Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Uninvited Samhain Guest

A week ago today I was in the midst of Samhain planning and preparation.  I scanned family photos into my computer and printed them out on good glossy photo paper for the Ancestor Altar.  My husband and I purchased several pumpkins, large and small, for carving.  We worked on cleaning up the yard and making new Autumnal arrangements for outside with cornstalks, branches of red, yellow and green leaves, ornamental corn and mums.  The shopping list for our traditional Samhain meal, beef stew, was made up and ready for the weekend shopping.  I worked on writing some simple but beautiful ritual invocations and prayers.   The gradual thinning of the veil was in the air and I was keenly aware of it.

Then came Sandy....

Last Friday it became clear that Hurricane Sandy was coming our way and that it would be a historic unprecedented storm for us here in the Northeast.  She was forecasted to arrive Sunday as a "hybrid" storm, a hurricane wrapped in a Nor'Easter, and, due to Her sheer size, would stay with us through Wednesday.  October 31st.  Halloween.  Samhain!  After mourning this a bit, I set aside my Samhain/Halloween plans and began preparing for our uninvited guest.

The original grocery list was scratched, replaced with non-perishable food items, batteries and lots and lots of water.  My entire Saturday was spent outside, battening down the hatches.  Yard decor and patio furniture was secured and bird feeders were taken down.  Herbs were harvested and were either prepared for drying or bagged for a few neighbors.  The last of the vegetables were also harvested.  Potted plants were moved to the shelter of my enclosed sun porch.  My husband cleared gutters and, with the help of my brother-in-law, worked on mending some "iffy" areas of our roof caused by last year's Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.  The car got gassed up and cash was taken out of the bank.

Sunday morning brought the first bands of Sandy.  We awoke to darkening skies, a light chilly rain, and a more than gentle breeze.  While my husband worked on last minute preparations, like moving items in our water-prone basement, I went outside and reinforced the protective "shields" around our home.  Taking a black permanent marker, I located the flat round stones at several points around our property to redraw the rune of protection, Algiz, on each one.  I then walked the perimeter with sea salt, water and a homemade sage smudgestick, speaking words of protection.  Each and every tree near my home received extra magickal attention in an attempt to protect them from the expected strong winds and torrential rain.  I then decided to walk around my whole block doing the same thing, encircling my neighbors's homes with the light of protection.  (If any of them happened to see me doing any of this, they must have thought I was nuts.  Oh well.  I was just being helpful.)

The weather deteriorated over the course of Sunday and through Monday morning but things didn't get really bad until Monday afternoon and night.  The wind literally howled at certain times and the rain pelted the windows, all as I stayed tuned to local news coverage of the storm's onslaught.  Long story short, we were lucky here.  No damage except a few small tree branches and lots of leaves down.  Our lights blinked alot but we never lost power.  Not a drop of water came into the basement.  Many people were not so lucky, especially those on the Jersey Coast and in the New York City area.  (Many prayers are with those people tonight.)  Sandy is still spinning over us in bands of rain and, again, a not-so-gentle breeze but She is almost gone, but she will certainly not be forgotten.

As I awoke Tuesday morning to a quieter but still gray wet and windy day, I joyfully realized that my Samhain plans were not ruined.  However, as I watched the news coming out of the Jersey Shore and in New York City, my heart became heavy.  So much destruction, so much sadness.  How could I celebrate Samhain when so many people were suffering?  By remembering the people who have lost their homes and neighborhoods and remembering the places that are no longer there.  After all, these are the places where we all come from, the places our ancestors have dwelled.  These places haunt our memories as much as our loved ones do.  These washed away, blown away or burned away places held our memories and so must be remembered as well.

Samhain will be different this year, the original plans fluttering away in the winds of Sandy, drowned in Her destructive surf and torrential rain, buried under the mountains of sand She moved into seaside towns, but it will occur nonetheless and all will be remembered, especially Hurricane Sandy, for She changed so many lives this Samhain.

