The Winter Solstice is upon us! This means we experience the longest night of the year, and it also means that each day thereafter will bring us to a longer stretch of daylight by just a few minutes, until Spring finally arrives! Up here in the northern part of America, we truly feel the depths of hibernation, and what it means to burrow in for an extended period – pandemic or no pandemic.
This year, I will make a special effort to honor the benefits of this quiet time. Today, I will intentionally walk in the daylight, all bundled up, even for a brief time. This evening, I will eat the warmed crusted breads, salted nuts, dried fruits and savory meats of my ancestral heritage, setting out a plate on my windowsill for the divine gods of the greater realms! I will ask for enduring strength and unwavering hope. I will light candles, tell stories of remembrance, and read poems of the bards! I will sway and twirl to Celtic drums and flutes! I will hold my cats among bells and pine boughs, and dream my mugwort dreams. This is a sacred night.
One of the beautiful notions of the winter solstice is that our shadow self is embraced. That part of us that has suffered and battled and longs to heal, waiting for the light and its warmth to return. Within each of us is a balance of our glory and our struggles. We must not deny the darkness, but go into the parts of us that need solitude and the salves of love. We recognize that we, like winter, are only here for a spell of time, and we are meant to accept our fleeting time on earth, we begin to treasure all that life brings. Nature is wise and relentlessly powerful. Let us accept our true, human nature, that which can only experience glory because of the struggles. No struggle, no glory. And the struggles are not only beyond our individual shells, but often a mirrored internal one, which requires our greatest courage and an iron-clad faith. The winter solstice reminds us to stop, rest, and reflect.
In December, the ice now thickens and protects the earth, so that come Spring, we are blessed with a melting saturation, the water needed to drench the soil and restore its growing once more. These cycles, these aeons of time, bring renewal and the fortitude to once again unfurl. We put our past to sleep, then we awaken to a new beginning.
I am fascinated with the modern day windmills stretched out like sleek and stoic giants, lording over the plains of the earth! For some reason they strike me as particularly divine, slowly turning round and round, no hurry, no concern, driven by a force not of them but with them, serving the needs of our human, earthly existence. The sheer size of these titans promotes awe. Communion with nature’s elements is a stellar magic born of human creation.
So it is for the tiny humans as well, pawns to the wind, yet able to wield the wind to our advantage.
This is Fate and Free Will at once.
When I was a younger woman, I was afraid of the power of the Fates. What would bring me to my knees now? What next? How can I possibly endure that which I cannot control? I was in constant vigilance for the inevitable powers of chaos and catastrophe.
I was taught I must manipulate, coerce, prepare, adorn myself in armor, and steel against the winds! This was the only way to obtain what I felt was necessary for survival and ultimately for the things that always seemed to slip from my fingers. To take control. To plot how I can take the spoils of my own war.
It is a futile thing to defy the fates. I had lacked wisdom and had refused to surrender to anything that opposed me. I did exactly what I was taught to do by those who led me there. And it often felt as though everything and everyone opposed me.
It was foolish.
Through the years, I did do one thing that slowly began to work. I sought wisdom by watching the people I admired. In truth, I didn’t admire that many people. I actually don’t think there are that many people that have much figured out. But there were a few, and I locked in on them like a missile.
They showed me that Fate would intervene no matter what, and if I had faith in it, that invisible trust that it would be okay without my willful shove, I might actually enjoy the adventure of it all! In fact – and here is the secret – I could be the willing turbine that allowed the wind to turn me. I could choose just how to stand there and move with dignity, a knowing power of my own impact upon this earth.
The fateful winds blew. Instead of fighting it, I turned with it and generated a union of power. I would do my best to allow the wind to guide my choices. I learned what was immature willfulness and what was divinely led intuition. This discernment was crucial and for me, it only came from the brutality of mistakes.
Opportunity and Choice = Power.
Now I hold the power to love my self, my life and my fellows. Power for positive change. Power to live like a warrior goddess. Power to know joy and even the power to fight for what the fates call upon me to do.
I still feel discomfort. Sometimes I cry out, longing for the wind to bring me that which I can use, instead of trying to churn and grind in a lonely death.
Today, I turn to face the wind; I close my eyes and softly wait.
The full-on Corona quarantine lasted about 70 days in Minnesota before things loosened up. I had just arrived in my Lowertown St Paul one-bedroom loft at the disoriented start of Covid. My youngest son moved in with his brother; therefore, I would be living alone at age 55 for the first time in my life.
Dating Online slid onto the back burner for a bit. My time online checking profiles and intercepting messages from strangers came to a halt largely because, after Sam (Part 4), I switched my profile to private mode, which meant only those I “liked” would see me. I didn’t like anyone for a good month or more.
