A Witch Without a Place — Chapter Three


Halfway around the globe, another storm was brewing.

Paris stared out the store window and sighed.  He’d promised to get the kids outside today, but that just wasn’t going to happen.  He didn’t mind taking them outside in the rain; in fact, some of his best times with Chessy and Herne had been rainboot-clad, stomping through puddles, looking for tadpoles, sailing hollyhock boats down the rain-soaked creek behind their house.  But this rain was different, more like a monsoon, too dangerous for an afternoon ramble.  This had been happening, he reflected,  more and more often.

Herne wouldn’t be a problem.  He was already snuggled into the beanbag chair that Paris kept in the office, sucking up the information from one of Paris’ old botany textbooks.  That kid had an affinity for Latin names that most boys reserved for baseball statistics, or superhero stories, or rapper YouTubes.

No, it was Chessy who worried Paris this morning.

“Honey, eat your peanut butter sandwich,” Paris urged, watching his daughter push away the food he’d just fixed.

“NO!  she yelled,  “It’s bad.  Mommy cuts it in triangles.  And triangles taste better.”

“Chessy, be reasonable.  The shape of the sandwich doesn’t affect its taste.  Mommy would want you to eat your lunch.”

“No.  I don’t like the way the square ones taste,” she insisted.

Paris groaned.  He really needed to get this inventory finished today and, if he were honest, he needed to get a bunch of geraniums and asters into larger pots and placed out front for the ladies of Loudon who wanted to plant out their porches with Autumn flowers.  He loved his daughter, but her insistence on what seemed to him to be silly things drove Paris nuts.

“OK, look,  I’ll cut the squares into triangles and then you can eat them, right?”

“No!  You cut them into squares first.  Square peanut butter sandwiches are bad.  I want Mommy!”

That was it.

Chessy had said the one thing that drove Paris crazy.

He’d been the kids’ primary caretaker since they were born.  Gemmy had been in this doctoral program for a long time and their agreement had been that, self-employed, he’d do most of the day-to-day work of caring for the kids.  Gemmy made their doctors’ appointments, scheduled school conferences, put birthday parties and playdates on the calendar — she had always been better at organizing appointments — but Paris managed the basics.  He got the kids up, got them dressed (appropriately, for the weather; Herne couldn’t wear socks, long johns, and hoodies in August and Chessy couldn’t wear bathing suits in December), cared for them on days, like today, when school was closed, made sure their homework got done and that their uniforms (ballet for Herne and soccer for Chessy) were clean.  He packed their lunches, made waffles for breakfast on Saturday, and tucked them into bed on the (increasingly frequent) nights when Gemmy had to work late.

The one time that Gemmy had fixed lunch had made an indelible impression on Chessy.  However Paris did it, it was wrong.  “I want Mommy” riled up all of his feelings of inadequacy as a parent.

“Chessy!  I don’t have time for this.  You’re being unreasonable.  You will eat that perfectly good sandwich or you’ll sit in the corner until you’re hungry enough to eat it.”

Paris hated the way that he sounded like his own father, but that girl could drive a sane man to drink.  He stormed off to his desk and started in on the inventory of perennials and garden statuary.  Chessy started to cry and Herne got up, turned the beanbag chair around, and covered his ears while he read.

More than anything, Paris felt as if his son too often got short shrift, shunted off to the sidelines in response to Chessy’s temper.  He’d tried to discuss it with Gemmy, two nights ago, but she’d fallen asleep three minutes into their conversation,  And, he understood, he did.  She was coming off a 48 hour stint on the weather trackers; she needed sleep like oxygen.  But without her, he had no one to talk to and Chessy kept sucking up all of his attention, leaving almost none for Herne,

“I am a complete failure as a father,” Paris typed into an email to Gemmy.  It wasn’t fair, he knew, to bother her at work with his problems, but he just needed someone to talk to — someone who could understand being frustrated with them.

“For the love of the Goddess, Paris, can you please just cope with the kids?  I am dealing with a storm that threatens to kill half the bees in the Indian Ocean and I really can’t prop you up just now.  If there are no bees left, what future do our kids have?  Can you please just pull it together and manage one little girl’s food preferences?”

Paris took a deep breath.  Gemmy wasn’t going to be much help just now.  These were his kids and he needed to get both of them together and outside.

“OK,” Paris said, pushing back from his desk.  “You guys have three minutes to get your rain gear on.  Herne, can you help your sister?  We’re going to go take some water samples from our creek.  Who can get ready first?”  Damn the inventory, damn the seedlings, and damn Gemmy.  He had to get out of here and maybe some fresh air, no matter how wet, would do him and both kids some good.

Picture found here.



