I did a burning last week. In my caldron. I have a caldron. : ) Usually it is full up with dog toys and tennis balls because what better place to keep my soul dog’s things than in my witchy caldron. I talk about this before, in a writing I did back in September, 2016. Here is the link if you feel called to read it, because that writing, it compliments this writing. Down to my dog’s things.
So I did this burning back in 2016, with a plan to do more which I never did do. And now it is now, and without much thought beforehand, I was called to burn again.
This time my burning was writings. I had started to journal a bit a few months before this time. A pen to paper writing release. Back towards the end of October after a session with a wise, spirit-calling sage who suggested that I needed to get my thoughts out of my head and onto a page rather than have them spill constantly out of my mouth and into the world. These thoughts were not world sharing thoughts. They were private and chaotic. Some were toxic. Most were way too emotional for anyplace other than the paper they fell on.
I did this through three blank books over the course of less than two months. The first book was beautiful. Handmade paper that has that rough texture I love. Even the sound of the pen as it wrote across the page had depth.
When I decided to start this pen paper writing, I remembered that I already owned this blank book. I am not sure where it first came from. I believe it was a gift. But I am not sure. I do know that I had it for a very long time, always loved it, and that I never ever had any desire to journal in it until just these few months ago. But I knew exactly where it was, on the shelf in my closet, and I knew it was to be the first container of this writing process that was beginning for me for how long I did not know.
I also purchased a pack of 12 black disposable fountain pens. Because my handmade paper book needed a special pen. It needed to feel old. As in ancient. As in wise. And so I purchased a cheap alternative to a true fountain pen so I could feel the history of language as it flowed out of me.
This first book was small, 3 x 4.5 and I filled it up fast. Words tumbled out daily. And by mid-November I needed more. I looked for another blank paged book like the one I just filled and there was nothing I could find. Not on Amazon, or Etsy—except for one seller whose books were leather bound, and while beautiful did not call to me in the way this first book held just the right space for my words to find ground—nor any of the local book and gift stores in my town, or Ventura or Santa Barbara. If ever I was compelled to start a business perhaps it would be to source beautiful paper and handmade bindings and journals for writing that fit just right in your hand. Because there was nothing I could find, anywhere, that matched my first filled book that I already owned.
And so I purchased two, generic but doable, 4.5 x 7-inch journals., They were not quite the same as writing on the beautiful paper that played the sound of my pen just so, but they held the thoughts that released from my brain good enough.
And then, on the day of this burning last week, I realized I was done. The words did not need to come out through my hand any longer. But more, I realized that I didn’t need to even have these words around me any longer. I didn’t need to reread them. I didn’t need to save them for a later visit. I didn’t need to hold on to them just for safe keeping.
The purpose was to get the thoughts in my head out of me and onto a place where they could land. That was it. And then, on this day when I realized I was done, I knew the offering up of all I had written in a burning with sage was the closing act of this deliberate endeavor.
And so I did this burning.
I took the dog toys and tennis balls out of their cast iron container, layered in many sheets of aluminum foil for easier cleanup as burning books mean mountains of ash, and I sat outside with the setting sun and lit my words on fire.
One page at a time, ripped from first my handmade paper journal and then the two store bought ones. One page at a time to start and then sheets of two and three together. Some ripped in half or thirds, others crumbled into balls for better burning.
The flame ebbed and flowed with each paper piece addition to the caldron. The smoky smell had age to it, and plastic too, as the two, newer journal books had covers that were coated and smooth. The smoke burned my throat and eyes while I sat beside the flames and threw a ball to my dog down the lawn.
The sun set quicker than even I was aware and soon it was dark as I continued to feed my caldron with my words of woe. I added sage, wrapped in a thick leather thread and thin gold wire and the smell turned just to sage for a few moments before settling back into just smoke again. The leather thread burned quickly. The gold melted down before my eyes. And then it was done. The books were gone, even the covers burned and melted into the ash of reflection. The ambers twinkled in a good way, and I stirred them with these long grill tongs which allowed air to get in and spark the flame a few more times where still there was paper to burn.
I was in Massachusetts two weeks ago, in early December. I started to write about this last week, just when I arrived back here, to my west coast home. I started to write about this visit and two things happened. One—my dog pulled me in and a writing about her was essential to that moment. And two—I found my thoughts were not quite clear. I found my thoughts were not quite clear which I know my dog knew, and so she saved me from myself by pulling me in to write about her until I was ready to write about me.
