TL; DR.

For awhile I didn’t think I would come back to this space. It seems part of a different time of my life, so integrated with our old house, with the city and life that we left. 

But I keep thinking about this blog. The title: This Pagan House. I am still a Pagan, and I still have a house. More than ever, after this past couple of years, I am more confident in the identities that I have chosen. It seems like every day I desire to walk more publicly in who I am, what I believe. To begin the walk of becoming who I want to be. 

I keep thinking about how I want to take up writing again. 

—–

It’s been about a year. 10 months. Hello, again. 

I look through these old entries and some of them feel familiar. 

Oh, hello! I still do that. I’m still like that. I still think that.

And some of them feel very…young. And hopeful. And naive. 

I read those posts with a half-smlie, and maybe a prickle of tears. To make the choice: stay, or go? Stay, or become? 

——

Briefly: 

I see that the last set of posts I wrote informed this space that J had lost his job. That I had Eleanor, successfully, but returned to the hospital. October 2013 was a time of refocusing, reinvention. I remember that time; everything was going pretty well, considering. 

In the latter part of October I developed a severe case of pericoronitis, basically inflammation of the wisdom teeth, most likely due to a super-stressed immune system (read, the mystery illness after Eleanor) and crowding from my jaw. The surgery to remove all of my wisdom teeth had to be done immediately. This wiped out the last of our reserve money from selling the house. In December, we broke our lease and moved in with J’s parents. J also had the chance at a Supreme Career Maker Opportunity, the kind of job that only comes along once-in-a-blue-moon. He was told by the HR rep after the on-site interviews that he was a virtual lock. They loved him. They’d be in touch soon. 

We were so excited.

Two days after we moved in with his parents we learned that he did not get the job. It was devastating. 

We lived with his parents for almost six months. I weaned Eleanor and took a full-time retail job. Promising job prospects came and went, often with enough interviews to make him, us, feel hopeful. But they never actually resulted in anything. 

One job, an entry-level job in a town we didn’t even have on our radar, came up. It was in the right field, not quiet what he wanted to do, but still. Something. Enough to keep going to the interviews. They flew him out. They offered the job. At the time he tried to leverage it into another job, another promising prospect that was another Supreme Career Maker Opportunity. It looked for a few days that it might happen. 

And again, disappointment. The preferred plan again fell through. But he accepted the other job. We had to at that point. Everything in our life at that point was brittle: our relationship, our relationship to our children, and to his parents, the atmosphere at my job. We had to leave. 

Two months (due to security clearance) later we found ourselves moving from Texas to the Midwest. 

And here we are, in the suburbs of St. Louis. 

—-

To prepare for our move, I flew up to St. Louis to find a house to rent. We both agreed that if we could get it as settled as possible before we actually moved that would be best. I met with a rental agent, we toured the city, I settled on a house in the County, to the north-west of St. Louis. I signed the papers, reassured that we could pick up the keys as soon as we got in to town. Everything was ready. 

Well. In St. Louis County there’s something called an occupancy permit, that can only be obtained after an inspection of the property. It’s basically a (corrupt) moneymaker. I was told when I signed the papers that the inspection was done, and that the permit would be waiting for us when we got to town.

J went to the City Hall the first day in town. The leasing agency hadn’t done the inspection, thus, no permit.

I was livid. The leasing agent gave us the run around. J’s new company began legal proceedings. They had one inspection done later that week–and they failed it, meaning no permit. They greased some palms, got a date for another inspection less than a day later, and passed it. Yeah, not suspicious at all. 

When we finally moved into the house…it was a mess. Not at all like I had been shown. They had contractors come in during the week to fix some things so they could get the inspection passed, and they had left the house in shambles. Broken kitchen drawers. Three cups of sawdust in the carpets from cutting off the bottoms of the doors so that they would fit in the doorway–and then, the cuts were jagged and crooked. Nails sticking out of cabinetry. 

To top it all off, when we turned on the shower to clean the tub, water began pouring from the pipes into the basement. The leasing company hadn’t overwintered the property, and all of the water pipes in the basement had shattered. 

