Take Me Back to the Country

Some days, city life can be completely exhausting.  Yes, everything seems to be within reach at all hours of the day, but then again, it feels as if everything is always awake…nothing ever rests.  I think I feel this even more when autumn envelops the city around me.

This week, Mabon almost seemed to sneak up on me.  Work has been ‘hectic’ to say the least.  I feel as though I am constantly chasing my tail or cleaning up the messes that others make.  My celebration was a quiet and simple one.  I sat in the woods, Friz at my side with my cauldron blazing, a crusty piece of homemade bread, and a small glass of mulled wine.  I fed the fire with the leftovers of summer…and for the first time all week, I breathed.  I could feel my spirit calming as I lingered in the smoke of leaves and grass and just a small amount of dragon’s blood (I have always used dragon’s blood resin to enhance any magickal working).

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I listened, almost mesmerized, to the trees singing as they started the process of releasing their leaves.  The songs were a bit melancholy, but also rang with the sound of relief.  Those wonderful trees reminded me that there was no reason to hold onto to anything that was no longer of any use.  For me, this Mabon was a time for releasing those things that weighed me down…words spat out in hatred, the memories that had left too many scars to count, fears that really never were realized.

This year has been a year of cleaning, clearing, and creating.  It all started with my body.  I knew that my health had gotten worse.  In May, I began cleaning my body up and out.  I eliminated those things which were no longer beneficial and began eating healthier and exercising.  To date, I am down 62 pounds and my doctor says I am healthier than I have been in a long time.  I also started clearing out my spirit.  It was time to take those memories and any baggage that I was holding onto and clear it out.  I would keep those memories that were dear to me…those which stirred good and wonderful thoughts and emotions.  As the year has moved forward, I have also begun to create things.  I have been painting and crafting, using my hands to make things that spoke beautiful and magickal things to me.  These things may never mean anything to anyone else, but that doesn’t matter.  They speak to my spirit.

This time of year is when I dream more.  My dreams are vivid, wild, carefree….but they also take me places that are close to my heart.  Last week, I had a dream about being back home.  I was running through the woods with my grandma.  Every animal I had ever had in my life was running alongside us.  My partner said that I woke him up laughing so hard that he thought that I had possibly gone off the deep end.

A friend who does a lot of hunting (this is how he gets his meat) gave me some squirrels that he had hunted last week.  I could feel my grandma behind me as I wondered what I would do with them.  I decided that I would treat the household to a pot of my grandma’s squirrel dumplings.  I gave them the warning that ma always gave me before heading to granny’s house…”Whatever you do, don’t look in the pot.”

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I know that many don’t care for squirrel, or that some are vegan or vegetarian, but I am including my grandma’s recipe for those who might enjoy a bit of my history.

Squirrel Dumplings

Ingredients:

2 – 3 squirrels
1 1/2 qt. water
1/2 cup. shortening
1 tbsp. salt
2 cups. flour
1 cup. chicken broth, cooled
1 tsp. black pepper
Directions:
Clean and cut up the squirrels and cook in water, salt and shortening until tender.  Remove from broth, cool and remove bones.

To make dumplings:

Combine flour, 1 teaspoon salt and cooled broth. Mix well. Roll out on floured surface until thin. Cut in strips about 2 inches long. Return to boiling broth with black pepper. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Add squirrel meat and serve hot.

Nobody looked in that pot that night, but they loved the flavor of those dumplings.  You would have thought that I had made Prime Rib.  My grandma was just a simple country woman.  She grew up living off of the land and she taught us that same way of life.

I was talking to our roommate the other night about how technologically advanced society is now.  We agreed that sometimes that can be detrimental.  How many times have you yourself been buried in a phone or computer, only to ignore those people and animals around you?  Friz has become quite insistent in his senior years.  If he thinks I have been on my phone or IPad for too long, he climbs on my chest looks me in the eye and starts to paw at that mechanical creature interfering with his time with me…or he goes and lies down on my shoes and breathes (or should I say huffs really loudly).  This is his way of telling me that he wants to go to the woods.

This morning, I went to the woods…by myself.  It was raining and I didn’t want Friz to have to deal with being cold and wet.  Sometimes there is something so freeing about walking in the rain…especially when it feels like it is rinsing away everything that clogs up the spirit.  By the time I had gotten to my go-to spot in the woods, the clouds were just barely spitting.  I threw my behind onto that wet ground like it was an old comfortable mattress and lifted my eyes to the trees once again.  I could hear the familiar, abrasive call of an old friend.  I looked into the trees and saw Mama Crow.  She was having her own little party in those trees.  I started to laugh and I could hear her croaky voice laughing along with me.

