I've Been a Lamp
Thoughts on Imbolc and writing and art and turning a colonoscopy into a magic spell.
Today is the last day of my winter holiday break. I’m back to teaching art again, tomorrow.
During this break I took time to do and make artful things around the home. To start it off, I cooked a Thai-inspired soup that I had been craving and it turned out exactly the way I had envisioned it. It doesn’t always work out that way, so that was good. I also posted my Winter Solstice newsletter and worked in the studio, mostly trying to reach the end point of the last painting in a series I started before the pandemic.
It’s January second. Imbolc (the upcoming witches sabbat) at this point, is a month away. With life’s many interruptions, I realize that starting the newsletter at the end of the last one and adding something every time I have the time to, is a good process for me, especially considering the fact that some mornings when I sit with my laptop I am in more of an editing mode, and there is always a lot of editing to do.
When I was younger and wrote regularly in a journal, I used to mark the date and even the time before I sat to write, and I think I’d like to try that again. I like the idea of the reader knowing at least the truth of the time and place the writing occurred.
JOURNAL / NEWSLETTER / CRAFT
Stream-of-conscious journaling came naturally to me, at a young age. Maybe I was influenced by the voice of Margaret in, Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret, or something else. I remember loving biographies as an elementary school-aged kid and on through to my late teens when I devoured the ultimate of my youthful literary preference, The Unexpurgated Diaries of Anaïs Nin.
I can’t seem to stop loving the personal narrative. That said, I so admire fiction- now more than ever. As a matter of fact, that was my concentration in graduate school and a novel I started working on in 2009 is based on personal experiences, but fictionalized, like, intentionally. All memories are obviously a work of some kind of fiction. Especially since this particular work is rooted in a time of emotional and spiritual crisis where reality and any ideas I had of “truth,” truly seemed to be shifting. It was my workshop professor in grad school who gave me the suggested to ramp it all up, or perhaps he just solidified my understanding of what it means to refine “reality” by way of controlling and adjusting a narrative; listening to what the story needs. I know there is a literary term for the intentional blending of fiction and non-fiction, but I don’t care enough to stop what I’m doing right now to Google it. I felt it in Patti Smith’s Year of the Monkey.
Lately, I’ve been considering the potential (personal) value in finding the connection between my writing and the visual work I do. Paintings and fiber art works- as well as things that are more utilitarian or crafty. Most importantly, the visual and sculptural works. I’m not talking literally here. I don’t want to make illustrated story books or be another witchy artist who creates a tarot card deck. I’m pleased that I’ve been getting feedback from peers stating that they definitely feel a connection between my sources of creative expression. That’s good. I just want confirmation that I’m expressing some kind of consistency and that it comes from some kind of honest place. I’ve been after this for a long time and in writing this paragraph, I think I’m deciding that it’s there, or here- so… there is no more need for me to yammer on about it. Thank you for listening. No input needed.
Linking my writing and my artworks and processes to my personal belief system (or rather, paying attention to the way they have always connected) is kinda new and has been working out and the process by which I create without words seems to be from the same source. It’s mysterious to me, even more than writing is, as I don’t have to use a common language. The trust involved in the paintings (I’m going to call all of my non-written works paintings, for sake of ease) feels somehow closer to a spiritual practice, as I start without a solid plan and allow it to grow as it seems to need.
I cannot wait to move more into fiber projects, yet I have to feel “complete” with a series involving a great deal of painting that I’m nearly done with. I just left the studio, before sunrise this morning, and added some more matte black and silver to some edges that may make my final piece complete- or I may have made myself some more work to do. (See video above- it’s complete!) I also may be putting off the part of the project that needs me to photograph and organize photos in a way that will allow others to see what I’ve done and decide whether or not they want to hang it all on their walls. I would really like to see them all up in one gallery space for a change, as opposed to individual pieces in rooms I have little control over.
That said, people are currently connecting to my artwork in a public space and sharing their feelings about it. Sometimes I watch them looking at them, while enjoying a cocktail. I like the fact that they can sit and loosen up their minds a bit and stare at what I’ve made for however long they wish to. A gallery is made to move through.
Saturday, January 20th, 2024
There was a rainbow outside a minute ago. I went to grab a piece of french bread to go with my coffee and when I opened the door to get a closer look, it was gone.
The last time I wrote for my winter solstice newsletter I focused on the rain; when I enjoy it and when it makes life difficult. That said, it may have been the first winter solstice where I really thought about the occasion being the marker of light returning. In reviewing details about the upcoming Imbolc, and how to celebrate it, I read some things having to do with appreciating the rest that darkness brings to nature.
