Welcome to the newest series I call Hearth and Home. You will be able to find it posted here on Canto, and sent with love to the Lunar Letter list. (Join in the fun here). The picture to your left is a drawing by my almost-seven-year-old son, Jasper, who wanted me to share it with all of you. And so it is that sharing is the theme of this new series.
Writing a book and being pregnant at the same time has become for me deeply intertwined experiences. In brief, I am now five months pregnant, and my official due date is June 11th – right around the time the manuscript is due for Making Magic: Weaving Together the Everyday and the Extraordinary, to be published by Sounds True, in 2019.
The journey to get to this moment has been eye-opening and tremendous, and it has encouraged me to share more openly than I usually do with all of you miracles.
If we were visiting in person, I would invite you into my home, ask you to sit at my hearth, and I’d serve you Topo Chico with lime if it was a warmer day (which usually it is); or the tea of your choice or strong coffee roasted in high mountains.
Coffee, I should add, is a sort of medicine for me – not to help me wake up, but to help soothe my asthma. I actually don’t drink a lot of it; I nurse one cup slowly, the Arabic way I like to think (a nod of appreciation to Philz Coffee in the San Francisco Bay Area, whose charming owner is from the Middle East. They are a pretty famous outfit now, but when I started going, you could still see Phil in his awesome fedora working quality control – the BEST).
When I say strong coffee, y’all, I mean it. None of this new-fangled, hipster, light roast for me – no thank you! The blacker the roast the better in my opinion and my favorite is the Tres Estrella blend (Three Stars for those of you non-Spanish speakers) from Ohori’s Coffee in Santa Fe.) All of this is to say that you should not be surprised if, after an hour of this make-believe conversation, it would seem as though I have barely touched my coffee at all. I’d be asking you tons of questions (those of you who have had readings with me or worked with me one-on-one should be nodding your heads right now) and my darker-than-the-deepest-night roast coffee would be cold and forgotten!
I like to ask questions. At the end of the day, you will discover that one of the deepest truths about me is that I am a lover of learning. One of the most important things this means to me is that I do not have all the answers. I often tell my students in the Miracle Tree Sessions and Spinning Gold that I am learning right beside them – that’s not just a thing I say – it is something I deeply believe and know to be true.
Sometimes I encounter newcomers in my community who think of me as an expert or a guru of some kind. As Jasper would say: no way! Our intuitive gifts and our Sacred Arts practices do not give us a right to omniscience nor to omnipotence, and, in my opinion, it’s better that way: life is much richer and more overflowing with surprises, wonder, and goodness. Our gifts are the very expression of soulful seeking after beauty, truth, wholeness, and holiness. If we had all the answers already, there would be no need for these gifts in the first place!
Every day and all encounters, in every way, present little opportunities for learning, and this experience is part of the warp and weft of not only my own life-tapestry, but my family’s as well, and my Sacred Arts practice.
As I was thinking about my desire to share with all of you the various happenings, then, I decided that I wanted these more personal posts to reflect most of all this sense of a living-learning that makes up my actual life and practice. And I really want to do this with an eye to the end of giving all of you a glimpse of the way one gal, a Sacred Artist, interprets the meaning of living an enchanted life from the inside out, as well as offering a sense of the Sacred Arts in action, in the glorious mess and chaos and wild beauty that is life right here and right now.
So, for those who are interested in the more personal aspect of the Sacred Arts, I invite you to grab the beverage of your choice, kick back, and get comfy. Whatever else I may be accused of, brevity is not on the list!
The story for the past few months begins at three or four am, when I rise every morning to begin writing. I have always been an early riser (and now with a one-pound jelly bean shifting and twirling during wee hours, it is especially easy to get up) and so sitting down to write before everything else just made sense.
The house is quiet. The moon, in whatever phase she inhabits, shines through the window at my desk, and after I write, I perform my morning devotions, which involve rituals, chanting, prayer, and magic. As I write, I sometimes seem to sense the little one saying to me “Um, really Mommy? That sentence just will not do”, or “Oooh, that’s a good one!”
You might be interested to learn that I am handwriting the first draft. Yes, that’s right: handwriting. It is nearly finished, two chapters to go. There will be many more drafts to come, but the work has been steady and swift – every morning the next batch of pages, one after the other. I find that for me, handwriting the book at this early stage makes up in the feeling, depth and clarity of thinking for what it may lose in terms of speed and efficiency.
