I started this post around Imbolc and I purposely waited to finish it because, well, I was skeptical about not feeling hopeless. See, inevitably at some point every winter, sometimes in mid-January, sometimes earlier, I will go through bouts of what I can only describe as dull, sort of distant hopelessness and depression. I’m so sick of the cold, the wind, THE SNOW, the very season itself is nothing more to me by that time than a major inconvenience and source of worry and struggle and I just sort of start tumbling down this stairway, clawing upwards a few steps, falling back ten more… It is a cycle that has repeated itself over and over for years, since childhood actually, at varying degrees of hopelessness each year making some years just sort of bad and others down right miserable.
Please note that this is completely different than being generally pissed off that it is snowing (yet again) and grumpy about winter like some people get grumpy about rain. LOL. It is a given that I’ll be grumpy about winter. I hate winter. Yet, you’ll never hear me complain about “this damn heat” in the middle of July. I might say – “man, it is really hot today” followed by “I think I’ll go for a run and sweat a lot” but that’ll be the extent of my comments about any other season related to temperature, precipitation, etc.
Over my life I’ve tried to methodically pinpoint what begins the fall and fix it. Is it the cold, the snow itself, the worry of loss of electricity or travel? Is it just that I’m cold blooded and my body cannot stand temperatures lower than freezing? Despite all the practical issues with winter I usually conclude the latter reason simply because cold seems to cut straight through me. It makes me feel small and insignificant. It reminds me how little control we truly have over our lives sometimes. It beats me. I don’t like to be beaten.
So it has been extremely surprising to me that this winter of all winters, my first full year of living very near and like the place where I was raised weather-wise (my hometown is about 450 additional feet above sea level and slightly to the east of here), I have not felt hopeless. Have I felt angst, irritation and said more than once – well, this fucking sucks? Yes, absolutely! I was especially saying it a week ago when we were socked in the face with a major Nor’easter in the fucking middle of March. And I voice those feelings explicitly….lol. But, those feelings are different than the heavy, empty feelings that I’m used to.
I’m sure the causes for this are many and I’m sure that it could be different next year, or the year after that… I’m much happier with where I am in terms of home first of all. I’ve lived in many places throughout my life, this is the closest to how I lived as a child and it has been a dream of mine since that childhood to live on a farm. In adulthood I’ve mostly lived either “in town” – by which I mean in a suburb sort of setting in a small sized city, just outside of town (not in city limits but still relatively close to neighbors and only a mile and a half from the dreaded “Walmart plaza”) or, most recently, in a poor excuse for a “housing development” complete with an incompetent HOA and crazy neighbors, including one (still cursed BTW) bitch that threatened my cat and another that threw their trash out their front door to let it roll down the hill and into the ditch by my driveway. So, perhaps I’ve just “come home” and it is a matter of familiarity.
The other factor is the people. Having lived in a college and highly professionally transient community for over 20 years, I had become used to the “every person for himself/herself” mentality. I actually don’t even consider it a community. It is a place and that’s all. There just isn’t that connection there that makes it cohesive. In moving, I have rediscovered that connection. Yes, everyone knows what you do and probably what you actually do doesn’t match what they know because small towns are like that game of telephone…everything sounds different than reality by the time it works its way through the gossip chain. But, everyone also knows when you need a hand. And, more than that they actually give a shit. My neighbors are amazing and they make me feel safer than I ever felt even with houses 200 feet away from me.
Then there is the unavoidable immersion in it. The season, that is. When you live on a farm you really don’t have a choice to just stay inside. There are animals that absolutely need taken care of whether it is 50 degrees or 5 below. And, unfortunately, they need much more care when it is 5 below. So, even if some crazy storm happens to hit on a weekend (lucky) and I choose to not do anything else on a given awful day, I still have to at least twice that day make my way to the barn, feed, muck, check on the well-being of these animals in my care. There is NO CHOICE in this matter for me. And when there isn’t a choice I think that somehow, our minds deal with stuff better? Like that phrase we use: it is what it is… Well, it is fucking cold and miserable and it totally sucks and yes, you have to get out there in it and get some shit done so…on we go.
This also speaks to the mere fact that actually going outdoors IS in every way usually better than locking yourself in your house until whatever it is that is bothering you passes. When I breath the outside air (even if it stings my lungs from cold), and work with the land, care for those that depend on me (who happen to live outdoors) I’m somehow healed from that deeply troubling inability to cope with the season. Even if the healing is temporary, it spurs me on to the next day.
And as an observer of the natural world who is continually impressed by it, even as an adult, there is always something out there that will inevitably make me pause. It might be the snow and little whisker ice droplets on the black horse’s nose (so pretty), or his breath in the sunlight, the color of a blue jay against the snow, the seemingly endless optimism of the chickadees at the feeder, how fucking absolutely quiet it is on a clear, frigid night after a big snow, like the entire world is pausing before the next breath as if to acknowledge the sacredness of nature itself… I can’t get that by avoiding life outdoors in my most hated season.
