Monday, December 15, 2014

Clearing the Tree near Fairy Bridge

Recently The Manx Independent published an article ("Fairy Bridge and Tree Cleared of Clutter") about a man who's taken it upon himself to remove some of the bike helmets, plastic dolls, mirrors, scarves, necklaces, and many notes for deceased loved ones that had been in some cases stapled to the tree that sits beside the famous "fairy bridge" on the Castletown Rd.**

Those of you who read my book Faery Tale know of the beautiful places and people I connected with on the Isle of Man, and so, being such a fan of the incredible island, I like to keep up on the happenings there. People on Facebook (many of them Manx, from the feed I saw) were outraged.

While I can certainly understand the controversy, they could bear reminding that according to folklore, in ancient times if any thought to remove (or even so much as touch) a rag tied to a fairy tree, they were believed to risk taking on the illness left in hopes of curing by the petitioner - or in other cases, risk the wrath of the faeries themselves. So if this man's displeased the Good People, they needn't worry about justice and retribution, the faeries would take care of that.

However, I'm not so sure the faeries would be displeased. 

The man raised an excellent point, and it's one I've been wanting to write about for quite some time now.

"'I’ve driven past it often, and thought that for a while now it was getting out of hand,' he said. 'I had a day off today, so I thought I’d just come down now and do it quickly.’ He admitted he wasn’t sure if he had the right to clean up the area, but felt that not everyone was comfortable with the state in which the landmark bridge had been left."

When I first began venturing to fairy sites I was touched and astounded by the sheer evidence of human pilgrimage to these sites (as I wrote about in the book). I found the things left behind to be novel, kitschy, fascinating. It was only in visiting site after site since the publication of my book that I began to understand just how serious the impact of "leaving offerings" can be. Things like bike helmets, plastic toys, sunglasses, figurines, laminated paper, metal, beads or glass should never be left behind. As a result, some sites I've visited look more like landfills than they do sacred places. 
The Fairy Tree, Isle of Man

Places that do it right are places like the Chalice Well, where even candle wax is scraped from the stones by volunteers careful to preserve the site's "unmarked by man" sense of purity. 

Before I understood the impact, I was guilty of leaving things in places that didn't belong there - even though they were things like shells and natural stones I'd picked up on my journey to that place - leaving them behind was still a distraction to others who came to those places after me, seeking to have their own experience. Untainted by other "pilgrims" who'd visited before. We have only to visit places like St. Nectan's Glen in Cornwall to see the sad and astonishing impact that "just leaving one special thing" can have on a sacred place in nature.

Sacred sites like stone circles, hut circles, raised burial mounds and ancient ring forts (aside from mostly belonging to governmentally-operated preservation societies, or in some cases farmers and other individuals who kindly let you trespass on their property to experience a site) do not belong to you. Or even me, as much as I'd like it. The people who truly act as guardians for these sites realize they belong to everybody.

It discouraged me to read in the same article that "In 2009, Sonya Bowness, who lived at the Fairy Bridge cottage and owned the land on which the items were being left, grew exasperated as the popular tourist spot turned into an eyesore. However, her plans to have a visitors’ centre and a public access space built on land next to the bridge were denied." 

Ms. Bowness was clearly only searching for a solution that would still allow visitors to leave objects while simultaneously preserving her own sanity! However, Tynwald is considering installing a letter box near the tree so that children and adults wanting to leave notes no longer feel the necessity to staple and otherwise affix them to the tree. 

A"Wishing Tree," St. Nectan's Glen
Some might argue that in many cases (like on Fairy Bridge on Isle of Man and in St. Nectan's Glen) these items have been left as a memorial to honor a loved one. Especially on Isle of Man, where many of the items were left by family members of bikers who died in motorcycle wrecks on the island. My heart goes out to them. 

