Friday, December 14, 2012

The Girl with the Black Camel

I'm fairly set in my routines. For the last couple of years I have spent Wednesday evenings with my Wednesday Friends, and I spend Tuesday evenings with my meditation group. Until recently, I spent most of my other evenings at home.
 
What changed? Well, I went out to a particular club to hear a local band playing. It's as simple as that. Since then, I've spent most of my Monday and Thursday nights there, too. I'm not all that interested in alcohol, and I'm not all that interested in gambling. So why do I do this?
 
The first time I went, I took refuge from the volume on an outdoor balcony. It is spacious, providing several sets of tables and chairs and a bit of walking-room. It also is glassed-off instead of having a concrete or wooden railing. You can see across the club's mini-golf range, then one of their carparks, then a bit of a field that I believe some of the local schools use for team-sports. Past that is a fringe of native trees, planted as a sound aural and visual shield against the nearby arterial road, and beyond that are low hills, partly developed and partly left covered in bushland.
 
The day the band played, I took refuge out there a few times, and communed quietly with a cigarette. What the hell, it gave me a chance to be away from the crowd, the noise and the sweaty, human heat. At twilight, I was out there, looking into the distance and thinking of nothing in particular, when the girl with the black camel came over one of the hills, walking towards me.
 
She wasn't a normal spirit-shape - she looked as solid as the trees, and more solid than the cars, barely visible on the road behind them. She would have been in her early to middle thirties, I suppose, walking on the left side of her camel, leading her by a nose-string. She was wearing a long, dark robe of some sort that hid her hair, was very pale, and had bare feet. In fact, I still love watching her feet - those little white things that become visible briefly at the very beginning of each step before her weight moves forward and her robe catches up.
 
The first day she walked gravely down the hill to the arterial road, paused, looking both ways, then led her camel out across the road during a gap in the traffic. Then she walked across the field diagonally towards me, wound her way between parked cars in the parking lot, and before she emerged from the corner of the building which obscured her at that point, she vanished. Or, perhaps, took a different route than I was expecting.
 
Only when something else demands my attention do I miss out, now. I have been going back every Monday and Thursday evening to catch a glimpse of her walking in her slow, measured pace. She is wrapped in silence. She is wrapped in her own purpose. She comes only on twilight, never before or after. She waits for a gap in the traffic to cross the main road, but traffic never seeems to see her - in a town like this you'd expect cars to slow down to take a look at the unusually-dressed girl leading a camel, yes?
 
Usually she arrives from the northwest, coming over that hill and steadily walking towards me. Just occasionally she travels in the opposite direction, coming from around the building I am in, wending her way through the carpark, over the field and through the trees, where she waits gravely for a gap in the traffic to cross the road and climb the hill on the other side.
 
She must feel as solid as she looks - a ghost or spirit-shape wouldn't wait for traffic to pass, as it poses no danger to the traffic and traffic poses none to it. Yet traffic doesn't see her and people in the club don't see her. I often don't have the balcony to myself, and once when she was in the parking lot I pointed and asked the woman at the next table: "What is that?" The woman looked in the direction of my finger and said: "A Fiat, I think." If she had seen a woman leading a black camel, she wouldn't have been trying to identify car models, I'm pretty sure.
 
I watch for her twice a week, and I see her nearly every time. She never looks up, but after all this time I feel as if there is some kind of budding relationship between us. I feel her insularity, and her profound privacy. If she ever leaves her camel in the carpark and comes in for a drink, I can see myself sitting near her, but not to talk or even to look at her. Just to enjoy a companionable silence, something I love sharing with people on the occasions when I find someone who knows how to be silent.
 
As far as I have been able to find out, there is no history of camel-use in this area. And in areas where camels are or have been used, you wouldn't ever walk barefoot - the ground is either freezing or frying, and good footwear is a basic essential. Is she an analogue memory of someone from another area and/or time, which has somehow been transplanted here? She seems to know about modern traffic. She seems to know about the club. She seems to consider both of them irrelevant to her and her purpose for taking that walk.
 
After a couple of months, it occurred to me that I could learn something about her by looking at the camel. Its tack was very simple: brown leather straps buckled under the belly and tail, and a simple nose-piercing holding a string that she uses to guide the camel, a traditional way of managing their speed and direction. I noticed when I looked carefully, that the belly-buckle is clinched slightly to the left side of the camel. There is no colour, no glitter, no showmanship. It is not saddled-up - it is wearing some kind of dark pack, which I assume contains water, food, bedding, and the bumps in it are consistent that that - and with a lot of other things, too.
 
Does she stop at night in a sports-field or bushland, and pull out a swag or small tent? Does she light a camp-fire, refill her water containers at polluted creeks, campsite taps or service stations? Does she hobble her camel according to tradition, and let it graze at night? Does she eat at McDonalds? Does she not eat at all? Does she walk endlessly, steadily, through all the nights and days, on an endless route that only she knows for a purpose that only she understands, that just happens to bring her close to the club when I am there?
 
If other people could see her I would speculate that her guise would be a great cover for smuggling: is any cop ever going to pull over a barefoot girl with a camel? I'm certain nobody else can see her, though - none who have been around when I have been in her vicinity. They may be others like me, individuals in a population which ignores her, individuals that do see her and wait at other points along her route to catch a regular glimpse of her and wonder.
 
There is something very beneficial about unanswered questions: they allow your mind to play in a way that ordered thinking and finding answers doesn't. I enjoy it immensely, anyway. I am going to continue spending two nights a week sipping water and waiting for her to take her walk with her camel. I'm going to watch her fluid, graceful pace, and the lope of the camel. I'm not in the business of getting to know anybody at the club - these two evenings a week are not about being social, they are just about being me, in my strange, unconnected, silent relationship with her, with the girl with the black camel.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Grounding

A couple of weeks ago one of my clients asked me to teach them how to ground themself. It was -er- an interesting exercise for me.
 
I was born with both my Sun and my Moon in Earth signs - I am pre-programmed to be grounded. I am in my body strongly, and it is connected to the earth. Between 2003 and 2005 I gained a lot of weight - not unwelcome weight - completely unconnected with my diet and activity-levels, further pressing me to the ground. Just today, someone who knows me very well indeed expressed my relationship with words to the effect of: "after all, you are rock. You find it hard not to be grounded." And this is perfectly true.
 
When my daughter was little, we spent a great deal of time travelling on the rail system recreationally. Just south of a particular town, the train goes through a tunnel, then immediately on a bridge over estuarine water, then into another tunnel again. I taught her to recognise the difference in energies, by noticing how she felt as the train passed through the tunnels, and how she felt as it passed over the bridge.
 
We used to walk a steep bush track behind the town we lived in, and we walked it when she was quite small - say, four or five years old. On an early one of those walks, she had difficulties walking because the loose pebbles and fallen leaves that she was walking on slipped around underfoot. I taught her to ground very quickly, by telling her to "put herself in her feet, and make her feet stick to the ground". In less than a minute, she wasn't slipping on the leaves and loose stones any more. She is a young adult now, and and still is firmly glued to whatever surface is below her feet.
 
