearby head

Mocha

I am preparing

To take the liquid in

A drip coffee concoction

A minimal waiting

And soon it is in hand

As the ponytail’s face shines with interest

This time, unlike last time

I am

Sipping

That familiar, bitter creamy sweet liquid

That first hot and delicious slurp

From the car seat

Unable to sit and write

In the coolness of the cafe’

Sipping

That creamy sweet liquid

As I maneuver ’round curvature

Snaky mountain roads

Honoring yet holding bay

The everyminute reality

I am in a gigantic moving weapon

Sipping

This creamy sweet bitterness

A courage

To face death

By simply driving

To face death

By simply intermingling with others

To face death

Courage

The Periphery starts to tingle

Feeling whole body outline

I am alive

Not knowing exactly what fills me in

Yet

I am alive

Showing up

Letting rich pleasure rushing

Over tongue

Down throat

Into bloodstream

Fanning courage

Across capillary fed cellular matter

To interact with Life

And attempt to play

With Death

Once more

~~

This week I sought to re-create a memory of me, a very depressed and lost me, rising from bed and choosing to push through my darkness with the hope that a mocha would help me feel more interested in staying alive.

What a difference twelve years makes, as this time I rose from my bed excited to be alive. Excited to dress up in Gothy wear, excited to drink a mocha, excited (and a bit petrified) to drive into the city for the first time in 1.5 years. Excited to meet up with a whole bunch of others who were probably doing the same thing. Excited to meet up with people dressed up in various forms of creatively expressing the existential angst of being a human in our current reality–those who aim to try to play with this crazy darkness rather than succumb to it.

This time, unlike last time, where I slogged my body to the cafe and watched old ladies and dogwalkers with a longing, a how-must-it-feel-to-be-human kind of awe…this time although I generally still feel like a hollow bone walking, I am playful with it.

This time I felt the same feelings but a level of acceptance of this evanescent reality that seems to be me. This time, the mocha was an enhancement to help me get into “playing human,” but not my only reason to rise. This time I had breakfast in my belly before that black richness careened down my esophagus, unlike last time where nausea and minimal eating to numb what I could was my life.

This time the thick desserty dose of caffeine companioned me on the windy mountain roads to face that totally insane thing we do by driving. Hurtling at top speeds, basically towards each other only inches away from bashing together…just trusting the good conscience and sobriety of others driving their own weapons around me! This liquid helped me face the totally uncontrollable fact that I do not know when or how I will die, and that I can either sit in my home in fear or go out and live. Fully accepting that all of it is a risk.

Unlike last time where I was so disconnected from reality that friendships were scarce and difficult, this time I had friends I was driving these roads to join cautiously at a “World Goth Day” event in the city. Unlike last time where the normal facing of death by leaving the house created its angst within, this time I was entering into a public event with close proximity to others, masked and freshly emerged from cocoons of a deadly pandemic…this time was a whole different level of facing death.

But I was not alone–amongst black capes and hollow painted eyes, through people only inches and not feet from me–all of us doing our best to be darkly playful with this insanity we’ve all been through. There were lacy masks, and gremlin babies, coffin dotted parasols, apocalyptic vibrations and a strange giddiness in the air. A facing death but so fucking glad to be out of the house and playing again kind of giddiness. It was delicious, like the mocha riding in my cupholder, comforting and pleasuring me as I hurtled into the new world, risking and playing with darkness.

*Thanks for reading. Please join me next week as I re-create the food memory, “Pan-Fried Trout.”

**If you’d like to learn more about the Food Memories book I am referencing for these posts, you can support a small bookstore by purchasing it here: 

https://www.ebookwoman.com/book/9781689839075

or by searching for Food Memories by Reagan Lakins on any major book selling website.