But I would say, if you want to make a shrine for a lost loved one, why not do it on your own property, where you can visit it daily and offer as many things as you'd like in remembrance? After all, their spirit isn't on the Isle of Man, it's much more likely with you, and the others who they loved during life. If you must leave something, leave an offering of flowers with a biodegradable string - these things go back to nature and it's the gesture, not the object, that carries the true meaning. 
Just a few of the thousands of trinkets
left behind in St. Nectan's Glen

I've seen a lot of trinkets left behind in my travels to ancient and folkloric sites. But of all the memorial objects I've ever seen, the thing that effected me most powerfully was a simple bouquet of wildflowers left beside a forgotten burial mound in southern Scotland. It was impermanent, unintrusive, and an astonishingly beautiful anonymous gesture that said, I honor. I remember. In this moment, I remember. 

Just like our temporary, beautiful and impermanent lives, the inherent message was that this too shall fall into the ground and pass.

And that, if you ask me, is how it really should be. 

**I know of two other fairy bridges on Isle of Man, one is the one I write about in the book, and the other is kept a close secret by only a few locals. That one I pray they will keep a secret, even from the likes of me. 

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

An Easy Way to Help Animals in Zoos

As someone obsessed with animals, I -- like many -- have conflicted feelings about animals in captivity. My love for animals goes back many years - as a child I wanted nothing more in the world than to be a veterinarian, and then in my first year of college at George Washington University, I had my heart set on becoming an animal behaviorist. Unable to resist the call of my fascination for wild creatures, I would skip out on calculus class and take the metro to the National Zoo, where I would sit and make observations in a notebook about the resident orangutans. (I would not recommend this as a highway to success, but I did have some beautiful experiences with the animals over the course of that year. )

While there can be no denying that good zoos often provide caring and stimulating homes for animals that, for a myriad of reasons, are no longer suited for or capable of having life in the wild,  there are an equal (if not greater) number of zoos around the world that trade in illegal wildlife and treat animals abominably. In honor of Animal Rights Awareness Day, I wanted to share this powerful article by animal communicator Anna Breytenbach. I encourage you to take time to think about what you might be able to do to help wild animals today, whether it be donating time or even a small amount of money to your favorite organization. But Anna shares a technique you can use that doesn't cost a thing, and I invite you to try it the next time you find yourself facing an animal in captivity. 
"Seeing captive wildlife in zoos can be very upsetting for people who care about the distress the animals may feel. The vast majority of animals in zoos or recreation centres are living a miserable life of confinement and overwhelm. Unable to exercise their bodies or minds nor live a natural lifestyle with normal relationships, they suffer dire mental, physical and emotional consequences. When we witness these sad states, we can ourselves become upset, angry, sad or despairing. Unfortunately, us being in those states is not at all helpful to the very animals. If we indulge our emotional reactions and end up pouring those out in the direction of the animal, they feel so much worse about their situation and themselves. Feelings such as pity and anxiety add to an animal's stress, compounding the problem.
Of course we need to be authentic in acknowledging our feelings. They can also be wonderful motivators of positive, productive action - inspiring great acts of support, assistance and transformation.
However, when we're in the presence of any animal in distress, it's important to adjust our thoughts and feelings in the moment. Here's a simple 4-step process to do that:
1. Take a moment to calm and quiet your mind. Even in a busy environment, simply closing your eyes and focusing on your regular breathing rhythm can achieve this quickly
2. Allow any unpleasant or unhelpful emotions and thoughts to leave you. One way is to visualise them running down and off your body like muddy water
3. Bring your attention to your heart centre and feel a sense of calmness
4. Think of positive or uplifting emotions and states of being - one at a time. For each one, feel like you are projecting that particular feeling towards the animal, imagining it landing upon them and wrapping them in the soft light of that particular energy
Throughout these steps, contain and ground your own energy within yourself. This is a non-intrusive process aimed at supporting the animal without expecting any feedback or outcome. We're not trying to force anything upon the animal; we're simply offering energetic assistance by providing the kinds of frequencies they may not be call upon on their own due to their circumstances.
By humans witnessing and caring in this way, animals feel appreciated and seen at a deeper level than the average person who only "sees" them visually and superficially. Most visitors to zoos put a camera lens between themselves and the animals they are supposedly there to experience. Far better to set aside all technology and distractions and simply engage with the animal directly with your full awareness. Even very distressed or depressed animals will sense your connection and compassion, and their experience of their day will be the better for it." 
For more information on Anna and her company AnimalSpirit, visit

