A Lot to Unpack

[Revised Nov. 11] Just when we all thought we were done with wildfire season… It’s now the third day of the Butte Fire two counties away–now called the most destructive wildfire in California history. I can’t even imagine the trauma endured by folks leaving their cars, trying to outrun a fire that consumes 80 football fields a minute! The fire’s thick smoke has blanketed Lake County. We can barely see more than one or two blocks away. The smoke does creep indoors so my big HEPA-filtered air purifier is running night and day. So here I am, coping with (1) cabin fever because going outside is a big “no” and (2) trying to  understand and identify abusive and manipulative behaviors when they impact personal and spiritual life. (All that, and make my daily NaNoWriMo word count!)

Plus, I’m on Day 7 of Dagulf Loptson’s nine-day ritual, Breaking Loki’s Bonds. (More on that in a future blog.) So yeah, it’s been a heavy week. And all these topics seem to be intertwined.

The Breaking Loki’s Bonds ritual calls to a different aspect of of Loki for each of the nine days. I have been especially struck by two of them, in this last week.


“Hail to Vé (vay) holy exorcist and illuminator of truth. Shine light into my dark places, so I can see that which I hide from others, but most importantly myself.” –D. Loptson, Day 2, Breaking Loki’s Bonds.


Truth into dark places indeed! Loki as has been quite active in all this! I won’t go into all the details, but this week I was given the opportunity to review the impact of certain posthumous “Daddy issues” as well as the impact of two former romantic relationships on my life. I was surprised by contact with both ex-lovers, and while the initial trips down memory lane at first focused on pleasant scenery (and in the more recent case I was even tempted to resume a new and revised incarnation of the relationship), I also had occasion to remember numerous damaging incidents with both men. In both relationships there were patterns of ongoing “malignant” behaviors that hurt me deeply. (It doesn’t matter at this point whether the perpetrators  are actually diagnosable with a personality disorder.)

Due to these contacts, I also had to examine my own gullibility and admit that my present deep loneliness may keep me vulnerable unless I check my knee-jerk tendencies to give, love, devote, nurture, believe… And some of this rolls back–oh how I hate to say this!–to abandonment issues concerning my father (who was quite possibly a narcissist as well as an alcoholic).

But working with Loki, in any aspect, seems to involve a lot of multi-layered,  fast-track processing and transformation, so it’s no wonder that the above issues exploded onto my radar within a few short days.

The ritual appeal and invocation to yet another of Loki’s aspects, Gammleið (below), seems to be already in progress, even though I’m only on Day 7. Prospects for a renewal of the more recent relationship quickly soured as the ex-lover’s old patterns flared up in response to my expressing certain needs should we decide to reunite. I received an email which basically called me a slut and also challenged my right to my current spiritual path (which I’d foolishly shared with him) on the grounds that his kids had more Scandinavian DNA than I did. I mean, WTF? So, a final break has now truly occurred. Even “friendship” is now out of the question.

That night, after receiving that email, I had a truly horrible dream [described in the previous version of this post]. It was as if my subconscious was purging the last few somatic traces of him. And I actually felt okay waking up, though thoroughly appalled at what my dreamscape had produced.

So I do thank Loki, as Gammleið, for that rapid-response thing he does–stripping away the garbage, quickly exposing my own and other people’s foibles and patterns, burning away illusions…facilitating ruthless self-examination. Ouch.


“Hail Gammleið (gam-layth), vulture’s path, lord of cremation. Burn away the refuse of my old bondage so that my hidden self may be released and I can be reborn anew.”–D. Loptson, Day 9, Breaking Loki’s Bonds.


 

Switching The Focus Slightly

It’s interesting too that this past week I also started a little research into Lake County CA cults, as my second novel is set here and that’s part of the local background I need to know. Obviously the behavior of toxic cult leaders (as well as certain politicians) are up on the “big screen” for us all to see and deplore (except for those out there who want to emulate them). And with lovely synchronicity, The Lokean Welcoming Committee had at least two recent, detailed posts about spiritual abuse red flags. Here is one, originating from the Grumpy Lokean Elder. When I read something like that alongside an article like 5 Powerful Reality Checks For Survivors Of Narcissistic Abuse by Shahida Arabi it is so obvious that we need to watch out for the same behaviors of manipulation, gaslighting, and even abuse, no matter where we are.