(So…how did it pass the second inspection? You tell me.)

Needless to say, we broke the lease and demanded all of our money back. 

When I did a move-out inspection a week later, the representative hopped out of his car and came up to me with a puzzled look on his face. 

“Are we doing a move-in inspection?”

I paused. “Um, no. We’re moving out.”

His frowned deepened and annoyance clearly showed on his face. “What do you mean, move out? I’m the agent who okays listings to be put on the market. I expressly did not approve this property.”

We went into the house, I showed him around, and asked him if he wanted to see the basement to make sure it was okay. 

He gave a half-laugh, the kind you give when something is not very funny. “I don’t need to go down there. I know it’s a mess.The pipes are shattered, and there’s a leak. We have those water-absorption buckets all around.  Now tell me. Who was your leasing agent?”

—-

We found a new house. We moved out a week after living in the Broken House. 

The new place is homey. The new leasing company is responsive, kind, and eccentric. The hardwoods shine. The kitchen is stuck in the ’90s, but that’s okay, because there’s a three-season porch, and a finished basement. It’s taken awhile, but we’re painting the walls and decorating and making it home. It’s only a rental, and we’ll probably be leaving soon-ish. But it’s our home, for now. Probably for the time that we stay in St. Louis. 

—-

Two weeks after we moved to St. Louis, J got a call from a company that had initially passed on his resume. They’re exciting, a lot of influence, research, and innovation. They were very keen to interview him, wanted to talk to him about a new position that had come up. 

It was in Texas, close to family. Close to friends. Good benefits. Awesome opportunity. 

We laughed and laughed and laughed. Then I rolled over and cried. 

—–

I go to therapy now. I like her. She’s earnest, beautiful, and I detect a bit of kookiness. I enjoy it. Some of our sessions involve talking, some involving trance-meditation. My kind of therapist. 

I’ve struggled to cope with this move. Hell, I’ve struggled to cope with the past two years. My first therapy session I finished a long tirade with: “How did I even get here?! This is not the life I wanted. This is not the life I want!”

She nodded, very calm, like a therapist should be, and told me that we’d figure it out. But it was going to take some time. 

—–

One thing I love about St.Louis is that it rains. Right now it’s thundering and lightening and just pouring down. Before the storm began, nature became a visual and sonic cacophony. Clouds purpled and multiplied. Lightning pierced the suburban sky in eerily straight lines. Thunder clapped and rumbled. The cicadas roared a deafening tune. 

So loud that C stood in the driveway, clapped her hands over her ears, and yelled at All of the Forces of Nature to cut it out. They didn’t listen, much to her consternation. Her four-year-old self is giggly and joyful, but also imperious. Of course Nature should obey her, and why not? All she wanted was a gentle, cool summer evening so she could play outside. 

But only the downpour ceased their racket. 

Now it’s the sound of softly falling rain, distant rolling thunder, and the gentle song of crickets. Green leaves, a bit on the tired side of summer, weighted down by heavy drops of rain. A cool breeze, finally, in the wake of the storm. 

—–

It’s taken me a few days to write this. I went back and forth on whether or not to post it, but if I keep up this space here—which I intend to—then this part of the story needs to be told. 

One last thing. 

Being a pagan in a strange land can be difficult. I intimately knew the gods and landspirits of Texas, especially Central Texas. I felt them in the cliffs and brush and oak and dry creeks. In the searing heat of summer, in the sharp stillness of those brief winter nights.  I celebrated Dionysus in the vineyard I worked; I touched Aphrodite in the silky softness of May evenings. I saw mischievous faces in the hedges of the park where I ran. 

Here, I feel displaced. I intellectually know that this is a place of rivers and waters and hills. Trees tower over the suburbs. It is so humid that the mornings shimmer in the sunlight sometimes. There is emotion here, so much of it, and so much hurt and displacement and regret. It is an area with a deep and complicated history.  You can feel it simmer over St. Louis, and indeed, it burst forth a few weeks ago in tragedy.

