Holiday Gifts, 2021

Back in the fall I finally located a perfect statue of Hekate, so when I was hired for an unexpected Halloween tarot gig I used the money to order it from Russia. According to the tracking information, Hekate was stuck in Germany for over a month. Over the last three days, while I did not receive any further updates on that situation, I did receive a number of other fairly bizarre early holiday gifts from the universe:

First, there was a vision of the shape of a snake (I was trying to read, but I couldn’t concentrate). In the past, I’ve been aware of the moment when snakes shed their skin as discrete, I guess, and I appreciate that I, too, have had occasion to transform dramatically. This time, though, I was struck by the inescapable nature and interiority of snake itself, of personal evolution as an ongoing, all-consuming lifestyle/process.

I succeeded at reading a bit after that. I was starting Stephen Harrod Buhner’s Ensouling Language, which, as I mentioned to James, is possibly my new favorite book. To be honest, I didn’t realize it was possible for a book about writing like this one (which acknowledges that writing is literally magical and still explains some very concrete ideas about how to do it) to exist. The introduction contains the line, “to become a writer, you must shed your skin.” As usual, this kind of thing makes me think about time; in my experience shedding skin requires a lot of that.

When I interrupted myself again to compulsively check my email, I received a third somewhat unexpected thing. It was a message from a long-ago college professor — likely the one, as they say, “most familiar with your academic ability and potential.” I had at this point been grinding for six months on a moon-shot application for a funded philosophy grad program, having admitted belatedly that I actually do care about academics (probably too much). My professor told me that he was retired and would not be writing me a letter of recommendation. He also, oddly and correctly, guessed the specific nature of my late-blooming academic interest and sent me a nice quote by Maximus of Tyre:

“God Himself, the father and fashioner of all that is, older than the Sun or the Sky, greater than time and eternity and all the flow of being, is unnameable by any lawgiver, unutterable by any voice, not to be seen by any eye. But we, being unable to apprehend His essence, use the help of sounds and names and pictures, of beaten gold and ivory and silver, of plants and rivers, mountain-peaks and torrents, yearning for the knowledge of Him, and in our weakness naming all that is beautiful in this world after His nature.”

This was, however, fairly devastating news for me and my project, as I have no real, workable backup plan. The next day was kind of a blur but did not involve any notable gifts unless you count the fact that, due to CFS, strong emotion of any kind tends to leave me feeling hungover or a bit like I’ve got the flu, in any case embroiled in another kind of exhausting process that often takes up a lot of my time and energy.

The morning after that I felt a little better and, before starting work, I tried some writing exercises from the book. I wrote a short poem that isn’t particularly good but is notable in that I’ve never before sat down cold with the intention to start writing and ended up with a poem. It contains the line, “I wonder about radiance,” which is true.

I received two more notable messages that day, too: 1) My editor, who is often difficult to get in touch with, is ready to move forward on laying out my book, suggesting the eventual resolution of that particular process. By spring, perhaps? And, 2) Another old professor — one of my favorites and also my best remaining hope of getting any letters — is dying of cancer. Sad, and that’s also, on the level of my application, pretty much that.

Just before the end of the third day, I finally got this somewhat unexpected package.

2020 Hedge Notes

In 2020, a couple of my huge personal themes were metaphor and boundaries. This is a series of notes I wrote that seemed worth saving to revisit in the future:

1. Hedgerows. In England and probably other places, they used to separate everybody’s property from everybody else’s. But also, they were literally made of hedges and incredibly diverse ecosystems tend to exist in (h)edge environments. Due to the way that boundaries actually connect everything to everything else, they’re also crucial corridors for wildlife migration.

2. Boundaries, in general, interpersonal and otherwise, and their generative properties.

3. Limits, physical and creative, and the way that no one individual, unique thing can exist without them.

4. Learning that in qi gong/Chinese traditional medicine the viscera and fascia are considered, rather than just the stuff that happens to connect the organs, muscles and bones, to be the really important parts that conduct the life energy and must be healthy if anything else is going to work.

5. Learning that in the Chaldean oracles, Hekate was described as — as well as the Anima Mundi (world soul, uniting matter and spirit much like Psyche, the soul, unites mind and body) — *a membrane*. Meaning that her own being defined the boundaries of the created world, the distinction between the world of ideas and the world of form.

6. The letter X as a symbol of Hekate, representing the union of opposites but also, as it was used to mark boundaries, the idea of separation itself.

7. The critical faculty — the distinction between the conscious and subconscious minds which normally gives us the power as well as compulsion to judge whether ideas make sense before fully absorbing them. It can be sidestepped (though only partly) through dreams, hypnosis, metaphor and other hedge-walking arts.

8. The Via Negativa, path of what we can experience and conceive of only through absence and negation.

I can’t quite see what’s in the middle of that web, of course, but it still feels like kind of a big deal.