Oh sure, I still looked here and there out of habit. Online Dating Sites are highly addictive. But my heart wasn’t in the game.
I had unfortunately landed in a ghost city that held dirty crusty snow, the filth of early spring, and only the homeless people lingered. Everyone else was gone. I spent approximately 23 hours a day alone, isolated in a place where I knew no one. My plans of attending recovering meetings and the artist co-op were ruins in a wasteland. There were no open restaurants. Well, of course, you know.
I had to spend a lot of time teaching high school online then; I was finishing my final year before retirement. There would be little fanfare.
Never before had I felt such crushing loneliness.
What would a woman do with online dating now anyway? Meet some guy in a park like secret agents?
Do you wear a medical mask on a date?
What are the actual risks of human contact? This was a whole new level of awkward. It was just an absurd notion to date now.
In mid-April, I toyed with a couple fish on the phone, but within a day or two released them back to the wild. One guy strung me along on the phone for three days, then finally confessed he was never going to be serious with any woman. It was bleak.
Have you ever sat in a silent room and listened to the analog clock? Time during the Covid isolation became an entirely new dimension. There are many life experiences that have taught me about time, and I often consider time to be a fascinating and spiritual thing. I moved every spring the majority of my childhood. I knew what a year meant, how long it took to form a bond, to attach, to be a person people could name.
I spent a total of 12 hours under a tattoo needle at one point in my life.
My first son was born with 16 hours of hard labor.
I have studied spiritual texts an estimated 3, 950 hours.
I have lived with chronic pain in my neck and shoulders for over 6,000 days.
I have been married four times in less than half the years my sister has been married once.
My time dating online was a blink.
During the third week of Covid, I began to cry a lot. Only divine worship and Netflix kept me sober.
By the 6th week, I was angry. I was bitterly resentful at the plight of my life and the love I might not ever find. But I had done what I always do. I turned it inward upon myself and buried the poison in my bones. That is a very bad thing to do to oneself. And it doesn’t work. I remember sitting on my favorite chair and saying out loud, “No. I’m better than this.”
So I began to shower more. I started taking risks to see my sons just to have human contact. I went out to walk to the park reserve every single day; grocery shopping became the high point of my week. I made elegant meals for one. I was letting my hair grow out, painting and doing yoga again, and Zooming with my new sponsor daily. I danced by myself a lot. I was rising like a phoenix. And I was doing it alone. I was remembering that while I will always long for love, I can still be someone that I like right now. My spirit was coming back to life.
This is what spiritual warriors must do.
As the school year ended, I had one week left of my online dating membership. We all watched in horror at the fall of George Floyd. The city began to burn and the glorified cell in which I was living became my refuge after curfew. I thanked the gods I could breathe every single morning, since I was a privileged white woman and Covid hadn’t killed me yet.
Ironically, the day before Floyd was killed, I had contact with an African American man just two days before the finish line. He was the only man I met in person through the dating site since Sam back in February. I had never dated a black man, and this was a pretty intense time to start. He was beautiful and classy and maybe even overqualified by my standards. Kissing him was a timeless wave of dancing underwater. I saw him three times before I realized I was more in love with the idea of him than the actual man himself. I had done that once before, fallen into an idea that wasn’t real, and spent the rest of my life carrying the guilt of it. I told him I wasn’t feeling it. He played it cool and let go with the ease of a champion. And just like that, he was but a strange and distant dream.
I made it clear to my suitors what I was generally seeking, and to be fair, I thought it a reasonable list.
I perused a handful of men and their profiles. I found a lot of the same thing: mediocrity with a side of conventional. Lots of men who liked to watch sports. I don’t watch sports.
Some men made it clear that if they were not moving, working, racing, climbing, sailing, skiing, biking, traveling and smiling every minute of every day, they might possibly implode.
A few gentle souls took the time to write something witty and intellectual. Now we are getting closer. Wait. Are those his arms under all that fabric? Why only three pics and all with his adult daughter? Hmmmmm…..
It was time to write my profile and lure in these big fish!
It was time for The Pitch! The Great Reveal! The Unfurling of this Delicate Moonflower….well, I mean, come on. I still had some good in me, despite a shattered heart all glued back together.
Er, ummm….I am worthy; I am certain of it.
I was at least more than worthy of the guy that posted a single 1970’s cabin pic of his frizzy grey hair, which shot out in all directions past the frame of the photo, beer in hand atop his table-sized belly, a grumpy mustache over missing teeth.
Maybe he would love me if no one else was up for it.