It is important when beginning a meditation, pathworking, or ritual activity, to ground and centre. Grounding is important: it attaches you to the real. Centring is important: it allows you to access your inner-world reality immediately and powerfully. In my meditation group, a group of friends as opposed to a class, we take turns to lead the guided visualisation,  and I've noticed that many of the members when they lead, pay a lot of attention to grounding, which is healthy, and less attention to centring, which is just as important. When I lead, I tend to incorporate both processes subtlely into the induction routine, so that by the time the whole group is in trance, they are both grounded and centred. When others lead and they do only a grounding induction, I automatically centre myself at the same time, because I never have to waste time grounding.
 
Over the last couple of weeks, since I've been thinking about this blog-post, I've been watching myself, and the only times I've caught myself being ungrounded is when I've been reading particularly enthralling books, into which I have immersed myself and "left this world" to enter the world of the writer. The last occasion, I took a book along when I left the house, and I sat somewhere reading. When I got up after a couple of chapters to go outside and catch some air, I noticed I was walking unusually gracefully for me, and could barely feel the floor beneath my feet. I was ungrounded. I stamped my feet on the ground and suddenly I was fully there again, fully in me, which also extends into the earth.
 
During the conversation earlier today where I was described by my friend as being a living rock, I talked about an incident a few years ago, where I slept overnight in a friend's living room a few floors above ground-level. All my life I have slept on ground-level floors, even when I lived in a two-storey house, and my imaginary dream house is a sprawling bungalow - one floor, its space stretching sideways on the surface of the earth, not upwards into the air. I routinely fall asleep by settling my body, then rolling out of my body into the earth below me. In that room I slept badly: rolling out of bed, I had to roll through a succession of rooms and what felt like a huge distance before I found the earth below me. It was really unfamiliar to be so ungrounded.
 
I also have problems with things like skis, roller-blades, skateboards and even boats, anything that moves around under your feet. After all, I like my feet to be well-anchored at all times, one of the signs of more-or-less permanent groundedness. In many of the public rituals I have attended as a participant, after energy has been raised, the leaders of the ritual tend to get people to be grounded. I always do whatever physical acts they ask for to that end, but feeling fraudulent - I've only ever once needed to ground during ritual in decades, the rest of the time I was already grounded.
 
It is less easy for people who are not pre-programmed to be grounded. I have a number of dear friends who are water-signs - I like to think of my friendships with most of them in the terms of them being the waves that lap around my rocky shores and erode me into sand. I have Fire-friends: I like to think of them as the heat that melts my rock to lava. I have Air-friends, too - they are the wind that rustles my leaves, moves my sand-dunes and rises my dust.
 
Many of them, and even Earth-people, have trouble grounding. They don't seem to be able to sense the minerals in every cell of their bodies. I understand that on an intellectual level, but will never understand it on a visceral level - it is foreign to me, as foreign as trying to think in Japanese.
 
There seems to be a problem, too, with people who know only a little about the Chakras: such people mistake the name of the Base Chakra, which is about labelling its location in the body, with its function, regarding it as somehow "base", dirty, unworthy. Many people who talk freely and often about "opening their heart-chakra" or third eye or crown chakras, seem to want to avoid the lower chakras. In many years' practice, I find that all chakras are important, are healthy, are spiritual. Focussing towards some and away from others leads to physical, mental and spiritual imbalance, which can only be unhealthy. In practice, I find that people who do this, need more help learning to ground than the rest of us, and find it harder to ground when they know how.
 
Get to know the soil - it is real and spiritual. Get to know the substance of your body: it is real and spiritual. Get to know the element of Earth - it is real and spiritual. And ground - feel your feet, your lower torso, and how they connect to the real world. Without this, you are only half the person you could be.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Life Without Forgiveness

I've been thinking about forgiveness recently, and while I am probably fairly untainted by my past - certainly more so in the last couple of years than at any other time - there's a lot that I don't forgive.
 
Society, both Christian and otherwise, commands us to forgive, and is unforgiving of those who can't. And as I was typing that last sentence my mind conflated two Christian slogans, and came up with something that amused and pleased me:
 
It is better to forgive than to forget.
 
Whilst it came up as a slip of the tongue, or perhaps a slip of the mind, it is probably worth a second look, since we are so programmed to claim to "forgive and forget" (whilst storing every memory). So what, exactly, are forgiveness and forgetfulness? We think they are easy to describe, until we give them a second thought - then they become slippery customers indeed.
 
To me, with experiences enhanced by a couple of years of post-brain-incident fogginess, forgetfulness and the act of forgetting seems to be associated with losing the "lane-markers" in the traffic of the mind. It is my considered opinion that I have not become stupid, nor have I become incapable, but I am so adrift in time and forget so much of what I should be doing or other important stuff I should remember, that it is extraordinarily hard to organise myself for any kind of meaningful work. Prior to then, forgetting was something I did as a process of living through extended periods of time - even the heat of direct emotional or physical pain would fade and be forgotten by the simple accrual of time. And perhaps those out of my past who might consider that they have done something that I seem to have "forgiven" are mistaken - perhaps I merely forgot through time and more recently through the process of being unanchored in my own head.
 
And forgiveness? To listen to people of all faiths preaching about forgiveness, it would seem to be a positive act, or an object that you can offer to another person, so it is spoken about. Offered to another person, it might be the "that's okay" we routinely offer to an apology, if we really mean it and if it is not just a form of words that slip out of our mouths habitually.
 
A friend of mine recently told me that they have a troublesome friend who once told her that they have to make a conscious daily habit of forgiving her for something in their past in order to be able to face her and maintain the friendship. It sounded like a struggle, it sounded difficult and time-consuming. But surely, if you have forgiven something, it is forgiven already and doesn't need to be re-forgiven the next day or the next time you see them? Forgiveness is letting go, is turning your back on the problem and wiping the slate. Forgiveness offers a fresh start. If the slate is still dirty enough to need another wiping, forgiveness hasn't happened.
 
"Forgiveness is letting go," my own words. But nobody knows more than I do how hard it is to let go. Injustice burns. Loss burns. Pain burns. And as anyone who has been ignited will tell you, after the flames have been beaten out, it takes a long, long time for the pain to go away. I believe the vast majority of people are in my camp when I say that no matter how good my intentions, I find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to forgive things when they still burn. People have counselled me to "let go", but it is not a conscious act. Like a petrol-burn, an emotion-burn will heal at its own pace - you cannot hurry it, you cannot voluntarily "let go" if it is still burning, and it is only when both kinds of burn stop generating more and more heat in the affected tissues that any kind of healing can happen.
 
