She liked her new job, well, at least, she liked the way that she’d fit into it. Her co-workers were nice or, if they weren’t nice, were reserved. Some of them had been at the big, grey Department of the Interior building for longer than Gemmy’d been alive and they’d absorbed, it seemed, the building’s bland exterior into their own souls. Anne and Betty, at least, along with Ben when he was in town, were fun lunch companions, happy to share their homemade bread, venison jerky, and baked apples in exchange for her farmers’ market greens and yogurt dressing. Sitting all day at a computer left her cramped and longing for the outdoor, physical work of planting trial chestnut seedlings over ridges and behind wind breaks, but she’d know that was part of the deal when she’d exchanged her now-defunct dream for a regular paycheck and medical benefits. She liked to write; she liked writing about park management; her boss liked her writing. She’d learn to deal with the rest.
Gemmy’d discovered the local farmers’ market. It was, sadly, a lot more expensive than the local Safeway, although Gemmy tried to remind herself of all the costs that the Safeway externalized onto the neighborhood. She’d learned the name of the woman who sold apples, her daughter playing the violin beside the baskets heaped with ripe fruit, and had chatted a couple of times with the man who sold goat cheese, yogurt, and goat’s milk. “Shake the hand of the hand that grows your food,” Gemmy’d reminded herself, as she paid extra for the local produce.
Gemmy’d met, as well, a few of her neighbors. Mrs. Bottsworth, from up the block, had yelled at her, informing her that everyone put their trash bins out in the alley on Mondays and left the empty cans there. That had, at least, cleared them out of Gemmy’s “enclosed back patio,” leaving her with a sad cement block surrounded by bleached wooden fencing. Still, with the trash bins gone, Gemmy had begun to imagine that she could install a compost bin, although, to be fair, the tea towels that she’d pulled from a dumpster on her walk to the bus, laundered, and hemmed for curtains had made the most visible improvement, hiding the back yard completely. Gemmy’d met Robert and Jennifer from next door, a couple on their “starter Lexus,” as Jennifer described it, and just as avaricious as that phrase implied. She’d met Aidan, her next door neighbor on the other side, a 30-year-old whose large truck seemed permanently parked in front of his house, an amiable guy who spent a lot of time inside and a short time handing small packets to odd customers. And she waved, once or twice, to the old man with white hair who lived behind the lovely curtains in the townhouse at the end of the street.
It had been odd — ok, more than odd, it had been painful beyond words — spending Imbolc alone instead of at Deena’s old farmhouse in the country, a huge fire burning in the fireplace and everyone from the coven reading their favorite poems, toasting bread and cheese in the fire, making vows for the coming year, and surrounding each other with the warmth needed to get through the end of winter. Gemmy had gone ahead and taken that Friday off: “I still have a few things I need manage,” she’d told her boss, and it was true. She needed to manage spending Imbolc alone in a new place. Her boss didn’t care; Gemmy’d begun the year with some days carried over from her old job; they were hers to use as she wished.
Gemmy’d done some yoga, prepared herself, Priestess-style, with oatmeal and Earl Grey, slung her warmest hoodie over her shoulders, and dug her old hiking boots out from the box labeled “Promised Land.” She’d stuffed her iPhone, her metro card, a tiny bottle of rum, a peanut butter sandwich, and some leftover walnuts into her backpack, and had hiked over to Gravelly Point Park. It felt good to stretch her muscles again, walking towards a goal.
And she’d easily found the trail, which wandered along this river she’d heard of all her life: The Potomac. Ignoring the planes taking off from the nearby airport, Gemmy stopped and sat beside the river. Gemmy was enough of a Witch to understand that the nearest body of water was important; you needed to incorporate this into your practice. This river flowed down from West Virginia, past Gemmy’s home in Virginia and office in Columbia’s District, down to Point Lookout, which Gemmy’d never seen, in Maryland.
Gemmy’d sat down, on cold, muddy sand, and watched the river flow. “I don’t know you,” she’d said to the river. “But I want to.”
