Six Years

kellydjkissToday, I have been married for six years.

This surprises people. We married young by today’s standards—I was only 23, and he, 24.

Since then we’ve switched jobs multiple times, lost our first German shepherd to kidney disease, adopted another shepherd, bought a house, gone on many, many hikes, gotten into our fair share of disagreements and fights, and spent almost every night cuddled together in bed.

Our partnership confuses people. It started with the “wedding,” which was really a Wiccan handfasting. We held it in my favorite park, and stood in the center of a circle of our closest friends and family while we said our vows and our designated priestess and priest tied our hands together with ribbon and we jumped over a broomstick (traditionally meant to bring fertility, but we modern Witches interpret “fertility” in a number of ways, not just the “get preggo and have lots of children” way).

We wrote our own ceremony, based on a version of the handfasting ritual in Janet and Stewart Farrar’s Witches Bible, and we used a self-uniting marriage license to make our partnership official in the government’s eyes.

My partner is not Wiccan, or even Pagan, but he recognizes the power of ritual, and that ritual is important to me. We didn’t want a big, fancy wedding with an expensive reception and top 100 pop hits. We didn’t want some person with power vested in him or her by some church or some state. We wanted something that had meaning to us. Something that expressed in action and words the commitment we had already made to each other, and the responsibility we accepted for each other, our furry “children,” and our partnership.

Fun was also a requirement at our handfasting.

Fun was also a requirement at our handfasting. These ladies know how to bring it.

We discussed hyphenating our last names, but ultimately decided we would leave our names intact, the way they’d always been. Of course, people assume that Thomas is my married name if they meet me first, and that my husband’s last name is my last name if they meet him first. We get mail addressed to us in all manner of last name combinations.

But what people call us and what people think of us doesn’t matter so much. It doesn’t change who we are or how we work together. The thing that matters is that we have found, in each other, true partners. We split the housework, each of us doing more or less depending on how the other feels. We work together to solve problems and come up with solutions. We reassure each other when fears and doubts surface. We love each other.

We chose Midsummer, the Summer Solstice, as the day of our handfasting because it is the longest day of the year. The sun shines at his brightest and strongest, and we hope for and work for a long, vibrant life together.

Six is a lucky number. It’s a strong, powerful number. And our sixth year together was wonderful and magical in its own way, even though we faced challenges and hardships—that’s life, right?

As we begin our seventh year as life partners, I am thankful for what we have had and what is still to come. Whatever happens, we will meet it head on, the way we always do: as partners.

Winter blessing Spring

The snow melts slowly over the candle flame, first compacting into slush and then pooling at the bottom of the mason jar. Sakura-scented incense smoke rises and curls above the altar as I hum a chant, my prayer to spring.

When the snow transforms completely to water, I begin the work of planting seeds for my garden—my first garden in my first house. A slight breeze finds its way to me through the open window, along with the sounds of children riding scooters up and down the street, calling out to each other, laughing.

I fill each egg carton cell with soil and carefully place each seed. Tomato, eggplant, celery, radish, turnip, beets, fennel, sugar snap peas, parsley, mint, dill, thyme, basil, lavender, sunflowers, coneflower.

Some of these—tomato, eggplant, peas, the herbs—I have grown before, and others are new to me. I have been reading book after book on gardening and growing food, but I learn best through experience, through working the soil loose with my hands and watching leaves and flowers unfurl.

For a final blessing I sprinkle each cell with a few drops of the melted snow–a promise for renewal, for growth. I place each egg carton in recycled plastic containers and set them on my windowsill. With dirty fingers and a happy heart, I snuff out the candle and offer thanks to the earth, to the sun, for the gift of seasons, of change, of new beginnings.

The magic and metafiction of “The Witch of Portobello”

In order to fully discuss this novel, I’ve revealed certain things about the ending that you may not want to know if you’re planning on reading The Witch of Portobello—if so, I suggest you skip this entry.

As a modern Pagan, it’s absolutely wonderful to see a writer treating magic and the “supernatural” in such a…natural way.  Paulo Coelho’s The Witch of Portobello speaks frankly about magic and its place in the world, and more importantly, accepts it.

The Witch Athena may be a troubled character, but her struggles and her art resonated deeply with me.  To find a character that I could relate to on a spiritual level, well, that doesn’t happen very often, and this is a book I’ll come back to because of that.

One line in particular hit me right in the gut, both because like the character speaking, I am a Witch, and because I am a writer as well, and it applies to both crafts.

“I’ve always forged my path with blood, tears and willpower, but last night, I realized I was going about it the wrong way. My dream doesn’t require that of me. I have only to surrender myself to it, and if I find I’m suffering, grit my teeth, because the suffering will pass” (210).

Sometimes writing is the hardest thing in the world, and sometimes being a Witch in a Christian country is the hardest thing in the world, but this will always remind me that without suffering, we cannot appreciate joy.

Aside from the very spiritual experience reading the book brings, Coelho (recognized as a master) does some interesting things with craft that interest me as a writer and as a lover of metafiction.

The structure of Witch naturally lends itself to metafiction, and is rather Don Quixote-esque.  In the first paragraph of the novel, the speaker (who remains un-introduced until the end) draws attention to the structure. He says, “I soon abandoned the idea of writing a straight biography and decided the best approach would be simply to transcribe what people had told me” (1).

From that point on, the narrative dances back and forth between many different speakers, each speaker separated by a sub-head with his or her name.  The side effect of such an obvious structure that calls attention to itself with each change in speaker is that the reader has to think about it—why is this person speaking here? What is the point of this section here?

That sort of thinking does add to the story, because readers enjoy putting puzzles together, and the disparate voices of the narrative create a puzzle that slowly comes together as the book progresses.

But the real reason the metafictional aspects of this novel are a side effect of the structure is that I don’t believe Coelho set out to write a novel that comments on its structure the way The Witch of Portobello does.

I do, however, believe that Witch could not have been written with a traditional narrative structure.  In order to tell the story the way it needed to be told, Coelho needed all those different voices, and the reader needs to know who’s speaking immediately.

Athena is a character who inspires love and hate in equal measures among those who know her.  Many of the characters that surround her state their relationship to her outright, which colors the reading of that character’s sections.

Perspective is integral to the narrative, because all are speaking to the narrator (although the effect is that they are speaking directly to the reader, as the narrator is present only in the beginning and end) after the death of Athena—another thing that colors the text.

Because of those two things, a traditional third person narrative with an omniscient third-person narrator simply would not work to tell the story as Coelho tells it.

Another reason the metafiction is incidental is that the narrator, which turns out to be Athena’s boyfriend in Scotland Yard, pops up to explain the structure, and then pops up at the end to give the reader closure—he isn’t present anywhere else in the story, except as a sort of mythic figure that we aren’t even sure exists.  He’s kind of there, and not important at all to the story.

I wish Coelho could have come up with a better frame for this novel, because the “murder” of Athena (which the boyfriend reveals is a farce so that Athena can disappear quietly) falls flat for me.  I felt tricked by this revelation (as we’re told in the beginning Athena is murdered), and I don’t like to be tricked, not unless the reveal is damn good.

This one isn’t, in my opinion.  It cheapens the emotional experiences of all the characters—and worse, the reader.  After the novel’s epic events, we find out that our heroine winds up living a peaceful life.  She’s essentially been put out to pasture.  I say better for her to actually be brutally murdered, because then she becomes a sort of martyr, which in this case would have been incredibly powerful.

Regardless, The Witch of Portobello is an incredible work, and one I recommend to all, especially Pagans.

This post originally appeared on my now-defunct metafiction blog, The Narrative in the Blog, on February 22, 2010.