I’m sitting beneath a tree at the edge of Mount Pleasant, a cemetery just outside of the town I live in. I’ve only been here a couple of times, but I can say with confidence that it is one of the most beautiful spots in Bradford I’ve had the pleasure of discovering.
Despite the noise of the Yonge Street evening traffic behind me – people coming and going between Barrie and Bradford after a long day’s work – my sights are set upon a serene display of lives and loss forever encapsulated in marble and stone, against the backdrop of dense cedars and pines.
Strangely, a mosquito buzzes around me despite the coolness of the October temperature.
The first time I came here was just after moonrise, the night before. I’d brought along a candlestick holder and a black candle, which I had hoped to journal in the light of, but inconveniently forgot to bring a lighter, despite the reminder not to forget before leaving the Hollow, where I live.
Perhaps just as well, considering I set the display up regardless, only to knock the whole thing over into the grass when reaching into my bag for the flask of Innis and Gunn ale I’d also brought along. Whoops.
I don’t drink much at all; the ale was used during a recent ritual to the Raven God, Odin – who I’ve recently started to work with. Before coming to Mount Pleasant for the first time, I was allowed to connect and bond with Odin over ale and apple slices (at his request) under the booms and roars of some ambient Nordic music found online, the smoke of sandalwood incense in my nostrils.
Bringing what little of the ale remained with me to the cemetery, to honour the dead with a couple of sips, felt like the right thing to do.
There is a definite beauty and serenity at Mount Pleasant not found in other cemeteries and graveyards I’ve visited in Bradford. It’s peaceful here, welcoming.
I love this place. It is perfect. I’ve found the perfect spot to sit – under the shade of a cluster of pine trees, where I have the perfect view of the countryside – a late-harvest farmer’s field that goes on for an endless acre – a reminder of where I wish to be, a longing to be back out in the country.
But for now, Mount Pleasant Cemetery will do.
I’ve always loved the idea of hanging out in graveyards, even at a young age. Maybe it was part of the chic goth aesthetic I tried to adopt in my later years in high school, or it could just be the sense of impending serenity I feel now. Either way, the draw to the resting grounds of those who’d come before has always been a natural one.
But it was a draw that had gone stifled and forgotten until now, swallowed up when the self-imposed powerlessness I felt in my 20s took root.
I couldn’t just hop in my parents’ car and drive to a cemetery for the pleasure of meditation, fresh air, and communion with the dead and with my higher self. What would people think??
I was very much raised to be conscious of social responsibility and to be mindful of how I presented myself to the people around me – not that it stopped me from getting into a lot of trouble anyhow, but the fear of being judged and needing permission from others to do the things I wanted to do was something I struggled with for a very long time.
I make the joke now that up until my ‘30s I didn’t have much of a discernable personality, because I lived my life wholly based on what other people thought was best for me – and any time parts of my authentic self began to surface, a volcanic backlash usually followed. So, I felt an overwhelming, if not resentful, need to conform if I didn’t want every word I spoke or action I made to be scrutinized.
Little did I know at the time that I was simply just allowing myself to be surrounded by people whose energy did not jive with my own. At the time, I didn’t know how to find the right people for me, or how to actually develop a backbone and stand up for myself and what I believed in.
It was just easier to storm off in a huff and play the victim.
The “scorn” I felt by my loved ones fostered such a paralyzing fear of self expression in my formative years. Instead of developing any sense of duty to myself, I whined and threw tantrums, used passive aggressiveness to get what I wanted and formed wedges between people I loved … things that never got me where I needed to go, not really.
Turning 30 changed all of that.
Turning 30 meant stepping into the shoes of a woman who has always meant to exist. A woman who’d always existed, but was just in hibernation until this point. Each step in these shoes has paved a path along a radiant yellow brick road of possibilities and self promotion I never in the 29 years up to that point thought fucking possible.
I’m so happy to be in my 30s. At the time of this writing, I am 33 years old, and feel like I’ve now entered my true formative years, figuring out who I really am, developing a true sense of self expression and self respect I didn’t have before.
I started living for ME, instead of living for the people in my life. And what a jog down the yellow brick road it’s been so far:
- I got my first tattoo: a monarch butterfly, with the body of a semi-colon, on my forearm. I have five more tattoos planned, and strive to be the eventual grandmother covered neck-to-toe in ink.
- I embraced a natural high-octane sexuality that went shamed and suppressed since childhood. Through this, I discovered a love for kink and the BDSM lifestyle, and for ethical non-monogamy.
- I discovered self worth through the process of Zen Buddhism, regular therapy, meditation, and shadow work.
- I work a job I love, surrounded by coworkers I love and consider family.
- I rediscovered witchcraft after almost 20 years of flirting with the idea of practicing Wicca outside the confines of a Roman Catholic upbringing. Through this recent development of my witchy spiritual practice came a love of Tarot, crystal healing, and all things occult.
- I’m sitting in a fucking cemetery with green hair, wearing camo pants, rose-embroidered Doc Martens, and a leather jacket adorned with pop horror icons.
- I transitioned from male to female after decades of confusion and anguish, and stood my ground against opposing forces in my family who did not take this decision seriously and/or felt personally attacked by it.
Who is this person?
Who is this anomaly to society’s expectations of conformity? This, such an extreme example of self-expression? This total “fuck you”to everything I’d ever known about myself, thought only possible at a longing distance in my teens and 20s?
This person is Euphoria Blackwood.
She’s the woman I’ve always been, even if it took her 30 years to wake up from a prolonged hibernation. She is a late bloomer. But she bloomed, none the less.
And as I sit here beneath the shade of pine trees I realize just how much I love this woman, how much I love being around this woman, and having open and honest dialogues with her about life and personal interests and worldly observations.
And as the setting sun hits the edge of gravestones before my very eyes just right, I realize something equally important – how this woman loves me, just as much.