It seems a strange way to honor my friend Isis—cleaning the house, because she was arguably a worse housekeeper even than I am, if such a thing is possible. But that’s the thing about death, especially when it comes suddenly and unexpectedly. It’s not just the sorrow and the grief, but that it seems to suddenly remove the ground from beneath your feet, leaving you hanging in a kind of vertigo, like those cartoons where the characters run off a cliff and hang in the air, legs pumping, for a long, long minute before they fall. You need something to ground you, something simple and achievable, like doing the dishes and sweeping the floor.
Isis was my friend since we were both in high school, when she was Becky and I was Mimi. For some reason, when I think of her in those days I always see her in a tree, hanging out in the branches on the grounds of our high school. We were fifteen. I had a pack of Tarot cards and a book I’d gotten at henna-haired Mrs. Larsen’s Bookstore down on Hollywood Boulevard. Isis had a pack of cards, too. No one ever taught us to read them—we just did, and then we got ourselves a booth at the Renaissance Faire. It was a camping tent, really, hung with some filmy cloth, and I made myself a princess dress with a high waist out of iridescent gauze, and we told fortunes for days, and hung out with Witches and beadmakers and potters. Isis was smart and funny and cynical and fearless, a round, bossy girl with milk chocolate skin and a huge smile—a smile that always made you think she knew some
Isis went off to college at Antioch and I somehow ended up stuck in LA, going to UCLA and living in a frat house turned commune, in one big room with nine people. My boyfriend and I shared the closet together. Isis came to visit once; I could tell she didn’t approve of my lifestyle, which really had little about it to approve of. We didn’t talk for a long time, but finally reconnected, I think, at our High School 10th class reunion. By then I had cleaned up my act, ditched the drugs and the boyfriend and actually had a book scheduled to be published. I had also become Starhawk, and she had become Isis. We’d each found our way to the Goddess, on separate paths, but we became friends again. I remember walks in the park when her daughter Morgan was a baby, with our big dog Arnold washing Morgan’s face with his tongue as she sat in her stroller. The baby didn’t seem to mind, and neither did Isis. Isis came to Witch camp–the first we ever did. Morgan was around four, then, and we went climbing on the rocks to look at the tide pools. “Hold my hand, and you won’t fall,” Morgan told me.
Isis own mother died that summer, and she got the news at camp. I remember her heartfelt grief, I see her crying with a wail that was like the essence of mourning. And then she found solace with a hot naturopath, making the tent shake as she reconnected to the life force. Isis didn’t hold back—neither her grief nor her love of life.
One thing I loved about Isis is that she never hesitated to tell me the truth. She was one of the few people I let read my novels in draft, and I knew I could count on her to let me know if I went off track. Johanna, in Walking to Mercury, is not Isis—that is, the facts of her relationship to Maya are not the facts of our lives. But something of the emotional truth is there. Once Isis had a draft of the book in her car, and her lover read it and got furious at her.
“You never told me that you and Starhawk were lovers!”
“Don’t lie! This is you! You can’t tell me it isn’t you!”
I took that as a compliment. We weren’t lovers, in the physical sense, but Isis is one of the people I dearly love. I learned so much from her. I learned to walk down the street and look people in the eye and smile and say, “How ‘ya doin?” I learned how someone could face years of illness and pain with optimism and grace, and still take so much pleasure in life, even as her life grew more restricted. She’s one of the people in my life who made me who I am.
I’m looking at one of her last Facebook Posts:
“I found out today that I’m happy. No matter what happens, under it all, I’m just happy. How great is that?!!!!”
Be happy, Isis, even as we are sad, so sad that you are no longer here to laugh with and scold us and give us that look. Go shed that body of pain, and get ready for the next adventure.
Weaver, weaver, weave her thread
Whole and strong into your web.
Healer, healer heal her pain,
In love may she return again.