So, along with forgetfulness, "forgiveness", or "getting over it" or "letting go" is to a large part, a function of the passage of time and is extremely closely related to forgetfulness. It is not voluntary, not something you can counsel someone to do. And those who think they do it consciously as a matter of choice - is it possible, perhaps, that they have consciously chosen to ignore or repress it instead?
 
In my opinion as an ethicist, some kinds of forgetting should never happen at all. If we forget the wrongs of history and society, the harm to many that sociopaths and megalomaniacs cause to others (in the names of things like "patriotism" for example), we run the risk of allowing ourselves to be ruled by such people again, instead of sensing the warning-signs and removing from power any future Pol Pots or Hitlers before they embark on genocide again.
 
I recall from my reading on the Persian Wars of ancient times that one Greek leader led a foray into a Persian town  on the east coast of the Mediterranean - I've forgotten exactly which town and general, sadly - to find that all the able-bodied men were gone from the community, off to fight in other locations. So they killed the elderly, the infirm and the children, but worse, they let the mature women live, their breasts crudely amputated with swords and knives, to die slowly of shock, blood loss and infection. Not a single person survived. Some of us call Tony Abbott a misogynist, but I'm pretty-damn-sure he doesn't advocate amputating the breasts of every single Labor-voting woman and allowing them to die in agony, untreated!
 
Historians and the odd individual remember the wrongs mankind has wrought upon mankind. But the general populace, in order to feel comfortable with itself, forgets. We like to see ourselves as "good people", and descended from "good people", so we turn a blind eye to anything discomforting in our history so that we can get out of bed, go to work, play with our children and sleep again, comfortable in our image of ourselves as good people. But that blind eye that we turn, it allows other motivated and cruel people to rise to positions of power in our society, unseen until it is too late ...
 
So yes, in that sense, it is in fact better to forgive than forget. Cultures that haven't forgiven wrongs that happened centuries ago are still warring in some parts of the world, but it is almost as bad to have forgotten the lessons of history and leave ourselves vulnerable to really bad leadership. Was it Gandhi who said "You cannot prepare for war and then expect peace"? We need to prepare for peace: reduce international threats including everything from sanctions to armed forces as one half of that preparation (and yes, I do know I have a child in the military with a career-path in front of her leading to command), and make ourselves as peaceful as possible by temperament: accepting of others and their beliefs, colours, behaviours and values, being unwilling to judge those we do not know, being prepared to compromise even at the loss of face (or money). This is not about forgetting competitiveness, but about actively remembering it, and actively choosing another path.
 
Then, and only then, will our Zeitgeist be able to forgive itself and move unencumbered into the future. Society's forgetfulness is a problem, but personal peace, which begins with forgiving those who have wronged us, is a function of personal forgetfulness.
 
You cannot step away from your hurt, any more than I can. This is why I don't forgive, when I have something personal to forgive - because I know I can't, not without doing something unhealthy like repressing or ignoring the pain. Time will work its magic, both on me and on you, and allow the pain to lessen, fade, disappear entirely, as our memory of it fades.
 
My ex-partner was once very judgemental (bordering on visciousness) to a friend of mine, who had lost a newborn baby twenty-something years earlier, and was able to talk about it without tears. We were friends at the time, whilst my ex didn't come onto the scene for decades, and I'm here to say that my friend suffered terribly. The "one year" that her counsellors suggested was normal for intense grieving stretched into quite a few years.
 
My partner, meeting her a lot later, didn't see any of that. All she saw was a middle-aged woman, talking calmly and dry-eyed about the events that led up to the death of a baby. She told me that my friend was inhuman. I knew my friend wasn't inhuman at all - she had just eventually healed, at last. My ex-partner, on the other hand, held onto a lot of pain from her past and niggled at it, like a cat chewing out its surgical sutures or a proud person getting off crutches too early and delaying the healing of a bone, and had deliberately refused to allow time to heal her.
 
So in retrospect, my advice would be this: feel what you feel at *that* moment. If it is intense, really feel it, and don't forgive. If it is not intense, don't feel guilty about that - it is a sign healing is starting to happen, and for the gods' sakes, don't keep prising the wound open like my ex did, to extend your pain further into the future! Allowing yourself to heal at your own natural speed is the only way that pain can go away healthily, and the only way you can really forgive someone who wronged you.
 
So no, I never make any effort to forgive anyone. And I never will. And I am not ashamed. And, you know, there is probably not anyone in the world at the moment that I need to forgive - none of my past problems are still a problem. Try it - you'll like it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Lightworkers

(dedicated to Belinda Rose Hawker, 11/6/1961 - 6/10/2009)
 


So who are the lightworkers in your life? I had an interesting conversation today (well, I do most days) this time with a stranger at a bus stop who had troubles, and it got me thinking about lightworkers yet again.
 
They were looking for a lightworker, because the darkness had descended on their life again. I may have made them feel temporarily better, but I'm pretty sure I didn't give them what they actually needed.
 
What, exactly, are lightworkers? Well, probably not me. "I am not a lighthouse, not the answer or the truth," sang Rosanne Cash, and I could well sing it too (in fact I do most weeks - The Wheel is one of my favourite housework-CDs).
 
Is the person who seems to have all the answers a lightworker? The person who makes you feel temporarily better, who says that you choose every aspect of your reality despite gravity, despite pollution, despite infection, despite the wholly unchosen and unwanted actions of others? (thus, placing blame on you for unintentionally choosing to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?)
 
Is the person who helps you feel temporarily better by understanding, sympathising, giving you a shoulder to cry on, or a meal and a bed for the night in hard times, a lightworker?

Is the rebel, the courageous person who stands up to oppressors including the oppressive aspects of society as a whole, a lightworker?

Is the healer a lightworker?

Is the firm friend who sticks by you through the decades a lightworker?

I think they all have their role to play - but do you know whom I think are the real lightworkers? (And bear with me here!) That alcoholic stepson who steals everything that isn't nailed down, takes it to the pawnshop at regular intervals and physically stands over you monstering you with brute strength should you ever say anything at all. That person you cross the street to avoid. That former "friend" who makes you feel so awkward that you try to avoid them at all costs. That addict who burgles your neighbour's house for money to buy drugs and finding your neighbour at home, takes to their heads with a crowbar. That disabled family member whom you will have to care for, for the rest of your life no matter how exhausted you become. That stupid person who can't seem to grasp anything you say and drives you to despair. The lover who walks out on you in the worst possible way, taking your heart and leaving an aching hole in its place. Brutal police regimes or soldiers in times of war making your civilian life a misery. All of those who seem to completely trash your life despite your best efforts.

And why? Because there is no growth in happiness. There is no development in peace.

If we lived in a perfectly peaceful world, with no pollution, perfect diets and relationships and no dissent at all, we would have no incentive to grow. We would have no incentive to develop. Our strength, endurance and compassion would never be tested. We would never have occasion to help others, or to test our own humility and ask for help from those we love - or strangers. Life would, in short, have no meaning at all.

