Listen! Are You Breathing Just a Little and Calling It a Life?

For years, I’ve been suggesting to people that they use Christine Kane’s Word of the Year to help them arrange and control their lives.  And I still believe that it’s a brilliant tool.  I don’t think that you can work through her questions and not change your life.

This year, however, it has been made abundantly clear to me that I won’t have a Word of the Year; I will have an Image of the Year.  And that image is the Queen of Swords.  Which is funny because, although I am a woman who earns her supper by using words as swords, I’ve always been rather wary of the Queen of Swords.  When she shows up in a reading, it’s usually as a woman I don’t like.  My Ascendent may be Gemini, but my Sun is in watery, “we’re all one” Pisces and my Moon is in earthy, “let’s all just sit down and enjoy the sun and grass” Taurus.  Be that as it may, 2017 is going to be all about the Queen of Swords.

Which is a long wind up for this Mary Oliver poem that speaks volumes to me about both the Queen of Swords AND watery Pisces.

Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches of other lives —

tried to imagine what the crisp fringes, fun of honey,

hanging from the branches of the young locust trees, in early summer,

feel like?

Do you think this world is only an entertainment for you?

Never to enter the sea and notice how the water divides

with perfect courtesy, to let you in?

Never to lie down on the grass, as though you were the grass!

Never to leap to the air as you open your wings over

the dark acorn of your heart!


No wonder we hear, in your mournful voice, the complaint

that something is missing from your life!


Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch?

Who can travel the miles who does not put one foot

in front of the other, all attentive to what presents itself continually?

Who can behold the inner chamber who has not observed

with admiration, even with rapture, the outer stone?


Well, there is time left–

fields everywhere invite you into them.


And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away

from wherever you are, to look for your soul?

Quickly, then, get up, put on your coat, leave your desk!

To put one’s foot into the door of the grass, which is

the mystery, which is death as well as life, and not be afraid!


To set one’s foot in the door of death, and be  overcome with amazement!

To sit down in front of the weeds, and imagine

god, the ten-fingered, sailing out of his house of straw,

nodding this way and that way, to the flowers of the present hour,

to the song falling out of the mockingbird’s pink mouth,

to the triplets of the honeysuckle, that have opened to the night.

To lie down, like a weed among weeds, and rustle on in the wind!


Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

While the soul, after all, is only a window,

and the opening of the window no more difficult

than the wakening from a little sleep.


Only last week, I went out among the thorns and said to the wild roses:

deny me not, but suffer my devotions.

Then, all afternoon, I sat among them.  Maybe

I even heard a curl or two of music, damp and rouge-red,

hurrying form their stubby buds, from their delicate watery bodies.

For how long will you continue to listen those dark shouters, caution and prudence?

Fall in! Fall in!


A woman standing in the weeds.

A small boat flounders in the deep waves, and what’s coming next is coming with

its own heave and grace.


Meanwhile, once in a while, I have chanced, among the quick things, upon the immutable.

What more could one ask?

And I would love to touch the face of daisies,

and I would bow down to think about it.

That was then, which hasn’t ended yet.

Now the sun begins to swing down.  Under the peach-light

I cross the fields and the dunes , I follow the ocean’s edge.

I climb.  I backtrack.

I float.

I ramble my way home.

I’m heading out to meet the Queen of Swords, to see if she’s within me or if she’s here to quarter me.  I shan’t be gone long; you come, too.

What’s your word — or image — for the coming year?


4 responses to “Listen! Are You Breathing Just a Little and Calling It a Life?

  1. REDUCE. So much, so many things to reduce this new year. I love your image idea! Happy New Year, Hecate!

  2. Beautiful poem. I think Mary Oliver is our Wordsworth.
    Have a happy, safe and healthy New Year.
    My word for 2017 is friend, as I want to be a better one.

  3. Gemini-born Swords woman here — I’ve been thinking or maybe hoping that my wordsmithery might come in handy in the new year, or maybe it’s just that I’m really tired of sloppy thinking in the left of center. If you haven’t read it already, seek out Judy Grahn’s The Queen of Swords. Published by Beacon in 1987. It’s the descent of Inanna in drama and poetry, set partly in an lesbian bar. Time to reread it, I think.

  4. Oh, wow! I love Christine Kane and her Word of the Year tool! I’ve been wanting to reach out to you, HecateDemeter, and not knowing quite how to do it. Seeing your reference to CK, now I know THIS must be the way. And, oh my goodness, what a wonderful poem. So much to take in… I’ll have to revisit it often, I think.

    The reason I wanted to contact you is to ask if you’d be willing to be featured on my blog. Like you, I’m an attorney and writer. And in my cozy mystery series, my protagonist is an attorney and a secretly-practicing Solitary Wiccan. Since many of my readers are non-Pagans but interested in learning more, I thought it would be fun and educational to run a series of written interviews on my blog with real-life Witches, Wiccans & Pagans. I would love to include you. If you send me an email, I’ll send you the questions for your consideration. (The questions can also be tweaked to suit your preferences, and you can, of course, remain completely anonymous.)

    Best wishes & happy new year!


    P.S. I still need to decide upon my Word of the Year for 2017. Choosing an image is an intriguing idea!

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