THE RETREAT

The afternoon shadows were lengthening as the last car drove into the makeshift parking lot in the field adjacent to the camp and a hooded figure covered in drapery exited from the wooden gatehouse. The figure, shrouded in a yellow toga, said, “Welcome. You are Tee. You are familiar with the rules?” Tee guessed that it was the voice of a man, but could not be sure, due to utilization of a voice modifier. Only fingers flashed momentarily from beneath the loose sleeves of  a toga, with which everyone had been supplied in advance.

Tee nodded. Tee was covered in a green toga.

“You are assigned to the third cabin on the right down the path. Dinner will be in the large building further along the path, and will be announced by a gong, as will other gatherings, in the same building. You are not to reveal your birth sex to any person, whether registrant or staff.” A pamphlet describing the rules and goals for encampment changed hands, as did a proffered voice modifier and a pad of paper and pen. “Most folks write notes instead of talk….Oh, and each cabin has its own privy and running water….And you’re just in time for dinner.”

Tee’s head bowed briefly. A week of meditation, contemplation, education and sharing with other non-binary individuals lay ahead. Twenty individuals had paid the tuition, seeking what?  An additional six had completed an earlier camp and functioned now as staff.  The combination totaled the 26 letters of the alphabet, each letter assigned as a name for members of the gathering. Tee’s stomach spasmed alarmingly. What was he afraid of?

The large suitcase on wheels rattled as it passed over occasional rocks along the well-trod path. Tee deposited the suitcase just inside the door of the third cabin, and headed for the privy just as the gong sounded. Following other robed figures in silence beneath a canopy of occasional bird song felt unreal as though Tee was in a stage play.

Well, it was staged, but it wasn’t playful. Would everyone really maintain their anonymity for an entire week? Of course an accidental flash of skin would reveal little, since all were either in a pre-transitioning, current or post-transitioning stage.

Upon entering the rustic mess hall which would double for meetings, Tee was greeted with silence. Only the clinking of plates and silverware along the self-help cafeteria line filled the air. Someone stifled a sneeze. What few sounds there were echoed hollowly. A figure in the corner at a rear table seemed to be weeping silently. A scrap of paper was handed down the long table at which Tee sat: please pass the salt.

The meal was tasty, a large serving of either regular or vegan vegetable soup and a mixed garden salad. It was not until the dessert of baked apple had been finished and each participant had returned their utensils that a figure of medium height spoke, utilizing a voice modifier.  The figure was wearing a hooded yellow robe and stood, directing the registrants to the far side of the large room.

“Welcome, bearers of the life force!  If you are seriously on the non-binary journey that phrase will not sound smaltzy to you. I am Ex. Our first task is to bond, and to facilitate that we will join in chanting, an old and revered tradition. You may have heard recordings of monks chanting, as well as nuns. We will develop our own version, after first listening to the following recording.  At any time you may add your voice through the voice modifier or naturally—we won’t notice the difference.”

The lights were dimmed and a  recording began to play. After several minutes of absorption with eyes closed, Tee imagined God being present, then with a start realized he was He: binary. So much for trying to tie religion into this concept. Evolution was responsible. Tee had earlier felt a connectivity that floated above, below, within, accepting the totality of one’s own being. That feeling was returning now.

So religion was out and spirituality was in. Was it the chanting or the setting that was responsible for the increased percolating of realizations about the binary/nonbinary conundrum?  The voices of an indeterminate sex rising now from the gathering blended in with those on the recording. When the recorded chanting came to an end the chanting of those present continued for an extended period, with the droning sounds rising and falling until there was absolute silence.

`           Tee became aware of a thrill or a chill, at least a quivering awakening inside. The bonding had begun–spiritual, if not religious.

There was a soft rustle as the entire staff, dressed in their yellow attire, stepped up to welcome the newcomers. Everyone’s identities were private. Only the body size could not be modified.

“We will break into two groups in order to share our hopes and expectations for the retreat.” The groups counted themselves off and sat at some distance from each other. Three of the staff accompanied each grouping.

Silence followed, as each reflected on their hopes and needs. Finally, one said through the voice modulator, “I’m tired of feeling like a weirdo. I want to feel connected to humanity.”

Another spoke, and another, the momentum growing. “I want to experience myself.”

“If I’m really non-binary I want to find out who I am, then.”

“I want to quit feeling ashamed of myself.”

“I want to understand what’s happened to me.”

“I’d like to know why.”

“I know I’m up against evolution, and that’s scary.”

“I want to connect with reality…if there is any.”

“As I get clearer things get muddier.”

And so it went, one of those dressed in yellow drapery joining in.  “I sought integration in the face of sexuality. I received help, but I need more.”

The silence was heavy as the new members—devotees—seekers—the wounded–departed for their assigned cabins, each wrapped deep in solitary reflection.