"God" needs "the devil" in order to survive. Goodness is meaningless without its polarised opposite to give it purpose, give it direction and give it focus.  If everything was perfect, if the holocaust had never happened and everyone had everything they needed to be "happy", the world would be void of meaning, would be void of improvement, would be void of achievement. We would sit around doing nothing: never studying, never exercising, never working. We would be frozen in time, frozen in our own lack of development.
 
Yes, injustice is horrible. But it gives us focus, it gives us something to battle against. Yes, horrible situations and horrible people are horrible. But they give us something to transcend, something to learn from, something for us to measure our own strengths and development against. Yes, negative emotions are bad to live with. But they make what we might otherwise perceive as negative or at least neutral and call "boredom" seem blissful. They make us appreciate what we have. Some of the happiest people I know live simply without many of the things I value: broadband, hot showers, etc, working hard to coax food out of small acerages or doing hard manual labour for little more than the price of a roof over their heads.
 
Why? Well, if you can have anything, if nothing is an achievement against the odds, then there is no sense of satisfaction, achievement, even triumph. And the people who either have the least resources or have the most trials to overcome, are so grateful for even the small things, that their lives are flooded with light whenever anything goes their way.
 
You can be ground down by the negatives in your life - or you can fight against them. Fighting against them and the wins in the small battles along the way (even if you lose the overall war), bring a disproportionate happiness. My life is far happier now than it ever was years ago when I was young, because in between there were some very black years indeed. Nowdays, purely because of that blackness, I appreciate every possession I have, every moment of peace. The person and circumstances who caused that blackness is dead and superficially I am very grateful. But with some perspective of hindsight, she did me a huge service - she made my future-without-her far happier than I knew I could ever be. She was more truly a lightworker in my life than any of the people who judged or judge me for engaging in that situation in the first place.
 
So who are the lightworkers in your life?
 
 
 *       *       *       *       * 
 
 
 
BAD FRUIT
 
by Nisaba Merrieweather
dedicated to Belinda Rose Hawker, 11/6/1961 - 6/10/2009
 
 
I want to pick the bad fruit.
I want to hold it and squeeze it.
Feel the rancid juice dripping
From my sticky elbows.
I want the waft of bacteria cultures,
Impure alcohol, repellent,
Coating the roof of my mouth.
I want the sting of acid toxicity.

Were I to pick the bad woman,
She would hold me and squeeze me
Until I could not breathe, and black
Lace netting fell before my eyes.
She would feed on my ideas,
Drink copiously and vomit copiously
With stench of abscessed teeth.
She would, herself, be the sting of toxicity.
 
 
 (NB: This poem won a gold trophy in the Allpoetry "I had my Choice of Poisons" competition two years ago.)


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dealing with the Menopause Fairy

While I was living in Western Australia living a well-developed relationship with the Menstruation Fairy, the Menopause Fairy paid me a visit. That was years ago now, and she has since developed a close, loving relationship with me.
 
In the very early nineteen-eighties, which coincided with my very early twenties (as I am a decade-baby*), I finally grew some sense, and went off the Pill, something I haven't resumed taking since. Initially, this was both a good and bad decision, as two things happened: the waves of depression that I just couldn't account for in my life stopped which was wonderful, and my supposedly monthly bleeds swung wildly for a while making planning a little difficult and one or two away-from-home incidents a little embarrassing. With time, though, it settled down into a predictable twenty-nine-and-a-half day rhythm, almost exactly the same rhythm as the lunar month.
 
Later in the eighties, though before the stock market crash in September 1987 (and wasn't that a wonderful birthday present for someone working in the Financial Sector!), I lived a life that was as clockless as possible for someone whose income depended on the stock market, and as electric-lightless as possible for someone who enjoyed reading in the evenings. I had been involved with Magical Paganism since the late seventies, and had bought my faith-ring in 1984, with a promise to myself that if I ever lost my faith and my magicality, I would take it off. It's now 2012, and I'm still wearing it and cannot even see a possibility of taking it off. It lives on my right hand when I am single and on my left hand when I am in a relationship, but it is a statement of faith more than a statement of relationship status. Being gold, it is also my Sun-God ring - my silver pentacle-ring is my Moon Goddess ring, and my copper ring is my Earth-Mother ring. Yes, my spirituality is important to me - I have many other rings, some of them lovely, but those ones are important, and they leave no room on my hands for me to wear other rings comfortably.
 
In my time of clocklessness I meditated often (and still do), and used to enjoy very much walking around outdoors in a state of meditation. Gradually, I became aware of the lengthening and shortening of the days - without a timepiece to check at sunrise and sunset! And I worked out why the 25th December is such a huge celebration rather than the 21st or 22nd: in the Southern Hemisphere where I live, that is the first day after the date of the Solstice where someone without a clock can really sense the shortening of the days. In the Northern Hemisphere where my forebears come from, it fell in winter. On the Solstice the village shamans would have conducted Fire rituals to encourage the sun to rekindle, to bring warmth and growth back to the world, then sat around watching for the first signs of the lengthening days to know whether the magic had worked. And when it had, on or around the 25th, there'd be a huge community feast with much jollity, overeating and overdrinking, to celebrate!
 
Living also without clocks or artificially induced hormonal "flats", I was at the same time becoming very aware of my body as a magical organism. Whilst most books on magic talk about active magic and passive magic as being enhanced by certain lunar phases, I found active magic, magic where I projected outwards, worked far better in the days of my menstruation, whilst passive magic, magic where I worked internally on myself, worked far better around the times of ovulation (something to do with being "sexually receptive", I think). For decades, without the deadening influence of the Pill or any other forms of hormonal contraception (and no, I have never had an unintended baby), I worked with my magic and my hormones as intertwined aspects of each other and of myself. I was internally powerful, even in times of outer powerlessness in my life.
 
Then, as I said, when I was living on the red earth of inland Western Australia, the Menopause Fairy first visited me. I liked her on sight - we already knew each other, and I had been waiting patiently for her to come calling for a few years by then.
 
Now in that region, the local people indigenous to the area, have a creation myth. I don't know all of it, but one of the elders whom I was friendly with told me some of it, probably the bits of it that I was allowed to hear as a white woman. In the beginning, everything was void. There was no land. Then one of the sky-women started menstruating, and where her blood fell, it solidified and became the rich, red earth. Everything else grows out of that life-bringing earth: trees, rocks, creeks, creatures. The salmon-gums, in particular, with their orange-red timber, are seen as a reminder of that act of creation and are especially valued. I lived on land whose spiritual/symbolic origins were in the gifts that menstruation brings. I found that thought really inspiring and I had a terrific life there, returning to the eastern coastal strip of the continent only because of my teenager's educational needs. Nothing else would have been important enough to drag me back.
 
