Maybe it’s the Mercury retrograde, or the obscene pile of projects I’ve taken on, but I’ve spent most of the last month fiddling with computers. Fixing them, writing code for them, and just generally immersing myself in them in ways I thought (and hoped) I’d left behind me.
I wrote this on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, when I should have been working…
Then a few days later I wrote this, while I was trying to un-hork my father’s computer…
When I tell people I used to be a computer geek for a living, but ran gleefully away from that industry in the early naughties in favor of working in a factory and never looked back, they question my sanity. I, however, question how anyone can stand it.
Years ago, I read some other computer-land expat’s comments about how “fun” it is dealing with malfunctioning technology, which went something like this…
If you made a Venn diagram of my life, there would be two non-overlapping circles, one labeled, “Times when I’m well-and-truly happy” and the other labeled, “Times when I’m logged in as root, holding a cable, or have the case open.”
(Apologies for not remembering the specific person who wrote this, or where I saw it posted.)
I cannot, cannot stress how much I relate to this.
Aside from the tech support I had to toss at my family, nearly everything I’ve been working on lately has been for that Super Secret Project I mentioned the other day. It’s still going to be a few weeks before I can talk about that, but it’s coming along despite all my whining.
Or maybe because of it? They say talking through your pain is a good way to get through it.
Anyway, I’d much rather be doing tarot or astrology consultations for people, so why don’t you hit me up for one? I’ve finally caught up on my email, and while I still have a criminally-insane amount of work ahead of me this week, I’d love to procrastinate on your behalf.
Normally, my go-to method for avoiding work is taking long walks outside, but we’re in the middle of another heat wave, so the outside feels like it’s trying to kill me.
I assure you, I didn’t intend to go two months between posts, here. But then, I can also assure you that I didn’t intend to be surrounded by thunderstorms, tornadoes, and floods for most of July.
I’m fine, though. Thanks for asking.
The bulk of the storms kept their distance, and while we did have our fair share of tornado warnings, we managed to get out or more less unscathed. The yard was a swamp until about the second week in August, but I really can’t complain.
The weather-related distractions were significant enough to disrupt my daily routine, but I’ve also had my fair share of other issues. Most of them were related to the move (which is still in progress, thanks to my hoarding tendencies), others were not, and all of them were annoying so let’s not dwell on that here.
Hey, look at this turtle!
One of the things I absolutely love about living where I do is the straight-up crazy amount of wildlife I run into on my daily walks. Deer, rabbits, the occasional loose dog that either wants to say “hi” or rip my face off–it’s a rare day that I don’t make a new friend.
This beautiful lady was spotted by my friend while we were out walking together earlier this summer. We actually saw a couple of turtles laying eggs along the same stretch of road, so that’s awesome. If I had the time, I’d look into when these eggs can be expected to hatch and try to be out there when the babies arrive.
Alas, work has been…involved.
In addition to trying to catch up on all of my usual tasks, I’ve been working on a massive new project with a friend of mine that I can’t really talk about yet.
(Side note: Sorry if you’ve been waiting for me to get back to you for a reading or whatever, but I’m…like…more than a month behind on my email. I’d feel bad about that, but I’m a wizard. And wizards are never late in their correspondence. They reply precisely when they mean to.)
What I can talk about is how utterly dependent I’ve become on email, notes, and tasks lists in order to get literally anything done.
For the one-and-a-half of you that might be interested, I use GNU Emacs as my primary editor. Within that program, I use Gnus for email, BBDB for contact management, and org-mode for my notes, to-do lists, and schedule. And I cannot, cannot stress enough how much this collection of tools has merged with my brain.
As an example, let’s say I get an email message from someone asking me to do something. I hit a keystroke while looking at the message and it opens a new “to-do” item which automatically includes a link to the email message. I can then file the to-do away, and when I eventually complete it, it’s just another keystroke or two for me to reply to the message saying it’s done.
Oh, and org-mode lets me keep my to-do items and appointment or meeting reminders right inside my notes files. And it lets me search, sort, and organize all of the above in pretty much any way I need to.
Most of the time, I borrow heavily from David Allen’s strategies which he wrote in his book Getting Things Done, which is really the only “productivity” book I’d ever recommend. The tools I described above? Nothing else even comes close to supporting that workflow so well.
But I digress. Here’s a newt!
Or, maybe it’s a salamander. I don’t know. I do know that I met this charming little dude on my walk this morning. It’s very refreshing to see a live amphibian on my road, considering how many unfortunately-flat frogs and toads I usually come across.
