I wish I could be there myself to marvel at how these two will weave together their teachings and their own inate wisdom, along with the contributions shared by the workshop participants, but I have surgery coming up. Instead I will marvel from afar!
Daniel Foor interviews Kumu Ramsay in this video, just posted a few days ago. Please watch it to get a feeling for the two teachers and for a sample of the vast, yet intimate, terrain which may be covered.
Podcasts and audio interviews with Daniel Foor may be heard here.
I am also quite happy to signal boost this event as Dr. Foor is quite sensitive and responsive to issues of colonization, cultural appropriation, privilege, and social justice. He is a humble man and has spoken honestly about the hard learnings that come when approaching another culture or spiritual tradition.
From the workshop announcement and registration page:
“We acknowledge this event is taking place on the occupied ancestral lands of diverse Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) peoples. We encourage participants to become educated on the history of the land, including the illegal occupation of Hawai’i, and to support Hawaiian-run organizations working to support traditional wisdoms and cultural wellness.”
Signal Boost Two: And Now Please Support the Pu’uhonua o Waia’nae community.
The organizers of the above workshop encourage people to support Hawaiian-run organizations. Since the workshop is being held in Wai’anae, a community on the west side of O’ahu, what better place to start than Pu’uhonua O Waia’nae! (A pu’uhonua is a place of refuge.)
From the website: “Puʻuhonua O Waiʻanae not just the oldest and largest houseless village on the Hawaiian island of Oʻahu, but a visionary laboratory for community that I think holds significant importance for all of us.”
You can donate to Pu’uhonua O Waia’nae here. Your donation will help to purchase land and other necessary things for the Kanaka Maoli who are creating a “place of refuge” and ongoing community in Wai’anae.
When I was little, I could get lost in the rain, the waves, the sparkle of dew on the park’s grassy lawn. Snorkeling in La Jolla Cove brought me face to face with moray eels and the neon-bright children of garibaldi, California’s state fish. Sunrises and sunsets, and that sad time before both, were numinous moments for me. Anything that emerged from the fog was…magic!
And then I grew away from all that, reaching instead toward that which seemed bright and glittering and adult. And then later, all that which was in reality tarnished, ironic, and dystopian. I drew strange pictures in pen and ink, created costumes of vinyl and electrical tape, and always dreamt vividly.
Later, as a new wife and mother, the immense mystery of gestation, birth, and the unfolding of child spirit and development consumed my interest. Nothing has ever been as remarkable and humbling as this. And I worked with a will at the (usually thankless) household and parenting tasks in spite of my chronic illnesses. And I tried to bring “magic” into my children’s lives through books and special occasions.
My own longing for a sacred homeland of imagination and spirit remained. By the time I hit my early 40s, all of these submerged capacities and longings for sacred experience came busting out in a series of absurd spiritual epiphanies. I’ve written about some of them elsewhere (here and here). Some, like my Hawaiian experiences, I haven’t chronicled yet.
Today, December 15th, is actually the second anniversary of my final divorce decree. I bring that up because my marriage was so very “secular” and when the spiritual stuff came bashing through, I was embarrassed to confide in my husband. And when I finally did, well, we just didn’t understand each other anymore. I tried at one point to engage him with tantra. That was a huge failure. The rift worsened. Neither of us was capable of mending what we’d once had.
For a long time, Hawai’i was a spiritual beacon for me. That’s because those islands are so alive (so conversational!) and what remains of the cultural traditions are so wise. But while I was attempting to be true to the astonishing things and connections that happened to me there, I was also aware of how alien I was to the place. I still don’t know why I went through what I did in Hawai’i instead of having some Celtic or Norse deity call me home. But I do know that my contact with the Hawaiian islands (mostly Maui and Hawai’i Island) brought out my full desire to live daily in a sense of the sacred, to cultivate practices and relationships which would be grounding and numinous. I tried a lot of things to try to get to that place.
Once my marriage was truly over, and the paperwork was filed with a judge, I moved to Hawai’i island, Moku o Keawe, for nineteen months. Unknowingly, I moved to an area that used to be known for fearsome sorcery. The island kicked my`okole and though I tried to stay pono (appropriate, balanced) there, I was in reality a’ole pono (off balance) pretty much the whole time. I was surprised by this, as I’d prayed for years and asked permission to move there. I thought I had been granted that permission, finally, or I wouldn’t have gone. (So maybe this was a case of spirit saying, “Yeah, sure. Come on over–and then we’ll kick your ass back to California!).