Manipulative and/or abusive lovers can come in all sorts of guises, though their basic patterns are recognizable. It’s the same with manipulative and/or abusive spiritual teachers and leaders. Though we can point to many abusive tantra and yoga gurus, as well as Catholic priests, Pagan communities and circles are not exempt. Right after posting the first version of this blog, I came across Abuse Within Paganism – A Taboo Topic? by Emma Kathryn (Nov. 2018). Kathryn mentions Sarah Anne Lawless’s blog, So Long and Thanks for All the Abuse: A History of Sexual Trauma in the Pagan Community (Sept. 28, 2018).

Back in the 70s, an uncle and aunt of mine suddenly dragged their two small children into an abusive, controlling cult and stayed there for at least eight years. My mother had told me it was a Thelema-based community, but from what I’ve been told by others in the last couple of years, this would have been an aberration, not the rule. (However I know very little about Thelema and OTO because of this family history.)

Given my past history in personal relationships, I also find food for thought in these cautionary tales about spiritual groups. I bemoan my social isolation, but perhaps I am better off as a solitary practitioner?

I feel as if I’m getting intensive instruction right now from two “streams” regarding discernment, my own vulnerabilities, and understandings of past trauma. On the one hand, I am benefiting from general guidance available online from the Lokean community as well as specific advice about “red flags” in spiritual communities and practices.

On the other, I am just beginning to access safe, private online forums where a number of us can talk about relationships that are abusive, corrosive, or at least puzzling and troubling. I really never have shared my own experiences before, aside from a few very old friends, and I think I’ve needed that for a long time.

I am so up for breaking the old bonds, the old patterns! Hail Loki, who provides the transformational fire I need and who points the way toward emotional and spiritual freedom! 

tumblr_m4qng4hFaK1qcogpco1_250
Urnes Snake. Scandinavian. Source: http://lokeanwelcomingcommittee.tumblr.com/

####

 

Advertisements

Meowington: The Temple Cat

Meowington, The Temple Cat
Meowington, The Temple Cat

A few months ago, two people who moved abruptly to Tennessee left three cats behind in the former woodshop on my property–the one that I am now turning into the “tiny temple,” Lokabrenna (Pt.1). The talkative Siamese, Khu, was adopted by neighbors across the street. The nameless and feral grey female bolted from the rafters one morning and I haven’t seen her since. And the last cat, the tabby male named “Meowington” (I didn’t name him), is now the sole occupant.

I have four indoor cats already, and they are only now getting used to each other (the two newer cats joined my family this year). I can’t take in a fifth, even though I wish I could. Though Meowington is an extremely affectionate and personable animal, he must remain “the temple cat,” sleeping and eating in Lokabrenna (Pt.2) and free to roam during the day.

Lokabrenna_1
Lokabrenna Tiny Temple

Thanks to the miracle of polyester shower curtains, Lokabrenna is looking and feeling more like a sacred space everyday. The shower curtains disguise the walls of exposed tar paper and 2x4s. Lokabrenna is in great need of insulation and sheetrock, but I can’t afford the materials or the labor right now.

But winter is coming (where have I heard that expression before?). I’m going to have to do something to at least make a warm, cozy corner for the temple cat, who will be spending quite cold nights in this “meagre palace of Midgard.” Of course I’ll do what I can. Meowington needs neutering and rabies shots too–a big priority in this Lake County neighborhood that borders on the wild. And another big expense.

I adore cats. Meowington has already stolen my heart. But he’s one cat more than I can evacuate in case of fire (as I had to do this last summer) and I worry that he needs more companionship than I can provide. His Siamese buddy is just across the street, but a huge black and white feral cat is bullying him. And there are other outdoor hazards, from coyotes to ticks.