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Writers Are Very Busy Striving to Reach New Levels of Procrastination

We love writing. We really do. Storytelling, whether it be fiction or non-fiction is an obsession, an art, an all-consuming devotion. For many authors, there is a part of them they'll tell you, that would shrivel up and die if they ever didn't write.

And yet, writers will devise the most ridiculous excuses to avoid the writing chair; because it's hard, because we're worried we'll fail, because we're stuck, because we're feeling absolutely drained of energy, because we don't want to kill off a character, because we know how ugly this revision is going to be, or maybe because we just want to see how difficult we can make life for ourselves before we actually -- out of sheer desperation and a now truly terrifying deadline -- must finally turn to the task at hand.

To that end, I thought I'd share some of the ridiculous and one-hundred percent true things that I or my friends (some of whom are best-selling authors with VERY SERIOUS DEADLINES - you know who you are) -- get up to, for some reason, when we're trying to avoid the very thing we love the best.

I like to call this list:

Top Ten Asinine Ways to Avoid Writing Your Book
1. Now is the perfect time to do laundry, renovate, clean,
paint, reorganize and redecorate the house.
2. Research the obtainment of a pet canary.
3. Window-shop for cottage in Scottish Highlands you will never afford.

4. Plan a party, baby shower, or large scale event
that will require weeks of coordination, Or...
5. "I'll host Thanksgiving!"
6. Adopt a new dog.
7. Go to the grocery store because, you tell your partner,
"Can't you see there's nothing to eat in the fridge?!"
8. Invite your best friends for the weekend because "It's been toooooo long!"

9. Yard work. Because, you know, you've got friends and family coming. 

10. Write a new blog post, maybe about procrastination, because that is productive.
It is 
not procrastination. 

These may not seem extreme to you, but that's okay, don't worry. We're always striving to best our last worst procrastination. I hope you'll share your stories about your best worst procrastination techniques - because I'm always looking to add to the ol' arsenal.

Signe Pike is the author of Faery Tale: One Woman's Search for Enchantment in a Modern World. She lives in Charleston, SC where she is currently *not* at work on a historical novel. Follow her on Facebook or visit her website at

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Real Encounter with Isle of Man's Land of the Unseen

The Lady of Port e Vullen
 by Signe Pike

“Ten days on the Isle of Man. Now that I look back on it seemed as if the Isle of Man had beckoned from the middle of the Irish Sea…” – Faery Tale