I was immensely homesick for my children. I developed pervasive social anxiety. I was diagnosed with “adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood.” I was frequently suicidal. And in the midst of all the turmoil (which also included the sad souring of a long-term, long-distance relationship), I was learning some important lessons. The islands were now turning me firmly toward my own ancestors and heritage. The message seemed to be, “Okay, you’ve hung out with us long enough, now go back to your own.” And that’s when I began to seriously study witchery and western magic and create a regular, daily practice of devotion and gratitude.
Finally, I was establishing a daily connection to the sacred. In a way, Hawai’i midwifed this birth for me. Magic was saving my life.
Once back in California, I continued to study magic and also took up the learning and practices of “ancestral medicine” (based on Daniel Foor’s work). I began to explore devotional work with a few Norse deities, first Frey, then Freya and Gerda. (Loki came later.) I also began to acknowledge and make offerings to the local wights and ancestors as a “thank you for letting me be here” practice. (I’m on Pomo land and I know a bit about the brutal history of this place.)
I could never go back to the merely secular life, ever again. Through magic study, mystic experiences, and devotional practices, I’ve been able to bring my child self home and simultaneously face growing old and older, and to view my eventual death in a balanced way. If I ever have another intimate human partner in my life, that person will have to be someone who already shares similar values and approaches to the sacred side of life.
And the close relationships I have with my ancestors, guides, and deities–particularly my patron Loki–will never be neglected or set aside. This is the stuff of life to me now.
Earlier today, Sunday, I spent time in an online group with a number of people arguing that Loki shouldn’t be hailed because…Ragnarök: “Twilight of the Gods,” Loki riding in on a ship made of “dead men’s nails,” and all the rest of that “evil” stuff. Sigh…
And in the course of these discussions I began to mention my previous association with another “difficult” deity, namely Tutu Pele, the volcanic goddess of Hawai’i. And how people in Pele’s country, Hawai’i Island (aka “Big Island”), show her much respect and love. Even many people who are otherwise Christianized will acknowledge Pele. Especially in Lava Zones 1 and 2 in the Puna district, many people will clean their homes and make them beautiful for her, as an honored guest, if she is on the move.
I moved away from the Puna district in September 2017. Just a few months later, on May 3rd, 2018, the Leilani Estates (about eight miles from my former house) erupted into a massive, months long series of earthquakes, fissures, eruptions, and huge, swift rivers of lava. Halema’uma’u, Pele’s home at Kilauea Caldera in Volcanoes National Park was practically emptied of lava. It all spilled out over miles of Puna and flowed into the sea.
 Pele dwells in the chaos,
Resounding down below in the pit,
Kilauea is overturned, adrift like a canoe.
Puna is branded, burned, the sand blazing hot.
Puna is destroyed, destroyed by fire.
 Charred by the fires of the woman.
Puna is blighted, burned by fires.
The Epic Tale of Hi’iakaikapoliopele, Woman of the Sunrise, Lightening-skirted Beauty of Halema’uma’u. As told to Ho’oulumahiehie. Translated by M. Puakea Nogelmeier. Awaiaulu Press, 2006. p. 346
One of my friends had actually lived on the property that later turned into the most active fissure (fissure 8), spilling millions of tons of lava over several months. As the lava flow continued it took out Green Lake (known as the Wai O Pele, her bath, one of only two fresh water lakes on the island), the vacation neighborhood of Kapoho, the Wai’opae tidepools, the Ahalanui warm pond, the Hawaiian language charter school, and hundreds of homes and acres of forest preserve. One man lost half his leg to a lava bomb! Others lost…everything. And with all this, people pulled together in amazing ways, even when they were homeless and governmental response was clearly inadequate.
And still they love Pele!
I can’t help but contrast this kind of spirit and courage of people who live so close to spontaneous destruction on a daily basis with people who are too timid to even be in the same room with people who hail Loki. The timid ones speak of Loki’s supposed role in Ragnarök as the major reason why.
Obviously Davidson and Phillpotts weren’t just scholars, they had heaps of common sense. They understood the relationships of landscapes and natural processes to the stories told by human beings. I think their theories sound very plausible. I’m going to enjoy learning more about them.
