Pisces Moon, reflections on Kaila

More of this story is told on Book of Blue.

Good Morning,

The Moon conjunct Mars: that was an intense night.

I was very happy to wake up to the light streaming into my studio. I didn’t remember that the Moon had just gone rolling over Mars until I looked at the chart this morning, and I understood a little better my experiences of the past eight hours: this mix of ripping fear, passion, sadness, loneliness and plenty of erotic energy.

Kaila Watson and her mom Tobi. Picture of family photos by Eric Francis.
Kaila Watson and her mom Tobi. Picture of family photos by Eric Francis.

After spending the past two days at a funeral for a 20-year-old who overdosed, I was in a pretty strange mood. It was cold, that is, too cold to feel like bundling up, warming up my car, and going home. The wind was howling past my windows. So I decided to lock the hatches and stay in my studio…and before I knew what was happening was creating these images that I had never seen. Very Mars-Moon-Pisces.

Then I started looking at the photos of Kaila’s funeral and could not believe the visual beauty that was pouring off of them, despite the obviously horrific nature of what happened, this stark quality they have. I will post a few of them later.

What I do like about funerals is that for the most part, they are get-real experiences. Not entirely so; but a community acts like a community, people express care for one another openly, and we get a window into how life might be on Earth if we took life seriously. Apparently actual death, in our faces, is one of the few things that temporarily snaps us out of the trance.

The other thing I noticed last night was feeling like I was psychically slimed by being in the presence of some of Kaila’s heroin people, who were at the wake and the funeral. There is a vibe of desperation that stuff has that erodes any possible ethics or morals. This is a drug that takes on a life of its own and I think acts as a kind of demonic possession. True, I have not spent a lot of time around cokeheads, but even cocaine seems more civilized than heroin (perhaps because it has a productive quality, to a point), which energetically resembles a fast tug into the underworld.

Her story resembles Persephone, the daughter of Demeter (in astrology, Ceres), who ends up kidnapped by Hades (in astrology, Pluto) and ends up the queen of the underworld. Kaila does indeed have a rough Ceres aspect: Mars conjunct Ceres, on the Aries Point. For the days of her funeral, the Sun was going right over those two points. This is the eternal grief of her mother, most of it public; the heart surgeries were indeed a public event and Kaila is a �famous person’ as a result of them — and now, as a result of her death.

Throughout Kaila’s whole life, her mother, Tobi, was threatened with losing her: first to the multiple heart surgeries and then to a two-year spell of severe drug use, though it was on and off; so it was another one of those roller coasters. When I would see Tobi (usually when I was placing a classified at in Woodstock Times) she was as calm as she could be about it: calm, but edgy. Then one day I figured out what was really going on for her when she suggested that doing more photos with her daughter would be a good influence on her. You don’t usually think of a mom (even one you’ve known for a while) being totally encouraging and positive that an older guy should photograph her 20-year-old daughter nude. Then I got it.

I flashed to the most recent time I had visually seen Kaila — living in total squalor, in a house full of dogs and cats and garbage and wasted teenagers, stealing from one another and stoned into a semi-catatonic state, playing a video game with her boyfriend. I was there giving someone a ride — the friend of another model I work with, who was in a phase of going in and out of the local mental ward.

What happened to Kaila opens a window into another universe, one that (like most of the other universes) is all around us, closer than we want to think. Doing these photographs that I do, I’ve never had the chance to meet more young women in their late teens and early 20s. Then I started hearing about the guys they hang out with. Then I started hearing the stories of their lives.

Add this to naiveté, romanticism and having been  brought up in denial of their own power (this is the Say No generation we’re talking about here), it’s a real mess. Oh, I forgot to mention that most of the time, I can discern skills and many talents, but not the actual, connected desire to do something. That could serve as a bearing, providing some kind of inner guidance.

Kaila, for her part, was talking about going back to school. She was supposed to come visit her mom a week ago Sunday to take some photos for a project that Kaila was doing. Then the ex-boyfriend called her, and she went to hang out with him.

Eric Francis

24 thoughts on “Pisces Moon, reflections on Kaila”

  1. Jackie: Yes, so true. “C” for ourselves, for others, down the long and winding road next to flowering cherry trees or maples shedding their fall leaves.

