Like Actaeon, Seeing the Savagery of My Own Mind.
The ivory sliver of the Conservatory Of Flowers‘ dome flickered past me, a pearly crescent in an ocean of leaves, then gone.
I turned down a dirt path, the sky a powder blue scattered with opal clouds, the wind barely tugging on their gossamer tufts.
The weather was mild, I wore only my sheath of nylon running clothes and sandals.
A red-tailed hawk angled over my head, dipping low to graze the atmosphere above my curls, in territorial display or swooping camaraderie I didn’t know, but it thrilled me.
I laughed, alone in the green kingdom.
Whipping down trails along the wooded hills of Golden Gate Park that few tread on, even during the populous pandemic moment the park is having now, full of picnickers and gym enthusiasts barred from their burn.
There are still places to go to avoid the melee, secluded areas too riotous with roots and brambles to attract the new joggers that fleck the green like a neon spume.
“What a gnarled old witch I’ve become!” I thought merrily as I flitted deeper into the bower.
My eyes scanning the clouds in their pastel iridescence, soft, non-committal prisms, fluffy spectral spectrums tugging along lazily.
I was hoping for a clear night to watch the skies with an unobstructed view.
The Great Conjunction: the moment when Saturn and Jupiter align in their closest proximity since July of 1623.
I was going to a friend’s house to watch the celestial convergence over the ocean on his balcony where we often talked. Then, as the lockdown in SF intensified, the plan moved to his modest backyard.
Distanced on a voluminous and rough Peruvian blanket, encircled in hedges pressing close at night holding us in a nestled cup staring up at the speckled or (likely) foggy sky.
A ridiculously ornate ship weathervane jutting from the rollicking stucco sea of his roof, voyaging endlessly through mist or distant suns.
It was the first time I’d see him since the election and the ensuing perverse machinations — the floundering yet dangerous convulsions of a would-be autocrat and his corrupt cronies.
We had different perspectives on current events, but I thought perhaps in the attempted self-coup that took place since fall when last I saw him, we could once again converge on some arc together. Find each other in the course of our own journeys.
I hoped that we would meet once again, this time illuminated, close.
The pain that rushed through me snatched air raggedly into my lungs and sent me into the air.
Looking at the sky and daydreaming of planets and ships and men, those distant things, I had lost sight of the earth.
The broken glass gleamed emerald, dirty and jaggedly grinning its sanguine smile.
My blood on the green glass lying in the path seemed so vivid, yet misplaced in the idyll of the footpath.
I let out a roar that sounded far off as I looked at the bottom of my punctured sandal, worn thin from so many runs in the parks. Extracting the shard was fast and smooth, just a flick and a sharp intake of breath through pursed lips, only when I saw the pale arch dappled in red did I falter.
I felt rage, yelling again, both lament and battle cry.
I was shaking with anger: at the careless revelers drinking cheap beer in the woods, at the neon jackets that I tried to avert my gaze from earlier, at the careless, thoughtless actions that have allowed all the chaos in this current moment, at my friend, the man I was trying to get to, trying to reach.
Furious at the entitlement, the imposition, the defilement, I thought wildly.
A heated vigor flooded me, filling me with warmth even as my own hot blood patterned the forest floor, something like an archaic fury seized me. Like some trespassed-upon creature of the woods beset with men, in their garish colors and cutting debris, their stupid, slashing ideas.
Like Artemis encroached upon by Actaeon, with his ravening, howling hounds, I felt a wrath that could not be contained by the dictates of logic.
Something in me shifted, my desire for company was eclipsed by my absolute refusal to be infringed upon.
I knew my friend wanted to see me, that he’s been lonely.
His mind has been curdled, I thought harshly, in a miasma of videos espousing increasingly fractured ideas — ideas that would be glinting and villainous, toothed and gleaming in starlight, waiting for some soft part of me as I stared in rapt wonder at the sky.
Gawking like some silly heaven-entranced creature as my flesh met with terrestrial-tearing.
“No,” I thought, suddenly calm, cold, my no-doubt pallid and bloodless lips set in resolute, firm resolve.
“Let him twist into a beast on his own.”
I can be cruelly cold when hurt.
I wanted him to feel my absence, I wanted him to feel what he had become with his thoughtless blundering through the wilds of the paranoid male psyche.
Like Actaeon I wanted him to feel the wrenching of himself into a different shape, to witness his own transformation into something unrecognizable.
In this moment I didn’t see the savagery of my own mind, shifting into something far from human understanding.
I felt only the rage of defilement, looking at our dynamic only as a paradigm of his masculine imposition and my soft, feminine compassion.
My empathy was my exposed, delicate flesh, my understanding was the cream and crimson arch of my foot.
I left my desire for connection in the woods, with the glass that I cast into the drab green receptacle that seemed to gape at me like an insatiable mouth full of all the leavings of the Day-Glo horde, on the streets that I walked home on, proud and absurd, leaving little crescents of rust on the sidewalks that had seen worse.
Only now, after a shower, some tea and food, am I able to see that my cruelty was the result of not honoring my own boundaries and beliefs.
Not knowing that for me, more time had to pass before I saw this friend, more energy needed to be focused on my own well-being. Not simply throwing my gaze to some heavenly union where all is divinely in sync.
As if I wasn’t hurtling along a treacherous path.
As if I was already enlightened, and not a myopic human on a journey with limited sight.
Jupiter is said to signify ethics, our connection to openness and expansion, our acceptance of others.
Saturn, on the other hand, represents boundaries, limitation, restriction, self-control.
I was learning a lesson in comic, symbolic pantomime, as I’m prone to doing.
I had thought I was in a space where I could accept the differences in ideas that I heard from him, from others, but in my starry-eyed delusion I had suppressed a powerful resentment.
Something seething beneath the surface, awaiting the tooth or claw of another’s edges, because I couldn’t see my own.
That’s the danger it seems, of looking only to the sky, to figures of light and the sonorous celestial. Eyes and ears full of the harmony of the spheres may turn their gaze upon earthly creatures and see only invading armies or twisted beasts.
I need to protect myself, integrate my feelings of anger, see them and see where the edges of my being are, to care for them.
In this moment I have no choice but to nurture myself, rest and look inward, and perhaps, catch a glimpse of the heavens.
Maren Zweifler enjoys teaching Yoga with a focus on free movement and intrinsic shapes, emphasizing spinal fluidity and innate, primal posture. Deeply inspired by movement systems that embrace nature like Sridaiva and Continuum Movement. He completed a 500-hour certification in SF and has taught both there and in Austin where he honed his skills teaching private classes tailored to the individual needs of his clients. He created a wellness/yoga program at a non-profit. These experiences allowed him to explore both the unique individuation of the physical experience in one-on-one sessions, and the commonalities of the human form that can be witnessed in large groups. You could connect with Maren on Instagram.