My Lee M. Hollander (1962) translation of The Poetic Edda says that the collected poems were compiled around the beginning of the 12th century but were probably written across a span of four centuries. He also says that the poems seem to have orginated in several countries–possibly most came from Norway and only one was confirmed for Iceland. Now this is an old book I’ve got here and scholarship must have advanced, but since this is not a blog on Norse lore (which I am not qualified to write anyway) I am going to ask readers to play nice if they make corrections in the comments section. I am hoping to get a copy of Jackson Crawford’s translation soon. Thank you.
So let’s just note the twenty-two or so volcanic eruptions in Iceland from 870 til 1188, just before the beginning of the 12th century. These eruptions, or news of them, may have had an impact on several countries in the old Norse world, particularly if they affected climate and crops. They are dramatic so some poets may have been tempted to reference them.
Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241) wrote the Prose Edda in Iceland around the year 1220. There were twelve volcanic eruptions in Iceland during his lifetime, including one at Katla the year he was born.
Looks like this evening’s UPG is possibly verified by geologic and scholastic sources. But my main interest in this blog post is in comparing cultural/community reactions to Pele and Loki.
Destruction, Renewal: Norse Style, Hawaiian Style
Volcanoes are impressive natural events and it’s not hard to imagine that they would make an impression on any writer’s mind. They are very much like the end of the world. There are earthquakes, spewing fountains of lava and lava flows, poisonous gases…not to mentioned a sun which seems to go dark and other disruptive weather patterns which might cause crop failures and starvation. When I hear the phrase “ship made of dead men’s nails,” I have to admit I think of obsidian shards raining down from a volcanic eruption.
And in the poems and the prose, Loki is linked with some of this phenomena. Bound in a cave at the end of the Lokasenna he shudders from dripping snake poison and makes earthquakes (linked to volcanic activity). He is linked with fire and lightening. He’s said to be the avenging force behind Ragnarök, a battle of the gods and the end of life as we know it (temporarily, anyway). Fortunately there is a renewal of life afterwards. The seeress exclaims, “I see green again—–with growing things” (Hollander, p. 12).
It’s interesting to note that one of the most important tales in Hawaiian literature involves Pele and her youngest sister, Hi’iakaikapoliopele (“Hi’iaka in the bosom of Pele”) (see the quoted poem above). It’s an enormous saga, a world class epic, and at the end there is also a fierce battle between the two sisters, partially because Pele has killed Hi’iaka’s same sex lover, Hopo’e, for no good reason. Their battle devastates the land with flowing lava, burning forests, etc. Finally other gods and goddesses step in and tell them to quit it. And at that point Hi’iakaikapoliopele becomes a goddess in her own right, bringing vegetation and new life to the lava flows of her eldest sister. Destruction, renewal; the cycle of life we endure and sometimes celebrate as human beings.
(You can watch a stunning dance performance of this story, Holo Mai Pele, here. The hula teachers for this performance are direct descendents of Pele, who is an ancestral goddess as well the volcano goddess. Production by Halau O Kekuhi.)
As you can see, Hawaiians embrace this story and love both goddesses in spite of their flaws, including Pele’s potential to create real-life catastrophes! This is pretty interesting to me when I compare this with fearful attitudes toward Loki among American neopagans who worship Norse gods. Meanwhile, back in the countries with volcanic histories that may have inspired the story of Ragnarök, I hear the people there are mostly chill when it comes hailing Loki. Are we weird here in the U.S. or what?
So I do think it’s regrettable that unlike Pele in Hawai’i, Loki–also connected with natural forces and cycles–gets little respect or celebration except from those who are particularly devoted to him (or who at least hail him from time to time). I find myself wishing that people who worship Norse gods would have a little more aloha for Loki, which is a value somewhat comparable (though not equivalent) with frith.
We cannot escape the natural forces that rend and rule our planet. Those who are theists (of any kind) might also argue that we cannot escape our deities. I look out every morning at Mt. Konocti, a high threat volcano just a few miles on the other side of Clear Lake in California. Sometime in the distant past a whole side of one of Konocti’s peaks slid into the lake, creating a giant concave scoop and probably triggering earthquakes and a flood. Every day I bless and thank that mountain. Why not? What else am I to do?