Once the entire manuscript has been handwritten, I will then type it out, molding it in slightly different ways as I do so, and then begin on the second draft. (A wise old teacher once compared this stage of the writing process to a momma bear licking her cub into shape.) Writing in this way is also easy because if I lose electricity – which actually happened a few times this Winter in San Antonio – or if a new idea comes to me, I just write it down. My handwritten pages are already festooned with hot pink post-it notes. It is all very high-tech.
The idea of handwriting the first draft actually began with a fiasco. At the end of December’s Mercury Retrograde, my seven-year-old laptop took a tumble and, as the Ancient Greek poet Homer says, bit the dust. In an instant, without a threnody of underwater goddesses to support me or announce the departure, I discovered that I had lost the nascent files I had created for the book. Oh, there was a moment of despair! But then, I realized that I had actually handwritten the pages first. So I went to my three-ring binder and saw that, indeed, the pages were still there in my spidery scrawl. No batteries or plugs were needed to access them; and, as long as I keep the sheets protected from the elements, they have just what I need to make the most solid start I can muster. And from that point, I haven’t stopped.
In my course Spinning Gold, I refer us to J.R.R. Tolkien “eucatastrophe”, a narrative element he identifies in Fairy Tales. This tumble-down topsy-turvy destruction of my old trusty laptop is a little example of eucatastrophe, because – as a result of this loss – not only did I discover a better way to approach the writing of my book, I also decided to replace my laptop with a desktop which is much better for my posture and my health (my dear friend Theresa Reed – the Tarot Lady – who also happens to teach yoga was like DESKTOP. NOW. She is wise). Handwriting the first draft has also cut down on my screen time, which has been very healthy for me and for the wee one.
So both the book and the baby have forced me to take a fresh look at some of my daily habits. This, my friends, is one of the first steps of Sacred Arts in action; one that I have seen many of you do as well. For me, as I have been writing the book, I have felt the need to allow my own ideas their own space, silence, and time for gestation and deep metabolism.
Reading too much, or the wrong things, taking in information without proper discernment, can muddy those waters. One becomes more sensitive here. Actually, our community of Soulful Seekers is full of sensitive folks – those who feel deeply, who take external information and stimulus in a deeply internal way. For me, as I felt a growing sensitivity occur on multiple levels, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, one of the biggest changes I’ve made has to do with my intake of news. My habit was to look at various news items on the internet, or an app on my phone, just as a matter of convenience.
I started noticing that I never really spent any time with any o of the items. Glancing, skimming, here and there, working with the general, most vague impressions of things. How could I not feel ashen blooms of anxiety on a regular basis? I want to be an informed citizen AND there had to be a better way, other than exposing myself to huge amounts of information, without being able to process or digest any of it effectively. I also noticed that in my community my students were experiencing something similar – so many of us are on media and social media overload these days.
So now I have put a stop to all of this glancing and skimming, and have migrated offline to ‘slow’ media and long-form writing – to my favorite weekly periodical the Economist, a British publication. I’ll work through it, slowly all week, from cover to cover.
I don’t agree with everything there, but I like the style of thinking and reporting, its global scope and comprehensiveness. When I have the time to take a short break from my writing, my teaching and counseling work, and my devotions, I grab my strong coffee, usually in the afternoon (which I still haven’t finished, by the way, and since it has grown cold, I ask my sweet husband to warm it up for me); I turn everything off, I slow down and I take my time. I am happy to report that this way of approaching the news – looking to offline sources of long-form writing and analysis – has promoted some very good ‘mental’ digestion – has helped to build a kind of psychological toughness, and promotes the development of knowledge rather than merely fleeting impressions of things. I do the same thing with fiction – right now I am reading the Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich.
Once you begin to look at the basics, there is no stopping. One thing leads to another. We pay attention to one place and others unfold. (This is why, by the way, I teach about and encourage the interrelationship and wholeness that holds between all of the Sacred Arts.)
So I’ve also become aware of some unhelpful ideas when it comes to book writing. I know many of you are writers yourselves, and probably a few of you would like to publish a book one day too. One of the ideas I had when this process started was that I would have uninterrupted days where for hour upon hour all I could do was write. Conversely, is the fear that if we don’t have long stretches of uninterrupted hours, there would be no way I would ever finish the work. But after actually having a few of these halcyon days of zero interruptions over the Winter, I realized that for me at least, having long stretches of time to do nothing but write was a kind of hell.