What’s the point of this post, anyway?
Mostly there’s not one, other than the fact that I feel somewhat bad for neglecting this blog all summer, and figured I ought to write something to let you know that I’m still alive.
Well, that and the fact that the more time I spend rambling here, the more I can avoid the other work I really need to be doing.
It’s time to wrap it up, though. I need to grab breakfast, another cup of coffee, and get back to work.
Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time in Middle Earth. That is, I’ve been watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, and listening to the audiobooks (narrated by Andy Serkis!) when I’m ready to go to sleep. The actual books are back at my old place.
Oh, right. I’ve moved house! But that’s a tale for further down. I was talking about Tolkien.
One of the things you may or may not know, is that the “creation myth” of Tolkien’s universe involves the supreme being (Eru or “The One”)—along with assistance of some “angelic” beings he previously produced—making the world through music and chanting. Song, in other words.
The world was sung into being.
I like that, which might explain why I start my day at least an hour before sunrise.
For over a decade, I have stood on my porch in the dark, cup of coffee or tea in hand, sometimes a cigarette or a pipe, and watched as light gradually filled the world. And as the light came, the birds began to sing.
It’s an amazing experience, in my opinion. So much so that I’ve been a silent witness to well over two thousand sunrises, and still enjoy each and every one of them immeasurably.
Silence is key, though.
Night and the early dawn are never truly silent. Not in cities, nor in the woods. In the semi-rural area I called home for the last twelve-or-so years, the hours before sunrise were a time of owl hoots, fox calls, and the occasional bark of a bear. (Seriously, bears bark. Look it up.)
No, it’s not the silence of the world that’s necessary for the experience of dawn to be fully felt. It’s the silence of the listener. And this silence goes much, much deeper than sound. It’s a stillness which is difficult to describe. The human being becomes less a human and more a being, if that makes any sense.
Forgive me this rambling. I’m blissed out on meditation at the moment. Meditation, and the fact that I’ve moved to a place even more semi-rural and silence-inducing than my previous abode.
It’s been a stressful, sometimes exhausting transition. Still ongoing, of course. There are several more lengthy car trips to make in order to collect the rest of my things. And there are several more pieces of furniture to acquire so I can proper settle in here, though thankfully not many.
Through all of that, though, I feel overwhelmingly positive about not just where I am now, but where I will be soon.
Thus, in a roundabout fashion, I come at last to the point of this post…
What to make of this little blog of mine?
I’ve decided to focus less on writing “How-To-Magic” content here, and instead write more about my personal thoughts and experience of magic. Travelogue versus tutorial, said another way.
One of the most significant reasons I’ve moved in the first place is that here can devote even more of my time and energy to the study and practice of magic. And when it’s time for me to share what I’ve learned, well, I’m no longer convinced that a blog will suit my particular needs.
I can’t say I’m a fan of winter, what with all the snow I have to shovel, and all the icy sidewalks which want to break my hip, but after the near-continuous heat waves this summer? I’ve actually been looking forward to it. Say what you want about wind chills in the negative twenties, at least I can sleep.
Of course, it’s not winter yet. It’s autumn, a time of year which usually turns out to be a very mixed bag for my family.
We don’t have the best of luck during the months of October and November. Illness, injury, and deaths kind of seem to pile up around this time, in a way that would be impressive if it weren’t so bitterly miserable.
At the same time, my daughter was born in October, and everyone in my family positively adores Halloween and Thanksgiving. Living in New England means the foliage is utterly gorgeous, the woodstoves found in every other house in my neighborhood fill the air with pleasant smoke, and the air itself has just enough chill to wake you up, but isn’t cold enough that you don’t want to leave the house at all.
It’s hard to ignore the hardships, but it’s equally-hard to ignore the happiness.
What hasn’t been hard to ignore is this blog, hence the two-ish months between updates.
I mentioned back in my Summer post that I have been spending as much time as humanly possible out in the woods, or out on the water. Hiking, fishing, just being, really. That was totally awesome, but what would have made it even more awesome was if I hadn’t hurt my foot.
And my back.
And I hadn’t caught a plague which I still can’t believe wasn’t the popular one going around, despite having two tests come back negative.
In other words, that whole Autumnal Misfortune I mentioned above? Yeah, it started about a month early, and it put a serious cramp in my style.
Fortunately, though, things have been pretty good this week! My foot’s mostly fine, my back is now very happy with the the new desk chair I purchased, and I’ve started reliably sleeping through the night instead of waking up every hour to cough myself half to death.
