by Linda Rodriguez
According to astrology, I am a Scorpio. In fact, I am a quadruple Scorpio, which is about as Scorpio as you get. The animals that symbolize the sign of Scorpio are three in number, unusual or the zodiac, which normally only uses one animal to represent each sign. Scorpio is represented by the scorpion, the eagle, and the phoenix. The scorpion represents the lowest aspect of the sign, mostly the negative elements in Scorpio, such as jealousy and vindictiveness. The eagle represents the higher aspects of the sign, positive elements such as perseverance, passion, and commitment. The phoenix, however, represents the very highest to which the sign may aspire, inspiration, creativity, resurrection, and rebirth.
I often like to say that I have lived a series of lives in this particular lifetime. It seems to me that I go through the process of the phoenix with its fiery destruction and rebirth periodically. I find myself in one of those phoenix periods once again. I have been on hiatus from this blog for some time now, due to serious health issues. Debra Goldstein has been kind enough to post older blogs that I have written and published in my time slot while I have been away. She has also functioned as an administrator, tending to many of the glitches and organizational issues that plague any blog behind the scenes. I would really like to thank her and Bethany Maines, as well as Cathy Perkins, or their administrative work to keep the blog going smoothly.
The interesting thing about being in one of these phoenix times in my life is that I never know where I will end up. A number of years back, I was a long-time director of a university women’s center. Suddenly, I went down with several autoimmune diseases and found myself forced to take an early medical retirement from the job that I was quite good at and loved dearly. In many ways, this was like a death of someone very close to me and entailed a great deal of mourning. I went from a position where I made a positive difference in other people’s lives to being virtually bedridden, and when I finally managed to get well enough to move around, to being pretty much confined at home, while I struggled with these terrible diseases. I knew I made a positive difference in other people’s lives, because often, as I walked through a supermarket or a shopping mall, someone would come up to me and tell me, literally, “You made a difference in my life,” or “You saved my life.” And then, I was a semi-invalid, who hardly left the house at all, except for multiple medical appointments. It seemed to me as if my life was truly over.
Once the flames died down, however, I began to create a new life as a writer, one I had always wanted and never had the time or the courage to pursue. That new life is where I have lived ever since – and been extremely happy, as well as moderately successful in the eyes of the world. A couple of years ago, however, my health started a downward spiral with cancer and the terrible side effects of its treatments followed by a couple of terrible falls that left me with permanent disability in my right shoulder and arm and a truly frightening ratification of one of my autoimmune uses, which left me on daily massive doses of steroids that continued through the years and seriously weakened the functioning of my legs. I have felt for these last few years as if someone out there somewhere had a voodoo doll of me that they were continuously slicing and dicing. All of this has led to tremendously diminished strength, heavy fatigue, and lots of pain, and trying to manage all of these problems, as well as continue working freelance as a teacher and an editor in order to try to keep afloat in the flood of medical bills, meant that I had little time or energy for my own writing.
That is the gift of the phoenix, however – to rise anew out of your own ashes. At the moment, that is where I feel I currently stand. I don’t know at the moment what shape or color this new life will take, but I can feel it bubbling up within me, itching within my back where the new wings are getting ready to sprout. I have been working with my fiber art, spinning, knitting, weaving, in order to fill the creative well within, and now I am experiencing that wonderful urge to start creating worlds and characters that other novelists know well. So, it is truly an exciting time for me right now.
Here is a poem that I wrote during that last time of my life when I was saying goodbye to my old career and old self and welcoming the new career and self that I hadn’t seen yet.
and leaves only the ashes of her old self
behind. She plunges into the dark
future from the glare of her funeral pyre
that brightens the sky of her past
for miles and years and leaves a legend
told to generations of children
of a vast golden one whose gleaming
body rose from the burning corpse,
blotting out the moon
with huge wings beating against
the burning air to lift the dead
ground to the living night sky
and fly through the moon
to a new place with new people
where she could be new herself—
until the destroyer strikes again.
Like a hunting eagle,
she lands, claws outstretched,
golden crest and feathers lost
in transit, her wings already disappearing.
She grows backward, smaller.
Now she can only crawl
into and out of shallow holes
in the ground of this new life.
Still, the wise avoid trampling her
for they know
she drags death behind her.
Published in Heart’s Migration (Tia Chucha Press, 2009)
When you hit periods of decline in your own life, do you feel as I do that you are allowed a kind of rebirth and re-creation of yourself? Do you have your own symbolic ways of thinking about those times in your life?
Linda Rodriguez's 12th book, The Fish That Got
Away: The Sixth
Guppy Anthology, is about to be published. Her 11th book was Fishy Business: The Fifth Guppy Anthology (edited). Dark Sister: Poems was her 10th book and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, based on her popular workshop, and The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, an anthology she co-edited, were published in 2017. Every Family Doubt, her fourth mystery featuring Cherokee detective, Skeet Bannion, and Revising the Character-Driven Novel will be published in 2021. Her three earlier Skeet novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, Every Last Secret—and earlier books of poetry—Skin Hunger and Heart's Migration—have received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin's Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film.
Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International Thriller Writers, Native Writers Circle of the Americas, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Learn more about her at http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com