Finding Your Strength

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It seems like an eternity since I have sat down to write.  Life has a way of picking us up by the scruff of the neck sometimes and shaking us like a dazed puppy.  Since January, I have had two strokes, my mom has been hospitalized for over a month, and our oldest cat TeeTee is preparing for her journey into the summerlands.

I hate to admit it, but in the midst of everything that has happened, magick tended to be done in hindsight…an afterthought at first to the situation at hand.  There were days after the strokes that I would find myself just sitting…staring out of windows…more conscious of the drooping or the lack of strength on my left side.  Funny, the doctor says that I have had ‘mini strokes.’  In talking to a friend of mine and through reading, I have found out that a stroke is a stroke.  There are no minis or maxis.

Through the challenges of recuperation, there were, constantly in the back of my mind, visions of my great grandma’s sister.  We called her Aunt Carrie.  I often wish I had gotten to know her before the strokes.  She was a beautiful woman always dressed to the nines, very passionate and eloquent from what I was told.  She was a teacher.  When I got to know her, she had been ravaged by stroke after stroke.  They had rendered her bed-ridden, only able to mouth and garble words, and only able to barely motion.

I lived in a world of not feeling like myself, fear of being that shell of a person I once was…but it was in the words of friends and family that I found the strength to push myself.  I found out from my mother that Aunt Carrie was given the opportunity to go through therapy but chose not to.  Her marriage was bad, her husband used to beat her.  She hoped for death but was given an existence with a husband riddled with guilt who now decided that he needed to try to make up for the earlier hell she had to suffer through.

I determined that I would not recreate that scenario for myself.  I had many friends that not only supported me through my healing but also pushed me.  They knew there was more fight in me than I was showing.  They also realized that I had pushed my magick to the sidelines.  Working side by side with them and my doctor, I used magick and medicine toward healing.  I did the therapies…I did the dreamwork.  I utilized stones, crystals and visualization.  I found myself in a good place.  My doctor had even told me that I had made progress that she wouldn’t have expected until the six month mark.

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I built a moss and fae garden to keep me close to the earth at all times…wear hematite for grounding.  Things were looking better daily.  I began to breathe again.

Then we noticed that our older cat TeeTee was losing weight and throwing up more.  We took her to the vet for bloodwork and xrays.  The bloodwork looked ok, but when they pulled up the xrays, I breathed in sharp.  I worked at a veterinarian’s office for ten years.  I had learned to read xrays.  When I saw the large fibrous mass staring back at me, I knew immediately that it wasn’t good.  We discussed options with the vet and came to the conclusion that as long as she wasn’t in pain and seemed to have a decent amount of energy that we would do whatever was needed to keep her happy.  We have blended the stinkiest of foods, hand-fed her, given extra attention…and now as I type this,  we know that it won’t be much longer.

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We know that we have given her the best life she could have.  From a wild, white feral kitten to a spoiled content house cat, she has been cuddled, pampered, catered to, and loved with complete abandon.  Where is the strength we pull on here? The knowledge that she will rest and walk side by side with Bastet…back with the energy and magick she came from.  We also know that they truly never completely leave your heart and side.

When you think you can’t handle anymore…the flood gates tend to open.  Toward the middle of April, I got a call from my aunt.  My mom had been admitted to the hospital that past Saturday.  No one wanted to worry me (give me another stroke) so they didn’t let me know.  My aunt was calling, however, to tell me that my mom had to be put on a ventilator and that the doctor had suggested calling the family in.  We left immediately for North Carolina.  My partner and I sat by her bedside for five days straight.  They had induced a coma…hoping that the rest would do its part in the healing.

My mom has always had a strong faith and believed in energies and such (with our family history, how could she not).  I had witches from all over sending healing and energy toward her.  My brother, who thinks my mom is more along the lines of a conservative christian, asked how I think Ma would feel knowing all those witches were sending her healing.  My aunt walked into the room behind him and whispered in his ear, “I think she would be completely fine with it.” With that comment, she looked at me and gave a wink and kissed the air.

In the process of that hospital stay, my mom coded not once, but three different times.  She always made her way back though.  She is a fighter.  She has always been the bedrock of our family.  I knew that if anything happened to her, that would fall to me.  My first visit, I whispered to her, “I am not strong enough for this yet.” I have no doubt that she heard me.

It has been a long, hard battle but she is now awake, aware, winking, smiling, and breathing air and not on oxygen.  They have decreased the size of the trach opening and have moved the feeding tube from her nose to her stomach.  She is now going through therapy and trying to mouth words.