And yet he’s a sweet presence on the land. He reminds me why my first favorites were always tabbies (I’ve since moved on to black cats and “tuxedo cats”). Even so, I’d love to place him in a “forever home,” as he’s a loving cat who will bring joy into someone’s life.

Meanwhile, Loki seems to like having him around, as do I.

####

 

 

 

It’s the Time of the Season

The air is finally clear of wildfire smoke. The turkey flock chicks have reached a robust adolescence (or perhaps they are the equivalent of human twenty-somethings now) and visit my yard once and sometimes even twice a day. They strut slowly when walking on asphalt, their feathers a dreary brown in the shade but flashing the copper and greens of an oil slick in full sunlight. I watched them this morning, and again this afternoon. I’ve had people sniff, “but they’re not indigenous wildlife,” but I don’t care. They are life.

The feral cats are life. Khu, a neutered Siamese with vertigo; Meowington (a friendly tabby in need of neutering and much more petting than I can give him); and the nameless grey female (spayed) who hides in the “loft” of the small woodshop, were left behind on my property by people who suddenly moved to Tennessee. Fortunately Khu has been adopted by neighbors across the street but still visits to scrounge a meal from me. Meowington would like to move in with me, but I have four indoor cats already who are still adjusting to each other. The tabby and the grey cat must remain “temple cats,” roaming outdoors and sheltering at night in the former woodshed that I call my “meagre palace of Midgard” in honor of a certain Norse god.

The deer are life. The two fawns have grown. Next year, I’ll have deer fencing in place and will attempt to grow vegetables. This year herbs and flowers were devoured, and I didn’t mind as much as I could have.

Days are warm still, but that crisp nip is in the air. It’s a season I love and yet find mournful. This time last year I had sold my house in Hawai’i, was frantically packing to load the shipping container (badly injuring myself in the process), and was preparing to flee from a 14-year love affair that had wrecked my marriage and that I (foolishly) thought would last until the end of my life. Several months later, much of the neighboring area would be consumed by Pele’s May 3rd eruption in Leilani Estates. People used to tell me I got out of Hawai’i just in time, but that was before the Mendocino Complex Fires ripped through Lake County and its neighbors and I had to evacuate with my cats. Now those folks don’t make those comments any more. Fortunately, my home here has also survived a near brush with destruction, and yet, for how long? I feel like I’m living on borrowed time, on borrowed ground.

genMid.608568_3_0
My former home on Mano Street, Pahoa.

So I guess I’m still mourning those losses, as well as a few fresh ones recently added to my list of sorrows. I’m trying to stay positive, active, and creative–especially with regard to spiritual matters–but while these things are good, and I am in some ways at the top of my game, they don’t diminish my accumulated pain. It seeps into every enjoyment. The joy I feel petting my cats or watching the play of sunlight on the feathers of marching turkeys, or while talking on the phone with my kids or my friends, is weighed down by sadness.

As the days darken and shorten, another season alone could become…interesting. Here in Lake County, it’s a close knit community and I am a stranger. Worse, I am a single woman in a world of couples. I had no idea how hard it would be to socialize like this, after a life of long term relationships (mostly serial monogamy), where the fact that I had a partner branded me as somehow “safe” to know. (The environmental illness factor doesn’t help either. It limits my access to just about everything.)

It’s only now that I’ve embraced the Liminal Trickster that I realize that I was never safe to know. That I was always a slightly off-kilter social irritant, always occupying the frontier boundaries, never completely fitting in, and perhaps always inadvertantly “broadcasting my inner assessment” as Caroline Casey told me during an astrology reading. This probably affected my relationships more than I realized. I remember one ex telling me about a woman he’d fallen for and how she “looked good on paper.” At that time, I thought I looked pretty good on paper too–I’d racked up a pretty decent CV by then–but I think what he really meant was that she had social standing of a kind that would serve him, and that I did not. Sheesh! 