Back when I lived in Kansas City I watched the trees’ leaves shift to intense, warm colors before all falling off. I remember having my coffee in the front room of my apartment and noticing the total ice coverage of the old tree in front of the window and thinking, “well that thing must be dead.” Being the Californian that I am, I could hardly comprehend what came next- bright green leaves and spring blossoms. Birds in nests. Robins and incredibly red cardinals. It was during my time there that I experienced seasons and watched birds that I only knew from movies and storybooks. Like a living children’s encyclopedia, all around me.
I did a lot of intuitive magic then. A classmate of mine had a witchy phase she moved on from and I took her old books. In them I found some rituals and spells that really were meant for one to focus on changes that needed to occur. Actions involving limes and salt and sewing needles and burning words written on little slips of paper... herbs. Taking walks. Setting things under the moon, on the window sill. Private things. The aesthetic of the parts and remnants of those activities connected to my making; my artwork and my writing, so it made perfect sense.
I can sit here now, and finally appreciate those winters and the snow through the lenses of the solstice and Imbolc. How little time I spent outside in the midwest. How quiet night can be when the snow has been falling softly onto snow that’s already piled up on the ground. I eventually came to hate the snow, once I learned how many different types there are, and how much it affects what we choose to wear (No slick-soled cowboy boots on the ice, learned the hard way. What was I doing wearing cowboy boots, anyway?), and how we get ourselves from one place or another. I think I was also jealous of those who were born into a life with actual seasons; how they felt a sort of romance for it and so easily leaned into the inevitable adjustments like shoveling snow, taping plastic around the windows, piling on and then peeling off layers of clothing. It was all so inconvenient, from my perspective. Also, the local weather reporters never stated that one must “stay in” due to things like rain or wind. Here on the west coast we are told to stay home if we can when it rains and I certainly do not argue. Most places, where there is real weather, folks are advised to not go to work only when there are real dangers, like blizzards or potential tornadoes.
I still have a little disc heater I bought from the Kansas City Costco, one winter, back then. I use it in the studio when it’s cold. It was how my roommate and I kept ourselves warm- from our own individual space heaters and lots of blankets we’d purchased from a local church rummage sale, on the last day when they offered unlimited items that fit into a giant garbage bag, for only ten dollars.
Our apartment didn’t have air conditioning for the summer, nor did the furnace work very well. Our superintendent was a rather useless handyman who seemed to enjoy methamphetamines and lived in the apartment directly below ours. Needless to say, we didn’t like to ask him for help so we just made do.
*I am taking a break here as I realize I’ve been talking about the weather and being a bit myopic by not mentioning climate change, but that’s not where I’m choosing to go here. I am acknowledging it though, and I know that people all over the world are suffering and being harmed due to climate changes that are occurring because of our actions and choices.
The seasons lend one’s actions to the feelings that connect with witchcraft, or rituals, if that sort of perception is “your thing.” Bringing certain plants inside, covering others. Making sure the roof is not going to leak, shoveling snow… One must do specific things to feel okay and get on with living and it can be just a regular old thing or one can make connections that bring in a feeling of magic. I’m tired of regular old things. Being home, around some form of human-sourced warmth leads me to appreciate being inside and safe. Due to more darkness and cold, our activity slows down, if we are so lucky as to have the ability to slow down and I think it’s good to allow gratitude and acknowledgment of cycles and mysteries to enter into it all.
Imbolc is the holiday of the goddess Brigid (apparently pronounced, “Breed”). I had a self-help book in the 90’s that presented the idea of blending some witchy things with everyday activities to make life a bit more “livable.” I don’t remember the author but the book came from Costco of all places. (Two Costco mentions in this newsletter!) I remember her saying that Brigid was a sort of “homemaker” goddess, and as I’ve investigated some more over the years I can see how that perception comes about.
In her words you can learn about the connection to light and fire and protection to loved ones and I suppose as well, home. In my simplification of it, and my lack of attention to remembering things like names of gods and goddesses and how they connect to the sabbats, I see it as an acknowledgement of more light arriving. Get ready for it. Welcome “her.”
And this is where I connect to my version of “hedge-witchery.” The seasons connect me to the lore developed by others, but I prefer to acknowledge my roots living in something I feel and sense. Hedge Witch- she lives behind a brambly hedge and tends to her magic, her home, her plants and animals. Does she make potions? Does she perform spells? I’m seeing Imbolc, this time, as something to help me value the space between darkness and light. Like literal, seasonal darkness and light. The cold and the rain as I know it as a central and coastal Californian. The symbolic will make its way in there, through the act of noticing.
