Today I decided that the last few days have all been part of my ritual. Once I voiced my need to reclaim my soul parts, everything that came in my path seemed something I needed to hear and remember, as in a dream. The walk to the falls and everything I found there, our sudden decision to drive home towards the storm, the relief of my safe return followed by the small crisis that caused my family to temporarily relocate. The wind that split the tree that fell on the hydro wire. The brief blaze of electrical fire. The loss of power to our home. When I walked up to our house today to check on the state of our street, I found large pieces of the tree sawed and moved off the road, the wires back up, the two concrete poles that had crashed replaced by wooden ones, the power restored. I was amazed at the efficiency of it, at the resilience of this complex system. I walked back to meet my kids and realized that the supple green leaves of tulips were poking up everywhere under the snow, the purple crocuses were still blooming confidently, the forsythias were newly burst into yellow flower. I collected all of these images to reclaim what I saw in them – the vitality, the resilience. The sidewalks were slippery and piled with grainy wet snow so I walked through back alleys. There I found murals in secret places, giant paintings of black and purple birds, of blue waves. On an impulse, I stopped at an indigenous art store. I purchased a tiny stone turtle to place on my altar at home; and two post-card sized prints, one called Blossom, which reminds me of the stubbornness of spring, my own stubbornness. The birds sang all through the rain this afternoon – cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, the mockingbird that annually sets up shop by the train tracks. Later, at home, I lit a candle, I spoke my intentions, I reset my altar. I included a small piece of the fallen maple, felled by the power of air moving; a round stone from the ocean, smoothed by the force of water. I reclaimed and reintegrated. I asked for my fire back knowing that there are always dangers. Fire brings risk, but so does wind, so does water, so does burying oneself too far into the earth. Life is a balance, discernment and risk. I can do both. I need both to be whole.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: purchase. No attempt for brevity here. This day, this past Monday, I knew what I needed to write about and the writing prompt became an action prompt. I admit it’s possible that I stopped at the little store so I could fit this word into the unfolding of the day. Sometimes that happens: words become actions, actions become symbols. That’s part of what ritual means to me.
I am determined to reclaim the parts of me that have gone missing. Parts of my soul, parts of my heart, some of which I irresponsibly gave away, some of which I feel were unfairly stolen. From the Wolf Den lodge near Algonquin Park, my two friends and I hike over to Ragged Falls, pulled by the cathartic roar of the raging water. We are in awe of the wild water, the huge jagged ice surrounding it on all side. We climb upriver to where the Oxtongue River is dark and deceptively still. I tell them we must keep going, one more bend, then one more: here. I find a place to sit in the snow and watch the river as it swirls in small eddies, curls of current wrapping around each other, twirling. I recognize the playfulness of the river, feel the wind cold on my face as if it too is teasing me. I am buoyed to recognize the delight and mischief all around me – even in the wind, even in the wild thundering of the falls – to feel it mirroring something in myself that I have been missing. I am moved by the range of a single river in all of its moods: vital, whole, powerful, hiding nothing. Back at the lodge with our tea and handwork, we muse on a plan to collect my missing parts, reclaim the spark that has felt depleted. I lay down some elements of a ritual to retrieve, reclaim, and reintegrate. I realize that I have been reluctant because I am afraid that the path to what I ask for sometimes takes circuitous, dangerous turns. My friends remind me that I must put into any ritual a disclaimer, some fine print: “in a way that is safe and healthy for myself and my family.” Yes, that’s what I forgot last time and the time before. That’s what got me into some of this soul mess in the first place. Now here I am, wiser, finally learning what I had asked then to learn.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: missing. A short trip north before the strange spring storm hit last weekend and sent us racing home again. I found this word waiting for me when I got back. It fit so well.
This morning, I felt spring clarity and space. Brightness, despite the raging storm. I did not want to fritter away any of my day. I began to clean my desk, sort through handwork baskets and supplies, organize projects, read through a pile of library books on textile art. I made a list of projects that need to be finished or begun: knitting, embroidery, my grandmother’s diary to transcribe and translate. As I tried out a Japanese sashiko mending technique on a torn shirt, I heard a crash. “A tree branch is down across the road!” one of my sons called out. Pause. “It’s landed on a car!” Pause. “The wire is on fire!” I jumped up, ran downstairs. The afternoon took a detour. Our neighbours’ huge maple had been split in two by the wind, wires were down and a concrete hydro pole cracked to the ground. Fire flared briefly on the wires. A confused robin dashed about underneath the debris. The fire crew arrived in minutes. The power will be out for a couple of days. We are fortunate, with family in the city. We have relocated. My plans are derailed for the moment, everything a little off-kilter. The new moon is tonight, but my dream for ritual is deferred. The streets are icy, treacherous and bleak, the wind howls, the rain continues to pour. The small spring flowers are crushed under the snowy crust. But as the ice pelted my window this afternoon, I heard a loudly vocal cardinal, still frantically singing.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: fritter.
My garden each year rapidly turns the corner from lush to neglected. Now, in early April, my heart leaps at the green shoots piercing up through the soil, the tiny purple and yellow crocuses, the anticipation of lilacs. It’s impossible to believe that in two more months the mint will already have run amok, in three the raspberries and gooseberries will hang heavy, in four that I will have thrown my hands up in the air and let it all go wild. Right now it is still a promise, a potential, barely even a plan. Maybe this year I will do better. I will decide what should stay, what should go. I will weed, prune responsibly, build better fences. I will channel skills I am painstakingly learning in the rest of my life.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: lush.
This has been a winter of burrowing, hiding out in my lair like a mammal in hibernation, or a wild creature tending its wounds. Digging deep into the earth of myself, I imagine myself as grounded. It’s an internal process, I admit, not visible to everyone I encounter on my daily travels. This week I read the Handless Maiden chapter in Women Who Run with the Wolves, a book that keeps coming forward to meet me when I need its wisdom. She writes of the woman undergoing initiation, soul deep underground, but body anchored firmly in the daily rituals of the outer world. I feel this too, core strength and discipline rising like a tree out of the soil in the barren months of winter, but with vitality humming down in the roots, threading deep in the soil, sap preparing to run.
From my daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: lair. This is from two weeks ago.
I am a toddler in the black and white photo, blonde and chubby and bonneted, squatting on the sidewalk in front of the apartment on Ulica Faraona. Later there was grass, I am sure of it, but here the ground is covered in rubble, gravel, piles of concrete, as if remnant to some great devastation. The building across the parking lot under construction my whole short life; I imagine it like Penelope’s tapestry, woven and unwoven in secret each night, each year no closer to completion. We roamed among those stocky Soviet apartment blocks, small packs of children, freer than our parents. I remember gas at the gas station after a shortage, and the line of thirsty cars that snaked for blocks and blocks.
Brief daily writing by email with a small group of women across the continent. Today is day 33. This is from the backlog. Word prompt: ground.
I look down at the ground as I stand in the circle. A small girl has drawn a spiral in the snow beside me. A few moments later, I overhear beside the fire: “Sometimes she starts to spiral out of control.” I danced a spiral dance here a few years ago in the darkness of the winter solstice, six months later for the summer solstice in the lush green of June. That feels like some other person in some other lifetime. I am still surrounded by friends here; I know I am at home. But the wild energy of that previous time, the collaboration and momentum, all of that is gone. I am stripped bare, focused inward, disciplined, cautious. It is a choice, but also a reaction, a swing of the pendulum, a spiral. It’s hard to see the other side when I am here in this tight curl of myself, hard to see the arc widening, hard to imagine that I might again expand.
From my current daily writing practice by email with three women across the continent. Word prompt: spiral.