The Menstruation Fairy announced Her first visit on a hot, dry desert-summer's day, by a sudden flush of tingling and additional heat that started with my shoulders and upper arms, and spread quickly through me. It didn't feel just like ordinary heat, though - it felt like the movement of magic in my body. I greeted Her respectfully, and made a mental note that next time I would try to direct or make use of that magic surging through my body. That day She visited me eight times, more than She has on any day since. I think I know why - we were just getting acquainted and needed time to get to know each other.
 
The second time She visited me that day, I noticed that for a few seconds before the heat arrived there was an indefinable sensation of "prior notice" of her visit: a sensation that I cannot describe, but which is quite distinctive. I braced myself, dropped myself quickly into trance (I can do that pretty-well instantly), and waited for the heat. I converted it into a cool, green, tingling energy, and washed myself with it, and was pleased to see some of my mental garbage flowing off me and away with the flow of magic. Yes!
 
From that day to this one, I have practiced and refined this. Every so-called "hot flush" that comes on a warm day, I grab it before it turns into heat, and transform it into some other form of magical healing, which I use either on myself, my surroundings, objects, or living creatures. It takes only a second or so - at times when this happens during conversation, for example, all that the people with me will notice (even magical people), is that I pause for a moment, then go on talking. Occasionally on very cold days, I'll allow my "hot flushes" to remain as heat - I regard it as a sort of personal central heating!
 
The Menstruation Fairy continued to visit me for a good few years after that, and I became aware that I was the rope in the middle of a magical tug-of-war between two powerful magical entities, both of whom gave me energies and strengths that I could use. Some time in the second half of last year, after a very long absence, the Menstruation Fairy paid Her very last visit. I knew before it happened that it would be Her last visit. I did all the necessary physical stuff, then did a quiet personal ritual of farewell with the limestone-fossil Cup, a lovely symbol of the womb, that a dear friend had given me for my fifty-first birthday. She was satisfied and She went away, leaving me in the warm, wrinkled hands of the Menopause Fairy.
 
Since then, completely undistracted by my menstrual cycle as a source of power, I have been using my menopausal "symptoms" (not an illness in any way!) as a source of power. And whilst the so-called hot flushes, or surges of raw magic that She gives me come more and more rarely these days, they are a blessing and a gift. I treasure them all, and I use them all. Mood swings? Nah. My "mood swings" are dependent on life-circumstances, as they should be. I suspect that if I were not utilising this raw energy that the Menopause Fairy chooses to give me, I might feel uncomfortable in my body - and I am supremely comfortable in my body - and if I were uncomfortable in my body, that might cause mood-swings. I can't see that ever happening, can you?
 
Menopause is the greatest thing that can happen to a woman. Absolutely. It completely eclipses things like orgasm, childbirth, all the other stuff that pre-menopausal women rave about. I really, really recommend welcoming the Menopause Fairy into your life, and utilising the energy that She presents to you.
 
 
 
 
 
FOOTNOTES
 
 
* Decade-baby: someone of any age born in a year ending with zero.
 
** Other resources: "In Praise of the Crone" by Dorothy Morrison, published by Llewellyn, 1999. (Note: I have known Dorothy personally from before the writing of this book, and we never discussed it before or after she wrote it).

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Moving Into Winter

Moving into winter is a process of completing the biological year. The growth-spurts of Spring and Autumn are over, and the searing, deadly heat of Summer that browns grass and stunts growth, too.

Moving into winter is marked in my Pagan practice by Samhain. Life is thinning, death and potential death is drawing near. This is a time of farewells, of remembering the past and the ancestors, of thinking things through, of sitting by the fire (or the laptop) and analysing the past, both by self-reflection and by the passing on of our tales to the young: tales of their childhood, tales of our own personal history, tales of grandparents, uncles and family friends, and the tales of our society's inner wisdom that we encode into "fairy stories" and dismiss.

After taking part in a few Samhain rites in the eighties, I went solitary for many years, and for many years my Samhain rituals were also solitary, marked more by contemplation than by the props of circles and magical tools.

This year for the first time ever I attended three separate Samhain rituals, all of them run by different people, within the space of around ten days. It was very pleasant and relaxing not to have to run any of them myself, but to follow someone else's cues.

In one of them, I was asked to gather up and farewell people I may have lost. In one of them I was asked to contemplate the end of my own life, and how my life will have been of value, and who I look forward to joining after death and/or what I need to do before death. And in the third I was asked to invite the spirit of someone dead to join us (I noticed there was little emphasis on dismissal).

I invited Gladney Oakley, someone I'd been very friendly indeed with in the 1990s, an elderly bearded man with a quiet and gentle wisdom that I had very much valued. I had always regretted that after he lost his vision and before he died I had not spent enough time with him, allowing the bustle of my life at that stage to get in the way of even thinking very much about him. And he, for his part, was far too reticent and gentlemanly to remind me that he was unwell and might need the company.

I always regretted that. I wanted to apologise to him silently during the rite, but I never felt his spirit.  I few faces from my past that came and went, but nobody really stuck around.

For several days after that rite, living in my disappointment with myself regarding Gladney, a dead person did, in fact, come to me, whom I had had high hopes of early in our association and who became more and more hostile, clinically insane and violent as time went by. I remembered all the different ways that I had fantasised about killing her. I remembered the many different ways she actually tried to kill me. Death hung in the air for days, old death. Violent, passionate death, real and imagined.

And her face hung in the air, too, reproachful. I tolerated it for days, knowing that it was just a part of the whole Samhain thing, and thinking I'd probably overdosed on Samhain energy by attending not one or even two but three whole rituals. Mental note: in future years, limit it to one or two!

Today I attended Pagans in the Park, a regular monthly social get-together I enjoy attending and try to get to as often as possible, and the group's resident rock-hound was there. He knows about my affinity with minerals and always tries to give me some, and today was no exception. Last time it was fossils of sea-creatures and assorted non-fossil minerals, this time it was petrified (ossified or fossilised) wood of different kinds: different species, and fossilised in different ways (agate, silica).

He also gave me a small bag of Apache Tears, tiny translucent obsidian gems, black and precious. Wikipedia is only very sketchy on the subject, but interestingly, it was Gladney in the early 1990s who had talked earnestly in Kibble Park with me whilst our companions chatted elsewhere, about Apache Tears.

He had talked with me at length not only about the history that they grew out of, but also what they were said to do for those who carried them close to their heart. Apache tears, as the hardened and preserved tears of that intense grief, stand in the stead of the tears of those who can no longer cry.

Now, but much more so in the past, our society encourages girls to cry (to some extent), and actively discourages boys to cry. Discouraged long enough and hard enough, their tears eventually die. My tears died differently: between the years 2000 and somewhere in 2003, I cried so much that I appeared (and still appear) to have simply exhausted my lifetime supply of tears. I just cannot cry any more.

