Shadow

I Dreamed I Was A Raven Art By Cathy McClelland

“I Dreamed I Was A Raven” by Cathy McClelland. View more of her works and purchase this as a giclee on Cathy’s website.

There’s this hint of an idea, rattling around my brain, and I want to try to capture at least a fraction of its essence here. Please bear with me. Note that this will not be a full blog post, and it probably won’t make sense. I’m merely wool gathering in the digital realm.

Thoughts, in no particular order:

  1. It was said to me today: “You just need to embrace who you really are instead of fighting it.” At first, I was confused. Then hurt. Then a little angry. Then irritated at the presumptuousness. It felt vague, like a fortuneteller’s comments. Of course we all need to embrace ourselves. But the question was, what was this person saying to me in saying this? Which one of mes do they think is the real one? What version do they believe I am embracing? What version am I fighting? Because hell if I know. I don’t have one particular personal brand that I’m trying to sell, here. I don’t even have an ideal self in mind, the way that other people seem to. Most of the time I seem to be here to observe others. Just passing through, if you will. All of these things passed through my head over the course of the day, and in the end, I returned to being annoyed. I decided that perhaps the person was saying that I should just stop fighting the inevitable, and crumble under the weight of it all. But then I thought:
  2. The other morning, I woke up with one driving impulse. It was so clear in my head that I didn’t even pause to consider if it was the remnant of a dream. It just WAS. And now it IS. No quibbling required. I woke up knowing that I needed to become a battle mage.
  3. I believe in the Fae. Not the cute type that are made of light and sprinkle faerie dust and bring sweet dreams – the Other type. The type that allow us to live here, but would eat us in a moment (and often do). The tricksy types. The types who will turn a kind hand your way for a nice saucer of cream and a bit of cake of an evening. The ones who drink the whiskey left out for our forefathers on All Hallows Eve.
  4. I have always looked at the world with sorrow and resolve.
  5. I have more backbone than anyone I know. That’s not pride speaking, just truth. I am simply resilient. It’s in my genes, perhaps. Or maybe just in my zodiac. Maybe a bit of both.
  6. About nine months ago (which sounds rather ironic right now), I decided that Elen wasn’t doing it for me right now as a goddess. I needed a warrior. I needed someone who would understand my rage, sorrow, need for physicality. I needed The Morrigan, but in particular, her sister/self Macha. I have healed with a warrior goddess as my guide, even if it has been a little too casual, up until now.
  7. My cousin, whom I also call my sister, and is also like a part of me, is best described as “ethereal.” She is full of light and magick and all of the smells of autumn and comforts of a perfect summer afternoon. Not to say that she comes without faults (that would be boring, and kind of frightening, now that I’m imagining it), just that she balances them out with lots of love, and care for those around her. But here’s the thing – we are somehow twins without being at all alike. It’s confounding, but also comforting, to know there’s at least one person in the world who will never need further explanation. We both operate on the principle that all will become clear in time. It’s like fishing for yourself in a pool of stars. That’s a pretty picture. But with all of the similarities, there are major differences. One is that I can say something like “fishing for yourself in a pool of stars,” and think “what a lovely image” and also “ugh, that’s some trite bullshit right there.” And my cousin can hear me thinking of her from literally a thousand miles away and text to see what’s up, and my response is both “well, of course, we share a bond,” and “it’s just a coincidence.” We even once had a conversation about Fae, she getting excited about meeting some sprites in the wood, me simultaneously planning protective measures to ensure that I wouldn’t get eaten by one of those crafty little buggers. I allow myself to see and believe all, but also to disbelieve all with even measure.
  8. I both believe in ghosts and disbelieve in ghosts, pretty equally. God is multiple and singular, male and female, and living inside of Schrodinger’s box (which by the way, looks a lot like the inside of the bottle from “I Dream of Genie.”) More than that, all cats everywhere are both alive and dead, as evidenced by how often I indulge in sorrowful, vivid daydreams of how I’ll handle my favorite cat’s cremains.
  9. The other day, I answered one of those stupid FB questions, “If you could cure cancer or discover a new planet, which would you pick?” My answer was neither, because they were both pointless endeavors (of course, I spent a couple of paragraphs explaining it from both sides, and felt utterly secure in my analysis). One of my friends remarked that reading the answer made her feel like she was looking down an endless black tunnel. A few other friends (whom, it should be noted, I instantly wrote off as lacking in imagination and, just maybe, intelligence) remarked that curing cancer was the obvious choice – even after I’d explained why it wasn’t. Anyway, this isn’t to say that I’m right and they’re wrong, or they’re right and I’m wrong. After all, it’s a huge, pointless hypothetical meant to get people talking, and that’s what happened. Just that I tend to see all sides of a thing, and I see dark, and the dark doesn’t seem to mean the same thing to me that it does to others. It is nuanced, thick, full of texture and possibility. I see now that some people ignore the dark out of fear, try to paint over it with false light. But false light is its own dangerous form of darkness. We act like negativity in its base sense is evil, instead of just the flip side of positivity. Dark is not inherently bad. It’s what you do in the dark that sets you up for the fall.
  10. All this going to say that I realized that all this time, I’ve envisioned myself as a lightbringer, a white witch. Of course, that’s pretty funny, when viewed from this angle. I HAVE been fighting myself. I can’t tilt the scales of my own spiritual makeup. I can’t pretend that the balance of my inner truth skews toward the sun. I have always been one for grey days. The world requires tough choices, based on truth rather than fancy, on solid fact rather than hope for what may be. There are plenty of healers, learning their craft, keeping the world from going under, one heart at a time, like my beloved cousin. When the time comes, the healers will require a solid line of defense. I will happily take up a place in the shadow if it means giving the light a few more minutes to work.
  11. I have spent a lifetime focusing on being “good,” but to me, “good” meant not rocking the boat. I’ve lately come to realize that, however unintentionally, I have built a fake persona that most people don’t/can’t see beyond. This comes in handy for me, as I have limited energy for human interaction, so only the creme de la creme make it my front door, so to speak. But thus I have built up a toolbox of secret skills that can be repurposed, with none the wiser. That being said, some of these learned behaviors will have to go. Mostly, patience with mediocrity – including my own. It’s time to stop hiding. It’s OK to not know who or what you are, or even what you want. It’s OK to be afraid, to not know what to say. It’s not OK to stop fighting your way forward, finding ways to call others, wearing your colors proudly so that your comrades will know to fight their way to your side.
  12. Vive La Résistance.

