Yesterday afternoon, I got ready for the ritual. While Forest and his friend played Legos and then indoor soccer and then made a giant nest in the living room with every pillow in the house, I did not freak out about keeping the house perfect for my circle’s impending full moon, equinox, super-eclipse ritual arrival.
Instead I chanted over apples and dried cherries and lemon juice. I baked, which I actually hate most of the time. I am improvisational in my cooking, as with so many other things. I dislike a recipe. I want to seize the ingredients at hand, feel what is freshest, and build around that.
I haven’t always been this way. Once, I wouldn’t move forward at all without a recipe, a plan, I was tighter in the chest then, less available to sea music and the smells of the changing season.
But not anymore. And not yesterday. I peeled apples and cored and chopped them. (Some of them had worm holes in them!! I was fascinated by the tracks ofthe wild in my food! I cut the brownest parts out and kept dancing.)
I’d made this Mabon bread before. The page in the book is stained with old juice, butter, batter, years. Baking means a recipe, hence my antipathy. Yesterday, though, I was cooking magic apple bread, a bread to celebrate the whole harvest of the year and to choose what I would claim and be nourished by and carry forward into my life. That is what this moon is for… or at least, that is what I decided when I was planning the ritual for that night.. My turn to host, my turn to priestess, my turn to chop the apples so fine, and then to look for the next ingredient on the list and realize that I didn’t have enough. Not enough honey. Not enough raisons. Also, no walnuts whatsoever…
But I had purposely not consulted the recipe book while Forest and I were out and about that morning. Even though I brought it in the car, I did not look at the ingredients. The celebration of harvest just didn’t feel to me like going out and buying stuff at Met Market. It felt like turning to my very full shelves, to my many glass jars of grains and nuts, dried fruits and flours. It felt like making something of what I have already gathered.
So I went a little wild. This is what I am called to. The wild. And the wild told me to substitute fig butter and raspberry jam for the honey. Almonds for the walnuts, dried cherries when I only had half as many raisins as it said. And why don’t I throw in some gluten free flour mix, instead of wheat, but maybe cut it with half almond flour…
If you are a baker, you are no doubt cringing. Baking is like chemistry. Precise. You experiment until you balance the starch and the leavening and the sugars and then you replicate replicate replicate..
(I’m sorry, did you say something? I was falling asleep for a minute there.)
Boring. And not witchy! So I put in what I had and I hoped and while I was at it, I added some magic. As I folded in the dried cherries and the apples, I added a thank you for all the wisdom of my teachers, the ones who have gathered life’s energy and made it nourishing and concentrated. I put in some lemon juice for the bitter parts, and said thank you again with as much sincerity as I could muster. I added what honey I had and thanked the bees.
Then I put the batter, which looked a little goopy to tell the truth, into two greased pans and went for a walk.
I know! You don’t leave while baking. But Forest’s friend’s mom had come by to spell me so that I could get in a walk to the creek, and I had only an hour. So I asked her to listen for the timer, put on my green tennis shoes and bailed.
Down at the creek, I could feel the season changing. The smell of the leaves was different. I walked down the very green meadow hill, past Acer, through the tunnel of vine maples and over the salmon bridge. All the way down the path, the clear water tumbled over rocks and falls to my right, and the alders and cottonwoods whispered overhead. All around was green, brown and silver, the white globes of snowberries, the late afternoon light.
I got to the second bridge, and dropped in. I never know where I’m going to do my work down there. I have so many sacred, special places tucked into the bends: this bridge or that, the boulder, the two beaches, the log I stand on, or the one I sit under.
But yesterday it was the second bridge, and I began to open to the elements and open my heart to the harvest and I started calling in all that this year has brought me. All the claiming of my intuition, the learning to write every day and hold a bright vision, and lighting up with story, and facilitating a room with flow and stand and grow strong in the calming power of the wild. I called all that in and then I began to ask, because I need a job. I need a good, stable, job with a team of people who are creative badasses and who welcome the creative badass in me. I want this like I want to breathe hard going up a hill and gasp when I jump in cold water and shiver with the touch of the sun on my bare skin. I want this like I want to stand up in the morning, and feel the earth pushing back.
I don’t know if holding a vision and lighting a story and facilitating a room and being a creative badass is a job.
But yesterday, on the bridge, I willed that it shall be. And I whispered into center, with all the ache and fear that is so much a part of looking for a job, or a lover, or a home, or anyplace to belong more, I felt all that ache and fear and I whispered into center “I need to feel your support. Give me the gift of the harvest, of this year’s worth of work. Help me. Please.”
I closed the circle and checked the time. Yes, if I left now, I’d be back within the hour.
Four minutes later, I reached the end of the path and walked out of the vine maples and into the meadow and I stopped. I stopped under Acer and pulled out my phone and checked my email.
At the exact moment I was on the bridge, I had received a message that I’ll be teaching at California Witch Camp again this year. With a whole passel of people who I love love love.
Which propelled me up the hill, building in my chest so that I was whooping out loud by the time I got to the top.
Which propelled me the rest of the way home. And it was as I was coming up the last alley that it suddenly occurred to me that the apple bread might be burnt. But give a shit, I most certainly did not.
It was burnt. Burnt all over, and the house smelled all bad toasty and not appley good like I meant it to.
Fuck it, I thought. Who needs a recipe?
So I made soup.