Featured

Chocolate Chip Cookie and The Metallica Problem

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Searing bitter deliciousness

Washing over edges

Mixing, swirling

Amongst melting chunks

And soft doughy crumbles

~~

Magazine-less

This time I woke to Metallica

Words and images leaving trails of shame

Dashed epic illusions

Crumble

Like the pieces of soft

Cookie pinching off

In my oily grasp

~~

Melting

Mixing and swirling

Hot and bitter

It all comes together

~~

This time

I was SO HUNGRY

Unlike that time

Nauseous and suicidal

Just hoping for something

Anything

To give me reason

~~

This time

Although echoes

Of what used inspire

Skip through dusty crevices

It is in reading my own creation

While feeding my very present

Hunger

And

This bitter dark, chunky melting goodness

Filling

~~

It is in this

And bowing to the memories of that

I see

Just how far I’ve come

~~

This memory sought to re-create a morning I woke to utter hopelessness, lost in a deep and dark void–in the bed of a stranger’s home. Don’t get all excited, I had come to this place to housesit, and although I’d met the family for a moment before they left, they were essentially strangers and I was essentially sleeping in a stranger’s bed.

I remember that day feeling like I wanted to die.

I had just relocated myself to the mainland US after having spent some years in Hawaii, and had nothing really, just a suitcase to my name. I had no plans, my identity of what I was and what I wanted to do with my life had spun out immensely while on said islands. I had hoped by coming back to the mainland I might find some sense of grounding, some sense of sanity but evidenced by this memory I had not found what I’d wished to find.

In the original scene I remember feeling nauseous, no hunger and like my life force was trickling to a dribble. I remember being on the edge of not wanting to try anymore and how then this force of anger and frustration came bursting through. I remember asking for an image, any image to help me get my sorry ass out of bed and back into life again, if only for the day. What appeared was an image of a chocolate chip cookie, a cup of coffee and some sort of a metal music magazine. Inspired by this sudden force, I strapped on my falling apart boots and made my way to the Safeway down the road.

At that store, I found all of the ingredients to this magical trio, including a Rolling Stone magazine dedicated to Metallica. Not exactly what I was looking for, but this music had carried me through the darkest times of my life and spoke to some of the darkness I was feeling, so I felt met and companioned…here in that store with my Void amidst the neon case lights and roboticized voices shouting, “Have a nice day!” around me. Metallica and their world held such sparkles in my mind at the time.

Fast forward to this day, roughly 15 years later, where I aimed to recreate such a scene. Oddly enough, I spent much of the week prior to this re-enactment wallowing in another deep well of Voidness, swimming in the Nothingness. One of those gut-wrenching hollow feelings, haunting me. I didn’t think of it then but now I wonder if in aiming to recreate this scene, I was conjuring also this deep feeling to “get me in the mood” ha.

Anyhow, I woke up thinking of Metallica and decided to turn the knife extra deep by watching a video of me pissed off and disillusioned by the “scene” at an event I had worked at for Kirk Hammett…one where there were such bad vibes I basically felt like running away from the whole gig, but of course didn’t. I revisited a feeling full of shame and judgment and mind-games I encountered there, and how my dreams of working with my heroes, being able to find purpose there…or at least some good people…were totally smashed.

So that started out my re-creation experience. Feeling the heaviness again, but inspired by my own writing project (this one), I strapped on my slightly less beat up boots and made my way to the nearest Safeway.

One chocolate chunk cookie was there for me, and I ordered a small cup of hot black coffee to go with it. I was excited to see what awaited me in the magazine aisle to go along with this treat…would I synchronistically find a metal magazine, here in suburbia? And why did I feel excitement, still, for this scene?

I walked up to the magazine section and, balancing the hot cup back and forth in my hands, started scanning. Bummer. An issue on The Doors, but not really anything else awaited me there. I had wanted something filled with images of gore and darkness and people throwing up the heavy metal horns. What could this mean? What would I spend my recreated experience with? The magazine was definitely part of the original scene. Hmm.

I went to my car and set the goodies down. On the other side of the armrest was my book, Food Memories, and that was all there was to entertain. I opened up the cookie bag and started taking in the perfect soft chewiness, gulping down sips of the dark coffee with it. I peeled open my book, to the poetry section and began reading.

As I read, I realized that maybe it was necessary to have an illusory inspiration via Metallica and other metal bands. During a time where I needed to see others creatively expressing their darkness–so I didn’t feel so alone, so I knew I wasn’t totally crazy, so I had some sort of role model with how to process the intensity I was feeling but didn’t know how yet.