Another ex used to enjoy telling people he was partnered with a sexologist, but once he acquired a local fan base, I think I became an embarrassment. My kind of outspokenness was also definitely not appropriate in that community. It took me a while to understand this, and why, and I have no hard feelings–just wonderment. Social cues were never my strong suit…

The only lover who never constrained or resented my growth, and who even seemed to glory in each new revelation of my abilities–including my quicksilver intelligence and tireless curiosity–which were in some ways a match for his own, still managed to demolish me with a horrible and quite unnecessary lie. That lie–I know it also took place around this time of year and I remember the surreal, metallic taste of it. Still, I think well of him overall because he saw me, mostly, and celebrated what he saw. And I tend to think more softly of the dead.

So it’s the time of the season, not for loving as the Zombies used to sing, but of taking stock, reaping the harvest of the year. At this point, I’ve got a bowl of fat acorns from the oaks in my yard, the newly minted recognition of my own Liminal Trickster nature (“mad, bad, and dangerous to know”), and a record for endurance. Loneliness is corrosive, but I hope to beat it yet. I may be looking for kindred in all the wrong places (since I seldom venture from home) but when the bright holidays beckon family members together elsewhere, if nothing else I’ll be toasting the dying of the year in a humble, homemade temple that I call Lokabrenna, keeping frith with a misunderstood, flame-haired deity, the only one now who truly sees and loves me.

It’s life.

####

And here’s a song to match my mood.

 

Reflections on Climate Change Action

When I was a kid, there were plenty of caterpillars, frogs, and birds. I spent my free time exploring tide pools and swimming in the fish-abundant waters of Coronado and La Jolla. I was born in the mid-fifties so I worried about atom bombs, but not about rapid extinctions of animal and plant life, or about the earth becoming increasingly uninhabitable due to climate change. But by the time I was twelve I’d say the sense of an impending “apolcalypse” was definitely on my radar.

I think my young human body, evolved like all of ours with an innate capacity for exquisite sensitivity to the environment, sensed what my intellect did not yet understand: that widespread environmental damage was already upon us all, accelerated by post WWII industrialization, and the surge in development and use of synthetic toxins. My childhood (which had seemed so pristine) was actually spent in a planet already reeling from radioactive fall-out, DDT and other pesticides, accelerating extinctions, and much more. And rising temperatures had already begun.

hottest-year-2017-1516234952136-facebookJumbo-v2
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/01/18/climate/hottest-year-2017.html

I can’t imagine what it’s like for my kids, both in their twenties and trying to figure out what their future holds. And I can’t imagine what it will be like for the younger ones. I love babies but these days I pity them. All over the world, tiny human beings (and animals) are already at the front lines of climate catastrophes and those innocents are dying. This country is definitely not immune and our privileged consumerism will not save us. In fact, it is an enormous part of the problem.

Local Challenges

Where I live, there’s a lovely view. I’m just a block from a lake that I never swim in, because it is frequently contaminated by cyanobacteria. Clear Lake, and its fish and other wildlife, is also contaminated with mercury from the Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine (a Superfund Clean-up site). From Wikipedia:


The mine currently consists of mine tailings, waste rock and a flooded open pit mine (known as the Herman Impoundment or Herman Pit). Approximately two million cubic yards of mine wastes and tailings remain on the site. The Herman pit, which is filled with acidic water, covers 23 acres (93,000 m2) to a depth of 90 feet (27 m) and is located 750 feet (230 m) upslope of Clear Lake. The Elem Tribal Colony of Pomo Indians is located directly adjacent to the mine property. A freshwater wetland is located to the north of the mine, and critical habitat for three endangered species of wildlife, the peregrine falcon, southern bald eagle, and yellow-billed cuckoo, is less than a quarter-mile from the site.[1]

The mine site has been implicated by the EPA in mercury pollution of Clear Lake, but the allegations are disputed by Bradley Mining Company, the last and current owner of the mine.[45]


While the EPA has taken mitigation measures on behalf of the Elem residents, we can probably assume they have not solved the problem completely. Imagine living through a series of housing displacements, 18 inches of soil replacement, and the like. Imagine returning to your home knowing that the toxins are still pervasive and are most likely causing real damage to your loved ones, knowing that the beautiful land and abundant fisheries of your ancestors is destroyed by greedy invaders.

