Originally published in RFD Magazine, Winter 2010 issue
This past August, Heather Faraone, the faerie known as One Feather, died at the age of 47 of leukemia she contracted as a volunteer providing energy-bodywork for firefighters and clean-up workers following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. One Feather was my Beloved, and while it is true that I brought her to the faeries, it is equally true that she brought me back to the Northeast Faes.
|One Feather in Faerie Fashion Show, 2008|
One Feather’s introduction to the faeries was at the 1997 Fall & 1998 Beltane Gatherings at Short Mountain, where she glowed in the midst of our regularly scheduled Temporary Autonomous Zones. “But aren’t there gatherings closer to New York?” she wanted to know. Yes, of course there were, but this was problematic. While Short Mountain had a policy of encouraging women to attend, I had stopped going to Northeast Gatherings as I’d wearied of the hours-long discussions over whether women ought to be “allowed” at gatherings. (In an article entitled “Gender Fucking” published in a mid-1990’s Faeriegram, I characterized the faction who wished to ban women, in part or in toto, as putting forth the proposition that “We all come from the Goddess, but she’s not welcome at the Gathering.”)
Knowing this history, but always allowing for the possibility of development, One Feather wished to give the Northeast faerie community a try, and we attended the 20th Anniversary Blue Heron gathering in 1999. On that beautiful land we experienced much that was sacred, and yet her mere presence was met with great resistance by a few faeries. Though hosts Bryan and Gary and the great majority were more than hospitable, there is, in my opinion, a culture ingrained at Blue Heron which speaks mainly to the “male” faerie, and no proactive campaign exists there to include women, transgendered and beyond. After going to the 2000 Blue Heron gathering, and again encountering negative “feedback” on her gender, she no longer wished to expose herself to the abuse of those who believed they held a hierarchical advantage over her by dint of their maleness. One Feather sadly decided she could no longer return to that particular faerie space, but continued to go to Tennessee to do the faerie frolic.
In 2002 One Feather was willing to take on faith the Destiny call which proclaimed “women welcome,” and that trust was, with rare exception, fully rewarded in the years that followed. Those few who wished to make One Feather feel uncomfortable about being at Destiny were operating against the culture Destiny was establishing, so she was empowered to channel Glynda and think, if not say, “Be gone, you have no power here.”
It should be said that One Feather would never publicly make the political statements I’m putting forth here—she preferred to express herself in community subject-to-subject, heart-to-heart, breath-to-breath. Nor do I wish to impart the impression that One Feather’s faerie life was one entirely of strife—it decidedly was not. A few images come to mind...her learning to fly and spin the “faerie wing” flags on the knoll at Short Mountain...bringing to Blue Heron the mounds of paper from her year-long divorce following a 15-year abusive relationship and creating a burning ritual in which dozens of faeries spontaneously jumped in to help her set her painful past to fire, and by extension we who joined her incinerated whatever ailed us in our lives—the smile on her face as this great burden was lifted from her...a warm, bright day at Destiny during Lammas, she & I making love on the flat rock at the brook’s edge, while a gaggle of faeries laughed and played a few feet away in the water directly below without seeming to notice us at all...being inspired at Destiny to add flames to her baton-twirling and later to “breathe fire”...humorously telling the heart circle that at her first gathering she’d discovered her secret faerie name: “Who’s That Woman With Vinny?”...covering a picnic table at Blue Heron with padding and sheets to give Jin Shin Jyutsu (a Japanese healing art) sessions...singing “American Tune” as a duet with me, her shy, beautiful voice gracing the fire circle...planing the timber frame for the Destiny kitchen...chiseling a memorial stone at Sht Mtn for a faerie she’d never met...sharing the hybrid cumbia-salsa-classical-and-folk-Indian dance she’d choreographed during a talent show...at a gatherette she attended without me, discovering within herself a new faerie persona named Bianca Blast—at the next gathering I was told by one of those who experienced Heather as Bianca, “You know we love you JoyBoy, but Heather was a completely different person without you. She really blossomed”...at that same gatherette she was in a sweat lodge placed atop a mound of hickory wood chips, sufficiently heated only by the process of composting, and without knowing whether it was safe to breathe in the fumes exuding from the chips, One Feather told the group that since she was so sensitive to environmental toxins she would be its canary. “If I start to get sick we have to get out”...the fantastically absurd pigtails she put my hair into so I could be an eight-year-old girl for a day at Sht Mtn....
When One Feather came home for hospice care there were two things high on her agenda: first, a trip to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, which we accomplished with the aid of six people manipulating Heather in a wheel chair, with oxygen tank and catheter attached, and secondly she wanted to finish a faerie art project she’d begun before her leukemia got out of control, which she wished to be hung in or near the kitchen at Destiny. Four of her sisters completed the task, pasting onto a poster board the paintings of various faeries One Feather had compiled. “This is my unfinished business,” she said seriously.
“If this is your unfinished business,” I laughed, “you’ve lived a pretty good life.”
Her faerie poster board now hangs in the Destiny kitchen, against the wonderfully painted wall just outside the indoor shower. It may not survive the Vermont winter, but still it will serve its purpose. The preponderance of faeries chosen for the board are female, as she intended the board to act as a totem, a call for more women to come to Destiny.
In addition to hanging the poster after her death, I came to Destiny, by One Feather’s request, to spread a portion of her ashes, and to help in the planting of a cherry tree, donated by my sister and brother-in-law as a living memorial to Heather. We had a beautifully simple ritual in the lower meadow where the tree has taken root, and then processed to the brook, where One Feather & I spent so much incredibly rapturous time.
|One Feather at Destiny, Lammas 2008|
Afterwards I was told that the Bing cherry tree would need a pollenizer plant for it to bear fruit. I am not terribly conversant with the gender of trees, but I do think it fitting that One Feather’s tree should put an exclamation point on the lesson that we need a variety of genders if we are to bear queer fruit. That we are all gender-valid is, I think, at least part of the point of the Stonewall uprising, as well as the message of Radical Faerie as I understand it, and that One Feather—a bi-identified, queer-man-loving woman—embodied in her short but inspirational life.