Sometimes these rough and belching sorts would actually incite an abrupt and singular “Ha!’ from my mouth, and then I would wrestle the internal beast of hopelessness to the ground, and settle into building my profile: What can I tell you about me to help you see why I am a good choice?!
This went on for hours. Write…delete…write…delete…ugh. I shut it down and ate a large helping of Rocky Road ice cream. Would they want me if I gained weight? Should I not eat now that I am dating online? Would it be wrong to post photos from 8 years ago? Is that photo too slutty? If I post my motorcycle, will they expect me to ‘ride or die’?
I went for a walk. I sat by the stream on that big rock where all my best thinking occurs. I wasn’t so sure now. Maybe I will only attract the nerdy ones who lack the ability to read social cues. Or the men that “don’t have time to read.” Or some con man that thinks he can move in and scam me out of the fifty bucks I have in my account. Or someone who likes really bad country music.
I walked back.
I remembered then what has worked for me when I had to stand in front of a classroom of teenagers while they gave me the once over, chomped their gum and whispered with superior smirks. I used the power of my imagination. I imagined huge white goddess wings (sometimes black if I am in a dark mood) flinging out from my back and standing at full spread behind me.
Maybe you should mess with me now, Smart One.
Then I spelled out one key at a time, as authentically as possible, who I really am. Why waste one minute pitching a lie? I was 54. Time was ticking.
I shared as many details as I could to imply the truth of me, the inexplicable way I laugh when I am alone, the way I paint with old students, the silence of the woods, how I burn mugwort on a dark moon, and Deadpool is my movie. I needed a man who was unafraid of me. And the truth is I was different. I didn’t fit into most boxes. And I decided that would be my thing. Pretty, cool, witchy weirdo seeking fun, smart, sexy man-weirdo. Straight up Psychos need not apply.
I saved the fact that I am in addiction recovery for our first phone call, but I did note up front that I don’t drink.
I would save the four divorces for a momentous height of intuitive courage. It wasn’t going to be easy being me. I could see that. Just the thought of explaining my past made me want to take a nap.
I kept in mind that I was voted Most Interesting twice. Someone will get me. Fuck it.
I always scoffed at online dating, insisting that it was the least spiritual thing I could do, on a computer, with algorithms and sales pitches and gross hookup predators! Please! But loneliness softened my scorn. More and more I could see that putting myself out there required courage and an open mind. I slowly became willing.
Preparing to participate in the daunting world of online dating, for me, was then an entirely thoughtful and systematic experience. I was not going to lose. I was gonna kick its ass! I first spent a few months talking to friends and family to gain their support and feedback. I had not dated anyone at all in a year (a solid year break from romance was an added superpower btw), and we all agreed it was a reasonable time to begin.
Online dating has turned out to be one of the most spiritually expansive journeys I would take. By the time I finish this 6-part blog series, I think you will see why!
Before this venture, I had already witnessed this seemingly “desperate” option as a disappointing one, except for the rare few that actually found love, enduring love, possibly lifelong and worthy of the costs involved. The success stories with which I was familiar was a sum total of exactly 2 couples. They had met online years ago and are still choosing to be with each other. Thus, my observation was that dating online is a rare jackpot or a predictable catastrophe, a microcosm of the real world! People who had no luck had often concluded that online dating was a waste of their time and money. They often gave up trying to date altogether after only a couple months. Dating left them somewhat bitter or hopeless. But I am a very willful witch. I was determined to not let a few bad dates spoil my hopes of finding love.
Yet, I had no strong notion that I would find success, which I think in the end was helpful. I did not assume I would find someone, and I did not assume I would NOT find someone. This is where the spiritual experience began. Because what I did believe is that dating would go exactly the way it was supposed to go. If I was not going to find love in the 6 months I was dating, I was going to at least learn a lot about myself, a little more about love, and likely grow from it. I knew that I would not bother to date just for fun. I was not going on any second dates just because I was lonely. I was also not interested in casual sex. This was not a moralistic choice. I just wasn’t looking for that.
I never really had dated before the six month contract I signed. Oh, believe me, I had definitely been married and had numerous love affairs prior. Some would say I was unlucky in love, since these relationships did not last forever. Alternately, I claim that I had never really even tried.
The bottom line is that I had just never actually dated in the traditional sense of the word. I had never thoughtfully selected potential mates with whom I would share purposeful time exploring the chemistry and common ground that just might prove to generate true love. I had never been so intentional. I had also never allowed myself to be discerning in my pursuit. I had always oversimplified my notion of romance, buying into the Romeo and Juliet version. If you were a handsome bad boy, we were on! There were many red flags that I ignored, and there were lots of ideals I just presumed my partner shared with me. Turns out, I had little notion of how to find the sort of guy I would want long term, and I wasn’t sure he existed.
