Cats on String Leashes. With Glitter.

One of the problems of not having a safety net is that it's hard to tolerate uncertainty. I see this all over my life: 

  • I want to be perfect at my job. Now.
  • i want my relationship to distract me and console me. Now.
  • I want my child to show signs of well-being and social and emotional excellence. (Now.)

This is not how things work. 

But when the choices look like Bluebeard's house: the castle on the hill, rooms and rooms of stuff! (Just keep quiet about the weird hair and the missing ex-wives.) or...who the fuck knows what?

You start to think the beard is okay. You start to think it's the only way.

I skipped the state of the union tonight. Not because I'm with John Lewis, although I am with John Lewis. But because I was on a conference call planning a storytelling retreat for people who want to sing and connect with nature and confront the grief and joy and uncertainty of what it looks like to write a different story, where we are not faced with just that house.

What I'm trying to say is that this morning I met with a client. it was our third meeting and we were meandering. I was brought in as a coach to help with a number of issues and we kept hopping from one thing to the next and I had a moment where I was like "Where are we going with this? Maybe I am not the right person to help here..." I mean, I know that can happen. Not every coach is a match. But that wasn't what was happening. What was happening was I was having a little tiny freak out because the wandering in the dark woods that precedes discovery always seems to take too long and then you're like "What the fuck. I must be doing this wrong. I am going to end up a bad lady with cats on string leashes. But at least I will be a badass bag lady. My cats will have glitter collars and ride on my shoulders and..."(See, even in my paranoid nightmares, I am kicking ass. That was not true five years ago. This is progress.)

The point is that the meandering has to happen. The uncertainty precedes discovery. We have to tolerate it: the self-doubt, the wondering if we are going to get discovered or revealed or exposed..

Because, and I really believe this, if we stick with it, and stay open to our hearts, we get these moments where the uncertainty changes and crystallizes. It happens so much later than I would like it to happen almost every time. But it happens.

Like today, when 15 minutes before the end of our session, we saw the central piece. The thing I can help her work on that will ripple out through so much of her life. 

She looked at me. "I didn't think we were going to make such big leap today," she said. 

I didn't tell her about the bad lady freak out. I did say that the meandering has to happen and then we get here, because although knowing about the uncertainty doesn't seem to change it, naming it helps me remember the next time that i have more choices than living in Bluebeard's house and being a bag lady. 

 

The Story is Taking Hold

The story is taking hold. And it’s so much better to be in this together.

 

Today I had coffee with one of the women who is working this myth with me. She told me about how her animal ally is showing up in her life. She has a list that she got from the workshop. Of the things that she asked, and the work she is doing.

 

I was like, “Wait. I don’t have a list.”

 

I started my work with my animal ally a few nights before the workshop. Actually, I started it last August, at British Columbia Witch Camp, when one of my ancestors – Lucina Cemina Warren (!)—showed up in my ancestor reading as a snowy owl, as the Queen of Swords. That’s when I started this work, though of course I knew it not then...

 

But the story takes hold slowly, in it’s own time. Like a grassland rising from a flood. Like a tree rooting deeply in a river bank.

 

Owl started working with me last August, but a few nights before the workshop, I decided to do a trial of the work I was imagining for us to do together.

 

I dropped into sacred space. I took out my charcoal, brown paper, scissors and tape and made wings, long enough to stretch across my shoulders. I wore them out into the night, into my front yard where I have heard owls answer my drum. I looked with owl’s eyes and tried to listen with her amazing ears and the wind tossed the trees and the stars stared back and owl didn’t come with her body, not with her actual body, but the night was full of death and decision and that was enough to raise the hairs on my neck and I bowed to the night sky and went inside and realized that I hadn’t actually asked if she would be with me. This is a compact, not an assumption. You ask.

 

So, I did. And I felt the answering presence. (Does this sound strange? But shouldn’t it be more strange to not hear, not touch the rest of the web of life? In older times, in most of our evolutionary history, such deafness would have meant death. What if now, reconnecting to that is how we as women, and we as a culture, can choose life and power and a place again?)

 

I felt the answering presence.

 

But I didn’t get a list.

 

She has a list. I want a list too! Lists are so nice. They give you something to do, and keep track of. I have three planets in Virgo, for fuck’s sake.