A blessed Samhain to you all and many prayers to all of the people who were in Sandy's path.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Reawakening the Muse

It is a beautiful Autumn day here, warm and sunny, and I am sitting in the yard attempting to awaken my muse, who has been affected by my crazy hectic life for several months now.  She has popped her head out here and there, for an occasional article or a blog or two, but, for the most part, she has been in hibernation for quite some time now.  Today, she is lethargically creeping around me, drawn out by the vibrant colors and secret language of nature.  She is dazed by the dancing of yellow, red, orange and brown in the trees overhead, by the golden sunshine and bright blue skies streaked with pure white clouds.  She watches a leaf, mesmerized, as it dances on the breeze to its final resting place in the herb garden between the rosemary and the sage.  She closes her eyes as the trees speak to her, their leaves saying who knows what to her as they flutter simultaneously in the wind.  She giggles at the sight of several sparrows perched upon a fence nearby waiting for us to leave the yard before approaching the bird feeder again.  Yes, my muse is quite distracted.

I coax my muse to sit in the chair next to me and she does so with an exasperated thud.  “What do you want of me today,” she asks in a whisper.

I tell her that we need to discuss my book, the one that was put on the backburner several months ago because of my hectic daily life.  “I want to start writing it again,” I tell her.

She plays with her long hair, wrapping it around her fingers, watching the strands twirl, disinterested, distant.  She sighs heavily and replies finally, “Well, you were the one that put it aside, not I.  Perhaps we should just put it to rest.”  She is being difficult.  She has every right to be.  “Besides I am too tired.  I tugged and tugged on your brain for months but you were too busy.  You are always too busy.”  She leans her head against the back of the chair, crosses her arms defiantly across her chest, and shuts her eyes.

“I always heard you.  I was always jotting down notes, when I got out of the shower, while I was cooking dinner, on the way to work, in the middle of typing a report.  I heard you every time.  I know what we have to do.  We just need to fit it into the schedule.”

Her head whips around towards me, wagging a finger at me.  “The creative process is not something you schedule, Dear!”  Uh-oh!  She called me “Dear”.  She’s pissed.

“You’re right.”

“Yes, I know I am.”  Again, her arms are crossed, this time triumphantly.

How can I make peace with her, come to an agreement?  Now I am distracted by a leaf dancing to the ground.  It’s bright yellow and catches the sun’s rays as it falls.  The sparrows are inching closer to the feeder.  A bolder one has just landed there.  What to do, what to do?  I know.  “Can I take notes whenever the creative process takes over and then I can type it out into the book on a scheduled basis?”  Makes sense, doesn’t it?

She reminds me, “You have several pages, post-its and paper towels with notes scribbled upon them that are sitting in a file on your desk already.  What about those, huh?”  She taps her foot demandingly.

“I’ll type up those right away.”

“In the meantime, I’ll already have more notes for you!”

“So I’ll jot the new ones down as I am typing the old ones,” I suggest.  “You know how good I am at catching up with my typing.”

“This is true,” she answers hesitantly.  She is thinking, considering.

I cross my fingers, hoping that she will agree.  “And who knows what will happen once I get in there and really start banging away at the keys?  It may all start just coming out in a torrent, page after page...”

“Chapter after chapter!”  She is smiling, sitting upright in the chair, excited now.

“Yes!  And before you know it, the book will be complete!”  Now I am excited.

“Can we still write other things too though?”  She is fearful.  She does not want to be held down to one project.  She wants to write and write and write.  “The blog, the articles?  Maybe some to be published in magazines and anthologies again?”  She gets up and sits on the arm of my chair, puts an arm around me.  “You know how much I love seeing your name in print!”

“We most certainly can.”

The sparrows are no longer scared of us.  They come within a few feet of us.  A pair of mourning doves have also appeared.  My muse and I look at each other and say in unison, “The element of Air.  Creativity.  The creative process. The air is cleared.”  She and I laugh together.

She points to the laptop.  I can hear her thoughts.  They are streaming into my head from her own.  She is practically sitting in my lap as my fingers begin flying across the keyboard.  She is humming a tune to the birds as she watches the words appear on the screen.  She is happy, content, in her element, her brain dancing through the air to gather new ideas, new words to be jotted down on bits of paper or to be typed into a new document, the pages of that book.  She no longer feels tossed aside, ignored.

As my muse and I finish writing this, she gives me a kiss upon the forehead and says, “I missed you.”

“I missed you too,” I tell her.

“Now let’s go drag out those notes for the book and see what’s what.”  She is quite determined, isn’t she?  That’s why she’s my muse.  She always gets what she wants.