Happy Secular New Year, everyone! I am freshly back from my annual Florida trip. It’s work-related, but also always a joy. I support the Coaching Training Program at Auburn Theological Seminary–helping faith-based people (mostly Christian) to become certified coaches. Folks have seemed to like having a friendly little Witch running around making sure their meals are made correctly and their books and supplies in order. Last year, I danced in the ocean with an Episcopalian minister who was also an Orisha Initiate. This year, I snuck in conversations about Hoodoo practices with one of the participants. Several bought Brigid. It’s proof that interfaith situations can and do work!
I have pics to share from the two events I taught while in Florida. Later this week, I’ll have them up. But it’s been a tough week and my soul is raw and shredded and so I’ll get back to being biz-nessy soon, but I don’t have it in me at the moment. A very dear friend of mine died just a few days before I went to Florida. She lost a battle with cancer. She was only 42. It hurts a lot.
I think I first became Wiccan at Christian summer camp. I attended this sweet little Methodist camp (My nick-name was “Catholic Courtney”) right on the Oregon coast. I remember feeling God and Jesus prevalently when I was near the ocean. Not at church, not in my suburban backyard. Not reading the Bible before I went to bed. I felt God when standing at the shore. I knew the ocean had a soul. I also knew the ocean didn’t care about me. In the Pacific Northwest, the ocean will not let you forget that it’s in charge. It has no interest in catering to your mortality. It’s frigid. It’s rough. The undertow is deadly. There are giant rocks waiting to bait your skull and floating logs looking for swimmers to crush. And then there are “sneaker waves” which are like mini-tsunamis that randomly swallow the whole beach and everything on it. Yep. Those were my beach trips as a kid. Yet, even though I knew the ocean didn’t care about me, the God that was present when I was in communion with the ocean cared very much. There was a kinetic power that was absent when I was away from the wild places.
Now, I still feel that I am returning to the source whenever I stand near the ocean. It’s the great indifference of this being of water that relieves me of whatever chatter-brained thoughts I’m having at the moment. It’s a reminder to me that like the waves of the ocean when they’re gentle, I will be carried by an ancient flow. The Goddess has me. The difference between the Goddess and the ocean, for me, is that I know She’ll tell me when the situation is too rough, too cold, or has too many floating logs in it and it’s time to step out. The Atlantic of the SE USA coast is generally pretty swimmer-friendly, but this past week it was a tad too cold. But walking along the shoreline or even just watching the water from my hotel room balcony was settling.
Grief is weird. It’s slippery. It hides under things and opens heart-doors you thought you had locked. Then, it goes to sleep for six months and wakes up when you’re looking at an ad on the subway that vaguely reminds you of the person you lost and there go you, crying on the A train. Or maybe that’s just me. 🙂
I found myself deeply saddened by David Bowie’s death even though I’ve not given him near the obsession I’ve given Tori Amos. Was it my grief over Anika’s death hiding under the death of a rockstar? Maybe. Saturday was her funeral. Today I went to Ellis Island with my husband. We’ve never been. On the audio tour, I heard a story told by an old woman who, as a little girl, came through Ellis Island with her family. Her grandmother was turned away because of a strange growth on her finger and had to go back to their native country, alone. None of her family ever saw the grandmother, again. The old woman wept like the little girl she’d been on that horrible day and I cried too, looking out the window at the snow and water and city beyond it. I’m still crying about it. In my line of work, I hear a lot of heartbreaking stories about deportation and the sanctuary movement. Sometimes, in order to get the work done, there’s a bit of distancing there just in order to keep moving. Grief gives us no space or distance. It doesn’t care if the outlet isn’t the wound in question. It makes its way out because it seems to fear being held captive by us. It wants out and will make the opportunities if you don’t make them for it.
It feels like half the stars in the sky went out this past week, but the only one I’m looking at belonged to my friend Anika. I miss her. I wish I’d gone to see her more when she was sick. I wish we’d played scrabble every week. I wish I’d brought over Mac n’ Cheez. I did bring her my book. I don’t know if she read it but she cried when I gave it to her. That’s the kind of heart she was–she loved art and she loved people who made it and when it sat in her hand, she was happy.
Grief is just weird, guys. It makes us do weird things like blog at midnight when we have to work in the morning. But I was taking time at my altar to try to let the grief out and the Spirits told me to go share it, here. There’s no editing and probably most of this doesn’t make sense. I’m not afraid to be ineloquent. I’m just afraid the tears won’t ever stop.
But I can thank the grief because it, like the ocean, reminds us that we’re human. It restores our humanity. It makes us feel again. It shakes us out of autopilot. We can’t turn our backs on the oceans or know what it’s going to do so we need to stay with it. Stay present with it. Let it do its thing and just try to take care of ourselves. Grief is the same. (Oh, hey, look! I made some kind of connection!)
Bright blessings tonight, for all who are reading this. May we all continue to live our lives in joy.