THE END

Words:  1014

c nan mykel

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Euthanasia Forgiven

I’ll never euthanize another pet.  Maybe that’s an overstatement, but the need would have to be extreme.

We were sitting comfortably in a circle in my living room at the time, each with our own glass of wine, as usual. It was our weekly consciousness-raising group, and the mood was mellow until a spunky friend I admired said, “Pet owners are being cruel when they let their pets suffer rather than have them put down!”

She wasn’t talking about me, but I let the remark fester until I saw myself through her eyes, a cruel mistress to my aging cat Lucky, a misnomer if there was ever one.

At the time, Lucky had become both deaf and blind, but living in my bedroom he could find his food, water, litter box, and accurately jump up into the darkness to find his own place of comfort on our shared bed. I now believe that I over-reacted when he started losing weight and I had him euthanized. He trusted me kept going through my mind.

I missed him, felt guilty, and overall miserable. I had allowed someone else’s opinion to bully myself into “putting him down,” and yes I do think I was protecting my own feelings.

Two weeks of loneliness passed before my muscles twitched and while lying on my bed  I felt the mattress jostle gently and a soft knot of pressure lay against my back. That night I fell asleep with a smile on my lips.

Lucky chose a different spot to occupy each night, but his warm presence continued to soothe until the morning I felt his soft paws tapping on my face. That wasn’t a surprise; he knew how to wake me when he was ready for company.  So familiar were the gentle pats that I reached out for him, half asleep, and found myself with a fistful of empty air. And noticed a thin veil of smoke and the acrid smell of scorching.

The smell led to an outlet in the living room that was sparking and snapping and ready to combust. Between a 911 call, the power box, a raincoat lying nearby and the arrival of the fire department, the danger was over within minutes.

I returned to bed, sensitized myself to reconnect with Lucky’s presence, but he was gone, mission accomplished I supposed. Also gone were my pangs of guilt.

The following week scorch had been replaced by the odor of blooming honeysuckle just outside the open window, and after pulling my hair into a pony tail I headed out.  Would today be my own lucky day?  I wondered as I pulled into the Animal Rescue Center’s parking lot. Sure enough, there they were, a playful pair or young brother and sister kittens. They seemed to have been waiting for me.

 

c. nan mykel

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Vulnerable Prompt

Jokingly, I put my head on the ancient chopping block. Suddenly, I quit joking. Fear crawled down my back. What was that other feeling? Ah yes, vulnerable, the helpless feeling that came over me during yesterday’s newscast.

Possibly we deserve the retaliation.  Although I didn’t order the strike, I am an American and America had the poor taste to elect a dangerous thug as its president.  Oh yes, I feel quite vulnerable today.

And now I can’t find who gave the prompt so it isn’t going anywhere.  O Mama Mia!

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HONEST. DAD!

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It was Nancy!”

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WORD SALAD

Word Salad refers to a phrase

of writings while done in a daze

by tortured souls on vacation

from reality’s stagnation.

Besides, it’s ever so fun

to let one’s ink pen run

–or e’en allow one’s own mouth

to spit out these words uncouth.

So from the loony bin atop the hill,

here’s my midnight rantings spill:

Let’s see–now I’ve said it, what’ll I do?

In tune with trends in our nation

I’ll usurp truth’s validation

and tell you I’m fine and losing weight.

Funny, I wasn’t religious til I seen

the Anti-Christ on the golf course green.

I’m scared to turn on the teevee for fear

I’ll see me on there, shedding a tear.

Their algorithm aimed at all,

like a well-aimed bowling ball.

Now suspicious of my  Facebook Friend,

perhaps this year will see the end.

Hope not.  Where there’s a lucid will

there’s a way, they say….Much more

fun not to have to rhyme, they also say.

Had a nightmare. I heard Trump say

“Tis the morning of Aquarius!”  I know

what that means….Not.

 

 

 

 

 

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I KNOW

What the hell do I know?  Not F—ing much.  Do I really know that 1 + 1 = 2?  Often 1 + 1 = 1.  Worst case, 1 + 1 = 0.

How about that “the truth shall set you free?” ….or in the looney bin.

That you really loved me?  1 + 7 = 1

That God loves me?  Who? Loves? Who?

That might makes right?  Wrong.

That pacifism is the way to go?  And go, go, go, gone.

It’s easier to love pets than humans?  Depends upon the pet, not the human.

What to do now?  Better search for beauty again.

 

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Surprising Discovery

Maybe it’s just a fly by night discovery, but it was true today so I thought I’d share it.

I was headed for a fairly big depression–big for me, that is–and I even shed a tear or two.

Then I had to tend to my blog, of course, and a post required a “bird in hand,”  so I clicked on bird images.  And spent perhaps 30 minutes of the best anti-depression therapy I ever received.  It was beauty that did it.  Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.  I’d like to know if  it works for anyone else out there.

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