I love writing so very much. But I also love and have a duty to teach my Spinning Gold and Miracle Tree students, I love my one-on-one sessions, I love creating rituals and ceremonies for my Witch In Your Pocket and Lunar Lights clients, and so on. I love every part of my work. I realized I have watched it feed and nourish the writing in some unexpected ways. It turned out, devoting all my time to writing choked out one of the more important sources of inspiration for my writing, which, after all, is said and done, is all of you. What I discovered is this: I don’t need all of the time, I just need the right amount of time.
As I tell a story of magic with pen on paper there is another magical tale growing inside of me. I am one of those lucky and blessed women who seem to have easy pregnancies (though I do feel that I made up for it with my first labor which was thirty-six plus hours). This pregnancy has been markedly different from my first because now it is not just two who are affected by the little one; it is also our first child, Jasper.
This pregnancy is also different because I am thirty-seven, whereas I was twenty-nine when I was pregnant with Jasper. During my first pregnancy, I discovered how pathologized pregnancy is, at least here in the US (I cannot speak to other traditions in other places). You are often made to feel almost as if there is something wrong with you for being pregnant – that you are fragile and must be hawk-eyed by every doctor and nurse, that you require much medical personnel doing medical things around you all of the time. Because of some of the health issues in my family, my husband and I both chose to have our first child and this next child in the hospital. And I love my Ob-Gyn – she is the bee’s knees and does not make me feel like a sick person at all.
But, the culture around pregnancy and pregnant women have A LOT of shifting to do and that is ESPECIALLY true if the woman is over thirty-five. As I reflect on this, I think there are bigger ramifications that it speaks to. I wonder if this is part of what happens when we have any kind of liminal experience, which pregnancy and birth definitely are; but so are others, like divorce, physical illness, recovery from addiction, or mental breaks – each of these events have undeniable physiological realities and may require medical treatment and intervention.
But to think that the only reality they carry is medical – that there are not other, more subtle realities also at work and that there are not other, more magical treatments and supports that are also appropriate – seems very short-sighted to me. It does not gel with any of the traditions that I am familiar, nor with one’s deepest sense and experience of things. A pregnant woman needs both her physical and metaphysical needs attended to in various ways. She also has a specific kind of access to magic and the liminal that can be of benefit not just to her but can and should be to the benefit of the entire community. So yes, lots of room for improvement here.
Of course when Baby Saussy (whom we are calling Sausalito for the time being) kicks and moves and twirls and tumbles, I am not concerned with the fact that large parts of the culture pathologize pregnancy. I am much more interested in talking to the little one, engaging in my morning rituals of prayer and chant and magic, and writing up some information on making magic that supports conception, safe pregnancy, and then the wonderful, wild, ride that is being a parent.
I am also deeply aware, even more than usual, of the large percentage of our community who cannot or have chosen not to have children. I have written to you all before and I know that for many of you, reading this brings up all the stuff – excitement and love for me and my family (which I am so grateful for) but also sadness, depression, even anger too. I get that. I want you all to know that when it comes to this momma, you are seen, you are beloved, and you are held as precious. My beloved and I are so grateful that our boys have a large community of men and women who they can call on for guidance, inspiration, mothering and fathering in all of the different ways that mothering and fathering can and do happen. You all are a vital part of our lives.
When it comes to magic, my big effort over the past month has been to say thank you. I was gifted with a wonderful gratitude jar and card set for Yule. Every day I write down something that I am grateful for and I also text it to my best girlfriend. Sometimes the things are what you would expect: grateful for a healthy baby, grateful for an amazing husband, and sometimes they are not: grateful for the pain that gives me information, grateful for hot water – what an incredible luxury that is!
On the 1st of January, I created a big gratitude altar for my Holy Helpers complete with tons of flowers and good candles and their favorite foods. I did not ask for anything. I just spent time saying thank you for what has been given. It felt so good. The shifts felt in my life and family over the past thirty days because of that practice have been noticeable and it is now a regular part of my monthly rituals.
So ending this first letter on that note seems just right to me. Some things that I am grateful for right now and that I would love to share with you:
My beloved husband and the amazing not for profit he runs alongside managing all of the operations for my business.
My son’s fantastic art-making (see above) and the fact that I get to live with artists and musicians.
My allowance of one cup of coffee – which I will shamelessly nurse throughout the day and ask my husband to heat up for me again and again and again.
The fact that Tarot and Photography are talking to each other.
And each one of you.
In love and magic,