Or, We *Could* Try Taking Women Seriously


A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of going to see a one-woman show by the funny and charming @funkybrownchick. She’s a sex educator by profession, so some of the stories she told were quite saucy, some were side-splittingly funny, some were touching, some were sad…and one was scary.

Many years ago, prior to the advent of cell phones, she was traveling back to her home in Chicago when a big snowstorm forced her plane to land in Detroit. They were going nowhere else that night, so the stranded passengers queued up at the airline counters to be assigned hotels. Being an inexperienced traveler, she was slow to queue up, so by the time she got to the hotel shuttle area, it was VERY late (or early depending on how you look at it), and most other passengers had already been ferried to their hotels.

A shuttle driver – in an official shuttle with the names of several hotels on the side – picked her up and then took off without any other passengers.

Women already know what’s about to happen next, but for the fellas, he waited until they were on the highway to start commenting on her looks, asking increasingly inappropriately personal questions, and “joking” about how maybe he’d eventually get her to her hotel.

Remember, no cell phones, and she’s in a city she’s not supposed to be in, in the middle of the night, and no one knows she’s there.

Fortunately, she’s a quick thinker, and she told the driver she was going to be sick to get him to pull over. As soon as the van got to the shoulder and slowed down, she jumped out and started running back towards the airport along the shoulder. She was able to flag down another hotel shuttle full of passengers, who made room for her, and the driver took her back to the airport and dropped her off with the airport police.

Women already know what’s about to happen next, but for the fellas, the cops didn’t believe her. They dismissed her story, told her she was over-reacting, and chided her that the driver was just trying to be friendly.

She spent the night on the floor at the airport and, thank the Goddess, got safely home to Chicago the next day.

The Atlantic recently had a cover story about this phenomenon, titled “An Epidemic of Disbelief.” In short, cops disproportionately (SERIOUSLY disproportionately) don’t believe women who report sexual assault. Because of that, they don’t test rape kits. Not just one or two, not just in one or two places, but hundreds of thousands all across the country. Because of that, serial rapists walk free to assault more women FOR YEARS. FOR DECADES.

Cops also disproportionately (SERIOUSLY disproportionately) don’t believe women who report domestic/intimate partner violence. Because of that, no matter how “strong” your local red flag law, those violent men get to keep their guns. And while not all domestic/intimate partner abusers become mass shooters, nearly all mass shooters start as domestic/intimate partner abusers and share a virulent hatred of women.

Does that mean women never lie about sexual assault or domestic/intimate partner violence? Of course not, but maybe cops could try approaching our tales of victimization the same way they do other crime victims.

Mugging victims *could* be lying about how much cash got taken.

Auto-theft victims *could* just be trying to get away with insurance fraud.

Someone who got punched in a bar might have been the one who started the fight.

But cops don’t start off assuming that the victims are lying, dismissing their reports, and refusing to investigate the crime unless someone provides them with overwhelming evidence that it occurred. Maybe, just maybe, they – and we – could start affording women the same courtesy, just as a test to see what happens.

Image from the Seattle Times.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.


In Between Lughnasadh and Mabon Potpourri


(See how that lovely path divides the two Sabbats?  I think that’s where we are now.)

The Greenman recently sent me this great post  about being in relationship with place, a subject much on my mind as I settle in here, in my new place.  Here’s a taste:

But now I’ve realized that home isn’t really about the physical place: it’s about my relationship to the place where I happen to find myself.


Home is somewhere that I make. It’s somewhere that I choose. Years ago, Dan Pearson gave a Sunday Sermon at the School of Life where he talked about commitment – how gardening, any act of landscape-making, is a practice of commitment to a place. To garden is to invest time and attention into a place. Whether it’s cutting back invading ivy or coaxing out the delicate twining tendrils of a jasmine vine, gardening is an act of commitment to place – devotion of time, attention, and effort. You make home, one humble act at a time.

Lots of people whose opinions I respect keep bringing up  the need to ensure local food resources.  We can’t all grow all of our own food (and, regardless,  I’m going to need us to keep importing coffee because, well, coffee), but we can all do something.  We can grow what we can, buy as much as we can from local farmers and producers, and support community gardening and the kind of sensible planning that ensures farms within a short distance from cities and suburbs.

Chas Clifton makes me want to go mushroom hunting.

I can completely relate to how silence overtakes us in summer, surrounded by flowers.  The wildflowers up here have been amazing this year, in the true sense of making one mazed, enchanted, speechless with wonder and joy.  Queen Anne’s Lace, chickory, teazles, grasses, daisies, black-eyed-susans, pussy willows . . . .  Soon (and it will be quite soon if this drought continues) the leaves will begin to change color and I am looking forward to experiencing the famed Autumn colors of the Shenandoah Valley.