As for winter and now, we did get another layer of snow last night so I woke up to a little white blanket on the Eve of Spring. But, the time is near for winter to pack bags and hit the highway. The robins are back and when I travel off the mountain to work there is a hint of green in the woods near our office. Until next year winter…I won’t miss you, so don’t worry about getting back on time.
I was discussing with some fabulous friends a few weeks ago magical attributes and other interesting things. One of the conversations veered toward the question of whether there are certain things that a witch is simply good at and others that the same witch might not be, no matter the amount of practice, study and number of attempts at said thing.
I believe that to be so - that is that some of us are inherently good at certain magical things just like some of us are gifted at music or math. Doesn't mean we don't have to practice those things we are good at - just means that our brains (and perhaps souls?) are more wired toward them as opposed to other things. I think it goes to practical things too. My brain is wired toward animals for instance. I understand them and feel comfortable with them. I am connected to them. Humans, not so much so.
The discussion did spark my thought process though - because yes, magically, there are things that I am good at and one of the things that I have been extremely good at, and have been even throughout childhood, is the art of blending.
Now, I'm not talking about outright disappearing, although sometimes it can seem that way to others and I've been told by others that they did not remember that I was present for certain things, events, etc. after said event, when, in fact, I was clearly there. This would not be so obvious a successful magical attribute to me (maybe I'm just forgettable?) except that I have practiced it since childhood and I have perfected it knowingly.
I remember as a kid making myself small and unnoticeable. I would do it in the classroom when I didn't want to be called upon. I would breath in a certain way and feel my body melting into the plastic chair below me, fading behind the kid in front of me… I would do it at home when I wanted to stay up past my bedtime. It was like adults would forget I was there. Sometimes it didn't work but most times it did. I'd just go inside myself somehow, think small, that I wasn't really there, and in some way…I wouldn’t be. I did it to combat boredom as well, to disappear from wherever I was being forced to be. I was a latchkey kid and I also went with my mom to various meetings she attended either professionally or on a personal level. Sooooo tedious. And, my mom’s rule was that children were to be seen and not heard in those circumstances and a not well behaved child was unacceptable. So, I was quiet and I would practice my blending. Everyone always complimented my mom on what a good kid I was and more than once they would say they actually “forgot I was even there” until I appeared beside her as we were leaving. I practiced blending when my dad was having one of his “spells” as well. I’d just sort of fade into myself for a day or more while the air was heavy and the house felt like egg shells under his moodiness.
Now, all of this could seem rather mundane I realize. There are tons of kids that hide from reality and retreat into their own little worlds. Childhood is a maze of emotions and learning and getting used to adults and their weird patterns and quirks. But, the thing is that I consciously practiced this and still do it to this day. It followed me through adolescence and into adulthood. I use it purposefully now and have verified it through outside sources many times. And although I wish I could perfect it to a point where I could actually snap my fingers and disappear, sometimes it is just as impactful to simply blend.
I had a prospective employer call my graduate program to verify references once. This person had been in the same program as me, only about five years earlier. He is not a blender. LOL meaning he always wants to be seen and was heavily involved in the department. He told me later he spoke to three professors and each one of them had to be prompted to remember me. Now, when they did, their references were glowing. Yes! They said – I remember her now – great student, very smart, made wonderful contributions to the discussion, how odd that I didn’t recollect having her in class until I really thought about it… I got the job, by the way, and when we spoke of it I said – oh, I blended a lot in college.
I just didn’t want to be bothered. By people, by the whole process of this class and that class and….well, mostly by people. I knew I had to make good grades to get through it – it was the same way I had approached school as a kid. I did what I needed to do to ensure that I made it through that portion of my life successfully and to save myself from the complete boredom of the educational process, I blended.
In my professional life I still blend. As much as I am able to that is. One of the annoying things that happened with what people consider “success” is that I’m not able to blend as much as I would like. I crave anonymity and am now unable to fully obtain it. I would venture to say that not being as obscure as I like to be has led to a greater magical life. Gillian is who I am. This other person is simply who I have to be sometimes. So, I blend whenever I can. I don’t schmooze. I professionally network more as a witch than as part of my “real” job. I just don’t care to mingle and rub elbows with “community leaders” and when I have to, I blend. Someone will say “oh, you WERE at that meeting” and I’ll think, yeah I was there. Blending. If I have something relevant to say, I’ll certainly say it, but…most times no one has anything relevant to say at these functions they are simply there to hear themselves talk. I’m sometimes amazed at how well I blend when others are quoted during discussions and I’m not, even though I was clearly a part of them. This isn’t a sexist thing and I’m not being ignored. I’m actively choosing what I say and at the same time practicing blending. I do it on purpose with the intent of not being a target. I’m creating the result, not a victim of it.
My ex used to call it the art of being completely forgettable, even though you are not. I guess that was a compliment? It doesn’t matter. It is one of the things I’m good at and I do work on it magically. We all have certain gifts and attributes. I guess my point is to look at what you do on a daily basis. What you think of as unimportant could very well be one of your best magical assets.