 

My friend did not just ask if her ally would be her ally. She also asked some other qustions, really good questions and she is doing some really cool stuff. Plus, she is working with one of my faves, other than owl, and she is really witchy and I sat there across from the table wishing I had a list and thinking I’d just go ahead and get me one and I might have even said so out loud and then suddenly my vision was blotted out by the white glare of snow and the cold cold air rushing under my wings and the feeling of gliding and flying. Flying.

 

My friend looked at me. “I just got a vision of you gliding over snow fields,” she said.

 

“Yeah,” I said. “That’s what happened. I was thinking I wanted a list and I got flying.”

 

Which is what life feels like right now. I want a list, full of cool shit to do, and I get flying. Am I going to complain about this? Or just fly?

 

The story is taking hold. And it’s so much better to be in this together.

Enough

This weekend, I explained intersectionality and erections to my nine year old and also made healthy food and built a fort and did virtuous bill-associated tasks and that means I win.

I was going to write tonight about confronting the reality forced by posting every day: the lethargy of wine vs the commitment to write.

But I don’t fucking feel like it. Sometimes, living and working the story of how I actually want to author my life means looking back over two days of parenting and saying it was enough and just reveling in what it feels like for your kid to look at you and roll his eyes because you are dancing in a Trader Joes and to high five you for a good pun and also to ask you to “say something wise” about how overwhelming it all is sometimes. He is nine and still holds my hand and wants me to read to him and today I am savoring this sweetness for as long as I can.  

Extraordinary Territory

Maybe part of this work is to consider territory: Cougars need 50-150 square miles. They don't share. Coyotes share. The females range 5-8 square miles, the males 30-40, but coyotes, like humans, can have much smaller territories in urban areas, and overlap, and adapt. Foxes need under 3 square miles. Frogs travel up to a mile and a half to converge in spring. Owls need only a few acres and barn owls share.

I'm not saying it's better to need less.

I am thinking about what it takes to sustain a complex life. To not fall into the trap of overgrazing one's job, or partner, or walk in the same old circles and never see the diversity that’s out there, never be fed by it. I’ve recently begun to put more of myself into more spaces and to love and depend on more people in my life and I am so much happier for it.

Also, I just did this workshop at my co-working space in Pioneer Square on Thursday night. 12 women gathered on couches and chairs around a candle-filled coffee-table-cum-altar. When I reserved the space, I asked the woman a couple of times, “And we’ll have it all to ourselves? No one else will be here?”

“Oh yes,” she said. “It’s reserved for you.”

What she didn’t mention and what I didn’t ask about was the fact that that area is the common space for all the private offices in the building.

So while I was putting on the necklace of skeleton keys, and telling about how Bluebeard courted the sisters with horses bedecked in ribbons and while I gestured for the many rooms of treasure and when I screamed what was really, if I do say so myself, a blood-curdling at-the-top-of-my-lungs-scream because the sisters found the room full of bodies…

There were folks sort of… passing through.

While we made our animal costumes, and moved in them, and courted our predators…

There were dudes in the kitchen talking shop.

It was distracting. It was not what I expected. I tried not to let it throw me and mostly succeeded. But it was, my friend Tracy said when I talked to her tonight, part of the magic.

Okay. Wait...Yes Yes..

What does it mean to have a territory? What does it mean to let a territory get so small, that you don’t tell your story, or bare your teeth, or fill the space with the sound of your voice because someone else might hear, see, know that this is not an ordinary night?

Who the fuck wants a territory filled with ordinary?

Isn’t this the work? To change this territory, to fill our territory with ourselves? To do the work even when people are there?

I will say this. I want mine to be taffeta in the daytime and singing in the square and meetings where people say something that is totally unexpected and reach into the mythic space, like animals gathering at the waterhole, all our territories meeting, the altar bedecked with the truth and beauty of our intentions and a new story about to be written with screams and laughter and art and dudes in the kitchen, smiling and passing through.

Profile of a Predator: Mountain Lion

Last night at the first Bluebeard workshop, we started to work this myth. We built the altar and I told the  story and there was some journaling and sharing- that may have been my favorite part... but no. It was watching the predators come alive.

We were working predators as part of a hypothesis, that the complexity of the wild is the antidote to patriarchy (see that post here), and that real predators are good allies to women. Every woman drew a predator card from a bowl. Bear was there, but not drawn. So was otter, dragonfly.

