The Erie Pathway

Photo by Prokhor Minin

Monday night, a few things happened:

  • New Moon
  • Another International Space Station pass
  • The Tau Herculids meteor shower

My stepdad and I watched the ISS pass together on the front lawn. It’s really something special to see — and beautiful, like a star floating through my human view of the cosmos.

For the Tau Herculids, I drove to Lake Erie with a blanket and sat by myself watching for any movement in the sky. I didn’t see any massive meteors like I did a couple of years ago during a rare cloudless Michigan Perseid show, but thanks to the New Moon, I was able to catch a few of them. Regardless of size, they never fail to leave me in awe and inspiration.

Taken at Showse Park on the night of the eclipse. There is a lake there I promise!

Just a couple of weeks ago, I got to witness another astronomical wonder in the form of a total lunar eclipse on a full moon night. I had driven out to Lake Erie just to be near the water for a while. I did a bit of ritual work and made some offerings — things maybe she has never seen before, or recently. A couple of stones from her sister, Lake Michigan, an assortment of herbs, and I meant to leave her a feather from my collection, but there were a lot of people there and not much wind. It was the most still I have ever seen Lake Erie, actually. Despite that stillness, she seemed moody to me. I didn’t mind at all. I vowed to bring the feather back another day.

Monday night, as I visited the same place hoping for a meteor sighting, the wind seemed to pick up significantly, and I released the promised feather along with a lot of love onto her slightly more turbulent waters.

Monday night to Tuesday morning as I slept, I dreamed I was free-diving deep underwater. I was following another being, although I can’t remember who or what — they were a vague but familiar shape, almost like a raindrop but not quite a whale. We were looking for something (I don’t know what… a treasure maybe?), and the tone was rather playful and joyful. But eventually, I began to feel the panic of having held in a breath for too long, and I remembered that exhaling can help relieve that feeling. In doing so, I accidentally inhaled a little immediately afterward & found that I could take in a bit of oxygen. I was too afraid to take a big breath and so I made my way to the surface where I woke up in my own bed. I would like to think that I was swimming with Erie herself!

I think about all that she has been through since we modern humans burst onto the scene. Of all the five sisters, Lake Erie has been the most exploited by industry. Attempts at her ruination have been so severe, she has inspired laws offering her personhood. As you follow the coastline where I live, you can witness for yourself the impacts of that exploitation. Her shores teeter back and forth between shabby apartments, luxury homes, and industry all in a few short miles. For me, it’s a very strange mixture to see. Each area provides a decidedly alien feeling from the next.

Photo by Joel Naren on Unsplash

It happens way too frequently that we, as humans, impose ourselves on our environment without consideration of the ways we affect it, and then we seek to blame that place for the problem. We do it all the time when we refer to a place as a shithole, or a dump, or what-have-you. But it isn’t the fault of the land, is it?

Despite all that has built up and torn down all around her, and the pollutants she has been exposed to, Erie is lovely. She’s moody, a little sassy, and sometimes crass, but she’s got a heart of gold. We cannot blame her (or any other place) for something the folks with opposable thumbs & capitalism did.

We do the same thing to ourselves — trashing our bodies and blaming them for it. My own body, my own ecosystem, has been badly damaged by my own hand. It hasn’t (usually) been on purpose or consciously willful, but it has been done nevertheless. Bodies are designed for adaptation. They respond to internal, external, emotional, and physical stimuli — even etheric, spiritual stimuli — and they warp, shift, move, and change based on that stimuli. In studying for my foot reading certification, this was a concept I became hyper-aware of. Many of the changes in our bodies, regardless of the kind of stimuli present, show up in the form of markers on our feet before we are even aware of them. These are all pieces of the grand puzzle that makes up a person, and no two are exactly the same.