It could be said that perhaps I don't cry any more because nothing is as bad as those years, but that avoids the obvious, which is that the period between 2003 and 2005 was actually far worse. I had more reason to cry, not less. No, I had simply biologically run out of tears.

I remember crying, both as a child and (occasionally) as a younger adult. I got snotty. I got hot and blotchy-red. I developed pulsing headaches. And the act of crying was very, very physical, so physical that it exhausted me. People talk about crying as "emotionally cleansing" or as an "emotional release", but in retrospect, being able to view the physiological process of crying with some distance and objectivity, I feel that it is more draining, it is so exhausting that it leaves you (or me) without sufficient energy to maintain the intensity of emotion that brought it on, and because you cannot sustain that intensity, it buys a period of relief in which to sleep, or review the situation, or escape, or turn your attention elsewhere.

Not being able to cry, I am no longer able to drain myself so completely and so immediately, either of the energy to feel things intensely, or of the toxic body-chemicals voided in tears and snot. Feelings hang around in my body for longer, even though my mind mercifully lets go of them fairly easily.

I offered some of my Apache Tears to a friend of mine who also doesn't seem to cry and he politely refused, saying he didn't want to cry. I think he missed the point. I certainly don't expect that carrying these subtly beautiful little objects with me will make me - or him - cry at all. We are your basic non-crying people and probably will remain non-crying people for life, which is not wholly a bad thing and is certainly less embarrassing that finding yourself crying in public.

No, what I suspect these stones may do for me is take their darkness into my own energy, ferret out the stuff I never cried about in the past that I probably needed to cry about (even things that are totally resolved), and without my conscious knowledge, reduce the amount of tension that I might or might not carry in my body. Who knows, perhaps some of that vague mystery-pain that comes and goes in my body might be the after-effects of unwept tears, and who knows, using these stones mindfully might help with that.

And so I conclude by thanking Gladney, who belatedly came to me today whilst I was thinking through all this stuff, rather than when I wanted and expected him to. You were a wonderful man, and although I never told you, I feel certain you knew all along how much I loved you. I'm sorry the months of your final illness passed without my making any effort to see you at all. Go in peace, old man, knowing that from now on I am freed, and will remember you infrequently and with only pleasure.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The End of the Adventures of SHELLEY, the Patchwork Tarot Deck

Okay, Shelley has gone from my life, and is even now winging her way to Japan, to meet up with Roppo, fabled for his magnificent Tarot videos of Shelley and Frankie.

I have a couple of days to journal and swore to myself that I'd remember them clearly, but alas, I don't. I have some memories, but they are all out of sequence.

I took her to the meditation group. Ashley handled her - he's a bit of a Tarotist himself.





 He loved the whole concept. It was also his first time actually leading the guided meditation, and while he probably has something to learn in terms of technique, it was a fruitful and meaningful meditation for me at least. As you can see, he definitely enjoyed meeting Shelley beforehand, and like the rest of us she closed her eyes, relaxed, and followed his visualisations. She told me later that it was the first time she'd ever meditated, and she enjoyed it. At least Ashley wasn't the only person experiencing a first on the night.

She also met up with Jenneth again, whom she first met at Pagans in the Park only a day or two earlier, and the two girls smiled a lot at each other.





My young friend Spook was there (right of picture), and her friend Ruby (left), and yes, her hair really *is* that red.



Ruby was *really* taken with Shelley, and I believe the love was returned.



The Spook's boyfriend, disrespectfully known as "The Pet Russian" was there, and spent some time under the spell of Shelley's cosmopolitan feminine charms.





I have no clue at all why I wanted to take this snapshot at the meditation group: perhaps I had something in mind at the time. Just call me crazy.




Shelley went back to work with me the following day, the Tuesday, my last day with her. This is a photo of her very last reading for a paying client.




Remember my tongue-drum? The boys who sold it to me gave me some proper drumsticks (although I like the soft tone of the fire-twirling stick I've been using). Sadly, Shelley had to fly out before I took the drumsticks home to where my drum was, so she never heard the sound of it with real drumsticks.

The final afternoon came too soon, and a person shuffled Shelley after I had placed her cards in order for Roppo, her next host. Then the afternoon got away with me, and I knew if she was to catch her flight on time, I didn't have time to order her again (it takes quite a while!) It is the height of rudeness to pass on a deck that is out of order - I hang my head in shame.

But race out to the post office I did, and a lady there kindly consented to take a snap of my stuffing Shelley into her Travelling Clothes.





 Moments later I was taking a pic of her being weighed for the flight, then she was whisked away out of my sight on the first leg of her journey to Japan.



Farewell, Shelley! I hope you enjoy Japan twice as much as you enjoyed Australia, or at least my little corner of it.

Oh, and for everyone else, I wouldn't take much notice of the dates on the photos. I kept running out of battery-power in my camera, so I'd just guess - reasonably inaccurately - at the date as I loaded in my recharged batteries. Sorry about that.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The further adventures of SHELLEY, the Travelling Patchwork Tarot Deck

Day 3.5: Even quieter, and no photos. Shelley has been slumbering in her pretty patchwork sleeping-bag. I haven't left the house, and now it doesn't look as if I will. Tomorrow I'll be going to work with Shelley again, and I plan to pick up groceries afterwards, so perhaps I'll photograph her in interesting places (carparks, fruit and veg stands etc). Who knows what tomorrow could bring? Perhaps I'll even take her out for a coffee and muffin, as I once took out Frankie.

Day 4.5: Well, we had another quiet one. We went to work and Shelley was at the ready, but all the customers seemed to want to be down at the waterside markets rather than up in the bookshop, so she and I did no readings. Eventually Melissa and I got jack of a boring and unprofitable day, so we shut up early, I drove her home, then I went and picked up my groceries as promised.

I suffer from chronic Shopping Centre Rage (I suppose Americans would call that Mall Rage), so I took no photos until right at the very end. I decided to hark back to my daughter's childhood when one of my exes would buy a caramel-malted milkshake, (I should have known I was being psychic at the time - more on that later) so I had once of those which I shared with Shelley (photo 1). The rest of the time she hid from my Shopping Centre Rage in my handbag in the shopping trolley (photo 2).




Day 5.5: Today was much more enjoyable than yesterday. I was always going to go to Pagans in the Park at Budgewoi (I'm a regular), so that's how we started the day. I briefly considered de-hairing the dog-infested carpet before I left - then decided that almost anything was better for the soul than doing housework, and so left the added layer of insulation undisturbed on the carpet <grin>.

I was the first person to arrive at Pagans in the Park this morning - to find that non-Pagans had nicked our usual bench with its handy poles for attaching our Pagan banner. I had my beloved tongue-drum with me, and I was tinkling idly away on it when a delightful person introduced herself: the fabled Kerrie Edwards, co-founder of PitP, whose last attendance before her very personal struggle became outstandingly difficult was my very first attendance.

