A Place Without a Witch — Chapter Forty


“He can leave a message,” Gemmy thought as she turned off the phone. I’m not ready to talk to him yet.

“What I am ready for is a very long, very hot shower and about an hour of serious yoga. Dale’s futon was a goddessend, but I’m not in college anymore and I’m stiff all over. And I need some time with Minerva, I think.”

Hours later, a refreshed and centered Gemmy was out in her tiny back yard, weeding her pots of tomato plants, marigolds, beans, and mint when she heard someone knocking loudly on her front door. “Just a minute,” she called; I’m coming.” Brushing her dirty hands off on her denim shorts, Gemmy went through the house and opened her door to see a frazzled Paris.

“Gemmy; thank goodness you’re OK,” he said, visibly sagging with relief. “Where have you been? You weren’t here last night and you won’t answer your phone. There was a terrible thunderstorm after you walked off. You had me worried!”

Gemmy stood for a moment looking at Paris, unshaven, with dark circles under his eyes. She stepped back and said, “Come on in. You look like a man in desperate need of a glass of sweet tea.”

“After you left, I called and called,” Paris said, following her into her kitchen and sinking down into one of the spindle chairs at her table. “When it got to be ten and you still wouldn’t answer, I drove over through the thunder and lightening to make sure you were OK. But you weren’t here and I didn’t know where to look. I’ve been calling ever since this morning, too. Gemmy, I know you were mad, but why wouldn’t you answer? Even just text me and say, ‘I’m OK,’ or something? I left you a voicemail asking you to do at least that. You’re not usually deliberately cruel,” Paris said, hiccuping back what sounded suspiciously like the beginning of a sob.

“Paris, I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to be cruel,” Gemmy said, pouring tea into two glasses full of ice. “I spent the night on Dale’s futon and I wanted to get my own feelings sorted out before I talked to you, is all. I didn’t realize you’d be so worried.

“I got home this morning and needed a shower and some time to meditate and then I got busy working in the garden. If I’d listened to your message, I would have texted you. I wasn’t trying to worry you and I’m sorry that I did.

“On the other hand, while we’re on the subject of phone calls, it would have been nice if you could have called me before I walked into the store last night and found Susan there, busily taking full possession of her domain.”

“Look, Gemmy,” Paris said, gulping the tea she placed on the table and grabbing her hand, “the only reason I didn’t run after you last night was because I had to be honest with Susan, explain to her that we’re never going to be anything more than old friends.

“I told her not to come to the store, not to drop by anymore. I guess that, ever since her marriage broke up, I could see where she thought things were heading and I should have been more direct with her. I felt bad for her, but that’s no excuse. I think that, well, when she showed up and kind of invited herself out with us, I thought if she saw us together, saw you and me together, how happy we are, even just going out for burgers after closing and simple stuff, I figured she’d understand and I wouldn’t have to play the bad guy. I should have warned you and I should have been blunter with her earlier.

“When I thought maybe you’d been hurt or something . . . . Gem, I was beside myself.”

“Paris, I wish you’d been more, let’s say ‘proactive,’ too. But I understand. I wish that I’d asked you to step into the office and talked to you before just storming off, told you how I felt, heard what you had to say. But the whole thing felt so, I don’t know . . . . You two ‘NoVa natives,’ happily working together in your family store, Susan gloating over it, I just . . . . I think it reminded me too much of how Timmy and I broke up, but you didn’t know that and it’s not your fault. Dale helped me sort things out.”

“Look, Germaine Marron, I’m crazy about you. You’re smart; you’re brave; you’re a grown-up; you’re gorgeous; you’re full of mysterious surprises; I’d rather make love to you than do anything, ever, except maybe watch you laugh, and I really, really, really don’t want anyone or anything to come between us. Can we add this to our ‘lessons learned’ file and go on from here? I know we’ll probably have other fights, but can we agree that we’ll at least text each other and say we’re OK? Because I really never want to spend another night wondering whether, if I start calling hospital emergency rooms, I’m being sensible or stalky. Ever.”

“OK,” Gemmy laughed, “It’s a deal. And you know, I like to watch you laugh, too.

“Paris, seriously, I never wanted to drag you through the whole, sad story of my breakup with Timmy. But, talking with Dale last night, I realized I probably should tell you more about what happened. We’re both working so hard right now; I hate to spend the time that we do have dredging up old history. But we probably both need to learn more about each other.”

Paris got up and brought the pitcher of iced tea over to the table. He poured himself another glassful and topped off Gemmy’s glass.

“You make mighty fine sweet tea for a Yankee, Miss Marron,” he joked, reminding her of the time he’d taught her how to make the Southern concoction — in his kitchen, naked. There had been, Gemmy remembered, a Full Moon.

