Proximity and connection

Expect a meandering post below, since I’m in the middle of about fifty things and don’t have the slightest clue which to write about or in what order. Ahh…that sweet, sweet Aries Mercury sitting in the ninth house of my natal chart.

Today is Friday, and I’m staring down the barrel of a busy weekend. I have several errands to run, a father who’s about to go in for his final scan to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned, a workbench to flip around and re-configure, seeds to plant, and some much-neglected housework to attend to—and that’s just what I’ve got lined up for this morning.

I know you’re probably all sick of reading how busy I’ve been, but I assure you: I’m much, much more sick of being this busy. The “mundane” draws on my attention have left me with almost no time or energy for any magical pursuits beyond my bare-minimum daily routine.

I wake up about three, get a cup of coffee in me, and then perform a more-or-less-fixed series of prayers, in addition to the usual sort of “daily magical hygiene” any self-respecting witch or wizard should get up to. This all takes me about an hour or so, depending on how quickly the caffeine gets to working. After that? It’s time to get on with all the various chores and other mundane tasks which I’ve collected to myself.

Baking bread and bagels, dehydrating all the things for snacks, making fresh-squeezed lemonade on demand, shaking the growing collecting of jars filled with herbs, oil, and alcohol…there’s an endless and expanding to-do list between me and the seven o’clock bedtime that waking up at three in the morning demands.

A tray of fresh-baked bagels.
Don’t you wish your bagels were hot like mine?

Of course, just because I call most of these tasks “mundane,” doesn’t mean they aren’t deeply rooted in my magical practice.

One of the general ideas I have about magic is that it’s a kind of toolbox, the purpose of which is to help us live in Right Relationship with the world around us. Getting into everything that means would require at least several long, rambling blog posts, but one thing I can lay out pretty quickly is that living in Right Relationship requires proximity.

I do what I can, each day, to not only satisfy my needs (as well as the needs of those around me), but also to get as close as I can to the source of whatever satisfies them.

Take bread for example.

Most people in my area get their bread from the grocery store, where even a moderately-crappy loaf will run you between two and three bucks. Me? Years ago I got sick of paying for bread, especially when the quality of said bread seemed to be getting worse and worse. So, I started baking my own.

This seemed kind of “quaint” and “silly” to some of my friends and acquaintances, but I didn’t care. I was making high-quality bread for just about one dollar per loaf all things considered. They could chuckle all they want about how between my baking and my knitting hats and scarves I was “becoming a grandmother” as one friend put it.

Then the Plague hit, and by April of last year bread was flying off the shelves as people panic-bought the plastic-wrapped loaves as fast as they appeared on store shelves. Suddenly, those people who looked down on my baking were looking on my sandwiches with envy.

What’s more, other people quickly caught on to the bread-baking idea, and Twitter was filled with people’s photos of fresh-baked loaves. And then, stores started running out of yeast. And again, some of the people in my circles began to panic, wondering what they were going to do when they’d used up the six jars of the stuff they’d hoarded.

Me? I just kept right on using and feeding the sourdough starter I had on my shelf.

Grandma’s got skills, baby.

It’s hard not to write this up without it sounding like a less-than-humble-brag, but the simple fact is that I had more or less destroyed my reliance on the bread “supply chain,” and so was essentially immune to its disruption.

Yes, I still needed to buy flour and salt, but water and wild yeast are pretty easy to find in my neck of the woods. By learning how to turn these raw ingredients into finished loaves myself, I was insulated from most of the effects of the collapsing supply chain.

At least when it came to bread. Toilet paper was getting just a little bit too scarce for comfort for a couple of weeks, but we won’t talk about that.

More important than the cost savings and supply issues, though, is the fact that I had become closer to the source of my food, even if only just a little bit. At least twice a week, I was getting my hands in the dough, patiently watching as that dough rose, and impatiently waiting for the bread to bake and cool so I could tear into it. Almost entire process, from start to finish, was quite literally in my hands. And there’s magic there.

I had increased my proximity to the source, with the effect that baking a loaf of bread felt like an almost devotional act which brought me into a closer relationship with the world around me. And the fact that I have tasty bread to share with neighbors, friends, and family brings me into closer relationship with them.

This is one of the reasons I’ve been hanging out in my yard with field guides, staring at plants. Like this little fella…

Glechoma hederacea

This is glechoma hederacea, also known as “gill-o-the-ground” and “ground ivy.” It’s young leaves can be used in salads or as a cooked green, though it’s usually mixed with others because it has a bit of a bitter taste. You’ll find it in soups for flavoring, and it can be used in place of hops when you’re brewing beer. And while I’m not a doctor, and would never suggest you take my word instead of medical advice from a licensed professional, I can tell you that it has historically been used as a tea for treating mild lung ailments such as a cough or light bronchitis.

There are a number of other, similar gifts offered by this plant, and it’s just randomly growing in my yard for free, along with a host of other plants which I’m continuing to learn about and connect with.

That’s probably the central idea of this post: connection.

In all of my various hobbies, interests, and weird pursuits, one constant has always been present: I am continuously looking for ways to more directly connect with the world and those around me. That’s one of the reasons I find social media so off-putting, and would much rather meet up with people one-on-one or face-to-face. It’s also why I prefer cooking a big meal from scratch for friends and family, rather than going out to a restaurant.

Now, I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m in a bit of a unique situation, in that I have relatively more time to spend on these pursuits than many other people. Some people need to work sixty or eighty hours a week, or they have family situations which demand a great deal of time and attention. It’s impossible for everyone to bake their own bread, knit their own winter gear, and craft their own soap. I get that.

But I do think that everyone can do something to increase their proximity to both the world and those people living around you. Maybe that means making sourdough, or maybe that means starting a community garden.

Or maybe it just means getting together for a potluck with friends when plague eases up.

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