Quite some time before I ever thought that I’d actually move up here, I’d occasionally get up into the mountains — sometimes to see the precious American chestnut saplings at the Virginia Arboretum, and sometimes to see art at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, and sometimes just to drive up with a friend — and, driving home and watching cloud shadows shift over the mountains, I would think, “Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a little cabin up here and to be able to come, sit for a while, and compose my soul before I die?”  And then I’d think how crazy it would make me to have two homes, and how crazy it would make Merlin and Nimue for me to move between two homes, and how I already needed more time than I had to maintain my garden and . . . .

Now, finding myself up here, I do keep stopping, staring at the mountains, and composing myself (I’m in good health; no need for worries!  It’s just that I’m a Witch and we Witches aren’t afraid of the dark.  I’m 63, my Son is raised, my G/Son is halfway to adulthood, I’m retired, and one of my final big jobs is getting ready to, hopefully, some time in the mid-distance future,  eff the ineffable.  I’m the traditional good girl, the one who always showed up early, learned all the lessons, prayed the whole rosary, made extra credit mint jelly in HomeEc, aced the tests — Law Review!, Moot Court!, Third in Her Class!, White Shoe Law! Appellate Wins!  Souter on her SCOTUS Certificate! — cleaned her room, trained her replacement, and got ready for the next task.  I bet I can ace this one, as well).

Terri Windling’s blog is one of the best sources of succor in these terrible times and recently she’s been writing  about silence, and old places, and preparing for death.  Here’s a snippet:

“Our culture is so fearful of the silence of death,” writes Parker, “that it worships noise nonstop. In the midst of all that noise, small silences can help us become more comfortable with the Great Silence toward which we are all headed. Small silences bring us ‘little deaths,’ which, to our surprise, turn out to be deeply fulfilling. For example, as we settle into silence, where our posturing and pushing must cease, we may experience a temporary death of the ego, of that separate sense of self we spend so much time cultivating. But this ‘little death,’ instead of frightening us, makes us feel more at peace and more at home.

Tintern Abbey by Saffron Blaze2

“The Rule of St. Benedict, that ancient guide to the monastic life, includes the admonition to ‘keep death before one’s eyes daily.’ As a young man I found this advice a bit morbid. But the older I get, the more I understand how life-giving this practice can be. As I settle into silence, I draw closer to my own soul, touching a place within me that knows no fear of dying. And the little deaths I experience in silence deepen my appreciation for life — for the light suffusing the room as I write, for the breeze coming in through the window.

“So silence brings not only little deaths but also little births — small awakenings to beauty, to vitality, to hope, to life. In silence we may start to intuit that birth and death have much in common. We came from the Great Silence without fear into this world of noise. Perhaps we can return without fear as well, crossing back over knowing that the Great Silence is our first and final home.”

I follow a Twitter account that simply tweets, once a day, “Someday, you will die.”  It’s really a liberating reminder.  It makes me think of Carlos Castenda insisting that we must pay attention to Death, just over our left shoulder.  In any important decision, we can turn and ask Death what he thinks.

Death is such a good friend to humanity.

And, of course, that brings me, as so many things often do, to Mary Oliver:

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world

Like Ms. Oliver, I want to say, and honestly I think that I can, that I was a bride, married to amazement.  And so as to Mr Merlin.   And so as to Mr. Whyte.

And, so, when I stop on the way home from a local Dem meeting and lose myself in sunlit clouds over the mountains, or when I go the the lake and watch the dragonflies perform the great rite, or when I stand under the full Moon and hear the frogs intone the great incantation, well, I believe that I am, indeed, composing my soul.

May it be so for you.

Photo from the meadows of the Virginia Arboretum by the blogger. If you copy, please link back.




Words for Wednesday


Commercial Break

~ Jacqueline Woodson

Last night this commercial came on TV. It was this white lady making a nice dinner for her husband. She made him some baked chicken with potatoes and gravy and some kind of greens—not collards, but they still looked real good. Everything looked so delicious, I just wanted to reach into that television and snatch a plate for myself.
He gave her a kiss and then a voice came on saying He’ll love you for it and then the commercial went off.

I sat on Miss Edna’s scratchy couch wondering if that man and woman really ate that food or just threw it all away.

Now Ms. Marcus wants to know why I wrote that the lady is white and I say because it’s true. And Ms. Marcus says Lonnie, what does race have to do with it, forgetting that she asked us to use lots of details when we wrote. Forgetting that whole long talk she gave yesterday about the importance of description! I don’t say anything back to her, just look down at my arm. It’s dark brown and there’s a scab by my wrist that I don’t pick at if I remember not to. I look at my knuckles. They’re real dark too.

