First Rays

This year’s solstice was amazing! I watched the first sunrise of the new solar year over the ocean!

burn 2017This was something I had been wanting to do for years but it never happened for lots of reasons, like money, other people’s interest level, and my own motivation to make it happen.  This year, however, I wanted it bad enough to declare that I was doing it even if I had to drive up by myself and sleep in my car. Someone who cares about me paid for everything as a Yule gift, because even though I’m working I’m not in a good financial place yet.

I had to work Thursday, December 21st until 7 pm, which was several hours after sunset.  That presented a little bit of a problem, but I was able to take a short break around 5:30 pm (thank the Kitty Goddess for work at home jobs!) to light last year on fire in my ritual area.  I lit a yellow candle with the last of the sparks of 2017.20171221_171710_Film4

As soon as work was done I gathered my things, made the candle as safe as possible in the car and started the 5-hour drive to the coast.

It was a long drive.  We talked as much as we could, we listened to some of Terry Pratchett’s “Hogfather”.  The first few hours were ok, but on the dark, empty country roads around 1 a.m, the night started to feel pretty creepy.  We were definitely in the slasher movie zone.  That neon red smiling “Piggly Wiggly” sign is not a friendly sight on Darkest Night in “I don’t remember where” South Carolina.

Once back on the highway everything took on a real dreamlike feel, good thing I wasn’t the one driving. Thankfully we made it to the hotel around 2 am. As soon as I opened the car door I could hear the ocean, but not see it. The air felt more humid and smelled of the sea. The plan had been to set up most things in the hotel room and only go down to the beach for the sunrise.  Oddly enough, no one was in the lobby, so we couldn’t check into our room. Plans change.

We took ourselves and the magical sun holding candle to waffle house for about an hour.  I ate hash browns covered in cheese and sang pop songs,  maybe this should be a new dark night tradition.  After that we drove around the old fancy parts of Charlson, the only car around, looking at the gaslights, French accents and the tastefully extravagant Christmas decorations on the ridiculously expensive mansions.

Dark beachAround 4 am we went back to the beach, parked in the garage under the hotel we were booked at, the only one on Island of Palms.  I changed into my ritual dress in the parking garage, got all the ritual supplies, mixed rum with a nice wassel from Trader Joe’s and made it to the beach a little before 5 am.  Which was barely on time surprisingly, given that sunrise was at 7:18 am.  The sky was totally dark to the east as I started to set up, but within minutes of getting there, I could see it lightning to grays and pinks.


I did most of the same general ritual steps I would use at home, but this was very different from previous years.  My normal Yule crew of the last 7 years or so wasn’t with me for one.  Erik, who normally does a runic divination for us and runs the bloat, which is the  “boast, oath and toast” part had moved to Massachusetts last spring,

So this year I read the tarot cards instead, just for me.  It was a quick reading and I didn’t get much out of it, but maybe I need to take some time to explore the reading further.  Lori wasn’t there because she was celebrating her anniversary of her secret wedding.  The other person who had been there for every Yule for the last 10 years isn’t part of my world anymore.  It didn’t make sense to invite anyone else this year.

It was just me and someone who is new to my life as of about 10 months ago, and who had never done Yule or maybe any pagan ritual.  Mostly he watched and took amazing pictures, but he joined in some.

We did boasts.  I’m proud of myself for how I managed to deal with the extremely bad injury that I suffered in March, damaging 3 tendons in my left leg and breaking two bones.  My friends were there for me and helped where they could, but mostly I did it on my own.  I learned to live alone, sleep alone, do my grocery shopping alone and function as an independent adult while in a wheelchair and on crutches. It was maybe the hardest, most badass thing I have ever done.  I’m down to just a brace now when I go out and I can deal with the pain.

We did oaths.  Going from running three times a week to being unable to even walk without assistance, plus the depression that I have been dealing with has meant I’ve gained almost 20 lbs in 9 months.  That is not good for my recovery, the extra weight is hard on my tendons.  And it’s not good for me emotionally.  I started losing the weight for a bad reason, to deal with an emotional trauma, but by the time I was running it was about me. About being strong, about owning my body, about pushing myself.  I’m probably never going to run again unless I’m being chased by something that wants to eat me, but that doesn’t mean I have to give up being strong, fit and happy in my body.  My oath was to get back down to the weight I was the day I broke my leg, 154 lbs.

We did toasts.  I toasted my companion.  10 months ago we were strangers.  Two weeks after our first date I broke my leg.  He has gotten to know me at probably the lowest point in my life, and yet he had been the most amazing friend I could ask for.  He has seen me at my very worst and chooses to stay.  It’s been an emotionally awakening to be around someone that good.