 

Monday Dreams

I own a copy editing business, and make enough money to have health insurance, a car, and an apartment that is large enough for me and all three cats. Eventually I’ll get that dog, too. I work a couple of shifts a week at a hostel front desk – not because I have to, but because I love meeting travelers and hearing their stories. I write, publish, and miracle of miracles, get paid for it. I sing on stage again, my heart breaking and re-mending right there and then. My anxiety does not prevent me from talking about the things that I love the most – food, architecture, and learning about other places and people – and I get paid to travel and write about it. I spend time at the local stable, riding and helping muck out stalls, just to be close to the horses. I leave milk out for the fairies. I practice my Spanish. I pay off my debts. I practice my tortilla in Spain and my shepherd’s pie in Ireland. I wake up to freshly brewed coffee, and a sweet smile. I move regularly, and go to sleep to the sound of rain on a tin roof, or the frogs singing, or the broad silence of snowfall, or maybe just the gentle roar of the ocean. I am permanent in my impermanence. I use my body to be as active as possible, use my eyes to see all of the colors, use my voice to sing my happiness to life. Ultreia et suseia. As I will it, so it will be.

Right Now

As of the moment, I’m failing at keeping this blog running. After years of writing relatively faithfully, sometimes multiple times a day, it’s odd to find myself having nearly run out of words. I tend to think that it’s a low-level case of writer’s block, brought on by emotional distress, coupled with exhaust from my job, and probably polished up nicely by how closed off I’ve been feeling for the last year. Anyway, all this goes to say that I’m not stopping in with a really juicy post with lots of great information or funny stories or anything like that (even though, strangely enough, I’m finding I have a few things to say as of late). Really, I’m stopping in to leave myself a reminder, something to read and remember at a later date. Also, Grandma, I know you’re reading this, so I figured I’d throw in a tidbit for you. Nothing like a bit of gossip to add spice to life, right? 🙂

I probably shouldn’t say anything at all, since too much info is how things tend to go awry, and I’m loath to be the cause of dissolution. But I just have to say it somewhere: I’ve met someone. He’s tall, handsome, decent and kind. He has working hands, and a creative streak. He cooks. He loves his family, is great with plants, and has a soft spot for animals. He enjoys wine and goes to yoga, and doesn’t think my obsession with finding the perfect NC BBQ sauce is the least bit strange. He has gorgeous hair. We are not overly similar, but we have a lot of good things in common. I don’t have to explain myself (though you know I do, I must, emphatically, ad nauseam, or else my brain would overheat and my engine would explode). He walks through spaces with a lovely mix of kingly comfort and shy self-awareness. He enjoys small space living. He makes the best asparagus I’ve ever eaten. I spilled a glass of wine on this sweet quilt his mom made him, and he didn’t hate me, even the littlest bit. He played me a song, though I didn’t let on that I knew. The signs are thick. Owls, antlers, amethyst, airstream.