But mountain lion was drawn. Mountain lion is the predator I am most scared of in real life, so of course I worked with her for years, especially right after my son was born. It is so easy to get lost in early motherhood. I read Craig Childs chilling essay about being stalked by a mountain lion in the desert for three days. I wanted the searing clarity of being willing to stalk something for that long, of evolving so that my teeth fit between the neck vertebrae of my prey. I wanted my actions to fit my desire like that, and I wrote and I dreamed mountain lion. 

I remember that around that time I went into a coffee shop in Greenwood to meet another mom. We met there often, and I realized they had a frequent buyer program. They kept your card for you in one of those old rolodexes. You could pick a category. Wizard. Geek. Extra Terrestrial.

I flipped through the cards looking for my category. "Oh! This is me," I said brightly to the 20-something guy behind the counter. I looked up. "I'm a cougar."

I had just turned 40.

I really meant mountain lion. You know. As opposed to women over 40 who want young men. But  I was so insane with insomnia and cabin fever, I didn't even know what "cougar" meant. My friend started choking on her latté. The barista dude looked at me like I might come over the counter after him.

Yes, cougar wants what she wants. Yes, cougar fixes her eye upon something she deems delicious and doesn't back down. I know what that feels like, not as the cougar, but as the meal. I was stalked by a mountain lion in the Sierra Nevadas with my friend Tracy, when we went down from our campsite into a wooded hollow, deep in the dark night, to do ritual. It was end of summer, the leaves were dry, and we heard her, heavy-footed and circling our small fire as we did our tiny human attempts at magic in the vast and carnivorous bowl of the wild which is where the real magic lies, which is her home.  We heard her and we looked at each other and we began to sing loud and walking almost back to back- because I had read about how cougars like to attack from behind on account of the neck vertebrae thing. We sang as loud as we could and slowly walked together up to our campsite and our voices made me feel braver in the vast darkness. I like to think that as a witch, the dark woods are my home, but sometimes I am just a soft-skinned mammal, wishing I had night vision and incisors like knives and a gaze like a guillotine. 

Sometime I wish that when I am not in the woods, but when I am in a conference room. Or a bar. Or a city street. 

And now there is a woman I know who is brave and fierce and large-hearted and she is courting mountain lion on the journey inward to who knows where this myth takes us. 

Wild and Beautiful

Tonight I looked around the circle of 11 women. The candles flickered. Sometimes the flurorescent lights came on in the middle of a predator trance, but that was okay. We were fighting patriarchy. These things happen I tried to keep paying attention to that, to what was actually happening, instead of my plan. We shared the deals we've made and what home is and what we are willing to know and the price of knowing and all the questions that we don't have answers to and how the grief of the world right now is bottomless and how that still isn't enough. But tonight, saying all that was enough. I looked around the room as they moved like their animals and told the truth and saw each other in the fight of this time, which is like no other time. Their wings and ears and tails were like sparks around a bonfire and their faces were wild and beautiful. 

One of the Uses of Winter

In winter you can see the bones of things. I got out of the city today, client meetings in two different parts of the foothills and a long drive in between. It is raining steadily and the forest knows this weather, knows that winter is a time to send energy underground. I am not getting enough sleep, but I am writing and I am doing work I love and I am walking with my dog and my son and my sweetheart and my beloved friends are never that far away.

Looking out the window, I can see the way the bare willow branches glow gold against the dark cedars.. I can see how the pale green lichen covers the alders so that they look like skeletons. The licorice ferns coat the Big Leaf maples like thick green fur. You can almost imagine the maples waking under a full moon and shambling around in a wild tree dance. In winter you can see the bones of things, and at this time, the choice of looking at what is here or at what is not is never more plain.  

The Pact

Shit. This is a myth about being a white lady. This is a myth about the price of white woman privilege! Shit. Shit. Shit!!

I realized this last night as I was writing yesterday’s post. I wrote:

I mean it’s all so familiar. This myth asks the question, what do you do when a dude with strangely colored hair suddenly has all the stuff and has control of your fate, and even though in your day- to day life, not that much has changed, you keep hearing about the bad stuff he is doing, or may have done…

Doesn’t that feel like oh, the past 3,500 years or so?

According to the myth of Bluebeard, what you do at this point is, you spend time trying to play by the rules and enjoy the stuff and pretend you aren’t living with a constant threat.

And then I reread it and realized: Yes, that’s the past 3,500 years.

For white women, you asshole. We had the choice to pretend.

(Make that ‘you pustule’, see previous post about redirecting away from body parts as expletives.)