    To make excuses for the way things are, or will continue to be, ensures frustration, even failure (ie regret). And, it is to this state that I object.

    But, it is frustrating to notice personal blocks, fears as much as noticing dynamic systems blocks, and not know how to dissolve, reconfigure, despite trying or feeling like one is trying to do so.

    And, sometimes these feelings and understandings emanate from another place, outside this life perhaps even, which bear no mark or semblance to current family, environment or friends with whom to converse, share.

    And, so, then, what is one to do?

    Let go. Love. Let go. Then, love some more.

    I have failed at this myself (regrets) which maybe is why I feel so strongly about people propagating ‘excuses.’ I do not want to think of myself as a victim, but rather as one trying, trying as best I can. And, that is how I prefer to think of others such as Kaila, with due respect for one who did the very best she could in the world she inhabited.

    That is an artful life.

  2. I think that this is an important discussion, and I think that there is truth in each point of view. I don’t think that there’s a simple explanation or that we can ever know the whole truth. We are a conglomeration of all the energies around us – past, present, and future. Most of us are victims – we don’t always realize it. We all have choices – we don’t always realize it. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and we can really only do what we’re ready for and capable of in any given moment. To move from victim to survivor takes takes bringing the darkness to light: honoring the one who suffered the trauma, loving her (or him), forgiving her (or him). Speaking the truth. Compassion, with a capital C. At least, that’s a bit of how it’s been for me. It’s not pretty; it’s not clean; it’s not a straight line. Absolutely, the system works against us. And absolutely, we work against ourselves. That’s why it’s so important that in spite of it all, we all do our personal healing and growth work, that we all do what we can to light up the world around us.


  3. Amen, Kristen.

    Everyone knows right from wrong; everyone makes a choice in every situation. Even little children know when they did a bad thing, like hitting other kids and stealing. They will try to cover up and blame others too, like when older kids spray paint the garage wall and blame it on the 4 year old in the family.

    Also, there is no way I would hold up the Iroquois family as a role model. Ha! They were the most violent of all Indians, spreading fear so far and wide that even the Lakota would not come into their territory. Those women must have been some real bullies in their day, to create such monsters.

    Everyone I ever knew and know who does drugs, does not give a shit how it affects their family. It is all selfishness. When i smoked cigarettes years ago, I would have bought cigarettes before I bought milk if that is all I could afford. I hate to admit that, but it is true. My cigarettes came first.

    There is an evil spirit that consumes people addicted to drugs.

  4. I was operating from a knife edge, very true. As a woman who has been harmed and healed also by structural violence, which is mainly what we are referencing herein, I do understand and know and have experienced the systems.

    But, the angle it would seem to me to be of value now, is to let go of reference to further wrong or historical wrong and encourage everyone to get involved on some level, take personal responsibility for their situation and get on moving on from these same old tapes of lament. Then, notice when own limit is reached so do not burn out – trust that life is life. And, death is death. And, don’t steal either one from someone, no matter the “story.”

    I have no doubt that this particular drug is soul sucking in some unique ways. I would also point out many foods that do similar work and lead to devastating health conditions when over done, but are more socially acceptable, for example, diabetes. It’s a slow, ugly disease, rising exponentially over the past century.

    So, here’s my simple question: when do we become a group of people that encourage each other to take personal responsibility, take care of ourselves and leave behind the ‘victim’ attitude? I’m not saying there aren’t real victims, but I am saying I think/feel it would be the golden age if we could all stop referencing the old systems, blaming those systems. And, do it now.

    Even in the worst situations, one has a choice about how to think and feel about their situation. This is demonstrated daily by Tibetan monks or African detainees by totalitarian dictatorships who find a place in their mind and heart to move beyond the story.

    My teacher gave a short, brilliant talk last night, the gist of which was this: there is pain and suffering in the world; many people are in pain, but not hurting very much, others are. So what is suffering? Suffering is the story that surrounds the pain. And, I add, mourning is to experience the pain, lamenting is to continue the suffering. Slowly, surely, people do make new choices as they learn to trust that folks will be there for them, no matter, this takes commitment, it is hard, but it is the best script ever written (as in Rx, play, poem, autobiography). Then again, shit goes down no matter.