“Gemmy, I love the store, but one of the problems with it is that it’s really hard to get away. To get a real vacation. And what I’m going to say will sound like a bit of a busman’s holiday, too. But you’ve got a ton of unused leave. And in two weeks, I’m off for a 4-day weekend to that trade show in Virginia Beach. You know, the one I mentioned?”

“Native plants and pollinators?” Gemmy asked, dredging up a memory of something Paris had mentioned a few weeks ago.

“Yes. There are supposed to be some good sessions on selling native plants that will encourage pollinators. Also supposed to be some suppliers there whose stock of native plants isn’t sprayed with the very chemicals that kill pollinators. I do think there’s money to be made here, doing the right thing. So I jerry-rigged help for the store and got my accountant — you remember Gus — to find the funds for me to go.

“Look, Gemmy, I will have to work part of the time, but you could drive down with me, hang out on the beach while I work, maybe even go to some sessions if they interest you, and we’d finally have some time to really be together and talk. I want to hear more about your mom dying, your dad, your aunt, your thing with the chestnut trees, you and Timmy, your coven up there, your bonsai, you know, everything. Why don’t you put in for the time? Dale would come over and feed Peschecat, I bet. Come with me to Virginia Beach.”

Monday morning dawned muggy and hot. Despite her morning shower and freshly-pressed cotton blouse, Gemmy arrived at Interior frizzy, sticky, and hot. But the arctic air conditioning in her wing of the building soon had her shivering and dry. She spent an hour answering emails. She wrote up her final report on the Zodiac Fountain. She submitted her request to use a bit of her accrued leave for the six days down to, at, and back from the Virginia Beach conference.

“This is going to be good for us,” she thought, imagining the drive down and long walks on the beach at sunset as she and Paris told each other their deepest secrets, their silly stories, and their hopes for the future. She made a mental note to buy a new bathing suit and some sunscreen. “Maybe I’ll sit in on that session on pollinators and trees that conflicts with Paris’ time with suppliers,” Gemmy thought, imagining the two of them later selecting saplings for Paris to sell at the store.

At noon, Gemmy grabbed a pad and headed to a scheduled all-hands meeting. Her boss was sitting on the stage and opened the meeting with a series of slides that showed yet-another impending reorganization of the various departments. “And I’m sure you’ll all join me in welcoming Susan, who will now head up all of these previously disparate departments,” Gemmy’s boss announced.

Susan walked onstage and smiled, “I’m looking forward to working with each of you. I think this is going to be great. We can work together to make our departments the most productive in the federal system. There’s a lot to be done, but one of the first things I’m going to work on is our scheduling. Effective this morning, as of nine a.m., all leave requests come through me and must be fully justified,” she said. “Fully,” she emphasized, looking directly into Gemmy’s eyes. “Now, let me explain a few changes that I’m going to make . . . .”

Picture found here.

Ballet Blogging

Saturday Night Slow Dancing on the Front Porch Blogging

They Say a Witch Lives Here

Gwyndolyn cottage storybook Homes

I wish that I’d read this article about making a house a home before I bought my little cottage. Please read the whole thing, whether you’re still dreaming of your own home or whether you’ve lived for years in the place you were born to inhabit.

I especially like points 7 and 8:

7. When you hear the great-horned owl calling, take your daughter out into the night. Listen with her, and let the certainty of a second child bloom in the whos.

8. When your daughters run to you, calling excitedly about a frog or praying mantis, push aside whatever work lies before you, and show them by your keen interest that what they have discovered is the real work. Let them take down your field guide and flip the pages. Let their wonder feed your own.

I knew that I really lived here the first time that G/Son, then only two, and I lived through a thunderstorm here and then went outside barefoot, walked in the stream in front of the house, and sent prayers to the Potomac River. I knew that I would stay when I tucked him into bed, full of roast chicken, and apples, and cheese, and sang him to sleep under heavy covers.

I am the Witch of this place.

May it be so for you.

Picture found here.

Thursday Night Poetry Blogging


I do not have a personal relationship with this Goddess, but a number of her friends have been posting this poem, and so I will make bold to post it here. It meets Archibald MacLeish’s requirement that “A poem should not mean/But be,” and I post it here because it gave me real goosebumps, which is always a sure, certain, and definite sign that the magic is working.

Morrigan Visits Hobby Lobby

~ c.–Kate Holly-Clark, 2014

That morning, they should

have paid attention to the woman

washing blood off the Lexus

in the parking lot.

The doors bang open to the conference room

with a gesture from Her long thin fingers

and walks inside with a wild wind

snatching at papers, swirling the toupees

but somehow not ruffling

a single feather of Her

long cloak of ravenblack.

did you think She says
that I would not know what you are doing?