Anyway, I don’t like to say things like, “It’s early days,” because that says you anticipate for there to be late ones, and that feels either incredibly prideful or just inviting of disaster, I can’t figure out which. But we’ve only just met. So I’m endeavoring not to think too hard or be too weird (it’s kind of funny that I just typed that, because literally the definition of Anna is “thinks too hard, and is pretty weird”).

One thing that I can say is that I have a strange thought in my head, and I’m not sure if I manifested it, or if he is just good at making me feel it, or what. But from the first time that he made me feel comfortable and adored, my brain shouted “YOU DESERVE THIS!” I like that. I intend to hold on to that feeling. It hasn’t happened often in my life.

It’s late, and I’m very tired. It’s time to cuddle with my cats and call it a night.

 

Being Macha

I’ve had this image in my head all day, and just have to get it down. Like many of the most important things in my life, it’s ephemeral, at best. I keep snatching at it, trying to tug it down from the clouds and into firmer being, to make itself fully known. Maybe if I write about it, something will make more sense.

First off, it’s not just one thing, but a strange, moving mixture of things. There’s the warrior, the crow, the crone. There’s night, and anger. But a righteous anger. A feminine anger, held in check but also fostered by ancient knowledge. There’s a wall in my throat and another in my right abdomen. Also, in a dream: an open door, a bloody arm, a plan (but what?).

I realized today that though Elen might be the goddess I seek to embody, Morrigan is the goddess who seeks to wield me now. And there’s no harm in having multiple guides, of being multifaceted. Even peace seekers require warrior hearts. As long as I see their truths, and mine, and make clear my intentions before treading the path, all will be well. But I am caught inside my own walled city. To survive this, I must lay siege to whatever seeks to hold me, to take myself back. Part of me will have to die for the rest to flourish.

macha.png

“Macha” by Thalia Took, available as a prints on her Deviant Art site. Click here to read more about Macha, an aspect of the Morrigan, on her gallery page. While you’re there, definitely check out Thalia’s amazing art of other world goddesses.

Sunday Meditation

I am single again, after 11 years. What does one do?

Well, to begin with, you toss all of the ex’s belongings in a box (carefully, as they are mostly books, and we adore books here). After that, you decide there’s no more reason to have any free hours, so accept any and all offers for extra shifts. You now have no time to consider heartbreak, as you will be way too tired. Despite the extra work hours, though, it is important to not neglect daily conversations with the online therapist. Therapy is doubly important when attempting to recover from the sadness and confusion of being dumped, and also hoping to not make any of the mistakes of the last two relationships ever again.

Next up, we consider the rest of life. What are we doing with ourselves? Is one happy and/or fulfilled now? How long has it been since one was happy and/or fulfilled? What can one do to be happy and/or fulfilled? Figure out the best extra-curriculars, where they can be found, and how to incorporate them into your life. Spanish lessons? Yoga? Kirtan? Flamenco? Long walks? Textile art? Starting a new writing project?

Don’t forget to call up any and all close friends. Everyone needs to know what’s going on with you, even if you’re a solitary witch and don’t much like talking about your problems with anyone other than the online therapist. Be honest. Tell them you can’t talk now, but want them to know you love them and you want them to feel included. Some of your friends will offer advice and love and make you feel like a superstar. Others are like you, and will be relieved to not have to talk to you too much about gooey life bullshit, while still being able to offer you moral support from afar. Members from both teams will offer you chances to get out, try new things, and buddy up in new ways that will boost your ego and keep you from eating your weight in Talenti.

Make a plan! Make two! Make a ton of plans to do all of the things that strike your fancy. Life is not over. It’s actually about to get a lot more fun, because you know what you can do when you’re not dating a prospective life partner? I’m just going to leave you hanging on this one. I’m sure you can guess some alternatives.

Travel. Travel is sexy. (Plus, travel is the only thing you really adore, so why not do more of it?)

Reassess your underwear collection. If you’ve let it slide over the past few years, drop some serious cash into an underwear drawer renovation. You deserve every inch of it, and how amazing it makes you feel. I mean the drawer renovation, you perv.