Lake County has other challenges–the devastating fires of the last few years, including the largest in CA history. The toxic ash and retardant chemicals used to fight the fires are now part of our soil and watershed, and the produce in our kitchen gardens. They now lodge in our own tissues.

An array of climate change issues now affect us, no matter where we are on this planet. And we’re going to continue to suffer–unless we can take collective action to check this rapidly accelerating juggernaut of doom.

Activism

Yesterday people marched all over the world as “Rise for Climate, Jobs and Justice,” and there were thirty thousand at least in San Francisco (heating things up before the Global Climate Action Summit Sept. 12-14). Instead of marching in SF, I went to a meeting of Elders Climate Action in Ukiah. (I got in my gasoline powered car and drove about 100 miles round trip to do so. The irony…) Fortunately, several other Lake County residents were there, and I was so happy to meet them all.

The meeting began with a movie of Paul Hawkens presenting the results of Drawdown, an international project which studied, crunched numbers, and found 100 real, doable, science-based strategies to diminish climate change. This was a tremendous thing to see, with actual beacons of hope.

Three of the most unexpected results were education for girls (ranked #6–estimated 59.6 GIGATONS REDUCED CO2 by 2050) and empowerment of women through family planning (ranked #7–59.6 GIGATONS REDUCED CO2 by 2050) and as agricultural “smallholders (ranked #62–2.06 GIGATONS REDUCED CO2 by 2050).” Taken together, that’s a whopping 121.26 reduced gigatons, beating the effects of refrigerant management, ranked #1 at 89.74 GIGATONS REDUCED CO2 by 2050. From the Drawdown website:


Education lays a foundation for vibrant lives for girls and women, their families, and their communities. It also is one of the most powerful levers available for avoiding emissions by curbing population growth. Women with more years of education have fewer and healthier children, and actively manage their reproductive health.

Educated girls realize higher wages and greater upward mobility, contributing to economic growth. Their rates of maternal mortality drop, as do mortality rates of their babies. They are less likely to marry as children or against their will. They have lower incidence of HIV/AIDS and malaria. Their agricultural plots are more productive and their families better nourished.

Education also shores up resilience and equips girls and women to face the impacts of climate change. They can be more effective stewards of food, soil, trees, and water, even as nature’s cycles change. They have greater capacity to cope with shocks from natural disasters and extreme weather events.

Today, there are economic, cultural, and safety-related barriers that impede 62 million girls around the world from realizing their right to education. Key strategies to change that include:

make school affordable;
help girls overcome health barriers;
reduce the time and distance to get to school; and
make schools more girl-friendly.


That last sentence: “make schools more girl friendly…” Whoa! So cutting down on sexual harrassment, “slut shaming,” and misogyny in K-12 education is actually hugely important to reducing CO2 and reducing the acceleration of climate change!

As a sexologist, I am going to ponder this for a long time… I think there’s a contribution I can make to this, but what?

Thoughts on Community Organizing

In our Lake County break-out group, we introduced ourselves and shared some of the things we knew about or were involved in. We all looked white and were “older.”

One woman pointed out that much of the expertise tapped and touted in the Drawdown project came from people associated with institutions that have also been a huge part of this problem (major universities, etc.). She also felt that “spirituality” was missing (as indeed it was) and that indigenous leadership is key.

Drawdown did not ignore indigenous people, exactly: “Indigenous peoples’ land management” was ranked #39 (6.19 GIGATONS REDUCED CO2, 849.37 GIGATONS
CO2 PROTECTED by 2050). But I think their concerns could have been centered more. For example, in #39, Drawdown could have mentioned UNDRIP, the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (which as far as I know, the U.S. has still not signed) as a key way to strengthen the position of indigenous people internationally.