It hasn’t been all misery, though. My daughter just celebrated her eighteenth birthday, which…I believe even less than my negative nasal swabs.
More than this, though, I’ve had many people reach out to me for readings and consultations, and that’s been wonderful. There’s honestly nothing I enjoy doing more than working with other people, whether it’s for a tarot reading, an astrology consult, or doing a bit of magic. Even when the last thing my back wanted to do was sit in a chair for three hours, I was still typing out responses, and loving every minute of it.
So let me close this not-quite-a-post with my sincerest thanks to everyone who has reached out to me for a reading. You truly made these last couple of months far more pleasant than they would have been otherwise.
I’ve been spending more time with my ancestors lately, hoping to establish more intentional and positive relationships with them. One of the ways in which I’ve been relating with my ancestors is by putting together a family tree, and really trying to understand the flow of my lineages through history.
And that’s gotten me thinking about tradition.
Tradition is kind of a loaded word right now. There are a lot of people leaning on what is “traditional” in order to justify some quite frankly miserable behavior. Some of this comes from a sort of misplaced nostalgia for a half-imagined past which never really existed, but most of it comes from the desire of those in power to stay in power.
I could go into specifics here, but unless you’ve literally been living under a rock for the last six or seven years, you probably already know what I’m talking about.
There’s another way to look at tradition, though. There’s a way to see the past–the real past–not as a perfect blueprint to follow uncritically, but as a source of inspiration when dealing with the present and preparing for the future.
Gardens come to mind.
My father was born in 1946, the youngest of fourteen children. His mother was born in 1904, and his father was born in 1900. These dates may seem incredibly remote to those of you born around the turn of the millennium, but my grandparents are part of my living memory. And when they were getting their family on, everyone had a garden–especially if, like my grandfather, they were trying to support a family of this size on a mill-worker’s salary.
I’m told that pretty much every square inch of my father’s childhood yard was used to grow something. Whatever they didn’t eat fresh, my grandmother canned for the winter. My grandmother also made bread, not just to feed the family, but also to give and sell to neighbors, other family, and friends. Every resource they had at their disposal was used to help themselves, or it was traded with those around them.
We can find a lot of inspiration, here.
The most obvious flash of insight is that, not too long ago, people did much more for themselves than we do. Today, most of us buy our vegetables and bread from the grocery store. This is fine, I suppose, so long as the grocery store continues to have what we need, and we’re able to pay the price they’re asking.
Those are big “ifs” right now.
Unless you’re still living under that rock we talked about earlier, grocery stores have become both less reliable and much more expensive. I have a loaf of white bread sitting on my counter which cost me $4.29. And last week? I had to get a different brand because the store was wiped out of the brand I usually buy.
When I’m able to bake my own bread, it costs me about $1.00 a loaf, and it’s a far better product.
I’ve written about this sort of thing before, in a post I called Home economics, wherein I linked to a video on the Townsends YouTube channel. You could do a lot worse than going back to that post and watching the video again. It talks about looking at your home as a “little factory,” and not just thinking of it (or relating to it) as a place to sleep and store your stuff.
There’s another bit of inspiration we can glean from the way in which my father’s parents related with the world around them, which is touched on by this video, also from Townsends.
In case it’s not glaringly-obvious, I love this channel, and I spend a lot of time not just watching the videos there, but also trying to find ways to re-contextualize the traditions they cover for life in the present day.
My parents, grandparents, and all the generations before them spent a great deal of time establishing and maintaining relationships with their neighbors, and their local community as a whole. The further you go back in time, the more vital these connections become.
Remember: thirty years ago, there was no World Wide Web. Fifty years ago? No Internet at all. A century ago? Barely anyone had a phone.
Not only were the people in your immediate community likely to be your only social outlet apart from family, they were the only help you were going to get should you find yourself in real trouble. The safety and prosperity of your neighbors was, in a very literal sense, your safety and prosperity.
So what does this have to do with today? More the point, what does this have to do with magic (seeing as that’s what this blog is supposed to be about)?
To my way of thinking, these two questions are basically the same: What might this traditional way of living tell us about relating to and in the present?
I see magic as a tool (or set of tools) which allows us to more easily live in right relationship with the world around us. It allows us to better understand our place and function, and gives us ways to restore ourselves to that place and function when we’re off-base.
Proximity is a critical consideration when relating with others. By which I mean, it’s easier and more fruitful to think and act locally, first and foremost.
