A mealy seasoned center
Bursts out of blackened skin
Dressed in pungent protection
Garlic and salt weaving forcefields
Into and around nostrils
Down my throat
Through crisp white skin
Bursting sweet corn juice
Rolling, crunching, mealy crispness
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
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
After journeys into underworlds
And far off lands
I’ve found the complexity
Of not an “enemy”
But a shadow
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
I once thought comprised answers
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
A return to inorganic substance
Thanatos, my love
Staring back at me
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:
or by searching for Food Memories by Reagan Lakins on any major book selling website.