They all see stars; these godly men and women

for a moment, so bright and burning

their eyes water and
they find themselves in

the ribbon aisle.

She shakes one marble arm from the cloak
sweeps sideways with Her hand

a thousand cawing crows fill the air

the ribbons start slithering

and entwine their feet
with the fear of a teenage girl

caught between

the baby and the coat hanger

Did you think I would not know what you are doing to

My daughters and sons? She says

a rain of pink and yellow kitty buttons ping off their heads
each stinging pain

a mother struggling to feed two children

afraid a third
will starve them all

My daughters and sons and mothers and fathers

and nieces and nephews will not forget says She

zebrastriped ottomans slam into them
with the blows to the gut

of endometriosis gone out of control

the bleeding endlessly into anemia

dizziness dropping them to their knees
cramps as if their guts are being drawn

and wrapped around trees

Sons of the hounds, She cries, COME HERE AND GET MEAT!

Finn MaCool and Herne sweep in at the head

of caroling, slavering gabrielhounds

and the wind’s roaring is so loud they think

their ears will explode and the crashing

of painted crystal and flower vases is

the continous roar of the ocean

they are cut with a thousand tiny shards of glass
their faces all scratches and tiny tears of blood streaming

puking up with fear

like 8 hours after Plan B
feet anchored to the floor with

layer after layer of Disney stickers

and terror of the Phantom Queen

My children choose, says She.
Not you. not in My name

not in My dominion

not for My daughters and sons and mothers and fathers and lovers

not for My children and My non-children

they are Mine and you shall not interfere in My name

the battles they fight are Ours and sacred

no matter what they decide, My children are blessed

they can hear Her voice like dreadful bells

clear right through the hurricane
up under the suspended ceiling
the tiles rippling like an earthquake
dust and glitter swirling through the air

so thick the light is gray

She sweeps back Her cloak
both hands palms down

there is a silence that rings as loud as Her voice

the hounds and the heroes file neatly out the

automatic doors that crunch across

the broken glass

The Battle Crow eyes the board members

one by one with bright black eyes

stripping them down

to their profits and loss
their knees shaking

like they had worked eighteen hours

on an assembly line making wreaths and bows

for a dollar a day

Do not invoke god in your decisions for your fellow folk, She says
until you know Who will answer.

Picture found here.

How to Rewild for Urban Witches


I wrote recently about rewilding, as advocated by Peter Grey, the urban Witch. I firmly believe that we have to make what we say relevant to Witches who live in urban places (cities and close-in suburbs) because that is where most of today’s Witches likely live (simply because that is where most of today’s people live). How does an urban Witch connect with hir landbase? One way is to get to know the features and geography of the place.

Here’s an excellent article entitled How To Know Where the River Is. The entire thing is worth a read. The author describes a typical urban bus stop, trash and all, located near a wounded tree. Yet the tree, the author says, isn’t the main attraction.

That would be the surprising variety of large birds in the air on any given morning, especially in spring. There might be noisy Canada geese, several crows, or a couple of gulls. On a sunny, blustery morning, wind from the south, the sandhill cranes will be heading north in what seems to be their favorite flying weather. Another day a red-tailed hawk will be circling. One April day, sky full of clouds, strong wind from the northeast, I saw a great blue heron heading north, angular, tacking the gusts, looking like the Platonic form from which people first developed the idea of “kite.”

From these sights, anyone should know that the Des Plaines River is about a mile or so due west.


On a humid summer day, if you cycle west towards the Des Plaines, at some point you’ll notice that the smells of exhaust and mown grass and the warm, dusty feel of the air change to a cooler, heavier scent—the green feel of the woods, with deeper, damper notes of more heavily oxygenated air and the slowly moving river.

A relationship with the river is important for urban people because:

Adorned with its archaic green ruff, the Des Plaines winds through the street grid like a twisting vein of biological complexity interrupting the product of human logic. Those who visit often, who quiet down, and listen, observe, and learn, will understand what it might mean to live as “naturalized citizens,” Robin Wall Kimmerer’s term for those whom the land has influenced until they become part of that place and its natural community.

And then

A thriving tree at a bleak bus stop, with its understory of bittersweet nightshade, lady’s thumb, dandelion, and sow thistle; the sight of a great blue heron angling north-northwest-northeast against the strict north-south grain of the streets—such things as these could remind you of where you really live, which might not be where you think you are.

Where do you really live? Is it where you think you are?

Picture found here.

The Coathanger Five


You can read my thoughts on Hobby Lobby and its progeny over at Pagan Square.

Picture found here.