I have recently begun a regimen of intermittent fasting because I want a better relationship with my body, and when you challenge the brain, stuff comes up. I have been on an 18:6 schedule, today I moved to a 20:4 — that is to say, I fast for 20 hours a day, and I have a four hour window in which to eat. During that window, I try to consume healthy, nutrient rich foods. It’s really not difficult… until it is. Without fail, my brain starts making claims that I am starving or doing something horrible which is completely untrue. The level of hunger required to actually be starving is far beyond than anything I have ever done. Still, I try to pay close attention to the shit my head says to me, questioning the thoughts as they arrive. The thoughts that come are like little fish jumping for insects, disturbing an otherwise quiet pond, only seen for a moment before disappearing beneath the surface again — but now I know they’re there. As I get further into it (I am only on day 10), it’ll get easier, and will pave the way for some longer-term fasts. For now, I choose to lean into the discomfort of hunger, and the discomfort of change. This discomfort is necessary, it’s temporary, and it’s fine. It’s just discomfort.

Healing is like that. It’s full of things that are unpleasant to look at but necessary to get through. I am on a Lake Erie pathway. As she fights to regain herself, her health, her autonomy — I do the same for myself. I push into the deep of my psyche, and I find that I can, indeed, breathe under this water.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Update

I know have been absent for a while now — initially because I was busy with my copyediting coursework, but for the last month, it has been because I have been locked inside myself trying to figure some things out. There have been catalysts for this disruption, but there isn’t anyone to blame. No one but me, here in my confused head. Nevertheless, it’s been a lengthy hiatus, and I am sorry to any frequent readers who have wondered where the fuck I have been. I also knew there was a potential that I would burn out on posting weekly, and I have. I may get back to that, though I would like to explore it in different ways… maybe videos… maybe art posts… maybe magic things! This is partly because I like doing different things, but also because I have some writing projects in the works and I want to devote more time to those. I want to push myself, of course, but I don’t want to force anything. I don’t want this platform to feel like a chore, so I am allowing myself a lot of grace around my absence. I will not be pushing for weekly communication any longer. I will be pushing for regular creation though… I have been working in Yellow Door (my workspace) a lot lately, trying to make it exactly what I want it to be. I will have a few products available on my Ko-fi store very soon.

My friend, Matt, and I walked a mountain mile to see this waterfall when he visited in December. It was worth every sore muscle I got.

On the subject of writing, I hadn’t intended to keep myself locked (predominantly) into a singular subject, but animism is a really important part of my life. For the last year, I have been studying animism with Cyrene Harding in her Animist Study Circle, which just concluded in December. Through the weekly prompts and exercises, as well as our live video calls, I feel my connection to nature has increased 100 fold. Animism informs all that I do, all that I see, and how I see it. While I have always been an animal and nature lover, this course of study has enriched my life and my perspective in far greater ways than I can currently articulate, and I will be forever grateful for the connections this work has inspired. I have joined for a second year, and expect that I will go even deeper this time.

As seen on the mountain. Aren’t they beautiful?

Also, I did finish my copyediting course! I am still in the process of figuring out my freelance career, but that’s on its way as well. I am rather stuck on pricing after having my confidence shaken a bit this fall. I honestly don’t know what I should be charging. I don’t want to low-ball myself, but I don’t want to overcharge either. The other matter is trying to decide on what services I want to offer. How niche do I want to go?

And, as is my way, I am probably overthinking it. Ugh.

Anyway, I suppose that’s all. 2021 was its own mood. It was often delightful but often strange, too; and now I am here in 2022 experiencing the first real wintery part of winter. I haven’t left the house in I don’t know how long. I mean, I know it was kind of recent, but I honestly couldn’t tell you why or what date. I haven’t got a major schedule right now so it’s easy to get lost in time.

Brent of Mad Cow…and Elvira!

