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Imbolc, Hollywood memories, art, home and happiness.
Spring is coming! Spring is coming!
(Note: I started writing this on the first of February, which is when Imbolc starts in my neck of the hemisphere.)
Well, that’s what Imbolc is about, right? It’s the first festival to acknowledge that spring will be arriving. It’s the time us folks in America hope old Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t see his shadow (this year, he did) and thereby gives us the nod that flowers will soon bloom and the sun will warm our chilly bones. Some folks light fires or candles to celebrate the coming extended light. We are halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. I live in the northern hemisphere, so this is the timeline I am considering. I have my own perceptions regarding this time, and there are so many other ways to celebrate and honor nature and winter and spring. They’re all good, in my book.
In Los Angeles it was hard for me to really dive into feelings for these sabbats/season changes, but being back here on the central coast of California, I can feel them more.
I take that back, a bit- because it was around this time of year when, at about 6:30 pm, after I’d finished my day of teaching in Woodland Hills (in the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles), it would have been dark for over an hour. I’d feel gloomy about having to schlep over to the Orange Line with my heavy backpack, without having any time outside, aside from my commute, and ride through to North Hollywood to catch the underground Red Line on the L.A. Metro system, in order to travel two stops and hop off at Hollywood Boulevard, which was about three city blocks away from where I lived.
Currently, and back inside of that So-Cal memory, it is just about “Oscar season,” and although Hollywood Boulevard is often rather difficult for pedestrians to make their way around, and in my previous case, to home, Academy Awards season has the capacity to make a person with a regular job understand just how little they matter to the glamour machine, a.k.a. the entertainment industrial complex.
Whether driver or pedestrian, you are blocked off. Rerouted. Yelled at (to not trespass) by temporary guards who I’ve listened to on the very train I commuted on share that their pay was less than ten dollars an hour.
Hollywood creates barriers on that street for many different events and premieres, all year long, which cause those of us on foot to have to sneak around wires and signs and oh so many walls lined with corporate logos and fake shrubbery- but these come and go in magic time. It’s amazing, really.
The Oscars, however, take more time to prepare due to all the red carpet things and giant statues and what-not, and they create a sturdier wall system to keep us plebeians out, for a longer amount of time.
There was always this one area, right near the staircase to the theatre where the ceremony guests walk up in their gowns and crowns on that special evening, that they create an extra narrow walkway. For several weeks before, every year, I had to maneuver through that crowded and long little crook in the dark, after a day of teaching Valley teens and spending an hour or more on public transit. (Mornings were not as bad, as the tourists weren’t out yet.) Traversing this landscape along with other rerouted folks-on-foot has the capacity to make one in that moment and in that life-position feel even more like “the help” being placed neatly out of the way. It was a good lesson for me to learn. My whole life before that, I bought into it all- hook, line and sinker, that all things Hollywood was pure magic and true beauty and somehow mine. Not so.
What was mine, though, was the little (but big chain) grocery store that was on the Boulevard for a while. Stopping in there, in the dark of night, to pick up something for dinner alongside other Hollywood hustlers, regulars and train commuters was nice. That fit into my dream of that town and the contentment that can come from a regular job and apartment and city life. This was a dream I learned from characters I loved in movies and TV shows.
Being tired from a day at work and then hearing bands playing in the back lot of the Jimmy Kimmel show for their taping and walking past the Roosevelt Hotel (where Marilyn Monroe lived for a while and featuring the pool David Hockney famously painted) while carrying a bag of groceries was a bit surreal for the pop-culture fiend I found myself seemingly born as, but it was easy to forget that. On any given day there could be a regular old football game going on at Hollywood High as I passed people very near to being homeless dressing up in their cars as Chewbacca or Spiderman in order to prepare to pose for pictures with tourists, for tips. A relatively clean person in a suit might be taking a nap on a discarded sofa while gripping an empty bottle of whisky, as I turned the corner to the street where I lived.