           It had been two years since I had first stepped foot on that mysterious island in the middle of that churning sea, a place of gods and Celts and Vikings, of castles and rushing glens and lonely circles of standing stones. It was a place where the events and the people I had met had seemed to unfold in such curious synchronicity, I had come to believe there was indeed a magic to this place, Isle of Man, the domain of mists that locals still believed could be summoned by the God of the Sea.
            In the years since I'd visited, the people who'd been fond acquaintances had read of my affection for them in my memoir and become good friends. My husband Eric and I were welcomed by Mike at the Adventure Centre with a warm hug and a pot of tea. My old room had been made up, cabin no. 7, and as we were walking the two miles back to the Centre with our arms full of groceries for the self-catering kitchen, Mike’s charming wife Ali spotted us on the road and insisted on giving us a lift. We were no longer strangers on a floating island. And it was in the car that she told us about Port e Vullen, the beach that could be reached if we only followed the lane from the Centre down hill, toward the sea.  
            “But if you go,” she warned, “Be careful. The tides can be dangerous there, will come in, fast as anything. You can get stranded down there, with no way back to the path.” But being Ali, she told us the right time to go, and we headed out for a five p.m. walk, thankful for summer and the long stretched evenings of light.
            The path was marked by a sign. It wound through the thick-tufted grass of summer, past a few cottages with deeply shaded trees until it opened up into a winding dirt trail bordered by ferns that led along the coastal path. We followed it, delighting in the gusts of salt smell that blew up off the ocean, zipping our fleeces against the growing evening chill. The path tilted down the cliff side and soon enough we found ourselves emerging onto a rocky beach where the stones had been smoothed and polished by the battering of the ocean. Overhead, the cliffs towered. There were crags where you could tuck yourself away and disappear from view, as though you had slipped into some parallel realm where the gods and dark water-horses and the fair-people of the island still held sway.
            A flash of terracotta caught my eye and I bent to sift through the pebbles only to uncover an elaborate chunk of tile that looked like it dated from the Victorian era. A treasure! And then there was another. And another. I scooped them up eagerly, with abandon, feeling the flat cold weight of them as I stacked them in my hand.
            I felt I was meant to keep them. I placed them gently into a zippered pocket of my coat. It was then that I looked at the sheltered cove I had wandered into. It was a broad, scooped out hollow of beach enclosed by the crags of the cliff. It felt like a place between other places. Where one could get distracted by treasures and, as the tide swept in, be claimed by the sea.
            The sun moved behind a bank of clouds. And it occurred to me in some primal place of knowing that this, this place was not entirely a place of light. I felt a shiver trace though me.
            “The tide will be coming,” I said to my husband. “Don’t you think we’d better go?”
            He straightened from his own bountiful treasure collecting and looked out to the sea. Nodded.
            Our fingers were tinged now with cold, but we left reluctantly, heavy-footed, as though we had stones in our boots. He was heading back up the cliff trail when I felt suddenly struck by a chord of whimsy. I had been studying the concept of genius loci lately for a new book: spirits of place. And as I turned to take one last look at the beach my eyes went to the cove. I should have known better than to ask. But I did not know better, and so I sent out a question from someplace near the center of my heart.
            Who is the Keeper of this place?
            I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t expecting anything. But before I could even form such a thought an image of a woman seared through the eye of my brain, imprinting with a force that felt nearly solid, as though it were the type of illustration one would see in a book – an illustration crafted by someone with skill and with talent, like a dream that could turn to a nightmare, depending on the painter. She was standing at the cliff’s bottom. Her hair was black as a stallion’s mane and her skin was as pale as snow. Her eyes. Were they dark? And pupil-less? Or were they changeable, like a storm on the sea? She was looking at me. She was looking straight through me. Like so many flashes of spirit I’d seen, she was there, claiming that place. And yet there was not a soul to be seen on the shadowed pebbles of the beach.
(photo: Zhang Jingna)