    Kaila was beautiful, as is her mom. Blessings to both forever. And, thanks to her mom for allowing the experiences and stories to be shared publicly. Such courage, grace and humility.

    I value people discussing ideas herein. I apologize profusely for any perceived attack. I did not intend my views as such though did intend to provide another perspective, very much.


  5. carecare:

    Thanks for the incredibly clear depiction of the issue and comparative analysis of cultures. You are absolutely right about the power of the “P”.

    And personally, I don’t think kristenb was wrong either, but I think maybe we were operating on different understanding and perceptions.

    FYI-I’m of the menopausal “random” group, though I think I started membership long before I was even peri-menopausal. All that meant is that I was free but I didn’t know that I could enjoy it.


    Sending some energy your way for your nephew.

  6. Fe –

    So sorry for the time delay, but I have a job now, and that is taking up all my ‘net time (waaah!) right now.

    My nephew is one of the last great individualists: in other words, no group therapy, no therapy, period. Outside of consulting with the clinic staff on a regular basis, I know of no other folk he talks to about his ‘progress.’ He does not have any contact with any of his old user buddies or dealers (last I knew), just to avoid any possible relapse. He has enough common sense to realize they were never his ‘friends,’ only enablers, so he has changed his entire social circle. He lives in Tucson, and it is awash in drugs from across the border, so avoiding the pressure of temptation is difficult.

  7. Fe,

    Though I understand where kristenb is coming from, I also agree with you. It would seem that women can never get it right, no matter what they do. In so many societies they have to become men to be marginally accepted; being female and doing typically female things is devalued and denigrated. Starhawk, the witch, had a lot to say about that and how women themselves must stop valuing the male/competitive model as though it is the default model.

    The female model of power is not as competitive, it is more community-building, immanent, generative, and facilitative. Yet societies fear our abilities. Starhawk posited that this came from the fact that we always know who our children are but men can never be totally sure without a paternity test. As simplistic as this sounds, it is a thing that underscores a lot of the male domination of female power in the world. Or as my husband once put it, every hetero man fears the hold pussy has over him; every man fears squandering his resources for another man’s genes. Women are pickier than men about their sexual partners (due to the huge physical consequences of pregnancy that women may have when they DO have sex) and as such, men must compete.

    Though it seems silly to pin all this on reproduction, sex is so tied to that in subconscious ways and sex is the biggest drive we have. In my women’s studies class we learned how in every society, women’s reproductive abilities are regulated, bound, and restricted to be in favor of male desires to further their genes. Girls are fine until puberty, then all the societal restrictions set in. After menopause, women become free again. This was true even in antiquity and is still true in modern societies as well as primitive ones.

    Sacrifice rituals in antiquity are tied to males seeing that women could bleed and not die and women gave life in blood so shedding blood = life became a reason for blood sacrifice. The whole Christian religion is based on that blood sacrifice = life ideology as are many other religious practices in the past. That power women have is so dangerous that societies now and in the past have made women’s blood either sacred or taboo, something to be feared and women to be reviled. In short, we are hated for our ability to give life and for the certainty that that life carries OUR genetic material. Every aspect of female subjugation can be traced back to these things.

    How can humanity change things when the very physical differences between the sexes are what drive the male dominance issue? The uncertainty of paternity will always be there; what can people do to stop regulating women and also allow men some certainty in their support of their own genetic offspring?

    The Iroquois had a great way of living that dealt with this issue. Men and women had sex but the men lived in their mother’s longhouses. They could visit their female sexual partners, but it was the uncles that acted as fathers to any offspring. These arrangements meant that the resources from men were not directly tied to supporting their own genetic offspring. Instead, they supported their sister’s offspring or their mother’s younger offspring. That way Iroquois males supported those that had genetic ties to them but not their direct genetic offspring. This gave all parties a lot better life and women had freedoms during their reproductive years without having to deal with male domination. Women always knew any pregnancy would result in a child that was well fed, housed, and cared for by her brothers and the mother-clan of the long house so they were less choosy about who they had sex with (partners didn’t have to be the strongest or wealthiest). This gave the men more available women to have sex with and sexual frustration and competition were not as much of an issue. Iroquois women also owned all the land and the food sources so males could not go to war without female approval or they would starve during the war. This gave women the power to prevent the unnecessary loss of their children’s lives in wars they disagreed with. This shared power model of the Iroquois worked and had a part in the shared powers ideology we see in our current Constitution.