I feel like in the midst of all of these things happening around me, that I have lived any spare time I have beside ponds, in woods, and walking mountains.  On my last trip to Red Top Mountain, I looked forward at the path ahead.  It was crooked, scattered with rock, muddy in places, but oh so calming and lush.  An old bible verse sprang to my mind, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from where my help comes.”

There is an area hewn into the rock on Red Top…I crawled into that cubby and lay my head back.  I woke up an hour later after the most peaceful sleep I have had in months.  Life is going to give us twists and turns, scratches, bruises, pain…and yes, even death.  I have found though that I do have the strength to face each one.  It doesn’t mean it isn’t going to hurt or that there won’t be loss or challenges, it means that I can survive.  I can come out of it stronger…the armor might be a bit dirty or scuffed and even broken in places, but I have the choice of getting up and continuing on, or falling back and dying.

I walked out into the courtyard yesterday after work.  I finally gave up and just started leaving food for the birds, squirrels and anything else that might be hungry out there.  Mama Crow was perched on the wall eating peanuts.  She looked straight at me and gave me her comforting ‘Graaaaaaaackkk’

I will keep getting up as long as I am able.

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Dogs, Pickups and Trust Falls

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How I have longed for the weekend this week.  I found myself encompassed by everyone’s mini-crises but mine throughout the work-week.  I know that Mercury is in retrograde and all that good stuff….but I have come to realize that people, in and of themselves, thrive on drama.  The most incredulous I encountered this past week was a co-worker sitting in her cube crying because one of her false eyelashes fell into her coffee.  I thought there may be more to it than that and asked her if everything else was alright.  In her biggest “I Love Lucy” Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!  She cried out that everything else was fine, she just didn’t want to go around with one eyelash on.  When I suggested that she take the other one off and asked if she carried mascara, you would have thought I saved the world.  Lord and Lady….I need to spend days…weeks in the woods.

It has been so much more than a yearning for the weekend for me though.  I need time.  I need space.  I need to feel the breeze pushing me from behind, the sun pulling me forward, and nature singing me to sleep.  I will get the time and space soon enough.  My partner is taking a trip back home to South Dakota for a week.  Those times are wonderful for us.  They give us time to miss each other…to think about the things that we enjoy about each other.  In a way, it can be more romantic for us than date night.

The yearning I am feeling is the type of hunger that makes you throw camping gear into the back of a pickup, put your dog in the front seat, load your backpack with your witchy goods and drive into the Tennessee hills until you can’t see civilization.  I want to get lost in Nature and rely on her for all that I need.  I want to curl up in the lap of the Goddess and feel that motherly nurturing…but also want to roam the land as the stag Lord, bellowing at the top of my lungs so that those within earshot feel my strength.

I am in need of Adventure.

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I can hear those mountains calling to me…just as they first called to me fifteen years ago.  I was living in Knoxville Tennessee at the time.  I was in school full time, working full time, and feeling completely lost.  I rarely got any time to myself and days off were scarce, but I happened to have one Saturday with absolutely nothing to do.  One of my school mates had agreed to keep my aussie at her farm so that she and I could be together.  The farm was only a ten minute drive from the apartments I was living in, so it worked out wonderfully.  That Saturday, I threw some sandwiches and sodas in a cooler, put it in the back of my old Ford Ranger, and stopped off to get my dog.  She bounded into the seat beside me sensing what was stirring in my craw.

We just started driving.  The windows were down and I could feel the breeze pulling me deeper into those Tennessee Hills.  We ended up somewhere outside of Sevierville in an area that was some sort of State Park/camping area.  I got out and Patches came bounding out behind me.  She was one of the best herding dogs I ever had, watched me like a hawk and did exactly what I asked her to do.  We both climbed onto the tailgate of that old pickup.  I opened the cooler and dished some of the cool water in my hand.  Patches lapped at it until she had her fill.  We ate sandwiches ( I would have a bite, then she would…this is the way we always did it).  I washed out one of the coke bottles in the lake nearby and filled it with the water from the cooler and we both started up the mountain.  To be that skinny and in shape again…LOL! We trekked through the trees and trails…Patches was so excited.  She had a grin that always indicated to me that nothing in the world could be more fulfilling.

We walked a little slower as we came to an area with a beautiful view of the lake.  I sat down on a fallen tree and there was my dog sitting right beside me.  She was the first animal who truly had laid claim to my heart.  She was mine and I was hers.  She was fearless (well, except for thunderstorms) and she was the one who taught me to let my senses lead me.  She is the one who taught me that some of the best sleep happened in the woods with a dog next to you.  To Patches….everything seemed new.  She romped and jumped and danced at everything.  Her favorite thing of all times was to play tag in the back pasture.  Many days I would find myself running  back and forth…all for the entertainment of that blue merled sweetheart.