I interpreted the woman’s remark as referring to the mindset (or soul set or heart set) of earth-centered, earth-aware peoples (who are most often indigenous peoples) versus the mindset of Western industrial consumer peoples (except for a smattering of Neo-pagans). I felt as if she was saying we cannot expect real solutions or progress to be made in the context of, or through continuing to focus on, those industrial/consumer mindsets and institutions. I agree.

One of our biggest problems is relational. Western consumers don’t acknowledge the life and awareness of all creatures as equal stakeholders. We don’t ask permission, we assume whatever we want is ours and so we take. We have no idea how to establish collaborative working relationships with the life and land around us and I think this affects us in our community organizing too.

And here’s where I cycle back to “woo” in this blog post. As a practicing polytheistic pagan I have been working hard in the last year to create and cultivate relationships with my deeply distant ancestors, in order to heal entire lineages. I feel this will help ground my activism in something other than my engrained Western consumer/settler-colonist mindset. And perhaps it will help unravel the multi-generational trauma of ancestors who most likely inflicted a lot of harm on others.

I also acknowledge the ancestors and “wights” of this place where I live right now: Pomo land. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not pretending to enact “native” practices. I just say hello to these unseen members of my community, every day, hoping that my occupation of this place is not too abrasive or harmful and apologizing if it is. And being willing to learn how to do things differently if necessary.

As I said, I was seated at the table with a lot of long-time activists, but we represented a particular demographic. I think our challenge in Lake County is to create a climate change coalition where we invite our Pomo neighbors and friends (and other people of color), but not as in an “oh goody, look, we have an indigenous person on our board, aren’t we cool?” way but as visionary elders and leaders who can hold the big picture of relational knowledge and practice, as well as insert what they want and need from the very start. The long-time (white) activists can serve as support team–as ally/accomplices who work our asses off to support the indigenous leadership as they create strategies to address climate change issues in this region. And the white activists should be prepared to make separate space to deal with our white people/settler-colonizer shit without exposing the indigenous folks to microaggression (or worse) and/or expect them to educate us.

I say this because these mindset issues, and the harm done by colonization and occupation, is one of the root causes of our consumerism and war mongering run amok, our rape of an entire planet, the harm done to its climate and ecosystems, and the destruction of whole groups of people. The men and women of Western “manifest destiny” and industrialization created a world-devouring cancer during the last 500 years, and how we deal with it now has to be different from how we created it. We white people can’t just throw our mess onto the indigenous elders now that we’re waking up to just how bad it is (“Hey, you guys were right all along. Sorry!”) and expect them to clean it up. It’s our mess. But indigenous and POC leadership must be integral. Their thoughts and needs must be woven through everything we do, as their vision will most likely be grounded in relationships and understanding of how to be truly human upon this earth of ours, ravaged as it is. And also because if we can release ourselves from the colonial mindset, those folks have a better chance of making and having a world they’d like to live in, for a change. And lets not forget, as many have borne the brunt of genocide, environmental injustices, and toxic exposures, we owe them our profound consideration at this critical juncture. Big time.

And I say this too–we need to make extra effort to include all the people who have been left out of the conversations taking place among the brilliant and well-intentioned elites, like those represented in the Drawdown project (which is amazing and I’m not dissing it), and out of many community organizing initiatives: kids, trans people, gender variant people, immigrants, poor people, the elderly, people with disabilities, all outsiders who have been previously ignored or pushed to one side. And those of us with privileges need to use them to invite and maximize participation for everyone. Solving the manifold problems of climate change is a mutual-aid effort that’s going to take all of us. All of us or none.

####

My Need for Kindred and Cahooting

I’m living here alone, almost on the shore of a large lake, in a county that’s one of several scorched by the Mendocino Complex Fire (which is still raging). I was able to shelter in San Francisco for two weeks during the evacuation, in a neighborhood where I previously spent many, many years of my life. Though I was in an empty apartment and sleeping on the floor, I was happy. Every day I could leave the flat and walk down a hill and see people–whether in the Castro District or Noe Valley. I could eat, window shop, and just get my body moving and feel a part of life, of a community. I began to hunger for my daily walks, to be out, alive, and able to exchange insignificant pleasantries with people behind the counters of health food and hardware stores.