Anyway, I reread that and then I threw up in my mouth and I edited it out and basically pretended that I didn’t ever write it because it was 11:30 PM and I didn’t have the spoons (thank you, Jac Herrick for that reference) to deal with it.

Also, there’s a not very attractive part of me that was saying: A year of looking at how privilege silences me? This will make me the most boring dinner date ever.

That, right there, is the essence of the deal white women get offered:

Be pretty. Don’t say shit that pisses me off. And you can have some of the stuff.

It’s so deep in me that for most of my life I had no idea there was a fist around my throat.

But writer Ijeoma Oluo talked about this in her speech “I am Drowning in Whiteness.” In fact, I think I just stole that dinner date metaphor from her, because I was at the speech when she said it  and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

She said:

"Do not wait until you are ready to sit down and address race to address race. Because I do not get to decide when to address race. I don't get to say, "I feel safe, I feel comfortable; I'm going to look at racism now," because racism hits me in the doctor's office. It hits me when I'm driving down the street. It hits me when I'm taking my kids to a movie.

"Get used to being uncomfortable. Be the person that nobody wants to invite to the dinner party." 

(You can read the entirety of her amazing speech here. Actually, you should stop reading this right now and read her speech instead. Here. Just read it. But come back, because I really don’t want the last thing you read of this to be me showing my unattractive plagiaristic underbelly about being boring at dinner.)

Right.

Use the key you are not supposed to use. 

Know what you aren’t supposed to know and then drip blood all over everyone’s nice outfits. (What? It’s the myth. I can’t help it.)

Be the boring dinner date.

In some ways, I am doing this already. I really am! I want to make a list for you now of all the ways I am. I am resisting making that list. It doesn’t matter. Really. I am so so so far from done. In which case, what else should I be working, but this?

So I am. I am going to work this myth and live and write my way through breaking the privilege pact. I’m sure that I will do it wrong and therefore I am going do it wrong out in the open. Not to make people do my emotional labor or to hurt anyone, but because one thing I have learned about my voice is that I have to use it. I have to write and not just write but post. I have to write and post and keep doing so or I become small and pretty and polite without even noticing it. I have to, even though I will do it wrong because the alternative to listening and learning as much as I can and still speaking is being frozen, being silent, is the fist around my throat.

So this is… (Jeez. Ug. Really? Yes. Deep breath.) this is my commitment to this work and this myth. I will do my best to live what I am learning about breaking the privilege pact and I will write and I will post something every day. Every day. Every day. Three times is a spell. Every day from now until Samhain – that’s Halloween for you non-witches. Even if no one ever reads it. Even if (when) I do something stupid and my clients and my colleagues and my family read it and they can all tell that I have absolutely no business being a consultant and coach and teacher, much less being at dinner. Still, I’m in this. Still I will speak.

Shit.

So mote it be.

 

By the Light of a Candle...

Why did I pick this myth? Why Bluebeard? It’s so creepy and strange and it has always scared me.

Why did I pick this myth?

I mean, I know how it started. It started with a client request. This great woman, who I’ve been working with for a while now... we’d worked another myth together, and she’d gone out and put the lessons into practice…  and then at the end of last year, she came to me and said “I need a new myth.”

And I thought: Don’t we all?

This one we are living in … well. I was going to say that this one sucks ass. Which is true. But while I value saying the hard truth, I also believe in setting intention carefully and that doesn’t really describe the story I want to live right now.

So I will say this instead: this myth requires a change.

Both of them do.

I mean on the one hand we have the myth of Bluebeard, in which there’s this really weird dude (with strangely colored hair, not that we judge on appearances) and this young woman, who turns him down at first, but then gets seduced by money and position into marrying this guy, even though she just knows he’s not a good guy. And for a while, she enjoys the stuff, and life isn’t so bad. But then he heads off on a trip and hands her his huge key ring and while he’s gone she uses the one key she’s not supposed to use and opens the one door she’s definitely not supposed to open and there she finds all the dead bodies of the former wives, who also didn’t listen and did look.

Plus a whole bunch of old Woody Allen films. 

Which brings us to the other hand, this myth which we living and are writing with our lives, where we have… pretty much the same shit. But at least we've opened the fucking door, no?

At the end of Bluebeard, the failed magician with the weird hair can’t hurt women anymore because he gets killed and his guts are thrown to the vultures. From the parapets.