We drank, at each phase.  And maybe I drank between phases.

As the sky turned pink, I wrote down things I wanted to give up on tissue paper and watched them burn before hitting the sand.   Drank a little for the passing of each of those.

I was silly excited as the sky lightened to almost daylight brightness but the clock said we were still 10 minutes from sunrise.

I was holding my breath, staring at the lighted area when in the time it takes to blink,  the sun was reborn.  Seeing that tiny, beautiful dark orange, burning sliver of life peeking over the water brought tears to my eyes, and not just because I dumb enough to stare at the sun.  That moment felt exactly the way I had imagine it would for all of these years.  The stress of planning it, the mad dash after work, the drive, the cold, the pain of my leg walking up to the beach, it was all worth it.  Maybe everything else was too, everything that finally brought me to this place, on this morning, for this miraculous moment.

I always joke about protecting the spark on the darkest night and bringing it back like to my friends on Facebook, and they said thank you. This year’s was the same in that regard. What was different was a stranger who was staying in the hotel saw what I was doing and came down at the end and told me it made her happy. I have always felt like I’m doing something, connecting to something on Yule night.   I know, of course, I don’t bring back the sun, but pretending I do gives me a nice easy goal to accomplish every year because I know that the sun will rise with or without me, that the earth turns whether I’m alive on it or not.  This last year, there were so many times when I almost wasn’t anymore.  There were so many moments when I didn’t want to feel any more pain when things were just too fucking hard.  There were so many days when I was just too damaged, hurting too much and so very alone.  There were so many days when I thought the darkness was going to last forever, but even the longest night has a dawn.  I’m so glad I got to see this one.

I lit three candles repenting virtues I want to focus on this year.    We did “maybe you never hunger” eating the cookies I made and sacrificing others.  We did “may you never thirst” drinking some more spicy, applish rum drink and pour some out for lots of reasons. I sat in the new light, unfiltered by houses, trees, other people and started my new planner for 2018. I swam in the ocean in late December and worked on my tan.

I felt happy, productive and a little tipsy. I get a lot done before lunchtime some days.  Which was a fabulous place btw, but restaurant reviews are a different post.




I made sure that the sun was reborn this year. A bright, beautiful one. Hopefully a good one.  You’re welcome. Most of these photos were taken by and belong to P. Travis.

Prediction and Intention

Tonight is the longest night of the year. It is our tradition to keep vigil all night over an open fire or a candle if rain makes a fire impossible. It’s a night for looking back at the year behind us and forward to the one ahead. Yule is a time for divination.

Every year our friend who practices Norse paganism does rune readings; a 13 rune reading for the community and smaller individual reading for anyone who desires one. In my personal reading he pulled three runes; Uruz, Berkana and Yr.

uruzBerkanaYrMy query or concern doesn’t fit easily into a single question. It was more of a general musing about my character. I use the needs or wants of others as an excuse to not expose myself to failure or leave my comfort zone. I keep detailed lists of all the tasks I should do every day. Some of the tasks are related to the cleaning and upkeep of my home, some are related to the care of my animals or the other people in my life, some are monetary, some deal with my own physical health, some with mental health, others with my creative pursuits, and some are even leisure. I have found that I choose which tasks based on a few criteria. I almost always do things that affect others before those that just affect me and I almost always choose physical tasks over artistic or intellectual ones. Once I get to tasks that are just for me, I choose the ones that don’t require the participation of others to be successful.

I do all the cleaning and animal care before anything else. I would dig in my garden before I would color if I had free time. I would choose to read before I would choose to write. I will do pretty much anything before trying to make money.

Let me clarify something, I am not some great and loving saint that puts the needs of everyone before myself. I’m not an abused, taken-advantage-of martyr. I’m not compelled to do for others. I do it because other people needing me feels good, taking care of people’s emotions is easy, and hanging out and working on projects is fun. It’s not that I don’t have time for myself, it’s that I don’t take the time that I have.

This system has assured that I almost never have to do the things that are hard or scary. I seldom get to either writing or doing telephone companion work. I almost never do what I call “writing business,” which is searching for markets, submitting my work, editing, networking, or blogging. When I am efficient enough in a day to get to the “writing business” part of my list, I drag my feet and I will abandon it if any other activity presents itself.

The runes my friend pulled tell me what I already know, but can’t seem to put into practice. I have to stop running away from things that are hard. Only through strength and focus can I achieve success and bring my dreams into reality. I want to be a successful writer, I want to make money, pay debts, and buy a big piece of land someplace. However, I want these things in a fuzzy future sort of way, whereas I want all the dishes to be washed now. The dishes are all washed and put away everyday. I know I will wash the dishes tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, because I “know” this, it is always true. I want to “know” that I will write everyday. I want to “know” that I will publish a few things a year, that I will network and keep up with my blog. I have to put these tasks on the top of my lists, and I have to make myself do them everyday for weeks, months. I have to remind myself that I can build the habit of writing into a thing I “know” will happen everyday, just like I did for all these other tasks.

