Sometimes I imagine that when I am an old woman, I’ll live somewhere deep in the woods in a wooly yurt, or a cottage hidden away behind a hedge of brambles. I’ll cook nettle soup and knit socks from wool the small flock of sheep I keep produces. I’ll wake with the sun and go to sleep with the moon, and the only show I will need to watch will be the setting of the sun, and the rising of the stars each night, all those pinwheeling constellations making me dizzy with both their distance and their proximity.
November does this to my soul, this gun metal grey month that produces some of the loveliest sunsets imaginable here in my Northern home. Tonight I was walking home and saw Orion’s blood red shoulder come up over the horizon. I love the winter sky, for some reason those constellations feel like my celestial home.
I don’t know if it’s my age— my children are leaving home one by one, but I feel especially fragile these days. I feel that way about the world too, about trees and the land and seas and all the flora and fauna that inhabit those places, including ourselves. Things that I once took for granted I no longer do, a flock of geese flying overhead late this afternoon, made me stop and just watch until they flew out of sight. They will be back in the spring, and yet there was something about them, about the mere sight of them flying in their slightly lopsided ‘v’ that made my throat tight, that made my chest ache, because I worry that some day they will not come home, because they simply will no longer be. I feel porous, and I feel like the wild world around us is porous too, permeable, hollowed out, penetrated, used up, tired.
Sometimes I think we’re all like beautiful vases, we start out whole, and as life progresses we get cracks in our porcelain, our souls, sometimes, through grief, large chunks might be taken out never to return, leaving us less than whole. The Japanese believe the flawed vessel is more beautiful, and they mend the cracks with precious materials- gold, silver… Of late, with all the madness in the world, I feel as though my cracks aren’t patched with anything solid, like clay or gold, but rather like some celestial thumb has patched them with a swipe of stardust.
There are blessings that come with this though, I’m more comfortable in my skin than I’ve ever been, perhaps because it’s looser, a bit worn, like a pair of jeans you’ve had for years that are soft and wrinkled and pure comfort. There is a strange freedom in becoming porous.
I don’t kid myself about the romance of living like a crone in the forest, because I did live that way for some time as a child—in a two room cabin, without running water, without electricity, without a telephone. I know it’s hard work, sometimes all day, every day. It tells on the body. I like my creature comforts and to this day I don’t take for granted the hot and cold water that gushes from my taps. I’ve spent too many winter afternoons chopping holes in ice, with pant legs frozen to my knees, to ever take water for granted.
I find myself missing those days lately though, maybe it is part of wanting to live more deeply in my roots, to live with the land, rather than on it. As hard as living that way was at times, it also gifted me a variety of things, not the least of which are a handful of those still interior images we all carry with us through life, moments that feed our soul, as bread feeds our body. A harvest moon rising, trembling and luminous, cold-forged from dark autumn waters, a pack of wolves, smoke-blue in the twilight moving out onto the ice where I skated on those same waters that held the moon, rough-haired bears that lurked on the edges of the pine and fir-laden forest where we lived. The scream of a cougar running like a needle down my spine. The feel of snow dropped from an evergreen bough onto bare skin. In short, life at its roots. Life lived soul-centrically, because nature knows no other way.
Like so many of us, I am tired. I am tired of the cult of greed, I am tired of how badly we have treated the earth and how short-sighted it is of us. I am tired of feeling like all the things I do to try and change my own ways— recycling, paying attention to water usage, only having one car, using solar panels, planting our own food, etc feels like such a futile drop in a vast ocean of the abuse that is heaped on our planet, the only home we have. Perhaps this is why I seek the crone, so that I might one day become her, and find that cottage in the woods that lives in the heart of each of us, where firelight dances on the walls and there are still cougars to pad upon the silver snow outside our door. The door that the November woman opens, the door that leads underground, where lives earthen knowledge and root wisdom. Where we live with the land, rather than on it.
And so I turn, as I always do, to my own roots, that of storytelling and myth, the gateway from this world to that dark forest, where adventures and soul-centric work is to be found. It is never an easy process, ‘because it is the holding and honoring of a visible thread of energy whose roots are in the invisible world.’*
I am all right, as it turns out, with my cracks, like the Japanese I understand it is the cracks that make life more beautiful. I’m fine with cracks patched with stardust. I will seek the crone until I become her.
*This is a quote from the very wise Martin Shaw, to be found his book ‘The Lightning Branch’.