Some mornings when I wake up and our failed magician has done 12 sick things before I’ve had coffee, this doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. Kidding! Totally kidding. In fact, I would like to go on the record and say that I am not up for scattering guts on the parapets. Or anywhere!. No gut scattering, no disemboweling, no solving violence with violence… This is a myth that requires a change.

I want a new myth.

That’s why I chose this myth. Because I want, I need a new ending to the same fucking story, and this is what I know about how to invent it together.

But now... now we are at the point in the story where we have turned the key. Now we are peeking around the corner. The candle gives a dim light, it is too early to see everything, but there is a smell in the air and something gleams in the corner. We are looking at the forbidden. It is terrifying; it is a relief. We can't see everything, but we are finally getting clear about who's house we've been living in. 

Wake up! No ketchup necessary.

A beetle woke me up this morning. I was sitting in the kitchen and it came in through the dog door. Just hit the wall suddenly, with a buzz. Like an alarm clock, only I wasn’t asleep- at least not in the usual way. I was only asleep to the animals.

When I am awake to the animals I am spending a lot of time outdoors. Those things go together. Today went to the creek for the second day in a row…the fact that I’m saying it that way makes me realize how little I have been going lately. As I walked down the winding path, two crows landed on the branch above me. This seems to happen a lot.

I choose to consider it an encouraging sign: I have been making a concerted effort to be kind to the crows ever since my friend Melanie told me about how they put out a hit on her husband and he was tailed and bombed all over town until he made an offering of Ritz crackers and ketchup with elaborate bows on his back porch.

Melanie’s husband has recently passed away. I didn’t know until I saw her at writing group a couple weeks ago and the pain of the loss was like a chord thrumming in her. Maybe that’s why I’m remembering the crows and not talking about the beetle, which I looked up later. Maybe I am remembering the crows because Melanie’s husband is dead and crows are “psychopomps.” I love this word so much. It means a guide or mentor who leads one through transformations, including death.

I was going to talk about the beetle. I even looked it up and, in picking up my field guide and learning that it is a Brochymena, I learned that it often lives in orchards, which made me feel much more kindly towards it. In picking up my field guide, I also turned my attention to the tiny details of now, to really seeing what is before me, which is how I am when I am awake to the animals, which is a kind of transformation. The crows at the creek swooped over my head, one then the other. I bowed and put a dog treat on the edge of the path and then turned and walked down the long slope toward the water. 

No One's Myth But My Own

It’s so easy to get drawn into someone else’s myth when I don’t go to the creek.

Today for instance, I watched five episodes of The Deuce, which is good writing and acting and has Maggie Gyllenhaal as a driving force and okay yes, I am in bed with a cold but still, do I need to spend five hours of my day in the 1970’s porn industry?

"No," says the creek when I get there. "No, you do not."

This is why a practice matters. A practice that returns me to myself.

I have tried so many over the years. When I began initiation, one of my teachers, the wonderful Dawn Isadora, gave me a challenge of doing my own practice every day for 40 days in a row. She said it could be of my own making, but it had to contain five elements. (Oh gods. I’m going to do my best to remember them, Dawn forgive me, it’s been a while.)

1.      Stillness

2.     Grounding

3.     Active

4.     Devotional

5.     Reflective

She said to do it 40 days in a row and then she said “And I know you dear. I know how you like to be a straight A student.” (Oh, the chagrin that that still is so much a part of me, mixed with the relief of the hearing the truth of it!) “So if you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up. Don't beat yourself up and start over at day one.”

(I have good initiators.)

And so I did 81 days in a row. Because I am an insufferable goody two shoes who sits in the front row of with her hand raised going “Oo! Oo! I know, I know!”

But it changed my life. No hyperbole. I found my own reservoir of self which is not self. I don’t know any other way to put it.

I don't do it every day any more. I do better with an assignment, which is why it's good to have a teacher, a coach, an ally in this work.

But the lesson stuck well enough that I can feel it when I begin to drift from myself. I feel it and I go to the creek, almost without thinking about it. 

Also, my dog makes me. 

Which is what happened today, in between episodes 3 and 4. I went down to the creek. I noted that we are entering the moss time of year, when the branches become coated with glowing green, and I noted that there are still snowberries clinging to the bare brown branches and I noted that the first buds of the first of the native flowers, Indian Plum, are swelling.