I find that in these places–there is deep, deep magic. Old magic. It’s palpable here. As I write this I feel a certainty that even though this land is unfamiliar, that there is a rightness of me being here at this time in my life. 

Even though this place is complicated, and I don’t always like it, I know that I am supposed to be here.

Considering October: Update

IMG_2148

The October Challenge has gone okay so far. The first week went well except for the writing and exercise portion. I hit a major hiccough last weekend when first Jonathan, then I, got a stomach bug. Then a wisdom tooth that had been emerging became infected, which has put us in a bit of a financial tailspin, again, as I don’t have dental coverage.

I’ll admit–I allowed myself about 36 hours of “feeling my feelings”—i.e. crying, journaling, and just being. I have a tendency to label that as a ‘pity party’ or ‘being a baby’ but I put a stop that language. It is what it is, and it’s healthy, as long as moving forward is the goal. So on Tuesday I picked up what wasn’t washed away and decided to start changing things.

That’s one aspect of witch-ing that I love. It has taught me practice, it has taught me action, and that while the winter ground seems dead, it most certainly is not.

I pray to Brid and to Aphrodite. I light a candle for Hestia, honor the ancestors, greet the local spirits, and ask for advice and occasionally favors—but I don’t rely on it. I know that I am the agent of change in this equation. All of the favor in the world, all of the prayers and supplications and spells and ritual mean very little without a desire to act.

I evaluated our needs: money. I considered our situation. I’m a breastfeeding mother of a newborn, so I can’t go anywhere. That leaves working at home. What skills do I have? I can write, and I can sit in front of a computer. That leaves freelance writing, content mills and product reviews.  As of yesterday I’ve signed up for a few more promising leads. We’ll see where it goes.

I’m sure that the next few weeks of October will be about learning to fit it all in.

Moving to the Country, Part One

[Disclaimer:

I know that finances aren’t something that is easy for us—any community—to talk about. This story is not a judgment on how anyone else deals with their money. This is about me, my family, and our responsibilities to each other. And my responsibilities to the values I cherish, values that guide this process.]

———-

I have about a million things I should be doing right now, none of which involve writing a blog post. However, this is one of those days…one of those days where my mind is so messy that the only therapy is the written word.

It all sounds really dire, doesn’t it? It’s not. It’s just confusing. And since it deals directly with matters of the home and the spirit, well, it seems right to talk about it on the blog.

If you read the previous post (Transitions and Change) then you know that J and I are looking to move. We’ve  been looking for houses/property for five months now. We live in a comfortable home in a nice neighborhood, in a quality school district. J’s commute is reasonable, and we’re within easy access of downtown Austin. Perfect, right?

And really, it is. If all we ever wanted to do was pay the bills. We were young and naive when we bought this place. It’s not more than we can afford—it is exactly what we can afford, with just enough to save a bit. And by a bit, enough to keep us afloat whenever we have an extra medical bill or car repair, but no more than that. And what with life teaching us some (harsh, valuable) lessons in the past year we’ve realized that if anything truly catastrophic happened we’d be shit-outta-luck.

Knowing that better now, without the shiny veneer of youth protecting us, we decided in January that we needed to downsize. Besides, there were (are) things that we want to do that we just can’t with this mortgage. We’ve canceled at least five trips because we just couldn’t save enough. We haven’t started college savings for Claire, mainly because what overages we had were wiped out by medical bills. This isn’t so you pity us–there’s nothing to pity. We’re lucky. We also don’t want our finances to be the bane of our life and control us. And slowly, slowly…it seems that is the case.

The house hunt has gone through several evolutions. The first was just to downsize in another neighborhood, where the commute for Jonathan would still be reasonable. Well, the market is such in Austin that a truly middle class family just can’t buy into the city anymore.  Also, the housing market is moving so extremely fast (we’re talking 48 hour turnovers–no joke–we already have 3 couples interested in our house and it’s not even on the market yet…really, really insane).