 “Come on,” my husband said. “Let’s get back up the hill. Open that bottle of whisky.”
            I blinked. The spell was broken.
            “Yes. I’m coming.” The thought of a single malt warmed the chill that had quite suddenly taken hold of me.
            The trees that had felt blissfully shaded now felt shadowed as we made our way up the hill but the air was fresh in our lungs and the stretch on our legs fell into a happy rhythm. At the top of the hill we stopped to take a picture of the two of us and the big, dark feather I’d found. My husband tucked a flower behind my ear.  
            That evening passed as many had at the Adventure Centre – sitting out by the picnic tables with hot food and a honey-colored glass of good Scotch. We settled into our bunks, satiated and sluggish from a long day of travel and the air off the sea, Eric on the top bunk and me on the bottom one. Soon we drifted off to sleep, the door closed, but the small window near the sink left open to the summer sounds and a cool night in the fields nestled high above the sea.
            The dream, when it came… well. I hadn’t known I was dreaming.
            In fact, it was as though I was fully awake. Yes, I had woken up because I could hear the voices. I remembered now. I could feel my feet on the rough carpet of the floor. I was in the dark of the cabin. But it was as though I was outside, already, which was what they wanted, the voices. I knew because they kept calling me.
            Come outside. 
            Come outside. 
            They were eager, their voices soft but filled with a delight that hinted of abandon. Was there music, somewhere? Or was it that their voices sounded like the wind through the chimes, hollow and beautiful, beseeching me. Come outside.
            Why shouldn’t I?
            It was a good idea, wasn’t it, just to listen, because they were lovely voices, weren’t they? Beautiful, and soft like a breeze in summer. They were urging me. Behind the hollow-throated chime of their voices was a promise. Come outside. And then what? Don’t think. It doesn’t matter. They were sweeping me like the sea, and wasn’t it so lovely to be swept away? The handle of the door glinted dimly silver in the night. I shifted my feet to stand.
            But something heavy kept me in my place. I couldn’t move. And still they called to me. Come outside.
            But now it was too late. I wasn’t sure how nice they were, after all. In the spell of my sleepiness I was realizing now that I did not want to go outside. It was cold outside, and I was in my bedclothes. I was tired from a long journey, and I had been fast asleep and I DID. NOT. WANT. TO. GO. OUTSIDE!
            I woke when my head struck the metal of the bunk overhead. I opened my eyes for the first time. A dream. I had only been dreaming.
            The world was fuzzy without my contacts in, whereas before, only moments ago, I had seen the room so clearly. Where the chiming voices had filled my head, the only sound now was the soft-shifting snore from the man who slept on the thin mattress overhead. I had woken to find myself sitting swiveled out of bed, my feet on the rough carpet and my body turned toward the door. My mind may have been addled by sleep but it knew exactly what they’d been up to, and it wasn’t anything good.
            That’s not nice, I thought, peevishly, like a child would scold a bully for snatching at their toy. What you were doing wasn’t nice at all. Because when we wake from dreams we sometimes have all the answers, and I knew just what had happened, what they were trying to do. And yet there were still questions that would haunt me, in the end.
            How far might I have gotten, had I snuck from that bunk in the mist of sleep, through the unbolted door?  
            To the driveway?
            To the road?
            To the cliffside that teetered along the bottom of the lane?
            What dangers awaited a woman in the night?
Or if my body hadn’t woken me, would it have been worse if my spirit had taken flight? Out the open window, carried by the chiming voices down along the lane, where we could drift over the top of the ocean as if we had no bodies at all. To a place where a dark-haired woman waited, on the crescent-shaped hollow of a watery beach, far below the shelter of the glades.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Magic of Creativity

My friend Sarah Class

Twilight yesterday found me on the phone with Sarah Class, my brilliant friend who also happens to be one of the most talented composers, musicians and singer-songwriters I know. (A lot of superlatives, but you have only to visit her space on the web to see what I mean. Click here to listen to "Aurora, Cantamos", the chorus of "Northern Shore" or any of her other works - I invite you to be blown away.)

Sarah is British, and I've spent a lot of time with her across the pond sitting by rushing rivers, in stone circles, and under enchanted apple trees as she picks out melodies on her guitar. Last night we got to speaking about creativity, as we often do. One of the things I love best is sitting in the company of musicians and watching them play. Sarah doesn't know it, but when she's seeking the muse, I watch her tilt her pretty blond head slightly, as though she is listening. 
Sarah in Costa Rica
It is as though the artist is a vessel, able to hear and then translate using their particular skills, something that is coming through them. A song. A story. A painting. And to me this process truly helps me believe that there is indeed something beyond our imagining that exists "on the other side." 