And just like that, I am out of anyone’s myth but my own. Just like that I can forget the porn and the president (and the fact that those words are so easily linked) and even the stories that are closer to home, about how much money there is or if I’m helping my client enough or if I’m a good enough mother, lover, daughter…

All of that fades away when I put one yellow booted foot in front of the other on the earth, beneath the mossy boughs, alongside the rain swollen waters and onto the arrow shaped boulder, where I face East and call in the words that link the magic and the mundane, and face South and call in the spark of stories – not the silly false ones, but the patterns of wisdom that endure in myth and in the human soul and which never fail to make me believe that we can do better. I face West and feel the water flowing around me, literally around the boulder at my feet, and in the earth around the creek, and in the air above the creek and also in the love that is so plentiful in my life.

And then I face North, the direction of earth, and I say, as I always do, I love you, I am yours, and feel the welcoming answer, which dispels everything but the self which is not self and which cannot be hypnotized by any story that is not my own.  

Which allows me to watch two more episodes while I cuddle my dog. And still be connected enough to myself to get up and write after. 

The Woods at Night

I walk over the bridge in the dark. It is not yet 5 o’clock but the water is only visible as patterns of light.  I almost didn’t come, I like to get here before sundown, but it is November and Seattle and some nights that’s not an option. I need to be here each day. I hear the sound of rain hitting  water and wet leaves, but not the thrashingof salmon. I hear a wild rustling in the dark bushes off the path to my right and my heart leaps into my throat, something is moving fast, the rain is flying and  sunshine the dog comes running out of the bushes. Why is it so scary to walk into the woods at night? Why do fairytales begin this way over and over?

There’s magic here. The world is lit in tones of silver and black  and the barely visible yellow of the heart shaped poplar leaves. The silhouettes of the branches are black against the slightly less black sky. In some distant neighborhood, there is a street lamp and the silver light shines like the moon down onto the wet ground and makes a path of light. It is beautiful here. There’s magic here. I have always loved walking in the dark. 

Sunshine has disappeared into the woods off to my right. As I am about to walk under the overpass, I whistle for him, and a man jumps down from underneath the bridge. Heart in my throat. It’s really a man this time. I can see the outline of him- a big bulky down coat a stocking cap. He is pure silhouette, he is pulling his coat around him and I see as I while sprung, from the corner of my eye, that perhaps he is turning away from me too. Was he startled by my whistle. I am walking fast in the other direction, not running but realizing that I am alone in the woods in the dark with this man and I don’t know where my dog is. I whistle again, knowing that this reveals my location. I look behind me even though I don’t want him to know that I’m afraid of him. He is not behind me. Sunshine is not returning. I whistle again and turn a corner in the path and look behind me again and he is not behind me and sunshine comes streaking out out of the woods to my left, wet and satisfied with himself, and I walk back over the foot bridge, and the poplar leaves are still yellow, and the water is still silver and black. Why are the words so scary at night? There is magic here. 

When I get into the car the radio is talking about the mass shooting in Texas and I think about how safe it is to be alone in the woods at night. And my dog sits next to me smiling, with salmon on his breath.

 

Queen of Swords

The world hangs in stillness. It is a tricky business becoming acquainted with one's ancestors at this time of year. This afternoon, Forest and I hung a skeleton on our front door, put a giant spiderweb among the beanpoles, a gravestone by the witch hazel. Now, it is almost midnight and this house is so quiet; it feels quieter than it ever has in all the years I've lived here. 13 years. Jupiter's orbit plus one. 

I am talking to my ancestors, I have discovered them. At camp I was given clues by the cards. A gift from my father’s mother's line: Words and insight. A woman of piercing intelligence who shapes with the cutting edge of her vision.

The queen of swords.

This card has been my significator for more than a decade. Maybe my whole life. Is this where I get it?

Before I left for camp I was talking with a new friend, a young woman- smart and  courageous, and committed to a campaign that I'm committed to also. We are working together. We are looking at the conditions of politics and the calling of our hearts, informed by our ideas and our experience and making decisions about what is next. I don't know her well but I feel as if I do and I tell her that I am a witch. She tells me that there is magic in her family and that she did a tarot reading about this campaign. She tells me the cards showed her someone who she would work with, a quick thinking woman who would be important to her.  "I think that's you," she says to me. "What was the card?" I say. The hairs on the back of my neck are standing up. I know the answer before I even ask. "Was it the queen of swords?" I say. "Yes!" she says. "It was."