One of the best parts about 2021 was getting to be friends with the owner of my favorite store in town, Mad Cow Curiosity Shop. I had wanted to be friends with him since the first time I ever went to his store years ago. I never thought I would have the opportunity to do so, but then I never thought I would live in Ohio again! Brent is super cool–way cooler, in fact, than I ever knew. He is genuine, personable, kind, loves animals, has great taste in stuff, and he has an eye for the awesome. He hand draws his own tags and signage, and has a really cool art style. If you follow him on Facebook or Instagram, you will see some of his work. (He would also really hate it if he knew I had said nice things about him, so don’t tell. Fortunately, I don’t think he reads my blog, so I may be safe from his scorn!) Sadly, he is facing some major challenges right now and could really use support. Here is a link to his fundraiser. Every little bit helps, and I assure you he’s worth every penny. If you don’t do it for him, do it for me so I can continue to go there and loiter.

As for me, stay tuned! I have a lot of irons in the fire and I can’t wait to share them with you!

Bad Angel


For this post, I will be bastardizing some excerpts from The First Elegy of The Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke (whose work I deeply admire). I mean no disrespect, but it may still be considered disrespectful to use these pieces outside their original intention. Sorry, Bro.

Allow me to paint a picture for you.

I am sitting on the steps in the sanctuary of my childhood church, ca. 1985/86. It’s Christmas time, and I am an angel in the nativity play. I am chubby-cheeked and sassy, and I am wearing a tinsel halo that clashes with my blonde hair. Over my Sunday best, I have on an itchy white robe with glittered wings made of poster board tied on me with a gold rope. They feel big enough that I could fly away — which I think I’d certainly like to. I am wearing knee-high white socks and my very favorite footwear — ballet slippers. Next to me is a ramshackle manger overflowing with straw, and a smelly old baby doll from the smelly old baby nursery to represent the baby Jesus.

My parents are watching from the pews just a row or two from the front and my dad is armed with a camera, desperately trying to get a photo of me behaving like the angel he sees before him. He has even mouthed the words “get up” and motioned as much with his hands. His face turns red and angry as I fold my arms, look him dead in the eye, and shake my head no. I sit on the steps refusing to sing (rather pleased with myself, I might add), pointing my toes, admiring the way they look and feel in the slippers, and there isn’t a damned thing my father can do about it.

This is not an amazing story, but it is a true one.

And it demonstrates something important for me. In the times where I think I have no will at all, it’s this adorable haloed creature that is probably running the show, giving me the same little “fuck you” she gave my dad during the nativity play (and many more times after that). She acts often to her/my/our detriment, and she defies even as my conscious self aches for some different way of being.

Yep, I have plenty of will and it’s potent, but a five-year-old runs the show. She has been far more effective than I ever have been at asserting herself, and yet, she never quite gets what she actually wants. She defies just to do it, just because she can. In a sense, it has turned into an “any attention is good attention” situation.

It’s perhaps a little strange to see her as an entity separate from myself since she is me, but acknowledgement can grant many blessings, and I needed this separation to become conscious of her existence in the first place. Communicating can be a little challenging though, because she communicates very differently than I do now. She is me before I had enough language to adequately express myself. She doesn’t actually mean to be naughty. She means to assert who she is, to tell me what’s wrong. She’s gripping at whatever her little hands are able to, even if those things are ultimately destructive to her. It is my job to course correct. It is my job to give her voice.

So I am here, now–with this little cutie on my hip, doing my best to listen to and understand her, to tell her no when no needs telling (when I have the wherewithal to recognize her influence). I explain to her why it’s necessary, and I do a bit of bargaining sometimes too. When I do it like this, it’s not a punishment or a deprivation. She is learning that there are far greater rewards in store.

Thanks so much for spending a bit of your day with me! In Gratitude and Love,

Kali Adriantje & the Bad Angel

Rooting Deeper

I don’t feel at all positive about having missed my usual posting time this week. I was going to take a whole week off because I am having a lot of difficulty focusing on my work and connecting to exactly what I want to say and how to say it. This is particularly frustrating since I have been wanting to work heavily on my connection series, but it’s just not flowing the way it should! I thought I had it together, but what was intended to be one piece was actually four or more, and none of those individually had enough info to fly solo, if that makes sense!

