Monthly Archives: October 2005

Sudden Turns and Slow Approaches

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I am now not only by choice but by necessity nested in my lovely house by the bay. October has passed by in a blur of strong emotions punctuated by late-night drives, my car full of belongings, out the winding road to the coast. It has been exhausting, and even now with everything more or less in place, I spend a lot of time sitting around in shock. Not writing, not reading, not playing music, just waiting it out until I feel like I’m back riding the waves rather than being slammed by the surf.

Making such a radical shift in my life has caused my hindsight to kick into hyperactive gear. Every dream I’ve had over the past several months has been gone over with a fine-tooth comb for prescient clues. I find myself analyzing past events and wondering, “Did I know it then? Was I preparing? Did I see it coming?” Eventually I wind up right at the corner of Paradox and Give-it-up, and then I know it’s time to stop thinking and start working at something — anything. No matter how long and how consciously we prepare for a transition, the moment of change itself is startling. And even when change catches us unprepared, happening so suddenly it takes our breath away, hindsight will always manage to find a trail of breadcrumbs, subtle signs and auguries, somewhere behind us.

My move requires of me another 20-30 minutes of driving each way no matter where I’m going. In any other setting this would kick me over the edge into a general hatred of humankind, but instead this drive mostly relaxes me. In all those miles I do not have to go through a single stoplight, and the road runs through some of the most gorgeous coastal valleys and foothills imaginable. I drive twice a day through a constantly changing dreamscape of color and light.

On mornings when I have to take Jojo to school, we leave just as the sun rises over the eastern hills. The mornings have often been clear and balmy here on the coast, and the view down the hill towards the bay is always breathtaking. With no breeze to speak of, I let Vince run around the “dog park” as I walk briskly and watch the bay lighten up, a palette of soft grays turning to pastels, then we pile into the car, plug in the XM radio (my big splurge to make me feel better — it’s working), and head inland.

In conversation I catch myself saying “home” when referring to both houses, our family home in Sebastopol and my new home here on the coast. Sometimes this feels awkward and makes me pause. I’m amazed at the speed with which I’ve transferred myself body and soul to this new place. At the same time, there is a familiarity with the old place borne out of 17 years of residence. Surely that is still home of a sort? My feelings about this are all very new and raw, not settled at all. As much as I can I am enjoying the process, and taking the time to learn what is most important to me in a home.

Two nights ago I brought a bunch of altar supplies out here with me. It is Samhain, the Days of the Dead, and I felt the need arise as it always does around this time of year to put up an altar to my ancestors. This year’s model is really stripped down — the tiny gold thimble my great-grandmother left me in its woven basket, a favorite bracelet from my mother-in-law, a locket from one grandmother, and a ring from another. A few pictures of dead relatives, my mini-dead-altar made from some of Raven Moonshadow’s old belongings, a candle, a bunch of sage.

On the porch outside sits a jack-o-lantern Jojo and I carved, overlooking the street like a rag-tag beacon. After setting up my altar I went outside and lit the pumpkin, and its newly bright eyes looked intently beyond the Western gates, past the mouth of the harbor and into the wide ocean beyond. I know I wrote something at Beltane about that moment when the force of the holiday hits me. Lighting the jack-o-lantern for the first time was when Samhain really hit me this year.

There’s something about celebrating the thinning of the veils out at the edge of the water — it doesn’t feel as land-based as it used to. Out here, the precarious nature of all our inland assumptions about stability and permanence are easily seen. When the ancestors arrive, it’s not through the trees or up from the ground. They come in like a storm front directly from the Otherworld, and that world is as close as the water at my feet.

Now that I am living on my own the ancestors have different things to tell me. It’s as though for so many years while I was raising children, they’d take one look at me and decide amongst themselves, “I think she needs a transmission of that special meatloaf recipe I always used to cook,” or other thoughts of that nature. Now that my mothering time amounts to no more than a few hours per week, they’re coming to me after the kitchen’s been cleaned up and they’re ready to crack open their secret stash of bourbon. It’s a whole new relationship, and it hit me full-on as I lit the pumpkin on my porch a couple nights ago. It takes some getting used to: they’ve been around a whole lot and I am trying to take it all in as quickly as it’s coming to me.

In a couple days we will all board a plane to Minneapolis and go help celebrate with my dear friend Donald Engstrom and his lovely betrothed Mark as they get handfasted. It will be a multi-layered performance art experience over several days and many different venues. The Minneapolis hostel will be full of many close friends and talented witches, and their kids and my kids will all have a blast I’m sure. I can’t think of a more stunning group of folks to witness the turning of the wheel with, or another man to whom I so wholeheartedly wish that all good things might come. And as the rains start to soften this land, blunting the burrs and tamping down the dust, may we all breathe deep of the fresh clean air of Samhain. The old year is dead. Long live the dead!

Hands

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Several months ago, my friend Rabbit emailed me while I was in Wales, attending my sister’s birth. He asked me to write something about my hands. Tonight, cleaning out my email caches, I found my reply. I think it is worthy of posting, so here it is:

My hands aim more directly now. I could say it is from aikido practice, where there is constant observation of whether your hands are pointing where your body is pointing, and training them to be in alignment. But I think it is most likely also from that wonderful territory known as middle age. Middle age for a woman is a tremendously freeing landscape, where you’ve managed to escape the expectations placed on younger women, but have not yet been relegated to the irrelevancy of old age. You can still surprise people, and in fact often do, especially with self-assuredness and the sudden realization (on their part) that you know more, perceive more, about the situation than they do. You can go from unnoticed in one minute to an ultimate authority in the next. Maybe my hands led me there, or maybe their straightforwardness is a result of this happy accumulation of, as we used to say in the 80s, power.

An example: I reach across the couch to place my hand on my sister’s pregnant belly, feeling her baby move. I may do it with hesitancy, or uncertainty, or maybe just on a whim. But my hand does it deliberately, purposefully, and comes away with knowledge that the rest of me has to leap forward to catch. It’s exhilarating, keeping up with my hands these days, a little like having my super-cape in my back pocket, waiting for the inevitable phone booth transformation.

I have also started wearing rings on my fingers. As a pianist and guitarist, my hands have always been the part of me that is an instrument, and as I searched for clarity of expression through them I also kept them mostly free of ornament. Suddenly, some weeks ago, I decided to try silver rings of various shapes on as many fingers as I could fill and still like the effect. I’ve got just three of the ten occupied so far, but I’ll only wear ones that strike my fancy. I’ve got one that’s a piscean double spiral, joined at the middle, another that is a slim band of scrollwork bordered by two solid lines, and yet another that holds a rounded garnet in a bed of vines.

What I notice today is that my hands are happy, and work themselves into shapes I hadn’t considered before. There’s a gracefulness about them that works nicely with their newfound authority. I enjoy watching my hands, wondering how they will surprise me next. In fact, it is a surprise to find I have anything notable to say about my hands at all, but there it is. Surprising, and joyful.