  8. hey Kristen:

    no offense taken. I come from a background where I have worked with alot of women who have come off of or are working through addiction. Very few make it. Most of them I met in jail. Most of them came from homes where they did not have what Kaila had. They may have chosen, but the circumstances they chose under was always askew. And they keep blaming themselves.

    I talk about a pervasive war on women because that really does happen in the world, all over the map, including our country, and not by our choice. There are poor women who go to jail for addiction, and stricter sentencing laws make their incarceration automatic. That is not their choice.

    If they could choose, they could be working to have enough to take care of their kids. If there wasn’t a foster care system or the state did not take away their children, there would be a chance for stability in their lives. If there wasn’t domestic or sexual abuse in their lives from people they thought they could trust, there wouldn’t be the spiral of despair.

    This is what also makes, in my mind, a very deep feeling of loss for kaila, whose fragility we will never be able to fathom and her loss incomprehensible, like so many others who have fallen before her, no matter the circumstances. Its a loss to a soul-sucking drug. You have to ask what circumstances drove her and many others to seek that oblivion or hover close to that danger.

  9. I was here and now witness the passing of this child at the time of the ides of march.

    Half of day is night. All are protected.

    SoA 919

  10. It was Eric who said something to the effect of how ridiculous to live on a planet full of people and not find/feel/experience love. Touche.

    Au revoir.

    You know the most outrageous situation? A total stranger telling me I was the nicest person all day/week/month to them, gracious and kind. A stranger – not their family, their lover, their children, their siblings – a stranger.

    Let us all work to change that situation, and yes, I’ll put myself on that list with my family, no matter the history, scares or toughness.

    Good night, or good day, depending upon your time zone.

  11. We also feed kids sugar until they are obese at age 11 and diabetic by 15, a huge consequence. Do we have licenses for sugar? We should by that account.

    Any substance over done has consequences be it wheat, sugar, heroin, alcohol, or salt.

    I watched a man pull his sick wife out of a waiting room last week because he was angry that they had to wait more than 10 minutes beyond their appointed time. The man was over 65.

    This is just me tired of rules, and wanting to feel and hear and have more wisdom applied to situations momentarily than after the fact where blame gets applied.

    Please excuse me.

    I do not mean any disrespect to Kaila and her mom or other family. They did what they could, I trust your words and opinion about that. All I am saying, is that others you reference, we can change their lives by looking them in the eye, and SEEING them, its amazing how little it takes to save someone.

    Then, again, some addictions are too vast to tackle and all we can do is ride them out, showing up to surf and lend oxygen as we can.



  12. Forgive me, my frankness, if it offends. And, I appreciate yours. The story I know thus far, is what you have told publicly. And, I never met her.

    But, this is exactly my point. Instead of transferring ownership to some “system” be that male dominated, or capitalistic, or ivy league snobbery, or credit crunch, people are making choices, and it is proven that people make choices based upon opportunity, love and intangible support or lack thereof.

    I know in my heart every single person writing and reading these posts care deeply, are saddened, and in wonderment. I myself have held people down throughout the night, held up their heads over toilet bowls, watched them fall down and scrape their knees and still turn up the next day at their wedding or graduation or mom’s funeral, held my tongue and supported their next choice. This is what we must do, SHOW UP IN THE MOMENT, as best we can, even if only to see them from across the room.

    Then, maybe they will remember our smile and choose differently, than feel judged and want to escape.

    Sometimes, everything goes wrong and shit goes down. But, it’s not a failure, it’s simply an example of another path. Everyone tried.

    To live, is also, to die. To die, is also, to live. Mourn yes, absolutely. Lament her death? No. That takes away the life of her vibrant memory.

    Would, did ANY of us here listen when someone else disagreed with our drug intake (drugs, alcohol, etc)? Or our sexual choices?