Something you might not be aware of is that, if you live in the United States, almost every dime you pay in “taxes” goes to your city, county, or state government. Property tax (or your landlord’s taxes, which you pay in the form of rent), sales tax, water bills, parking fees and fines–all of this is obviously collected by city or state officials. But even a good portion of your federal income tax ends up being paid out to states and cities in the form of grants, or federally-funded programs such as Medicaid.
What’s more, most of the laws you’re required to obey are set at the local or state level. Which streets you can park on, where you can open and operate a business, when you can buy alcohol–the buck for all of these ultimately stops at city hall or your state house.
Who decides where your polling place is, and how long it’s open on election day? That would be town clerk. Who decides if your local library is going to get funding next year? Your town council.
Like it or not, more and more political power is being handed off to the states and cities. It isn’t the feds that are going to decide whether or not you can have roommates to help you pay for a home, it’s going to be the people in your local government–and lot of those people are landlords.
I’ve already shared these thoughts privately, with friends and family. And it’s long been my belief that we should be spending most of our time and attention not on what’s happening at the national level, but at the local level.
To be blunt, I think if you can name your U.S. Senators, but can’t name your city councilors, you’re doing it wrong.
But it’s more than that.
Look again at that video I embedded above, and think about not only what it would take to become more deeply-involved in your immediate community, but also how much further any effort to improve upon it is likely to go, compared to your chances of changing anything at the national scale.
It’s a lot easier to live in right relationship with someone when you can shake their hand.
You might have noticed a lack of posts here for, oh, the better part of the last few months. I’d apologize, but it’s really the weather’s fault. It’s been pretty gorgeous outside in my neck of the woods, so…I’ve been in the woods.
Or on the water.
Or in my yard.
The point I’m making here, if you haven’t already figured it out, is that I’ve spent nearly every possible moment I could outside and as far away from computers and the internet as I could get—especially social media.
My approach to all things magical tends to lean pretty heavily in what I might as well call an “animist direction.” I see the world as profoundly haunted. We’re surrounded by spirits—among them trees and stone, rivers and lakes. And a big part of my magical practice these last few years has involved establishing and growing relationships with these spirits.
Doing simple magic like hiking in the woods, fishing, and working in the gardens has taken priority over sitting in front of a screen writing about magic. I’m still open for Tarot readings, of course. And I’m truly, truly grateful for the people who have reached out to me for consultations. But the blog and my Twitter have clearly been filled with crickets.
That’s probably not going to change very much until October or November rolls around, but I’ll try not to go so long without dropping an update here.
No promises, though. My friend owns a boat!
I hope your summer is going at least as well as my own.
It’s almost spring, and I’m more than ready for it.
You might have noticed that I took more or less the whole of winter off from writing and posting on the blog. I also did my best to post very little on social media, apart from silly memes on Facebook, or comments on friends’ posts.
Winters, to be blunt, really suck for me. I don’t enjoy them at all.
I live in New Hampshire, so winters are full of freezing temperatures, ice, and snow. This means I frequently go days without venturing outside unless it’s straight into a freezing car. No walks in the woods or about town, no hanging out on my porch or working in my yard.
This lack of sunlight and fresh air is truly horrible for a number of reasons, but the most pertinent one here is that I have very little energy once the weather turns cold.
Getting anything done from December to April requires a massive effort on my part, and usually leaves me utterly drained by the end of the day. So, for this winter, I decided to pull back from work and quietly, peacefully spend the days sitting with friends, family, and myself.
That worked out pretty well! So well, in fact, that I think taking winters off is probably something I’ll do in the future.
I’ve been a wee bit frustrated this last week, which more or less accounts for how little I’ve been active on the socials, and why this post is going up several days later than I would have liked. I have a low tolerance for frustration, and a tendency to say “fuck it, let’s watch Netflix” when things go pear-shaped.
For most of the last month, I’ve been focused on two things: a large writing project, which I hope to share with you next spring; and a mundane, work-a-day freelancing gig which pays poorly but fit my schedule too well to say no to.
The writing project, while fun and exciting, is going very slowly. Normally, when I get into the writing groove, I can crank out two thousand words a day without breaking a sweat. With this project, I’m lucky if I make half of that total, and it’s hard getting even that much.
As for the freelance gig, last week brought about some technical issues beyond my control. They’re supposedly getting fixed, but for now they’ve dropped my productivity (and my pay) down to about a third of what they were the week before.
When I add in the health-related challenges my family and I have been dealing with…yeah, I’m not the happiest camper.
