The stillness of summer has descended. When the days get hot, there is a quiet, and an unmoving that comes over everything: the dry ferns, the barely moving seedheads.
This is like winter. The seasons come in pairs. Summer and winter are the height and the depth. Fall and spring are the change.
It's nice to have a larger pattern to hold my life.
I thought about this this morning when I saw a beautiful picture of alabyrinth on my friends friend Teri's Facebook feed. It's been a long time since I've walked a labyrinth.… well, a long time for me... More than a year.
I learned about labyrinths when I started going to Diana's Grove Mystery School. It was Cynthea and Patricia who taught me that I could use a labyrinth as a way to explore the kind of the questions that I can't answer alone.
"Ask the question as you walk in," they taught. "Ask it over and over. Walk slowly. Place your feet deliberately. Breathe. And ask again."
That's probably not exactly how they said it, but that's what I took, and have taken over and over again in the more than a decade since then.. since I first walked a labyrinth asking a question. The labyrinth was mowed into a meadow of brown waist high grass, which waved in the noon sun.
Stillness. Summer. Surrounded by elms and oaks full of napping fireflies.
All the way in, I was walking and whispering, desperately, "How can I serve?" "How can I serve?"
I was not calm, I was not breathing slowly and placing my feet deliberately. I was panicked, my heart thumping. I was 27 years old and I felt lost without the answer to that question.
I got to the center of the labyrinth, surrounded by so much open space, and with my eyes wide open I was flooded with the feeling of vertigo as if I were standing at the edge of a very tall cliff, teetering, unable to right myself, about to fall, and I heard a voice say "priestess."
This actually made me feel less calm, not more.
Two days after I walked the labyrinth, my affinity group did a ritual. The affinity group is the five or six people that you meet with every afternoon, to talk about how camp is going, to integrate all the deep work that happens.
(My phone just transcribed "affinity group" as "sanity group." sometimes the phone get's it right. If it's a good group, it helps you stay sane in the midst of vulnerable and sometimes scary work. There's usually laughing, and crying, and deep silences and the kind of Aha! moments you get from talking to people who are listening with their souls.)
This was a good affinity group.
And we decided that for our ritual, we would witness and vision for each other. We cast the circle and called in air and earth and fire and water and spirit. It was dusk, and we were in a gravelly clearing, close to the creek, surrounded by tall river trees, and early summer flowers: purple salvia maybe, and yellow ones too, low to the ground and ready for heat. But the center of the clearing was solid with river rocks, the ones peculiar to Ozark Mountain Missouri. The rocks are called chert, and they are golden, and amber, and white, and they move beneath your feet with restless edges.
One by one, we each stepped into the center and let the rest of the circle put their hands on our shoulders or necks, backs or arms. We grounded and let the silence fill us and then the silence itself was filled slowly filled our voices and with images and words.
And I remember, as clearly as if it had happened this morning, that when I stepped into the center of the circle, there was a long pause, and then I heard someone say "It is like you are The Fool, the Tarot card. "
"Yes," said a second voice. "You are standing at the edge of a cliff."
"There are daisies at your feet, far below," said a third voice. "But you can't see them."
They went on and on.
I hadn't told anyone about what happened at the center of the labyrinth, save one teacher, and then only in confidential, ritual space. It felt way too self-important to say that I heard the word "priestess" spoken to me.
It's taken me 18 years to feel capable of claiming that word. It's just occurring to me now as I write this, maybe that's the elixir I wrote about a couple days ago.
This afternoon, after I saw the labyrinth picture, I went into my office to prepare for California Witchcamp. Ravyn Stanfield and I are teaching a class on writing your own initiation story. This morning, I worked on the the piece that will culminate the class, the participants' "Declaration of Incandescence." They will discover and tell the story of their own journey to find the elixir, and the return.
But my office isn't really an office. It is more of a temple, now. There, I am surrounded by the invisible and visible evidence of 18 years of learning what I didn't know I was learning. How to be a priestess.
This is my work. This is my life. This, along with the seasons and the labyrinths I find, this is the pattern that holds me.