All Hallows Read

A few years ago Neil Gaiman came up with the idea of giving away scary stories at Halloween. I wanted to write a new story, but it is turning out to be a tough one so there is very little chance I will have it live by tomorrow. So I have lowered the price of my book from $2.99 to $.99. Yes, I know that is not free, but that is as low as Amazon will let me go. So think of it like this – you buy one story I will give you 4 free. :-/ And at this price point I get so little that unless there was a miracle and 500 copies sold I would not keep any of it, all the money would end up going to local art, music and theater.

Here is a link to Gaiman’s explanation of all hallows read and info about the story he is giving away:

I love the idea of giving away stories this time of year for lots of reason.

One of them is trick and treat.  As kids we got to go around and get candy.  It was a little scary and fun all at the same time.  With the other people wearing costumes, all the decorations and often walking around after dark the world was a alien place.  Walking from shadow to light as you went from house to house leaves a special memory in my mind.   I remember at first running to get out of the dark areas quicker, because that is where the monsters were hiding in wait for me.   Then after a while, lingering in those dark spots, no less frightened but now also intrigued, curious.  I wanted to see the horrors that hid behind decorative hedges and old tool sheds.

Another is community.  Up until this point most of the people who have read my stories are people I know, but most of the stories I have read are by people I don’t know.   It is like a web, connecting me to all the authors of all the stories I have ever read.  Also to you, who are reading these words now.  We are not community in the sense of sitting down to dinner together or helping each other raise a barn.  But we are community in other ways.  Maybe you love fantasy or horror, maybe you like to homestead.  For some reason you are reading this so we likely have something in common. I want to be able to gift my stories to you, in this sense of community.

I guess the last is a more complex and does not have an easy single word to describe it.  As a writer I want people to read my work.  I want to get paid for it to, but that is secondary to wanting it read.   I want my words in your eyes, my ideas in your brain.  I want you to see something like what I saw when I wrote the stories, but colored by your experiences and feelings.

So go here:

And here for the PDF version:Treacherous Nature PDF

Pick up my book, read it, tell me what you think.  Or don’t, it is just there if you want it.  The price goes back to $2.99 next week.


Coyote and the Special Day

One day Coyote went out to visit his friend Anansi.  I say friend today, because Coyote was in a friendly mood and he hoped Anansi was too.   You see, sometimes they are enemies, because that is how it is when people are too much alike.   You will know what I mean if you ever fall in love with the perfect girl, one who thinks like you, likes the things you like, sings the songs you sing.   For a time you will be very happy, and then one day you will be very sad.  Looking at your reflection all the time is dangerous, because either you fall in and drown like the beautiful boy at the stream, or you look so hard you find all the flaws that you never knew you had.

Coyote was going to see Anansi today because he was bored.   All of the people had gotten too easy to trick and set against each other.   Everyone believed even the craziest stories he could tell.  For a while that was funny, but now they had gotten better at tricking themselves than he was.   This made Coyote feel bad, because they did not appreciate or fear him anymore.  Even Coyote has limits on what he will do, but lately the people did not.

Anansi was hard to trick.  That is not to say that that he could never be tricked.  It had happened before; you know the story of how Coyote got all of Anansi’s legs stuck up on a sticky gum baby.  Anansi  got free eventually, but Coyote had a good laugh watching him fight a doll.   Coyote laughed out loud just thinking about it.

When Coyote got to Anansi’s house he let himself in because the door was unlocked.   This was a good idea because if Anansi was home, then they could talk, but if he was not, then Coyote could help himself to Anansi’s wife’s good cooking.   Either way Coyote wins.  Coyote liked to win and hated to lose.   But he would rather lose then not play any game at all.

He walked around Anansi’s dark house for a few minutes before he found Anansi hanging from a big web near the fire place.  The room was warm and comfortable, filled with Anansi’s treasures, but Anansi looked sad.  He sighed and moaned as Coyote gave his greetings.   Coyote did not want to listen to his troubles, but maybe if he could figure out what was wrong with Anansi, then he could fix it quickly so they could have fun.  Or maybe he could make it worse and then just Coyote could have fun.

“Anansi, why do you sigh and moan?  Why do you hang there, looking so sad when we could be having fun?”  said Coyote.

“Fun? I can’t have fun today, Coyote, I have to think.  I have been tricked, and I have to find a way to get out of this mess. “ said Anansi.