Of course, I lost no time introducing her to Shelley, and she got stuck in before anyone else turned up (photos 3-6).





Shelley enjoyed the feast - Pagans really know how to do food. I remember there being much more than this - I must have snapped this before everyone turned up (photo 7).

A gaggle of witches: Jenn, Nichole and George (photo 8).

Kerrie and Shelley *really* liked each other! (photo 9) And even Jenn-Jenn could scarcely stand to turn her back for an instant. (photo 10)






Jenn wanted to pose by the banner so that you could all see that witches really do exist (photo 11).

And what's this - Kerrie grabbing Shelley again? (photo 12).

Every so often people bring along interesting finds to show (like Shelley and my tongue-drum) or Paganny things to give away: Nichole had a book on dreams and someone else had a statuette of Kali, an interesting marriage (photo 13).

I ... sorta ... <blush> forgot about my camera for the rest of the time: a number of people handled and loved Shelley, we ate and drank and talked about devotional work in our day-to-day lives, and laughed and had fun. Nichole's little son let me share his Maccas meal-toys, and hammered tunelessly on my tongue-drum, which I didn't discourage.

Just when it was getting interesting (and my bladder was getting full and dreading the festy public toilets there), my daughter texted me and asked me to pick her up from the train station at a certain time. I had to leave soon. So when Bob finished talking about his devotional acts (symbolic self-tattoos), I hogged the stage, and pointed out that when a lapsed-non-smoker goes outside to ... er ... (yes, that's right) *smudge* their lungs, watching the leaves of the trees and the clouds in the daylit wind is an act of devotion, and looking at the night-time Moon and the constellation of Orion (who to me is always the Dark Hunter godform) is also an act of devotion. Thus I elaborately justify my favourite addiction <grin>. Suiting my actions to my words I lit up and fled, got home, rendered my nether regions more tolerable in the comfort of my own bathroom, and was just about to take off for the train station (the same one you came in on, Lutestring) when I received a text from da kid again, telling me not to bother.

And I'd left my much-loved monthly celebration for her! <muttermutter>.






There was a consolation prize, though. I'd just finished smudging my lungs again and hidden the evidence when my daughter's friend's car turned up in the driveway. Flick waved goodbye and left us together. My girl booked me for tomorrow morning to take her to the station to leave town again, and asked me to drive her down to her very best friend's house. I said that I'd do it for a bribe: a coffee with them in a cafe (sadly, Mojo's was closed so we had to resort to Costas, and the coffee was awful until I put suger in it).

This particular buddy of my daughter's is both my second daughter (predicated on the fact that throughout their childhoods, I either had two little girls in the house or none), and my Birthday Sister, as we were both born on the Most Spectacular Day of the Year. Strangely, we never seem to forget each other's birthday. It's kinda odd to be someone's second mother *and* their sister. Odd, but nice.

Kez, my blood-daughter, went in to order our coffees, and I lost no time telling Hayley, my birthday-sister, the story of Shelley and introducing them (photo 14).

Kez came back, and the two of them posed with Shelley. My own daughter is the Eurasian one: my second daughter / birthday sister is the Ditsy Blonde (photo 15).

Shelley took a good spoonful of my soy-capuccino froth, before casting her greedy eyes on the girls' hot chocolates (photo 16).

And *this* is what happens every time I try to get a decent portrait-shot of my daughter! <laughter> (photo 17)







Thereafter, the three girls played happily together (photos 18-21).
 



 
I can only get a decent shot of my daughter by catching her unawares (photo 22), but Hayley is much more compliant and will pose for me (photo 2).

Thereafter, there was more Tarot-play between the three girls (photos 23 & 24).
 






I had no excuse for taking these snaps, aside from the fact that I love the subjects dearly (photos 25 & 26).

At last the girls waved goodbye, and wandered off to Hayley's home where Kez is spending the night before utilising me as a chauffeur tomorrow morning, and I came home. Despite all the caffeine, Shelley was exhausted, and crashed out beside the laptop as I started diarising these last two days (photo 27). She is still in the same position (hasn't even rolled over in her sleep), so I *know* she's tired. The night is offering me a fantastic light-show of distant sheet-lightning, but Shelley simply cannot be roused to enjoy it with me.

And here's how I know Kez has accepted the roof-cleaner as family despite not knowing him nearly as well as I do: she picked up his beanie when she first arrived, and casually hung it on one of the horns of the cow-skull that he hung up on the wall. Looks rather stylish!  (photo 28).






I must have nudged Shelley, because she woke, and sleepily asked if she could be included. So I investigated the skull and hung her, in her sleeping-bag, from the skull's nasal sinuses (photos 29-31).

No bones were harmed in the taking of these snapshots.






Tomorrow: nothing planned during the day, but I will take Shelley to the meditation group in the evening. Expect me to journal more! 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

SHELLEY part II - the adventure continues

Day 2.5 of Shelley's time in my household.

Shelley and I had a fairly quiet one. Again I took her to work. Picture 1 is her first reading for a paying client. I said pretty much what you'd expect me to say, given the cards in front of me, and the client was happy. She also loved hearing Shelley's story.

Photo 2 is my tongue-drum, paid-for by that client (thank you very much). I brought home the drum with much excitement, and the dog that had sniffed Shelley was greatly intrigued by this new and different sound in the house.




Day 3.5 has been even quieter, and I took no photos. Shelley has been slumbering in her pretty patchwork sleeping-bag. I haven't left the house, and now it doesn't look as if I will. Tomorrow I'll be going to work with Shelley again, and I plan to pick up groceries afterwards, so perhaps I'll photograph her in interesting places (carparks, fruit and veg stands etc). Who knows what tomorrow could bring? Perhaps I'll even take her out for a coffee and muffin, as I once took out Frankie.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Travels of Shelley, Bride of Frankendecken - part 1

Some time ago, I hosted a Travelling Tarot deck called the Frankendecken (or Frankie), who was cobbled together, Frankenstein-style, out of spare parts and given a life of his own. Well, he was lonely, so we created another patchwork deck as a bride for him, named Shelley after Mary Shelley.

The story of her stay with me starts here.


Well here we go - Lutestring's last part-day with Shelley and my first part-day.

I met them both at Tuggerah train station, which from Sydney was easiest for everyone, and Shelley sat demurely in Lutestring's luggage as I threw them both into the Incredible Hulk (a rusting car I'm currently driving) and raced off to Mojo's Cafe at The Entrance. Mojos is blessed with delicious coffee, a good menu, and Bianca, my Pet Waitress. The shape of my life has changed in recent months, and now, far from ending up there a couple of times a week as a matter of course, I have to make a real effort to get there. Shelley was the perfect excuse. The Pet Waitress not only remembered me but remembered my subspecies of coffee, and welcomed both of my guests.

Shelley was very hungry after her journey, so I ordered her two meals, the John Dory off the specials board and the Mediterranean salad, a main course in itself, and she scoffed the lot whilst Lutestring and I looked on ravenously and sipped our drinks (Photo 1).