    Or, did we respond to someone who, in a moment, gave us what we needed, a moment of peace, of flesh, or who we could bully in return even though they held different values and so stated?

    Be honest.

    Love and hugs to everyone! And, kisses.


  13. Hi Kristen,

    She was vulnerable and pushed into addiction. I think that the point of origin tells part of the story. The most compelling argument for choice is that she had a choice. She had options; she had parents who loved her and who had excommunicated her brother for years as a result of what he did to her. So she had somewhere to go. She had a foundation and she knew what love was because so many people loved her. That is an option, both inner and outer, that many people who get into this stuff don’t have.

    Then there are questions about understanding consequences. We don’t let people under 21 drink legally, because we presume they don’t understand the consequences. So what do we say of someone 17 or 19 or 20 who is shooting up?


  14. PS I do not condone heroin or any other drug, not even drug of “fantasy” or drug of “ignorance.”

    At present the media falls under propagating “ignorance” in Kaila’s case, and for that, they should lose their printing license, imho.

  15. Fe: Respectfully, that is bullshit.

    We live in EXACTLY the world we choose, and create.

    Fundamentalism is a war on confidence, slef-esteem, nothing more and nothing less, in my opinion. Folks who identify it with sexuality, continue the same thought patterns.

    If you choose to shed off your power to MEN because you live in “a male dominated society,” that is your choice. I live in a female AND male one. And, more often than not, I encounter women who are ACTING like men because they can not find their own power. How can they get it? First, by owning their own choices, their own actions, not displacing to a ‘HANGOVER’ or fundamentalism. Bullshit.

    Frankly, from the photos I have seen and the story I have heard, THUS FAR, Kaila made her own choices. Deeply loved, deeply missed. Absolutely.

    Now, I, and you, may not agree nor ever make the same, with those choices, but they were hers to make.

    What this society does not possess, that others do, even the Japanese, is a culture of allowing mourning, recognizing death. If you don’t want her to die; then, I ask you, did you ever want her to live?

    Let us celebrate the LIFE she chose to experience, and NOT the one we THINK she should have lived. AND, if you do feel strongly about ‘hangover,’ then please do GET INVOLVED in the lives of others WHILE YOU CAN, and not, after the fact.

    Love and life and death gone by, what can we do, but love, but try.

    Your outrage is misplaced; your love is needed, for Kaila, for exactly who SHE was.

    Encourage other women to take their power; and be prepared for when they fail and look for scapegoats. And, then, get back up and encourage the next woman to own her own actions. And, encourage all those around to say what they think and feel, in the moment. Not 3 years later, after the fact.

    Then, let go.


  16. heroin has no gender preference, a new crop of beautiful young people of both sexes fall prey to it’s seductive illusions daily…my question since i have spent the last three years trying desperately to save my 21 year old daughter from this social blight is how is it seemingly everywhere? in the country, in the cities, on campuses of all kinds…who’s bringing it to these places, how can they be stopped and how is it so cheap that almost anybody can manage to create a habit? how many will lose their lives before we find answers and solutions to these questions? my heart aches…

  17. I have a nephew who is now 28, and he’s been on/off heroin for several years now. He was last on methadone, but unable to taper off after long-term use. I’m not sure where he stands now.

    When he was using, he was nearly insane. Heroin on top of diagnosed bipolarity is a strange state of mind, and we’ve always wondered how he’s lasted as long as he has. There are glimmers of hope in that he’s using less and less as time goes by, and he has life plans, something he didn’t use to even bother with.

    My heart goes out to Kaila, her mother, and anyone who knew her, my love too. I hate heroin.

  18. Fe, I keep thinking that. It could have been prevented and something else still could. I love your soulful writing, helps remind me to hold her in the light and all of us here searching. Seems like everything is amenable at the highest level.

    kristen-b, I know what you mean. It’s up to us to keep our gaze fixed in the direction of truth. Hugs…

  19. kristenB

    There are hangovers and there are Hangovers. One of the worlds women have to live in is a male-identified one, which pervades through all our layers of society, religion, culture, politics. Our reaction to it, as necessary sometimes, had to be swift. In other aspects, it seems to need more time.