This time, I was fully prepared to go at this with the wisdom and clarity of a 54 year old woman. I am sorry if my readers think then that we are so different. It is my belief that we are all just children seeking someone to delight in and maybe stick around.
In hindsight, after six months of dating online, I can now claim I did actually seriously consider over a dozen men, several of whom I eventually did meet in person, and here are some basic statistics to give you a picture of the starting point:
From mid-November 2019 to mid-May 2020, I spoke on the phone or emailed with about 25 men in total, vetting about half of them from the simple list of absolute requirements, sometimes even declining a date due to shallow reasons, like a voice that grated on me, or an offensive comment, or the fact that they were drunk, or worse, boring. It is not important that you and I have the same standards, just that we know what our own standard is. I had a long history of ignoring what I needed, so it was important that I stick to the list as I had created it. As you view my list, consider your own!
He had to be taller than me. I tried to love shorter men before and I find short men to be very sexy, but I always felt large and awkward next to them, so no. A lot of men lie about their height and I had to be very assertive in assuring they were honest. 3 men were rejected due to misrepresenting themselves (and were 2 inches shorter than me). One man, who was the exact same height as me, was IN due to his adorable straightforwardness and awesome sense of humor.
Must have either a college degree (I have two), or a strong literary mind (an avid reader) and clear capacity for learning and language.
Must know and use his own artistic or creative side.
Must have a moderate to liberal sense of politics and values.
Must be a spiritual seeker, someone who takes daily action to sustain a connection to something divine, be it nature, an amenable religion or strong knowledge of theology. Christians and Witches don’t tend to be a strong match, unless one of them is insincere.
Must be gainfully employed, preferably a professional or in love with his work, and capable of paying his own bills. Enormous debt or a dependent mate is a no.
Must be a strong match in appearance, as in youthful and health-conscious like me, but not obsessed or “perfectionistic”(Ick).
Age ranged from 48 to 58. This was new for me. I had always been involved with men significantly to moderately younger, but I was now ready to try men my age.
After these qualities were checked off, it came down to actual chemistry and personality…and hoo boy! That is where things got interesting! Let’s be frank here; sexual attraction is important. My good friend says, “Yeah, yeah, that’s all great, but do you wanna put your tongue in his mouth?” This always makes me laugh because it is so true!
Next, I had to confess my own qualities as a viable mate. And trust me, that was not comfortable, but the results were fascinating! More on that tomorrow!
The best part of summer for me is that 3-week period right after the 4th of July. A sweet long stretch of open softness. A plateau upon which we may tread naturally and calmly, or pause and bask under the vast skies with nothing but what we individually choose before society requires more.
We come upon a great big beautiful WHAT NOW?
Ralph Blume said, “As I cultivate my own nature, all else follows.” In keeping with such a wondrous philosophy, I encourage you to harken back to this wisdom and ‘cultivate your own nature’ now. What would that look like? Who do you wish to be now?
The essence of living a spiritual life implies synchronizing two acts: First, to do the footwork of manifesting what you really want, the actual completion of logical tasks. This could range from getting yourself some coffee to building schools in the Middle East. Second, to have faith that something divine is supporting you and will provide the momentum and outside variables required.
I do. And I trust.
I keep doing. And I keep trusting.
If I am not doing what is needed, I pay attention to the changes directed by my intuition, the “messengers” around me, my experiences including dreams and unexpected sparks of thought, and I keep going. This is how the divine keeps me between the lines on my path to success. I am always listening, watching and wondering.
Nonetheless, there is also a time to understand that what I do may be nothing. Sometimes I choose to be still or be patient or just mentally prepare. This is not a justification for procrastination, that absurd dysfunction steeped in fear or defiance. I am talking about knowing that timing is important and impulsive, sloppy action is not helpful.
My father used to describe my mother as peripatetic, a constant movement, a nomadic existence, and in her case, it was meant as “unable to stop moving.” He felt she was too nervously erratic.
My mother would likely suggest that his big cushy chair was a bog of muck where he could not be truly living.
I learn from my elders. I find the solid ground of the mesa’s flat top. I move, but I move slowly with intention.
I will spend each day now curiously observing myself as I meditate, meet strangers, walk the city alone, make myself a meal, listen to a friend, write, paint, and share my ideas.
I know my station, my post, my purpose and my plan. This is a result of spiritual living. I don’t have to rush, nor run in circles. I can cultivate my nature, which is to create and to bravely share my creations, and trust that all else will follow.