One morning at dawn, I was dressed for a day of teaching art in my very comfortable knock-off Ugg boots coated in golden sequins that I found brand-new at Goodwill on Vine street and wore everyday. I was just about to cross the street toward the Chinese Theatre (where all the old celebrity hand and footprints are) when I saw a small convertible filled with sexy young Barbie-like women dressed as though it were night and clearly intoxicated in a way that revealed to anyone who saw this spectacle, that in the minds of these ladies, it still was. I imagined they were whooping and hollering their excitement from leaving a Hollywood experience that left them reeling. Maybe they were entranced by the magic of showbiz. Perhaps someone offered them something that seemed like a great opportunity. It could be that they just left an orgy with Leonardo DiiCaprio or Brad Pitt, or both! Or maybe they were just high-
This isn’t such an odd spectacle to witness in Hollywood. I’m sure you’re thinking that. But at dawn the energy is different. Upon hearing the scrape and slam of the glass doors to my typical 1970’s era Los Angeles low-rise apartment building (pool included!) I'd say good morning to the elderly woman who lived nearby, with her cart and bags filled to the brim with collected bottles and cans and give her some that I’d saved up. I’d pass by the regular homeless hustlers trying their best to keep warm and rest, before a day of trying to get by. Tumble-weed-like scenes of fake hair and broken high heels and emptied plastic baggies swirled at my feet while I crossed streets and stepped over curbs. Some people, like me, were heading off to work. Kids were walking to school. Some people seemed to be up all night pacing the streets and mentally unwell, or on drugs. Some people were getting their morning run in. That’s what a man in my apartment complex did, or what it seemed he did, until he shared with my partner in the laundry room one Sunday that he used to take breaks when running to stop and stare into the windows of unsuspecting folks in their homes and masterbate between cars. Mostly though- it’s quiet. Before getting downstairs to the subway station, it’s very nicely quiet.
So the women that morning were a striking contrast, with their noise and in their sequins and pinks and long, flowy hair- a bit messier and less glossier than one could imagine it all being a few hours before. Hands and lifted bodies, waving in the air. They were in a movie. That’s what they felt like, I’m sure. And after whatever it was they had just experienced, I bet reality or consequences didn’t seem to be “a thing” anymore. However-
Once they swooshed past the Coffee Bean, loud music and laughs trailing right past lil ol’ back-packed me pressing the crosswalk button more than I needed to, a police car showed up out of nowhere, swept swiftly behind them with lights flashing and a siren song of “whoop-whoop!” and they were stopped, right outside of Hooters. The sound of my crosswalk button continuing to repeat, “Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait…”
That wasn’t Oscar time, as the Boulevard was clear, and it probably wasn’t even Imbolc season, as it was a bit too light out, but it’s a moment that stands out and seems to embody what I either decided to be, or was told to be or perhaps it was determined that I be- not a person invited behind fake foliage walls, nor a pulled over babe, but an aging and quirky teacher/artist with a lot of bills to pay, observing from my place. Out of the way.
There is a freedom in being ignored. There’s a certain kind of freedom.
So I guess that little bit of written wandering I did just now can help you understand that my previous living situation kept me distracted from noticing the seasons, which is what I set out to write about in the first place.
For the past few weeks here in the Monterey/Santa Cruz area we have been having a lot of rain. Wind too, and also floods, mud and rockslides, power-outages, big ocean waves and fallen trees wreaking havoc. This is familiar to me, although it doesn’t always happen.
Something like this did occur in the nineties, and at the time, I was in Santa Cruz county. Trees fell, roads closed and Monterey became an actual island when the highways flooded. I remember it raining for the entire month of January and feeling so depressed by the gloom. I remember thinking about people in the Pacific Northwest (which was a place we thought a lot about in the 90’s), and hearing or reading how they would get seasonal depression from the constant wetness and dark skies. I remember football being on the TV and people talking about the Superbowl, which I could have cared less about. That sporting event, however, tells me that this memory is from this time of year, because now I am hearing a lot about it, once again.
Rain usually happens here when I’ve just about had enough long nights and short days, and now I know that there is a non-sports related marker for that, and I can acknowledge it, and it’s called Imbolc.
I just finished listening to an episode of a podcast called Between the Worlds created in part by Amanda Yates Garcia. She mentioned that 2023 is the year of The Chariot card. If you add up two and zero and two and three, you get seven and the seventh Major Arcana card in the traditional tarot deck is, The Chariot.