To witches, no less. (Be not afraid, this is a writer’s metaphor, not “Lokean drama”…)
Oh, are you there? Pardon me while I decompress in public after the wild joy ride of National Novel Writing Month, which was certainly already intense enough. Just try producing a coherant stream of 50,000 words in one month! Those who have done this know what I mean! It can either leave you feeling like an Awesome God or Godette of Literary Potency or like a limp dishrag, or a bit of both.
But then all that Karl Seigfried Lokiphobia controversy gummed up this last week’s literary flow! I chose to engage though, and I’m glad I did! I became enraged! I made new friends! I shared moments of gleeful mirth! (And I have so much more to say on that topic, but later for that!)
First, a musical interlude. Wild One, Iggy Pop, ’cause I am literally dancing with joy and relief. (Did I ever tell you that story about that time I ended up on stage with the guy at San Francisco’s Old Waldorf, wearing a bright magenta space dress and hood and gold snakeskin boots? Or the time I drove a silly girlfriend of my brother’s over to the Miyako Hotel so she could try to sell him some… stuff…that’s now legal in California? Well, another time. Later for that.)
Oh my dear heavens, I am decompressing sumthin’ awful! But stay with me. This blog actually has a point.
I’ve mentioned before that this book I’m working on, The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, is the second in a trilogy. The first, The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, is set in the Puna district of Hawai’i Island (south of Hilo). The volcanic goddess, Pele, was very much behind the scenes in the book and in my life. I was living in her country when I started writing the first novel, and was learning to offer the chant Aia la O Pele. I actually pledged to read the entire first draft aloud to her, as an offering. I was on her land so it seemed only fair. And those nineteen months of exile were the loneliest and most depressing of my life. I felt so far from my children and the San Francisco Bay Area, my home. The book provided my most consistent cheer and focus.
Indeed, I was writing from my own burnt heart at that point–newly divorced and lonely as hell, surrounded by a nightly cacophony of coqui frogs chirping incessantly for sex— so what else could I do but birth a sassy community of witches and Elves nestled in an imagined intentional community deep in the Puna jungle? I was creating characters that I wanted to know, and Hermitville, place I wished I could live in. And just as the practice of magic entered the lives of my post-midlife crisis characters, so magic also entered mine.
Even back here in California I continued to read the first draft aloud to Tutu Pele. The book provided closure to the life I lived–as a junior Baba Yaga in my jungle house on stilts, surrounded by coconuts, hibiscus, wild orchids, feral pigs, and unleashed pit bulls. My characters also began to say their good-byes to the home they’d known for so long.
Now Pele is known as a sometimes “difficult” goddess, commanding great respect. In fact, seven months after I left Pahoa, the Leilani Estates eruption (May 3, 2018) began to take out acres of land and forest preserves, houses, the Wai’opae tidepools, the Ahalanui warm pond, the Hawaiian language charter school, roads, and more–creating a massive crisis for the people of that impoverished area. The massive lava flows continued for months. And yet the people in Puna remained proud of Pele and they rallied around each other with aloha, in a way that (now looking on from a distant shore) I envied.
My return to California shifted my focus from studying Hawaiian culture to continuing my studies of Western magic. I felt a strong call to begin working with my ancestors. And I began to feel my way into the Norse pantheon. I began with Frey, then Freya and Gerda. Loki was not on my conscious radar then, though looking back I see his influence in my life, going back decades. I wish I’d known then what I “know” now!
And then, bam. He began tugging at my attention during a bitter crisis. Suddenly Loki and trickster references were everywhere, from pop culture to things I was stumbling across in my reading. Really very present, even in my astrological chart. This was much more up close and personal than even my fleeting “encounters” with Pele, who up to then had provided the most nearly “real” spiritual experiences of my life. (Someday I might write about those too–a story for another time.) As a result, I began serious, daily, devotional practices and reading. I probably was a little too quick to oath myself to Loki, but it seemed right at the time and I have no regrets. I do realize now that it was a bit of a hasty, newbie thing to do.
Given all this–and the fact that I started NaNoWriMo month with two Dagulf Loptson Loki rituals (here and here)–I should not have been surprised when Loki jumped right into the start of my second book, dominating the first few pages and now driving much of the story line. He’s right there, a fictionalized version named Lucky LaFey, along with my characters, the mortal “Hermits” and the Elves of The Realm. They’ve set up a new Hermitville right here in Lake County and have a new supernatural villain to defeat. I’d originally imagined a different plot line with this second book, but what’s happening now fits beautifully. It’s much stronger than my original plot concept.