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It made me realize that sometimes…even in the midst of the city, you can find refuge, comfort, and peace…and if it takes travelling back in time through your dreams…even better.

Next week, I am heading to Tennessee with a group of friends.  Squirrel dumplings might just be a good option for one of our meals.  We can chase it with a shot of blackberry moonshine and a few stories and laughter.

Blessed Be!

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When the Song Seems a Bit Off Key

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It seems like it has been a while since I have sat down to write.  Life has its way of bulldozing us over every once in a while.   I shared with you that I was having some gut issues…well, one emergency room visit and multiple xrays and ultrasounds and scopes later, I find out that there are ulcers raring their nasty little heads.  While everything is fairly calm now due to more changes in the way I eat and the way I handle stress, life still runs headfirst over us.

I am now up to 23 accounts at work and have inherited two difficult customers.  These are the type of customers who expect your system to be able to deliver exactly what they want.  It doesn’t seem to matter what the system is capable of.  I have had to bring out the very direct and stern Weathered Wiseman on more than one occasion with them.  Let’s add to this more hours to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.  When I get home lately, I just want to pass out and not think.

To compound matters, I live with another fire sign and a water sign.  The partner (water sign) has been very needy…looking for approval, needing to be coddled and have his ego stroked and the fire sign (the roomie) has been like sandpaper, rubbing me wrong in the worst possible way.

sandpaper

I have needed time by myself more than anything.  I have needed to isolate myself, but it seems when the chance arises that something seems to get in the way.  On Wednesday night of last week, I managed to  find a few moments to escape to the woods.  I took very little with me and Friz and I practically ran for the covering of trees.  We made ourselves comfortable, and I lit a couple of candles.

My self-soothing method has always been music.  When I feel stressed or lost or overwhelmed, I normally sing or hum to myself.  The moment I feel it rising in my throat, I can normally feel a calmness wash over me.  I thought that this evening might be the same.  I opened my mouth, breathed in deep and felt it rise from my chest and then my throat.  It was the ugliest, croakiest sound I have ever heard.  I have heard cats yowling that sounded more like music.

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It has to be a fluke.  I breathed in and let that horrid sound lurch forth once more.  I know because of the ulcers that I have been vomiting quite a bit.  I know that the acid can do a number on the esophagus….but what had it done to my voice.  Thinking back, people have been saying that I am not speaking as loudly or clearly as I have before.

Now, here is where ego kicks in.  Singing has always been a part of me.  I grew up singing on my grandma’s knee.  I remember the excitement in her eyes the first time she attended my performance with a cabaret group in New York.  I remember when walked into a studio in Nashville to add my vocals to a demo recording…my first vocal performance in a television commercial.  Not only had singing been a major part of my life…at one time it paid the bills.

I am not one of those people who can’t deal with the reality that things change with age, but I also know that when everything else seemed to fail, my grandmother had been able to keep her singing voice until the day she died.  Even when her hearing completely left her, she could feel what the pitch of a note should be as it rose from her throat and it still came out beautifully.

As all of this rushed over me on Wednesday night in the woods, I completely lost it.  A part of myself that I had always been able to rely on was dying….fading into history.  As the tears came, Friz leaned up to lick my cheek…maybe out of compassion…maybe just to taste the salt.  I gathered him up and walked back to the condo feeling defeated.  I slept restlessly that night…just as I have for the nights leading up to today.

I got up fairly early this morning and drove to our local metaphysical bookstore.  When I finished looking through some of the newer arrivals, I got in the car and instead of making a left out of the parking lot to go home, I turned to the right.  After driving for about ten minutes, I came upon a sign for the “Old Roswell City Ruins.”  This isn’t something that one normally sees in Atlanta, so I turned in the direction the sign pointed me.  It turns out that it is actually the ruins of an old mill with a covered bridge and falls and walking trails….an utterly beautiful place.

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I explored every area of those woods and water and trails.  I had walked and smelled and touched every piece of nature around me…an area abandoned long ago, but still kept very much alive.  As I climbed the trail to the falls, I could feel the breeze calling to me.  It was beckoning for me to become a part of it.  I sat on some rocks at the edge of the dam and looked up.  There perched on a tree next to me was a crow.  I sat quietly and listened as she cawed.  The sound blistered my eardrum, but was beautiful none the less.  As she raised her voice…however tuneless and harsh it may sound…it was none the less magical.

I was reminded of a story I had heard as a child:

Rainbow Crow

It was so cold. Snow fell constantly, and ice formed over all the waters. The animals had never seen snow before. At first, it was a novelty, something to play in. But the cold increased tenfold, and they began to worry. The little animals were being buried in the snow drifts and the larger animals could hardly walk because the snow was so deep. Soon, all would perish if something were not done.