But how interesting that here, now, with this chocolate chunk cookie, I was being inspired by my own creations. That having gone through the journey of seeking to be involved in a world that I thought would make me feel better about my own shadows–and ironically only feeling more lost in doing so–that here I was, finding my way back to my own medicine. How interesting.

On this day, I sat back and thanked my inspirators, even the f*cked up scene that exists in the industry, for teaching me and for helping me get to this point. I also thanked whatever the hell has inspired me to get back to a place where I am hungry again, despite the crumbling world around me. And I thanked the fact that it is in my own creating process that I find inspiration to rise and meet this strange, strange world.

(Ironically, after I finished this experience, I went across the street to get lunch at another store and lo-and-behold, in the magazine section was a Rolling Stone magazine focused entirely on Metallica. I picked it up and flipped through it but felt no wide-eyed projection take hold. I put the magazine down and walked towards lunch.)

*Thanks for reading. Please join me next week as I re-create the food memory, “The Mocha.”

**If you’d like to learn more about the Food Memories book I am referencing for these posts, you can support a small bookstore by purchasing it here: 

https://www.ebookwoman.com/book/9781689839075

or by searching for Food Memories by Reagan Lakins on any major book selling website.

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Dead Mothers, Nude Beaches and The Apple (Food Memory #21)

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Wind whipping

Lapels flapping

Wild stringlets pushed back

The witch’s fruit is pierced

Sharp incisors sinking

Through crisp red flesh

And juice squirting into breeze

~~

This time

I pierce this flesh

I mash it between teeth

I swallow

This time

The syrupy liquid

Trails down sides of cheeks

And into belly

This time

I let the witch fruit in

~~

Unlike that time

When the wicked was refused

And instead fully offered

To choppy island seafoam

Unlike that time when black and white

And staunch resistance

Took hold, took hold

~~

Unlike that time

At the threshold

Of yet another undoing

Years of cellular matter

Built of medicated recovery

Force-feeding

~~

Unlike that time

When I said a prayer

To the forces that held me

Wild and tropical

Not knowing

They’d

whisper

me

down

~~

This time

I remembered the mamas

As I wound through Her burnt effigies

And down to Her ocean body

This time

The coast was not

Razor sharp lava

But tawny granules,

Soft and crumbly

This time

I held up the apple

Looking down to the naked bodies below

And placed it in my mouth

This time

I ate the witch fruit

Taking it into me

Offering its flesh unto mine

This time, unlike that time

I ate part of this blessing

And hurled the other half

Into the chortling blue sea

This time, unlike that time

I ate some, offered some

In honor of the vast complexity

That ungeneralizable

Knowing

The Re-membery

I now hold within

~~

This week’s food memory re-enactment is fashioned after a memory of me, standing on a jagged lava coastline on the Red Road on the Big Island of Hawaii. I had left behind my Los Angeles life–the Jeep, the house, the perfect job in the eating disorders field–to take a sabbatical at a retreat center on the islands, hoping to get some sense of animistic perspective that I could hopefully bring back to the industry upon my return.

In the original memory, I had taken a walk down to the edge of the sea, apple in hand, as it was 3pm, the time deemed for many years as “snack time.” I had also come to the islands to experiment with not following a meal plan so rigidly, to instead let my hunger/fullness guide me as I had many years of recovery eating under my belt. I was tired of always eating on plan, and wanted to trust my body more.

In the original memory, I wrote about how I checked in with the voice of my body to see if it wanted to eat the apple, and feeling no response, no hunger. And then the recovery voice (or was it something else?) that said, “You better eat anyway.” I remember choosing to not follow that voice, as it felt confusing, not clear, and instead chose to trust my hunger/fullness, offering the entire apple to the sea.

This time, the memory was re-enacted on Mother’s Day, and being that I live in the mountains, I had to plan a special trip to the ocean to live out the experience again. My mother died a while back, and she loved Sunday drives on the coast so it felt perfect. She also was cremated and scattered into the sea so I’d be spending time with her at the ocean.