The weekend after I get back from camp, I'm on the phone with my mother. She is interested in genealogy, but I never have been before. She says that she just received a letter, out of the blue. “Guess what I found out? One of your father’s mother’s ancestors, a woman, went to Oberlin College in the 1800s."

This seems unheard of, a woman in college in that time...

When my mom comes to visit she shows me a picture of this woman. Her name was Lucina. The letter said Oberlin, but on the back of the photograph it says that she was at Hillsdale. In the photograph, she is in profile. Long, very thick dark hair hangs far down her back. She proud, almost imperious. She is one of the witchiest women I’ve even seen. I hope she is with me tonight, in this still house. Something is stirring. I cast my senses around the walls, around the trees that line the property. I cast them within. It is two days after Friday the 13th. 16 days until Halloween. The veil is growing thin. 

 

What ho, Shakespearification?

“What happens to you when you die?" My son asked me this this morning.

We have travelled these waters before. (Also at breakfast! What is it with death and breakfast?) That time my mother had just come to visit and he looked at me and said out of the blue, “When is grandma going to die?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I hope not for a long time.”

He thought about that for a second and then said, “When are you going to die?”

Gulp. He was four years old.

“I don’t know, Honey. I hope not for a long, long, long time.”

He looked at me and thought some more. He was dreaming with his eyes open, looking into the middle distance, where the answers must live, because when he came back, when he focused on me again, he said “My great great great great great great great great great great great great great grandmother is mother earth. And she will never die.”

Damn.And Yup.

This morning when he asked, I said “What do you mean? Do you mean to your body?”

“Yeah,” he said. Then “No, I mean to your brain.”

“Your soul? The part of you that makes you you?” I said. He nodded. “Well, nobody really knows. But I can tell you what I believe.” He nodded again. “I believe that your soul is like a drop of water and there is a great river of life and when you die, your soul will go back to the river. And maybe then it will come back as a tree. Or a bear. Or a rock.”

(I wouldn’t mind being a rock for a while, just on some days. Especially the Twitter-heavy ones. Can you imagine? Maybe on some beautiful mountainside, all licheny and looking over long purple swells of mountains. In this fantasy, the lichen is orange, which contrasts nicely with the purple, and there is a fresh pine smell. Probably rocks don’t care about any of these things. Probably rocks just like to be touched by the wind, the rain. But while I’m in this Libra-moon-obsessed-with-colors-and-beauty incarnation, I might as well go with it, you know? Anyway…)

This morning, after I dropped that bit of custom wisdom on him, he looked far away again. But only for a moment. And then he started talking about Pokémon.

So goeth parenthood.

I don’t know. I don’t really want to be a rock. And maybe it isn’t breakfast that calleth forth the grim echoes of death. (What ho, Shakespearification? I don't know. I'm in a mood.) Maybe it's the season. The veil is getting thinner. I talked to my ancestors at the creek yesterday and again today. The cherry trees are changing. They are gold, apricot, scarlet. One robin swoops in front of me and then into the trees. Then another. A third. The winter flocking is beginning. By December they will be travelling in flocks of 40, 50, more. This, I think, is how they deal with winter, the season of death and silence. This is how they face the shortening of the days. 

 

Silver, Speed and the Six of Us

Today I drew the seven of wands- the single, burning torch of a branch, with six white branches silhouetted before the dark thicket. Walking the path and describing it as I go. Today there were six of us on the beach- three moms, three nine-year-old boys and five bicycles. Elaina didn’t bike. But I did. I, who have not ridden in more than ten years, not since I first bent my pelvis in a rollerblade crash on this very sidewalk, here, along Alki beach. I rode. I got on a green Lime bike, scanned the code with my phone and peddled after my son, who was streaking away into the gold and blue perfect fall day, who was peddling after his friend Owen, the speed demon. Shannon rode beside me, and the sidewalk was empty enough that we could ride side by side and talk. The water stretched out in long silver streaks toward the Seattle skyline, hiding the schools of Coho salmon who are, even now, making their way home to Longfellow Creek. To the tragic and insistent Duwamish River. To the herons and otters and beavers and, farther away, years away, the cedars and hemlocks and birches. We rode. We rode along, among all this, and my son’s eyes were wide and soft and his mouth was huge with laughter and later, after lunch, when Owen wiped out as he turned on a sandy spot, Forest flung his arm over his crying friend’s shoulder and said “Take a deep breath. Take a breath. You’re okay. Let’s just walk a little.” Today I rode and the years back to the time when I turned my life with that fall became water through my gills, air in my ears, silver sidewalk speeding away beneath my feet with the primal pleasure of having procreated. 

