Reintroducing Walhydra’s Porch: In which Walhydra reconnects with mortal life

Who is Walhydra?

Walhydra became a storytelling alter-ego for me in the mid-1990s on the Crone Thread, an email listserv of mostly Pagan, mostly women elders, folk who understand, revere, and emulate the crone aspect of the Goddess.

The Crone is that feminine aspect of the Divine which, in the form of a human being past childbearing age, strives on behalf of the race to learn about and teach the terrors and blessings of mortality.  She does this by facing those realities honestly, walking through them with eyes open, breathing deeply, and returning to tell the tale.

The crux of the Walhydra stories is that I’m still coming out as an adult…usually grouching and flailing about or, in my more Walhydra-ish phases, clinging to the underside of the bed frame as Goddess pulls on my legs.  The only rule in writing these stories is that somehow by the end Walhydra has to enlarge her heart a bit…often begrudgingly.

BTW, don’t be confused by the gender-fluidity in these stories. As the About page on my first blog Walhydra’s Porch says, Walhydra is a female witch stuck for this incarnation in a seventy-something, gay male would-be writer.

Entering the Blogosphere

First post on my blog Walhydra's Porch (9/17/2006)On the day that our 17-year-old cat Miso died in 2006, I was attending a day-long training on social media in the library.  For each of the chosen examples from that era, MySpace, Blogger, and others, we created personal accounts and were guided through creating our first posts or messages.  For my first Blogger entry, I invented Walhydra’s Porch and voiced my initial grief at Miso’s death.

Almost immediately thereafter, I traveled back to Mom’s home in Columbia, SC, from Jacksonville, FL.  This was when I first came to suspect that Mom was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s dementia, and that she suspected as much herself.  In the blog post about that a visit,

Walhydra finds herself wondering when Senior Witch picks Iris as the rental DVD for their last night together. Judi Dench, one of their mutual favorites, portrays the rapid decline into Alzheimer’s and death of philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch, in a screenplay based on the memoirs of Murdoch’s husband John Bayley (Elegy for Iris and Iris and Her Friends).

Walhydra keeps glancing sideways at her mother as the love story of Murdoch and Bayley unfolds. “Is she trying to tell me something? Does she recognize her own future in Murdoch’s losses?”….

Once the film ends, Walhydra concentrates through teary eyes on teaching her non-techie mother for the umpty-umpth time how to use the DVD player—after Senior Witch says, “Maybe I’ll watch that again once or twice after you’ve left.”

Satire, tragi-comedy, and grief

Over nine years, I published 237 posts, most of them with Walhydra in various versions of frustration and momentary enlightenment.  There is also satire, comedy, and sarcastic rants.

But through the whole weaves a thread of ever-evolving grief.   Mom moved from her own home in Columbia to my sister’s in Pensacola (2007), and then to assisted living near my husband and me in Jacksonville, FL (2008).  By 2010, her advancing Alzheimer’s was causing wandering and falls, and she could no longer manage self-care.  We moved her into a skilled nursing facility.

This was the point at which Walhydra cried, “How can I tell funny stories when this is going on?”  Crippled Wolf, my other story-telling alter-ego, took over from her.  Both the role of caregiver with Mom and the role of storyteller.

Befriending death

What follows on the blog, interspersed with other topics, is a description of the early stages of loss and grief regarding Mom’s decline and death.

Howling (11/7/2009)

My human self cries out to change what is happening, to turn back the clock. I curl into a ball at night, crying for my mother, and then I howl when I remember that she cannot come to comfort me.

Yet nothing changes what is happening. My animal self knows just to watch and wait.

Ruthless (5/9/2010)

Crippled Wolf came away…with a paradoxical new name for an old notion: compassionate ruthlessness.

There are times when caring for people means maneuvering them to get on with business. There are situations—whole periods of life—when what is happening is too fraught with mortal consequence for us to nurse feelings. Feelings are information. Acknowledge the information, then act.

Cry later.

“You have to cry,” he says. “You have to honor the body’s need to release the grief. But do it later, after you’ve saved whatever lives or life you can save.”

Lois (1/15/2011)

Jim and I sat with Mom for the last couple hours of her life last night.

Bereft (7/10/2011)

Rationally he understands what death is, yet that deeper animal part of him continues not to understand.  How can a person simply stop being?

Then, two years after Mom’s death.

Austin (2/3/2013) – My Father.

My relationship with my father has always been more complexly private than the one with my mother….

But put all that aside.  From before I can remember, this loving, gentle man showed me the real Jesus, from the pulpit, but far more profoundly as a father.

In Memoriam: Nikki (4/5/2013) – Nikki Dorakis, my lover and mentor during my years overseas in the early 1980s, and a long-time friend for both Jim and me until his death from AIDS.

And so it is.

And four years later:

Sir Terry Pratchett (3/12/2015) – Terry Pratchett’s comic fantasy Discworld Series is a lifesaver for me, as well as a model for writing that houses satire within a bemused love for humans and our foibles.  Of all his brilliant characters, the most knowing and intriguing to me is Death.

What Walhydra admires most about Death is his attitude toward…um…death.

As far as Death is concerned, death is not some sort of evil consequence or punishment for mortals. It’s just his job. All mortals die, and Death’s job is to help them finish the business.

It’s the mortals who, clinging to their lives, label death as “evil,” as “punishment.” Poor Death struggles with the unfair blame…though he always rises above it.

Now what?

A few days ago I was struggling to start a piece about new insights into grief over the death of another 17-year-old familiar, our cat Shadow.  The ideas were there, as well as some good sentences.  But there wasn’t an incarnated heart in the midst of my writing.

That’s when I heard Walhydra say, “I know about this.  Let me do it.”

Since 2015—really, since Mom’s death in 2011—Walhydra has been hiding under the bed with all the fluffy rolls of “extra cat.”  I’ve tried to resurrect her a few times, but she wasn’t having any.

It’s kind of scary to hand the quill back to her.  She aways goes in unexpected directions.

We shall see.

And so it is.

Blessèd Be,
Michael Bright Crow

Flying crow

 

 

 

 

 

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