What I didn’t plan for was the destruction of pretty much the entire ridge of forest on the way up and over to the coast. Of course I knew the ridge had been decimated in the CZU firestorm last fall, but I hadn’t yet driven into the area. Ghastly, ghostly, hundreds if not thousands of dead, crisped elders. I thought of my mom, I thought of mother earth, I thought of the Amazon, burning. I thought of and honored the dead mothers as I wound my way down to the beachside.

At the beach, the wind was incredible. One of those winds you have to lean into. I forcefully hiked my way down to the water’s edge, spitting out sand, and tipping my hat to the brazen souls who chose to go clothes-less in the blustery chill. They had found themselves a little nook under the great cliffs to bask in all their glory. I wasn’t unfamiliar to this choice, having lived at clothing optional communities for many years. I carried on.

At the water’s edge, I felt a bit too exposed (lol) to do ritual, even fully clothed there were too many eyes on me and I decided to hike up to the cliffs above and do my task in peace. I scooped up a little water, my mama, and headed up.

The wind on the bluffs was insanely increased, but I powered through to the edge. I sat in a little nook, much like the naked ones below, and decided to eat the apple…well at least half of it. I also wanted to offer some of it to the sea. Unlike the original memory when I didn’t eat any of it, I chose to do both–eat it and offer it.

I thought about the way I have learned to sit in between the opposites, hold the tension there, and not be overzealous about “recovery eating” or “fasting” and how this choice represented that transition. I felt the apple in my stomach and watched as the rest of it bobbed in the crashing seas below. I felt kind of bad for the poor apple half, actually, wondering if I had unintentionally set it into a traumatic experience–from the warm and cozy safe backpack to lashing about in an unfathomable sea.

But then I thought of my mother, unfathomable, wild and wicked, crashing and chopping out there as the Great Waters. I thought about the apple, also being known as the witch’s fruit. And I thought that maybe, if witch’s fruits can feel, that the apple might have finally felt at home.

*Thanks for reading. Please join me next week as I re-create the food memory, “Chocolate Chip Cookie.”

**If you’d like to learn more about the Food Memories book I am referencing for these posts, you can support a small bookstore by purchasing it here: 

https://www.ebookwoman.com/book/9781689839075

or by searching for Food Memories by Reagan Lakins on any major book selling website.

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Dementors, Thanatos and Black Bean Corn Salad

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A mealy seasoned center

Bursts out of blackened skin

Onto tongue

Dressed in pungent protection

Garlic and salt weaving forcefields

Into and around nostrils

Down my throat

Mashing, knashing

Through crisp white skin

Bursting sweet corn juice

Rolling, crunching, mealy crispness

Finally descending

~~

I think back to that day

As I sit here, my own voices still protesting

Of the temporary profession

I wore for them, with them

~~

I remember their faces, sweet and rebellious

Looking to me for guidance

Likening their struggle to Dementors

Soul sucking

Child self

No more

~~

Helping them

Once I felt confident

That I was to battle

That there was this enemy

That I’d overcome

And would help them too

~~

But sitting here, mashing and knashing

It’s still all been measured

No matter how much I try to alchemize

The fact remains the same:

If I look into the void

The void still stares back at me

Alive and well

Waiting, overtaking

~~

After journeys into underworlds

And far off lands

I’ve found the complexity

Of not an “enemy”

But a shadow

The Unforgotten

Lurking

Banished and condemned

And simply rising in another form

To try, to try to get its message across

A message rarely heard

~~

This garlic bean mash

Stringy kale strips stuck in crevices

And toasted avocado smothered denseness

Mix together in me

Like the complexity of the real journey

Unable to truly be separated

Into its

Clean

Distiguishable

Measureable

Elements

I once thought comprised answers

Before

~~

Now

I sit here

With my own caudre of inner figures

Fearing, questioning, rebelling

And although my gnosis attends

Still I’m left with the pungent aftertaste

Of question marks

And the persistent

Harrowing

Drive

A return to inorganic substance

Thanatos, my love

The Void

Staring back at me

Waiting, overtaking.