Patches taught me many things.  She taught me how to walk fearlessly toward anything new.  She taught me to always run toward those things that showed promise.  She taught me to be a fierce friend…and on this day, she taught me that you could always climb mountains as long as you had momentum behind you.  She also taught me something else that day…probably the most valuable lesson I have ever learned.  I had turned my back for a minute and Patches had run up the ridge behind us.  I turned around and she was leaping toward me.  There was three feet between me and the edge of that mountain.  There was no doubt in her mind that I would catch her…and there was nothing else for me to do.  I had to catch her.  I reached into mid-air and grabbed her and held her as close to my chest as I could.  She looked up at me panting, but smiling that uncomplicated, trusting smile.  She knew I would never intentionally let anything happen to her.

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I realized in that moment that life is one big trust fall.  Things happen….alot of shitty things.  So many of us have become untrusting of so many things…even ourselves.  That day, that innocent little dog taught me to trust in myself, my doubts, my fears.  Over the course of time, I let circumstances and the turbulence of life make me afraid.  Sometimes when it would have accomplished so much more to leap head on into life…I held back, scared that there would be no one or nothing there to catch me.

Lately, my heart has begun to crave the new….the uncertain.  Lately, life has been about conquering the unconquerable.  Too old….not me.  Too fat…give me time.  Never been done…watch me.  I don’t know what has shifted in me lately, but when I look into the distance, I don’t see something I can’t reach.  I see an adventure lying on the horizon just waiting for me to leap toward it….and I fully intend to bring a few folks with me.  Some may go kicking and screaming and some may embrace it…but I am not going alone.

If no one else wants to come…I know a little blue chihuahua who embodies that same spirit of trust and adventure who will run right alongside me.

Blessed Be!

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Moving On…

Seems that as the full moon approaches every month…the closer we get to the solstices, my mind and heart are flooded with nostalgia.  This morning was no different.  After some much needed time in the woods, I settled down onto the outdoor sofa in the courtyard with my cup of coffee.  The sun was smiling down on me and the breeze was softly kissing my ear.  I was in a half daydream, half napping state.  I found my mind drifting lazily back to Charlotte, NC in the late eighties.  I could feel my soul being pulled back to a three storied home in one of the up and coming South Charlotte neighborhoods.

I can remember the sounds of Bette Midler wafting through the air as we all sat around the lawn drinking gin and tonic, bloody mary’s, sweet tea.  A group would be conversing in one corner, another group playing badminton in the area furthest back.  There were gays, straights, transgendered, bisexual…every type of human relaxing and enjoying the long southern days offered to us.  As the day danced into evening, the music became softer and the small Christmas lights strung in trees and overhead would begin to glow a soft white.  Our hosts had kept the grill going for most of the afternoon, so no one had the occasion to be allowed to feel the grip of hunger.

I always seemed to end up in one of the hammocks hanging between two large trees as others scattered lawn chairs around me.  Conversation always seemed to turn to what adventures life could bring or what magick really entailed.  No.  This was not a coven of witches, but just a group of friends making the most of their youth.  As I lay there waxing philosophical, Jim would come in behind me and hand me an ice cold drink and then stabilize the hammock as he lay down beside me.

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We would lay there for most of the evening, making plans…laughing at the mistakes we had made.  All of our older friends would tell us that they were living vicariously through us…that it was nice to see two people so in love.

My mind also drifts back to daily life with Jim.  Was he the love of my life?  Yes.  Are we allowed many loves of our lives?  Perhaps.  In those days, I was working corporate. We would get up in the morning and make breakfast together…he always made sure I was greeted with a kiss and a hot cup of coffee.  After breakfast, we would maneuver around each other as we got showered and dressed.  He always said that I looked so handsome in my shirt and tie….he said I looked like a corporate version of Freddy Mercury.  He was a nurse.  I do so remember how he filled out those seal blue scrubs.  Mercy!!  He was an ex-marine and his frame was 6’4″, brownish-blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, muscles in just the right places.  We would kiss good-bye…always careful to say ‘I love you’ before rushing to start the day.

I normally made it home first in the evenings, so I would start dinner.  I can close my eyes and feel the warmth of his body pressing against mine just after he walked in the door.  He always stood against me, his arms wrapped around mine, nuzzling the back of my neck.  On days that I would get home late, I would always find a bouquet of sunflowers on the table and a card that read, “Simply put, you make me feel wonderful.  Jim.”

