Season’s Bleatings

What I don’t like is this seasonal mix of utter despondency combined with perky attempts to foil the utter despondency. Sometimes one wins, sometimes the other. It’s most wearing.

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And to make matters worse, “Solvent-based Life Forms” are also out in force. Scented people are everywhere, and scented candles, brooms, and soaps are in every store. As a result, I am even more constrained than usual in my abilty to access just about everything.

I used to like this time of year, as a child, and also when I was raising my own. As a mother, I threw myself into elaborately concocted Christmas stockings, gifts, special breakfasts, annual trips to the California Revels in Oakland, and so on. But that’s all over. One kid is a Luciferian now and the other — well, I’m not sure if I’m even going to see him and his girlfriend over the holidays. I keep asking about their plans, via texts, which are sometimes answered and sometimes not.

But I’m essentially a witchy neopagan and a Lokean who prefers to observe the Winter Solstice and Yule, so why do I even care?

It’s the loneliness. It’s that peculiar holiday loneliness that is suffered when it seems that all the rest of the world is gathered with loved ones, eating, laughing, in rooms full of colored lights and twinkly objects. There are things to do in this county, crafts fairs and such, but I can’t really enjoy the events as it is so depressing to go to them alone.

I do try to be proactive, however. Here’s how:

• Reaching out to other lonely people: Somewhat from a counseling and peer support perspective, I’ve started a Facebook group called “Lonely in Lake County CA” and have revived my BlogTalk Radio show, Love’s Outer Limits, to cover social isolation in four parts, including the last segment on Xmas Day. I’d like to do something to counteract the shame that goes along with being lonely (especially old and lonely).

• As I mentioned earlier, I used to love to make special Christmas breakfasts, so this year I decided to invite my neighbors over on Xmas morning for a breakfast open house. This has the advantage of socializing in a time slot that doesn’t conflict too much with people’s plans for Christmas dinner.

• Then, later in the day I’ll be on BlogTalk Radio with my final “Lonely in Lake County” episode and checking in with the Facebook group throughout the day, in case people need moral support.

And there’s a bit of socializing. Last Sunday I drove 300 miles, round trip, in order to attend the Revels with three good friends (all Scorpios!) and we had a festive meal and modest gift exchange afterwards. And tonight the fraternal organization I’ve recently joined is also having a holiday meal. I may even try a Senior Center meal or two, on the 21st and 24th, knowing full well I’ll probably have to dodge fragrances or leave because someone starts to use harsh cleaning products to wipe down a vacated table (this happened on Thanksgiving).

I’d volunteer to serve food at a community meal or staff a warming shelter, but there’s that fragrance and chemical problem I’ve got. Other people just can’t help pouring that stuff all over themselves at this time of year and facilities tend to use the harshest possible chemicals for cleaning.

Since I have no partner, no idea if I’m gonna see either of my kids, and as I am without neopagan or Norse inspired kindred (except for online connections with Lokeans), I do feel sad about not being in a cozy hall with a blazing fire, surrounded by Lokeans and others, toasting and boasting and blótting the night away as the shadowy figures of my ancestors look on from wherever they are, nodding sagely, “yes, she is most truly our daughter,” or some such thing.

Instead I will expand upon some dim devotional ideas for Yule offerings and a ritual for Loki in the Lokabreanna Tiny Temple. And I’ll look for other ways to get through this most painful time of year. Suggestions are welcome in the comments section. Thanks!

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The Illusion of Someone at Home

It was the flock of birds that did it, silhouetted against the sunset, wheeling over the lake, spiraling as if drawn by the gravitational force of something huge in the air, hovering unseen. Evening is often a melancholy time for me, but while driving home on Highway 20 just outside Clearlake Oaks, the movement of the bird flock spiraling around that unseen center made me acutely aware that I was going home to a house empty of everything except cats, gods, and furniture. And this phrase rang through my mind, “the illusion of someone at home.”

Or maybe I can blame this mood on E.B. White, who could have set me up for this. While chowing down on Thai eggplant (spicy) and jasmine rice, I was snickering to myself over a collection of essays in an ancient volume titled One Man’s Meat, particularly his essay, “Clear Days.” But tucked in among the mirthful elements White writes as a city slicker self-exiled to rural Maine during World War II. He fit in with the hearty locals who hunted, fished and farmed about as well as I do here in Lake County. At least he had a wife, child, a *turkey and quite a few chickens.


“It is not likely that a person who changes his pursuits will ever succeed in taking on the character or the appearance of the new man, however much he would like to. I am farming, to a small degree and for my own amusement, but it is a cheap imitation of the real thing.” (E.B. White, One Man’s Meat, Harper & Brothers, New York, 1950, p. 21.)


Is this evening’s melancholy a reaction of anti-climax? For the last three months I’ve focused intently on (1) developing a consistent spiritual/devotional/magical practice and (2) creating and dedicating the first incarnation of the “Lokabrenna Tiny Temple.” (The dedication took place earlier today.) So when I decided early this evening to take myself out to dinner at the Chinese/Thai restaurant three miles down the road, I did it partially to reward myself. I usually don’t mind eating alone as long as I have a book. Sure, everyone looks when I arrive alone and am seated (alone!), but I soon cease to be interesting. I’m too old to be worth much attention. My Jezebel days are over.