It got us talking about the fact that creating is really a form of channeling. I'm sure there are writers out there who believe that their work is purely their own, and while that may be the case for them, but I can't help but find that a little egotistical. I have not yet created anything that I didn't feel was given to me by something beyond myself. 

Does that make sense? 
When writing Faery Tale I felt as though there was someone standing over my shoulder. Sometimes at night, the presence grew so strong that on my second pot of coffee at three in the morning paranoia took over and I had to ask them quite crossly how did they expect me to get anything done with all this hovering?

Where do ideas come from? 
Where do haunting melodies come from? 

Some might argue they come from our brains, but for me, brain is for the revision process, not the process of raw creation. The best art comes when we're able to quiet the brain and see through the heart. We see, we hear, we listen. It's that bright spark that has an emotional pull behind it that reminds us of the soul behind it. 

Even as I struggle to birth this historical novel, I remind myself that I am only, after all, struggling to listen. If I could not work with the muse, with my "partners in spirit," I would have no desire to write at all. Because to create in this way is truly to live a magical existence. There is something, or perhaps someone(s) that lays the path before me - a book that catches my eye, a story in the news. A feather. A phone call. I follow the clues. I shut the door. I sit, and I listen. And I wait. 

Sarah is one of those people who reminds me that I've touched that magic before and I can access it again, and for that I am eternally grateful. I wanted to share our conversation because I believe, if you are trying to create something, this idea helps take some of the pressure off. Yes, you must work to hone your physical skills, your tools. You cannot sit and expect to play a concerto if you have never touched the keys. But the largest part of it is opening that pathway wherein the magic rushes in. And to be grateful for it. And to share that with the world, that is the greatest honor - so that something is translated from spirit. And others can feel it too. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sharing the Light

I was traveling on a small commuter plane from Charleston to Ithaca. I was reading a transcription of my Grandmother Johanson’s memories – life growing up in rural Michigan as a Finnish immigrant family during the First World War.  She was a beautiful writer with a candid sense of humor. She writes about snaring snowshoe hares to eat and skiing to school; about catching messes of perch on early morning fishing trips using nothing more than harvested sticks, line, cork and worms. The life she writes about was hard, but possessed a sort of timeless innocence that whole food hipsters and back-to-nature aficionados like me are searching for, and as I read her notes about a life lived and the people she encountered, I couldn’t help but think, People were kinder then.

That was the moment when it happened. I noticed a very elderly man in the aisle, leaning unnaturally across the passenger seated across from me. He was bent over at the waist and I couldn’t hear over the roar of the plane engines but something seemed to be very wrong. He took another step and collapsed onto the seat of a black woman I’d noticed before, because she just seemed to emanate good vibes.  She’s the one who notices something is wrong, and I see her concern when she asks him, alarmed, “Are you okay?” He couldn’t respond. Immediately she signaled the flight attendant, who had already noticed something was not right. Calls went up into the cabin. “Are there any medical professionals on board?”

Two women and an older man had already leapt from their seats and were standing in the aisle. “I’m a nurse.” The black woman said. “I’m a doctor,” the older man volunteered. I sat there, helpless. And after a moment, with nothing else useful to do, began to pray for him. The sort of non-denominational prayer that answers every religion and every human condition. The atmosphere on the plane was charged; everyone was focused on this elderly man, and it was almost as though I could hear the silent voices, each speaking prayers of their own. The flight attendant stepped aside and the professionals got to work. They took his vitals, steadied him, their soothing tones sounding like a soft hum over the vibration of the plane. They helped him slowly back to his seat. A few tense moments passed. The nurse came back to her seat and told us that all was okay – standing too quickly and moving around at high altitudes can cause marked dizziness, especially with elderly people who may have other health conditions. He was resting after his collapse, and already seemed to be recovering.