Stuck by mood.beams.art

I have been feeling a little disconnected in general. I am going to chock it up to the retrograde season we’ve been in — not that I am any expert on such things! Also, my beloved trail is closed to the public right now, and that was my primary source of physical activity. My body feels strange to me, my face looks weird, my hair is. . . blah, whatever. In a sense, I feel kinda frozen in place. There is a TON I want to do and need to do, but getting into anything sets my brain into a panic. 

A Carrick Mat and a Carrick Bend

Also, I started a certification class. I know damn well this class has the potential to change my life and offer me a prolific career within the writing world, and that scares me a bit! I have been doing everything under the sun to avoid my work as a result, including spending hours learning how to tie beautiful knots which didn’t start as avoidance! I was trying to create art work for Muse & Metaphor, and it is far easier to draw knots with a visual reference. If you read my last post, you may have noticed that knots had quite a presence. Because I wanted to focus a whole huge series on connection, I thought knots could be a sort of mascot. And now I am feeling both stuck and behind in my work.

Because I am having such a struggle in moving forward using my current tools, I have decided to take a cue from trees and other plant life this week. 

One of the things that I’ve loved the most in observing nature is seeing the way the base of an old tree twists as it comes up from the ground in a perpetual spiral toward the sun. Plants instinctively know how to find the light. This is why we turn our houseplants periodically so they grow evenly. It’s why plants at the edge of a wooded area lean toward a clearing where the sun touches everything. 

Roots work similarly. They instinctively know that in order to maintain stability and growth, they must constantly move deeper and reach further to where water and nutrients are present. Without these capabilities, trees would not survive the seasons and storms they have no choice but to weather. And yet, as far as they spread and as tall as they grow in their searching, they are always home.

No singular thing can be the source of all my inspiration. No one person or thing can meet all my needs, nor can I meet all of theirs. In moments like I am having now, where I am struggling to find my footing or to feel nourished, I know that I need to root deeper. When I can’t find the proverbial light, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I just need to turn.

So I am giving my connection series a little bit of a breather as I gather my thoughts and explore new inspirations. This doesn’t mean I won’t be posting weekly, I am just not going to do it in the way I had initially planned. Such is life!

My Animist Values

I try to bring a little bit of the sacred into my everyday existence, even if it’s just taking a 5 minute walk through Tappan Square and visiting with the glorious Beech tree, the ever-so-magical Dawn Redwood trio, or any of the other lovely beings residing there. It doesn’t have to be long or complex to be meaningful, and there are no special tools required — just me, and a willingness to connect with the lives around me, human and otherwise.

Connection is a word I use tirelessly because, for me, it is absolute necessity. Connection is everything, and behind nearly everything I do. If I do not feel connected to what I am doing, the home I live in, the land I occupy, the people I am spending time with, or the things I surround myself with, then what’s the point? Where’s the actual magic, if not living within the connections we foster?

Connection by Kali Adriantje

Over the last several months, I have been working to define my values as an animist by way of a course of study with the oh-so-wonderful, magical Cyrene Krey of Shadow Animism. I have talked a bit about some of my foundational beliefs in past posts, but I want to take a little time to highlight what I have come up with thus far, as this exercise in definition has really helped me to deepen my experiences and increase the depth of connection I feel to the world. These may shift a little as I continue to cultivate my path, but the bones are here and ready for the flesh.

  • Allowance – I honor other beings without the expectation that they conform to my ways of expression and behavior. I allow them to exist as they are, rather than as I am. I lower my demands on their existence, as they are not mine to rule or preside over.
  • Connection & Communication – I understand that communication and expression are not limited to my human ways. I allow myself to connect from a deeper source of understanding beyond my oral language; and to be moved and changed by releasing, at times, my modern human logic and desire to explain away my experiences.
  • Creativity & Deference – As I belong to the Earth, I offer my deference to Nature as greater than myself. I use creativity to move through challenges presented to my person. I pay tribute to my experience of other beings through creative means.
  • Equality – I hold all beings as equal to myself with the recognition that they each have spirit, consciousness, intellect, wisdom, and emotion — even when their expression differs from my own. All beings are valuable by merely existing. All beings deserve respect. I actively work to shift my language to foster inclusivity among human and nonhuman beings alike.
  • Gratitude – I hold high the intricacy and beauty of life, even when it proposes an inconvenience to me. I express my gratitude to the land I occupy, and the beings I share it with.
Love Knot by Kali Adriantje