You see, Jim had been diagnosed with HIV before we met.  I can still see the wonder in his eyes when I asked him out and he told me that he was positive.  I had been working with a local AIDS task force whose work included helping, working with, and doing whatever was needed for those in our community with AIDS.  I sang at far too many funerals in the eighties and stood in as surrogate family for too many who had been turned away by their own…but then again, this was what was needed.  Yes, this was in the beginning and yes, I was scared, but the possibility of missing out on someone like Jim scared me even more.

I was there through the drug cocktails.  I was there as the T-cells climbed and dropped, climbed and dropped.  I was there when the lesions began.  I was there when his eyesight began to fail.  We laughed and talked through it all….but always careful not to go too far into the future with our plans.  I remember one of the biggest belly laughs he ever had.  One of his guinea pigs had gotten loose and proceeded to chase me around the living room ( I have always been horrified by rodents.  Any rodent.)  As I run around the room like this tiny wad of fur is going to eat me, Jim is rolling on the sofa.  Sometimes, I would love to hear that laugh again.

Our last week together, I found out that Jim had done some dreadful things…things that would still end up effecting me to this day.  I remember the night that I confronted him.  We are at a bridge in Charlotte on the 4th of July.  We had met earlier at our friend’s home.  He greeted me with a bouquet of red, white, and blue flowers.  I had so much anger in me, I couldn’t even look at him.  We walked in silence to the bridge.  As the fireworks started, so did ours.  I let the anger that had been lurking just beneath the surface lurch forward.  We cried….I screeched.  He begged forgiveness.  He pulled me to him and kissed me and I jerked away.  I walked home that night.  It took me two and a half hours.

I got home and Jim was in bed.  His breathing was funny.  He had been coughing more that week, but I was wrapped up in anger.  As we slept, his breathing became more labored.  I called an ambulance.  They came and got him.  I watched through the coming weeks as machines breathed for him.  When his family came in….I was pushed out of the way.  I was relocated to the place of ‘roommate.’  Then there was the pain and anguish that he actually was not there anymore.  In one instant…gone.

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Jim knew I was studying witchcraft.  He often joked about him being Darrin and me being Sam from Bewitched.  My Darrin had been taken.  I retreated to my woods on the old farm back home.  Over the years, I have dreamed about him constantly.  He has come to me in times of trouble, fear, even stress.  He offers comfort.  I even believe he orchestrated many things between my partner, Jay and I.  Jay and I began our relationship on July 4th…exactly ten years after that night on the bridge.  I am the one who does the protecting and comforting now…Jim did it the whole time we were together.

I wonder how many witches can say that their spirit guide is their last lover?  I was sitting in the living room with my roommate the other night watching a tv show.  As we are watching, I am sitting there wiping my eyes.  My roommate says, “You are dreaming about him again, aren’t you?”  I told him I was.  He looked at me and point blank asked what I was holding onto.  He wanted to know what I haven’t forgiven myself for.  As I wrote this blog, I realized that I have not forgiven myself for not telling him I loved him on that horrible, horrible night.  I haven’t forgiven myself for not listening…only yelling.  I haven’t forgiven myself for walking away from him that night and not holding him tighter.

As I write this…I feel the tears streaming down my face.  I feel his presence behind me…trying to tell me that he never believed for a moment I stopped loving him.  I have a lump the size of a tennis ball in my throat and my heart hurts as badly as the night he slipped into the summerlands.  Tonight is the night that I have to forgive myself….to release the chains that have held me prisoner for too long.  Tonight isn’t about Jim.  It is about me and repairing what was broken years ago.

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I don’t write this blog to wallow in the past, but so the future may be more magickal…that my life may now be fuller…that there may now be rest.

Sleep well, my prince.  Sleep.

Blessed Be!

Being Magick

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Me?  ‘Course I want somethin’.  Want a buckle made outta shiny silver to fasten onto my shoes.  Want a dress with lace.  Want perfume, wanna be purty, wanna smell like a honeysuckle vine.

Want things I’ve heared of and never had before–a rubber t’ard buggy, a cut-glass sugar bowl.  Want things I cain’t tell you  about–not only things to look at and hold in yer hands.  Things to happen to you.  Things so nice, if they ever did happen to you, yer heart ud quit a beatin’.  You’d just fall down dead.

I can remember sitting as a kid with my aunt Cathy watching the musical “Oklahoma” as Laurie fantasized about all the possibilities that the Elixir of Egypt could bring.  I remember thinking to myself that one day I would make a potion like that…one that would bring all my wildest dreams to life.  I could feel the excitement of all the magick that one little bottle might hold rising up inside me.