I was struck by the kindness I saw. It was such a small moment, and such a scary one. People acted so quickly when it looked like things were dire, and I remembered how many times in my life I had actually seen this. People, when tested, stepping into the bigger parts of themselves, reaching out to help another. There are a lot of scary things happening out there now. Shootings and mugging and robbery and drug smuggling and war and human trafficking and name it, it’s there. But reflecting on my Grandmother’s life made me reflect on mine. As I sat there, the memories of all the random kindness witnessed fluttered before me. A businessman in New York stopping to help a bewildered tourist studying a map. The old Russian woman who paid a young mother’s bus fare. The time a taxi driver dropped off my forgotten wallet, not a penny misplaced inside. All the doors I’ve seen men in Charleston hold open for anyone – man, woman, child, black, white. So many infinitesimal moments that they are uncountable, unrecordable. And I remembered what I have always known. When there is darkness, there is always light. In every age and every place on the planet there are kind people and unkind people in varying degrees. The injustices, the un-niceties clamor louder in our memories. The kindnesses speak more quietly. They don’t mind if no one hears, because true kindness is not something that demands a witness. It is something that exists independent of noticing, from a place that is eternal, from a place that sparks within us, if and when we allow it.

This is a jumbled memento. But what I saw was beautiful, and I wanted to share it. It was a welcome reminder that though there is darkness, I do believe humanity is inherently good. It reaffirmed my commitment to embody a light, even in the smallest ways, even when I am not always perfect at it, or not always in the mood. Because today I chose to be a witness. And I felt the warmth of the light. It inspired me to write about it, to thank and recognize all of you out there who take opportunities to be kind. And in the hopes that sharing what I witnessed would pass a beam of light to you. That you might go out into the world, today, tomorrow, or the next, and share some kindness of your own.

“From this experience, a faith arises to carry back to a human world of small lusts and deceitful pettiness. A faith, naïve and child like perhaps, born as it is from the infinite simplicity of nature. It is a feeling that no matter what the ideas or conduct of others, there is a unique rightness and beauty to life which can be shared in openness, in wind and sunlight, with a fellow human being who believes in the same basic principles.” - Sylvia Plath

Sunday, May 04, 2014

The Enchanting Monthly Newsletter

For a long time I've been wanting to create a more intimate way to connect with those of you who have become such loyal friends and readers. That's why I'm so excited to have finally breathed a truly unique newsletter into being. Each month I'll be sharing an inspirational quote, news, sneak peeks of my current writing or things I've secreted away, as well as photos from the road, tips on living an enchanted life, favorite recipes and a monthly oracle forecast. It's the beat on all things enchanting, from someone who believes that living an "enchanted" existence is truly what life is about. 

Also. I want to thank all of you who gave me such great responses on the weekly forecasts I've been doing on this blog. I hope you'll be able to get just as much out of the new monthly format. Moving to a monthly rather than a weekly reading gives me the time I need to focus on my writing, publishing conferences, teaching workshops, freelance editing and all the other stuff I have to get up to during the week.

This newsletter will be a place where enchantment lives. 

If you'd like to sign up, click here. 