Into the Wind

Today the wind blew so hard that I had to lean forward to keep walking along the shore. There were huge white caps and the surface of the water responded to the wind like an animal raising its hackles- dark fur bristling. A friend of mine saw a whale breach out there just this week. I've never seen one but I live in hope.

Down at the creek the path is littered with tree tops from the cottonwoods and it smells like ganj. I don't mind: sometimes that is good medicine. There are so many branch tips on the path that I imagine that the tops of the trees have been blown smooth and I remember an article that my friend Lisa sent me about how this time, this now is like those rock tumblers that polish precious stones…that we are all having all of our rough edges tumbled off. I think about this. I hesitate. I like silver linings. It does feel like that. And also much worse 

 Also I missed my sweetheart today. We have this new schedule challenge and missing him hit me in the chest like a wood plank. It bent me over at the kitchen table. Brought me to tears. OK maybe that's because I was also doing my taxes…but that's the thing: it's everything, isn't it? Right now, it’s everything: the broken trees, the pushing wind, the deadly news, the jeering tweets, the dead bodies, hate and the rage and the lack of breaching whales.

Bright side: I get my son back today and I have missed him so much that my lips crumple just thinking about it. Underbelly: that means I won't have alone time with my sweetheart for two weeks, and I am lonely and brokenhearted just thinking about it. 

Sunshine stands at the edge of the bank looking at me: "Aren't we going down to the creek?" He notices when we don't greet the elements, I swear it. So I walk down to the sandbar that is new since last winter’s rains changed the shape of the shore... I remember how I felt last November, which is the rainiest month of the year, and I face east and I try to think of something to be grateful for and all I can think of is just the air that I breathe and the fact that words can express love as well as hate and the wind hits the treetops above me, sudden and loud and I am thankful for poetry and I am thankful for the impact of the truth tellers. 

I face south and I try to think of something to thank fire for and I am thankful for motherhood which is the fiercest thing I have ever known and which will never let me give up. 

I face west and try to think of something to thank water for, and I am sobbing now and that is a relief and I am thankful that I can feel how hard this all is. Numbness is so much worse. 

And then I face north. The Alder branches stir. The chandeliers of maple seeds are hanging. I am thankful for the silence that is ahead. I am thankful for the chance to reshape things that winter brings.

Ancestor Assignment

 I am sitting by the lake at British Columbia witch camp watching spotted dragonflies do an aerial tango over the water. Their wings are black-and-white and they move  better than dancers, predatory and free and beautiful. This is the second day at camp. It's hot this year, so everyone is in the cold deep waters of the lake. I am under an alder on a grassy bank, alone. I have been with people for what feels like 36 consecutive hours and I've become full.

I get full. And it's also true that one of the things that I love about witch camp is the many ways that I get full - of love, of laughing, of  magic and spell craft-and the many ways that I see my empty spaces, which out there in  my regular life can be clouded by Netflix and red wine and a different kind of time. 

On the first night of camp- which was both two nights  ago and also at least two years ago- one of the teachers said that when we come to the table of spiritual sharing, we need to come with a full plate, not be so hungry that we are feed blindly from cultures that are not ours Three years ago another friend said that one of the things that is so painful for white people is that we have been severed from our spiritual roots, from the spiritual traditions that arose out of our ancestors' relationships to the land... before the Saxon or Roman or British or any one of the rest of the fucking empires which used war to replace local spirituality with the political tool that is "organized religion."

I remember sitting in the hall when he said that, and feeling that reverberate through me to the core. That severed feeling, and the grief of it.

I'm feeling that now.

The dragonflies have been joined by damselflies which are small and periwinkle blue. I'm feeling that now because this week's camp intention is to work with the ancestors to.. wait, let me look it up. It's wordy but beautiful:

"In slow time and deep earth, we dance with ancestors near and far as we learn to decolonize and reweave cultures of compassion and justice."

We don't know how to do this though. 

A fish just leaped out of the blue-sky-reflecting water. It's the middle of the day. I am out of time's grip. Nothing is urgent and everything is precious.

We don't know how to do this, so we are calling on our ancestors, and I realize that I know very little about mine.