    More time to separate what men expect of us and what we think men expect of us. What we define female power to be instead of what think we should emulate (eg, men), that communities of women can and do exist peacefully, and that men play a part. That women can be women with power and that’s a societally acceptable norm that should be celebrated instead of feared.

    The lack of peace between the two sexes is startling, yet it does take tension to create. And boy, its been pretty tense. I keep harkening back to the theme that fundamentalism is a war on women. From the Xtian right and the Muslim right and from extremes of every religion, actually.

    What’s so damned maddening about Kaila’s story is that it could have been prevented. Many of us could have been there but we weren’t. That what was missing in her experience could not have been found–yet. But the circle within which she walked couldn’t afford her knowing, either.

    Every time I have heard this story, it never gets any better or easier. And the cry from the mother within all of us is silent, deep and painful.

  20. I’ve had the hardest day; and it relates to this theme: Why is the war on women so persuasive, that Fe asked?

    Probably because there is nothing easier to project onto, for a woman, than another woman: if one, is a woman, searching for her own power, but unsure of herself and making her own choices.

    My day nose dived when the woman who I am replacing decided to use me as a scapegoat and yet again change her mind about “her position.” It really has nothing to do with “me” other than it is me who is replacing her, by HER own decision to go back to school. But, here I am crying nonetheless. And, disappointed and a touch angry after supporting her for 6 weeks, only to be repaid in total betrayal, contriteness, condescention (sp? brain freeze), with aggression, threatening me.

    We do not have to look far in media to see how this sort of behavior is sanctioned – for example, mainstream movies like “Mean Girls.” Or one-time political candidate, Sarah Palen.

    But, as I see things, when there are so many gaps, and so many people trying to give the benefit of the doubt, there is a huge space in which “to play the system.” And, then, focus on “RULES” occurs instead of applying ‘wisdom.’

    It sucks to be scapegoat, of any sort, so may we all be able to move forward, celebrate each life lived, no matter how it was lived, beyond judgment – moment by moment, and after death.

    While those surrounding Kaila’s death may refer to sadness and tradegy, and the media as trying to hush up the TRUTH, the re-photos show a smile, an introspection, an intelligence, a self-choice, to live as wanted.

    In this way, we each might take “personal responsibility” and let live, as live, while taking note of saying what we want and need to say, moment to moment. Then, let go.

    May Kaila rest in peace and joy and knowledge that she lived her life perfectly in this incarnation. And, may all of us still here celebrate that fact. Kaila is another spelling for Kali with an extra A for ‘Ahhhhhh…’

  21. Yes, Fe, I would say it’s more than one thing. We need forgiveness, and to relearn the experience of ourselves as spiritually complete. It is of utmost import to remember that one first must feel ones emotions in order to transcend them. I think having women absent from…well, really themselves…but places of high esteem i.e. “in power” and the distortions of priority around emotional mindstuff (as in D.R.A.M.A) has contributed to this sense of emotional divorce and the concomitant personal as well as social problems, ad nauseum.

  22. fontanelle:

    What a beautiful expression of something that I know I’m feeling in response to this tremendous loss. It begs me to ask the question: Why is the war on women so pervasive?

  23. I lost some of my momentum of my original response as the computer and other distractions kept me from writing while it was still imbued with original feeling. Still, I remember feeling “This is so sad.” More so because of the epidemic of powerlessness among women to which her death points, women of all ages and the buried treasure of healing energy sprung from our core which could be another way of saying our sexuality. Having recovered more of myself over the past couple years, I notice that some people respond with envy, greed and projection (that is, projecting essential aspects of oneself) onto a woman walking in her power. And often, despite her best efforts, she is blamed, that is, cast out or made to feel ashamed. Men are often confounded by her, especially men in monogamous relationships whereby they are obliged to go fault finding whenever another pretty girl enters the picture. That’s no way to create community. This is not to rag on the one love vibe or the opportunity for deeply transformative aspects of romantic love to bloom. Women (disempowered) work against her, rallying support for the psychological battle to put her down. It is a wonder any of us ever feel in control (of ourselves), let alone find the space to experiment with what we find, or the right people to share it (ourselves) with. We have to be like mushrooms, primarily underground, with a deep appreciation for value which transcends appearances. What a beautiful girl we have lost in Kaila.

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