Still, I’m feeling pretty good, all things considered. Mostly because I’ve been curling up in bed around six o’clock every evening, and letting an audio book read me to sleep.
This is quite frankly awesome in and of itself, but by going to bed so early, I’m usually up no later than four the next morning. This is even more awesome, since it gives me a solid hour or two of quiet in which to wake up, do my morning prayers and rituals, and settle into my day.
I think magic is everywhere, but there’s something particularly magical about the pre-dawn hours, where in my neck of the woods everything is silent and still. The only things speaking are the owls, the wind, and my tea kettle.
I’ve needed that more than I usually do.
Taking this time—especially over the last several days—to just sit with my thoughts and feelings has been tremendously helpful and healing.
It’s a form of meditation that goes largely ignored, at least in Western magical circles.
For the most part, when a magician goes about “meditating,” they attempt to either focus their mind on a single thought, or else remove all thoughts from their mind. In both cases, judgment is implied. In the first case, it is the one and only thought which is good. In the second, no thoughts are good.
Contrast this with mindfully and purposefully setting your mind to the task of sitting with whatever thoughts may arise, without judgment. This isn’t the same thing as daydreaming or letting your mind wander. Rather, it’s giving yourself the space to allow what is really going on in your head to take the reins.
Or, to use another metaphor, it’s giving the salad dressing time to separate into its component parts.
I’ve been putting in a lot of ten-hour days recently, which means I’ve been quite productive, but also very, very tired. I’m not quite at Bilbo’s “butter scraped over too much bread” levels of exhaustion, but I’m certainly “burning twice as brightly.”
Come for the magical mutterings, stay for the nerd quotes.
I think I’ve spoken before about how Halloween is my favorite holiday, and this is true for pretty much my entire immediate family. It’s partly a magic thing, partly a goth thing, but also there’s something just inherently joyous about dressing up however you want and getting free candy.
What I don’t think I’ve talked about is how much the rest of the holiday season not only isn’t my bag, but I kind of dread it.
Thanksgiving, in particular, inspires a special sort of loathing within me. I like the food, and the fact that it’s the only day where it’s socially acceptable to eat so much that you fall unconscious in front of the television later. Beyond that, though, it’s just too full of bad memories.
Every family has its pitfalls, but for mine the most challenging pitfalls all seem to strike around this time of year. Last year, for instance, my father was diagnosed with bladder cancer. He was treated, and ultimately recovered completely, but at the time things were beyond stressful.
This year? He went in for a hernia operation the day before Thanksgiving. Things seem to have gone well, but he’s had a rough couple of days trying to recover.
These are just the two most recent examples of how Thanksgiving has sucked for my family. My mother passed away around this time of year. Two years before that, our power went out for twenty-six hours over the holiday and totally destroyed all of the food and fixings in the fridge.
The hits roll on and on, making November the least favorite month in our house. That’s probably why I tend to spend a ridiculous amount of money on Christmas presents. After all, what is Christmas but the one-month anniversary of Thanksgiving fucking off?
It’s a shame, really, because November tends to have some pretty nice weather. Temperatures are cool enough during the day that I can wear my comfy black hoodie most of the time, and at night I get to curl up in all of the blankets. Any time you can spend the first hour of the day cozy in a warm bed, letting your eyes explore the frost on the window is a good one in my book.
I guess “conflicted” is the word to use here, at least as far as how I feel about this whole month.
Where was I even going with this post? I’ve been making excellent progress on a number of projects, but can’t really talk about them yet.
In my last post I wrote about the last thing I wrapped up, my Spring store, which you should totally buy a t-shirt from. Seriously, it’s Sagittarius season, so grab some suitable swag.
Other than that, though, everything’s still a work in progress—either being actively under construction, waiting for things to settle into place.
That’s probably the best description of how this and the next couple of months are going to be around here. We’re doing what we can, preparing for the long winter, and making plans for the spring.
When you think about it, isn’t that what we’ve all done, pretty much forever, around this time of year? The productive days of summer are behind us, the last work of the harvest is wrapping up, and all of our efforts are focused on settling in (and surviving) the winter.
And while my family does have a kind of shitty history with regards to this time of year, I’m honestly feeling rather optimistic. Despite the expected challenges surrounding my father’s surgery, the various other challenges I’ve written about in recent weeks, and still more challenges which I’m not at liberty to write about because they’re not entirely my own, I feel like corners are being turned and roads are opening up.
That said, I’ll feel a lot more at ease once winter has come and gone.