I usually order my main course, tea (either hot green tea or Thai iced tea) and a “to go” order of pork satay with peanut sauce to enjoy later. That “to go” order puts a different spin on my situation. Now I look like a woman who may have gotten away for a little while (to save her sanity?) but who has promised to bring something good back to a someone who is waiting for her return. I can’t deny that I kind of like this faux conjugal narrative.

Life after divorce, which now also includes life after breaking up with the lover who disrupted the marriage, does take some getting used to. One could argue that I brought it on myself–and that I made bad choices that now result in my present loneliness. However, I wasn’t in this pickle all on my own, but I decline to diss the gentlemen involved. In a ridiculous way, I still love them both.

But I digress…

0I noticed yesterday that I enacted another bit of faux conjugality at the grocery store. It wasn’t an intentional deception but when I bought that bottle of cinnamon-flavored whiskey for Loki, along with a gift bag to hold it and a very large cupcake that looked like a cheerful but modest birthday treat, it looked as if I would soon be celebrating something or other with a (human) friend or partner. To that young man behind me in line, who asked what the whiskey tasted like, I said truthfully that I had no idea, that I was buying it for someone else. I refrained from saying who.

I am not sure what to do with these thoughts and feelings, except to endure them. I certainly do not think that my devotional practices and magical fervor are ill-placed or directed at an illusion. My “most trusted” patron deity, Loki, feels very “real” to me in terms of a specific “energy” that I sense (sometimes more distinctly than at other times) but I do wish that there was also a human recipient in my life. Without the center of family (husband and children) I feel as if I am whirling into the gravitational vortex of an unknown realm, and that if I stopped flapping my wings in hopes of escaping this fate, I would instead drop like a rock into chilly waters below.

It’s these between-times that are so tough to take…these liminal spaces of waiting, not knowing…of becoming but never “arriving”…of not belonging completely to any one place or group… But wait! That’s Loki’s turf and apparently, it’s also mine…

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*I have turkeys too–a wild flock strolls almost daily through my property.

“So Proud of You…”

Sometimes even going to the grocery store is a sad experience. People–couples–selecting produce together. Or one making sure the kids don’t get run over in the aisle while the other pulls stuff off the shelves. Perhaps you know how it is. Loneliness strikes at odd times.

I’m the woman with long grey hair who eats alone, with a book, at the Chinese/Thai restaurant three miles down the road. I usually bring something light to read, like one of E.F. Benson’s Mapp & Lucia books, which are about aging women who live alone and have ferocious and hilarious social “Queen Bee” type duels with each other. (The British writers do this sort of thing so well.) But I can find that even these books are bittersweet. I am not good at social jousting, nor do I want to spend my days frothing with enmity over tiny matters (as Benson’s characters do), but sometimes I envy the characters with their daily marketing, out and about in the streets, exchanging gossip and thinking snarky thoughts about each other. Even that would mean some sort of regular social intercourse.

About reading in restaurants. It keeps me distracted, as I eat alone in a roomful of people. It makes me look… I dunno…not so pathetic? But I have to be careful what I select. If I brought some of the other books from my library (the witchy weird stuff), I might make the waitpeople nervous. I need them to be congenial, as they may be the only human beings I speak with, in person, all day. Ditto with grocery store clerks.

So the other day, I was driving back from the grocery store, saddened and frankly lonesome. But I thought about how much worse I used to feel during the latter days of my marriage. Is it worse to be lonely in a marriage or in a restaurant? I think there’s an easy answer to that one.

There was a period when I was really knocking myself out, going back to school, earning degrees, taking certification classes, trying to get a business together in spite of my multiple-chemical sensitivity difficulties–and trying to get my (now ex) husband to see me as a person of value, someone he could be proud of–not just the chronically fatigued wife and mother and the family business bookkeeper–but someone who really was trying to live up to her potential, in spite of everything. But in some odd way, it seemed that everything I did only made things worse. And it was a bad time anyway. Not faulting him–we had just grown utterly apart.

So I ventured into a lot of things, pretty much on my own. Neo-Tantra being one of them. And I went to pujas in Sebastopol sometimes and fancied myself as someone who was tapping into her sacred energy, and welcome to share it (in those brief tantric circle exercises) with others. The first time I went, I was pretty nervous. I didn’t know anyone. And there was one man there who seemed gruff and a little scary to me. But there is a magic that can happen when those events are done well–you end up pairing with “the right person” for each exercise (breathing, dancing, whatever it is). And that’s what happened to me in the circle that night.

I eventually made my way around the circle to “Mr. Scary.” Do you know what that man did? He simply put his arms around me, very gently and very respectfully, and held me as he said, “I’m so proud of you.” Words which I had longed to hear from my husband.

That was years ago.

“I’m so proud of you.” Even now I cry as I remember.

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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.

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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.

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And here’s a song to match my mood.