It’s sort of a New Year episode and she discusses our last year’s card, The Lovers, and how that leads to and affects our time now, on the metaphorical chariot.
I appreciate her way of sharing her perspectives on witchcraft and life and how it relates to whatever life-practices we might engage in.
One thing she said is that The Chariot year is a good time to think about what makes us happy. That really thinking about, or journaling about what makes us happy can lead to adjusting our daily practices and perhaps even our work, toward a life that makes us happy. It sounds so trite when I write it here, but the way she worded it was a little bit eye-opening for me. For instance, she mentioned that if children make you happy then consider what you could do as a practice, or work, that would help children. Perhaps you support a charity or return to school to become a social worker… The lines do not have to be direct and mistakes are inevitable. It’s not so much about a solid goal. As well, she addresses the fact that circumstances connected to survival and behavioral patterns and habits that are formed by way of familial bonds and societal expectations do not make this route toward happiness easy. Bellies need filling. Debts need to be paid in this rat-race reality many of us find ourselves living within. Still, it seems The Chariot year is a time when changes can be made to get comfortable with the discomforts that can lead to a life leaning more on the side of personal reward and contentment. I can dig it.
ART AND STORY
The rains have stopped a bit since I last worked on this newsletter, although it’s been cold and today there are some showers expected, but nothing too extreme. The soaked land and a couple weeks of daily sunshine is causing acacia trees to bloom and my outdoor plants and herbs seem to be having a well-deserved growth spurt.
I’ve been thinking about the “Chariot Year” task of considering what makes me happy and through this I’ve decided on a deadline for the collection of artworks I’ve been working on for a very long time. My art is a source of happiness.
I had a conversation a few months ago with a friend who is an artist and she shared how she doesn’t feel a sense of enjoyment during the act of creating her artworks. The making of it isn’t so rewarding, in itself. She noted that I seem to have a joy in the making of my work and that is true. She’s correct. That doesn’t make my way of engaging in the art process better, it’s just different. I don’t feel as rewarded when I share my work. Just like how she perceives the making part of the art process, I feel “the sharing” of what I make is more a necessary part of the job. It’s the “job” part and one I have been getting at too quickly in recent years, as a sort of behavioral training. But in my opinion, it left something lacking.
I’ve been able to take time, since moving back to the central coast, and I needed this, but it’s starting to feel a little bit like hoarding. It’s been a little too safe. Besides, I’m ready to move on to something new.
Yesterday morning I watched a live discussion featuring the artist Laurie Anderson talk about her life with meditation. Something that I keep thinking about is a moment when she stated that her works involve story and considering that we are heading very clearly toward planetary ruin (so dark), who are the stories for? What are the stories for? What is the art for?
This led me to thinking about something my professor said to us all in grad school during our writing workshop, which is to really consider who we think our audience is. Who is that person, or people? When it comes to my writing (and that goes for this newsletter), I guess my voice is one where I consider who I was as a reader of online writing and before that, of published diaristic works. I like being let into thoughts, I guess, and I want to be that for my readers. I’m not too sure, hence all of the times I used “I guess” in this paragraph, and I think it’s okay to be unsure and just trust. I think I prefer that to what my teacher said.
Now when considering what Laurie Anderson said about future audiences (no future audiences) and the conversation I had with my friend regarding my joy in making and my awareness through that, I must also share- I’m left confused.
TIME / HAPPY
Time is always a thing.
In considering the Chariot year task of thinking of happiness, and in thinking of spring, a large part of my heart and headspace flows into the enjoyment of home, which has always been important to me. I’ve just not been so great at it.
As much as writing and art bring me pleasure, I can’t ignore the relatively new satisfaction I feel in knowing that I have finally grown into a natural and responsible way of embodying my internal space in the external, and I find real peace here.
I take care of things. Tasks are done, bills are paid, objects arranged with care and consideration in a way that feels like a loving collaboration between my partner and I and it’s something I also feel independent ownership over, in a way unlike I ever have. I feel I’m doing pretty good.
Whether this can last, I don’t know. I hope so.
To sum it all up, nature is perfect. Life is short. The days are getting longer. Time is always a thing. Here’s to spring.
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