I also remember listening to stories my grandmothers told about spirits and haints and otherwordly happenings.  The other grandkids would run to the other rooms to avoid hearing the tales, but even as scared as I was, I would sit and listen to every word with my head covered by a blanket.  I remember the stories of the uncle who knew when things were going to happen….the cousin who knew when someone was going to die…the Cherokee cousin who would sing to make the wind blow.2015-05-21 08.49.34

I remember all those years of wishing that I was special…wishing that there was some kind of power within me.  I can remember lying under the stars in my backyard begging them to imbue me with some sort of magick.  I remember begging the universe to make me anything but ordinary.  And so the journey  began…

The little things that seemed to come so naturally to me, I didn’t think twice about.  I thought everyone held conversations with goats and chickens and dogs and cats.  I thought that it was normal when I would see things in the corner of my mind’s eye and then later on they would happen.  I thought it was normal to have dreams in which those who had crossed over talked to you.

I guess I was fortunate in the fact that I was never told that I couldn’t do something.  I lunged through life expecting to be able to accomplish everything I had ever dreamed of.  Many times growing up, I was pushed toward the challenging….more by my grandmas than anyone else.  It was one grandma who taught me to be as intimate as I could with nature…it was the other who pushed me toward academics, music, art.  It was one grandma who talked me into working for a summer on a Lakota reservation…it was the other who talked me into majoring in Art and Music the first time through college.  I grew up feeling like failure could never be an option.

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Through this time, I begged the universe for magick.  I needed it more than anything.  My coping mechanisms were worn out.  Here I was in college in a large city…there was no nature around me that I could see….no animal friends to talk to.  I found myself withdrawing.  I found myself….well, lost.  For so long, I had wanted to do magick.  I kept waiting for the sparks to fly from my fingers.

A minister friend noticed the change in my personality.  He consoled the best way that ministers can, I guess…by suggesting I pray about it.  I looked at him and flatly said, “I never have quite understood prayer.”  He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Prayer, my friend, is all about energy.  You have the supernatural energy and you have your own energy.  Prayer is where those two things meet.”  Nothing more profound could have ever been said to me.  My thoughts started to grind together like the gears of a watch.  “If prayer does that…..and prayers start as words, then wouldn’t a magick spell do the same thing?  Different dieties…different direction…but it is energy.”  That is the moment when I became magick.

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It took time for all of this to soak in.  This epiphany that magick wasn’t necessarily some lifeless ‘thing’ to pursue was something that wrapped itself around me and through me….it is me.

As I walk my path today, I still find myself thinking that magick is some outsourced product…something that lies just within reach.  Each year that I mature in the Craft, though, I realize that magick is something that I am, not something that I do.  It is kind of like the words Human Being.  It refers to what I am….not what I am about or what encompasses my time.  If that were the case, we would be called Human Doings.

I have had to share and direct my energy quite a bit over the past two weeks.  There were wands to finish crafting and ship out….as I work on them, I chant, I sing….I share my energy.  There were deaths to walk through…my mom’s dog crossed over last weekend.  My mom had the wonderful opportunity to sing to her with her head on her chest as she closed her eyes to sleep as she moved into that next plane.  I shared my energy with my mother as she remembered the beautiful energy that little dog brought.  I have shared my own energy with Friz as he recuperates from a leg sprain and the challenges of aging.  Tonight in the woods, we held a type of croning ceremony for us both.  We lay together in moss and grass of the woods, combining our energies…embracing the aging cycle that is unfolding before us.  This doesn’t mean we are lying back waiting on death….it means that we were manifesting the energy that it is gonna take for us to go dancing and singing and running into old age.  We might be slowing down a bit, but we refuse to stop.

Every challenge that I have ever faced in life has scared the shit out of me.  Many of the challenges that I have walked through, folks have said at the end, “Oh, you must be terribly brave to do that.” No….I am not brave at all.  I just move forward…knees shaking, sweaty palms, and shallow breaths and try to look toward the end result.  I think that the biggest fear that most of us have is that fear of being insignificant…..but we are afraid to take the steps that might make us exceptional.

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Had I not decided to take on that mantle of Magickal Being, those who have required my energy and the magick it holds, may have been left in despair…hurt…pain.  I can buy or make every magickal tool you could think of, but without the magick within me, those tools do nothing.  Without my intent, a spell is just lifeless words written on a piece of paper.

Since he hurt his leg, Friz isn’t allowed to jump up on furniture.  This is especially hard for him because he wants to be as close to me as he can be.  If I am sitting on the sofa, he feels the need to jump up to be there.  I have been lying in the floor an awful lot this week.  Friz doesn’t care why I am on the floor…the only thing he knows is that I am being with him.   In that moment, nothing else matters….just being.

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