I was called once, I was standing under an apple tree when it happened. It was a prolific apple tree, and it was the first one I had climbed. It grew in Queens, my mother loved the blossoms, and I guess when the house was built on the lot, someone had the intention of growing fruit trees, because about 50 feet from the apple tree, there was a cherry tree. No one used the fruit or tended these, and so, we had the blossoms in Spring, and the birds had the rest. One year there were cherries, Mom said it was because the cat kept the birds away. Our backyard smelled like a cider press in late summer, and I got to study many insects and the nature of bark. It was my world, so it’s no surprise that I got the call while I was there.
It was called the “backyard”, and it was pretty big considering. Dad felt like a Lord, because the lot was extra sized, there was a Linden tree, a dogwood tree, hedges and shrubs, a picket fence on one side, and a chain link on the other. We were fenced, and it made things defined. I could be a dog or a horse, and these were my safe boundaries, outside of the fence and in the house, I was forced to transform to what others needed me to be, a small girlchild, lonely, untapped, vulnerable and unknown, whispering to herself and the grasshoppers, cracking rocks on the driveway and looking up what I had in the Rocks and Minerals field book I had begged my father to buy for me.
That place, under the tree, was the safest place in my home. So, of course the call came. I come from a family divided, I know little of my mothers side, except for reports from my sister, and my now deceased Father. I was never permitted to draw my own conclusions, but I know that the visits were a joy to me, in my isolation. I know that in that house, I have not one memory of being hugged and told I was loved, except from my maternal Grandmother, who lived with us. She was Catholic, and she had the coolest Rosary Beads, and little pictures of Saints, and a small Infant of Prague diorama. She was also the only person who I believed loved me, and somehow, I knew it was because of her relationship with all of that religiosity. She too, was called to love. She had wanted to love all of her grandchildren, and care for them, but my Father did not let her take one of her adult grandchildren in, because she had stolen some money once from a secretary dresser that sat in our living room. Nothing was ever forgiven in that house, it stayed with you in perpetuity. Expressing strong emotion would get you a ride to the State hospital, as it had with my cousin. She was a lesbian in the early 1950’s, so of course, any expression at all that came from her, was patholigized and the verdict was harsh. the verdict passed down by parents who never expressed love, affection, or even interest in whatever was becoming of their change of life child, the one who stayed in the yard for so many hours, the one who did not come in fast enough when Mom called, and was beaten with a belt and left with a swollen lip.
But this is not one of those joyless journals. Really, it’s hard to write about the past truthfully without adding these sort of things, but I am uncomfortable doing it, because I know how having a rough childhood can be used by people to make excuses and seek power in victim hood, so, honestly, it is not for that. I am fine, I really am, I have all the emotions available to a person, and although I am serious, I am not without joy and awe and trust, to this day. If anything, I am amazed that everything turned out pretty well, considering. But this is about being called, when you don’t ask for it, and it is a hard sell because everyone that I know that is left of my family, and many friends, are atheists, agnostic, and are probably much smarter than I am , and that is their reason , they are smarter than I am.
I was under the tree, and, I had been going to church, every Sunday, I had been going to “religious instruction”, Sunday school , etc. My Dad married my mother under the dictates that his children needed to be raised as Roman Catholics, and he kept his promise and , so I went. It was cool and I found out that there was Love that had no demands and that it existed in something called God, who was somehow not a person, but was present in everything that was not made by human hands (even the mosquito larvae I was lovingly raising in an upturned old bowl I had hidden in the hedges). Yeah, it worked, those teachings, I don’t really think they wanted it to, (family), except for Grandma, and I guess it worked for her so she recognized it in her namesake, and we shared that, without talking about it, we couldn’t talk about too much, because it made Mom have nervous breakdowns, and it could make Dad mad. I could say Hail Mary’s with Grandma in her basement apartment, without hearing cynical comments about if Mary was a Virgin or not, about how the Protestants didn’t follow her because it was idolatry, and how the Catholic Church was corrupt and wealthy. Nope, Grandma and I would say it together and her eyes were kind, and she gave me hugs, and I really did not care if my parents were endangering their immortal souls or not, there was nothing I could do about that. I had great comfort in feeling God’s approval , because it was not coming from anywhere else.
I was called while posing in my Confirmation Robes, while I was approaching puberty and scared that my school work was failing and the punishments that would ensue, I was called when the childhood play was no longer accessible to me, while I could feel the resentments adding up like coins clinking in a jar, I was called while I was becoming aware that the only people I was having crushes on and found my attraction to were female, how I could not look away from a pretty womans face, how there were feelings that made me giddy and sick at the same time. If I received any compliment at all, it was that I was “bright”, “smart”, and God knows I was not willing to exchange those supports or risk them by confiding , , because that is how they showed they cared. If it was not something they understood by mutual experience, it was not real, or was caused by “the bad seed”, something Mom would mention now and then, as she felt I had inherited. (I learned about psychotic projection later on in life.) So of course it was not safe to run with the joy I felt, to tell them that I found a new kind of oxygen, that something illuminated me that I did not have words to describe. There was a nun, a young nun, who knew exactly what I meant, but it was torture to not also tell her that I had these feelings for her. Feelings that nothing in my world or the world at that time would allow to be what they were. And what a world that was. The choice was between Freud and Sin, and I fit neither. Later, struggling to work out those feelings and channel them romantically was always awkward, although I could act, (a talent), the deep energy that was alive in my sacral chakra , with that one call, that one little message from above, connected it to something much higher, much higher, and so most adventures of the root chakra, if it was not also felt in the others higher centers, always became pointless,( long periods of celibacy were never a burden to me, they were a relief)…..the novices life began, began with secrets, sustained and protected, by that call.
The tree was cut down several years after I grew and left . When Dad told me, I was sad, and he said,” the dead and rotting apples were too much of a mess to clean up”, that he wanted to sell the house and move to Florida and that no one wanted those old fruit trees. the Apple and Cherry were removed and carted off, I don’t know what happened to them , what one does with good Apple and Cherry wood in Queens. Probably not much.
No one until now knows that it was a sacred grove. It was, I assure you.