After looking at a few less-than-stellar options, that still didn’t reduce our mortgage that much, and also didn’t provide good value for the price we wondered if we were just stuck.

Then our realtor, our awesome awesome realtor (if you’re in the Austin area and looking to move…please, contact me so I can give you her info…she’s really incredible) floated the idea of building. Which we quickly nixed. No way, no how, not prepared for THAT kind of commitment.

But moving to the country…maybe. Maybe purchasing a property with a mobile home, then building in 5-10 years…That seemed ideal. And for a few months we looked (mainly waited) for properties to pop up. And a few did, mostly with mobile homes that should have been condemned—and you can’t get a loan on a property listed as a home if the home is in shambles.

We thought we found what was the perfect compromise. Two and a half acres, an older (and, we thought, liveable) mobile home, and cheap. A long commute for Jonathan, but the savings were substantial. So we offered on it and were eventually accepted. This was Saturday. On Sunday, when Jonathan came home from meeting with the inspector, the news was…well, not good.

So not good, that even with the wide latitude of problems we were willing to accept, it was just too much. We would have spent at least $20,000 to fix up an older (depreciating) mobile home. Even with the mortgage savings, it would be a bad investment.

Thank gods for option periods, right? But now we were back at step one. And coming up on a hard deadline for decision-making. This baby is due in August.

Then our realtor mentioned, again, building. And we thought: well, maybe. She sent us some links to some pre-fab, well-built cabins (called Kanga systems) and I found some cabin kits that seemed promising. It would require work, but it would be shelter, and this is what we want. We want to move out to a rural area. We want to begin homesteading. We want to simplify and downsize and be financially healthy.

So that’s where we are right now. I feel…frazzled, I’ll be honest. Also like I’m tired of talking and thinking and I want to do! The changes that are coming are, well, huge. We’ll most likely be selling this house then moving to an apartment for the summer. Then we’ll build (or have installed) an empty cabin shell. Then we’ll finish it out. Then we’ll have a baby (or move) (we don’t know which will happen first). And it will be crazy.

Our next step is looking at some properties (today). Calling the cabin companies (next on the to do list). Getting our house ready for some pre-market showings (tomorrow evening). Filling out builder’s loans applications (today). Packing. Finding an apartment.

Crazy.  But for some reason, none of this upheaval concerns me. I feel certain that this is a good move for us.  Whereas not moving, being stagnant in our current situation, would be akin to surrendering to eventual drowning.

PBP 2013: Animism, Considered

Today I took a walk. Not really an extraordinary thing, walking, except that it was the first time I’ve been outside the house in three days. The whole family is rotating through a bad cold, and I had a stomach bug besides, so…all in all…it’s been a pretty claustrophobic existence for most of the week.

But today I felt well enough to walk. My body needed to stretch, blood needed to flow. The humid-cool air chilled my skin and reminded me of late winter softball practice. Families and teenagers crowded the park/watershed where I walk, all enjoying the break in rainy weather before we get another cold front tomorrow. Already the clouds had begun rolling in, big lavender thunderheads squatting on the horizon.

As I walked I thought about a blog post I read yesterday. It was by Wendy Froud and detailed a walk she took to receive inspiration from the fae. Dver, at A Forest Door, noted that this was “animism in action“. And as I stopped to say hello to Niana, the water spirit, this got me thinking. Am I an animist?

Perhaps it was the atmosphere of the evening. Even with all the noise going on—toddlers screeching, basketballs bouncing, a group playing football—there was a…bite, shall we say…to the breeze. An ominous quality. The clouds had eaten the golden rays of the sun, so the twilight was instead a mix of gray, blue and purple.

As I turned the bend to the quieter part of the park I began to note that the trees seemed…how do I say?…more….alive. More tree-like, perhaps. I saw how the curved, bent, swooped, twisted and intertwined. I reached out to touch the bark of one, and then couldn’t stop. I wanted to touch all of them! Sit with them. Listen. I was sure, so sure, that they were talking this evening.