Don’t throw yourself out there immediately. There is time. But don’t remain on the shelf, either. There’s no use punishing yourself any longer than you’ve already been punished. Remember what you’ve seen thus far – your breakups have historically been a reflection on the people who didn’t love themselves enough to have anything left over for you. Don’t follow in their footsteps. You are full of love – be greedy with it for awhile, and spend it on yourself.

Have an amazing life, beloved.

PS. This is dedicated to my squad of badass bitches. I’m a lucky, lucky girl to have a world full of amazing friends. ❤

makings of me

the moon

st. francis of assisi

lace up boots

comfy underwear (a must for this big ol’ booty)

cats

animals of all sorts

the deer woman

the hag

the morrigan

toe rings

earrings

earbuds (the flat type, since the globular ones fall right out of my ears)

the bbc

gulag stories

wwII biographies and autobiographies

horses

quiet

trees

little brown birds

inchworms

tiny baby toads

the fae

faerie tales

graveyards

burial mounds

castles

cathedrals

sunlight through stained glass

long hikes

mountains

oceans

pretty rocks

flamenco

embroidery (not lace)

paper

spirals

khussas

singing

attempting to capture thoughts adequately

holding hands

kissing

sleeping enough

sleeping in

sleeping late

taking a nap

deciding to go back to sleep

waiting to sleep for good

lemon bars

labyrinths

shadows

secrets

understanding

 

 

 

Anna’s Camino: Currahee

I’ve been finding myself a little more emotional than usual lately. I’m overtired from working long hours, and many things (maybe too many) about my life are feeling rocky, unsure. But part of the emotionality is stemming from something very simple – we’re 13 days out from the day my friend Jakob gets married. And though I’m overjoyed for him to have found the woman of his dreams, to have everything that he’s hoped for come to fruition, there are some complex emotions tied up in the thought of missing the wedding of this man who essentially became my brother and my other half on the Camino.

It’s difficult to adequately put into words what it feels to form a bond with someone that you barely know, under circumstances you can barely understand. When those circumstances happened on the other side of the world, and sometimes seem like a dream, that also takes its weird toll on your sanity. But when all of the parts of the experience combine to create something that shakes your life to its core, that too can leave some scars. The bottom line is that I found love on the other side of the world, with a few souls that were met quite by random. People that I know will be in my life from this day forward. People who, in no time at all, came to mean the world to me. And my heart hurts to know I can’t be there for the wedding of someone I barely know, but know I’d jump in front of a bus for. It’s a strange time to be me (but then, when is it not)?

What’s really weird is going back through the photos from the Camino, trying to piece together just when it was that Jakob and I became friends. And there, in the photos, I see that it was the 2nd day of walking together. In memory, I thought that maybe it was a week of getting to know each other. In the real world, a week would be crazy fast. I don’t make friends easily. It takes me months to trust someone enough to be friends, never mind comrades.* But time is different when you’re walking to Santiago de Compostela, and there, in a photograph of a perfect sandwich, lies a memory of one silly conversation about Band of Brothers, and one foolhardy agreement to keep on walking that afternoon across the longest stretch of the Meseta. By the end, we were bonded in a way in which only the road is capable.

Maybe it’s only in my head, or my heart. And there are a hundred other small memories of our walk, and of when our fellowship was rounded out by our third brother, David. But there was a deep magic in our shared footsteps, a closeness that Jakob would probably attribute to St. James, and David to something rational, like exhaustion and hormonal fluctuations. I think I’ll just stick with love.

So to both of my brothers from another mother, if you’re reading this, I love you (even when you wake me up eating Oreos in the middle of the night, or let a cow attack me, or laugh at me for getting the hottest Pimento de Padrón and feeling like my face is going to melt off at the dinner table). I might not be much of a world traveler at the moment, but whenever you need me, whatever I can do, you have the promise of my sword. And to Jakob, who is about to undertake another wonderful journey with its own set of challenges, keep running up that hill. I’ll be shouting “Currahee!” for you on this side of the pond. ❤

*NB: According to Etymology.com, the term comrade dates back to the late 16th century, and is derived from the Middle French term camarade, relating to the Spanish term camarada. While comrade now means “a friend or trusted companion, esp. one with whom you have been involved in difficult or dangerous activities, or another soldier in a soldier’s group” (via the Cambridge Dictionary), I find it particularly telling that camarada meant just “chamber mate.” Given the close quarters shared by peregrinos at night, as well as the difficult activities undertaken together during the day, both old and new terms fit very well.