Lutestring had brought along a few decks for me to salivate over, and the Glastonbury flaunted its stuff whilst Shelley knocked back the food (photo 2). I begged Lutestring to pose for the camera, so she showed me her best side (photo 3).

This is a seaside town, and there is a lighthouse that lives on the cafe's windowsill (I have a regular table in one of the windows that is magically vacant for me every time I turn up, and which didn't disappoint this time), and after a few years of sitting with the lighthouse it finally consented to be photographed ... (photo 4) ...

... but Shelley was immediately jealous, and leapt between the lighthouse and the camera (photo 5). Then the Pet Waitress came over and had a look (photo 6), and consented to pose with Shelley (photo 7). Later over lunch, we introduced Shelley to Son-of-Frankie, a clone of the original travelling patchwork deck, and they chatted companionably for a few minutes, but didn't get naked as the original Frankie insisted on doing around the Anna K when he arrived at mine all that time ago (photo 8). Perhaps he is more coy around stepmothers than around buxom female strangers.

Afterwards, when I asked the usual screening question designed to find out if she would run screaming into the street if I let her into the house, it seemed as if Lutestring wouldn't be *too* horrified, so warning her about the many natural hazards in the subdivided shoebox that I am pleased to call home, I dragged her back there. I took no photos as she poked around among my collection and fell in love with the Herbal Tarot and the Whispering Tarot, nor did I take photos as I failed to interest her in my single roof-cleaning flatmate who might just have clambered all over her roof once before (professionally, not as a burglar, I hasten to add). Instead, I made my very first comment on this journal thread as she sat there, salivating.

I *could* have dumped her, later, at the train station, but something made me offer to drive her home, so we piled into the Incredible Hulk again and headed off to what my flatmate (talked-to on the phone) remembered as a "crumbling mansion", a rather romantic description from someone who, like me, loves eccentric things.

To me, Lutestring's house wasn't so much a "crumbling mansion" as a veritable Aladdin's Cave (or perhaps an Aladdin's cave-system). Rooms led romantically into other rooms full of wonderful ancestral and flea-market artifacts. Tarot decks, her handmade Tarot bags (all gorgeous) and fabric for making more bags were everywhere. I was given a cup of the nicest mint-tea that I'd had in ... oh ... ages.

And then I climbed into the Incredible Hulk and drove home again, a happy girl.

Thus endeth day 0.5.

My second day (or perhaps, my one and a halfeth day) with Shelley is ending as I sit here journalling. It started with my taking her to where I read Tarot, after promising myself that I would bring no other decks to read for clients with all week, only Shelley. (I couldn't quite divorce myself from the habit of having the Granny Jones and the SOL riding silently in my handbag, though). Here is Shelley in the morning, on my reading table (Photo 9).

And here she is on my little Altar at work (actually, just a glamorous way of concealing some *very* messy storage shelves) (photo 10). She got comfortable in my space (photo 11).

Then she suddenly realised just *where* she was: the Bookworm Kafe, a second-hand bookshop, and realised *who* was her host for the week (an addicted book-buyer), so she showed her Devil card in front of one of my addictions to indicate that there are financial dangers inherent in letting my addictions run rampant (photo 12).

I told her I was an Earth sign, so she threw a card in amongst my work-collection of stones (photo 13). We had just about exhausted the possibilities of my reading-room without a client, so I brought her out to the front counter (photo 14) and showed her to Melissa and her friend (photo 15). Melissa seemed quite taken with her (photo 16).

The two girls had some up-close-and-personal time together ...
... and Melissa discovered a card-back which she wants as a future tattoo, so I photographed it for her (photo 17). But to give Miss M her due, she liked some of the card-fronts, too (photos 18 & 19).

And despite the glamour of the proper cards, we cannot forget my gift of the title card, shown front-on here (photo 20) courtesy of the MRP people, who sent me a signed one with a replacement card ...

... and its reverse, which the previous hosts of Shelley have been kind enough to sign (photo 21). Sadly, I suspect that a Mary Greer signature trumps a Karen Mahony signature slightly - I was briefly tempted to swap them, but womanfully resisted. Notice the little, demure Nisaba-signature, so typical of my shy, self-effacing persona which Lutestring assures me is common to both AT and the "real world" whatever that is.

Then Lynne from the local library turned up, with a lovely thank-you card for me, for doing a Tarot presentation at the library a few weeks ago. "What's that about?" Shelley asked (photo 22).

"Well," I told her, "Some people are still backward enough not to know about Tarot, and the library was casting about to engage with the community a bit more, so Lynne rocked on down here some time ago and invited me to speak. The story is here, Shelley."

"But I don't have fingers," Shelley whined, "and in any case you're hogging the laptop."

"Later, later," I told her, and changed the subject.

I did this by walking her a few shops down the road to our local new-age shop, "Avalon by Nature", run by the lovely Jo (photo 23). Shelley was impressed by some of her crystals (photo 24) but I refused to listen to her shrill little voice trying to persuade me to buy them.

Jo spent some time with Shelley too (photos 25-27) and pulled a card for herself, the Magician (photo 28).

Jo then shocked me profoundly by holding a rather ... er ... phallic crystal cluster up with the King Pentacles. Really, I didn't know where to look! (photo 29) And Shelley was mortified, too. I coped with that by running away from Jo, to a shop between our two very fine establishments, called the Happiness Hut. They sell colourful, useless things. For over a decade (casually) and a few weeks (seriously) I've been looking for a tongue-drum, and the boys there found me one.

So I photographed Shelley there on a blue chair with an almost Three Swords type cushion, drumming on my tongue-drum with a banana in lieu of drumsticks, but in retrospect, after the previous snap, this too looks a little rude (photo 30).

After I went home, Shelley and I took my roof-cleaning flatmate's dog for a run in the park, and she investigated Shelley as thoroughly as possible without involving saliva (I was growling menacingly) (photos 31 & 32).

It is, of course, Wednesday, and Wednesdays I always go to the local club, to down some chips'n'gravy with my Wednesday Friend, and watch her knocking back the moselle-and-limes. For some reason she was dry for the first time ever tonight, so I couldn't use her as an excuse to give Shelley a sternly maternal lecture about the evils of mixing wine with cordial (photos 33 & 34).

<whispering> I can hear thin, papery snoring from somewhere behind me, so obviously I exhausted her, and she has crashed out after her thrill-filled first full day with me. I should creep off to bed myself, and refresh myself for some more adventures tomorrow.

My tentative schedule with Shelley includes a few things: Pagans in the Park at Budgewoi on Sunday, the meditation group on Monday night, and quite possibly a trip without me in the evil clutches of a certain roof-cleaner to a public ritual on the weekend. But who knows what will happen? <airy wave>. After all, the world - or at least the Central Coast - is the mollusc-of-our-choice!