January 31, 2024
It’s early morning. A Wednesday. Those of us who commute to work are teaching from home because there are weather warnings for the roads and mountains we travel through to get to school, so I’m using what would be my commute time to get back to my newsletter, as tomorrow is the start of Imbolc!
This past weekend I was outside, in my little backyard, moving plants and cleaning off the place where they were, in order to create a sunny spot for a garden and a new seating space for guests. It was very enjoyable. I thought- I love this and I need this kind of fun.
Another weekend project had me outside again, painting cardboard hearts red, for St. Valentine’s Day. This is when I made the connection between the satisfying feelings that come from nesting and arranging, crafting decorative items for a space where people will be (the hearts are for my partner’s disco), and my self-designated title of, Hedge Witch.
Another thing that happened was that I had my first colonoscopy! Yowza. I chose to see it as a literal and figurative cleansing. It was a full moon and as you probably know, the prep was intense. I integrated personal spell work into it all and came out of it having a new sense of awe and amazement for those people who have to go through terrible medical procedures and processes, just to survive. I’m very lucky.
I thought about the sacral and solar plexus chakras because they are seated in the parts of my body I was working with medically and physically. Boundaries and power are the energetic “things” connected to those chakras. I’ve been focusing a lot on making necessary changes in those areas- my choices and behaviors. It’s been difficult to unstick old neural connections and find new pathways, but it feels like my future well-being depends on this work. If I can possibly harness the power of unpleasant but rather intense medical examination-prep into the process, I figure, why not? Also, I’m “woo woo” that way. (Speaking of Woo Woo, I’ve discovered Rachel Dratch’s new podcast where she has comedy friends as guests and they investigate mysterious things through a lens of combined skepticism, wonder and humor and I love it.)
It’s the second of February today. I started this newsletter on January second. Yesterday, I found a “magic” dime! The date, which was very hard to read without the magnifying glass I now use to read things I used to be able to read just fine with my eyes, said 2014. I don’t know what that means (And it has to mean something, right?), other than it’s ten years ago, so I just looked at my Google photos and found one thing for 2014. It’s a video of me moving the mouth of a terrifying puppet I made with polymer clay and yarn while a recording of a poem I wrote titled, I’ve Been a Lamp, plays. I’ll share the Youtube video here and add the text below. Considering the fact that Imbolc has to do with thanking the dark and the coming of light, I think it’s rather appropriate! Here’s to the dark, and here’s to the light. Until next time.
I’ve been a lamp. I’m often candy. I’m whisky, gin and wine. I’m fashion. I’m a chocolate milkshake. I’m a shirt and a dress. I’m often a car and a home. When I’m a tree I’m pretty happy.
I’m the sea shore. I’m the boy you flirt with and the wife you should have had but never did. I’m the friends who are mean to you.
I’m the kid who became a lawyer. I’m your phone, your computer, the app you say makes your life easier. I’m the store you shop at all of the time and I’m also the one you wish you could shop at all of the time but can’t afford.
I’m the sunny day you enjoyed. I’m the bed you made love upon that time when it was really romantic. I’m the good shoes and the song that makes you hum. I’m the seagull and the sand. I’m the barbecue and the wind.
I’m the moment where everything made sense.
I’m that time when you felt evil. You used the word, evil. I came back as shoes and cocaine and you wanted me. You loved me. You wore me and took me inside of you.
During your hangover I’m there watching you and you think about me a lot. You want me so bad and I’m right there. I sit on the couch. You cry. You call your mother and she can’t do anything about your frustration but she tries to give you things and you take them. I’m there then, over the phone and I’m with you later when you get dressed up and hit the happy hour.
I’m your kids. I’m the job you wanted. I’m the job you had. I’m the haircut you loved that went out of style. I’m the nose job and the mole.
I’m the river you stared at. I’m your asshole dad.
I’m the workout you feel really good about and the towel you wiped your face with.
You stay awake at night sometimes and you want me. You want me so bad and I’m right there. That’s when you’re scared.
I like it when you are alone, like really all alone. Sometimes you see me.
I’m your pen and your wallet.
Take a breath, you smell that? It’s me.
Your kid. The day your granny died. The dog. The sun beaming majestically through the windows of a giant hunting goods store and you say that you know god but don’t call me that. Especially inside of a hunting goods store.
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