In fact, last night, I took a deep breath, on the day before the close of NaNoWriMo, and because I was about to write a chapter from Loki’s perspective, in his first-person voice, I asked for some contribution from him, to come through me into the chapter. I wanted to get it right, you see. I felt that this was somewhat edgy–I’ve never taken such a step, so I took care to set time limits and “boundaries,” not knowing what to expect.
What happened was, the chapter flowed. What had been stuck now moved. There was no dramatic channeling or “horsing” or anything of that nature. But I felt close to him and wrote from the inside out with that feeling. He was/is my active muse.
And yes, I read the whole of the first book to him, aloud, and now I’m reading my draft of the second. It’s a satisfying sort of offering to make.
Loki As Muse
“Loki as Muse” doesn’t get nearly as much attention as he should. Someone should create an encyclopedia of this god’s cultural, creative, literary, and musical impact. From the old surviving Norse lore, where Loki drives a lot of the stories, to modern opera, movies, comics, visual art, fiction (including fan), costume design, pop music, and more. An encyclopedia would be a brilliant project, actually!
Since entering “Loki Land” I’ve been so impressed with high quality artwork, crafts, and writing–from blogs to books. And of course I enjoy Marvel Loki, which is a witty twist on the traditional mythology (even if it is fairly distorted).
I find myself less and less aligned with statements that equate Loki with “chaos” (as in the popular sense of meaningless, destructive disarray). I’m not saying he’s never chaotic, negative, or “too much,” but that there also seems to be a bandwidth that I would describe as “catalytic” and transformational instead. It may be that artists and creative souls are more “at home” with Loki, as they may be more used to playing in realms of quick connections, influences, passions, and intellectual and spiritual epiphanies. With Loki, stuff swirls, dances, glances, and recombines.
In other words, along with the other roles that Loki plays in my life (adopted ancestor, teacher, patron deity), Loki-as-muse is positive, challenging, and hella fun. And he gives me courage to write and birth magic from my own burnt heart. Hail Loki!
Finally, here’s my #NaNoWinner2018 certificate, just because I want to boast a little. As you might have guessed, this book will end up as an offering to him, just as the first book will have a dedication to Tutu Pele.
Oh, and that “birthing witches” thing I said? Aside from my twelve fictional, magic-wielding “Hermits,” one of my kids is actually a witch. My other is more of an entheogens fan though. Who knows what he’ll get up to later on?
Heartbreaking news. The Hawai’i State Supreme Court has ruled in favor of construction of yet another industrial-strength development on Sacred Mauna Kea. The heroic case presented by native Hawaiians and allies–the Protectors aka na Kia’i–against the development of this amazingly corrupt and disrespectful project consists of legal-based, fact-based, Hawaiian culture-based, and environmentally-based arguments which all demonstrated, without a doubt, the manifold adverse effects of this humungous building proposed for a delicate conservation district, atop the island’s aquifer, on top of one of the most sacred mountains in all the Pacific. Watch this beautiful documentary, Mauna Kea-Temple Under Siege, for background on an earlier struggle against the Keck Telescope.
I am stunned and heartbroken by this news. It was my privilege to stand alongside my former partner in this struggle for almost fourteen years. He was and is one of the petitioners in the court case and constested case hearings which challenged this project. I have had a pretty good ringside seat for many years, knowing what this effort has cost him and the other petitioners. Not just in money, but in family time, self-care time, and the intense effects of constant stress and trauma on individual, family, and community health. Oh, I could go on. I could! But for the moment, I am just simply appalled.
But powerful money interests appear to have won for the moment. The combined influences of CalTech, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and numerous public officials with now nicely greased palms, have formed a juggernaut determined to roll forward over sacred land.
And it’s not just sacred land. It’s Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiian) land which was taken and is held by force by the U.S. government, and which–in the opinion of the World Court of Arbitration at The Hague (Lance Larsen vs. The Hawaiian Kingdom)–is an unlawfully occupied nation-state (country) deprived of its proper functioning government. In other words, Hawai’i is not a legitimately acquired “state” of the U.S. and this is becoming more widely known both within Hawai’i and in the most influential circles of international law.
“I have come to understand that the lawful political status of the Hawaiian Islands is that of a sovereign nation-state in continuity but a nation-state that is under a strange form of occupation by the United States resulting from an illegal military occupation and a fraudulent annexation.”