Outside it’s starting to rain and the way the rain comes downtap, tapping against the window—gets me to thinking. Ms. Marcus don’t understand some things even though she’s my favorite teacher in the world. Things like my brown, brown arm. And the white lady and man with all that good food to throw away. How if you turn on your TV, that’s what you see—people with lots and lots of stuff not having to sit on scratchy couches in Miss Edna’s house. And the true fact is alotta those people are white. Maybe it’s that if you’re white you can’t see all the whiteness around you.

Picture found here.

But Why Do You Have to Call Yourself a Witch?

(Belated) Monday at the Movies

Something to consider for those who say it’s wrong to do political magic.

The Magical Battle for America 8.11.19


We’ve been doing this working for some time now.  Sometimes, adding a new tool or other object can help bring a fresh energy to our work.  Maybe you can add a candle that you light specifically for this work.  (You can buy plain glass candles and print out a picture to tape or glue to the outside.  Maybe the Statue of Liberty or Salmon?)  Cedar or sage incense can help you to get in touch with the Cowboy.  Water in a bowl full of rocks can remind you of the swamps that survivors travelled on the Underground Railroad.  A plain pottery cup or woven shawl can remind you of the simple life at Walden Pond.  Do what you can to charge up the energy — we’re entering a difficult and uncertain phase of this battle.

Now’s probably a good time to remind everyone to check/refresh the wards on your home or wherever you do this work.  (No, really.  You really need to do this.)  Be sure that you’re rested, grounded, and in a comfortable position.  Maybe wrap up in a blanket or cloak and grasp an herb, stone, or talisman that matters to you.  Grow your roots, send them deep into the soil, let them intertwine and grow small hairs to attach to the mycelia in your own landbase.


Anchor yourself firmly to your landbase.  Does your landbase have anything to tell you today?  Notice a small detail that will call you back when this working is finished.

Ground and center.  Cast a circle.


As you move to our American plain on the astral plane, you can see again the safe hillock where you do your work.  You can see the five giant banners, shining in the sky: Walden Pond, the Underground Railroad, the Cowboy, the Salmon, and Lady Liberty.  Do they seem more defined since we began our work? Do they have anything special to tell you this week?

For a few moments, just sit on your hillock and allow yourself to become comfortable.  This place should be feeling very real to you by now; we’ve been working together to create it for months and months.  What’s become familiar to you?  A tuft of prairie grass?  Buffalo off in the distance?  The scent of sand carried on the wind?  You’ve been involved in a months-long magical working here, joined with magic workers from across the globe.  Feel your connection to this place on the astral plane. It is always here for you, always a source of strength.

Just now, there are so many attacks on decency and justice that it can be difficult to know where we should focus our energy.  At times like this, the best course of action can be to go back to basics.  Thoreau went to Walden Pond in order to strip things down, to get back to a life that felt livable.  As you look to the East, you see the Walden Pond banner growing larger and larger in the sky.  The banner fills the entire sky and becomes three-dimensional.  You can step into the banner and stand on the shore, just outside of Thoreau’s simple cabin.

As you breathe in the silence and peace, you realize that, for America to get back to the basics, we must protect our elections.  Hackable electronic voting machines aren’t necessary.  There’s no reason why the vote totals must be known immediately and this is especially true when we are sacrificing accuracy for immediacy.

Bend down and pick up a stone from the shore of the pond.  Hold tight to it and visualize your stone, along with so many others, building a wall against those — from this country and elsewhere — who want to hack our votes.  The stone is real, concrete, something that everyone can touch and see.  So are paper ballots.  As we approach election season (and there are important state elections THIS November), focus your energy into the stone and see America returning to the basics of election protection.

When you feel that you have charged the stone, throw it as hard and as far as you can into Walden Pond.  Watch it make ripples across the entire pond, ripples that reach from one shore to the other.  The ripples change the pond and the energy of the stone spreads far and wide.

You may want to sit and watch until the stone has done its work, until all of the ripples have died down and the pond is again serene.

Slowly, come down from your hillock and begin to walk back to your own landbase.

Open your eyes.  Rub your arms and face.  Notice the detail that you selected to call yourself back.  Drink something, maybe iced tea or a cup of coffee.  Have something to eat, maybe a piece of bread with peanut butter or a sliced apple.  Maybe you can set up a small altar dedicated to Walden Pond.  (If so, please post a picture!!)  You may want to repeat this working several times this week.  You may want to journal about it.  Are you inspired to make any art? If you’re willing, please share in comments what happened and how this working went.

Picture found here.