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Letters from Luna – The Migration of Memory, Part II

by Rohini Walker

Click here The Migration of Memory, Part I

It’s the in-between time here in the Mojave high desert, as winter shapeshifts into spring. Calm, sunny days are peppered with winds so wild, it’s a wonder the house doesn’t end up in some other, other-worldly faraway. On days like this from my remote spot, the wide vistas swirl with haboob-like dust devils, and eyes smart and sting if you have to venture outdoors for some outlandish reason.  

Today is one of those. Rotund clouds are in session, casting soulful shadows across the mountains. My dog, Bodhi, looks at me with a raised eyebrow as I try to coax him off the couch to go outside for his necessities. On days like these, I feel a deepening of appreciation for our only source of heat, our beloved wood-burner, and for the glow of the fire that’s rekindled and tended to from dawn. It stands, stoic and  firm, the focal point of our home, keeping us rooted with its belly of heat and fire while the winds perform their dervish-dance.

These winds blow clean old, deep imprints. The desert floor after a windstorm looks new, smoothly sparkling with its billions of ancient crystals. The bodily inner-space, with her galaxies of vibrating electrons, protons and atoms also shift into new patterns, as the electric currents of these primal winds sweep through and sweep clear before a new season arrives. 

Truly, these winds get in your bones and your dreams – sparking rememberings that have been waiting in the wings.

This year, they brought with them a revival of chronic physical pain – as they have done before. This time, they sent me further into the tunnel of buried pain-memories, as they have done before. This time, I knew the drill.

The pain has its roots in my mother’s. As a small child, some part of my dark, vast unseen quietly declared: 

Give me your pain, mother. I will turn it into gold.

She was a spirited, strong-minded woman grieving her much-loved father when I came along in late 70s India. Unconventional and fiercely uncompromising of her independence, she worked for a while as a teacher and then travelled around Europe by herself before finally consenting to expected conventions of her own free will and marrying my father in the twilight of her twenties. A year later, I was born. By the standards of the time, she had veered dangerously close to being relegated to the old-maid scrap heap. My father too was drawn to her anachronistically untrammelled personality, so different from the submissive, eyes-demurely-lowered ways of good girl-women of the time.

Here in the desert, the winds vibrated familiar constrictions of pain in my body again, limiting my mobility. One night before sleep, I asked the pain, my old friend and psychopomp, what it needed me to know to go deeper this time, what it needed me to do.  

That night, I dreamed vividly of a young, brave mother, grieving the recent loss of her father, who had always encouraged her strong spirit. She was full of unapologetic grit and beauty- unwilling to be colonized by her husband’s parents, in particular his mother, and their demands for her obedience. At this, she faced abuse, humiliation, violence and violation: patriarchal domination towards a woman who dared to disobey, who dared to say no.  

The dream-memories came thick and fast: of me as a very young child absorbing her pain as she was branded “crazy”, “hysterical”, and “unstable” – the weapons used since time immemorial against a woman’s wild rage, howling like the winds while I slept. My dreams exhumed memories of her despair and hopelessness, of her failed attempt to take her own life as I soaked it all into my soft, young bones; memories that formed deep tracks and patterns of things to come in my own body and psyche.

Give me your pain, mother. I will turn it into gold.

There was no help to seek out, no support beyond her own mother’s protection from the shame of being a mad woman, drowning. Eventually, my mother returned to my father but the abuse from his parents did not relent until they moved far away, to England. The memories of her muted rage migrated with her; the memories of generations of women colonized and silenced into hurling their own unmetabolized pain towards one another. 

Here in the desert, the winds continued to blow up the dust of buried bone-memories. In the days that followed, I saw how my mother was unable to speak of that time without descending back into the trauma. My father, after forty-one years, conceded to this secret history, acknowledging how the ensuing years of her internalized and destabilizing despair played out in our home, deeply fracturing my relationship with her.  Until now, explanations beyond the incomplete response that mum was just inherently damaged.

Meanwhile, her unresolved trauma turned into arrows of abuse towards me. I received them as psychic and autoimmune disorders, as chronic pain – my body integrating the imprint of attacking herself. Over the course of the last decade, I’ve come to know the art of listening to the symptoms, to trust and follow their signals: the alchemy of transmuting these pathologies into rectifying mythologies. 

The memories they carried migrated with me here to this desert, where the wild winds would kick up old dust during the liminal time of the turning of seasons – each time bringing me closer to remembering my ancient promise:

Give me your pain, mother. I will turn it into gold.

Ruma, my mother, here in the desert some years ago, with Bodhi and I

On these cold, windy days, I stand in front of the heat of the wood-burner often. It helps to melt the frozen pain-memories so that they can move upwards, into the flame of my own awareness: a lantern for the way ahead. I was guided to reconnecting with a wise and reliable witness to those troubling times; my dreams were corroborated, the pathologies vindicated.   

Pain in my body, old tracks in the sand, rectifying dust flying in the wind and the promised stillness of understanding. 

Another memory jostles into view- this one full of the warm glow of spring sunshine and the windswept echoes of a song. A robust, golden sunflower in our garden, which my mother promised me would grow big and tall if I sang to it every morning. It did. 

Not so long from now, I am looking out across a valley floor on a still day where the remnants of this journey awaits: the ever-surprising symphony of the Mojave’s spring bloom, just under the surface of freshly smoothed ground.

Forgiveness cannot take place sweetly in a vacuum. It demands the sacrifices of former identities before anything new can emerge. And when it happens, it moves through the spontaneous spiralling of time, touching the past and the future. Meanwhile, pain resolves to wait. Will I jump into the fertile mystery of a new story; or will I stay safe here in the familiarity of old ghosts in my bones?

If you are interested in exploring this work of inner decolonization/re-membering your soul’s indigenous wisdom through the lenses of Alchemy, Myth + Nature, Rohini  offers immersive one-on-one sessions. You can also download her mini-ebook, The Esoterica of Inner-Decolonization: A Primer here

Some exciting news ~

The Alchemy of Earth + Sky, Volume I – Luna Arcana’s first book published by The Artlands will be released soon. An anthology, designed and curated by myself and Martin Mancha, Luna’s co-creator, it’s a non-linear journey into the transformative, mythic experience of fully opening up to this landscape, and allowing it to become one’s sculptor. It points toward a process of surrender to inner and outer wilderness.

The book consists of words + images by us and by regular contributors to previous issues of Luna Arcana.

Pre-sale orders are available from The Artlands, here.

If you’re a new subscriber, you can catch up on previous missives from ‘Letters from Luna’, click here.

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