Further along the path I came upon a rock I don’t remember seeing before. Really, a boulder. Pockmarked limestone with streaks of red clay. About four feet tall, four feet wide. I walked over to it and leaning against it…felt it. I couldn’t say in that moment that I believed that rock to be without spirit. In fact, I believed that rock had a very distinct spirit.

And on the walk went. I’d observe, listen, and just kind of…bask…in what seemed like a very noisy conversation that many elements, spirits, trees, rocks, mushrooms, grasses were having. Maybe that’s it. Maybe today everything just seemed so loud, so close, that I couldn’t help but notice that the everything had a spirit. Everything had something to say.

Is this crazy? Maybe. The funny thing is for all I’ve considered myself a polytheist, for all I’ve been a Pagan and a novice spell worker, for some reason I’ve never considered animism fully. I don’t know why, maybe I haven’t been ready. Which is strange that I haven’t put it together, since I definitely talk to Niana, converse with the land spirits in the yard, in the hedges. Together, we converse. Is that animism? I guess that has always seemed too macro to be animism to me. And I’ve had experiences kind of like this one before, but never so…so that every tree, every stone, every mushroom I came upon seemed so discrete.

I fear I’m not expressing myself well here, pardon. Suffice to say that while I’ve never considered animism before—I’m not sure why not—it’s a conversation, a consideration, that I think I’m ready to begin.

Pagan Blog Project 2013: A is for Action

[Written on Friday, January 4, 2013]

Action. It’s a weird word to be writing about when I’m sitting in my pajamas on my couch at 9:50 a.m. My stomach is growling, and I’m too lazy to get up and fix breakfast. My tot is off at daycare/preschool, so I’m alone in the house.  The wind is bitter, the driveway slick with sleet, my A/C is pumping out hot air with abandon.

Even though my physical body is in hibernation mode, my…I don’t know, what do you call that part of you that moves independently of your mind, your body? The Other Self is a term I like (today, who knows tomorrow), that part that is you, but also apart from you. For me it’s most active in the dark months. When the cold settles in, when icy tree branches rustle and creak, when our words turn to fog in the chill, when the bustle of the holidays has given way to the long stretch of Winter…that’s when Other Self wakens. When Other Self wants some exercise, some action.

I know that according to typical Pagan structures (Wheel of the Year, I guess) the times for divination, for magic, are strongest around Samhain and Beltane. While I do feel an atmosphere of…change, activity, presence…during those times, I don’t feel focused enough to do the deeper actions that I feel divination and work call for. Samhain is the start of the frenetic holiday season; Beltane the beginning of summer activities and mirth. Both of which are lovely. But winter, the cold, the bare earth, focuses me in a way that nothing else can. Life is quiet on top of the earth. But below there is undeniable activity, and in Texas there is only a few weeks that we can take advantage before spring begins—usually neatly coinciding with Imbolc.

So Other Self and I go on some adventures. We talk using the Shadowscapes Tarot (sometimes Wildwood, but then the conversation is usually obscured). We play with spells and ritual and dancing. We dream together, write to each other, spend some precious time readying ourselves for the inevitable outside activity that begins to creep back in around Valentine’s Day.

This year, I’m hoping that Other Self and I will not lose touch as frequently as we did in 2012. By participating in PBP 13 and  possibly starting the ADF Dedicant Path, I’m looking forward to a full year of play, conversation, learning and action.

The Wind, The Wind.

The wind is blowing. I’m home alone, drinking a nice glass of wine from the winery I work at. The TV is off. The husband is gone. The babe is asleep. I think if we had our Yule tree up the twinkle lights and resinous aroma would make me feel cozy. But being alone, in the quiet, with the restless wind and the fat red waning gibbous (the fourth night in a row the moon has hung low, fat, and red) makes me feel…un-quiet.

When I listen these days I feel that there is a sense of unease in the land. I’m always hesitant to do anything about it, because what do I know of the bigger picture? I’m a peon, at best. But still, we had a mild, wet summer and now we’re having a hot, dry winter. The winds blow at night. There is dense fog and mist in the morning. The afternoon sun is bright and intense, even as we wane into Winter Solstice. This is unusual, even in a land of variable weather. It’s not winter here. We’ve been in a liminal state since July.