–Dr. Alfred M. DeZayas, Feb. 25, 2018, written as a Memorandum of the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner.*
So, TMT and just about everything else inflicted on Kanaka Maoli and descendents of Hawaiian Kingdom nationals (naturalized citizens) by the “fake state” government is a probably a war crime as per international law. Got that? The situation in Hawai’i is THE longest running occupation in recent world history, but most people don’t even know this. (See this news and community meeting video regarding a local elected official’s efforts to take action on the war crimes issues.)
I will publish a link of the petitioners’ official response to this decision when I see it.
Now, I am not trying to “center” myself here, but I want you do know why I, a non-Hawaiian, care so deeply about this issue. (And yes, this is a “woo” blog but my spiritual life has always been mixed with my life as an activist, so political and social justice matters will appear from time to time.)
My long history of supporting Hawaiian independence and the struggle to protect Mauna Kea as an ally (and later as the partner of a native activist and cultural practitioner) was the result of various spiritual epiphanies and events that took place prior to, and concurrent with, my learning the truths of Hawaiian history and the political situation. I had been granted certain life-changing experiences in Hawai’i, and therefore I felt a duty to “give back” to the people and the ‘aina (land) in the form of activism and support. I didn’t always do things in the right way or with the right understanding of protocols and local ways, and to my sorrow I realize I was sometimes (often?) clumsy and off-putting in my enthusiasm, but I did try to help when I could.
My “wyrd” threw me a curveball when it upended my previously comfy residence in a San Francisco-centric world of punk rock, motherhood and marriage, anthroposophy and Waldorf schools, and environmental health activism. That “spontaneous combustion” I wrote about previously took place in this context of a “Hawaiian” connection (the nature and meaning of this event is still a central mystery in my life). My wyrd has now changed course, bringing me back from my love affair with the islands (and my island love affair), to purposeful encounters with other spiritual traditions and other urgent political and social justice issues. I’m in Pomo land, here on Turtle Island, and I stay aware of that as I adjust to my new surroundings.
But I don’t forget Hawai’i. And I don’t forget the Mauna. And I stay in solidarity, though with more distance now. I know the fight to protect this mountain and other sacred lands of Hawai’i is far from over. Please check out the Protect Mauna Kea Facebook group, and other groups supporting Kanaka Maoli struggles for independence, restoration of the Kingdom, and other social and political justice issues. Thank you.
Some of my contributions over the years included making websites for people and causes, writing articles, and raising modest sums of money:
I originally designed and maintained this website for one of the Kia’i (Protectors). I also made a website for StopBombingHawaii.org but it seems to be gone now, or at least, I can’t find it. There is a Facebook group though, so please go there!
As I’ve written elsewhere, I’ve had a lifelong interest in the occult and some very odd experiences too, but I didn’t start studying Western magic and witchcraft until I started writing this fantasy novel on Nov. 1, 2016. The plot required my characters to learn from Western magical traditions and so I figured I had to research this as well. What I didn’t realize was that this study would prove as important and life-changing as any of my other major epiphanies (and I’ve had a few).
The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, now completed, is many things to me. It was my salvation during a very difficult time of loneliness and social anxiety. It was my way of creating community (though imaginary) in the aftermath of a divorce, in a time and place where friendships and family were proving unreliable. And it was my love letter and good-bye to Hawai’i nei (beloved Hawai’i). Dire Deeds is also my social commentary on forms of settler-colonialism peculiar to the Puna District (Hawai’i Island’s “Lower East Side”). Other themes include aging, LGBTQIA etc. struggles, white privilege, and more. But this description makes the book sound far too serious. I assure you, the “tone” is often playful, comic, and sweetly sardonic, even though these topics–and events in the book–are “dire.”
Now I begin the second book in what will be a trilogy: The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. Spoiler alert – it takes place in Lake County, California, where I now live. All the previous characters will continue in this second volume, and a few new ones will be added–notably the charismatic “drifter,” Lucky LaFey.
The third book will take place in England, and will be called The Perilous Past of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits.
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) was the vehicle for jumpstarting and continuing Dire Deeds, and I am going to begin The Witching Work during this year’s NaNoWriMo contest, which starts (as always) on Nov. 1st (my birthday). I expect to have no problem achieving the 50,000 word count which is the goal of the contest. Even so, please wish me luck. And it would please me too if you went to my book website and read some of the excerpts and blog posts.
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.
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.