~~

This week’s food memory re-enactment is named “Dementors.” In my memoir, Food Memories, I name the chapter this way due to the fact that it centered on a memory I have of me sitting at a table with a bunch of young eating disorder sufferers. In this memory, I was a “staff” helping them through their meal fears, and although I did feel mostly “healed” from my struggle, my journey at that point had only begun.

At the table, one of the clients mentioned how the eating disorder felt to them like the Dementors from Harry Potter–something that sucked them empty of all desire, happiness, joy. Something that basically left them with a feeling of having no real reason to live.

I of course, being on the “good side” at the time, encouraged them to fight back against this energy, like Harry did with his Patronus conjure, seeing this other part as the enemy that they had to overcome, like I had.

But mixed into this memory was my budding confusion on the black and whiteness of the matter, that while I told these amazing kids these things, I was beginning to doubt the certainty of such statements. I had just started studying Animism, at one time called Shamanism, which held a much broader and deeper understanding on the nature of illness. That on the one hand it is something to strive for health, but on the other it is also wise to understand why the illness, or “demon,” has come. These concepts were blowing my mind and making it difficult to totally work with confidence in a system that didn’t address this complexity in some way.

In my re-enactment, I decided to make the same salad as I made for them, and myself, to eat together that day. I measured it this time like I measured it for them. Only the most advanced client would not freak out if they noticed their portions hadn’t been exactly measured. In an effort to get food into them, we made it as safe as possible.

At first I was going to tune into an online chat support group while I ate to mimic being surrounded by the clients, but the timing didn’t work out. I decided instead to turn on a video describing the “History of Dementors” while I ate. While I chewed and savored the meal, I learned of JK Rowling’s real life experience of depression and how she created these characters to embody the heavy, soul sucking feeling of going through this process (I’m much more of a Lord of The Rings fan, so that was new news to me :}).

As I listened, I thought of how this woman, instead of letting herself be swallowed by these energies, chose instead to bring them to life in her story. To give them a place, to give the darkness a place. I thought of how many countless others were affected by this depiction, how they felt seen and understood by this characterization of their experience. And I thought that, hmm, if this depression was ignored by Rowling, battled and not really spoken of, how so many people may have never had that feeling of being seen, of being given a way to let these energies “have a home” in some creative way too.

Using art to honor and allow dark energies to live outside of us has been a very helpful way for me to deal with the complexity of understanding the shadow, not just “battling” it.

JK Rowling’s choice to honor these energies and express them artistically gave them another place to be, and a “voice” in a sort of way. Even though they were depicted as evil, the very fact they were created in many ways actually honored them.

This in turn helped many people. If it weren’t for these energies, would the Dementor characters…or even the entire Harry Potter series for that fact, would it have ever been created? Do we thank these dark energies for inspiring such a character? Do we owe these dark energies for this fantastical work of creation? Hard to say, but maybe.

Today as I sit with my own inner circle of voices, self-counseling them through anxieties around this meal, I think back to how simple the black and white perspective was and how it made it easy for me to have words to help these young ones. They simply must just battle.

Today, I use much more complex words with my own inner parts, helping them be both with the complexity and yet still strive for life more than letting the Dementors consume them. I encourage them to create art, through writings like this, to give these darknesses a home. I encourage them to savor the tastes of the black bean corn salad and avocado toast whilst the Void sits next to them, always staring back, filing its fingernails.

I pick up the pen to give it, too, a place at the table.

*Thanks for reading. Please join me next week as I re-create the food memory, “The Apple.”

**If you’d like to learn more about the Food Memories book I am referencing for these posts, you can support a small bookstore by purchasing it here: 

https://www.ebookwoman.com/book/9781689839075

or by searching for Food Memories by Reagan Lakins on any major book selling website.