“We must send a messenger to Kijiamuh Ka’ong, the Creator Who Creates By Thinking What Will Be,” said Wise Owl. “We must ask him to think the world warm again so that Spirit Snow will leave us in peace.”

The animals were pleased with this plan. They began to debate among themselves, trying to decide who to send up to the Creator. Wise Owl could not see well during the daylight, so he could not go. Coyote was easily distracted and like playing tricks, so he could not be trusted. Turtle was steady and stable, but he crawled too slowly. Finally, Rainbow Crow, the most beautiful of all the birds with shimmering feathers of rainbow hues and an enchanting singing voice, was chosen to go to Kijiamuh Ka’ong.

It was an arduous journey, three days up and up into the heavens, passed the trees and clouds, beyond the sun and the moon, and even above all the stars. He was buffeted by winds and had no place to rest, but he carried bravely on until he reached Heaven. When Rainbow Crow reached the Holy Place, he called out to the Creator, but received no answer. The Creator was too busy thinking up what would be to notice even the most beautiful of birds. So Rainbow Crow began to sing his most beautiful song.

The Creator was drawn from his thoughts by the lovely sound, and came to see which bird was making it. He greeted Rainbow Crow kindly and asked what gift he could give the noble bird in exchange for his song. Rainbow Crow asked the Creator to un-think the snow, so that the animals of Earth would not be buried and freeze to death. But the Creator told Rainbow Crow that the snow and the ice had spirits of their own and could not be destroyed.

“What shall we do then?” asked the Rainbow Crow. “We will all freeze or smother under the snow.”

“You will not freeze,” the Creator reassured him, “For I will think of Fire, something that will warm all creatures during the cold times.”

The Creator stuck a stick into the blazing hot sun. The end blazed with a bright, glowing fire which burned brightly and gave off heat. “This is Fire,” he told Rainbow Crow, handing him the cool end of the stick. “You must hurry to Earth as fast as you can fly before the stick burns up.”

Rainbow Crow nodded his thanks to the Creator and flew as fast as he could go. It was a three-day trip to Heaven, and he was worried that the Fire would burn out before he reached the Earth. The stick was large and heavy, but the fire kept Rainbow Crow warm as he descended from Heaven down to the bright path of the stars. Then the Fire grew hot as it came closer to Rainbow Crows feathers. As he flew passed the Sun, his tail caught on fire, turning the shimmering beautiful feathers black. By the time he flew passed the Moon, his whole body was black with soot from the hot Fire. When he plunged into the Sky and flew through the clouds, the smoke got into his throat, strangling his beautiful singing voice.

By the time Rainbow Crow landed among the freezing-cold animals of Earth, he was black as tar and could only Caw instead of sing. He delivered the fire to the animals, and they melted the snow and warmed themselves, rescuing the littlest animals from the snow drifts where they lay buried.

It was a time of rejoicing, for Tindeh – Fire – had come to Earth. But Rainbow Crow sat apart, saddened by his dull, ugly feathers and his rasping voice. Then he felt the touch of wind on his face. He looked up and saw the Creator Who Creates By Thinking What Will Be walking toward him.

“Do not be sad, Rainbow Crow,” the Creator said. “All animals will honor you for the sacrifice you made for them. And when the people come, they will not hunt you, for I have made your flesh taste of smoke so that it is no good to eat and your black feathers and hoarse voice will prevent man from putting you into a cage to sing for him. You will be free.”

Then the Creator pointed to Rainbow Crow’s black feathers. Before his eyes, Rainbow Crow saw the dull feathers become shiny and inside each one, he could see all the colors of the rainbow. “This will remind everyone who sees you of the service you have been to your people,” he said, “and the sacrifice you made that saved them all.”

And so shall it ever be.

Crow is surrounded by magick, unseen forces and spiritual strength. If crow enters your life, get out of your familiar nest, look beyond your present range of vision, listen to the messages in its caw and act accordingly.

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I would love to finish this writing with the news that my voice rang forth strong and beautiful in song as I sat there communing with the crow…but it didn’t.  My voice was just as raspy and hoarse as it was on that dark Wednesday evening.  My voice may never be the same….it could come back stronger or it could stay brash and ragged , but there is no less magick there.

What is a lesson I have had to learn from this?  Magick isn’t always going to be pretty.  It is something that is fluid and constantly changing.  Just like that water moving over the falls today…as long as it is moving and changing, it will never grow stagnant…much like us.

Blessed Be!

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