The restlessness of the land, of the spirits, dawned on me a few nights ago. Maybe it was the fool moon, or the high clouds racing across the sky, but as I looked up into the night I had the distinct thought that…the ancestors would be easy to hear tonight. The veil is still very thin.

And maybe that is one blessing of such a topsy-turvy year, is that through this whole season, even when I haven’t been seeking them out, everything—the very atmosphere—has felt thin, permeable, evanescent. Like the seasons are having a hard time transitioning, something is having a hard time letting go, giving up, surrendering.

Poly-Theology, Thoughts #1

I’ve always hated the topic of theology. Back in the Christian days I’d try to get into because I felt that I needed to defend my faith. But mostly I wanted to poke my eyes out whenever I heard people debating Hebrew semantics or the literalness of this or that or whatever other topics that theology covers, which is basically everything. Seriously. Being stuck in one of those gotcha! conversations is just the worst.

Still, there is something to be said for having a consistent belief system. Or at least some working parameters. When I first dipped my toe in the vast world of Paganism I had no idea where to go. The most prevalent belief system, at least according to all the books on the shelves, is the Wiccan duo-theistic model. Goddess and God, all divinity aspected in some way under that paradigm. Which is fine, but I always wondered where the Other fit in. The third aspect, the gender-bender, the gray area, the not goddess/god/not wanting to be. I’ve always had a certain niche in my heart for that…facet? or that deity (and right there, you can tell that I’m an eggs-over-medium polytheist, can’t you? Sly dog.)

So, well, what then? For awhile I had (and have) relationships (?) with Brighid, Aphrodite, The Green Man, Hekate and The Morrighan. Some are a bit more involved, some are just passing hellos and thank yous and wows. But it’s quiet a collection. I definitely am not God-spoused or singularly devoted to any of them. And really, I feel like my theology is kind of populated with lots of gods and goddesses. Which I like. I like their stories, prayers and songs.

But…see, I don’t know what to name them. I don’t know what pantheon they are. I’ve read up on several and while some deities resonate, others don’t, then I feel muddled and wish I was a Reconstructionist. Cause Reconstructionists, man, at least they got their pantheon, right? Celtic, Greek, Roman, Norse, whathaveyou.

Grass is greener.

This bothered me. I’m a verbal person and when I wanted to pray to something I didn’t like just addressing the air or Goddess or God. Prayers, petitions, offerings, even just a hello-thankyou fell flat when I did that.

So, I got an idea. From a book. Because that’s how Pagans role, yo. The book is called Firethorn by Sarah Micklem. In it the theology in that world is so…intuitive. It’s basically a fully realized system of poly-theology based on archetype and avatar theory. I like it as a way of identifying deities without the pressure to name and categorize them right off. So, while I’m taking inspiration from her work, I’m not using her system.

But what I’ve come up with goes like this:

For several nights I’ve been trying to cultivate a dream life. It’s something that takes time, yes, but I’ve felt the desire pressing on my intuition. I wanted to petition a deity, make a little offering, but I had no idea who. And I really hate, hate, hate just looking up a deity from a correspondence table. It just feels like cold-calling, which I just…I mean, it seems a bit disrespectful, truth told. So, I used the name Dream Weaver. Which feels like an aspect of the same Weaver I murmur to when I read cards. And it seems to have worked.

Someday a name might be whispered in my ear, but for now, to my modern, disconnected from archaic knowledge and really not wanting to screw it up brain, this works.

Right now I’m not sure of many others. Some names that I have work for me. Aphrodite for marriage, beauty and sex. Hestia and Brighid for different aspects of home, hearth-fire, marriage, children, cooking, housework. And on and on. But for others that I don’t have names for yet, Dream Weaver and Weaver and Star Lady (though I see her in Aphrodite and Brighid, too) and Warrior and Storyteller, this seems to…be a happy medium.

I guess this is my deity life hack. Or something. Thoughts?