Gemmy found a small rock with an indentation in the middle. She dug into her backpack and pulled out the airplane-sized bottle of rum (that’s how she’d always thought of them, ever since her dad, who didn’t drink, used to bring the bottles home from his business flights) and poured the rum into the indentation on the stone. She’d sat a few moments more, watching squirrels run around the willow and oak trees, and then thrown the walnuts out beside the willows. Gemmy watched as the squirrels, slowly at first and then with great certainty, had gathered the walnuts and run with then up into their nests in the oaks.
Suddenly, Gemmy was seized with a great desire to ground. Here, now, all alone, in Gravely State Park. A few joggers ran by every 5 minutes or so, but, otherwise, Gemmy was alone. It was Imbolc, she was miles from her coven, and the unfamiliar land here was urging her to ground.
Now, you, my young Witchlings, you’ve certainly heard of grounding. And you’ve grounded, yes, of course, you’ve grounded, my sweet ones. You can’t do magic without grounding. All Witches ground, just before they do magic, making sure that the energy from the magic won’t be too much for them, that they’ll have a way to “ground” any excess energy that they raise, as if our modern practices regularly raise more energy than we can manage. (Ah, may it someday be so!) And that’s the kind of grounding most modern Witches do: they breathe, imagine that they have etheric roots running into the ground, and they pull warm energy up, through those roots, into their bodies — a supply of energy available to them to use when they focus their intent. “Let’s take three breaths. And, now, imagine that you have branches, reaching into the starry skies . . . .”
But that’s not, of course, my sweetlings, my darlings, my own ones, that’s not what a Witch of Hir Place dues when S/he grounds. Oh, no. And Gemmy, used to grounding in the beech, oak, maple, and hemlock forest of her former job, Gemmy didn’t ground like a modern witchling preparing to do magic. Instead, Gemmy sat on the wet, sandy ground and focused on how her butt cheeks felt, sunk into the wet river bank. She saw her own roots, both etheric and physical, begin to grow into the ground. Gemmy felt the intertwined roots of the willows, oaks, and the scrub trees know as Trees of Heaven, and she felt how they all intertwined, especially as they were connected by gentle webs of mycelia, running from the roots of one tree to the roots of another. Gemmy spent long minutes breathing, gently sending her own roots out to the mycelia, probing, asking permission to join the discussion. Gemmy stopped, went back up into the core of her body, breathed, and went back out again into the web underneath where she sat. And . . . .
Because, of course, my own loves, there is grounding and then, of course, there is grounding. And when a Witch of Hir Place grounds, s/he makes an offering of hir entire self to the ground and the ground makes an offering of its entire self to the Witch. This isn’t a way for a Witch to remain in control during magic; it’s a way for the Witch and hir place to have sex, to achieve communion, to become one being, to work together. It’s complete ecstasy.
No wonder it’s seldom done.
Grounding consciously with a place allows the Witch to run hir roots down into the clay, or gravel, or sand of the place, to find the places where roots used to run before the place was bulldozed for houses, to come into communion with the minerals, and worms, and burrowing moles that spend all day being a place. And, when a Witch grounds this way, the Witch becomes part of the work of the place.
Sex magic, well, when it’s done right and done with the right Witch, sex magic lets a Witch connect with they ley lines of the land, burrow into the places where roots used to be, and sync with the webs of energy spun by mycelia and minerals that run along the river. High magic, well, when it’s done right, high magic calls the appropriate entities and engages them in the dance being done between the river, and the sand along the river, and the moonlight that energizes everything. And modern magic, well, when modern magic is done right, it pulls the roots of the city, the roots that grow from buildings over a hundred years old and from buildings newly dug, and the roots from webs and strands of wires that connect everything, and it binds those roots to the roots of the willows and the dances of the squirrels and the glow of the moon on the river.
And Gemmy sat a long time and Gemmy did all of the magic that a Witch can do in a new place.
And then Gemmy got up and Gemmy hiked home.
/To be continued.
Picture found here.