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Food Memory #19: Trail Mix, The Medicine Walk and Crow

Image found at amp-tracks.com

Fingers dip

Into textured bowlful

Wrinkled edges crusted

Smooth crescent ridges

Papery brown skins

Flaking

Crushed between molars

A piece

Gets gnarled into chunky mass

Salty

Creamy

Chewy

Tart sweetness bursting

I waited for the sun

But it didn’t come

Not like that day in the desert

When Fly met me

And the glistening boulder quartz

Pierced the morning dawn

This time

Drums beating

Crows

Crows seem to meet me

But can’t be sure

The rays evade

Unlike that day

When I knew Fly was the one

Fibrous chewy raisin flesh

Sticks between teeth

They lodge

Lingering in corners

Drumming

Breathing

Waiting

The light hides behind

Thick grey covers

But I waited

I ate as Bear ate

Where is my teacher now?

Sifting through the halves and broken pieces

Searching for the whole

This ritual

I’ve carried you

This bag of you

For years

Waiting

~~**~~

This week’s memory brings me to re-create the Medicine Walk* I went on in 2004, as a part of a group teaching by a local medicine person. On that walk, I was taught that while traditional Vision Quests* involved fasting from food and water to receive guidance from spirit, a Medicine Walk proposed the same outcome without needing to put oneself through such a harsh experience. Having struggled with Anorexia, I already had much experience of fasting (although I did not do it with purposeful sacred intention) and was glad to hear of a ceremonial way to connect with the Great Mystery that didn’t involve fasting. Trail mix was the food that I chose to sustain me, forgoing the varying tastes of different meals for the whole day as my sacrifice instead.

~~**~~

This time I chose to venture out in my local mountain town before sunrise, to sit somewhere and watch for the sun to break through. On the medicine walk of decades ago, it was suggested that we wait to eat anything until the sunrise touched our skin. Also at this point, whatever animal was around in a prominent way would be our “medicine animal” for the day, one we would learn from while out on the land in silence.

Unfortunately, the sun was not out on this morning as it was very cloudy. I was a bit perplexed in how to move forward if I couldn’t follow that guidance in the re-creation, so instead decided to sit out until the exact time of sunrise was reached. At that time I would eat my trail mix and look for what animal was around.

This made me think of how mechanical my food intake is sometimes, run by time, rather than the wisdom of my animal body. It made me think of how I add trail mix to my salads pretty regularly, and whether that is somehow an attempt to stay connected to the magic of that Medicine Walk of yore. It made me think of how much I wanted to be led by something sacred and clear and bigger than myself in my eating.

I waited for the sun, I waited for the clear signs, but they didn’t come. Crow was around, cawing, so I thanked him for showing up as my guide. But not entirely sure like I was that day, with the sun brilliant and skies clear. It was so clear back then, when I had beliefs and rights and wrongs and no idea of the complexity of reality. How interesting that “Crow Medicine*” often relates to living in the void between worlds, having no sense of time, seeing simultaneously the three Fates, Past, Present, and Future. How Crow merges light and darkness, seeing both inner and outer realities, beyond human law. How very interesting.

These days, just like that morning’s sky, I often sit, unclear about what it all means. Whether there’s something bigger that is meeting me, or if there’s really nothing listening, responding. I sit on the fence, waiting, waiting for the sun.

At least I’ve got trail mix, and perhaps Crow, to sustain me.

*These terms are used with respect to the first peoples, the indigenous peoples of this land and their ceremonies. I use them as they were the words used by the native person in the ceremonies of that day long ago. It is not my intent to culturally appropriate them.

**Thanks for reading. Please join me next week as I re-create the food memory, “Dementors.”

***If you’d like to learn more about the Food Memories book I am referencing for these posts, you can support a small bookstore by purchasing it here: 

https://www.ebookwoman.com/book/9781689839075

or by searching for Food Memories by Reagan Lakins on any major book selling website.