Because my reflection of this visit needed more time to simmer, to percolate, and then to solidify so that my sharing of this visit in this early December would capture not just the story of my visit but the essence of my visit, too.
I will start with this photo.
This photo is the Concord River. It is beautiful here on this river in the mornings on my runs two weeks ago in Massachusetts. It is beautiful here, along this river. My runs here, in the early mornings, are gifts to me. Each day. Each day that I run here, to this river, is a gift that I take in and hold tight and do not take for granted. Not even for an instant.
Because in this gift of these runs along this river in Massachusetts sits many important things that are unfolding for me in this moment of my life.
I was in Massachusetts in this early December to help my dad organize his move to live full-time in Florida. And to organize moving my mom to a care facility. Full-time in Florida. And to set up an apartment in Bedford, along the Concord River, that I am renting here. Part-time. A place to land when I land back here to see the people I love that live on this side of my world.
It is less costly to rent a place that I have full-time and will only use part-time than it is to rent a hotel, or an Airbnb for only those times I am here. Of course I can stay with my son and my sister, but I find, as I set up this space, that I need a place to land that is mine. And this place is good. This small apartment in this amazing home on this beautiful land that abuts the Concord River that I am gifted to run along each morning that I am here. This place is very good.
My transition back and forth, and to and from, Massachusetts has been an evolution. We moved away because I was cold. The winters here, in my east coast home are cold. I am not a cold weather person by any stretch of the imagination and so, when it was that time in our lives where we could move without disrupting our children’s lives too much, we did. My plan was never to come back in the winter months, ever. Like ever. And that first year I was back pretty much every month.
It was a year of doctor appointments and memory studies and research and the hope for discovery around my mom’s deep dive into Primary Progressive Aphasia. We, my dad and my sisters and me, we tried to deep dive along with her. She left us on the surface.
So this first year brought many east coast visits in the cold of winter. The snow and the ice. The wind and the chill. I was not happy coming back. For many reasons.
These visits extended through the sweet smell of spring, the warm winds of summer and those deep and golden autumn leaves. The best times of New England. And this went on for many years.
There was a wedding and babies were born. Winter babies (can we please have some summer babies?).
And in between there was a three-month stint at the western end of my Massachusetts home. I journeyed back here six years ago this past summer to set up shop for a short time. This visit now reminds me just a bit of that visit then.
This is what I want to talk about.
Because I am in transition. Again. And these transitions, they happen during these times that Massachusetts pulls me back. The work gets started here. The triggers that spark the work show up here. The feelings of fragility are found here. The bareness of my vulnerability is barely bearable here. This is what Massachusetts seems to offer me.
It is the denseness of the space back here. The trees are big and full and take up half the sky and I feel that my energy is contained in a smaller space with not much room to flow from me to spaces far away. My energy, it cannot flow outward from me and so I must flow through it. I must flow through this because there is no way around this. The space I am in here is small and contained.
Massachusetts is like this. The trees are full and the roads are narrow. The towns are piled next to each other, one after the other after the other again and I move through them, one after the other after the other again, as I drive to where I am going.
I get to places fast when even the trip is long. Even a few hours’ drive feels faster here. Because I am passing through so many places in a moments time. It is all packed in.
I am all packed in.
On July 20th, 2016, I wrote a piece—Where Every Place Reminds Me—about my visit to Massachusetts to visit a farmhouse I would be renting that September 2016. For just a few short months. But still, a renting of a space that was my space then just as this, my new full-time apartment that I will use part-time, is my space now.
My visit these few weeks ago feels like that visit then. And while much is different—as this apartment is a long-term endeavor to create this bi-coastal life I crave for to see my children and grandchildren that live on each end of this vast land I fly across as often as I can—the process seems to be the same. I am setting up shop again. In this new space in the woods near the Concord River. A workshop. Of introspection and exploration. A small space in the woods, where I will sit in the music of my emotions as I run through the deepness of my soul.
~photo credit Madeleine Altmann
I love my dog.
Anyone who knows me, knows this. Plus I have written about her many, many times on this—I’ve Just Gotta Say This—blog. Because she is just amazing. And smart. And oh my, so gorgeous and perfect. And amazing. Did I say amazing? She is.