“Tricked!  But I have not been around to see you in weeks, who could have tricked you, if not me?” Coyote asked.

“I don’t even know who did it, Coyote.  My wife is mad at me, and she did not make me breakfast this morning. I am sore hungry, and with my stomach empty, I can hardly think.  And if I don’t figure out a way to make her happy, I will have no dinner either.  But I don’t know why she is mad.  She says I forgot and that I don’t love her.   But I don’t even remember what I forgot.  Can you help me?” he asked.

Now, Coyote thought about seeing if he could stir up more trouble.  Anansi’s wife was a pretty woman and a fine cook.  She was normally kind and easy to live with.  If Coyote could make more trouble, then maybe he could find a way to have her for himself.   But he did not think that way for long.  He had never seen Anansi so sad.  Anansi looked almost sad enough to die, and without Anansi around, Coyote would be bored, even if he did have all the sticky honey bread he could eat.   So he decided to help Anansi.

He talked Anansi into coming down out of his web and looking like a man.  Anansi was a handsome man, with a bald head and skin as black as a spider.  His suit was as gray and soft as a spider web.  All the ladies liked Anansi, because he was as good at talking as he was handsome.   With Coyote’s help he should be able to talk his wife into coming home and making his dinner.

So they went out into the world.  First they went to the café near where Anansi lived, where all the people tell his tales.  The men who sit there every day looked either as sad Anansi, or as angry as wild pigs.  Coyote hurried Anansi out before he could talk to any of them.  Putting him with these people would have made Anansi’s sadness worse. Or made him angry, in which case he might try to get even with his wife.  If there was one person who could outsmart Anansi every time, it was his wife.

So then Coyote decided to take Anansi to the big market, to see if they could find out what was going on.  When they got there everything was decorated in pink, red and white.  There were displays in the windows of roses, heart-shaped jewelry, and big boxes of candy.  It was then that Coyote started to figure out what was going on.

Coyote walked up to a girl sitting by herself looking as sad as Anansi.

“Why are you so sad, girl?” asked Coyote.

The girl looked up at Coyote, who while not as smooth, polished, and professional-looking as Anansi, was still a handsome man, if a bit wild, and said “My boyfriend did not give me a present today, and now I don’t have a boyfriend anymore.”

Oh, it was hard for Coyote to keep to the task at hand then.  A boy and a girl newly broken up could have been lots of entertainment.  People in that state are easy to confuse and agitate.  He could have had them lost in the woods and proclaiming love to a possum before morning.  Or he could have wooed her for himself.

“What is special about today?” asked Coyote.

“Why, you crazy man.  Today is Valentine’s Day.  Today is the day when my boyfriend has to give me something nice and tell me how much he loves me” said the girl.

“Let me get this straight. You had a boyfriend? Were you happy?” asked Coyote.

“Yeah, I guess so” said the girl.

“Was he nice? He treat you ok?” Coyote asked, everything failing into place.

“Well yes, except forgetting Valentine’s Day “ said the girl, near to tears.

Coyote talked to a few more people, and then went back to Anansi and said “We are in trouble. The people have made a good trick.  They have figured out a way to make everyone think that the love they have in their lives is not the right sort of love.  They have the women all worked up and excited, telling them stories about the perfect man, and then they have a day where the men are all supposed to prove they are that man.  But they can’t, because that man is a story.  So the men go spend lots of money they don’t have, buying things no one needs, and then lots of them still get in trouble with their ladies anyway. When the trick works right, they end up with no money or lady, and the women end up all alone.  Your problem is your wife has been tricked.   But don’t worry, I have a plan.”

Coyote was mad, and he planned to figure out who was behind this.   But right now was not the time.  He had to get Anansi home and get his wife to feed him.   Later they could work together to figure out who was to blame.

So Anansi and Coyote got all the supplies they needed and then went back to Anansi’s house.   Then Coyote went to find Anansi’s wife and bring her home, saying it was an emergency.  She figured that Anansi had gotten stuck in a gourd again or some such thing. So she came hurrying home, because even though she had been tricked, she still loved him.  When she got to the house the whole pathway to the door was covered with rose petals,  and Anansi was hanging from above the door in spider form.   When she got up to him she found that in each of his hands he held a present.  There was a box of chocolate, a shiny necklace, a stuffed bear, a bottle of wine, a new hat, a jar of expensive lotion, a glass rose and a new cooking pot.

The cooking pot was Coyote’s idea.

Coyote knew there was nothing he could do right now to get even with whoever was behind all this.  And it felt wrong somehow for everyone to be tricked without Coyote being a part of it.  So he decided to go see if he could help a few break-ups happen, and maybe find a few pretty girls looking for a Perfect Man.

Image by Andy Panda