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Food Memory #18: The Restaurant, Sacred Beer and The Masked Italian

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Frothy, ancient fermentation

Marking lips with evidence

A cool amber effervescence trickling

Over parched tongue

~~

I give a nod

To that long ago goddess Ninkasi

As the heavy glass stein clunks

Onto splintering wooden table

~~

Around me plates jangle

Families bicker

And lovers laugh superficial

Tall redwoods tower

In this outdoor dining paradise

Offering some sort of deeper company

~~

With dusty boots and weary body

I have passed through gauntlet

Of judging eyes

Watching solo female diners

Nerves settling

I forge ahead into purpose

Sipping this malty brew

Borne on Mesopotamian plain

~~

Fumbling to entertain myself

This solo female diner

I flip through pages

I scribble nonsense

Anything to seem occupied

Encased from wondering eyes

Until they arrive

~~

Like a masked avenger

With Italian heart

The plate is delivered

Bella bella bella

Ringing through my mind

~~

The glistening golden strips

Of french fried potatoes

And the empty chair beyond

I reach out my fingers

Tactile surveying of crispness

And choose fry #3

Bringing into mouth

A blast of perfect savor

Protective, cleansing saltiness

And garlic’s pungent flesh

Allows itself inside

Attending

Crunchy layers breaking through

To a

Soft

Starchy

Center

Showing me what’s real

There, on my tongue

With another swig of sacred brew

Together again

~~

It is rare

These tastes cross my lips

But today I lift my stein to Ninkasi

And the alewives of yore

Allowing the memory of me

And him

To swirl in between

~~

The plates jangling

The families bickering

The lovers laughing

And the sound of “Bella!”

Delivered with mysterious eyes

Under masked law

~~

This week’s adventure took me to a local Italian restaurant under the redwoods. Here I aimed to re-create the memory of boyfriend #2 and I sharing a meal of fries and beer during joyous college years. As I have in the past posts, I will begin with the magical qualities of these food gifts.

~~

Beer: Earth, home, family, prosperity, protection. Often noted as being used in ancient ritual offerings.

Potatoes: Grounding, survival, protection, stability, root chakra

Salt: Protection, cleansing

Garlic: Protection, banishing, warding.

~~

How interesting that these foods/drink go so well together…it is like the perfect protection spell ritual! And as an agnostic, one I’m much more drawn to than chanting over laden altars and such :}

~~

I remember the original experience, having another person to focus my energies on and enjoy with…made for a magical thing. We had no idea about magical uses of food at the time, nor the ritual uses and origins of the foods we were eating—but riding high on the fumes of love and carefree college life, mixed together with a noisy brewery were magic enough.

But even though I was alone this time, I found myself oddly at home and enjoying nonetheless. After the initial anxiety of fending off psychic question marks of others for being solitary in my dining, I settled into a corner table with my book and journal. I had just been on an epic hike full of glorious spring plant friend relating, and imagined myself a lone herbal healer having come upon a dusky tavern at the end of her travels for the day. It didn’t take long for a server to arrive with my frosty brew and with a few sips I let myself be in the moment of sounds, tastes, and the gift of being alive and able to enjoy such pleasures. The kindness and unexpected repeated greeting of “Bella!” made me feel as if the whole restaurant was alive with intimacy of which with I was intermingled. I imagined the old, knarled roots of the redwoods surrounding the dining area to be part of that.

At home after the experience, I went to my journal and drew. While the feelings of anxiety and the recognition of the empty seat across from me in this re-creation showed up, so did the joy and connectedness I felt in the atmosphere. I also noted my sense of grounding, and perhaps protectedness, that was felt during the meal. I did have some frustration appear in red marks, around my dislike of this lingering wondering about whether my stomach would be hurting as a result of veering into beer and fries land. The jagged marks of the frustration of still caring, after all this work and all these years…of not wanting to care so much about food’s effect on me.

I decided to set myself up with a documentary to whittle the next few hours away, to occupy my brain that was trying to use precious space to fret about these things. Somehow I ended up on a Metallica documentary, and for many reasons found myself feeling like this was a perfect end to a perfect day, a Bella giornata :}

*Thanks for reading! Join me next week as I re-create the next food memory, “Trail Mix.”

**If you’d like to learn more about the Food Memories book I am referencing for these posts, you can support a small bookstore by purchasing it here: 

https://www.ebookwoman.com/book/9781689839075

or by searching for Food Memories by Reagan Lakins on any major book selling website.

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Food Memory #17: Diet Yogurt, Wrathchild (1981) and Sacred Anger

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Sunrays glint

Off of silvery tines

As they pierce

The grey-pink gellish substance

I am warmed

By the schoolhouse stucco

And watch while being watched

Grateful for my life

Holding precious time

I take the saccharine gloop

To my lips

And place the lightly coated tines

Onto my tongue

A grimace instinctively forms

As I force the fork to stay

Hints of…strawberry?

