Methods & Muses Vol. 18
In North Carolina, Kelly writes a lyric about a Swallow as a lovers’ constant star.
Across the Atlantic, in her apartment in Germany, Athene hangs a mobile to “decorate and move the energy around her room.” Her mobile is paper Swallows.
Both of these rituals occur within a week of one another. The serendipity, the wonder that two of my friends are working with the same bird delights me. We are witches after all, we honor a creative practice.
I define a ritual as: an action to mark time, steer an emotion, establish a mood. Perhaps many of us consider rituals as reserved for holidays, rites of passage or ceremonies. Maybe we separate ritual from routine, but if we pay attention, I think we can regard certain moments within our routines as remarkable, worthy of being called rituals. For example, every morning, my husband brings a coffee to my desk (or to our bed, if it’s cold outside). He respects that I hear poems first thing in the morning, so this is an act of art-love for which I am grateful, and truth be told, he makes better coffee than I do.
By the end of February, my mood can tilt toward sad. Tired of the cold and gray skies, I crave warmth and color. At the first snow of winter, I welcome this season. I love how snow makes everything and everyone quiet. For the Wisconsin-born part of me, this algins, but the partially-raised-in-the-South, Floridian-within shakes her head as the cold season drags.
For awhile, I fought February. I’d hunker down grumpy, or I’d take my frozen butt to the sunny state. Now, as I’ve spent years in Northern climes, I’ve learned how to counter Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms with certain rituals. I wear bright sweaters, light candles, sip Earl Gray, eat spicy food. I stretch, dance, hike in the woods–anything to raise my serotonin levels. I also draw with color pencils or make collages with bright paper and fabric, and this year, I did something else, I added a new, fun ritual…
I bought pants.
For my lovely British reader-friends, I don’t mean under garments. While sprucing up my panty drawer might be a good idea too, I mean trousers, dungarees, and in this case, corduroys– specifically, one pair of burnt orange, with tapered legs and another pair of rose pink, baggy overalls.
I have always loved pants. Growing up with two brothers in rural Wisconsin, pants were not only practical (for climbing trees, riding my bike) but also comforting. I felt equal to my brothers, stronger in pants. I still remember my favorites:
1. chocolate-brown bell bottoms with splashy yellow, orange and pink hippie flowers
2. lavender Oshkosh B’gosh painter pants with the handy pockets for art supplies
3. rust corduroys–Yes, I’m repeating history with my recent purchase. Yes, I thought Paul Simon’s lyric was “You don’t need to be corduroy. Just get yourself free.” It didn’t make sense, but I didn’t care, he was singing about one of my favorite fabrics.
4. Jordache jeans– dark, shiny denim, butter-yellow stitching, swirls on the pockets
5. Levi’s 501 Silver Tabs–soft, faded denim, sexy-comfy button fly
Each pair of pants had a color and a texture that worked like kinesthetic therapy to sparkle my mood, and I’m not the only person who uses clothes for a mood lift.
Years ago, when I worked at Pyramid Atlantic Arts Center, I complimented a colleague whose clothing and hair styles I admired. She thanked me and said, “I take my time choosing my outfit and doing my hair. I think of it as an opportunity to be creative.” I loved her statement, it stuck with me.
I love the Christmas carol “Deck the Halls,” because it sings about donning our gay apparel and the haiku by Fukuda Chiyo-ni because it speaks to the ritual of getting dressed in a most mystic way:
Don’t dress for it
The moon will transfigure
those darling rags
And I love how my friends have practiced non-clothing related rituals too…
On New Year’s Eve, Melissa gathered the women in her belly dancing troupe for a backyard fire. She said, “A massive fog rolled in, so it was just all these fireworks that you could hear, you could see them as blurs of color.... and then our fire and smoke! It literally looked like the fog was stopping at our fence and creating a shield.”
Sarah greeted the year with a specific act to encourage the old months to exit and invite the new months to enter – she opened her front door. Something special happened. “At midnight,” she said, “I opened my door, and as I stood there looking out, a fox appeared.”
Nicholas practices his rituals best in the kitchen. He says things like, “It’s going to snow this weekend, and I plan to bake.” This holiday season, he inherited an heirloom recipe for molasses spice cookies. I didn’t see it, but imagine it was in his great grandmother’s handwriting. My grandmother always had a plate of molasses cookies on her table, so I can’t wait for a taste!
Alicia is a Sewist who crafts gorgeous blouses, jackets, skirts and dresses from her home studio in Wisconsin. She and I have known each other since we were five. We wore matching bunny suits for ballet recitals, poured over issues of Seventeen magazine fantasizing about outfits, and she was my partner-in-crime when we made a special trip to the mall to buy our first pairs of designer jeans—hers were either Sassoon or Gitano, either way, they had the cutest pleats.
Recently, Alicia wanted to make a warm pair of pants for winter, and she wanted a special color– “one that wasn’t straightforward, a color that you’d have to dig into the “color weeds” to find,” so she chose a combo, “part rose, part rust.”
Yes, as I was ordering my pants, Alicia was making hers, both of us channeling similar autumnal colors and a practical, cozy fabric. Voila! Witches unite!
I’ll close with some gratitude and good art news:,
Thank you, Jill, Jen and Joan at Rogue Agent for publishing my poem “Alligator, Sleep” in your fine journal.
I’ll announce the publication dates of my poem, “At Flatwoods Park, Florida, 1995” from Swamp Ape Review and my chapbook, Grant Me the Tooth, from Porkbelly Press in my next issue. Stay tuned, please!
Lastly, Benjamin and I will soon be feeding our art with a big ol’ dose of the road. We are heading West, to the Midwest specifically, back home to try living in Wisconsin for a year. I am excited to be reunited with my brother, Matthew, my extended family, childhood friends and land that I love – land of Aldo Leopold, sand cranes, geese, whippoorwills, red-wing black birds, white-tail deer, bears, wolves, sandstone bluffs, glacial lakes, long, rolling hills… home.
Reader-friends, may you hug your daily moments and find your own uplifting rituals.
Thank you and see you next month!