What makes her so is not the fact that she is probably one of the most beautiful dogs. She has this truly lovely face. And she is lean. And her coat is so shiny. She was pick of litter. Her collar was pink. She was called Miss Pink until I named her Nava. Which means beautiful in Hebrew. She is beautiful. And very fancy. Very well bred and very well kept. So she is fancy. And just so beautiful.
And it’s not the fact that she is smart. So smart. She can learn anything. She knows so many things. She hasn’t learned more things because we haven’t learned how to teach them to her. I say we, but I really mean he. As in my husband. He is the teacher of new Nava tricks and tasks. He loves to work her. She loves when he works her. He needs to learn new tricks and new tasks so he can teach her new tricks and new tasks. She learns them in like two tries. This is how smart she is.
But it’s not these things.
What makes her so extraordinary is her soul. She is my soul dog. Truly. She is. She is my grounding rod. My stability. She is the place I rest my spirit, often as I lay myself on top of her. She is that big. And strong. And she can hold the weight of me, both my body and my heart. Held by her body and her soul.
Nava reads my mind. And I read hers. We both have a bit of anxiety and I wonder, sometimes, if she has mine or if I have hers. A whole separate writing I will reflect on another time. For now, I will simply say that our minds are attached. I will think a thought and she is there, ready for what escapes from my head and into hers. She will think a thought and an image will come to my mind. And I know exactly what she needs. We are connected in this quite incredible way.
She knows I am writing about her, right now.
I rowed in a race yesterday. Two actually. Two rowing races. Down in Long Beach at this really cool place called Marine Stadium.
This was quite the experience for me as a new/novice rowing person.
And here’s the thing. While I am an internally competitive person and expect a level of excellence in what I put my mind to doing, I do not think of myself as an outwardly competitive person. My running and biking and triathlon races were internal. In my preparation before I began. And in my process within each race. How well can I do. Against me. How far can I push. Myself. How fast can I run against the clock in my head.
But this, racing in a boat with others who want to race to win. To place. To beat another team. This has not been my headspace as an athlete. And so this was new yesterday.
And I think I like it.
I think I like it because this being in a boat as part of a team and doing my best as a piece of the whole feels good. I like being in this place of being in community with this greater team of not just my boat(s) but all the other boats and rowers. The Masters Rowers and the Junior Athletes. The young 17-year-old who gave me advice because this was my first race day and he’s been doing this since junior high. The teammate who checked that my shoes were secure. This. I really like this.
And with this, within the beauty of these relationships that I am growing into within this community of rowers, I find that I can still settle into my internal reflection that is essential in every challenge I step into.
I was not sure the environment would lend itself to this.
I was worried this regatta would be too frenetic. It wasn’t. Even with the bustle of so many people and so many boats and getting your shoes attached and the right oars in place and your feet positioned and … go!... There was still a sweet calm before the race. I need this.
I need to go to introspection. I need to sit in my mind and play my plan for my race. In a quiet space.
This reminds me of when I was acting. A lot. For a period of time I was acting a lot. On the stage, and in independent films. Commercials and industrials, too. And this acting, I would stand in the wings and wait for my cue before that sweet moment of drama began and I would be sitting in my mind. I would be in the darkness of the wings of the stage, quiet and alone and sweet and calm. With that bit of adrenalin that comes from knowing you are about to step into creativity in a big way. This bit of adrenalin that propels you along the route from the wings to the stage.
And I got to do this here, too. To sit on the sand with a small bit of sun on my face between the clouds and light rain. I got to step into my head preparation that I long for before any outward manifestation of my creative and productive energy come forth.
The environment that contained this rowing race regatta offered this.
I have always been swayed by my environment. It is why it is so important that I live down dirt roads or long driveways. And that my home sits against the nature of a hillside or the edge of a forest or the sea. I need my feet on dirt and my eye to extend out further than the street. It is a blessing that I have been able to find homes like this. Places that contain me. A container of safety. It is external and it is important.
So this race day regatta—It offered this. And I believe I will do more of this. Because of this.
When I woke up yesterday morning, before this race was rowed, I assumed that I would not. Like this. That I would not like this, racing like this. I prepared myself that I wouldn’t like this.
Yesterday was a lovely surprise. A community of rowers that embraced each other, created space for interaction with each other and supported the space for introspection with ourselves.
The day could truly not have been any better.
Mother, Wife, Friend, Sister, Daughter, Dancer, Rower, Runner, Dog and Cat lover.