A memory of what milk is supposed to be?

Fake sweetness, sweetness reached for

I let it stay

And think back to her

I see her pacing

Back and forth like wilderness

Trapped in a life

She surely didn’t ask for

Pacing feverishly

Pushing sgainst

The terrifying bars

Pacing feverishly, growling

To the angry vibrations

The only connection

She still had

To love

I see her in the sun

Shivering

Pre-pubescent life cheering on around her

As she, aimed at descending

Her HELL NO

Her way out

The only way she knew

I see her holding

The silvery tines before her open mouth

I feel her nausea

I see her turn away

Her skeletal arm dropping the fake sweetness

Still full

Into the trash

HELL NO

Of course she’s starving

This ain’t no place for a little girl

***~~***

This week’s memory is an attempt to recreate “eating” diet yogurt during a lunch break at high school. This was another challenging foodstuff to imagine magically, but I did my bestest:

Original ingredients: Cultured Grade A Nonfat Milk, Strawberries, Water, Modified Corn Starch, Sugar, Kosher Gelatin, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor, Tricalcium Phosphate, Potassium Sorbate Added to Maintain Freshness, Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose, Red #40, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3.

**~~**

Hack, hack, pffffthht! Which I managed to turn into:

Milk: Fertility, nourishment, mother

Strawberries: Fertility, sensuality, feminine

Corn: Sacred to many indigenous people, as the first mother

Sugar: Sweetness, attraction

Beef: Strength, assertiveness, grounding

Earth/Soil/Minerals: Grounding, mother

After researching these ingredients, I found it interesting to notice that all of them (although in this diet form offer weak substitutions) are somehow connected to fertility, femininity, the mother, being grounded in the physical form, enjoying sensuality. And in seeing this pattern, I began to think on the girl that chose to eat only a forkful or two that day, and upon doing so, how she became nauseous. How she threw that mother-full substance, that grounding, feminine, life sustaining substance straight into the trash after only experiencing a bite or two. How her aim to make her way back into the safe treatment center, away from the grief she was drowning in, away from the psychotic breakdowns of the group home residents around her, away from the fact that her family left her, away from the fact that she no longer could see a reason for living……how this aim was so much stronger than her desire to eat, and thrive.

Of course I also thought of the literal wisdom of such a reaction to this gross gellish goop–that while she was leaving it behind for other reasons, the distaste for such a foodstuff made sense. And of course there might of been a reason she chose to eat something she wouldn’t have a hard time leaving behind. What might have happened, were she in an environment that provided her with real food, with real elders, with real care? Might she not have chosen her fateful path of descent? Or was it necessary either way? Was it, as James Hillman might say, her acorn arranging?

Ultimately, there’s no way to really know these things. It is my preference to re-imagine all of this as a sacred journey, and that that little girl’s soul knew just what it was doing. That murder, abandonment, group homes, starvation, psych wards and abuse were part of her invisible initiators. As perhaps was the Diet Yogurt, staring back at her, as she left the most of it sweltering in the sun atop a mound of the empty wrappings of teenage fast-food trash.

Later, after my re-experiencing, I went into the art. So much anger arose as I drew and let myself express. It was as if I was feeling what she couldn’t allow herself to feel, that her starvation was enacting inwardly. I let myself pace and growl whilst listening to Iron Maiden’s Wrathchild, like she did. I let her anger rise and flow through me, into the pacing, into the flames and jagged etchings drawn. I let myself be with her, this Wrathchild, honoring her choices, her possibly sacred choices, and held her broken heart with a hope she’d take decades to find.

*Thanks for reading. I hope you’ll join me for next week’s food memory, “The Restaurant.”

**If you’d like to learn more about the Food Memories book I am referencing for these posts, you can support a small bookstore by purchasing it here: 

https://www.ebookwoman.com/book/9781689839075

or by searching for Food Memories by Reagan Lakins on any major book selling website.