As always,

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How to Weather a Storm

Cherry blossoms in winter
copyright: Signe Pike
Today was the first real test for the small ceramic heater – it took ages for my little shed to heat despite the insulation, and there I sat in my wool socks and sweater and slippers, the grey mohair blanket given to me by a friend wrapped overtop of everything as the heater roared full blast, my computer open on my lap, waiting for the storm to come, and feeling more content than ever to simply write.
            Here in the south, our media highways have been cluttered with news of the impending ice storm. Potential loss of electricity and stores sold out of firewood, and I realized that despite any danger, for me there is always something exciting about a storm. I like the preparations, the battening down of hatches, the heaviness you can feel in the air and the utter quiet that falls over our yards and snakes out into the streets, chasing people inside because nature, no matter how much dominion some people think we possess, is still the supreme ruler here on earth, and I never cease to be awed by her power. Good. Make us scuttle, make us scurry. Remind us of the fact that this is not a democracy. Of course I never want to see anyone come to harm. But I think storms can be good; they remind us of our humility. Our humanity. They remind us, when we survive them, of our good fortune—which I think far too often evaporates as quickly as the storm fell upon us, with the appearance of the first sunny sky.
            Storms come into our life because things are beyond our control, and there is a peace in that, if you can find it.
            This past week I mourned the loss of my uncle, a man who was by far my most exacting critic and somehow also my biggest fan. I spent the better part of a week in Maryland helping sort his affairs, because when people go, there is so much doing that needs to get done, and in the quiet moments you lean against something and breathe, and feel your heart crack all over again. Sometimes I feel defeated by it – my aunt, my father’s only sibling, has now lost her husband, and she is terminal too. My heart breaks for her, but not just for her, for everyone who has lost someone, because I have learned too many times in my relatively young life what it feels like to lose someone you love, and knowing that this sort of heartbreak is both unavoidable and in its own way, pandemic, feels like too much to bear.
            But as I sat waiting for the first pounding of sleet to streak down my windows, I realized that these too are storms. There is nothing to control or battle. All you can do is weather it.
            A good friend once told me it is an honor to be present with someone at the end of their days.
            I have come to see that though this is hard, it is true. We can pray for safe passage, we can pray for protection, we can pray for the coming light. But perhaps if we do only these things, we are missing the point.
            Can we learn to honor the storm?
            We can prepare, but can we find a way to embrace it, because of what it brings to us? It is a reminder that life is fleeting and uncertain. And there is beauty in that. Storms remind us that there are powers on this earth we will never conquer, nor should we. This is not the natural order of things.
            We are stewards, not rulers.
            And it is the same on earth as it is within our bodies.
            This week, when I came back to myself, I found I was sitting before my computer, waiting for the storm to come, but I was not afraid. The manuscript that had felt daunting instead tasted delicate, it smelled like home. There was a new comfort in both the words and the feeling of sitting, of channeling and asking the scenes to come, and I thought, if this is what I spend my hours doing, my life has been good.
            I know as the planet groans and shifts we will face many storms ahead, both real and metaphorical. What we must remember, I think, is to do our best in the times in between. Live well, love hard, and offer others pieces of your heart in a thousand ways. That way when storms do come, we can bide them more easily.

            Pay homage to the power of wind, water and atmosphere, be grateful for what we have. And in the heart of winter, a good book, glass of wine, a hot mug of ginger root with lemon, or a game of Scrabble by the fire never hurts too.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

At Home in Winter: For My Father, on His Birthday

It doesn't get much easier, but doing things to remember them is the important thing.
Below is a video I was up into the wee hours making, and it did help ease the heart.
I hope you'll watch it, because this is not just his life, this is all of our lives. We are born and we live and we pass, and every moment is beautiful.

At Home in Winter:
A Poem for my Father

At home, snowy-patched fields are stitched
with spines of leafless trees,
the memory of summer
asleep in their mounds.
Here where the fist of some long-weathered god
thrust his hand through the crusted earth,
where fingers played in pressed thumbs 
or clawed their way South 
leaving frost covered pools,
half-frozen green lakes.

Soon, when you rise,
the world will be covered in snow.
There are places in the woods
where the thin deer
under low brambles of a thorn tree,
where white-tipped foxes burrow
in red-berried thickets,
where the water trickles
icy channels between rock and stream,
and the fissures of shale that splintered up inside you
can sense these things,
but they have no name.

Here the houses haven’t closed in.
There is room enough to walk and breathe,
and to listen to the way the pines creak
on the backbone of the hill,
because there is no port on an inland sea.

Here the lady of the water drew her slender fingers down,
carving places where you can still cast your wishes,
where you can cast your wishes away and forget them,
the way a sorrow is lost in the papery fold of a wrinkle,
the way that the hills lie naked in winter,

in the places where the sun does not reach.

Copyright: Signe Pike