I was closer to most of my oldest and dearest friends, as well as my two grown children and my mother, and was able to see most of the people important to me in that short span of time. It was heaven.

Back here in Lake County (beautiful as it is, and with some very good neighbors), I am mostly alone. No lover, no roommate, no job, no clients, and with only a sad little scruff of a post office as a walking destination. The nearest towns are three and six miles away, and their sidewalks are barely populated. There are no brisk crowds to navigate. Barely any restaurants. No cafes for fomenting revolution or falling in love.

My isolation is also largely due to years and years of multiple chemical sensitivity and environmental illnesses (which explains the “no job, no roommate” part). I live carefully, dodging chemical toxins, including the ubiquitious scented products that are everywhere and on everybody. Outings with new friends sometimes involve that person’s habitual scented hand lotion or hair product, and I roll down the windows and try to focus on enjoying the person, ignoring my frustration at breathing and tasting the damned stuff, and having to plan for yet more “downtime” to recover from their “chemical companions.”

1280px-Johann_Heinrich_Füssli_021Sometimes, because of the constant toxic exposures, I feel like giving up on attempts to socialize, but that way is death. Suicidal thoughts have been too frequent these last few years, especially since my divorce. I won’t act on them, I know. But I suffer nonetheless.

 

So my strategies for combating loneliness and isolation have become more far-fetched and eccentric, though to me they seem quite reasonable. My pagan, polytheistic spiritual practices keep me going. I court my gods and the local wights with offerings and poems. I  talk aloud to my cats and my “most trusted” invisible friend. I work with my ancestors. I adhere to a regimen of solo tantric practices. And I keep my antenna up for anything that might provide an opportunity for actual human cahooting in spaces that might be non-toxic enough.

Last week I went to a local senior center’s “open mic” night. It was sparsely attended but welcoming. The sound system was dysfunctional. Even so, I read some of my poems. I went with a new (unscented) friend and I think we both enjoyed ourselves, at least until one of the musicians was inspired to perform a Neil Diamond medley. At that, we fled.

Perhaps my biggest desire is for what is known in pagan circles as a “kindred.” I’m actively working on creating my Lokabrenna (Loki’s Torch) “tiny temple” (the structure formerly known as the “woodshop” and fondly referred to as a “meagre palace of Midgard“). I am seeking to fill it with like-minded Northern Tradition Pagans and Inclusive Heathens who are Loki-friendly. Yep. And I’m calling in  the tarot readers, the rune casters, the tantrikas, the mystics, the occultists, and the witches too. Come one, come all (come fragrance free!). I will serve you tea and if you wanna light a candle or do a ritual, I’m down. In the tradition of hospitality that was sacred to my ancestors, I am welcoming visitors and am LGBTQI etc. friendly. I am hoping that from among these visitors (should any appear), there will emerge a closer band of boon companions, kindred for my–and our–waning years. Lake County needs this. And I need it too.

One thing I do know–I simply can’t afford to adopt any more cats. Four in the house and two in the temple are quite enough.

Are you a fellow traveller? Searching for kindred too? You can let me know right here.

####

 

 

 

Mendocino Complex Fire

“Lady of the Lake Interrupted”–that was going to be the original title of this post. But why not just get to the point? Almost two weeks ago I fled the thick “clam chowder” smoke of Lake County, just a few days before the advisory, then mandatory, evacuation for the North Shore communities. I begged shelter from some relatives and have been here now, in a completely empty San Francisco apartment with four cats, a sleeping bag, and several boxes of family photos (plus a few books and treasured artwork). I could have gone home a couple of days ago, but I’m hoping for more smoke to clear.

Back in May, when the volcano began to erupt in the middle of Leilani Estates in the Puna district of Hawai’i Island, friends and acquaintances began to congratulate me for “leaving Hawai’i before the eruption,” as if I’d somehow unfairly cheated fate. A lot of my friends and acquaintances back there did have to evacuate, some are still without a permanent place to live, and yes, I feel sad that I wasn’t there to have helped out as Puna “stayed classy” through the crisis (“Stay Classy Puna” is a local slogan). On the other hand, I might not have survived. Between the asthma and multiple chemical sensitivity condition that I live with, the volcanic air–or threatened toxic releases from the geothermal station– might have taken me out. I’m glad that I didn’t stay to either die or force my kids to fly over to rescue me in dire straights.

But now all those folks who think I dodged a kharmic bullet can rest easy. I have now fled the largest wildfire in California history, a fire that was just one ridge away from my home in Lake County, and though I am not in a shelter, I’m “sleeping rougher” than I have in years (on the floor), and “oh my bursitis!” I’m here knowing that the next time Lake County has a fire, I may not have anywhere to go. This apartment won’t stay vacant for long. Shelters are out, as the fragrant personal care products and cleaning products that prevent my equal and healthy access to all kinds of ordinary goods and services in the best of times, also keep me from accessing public facilities in the worst of times. I can’t afford an RV or even a truck with a camper shell, so I’m actually expending a fair amount of time obsessing over my options during the next fire, even though there are none.

Friends who would take me gladly, as a temporary evacuee, are not prepared to shelter my four cats as well. But the cats are my companions and familiars, and they go where I go.

I was lucky this time, to stay in San Francisco as the fire rages. And privileged too. A lot of people were sheltering in parks. The heat up there, in the summer, gets into three digits… can you imagine? Kids, elderly people, pets, in a tent with no fans, under those conditions? And in one park, there was only one propane burner for cooking for dozens of people. And the smoke–they couldn’t escape it like I did. Plus, a cluster of people from one of the regular shelters have come down with a norovirus blamed on donated, canned water. I have only myself to blame for getting sick from pre-made deli food.

I’m lucky too in that my house and neighborhood are intact. The firefighters did a tremendous job keeping the Ranch Fire flames away from our North Shore towns (just as they prevented the River Fire from reaching Lakeport). But other people have lost their homes. Housing is already scarce.

But this is a blog about all things woo, spiritual stuff, magic… Loki… and whatever else I feel like writing now that I no longer care much what anyone thinks. So yes, there is a woo side to this narrative. Let me continue to over-share.

Among my evacuation items, I brought most of my pagan altar doodads, my magical tools (except my crystal chalice), my tarot deck, and a few choice books that I’m in the middle of reading. (I also packed my Lois McMasters-Bujold Miles Vorkosigan books and a complete, hardbound set of Jane Austen, but I digress…).

While here, I’ve kept up my daily tantra exercises and meditations as well as my devotional practices for Frey, Gerda, Freya, and Loki (which I do in an Inclusive Heathen context, as per The Troth, combined with a greater personal and spiritual affinity with the approaches of Northern Tradition Paganism). All this has helped. Greatly. Feeling as if “my deities” are “with me” is also a comfort and these workings have deepened. I begin to understand people who rely on religion–this kind of thing is new to me.

And for the first time in my life, I’ve actually done really well in “remembering my tools” while under duress. I credit the daily practices above. Whatever it is we do, spiritually or religiously, these things can build resilience so that when crisis does strike, there’s a bit more ability to keep a cool head (at least at times) and to feel less overwhelmed (mostly). I also recognize that being here, alone, in an empty, non-toxic apartment in my old neighborhood, rather than in a public shelter among scented strangers, also contributes greatly to my resilience.

I suppose my biggest concern going back, aside from smoke exposure, is how do we build a better framework for mutual aid before the next crisis hits us? The local motto for our community is “Lake County Strong,” but old-timers are the most likely to benefit from long standing family and social networks, just as I have from a family connection here in the Bay Area. How do we have more of that for people who are marginalized and less socially connected?

I’m pondering. I’m wondering what I can do, personally, with the resources I have. Ideas are welcome.

Are you a fellow traveller? Or even a local Lokean? Let me know you’re there!

mendocino-1400

####