Of course, this is my pathway and my set of values. Defining them, for me, has brought a greater sense of peace and meaning to my life and all the encounters in the natural world that I have been blessed with (I have several stories that I’ll share down the road), deepening my sense of connection to my world. Your values may look a little or maybe a lot different, but I would encourage you to take a look at them and try to define them clearly for yourself. The truth is we are all here on the Earth doing the best we can to live our lives. We all arrive at our understanding of life and the divine at different times and experience it in different ways. Regardless of these differences, I think we can agree that a life without connection is no better than an empty, obligatory handshake.

Avalanche

A while back, I was sitting outside at night listening to the frogs singing to one another across the reservoir. The wind was picking up pace, and creating a song of its own through the branches of the giant oak trees in our yard. I had been feeling on edge all day as it was, but sitting there by myself with only night sounds and my own undercurrent of thought to keep me company, I started feeling really angry. I couldn’t seem to name the source of it although I knew there had to be one — emotions don’t happen for no reason. I didn’t want to spend too much time trying to analyze it though, I just wanted to move through it which, for me, meant finding a way to express it without causing damage to myself or anyone else.

There was a time when I’d have just let it fly. I’d storm around, yell over seemingly nothing. If there was no direction to point in specifically, it got pointed in all directions — including at the people I love. It wasn’t simply that things annoyed me — those were merely the surface I was able to see. And yet, I would lose my shit on the regular over these little things, unwilling or unable at the time to look at what was happening underneath. Anger wants a reason — a harbor for blame — and if we can’t find one that fits, it will happily take up residence in places it doesn’t belong, causing us to misfire and do harm. Don’t get me wrong, anger has purpose and can be wonderful and powerful fuel for change. I don’t think negative emotions have to be “bad” unless they’re left to fester. It’s what we do with them that matters.

This tendency to pop my cork really bothered me. I didn’t want to be known as someone with a short fuse anymore, or someone who just seemed to always be angry. Through a lot of reflection, I began to notice a pattern in myself. When I am hurting, I am not always able to express it in the beginning. Actually, sometimes there’s quite a lengthy delay. I spent a long time dumbing down my feelings for palatability, because I tend to scale toward people pleaser. The trouble is, without expression, our pain can turn malignant. Suppressed, misdirected anger is one of those malignancies, and I think for me, a lot of that came with the lowering of my boundaries or the failure to assert them at all. On some level, knowing my own wounding, I think I thought it would lead to more love, more acceptance if I allowed more bullshit. It didn’t.

That night, sitting with my anger, I thought about how it might feel to just scream it out and have a full on tantrum, but since I live in a neighborhood with neighbors and stuff, I figured it probably wouldn’t be a great idea to try. As my thoughts carried on, I accidentally pictured myself on top of a mountain, completely isolated. This could work, I thought. I started remembering the smell of cold, and how it feels entering my nose and lungs. I remembered the way snow sounds as it crunches beneath my boots. I remembered the feeling of fine powder turning to mist as it touches the warmth of my face. I remembered how it feels when cold settles into my skin, making it difficult to flex my fingers. And I started thinking about avalanches.

Avalanches aren’t caused by screaming (not in real life anyway), although I suppose they could be caused by a toddler-style, throw-yourself-on-the-floor tantrum. 90% of them are triggered by human activity, but they do occur naturally too. The conditions have to be just right — the right angle of slope, the right snow pack, the right temperature, and a sudden change in the environment. The mountain, bearing all that weight, would have to be ready to let go… so to speak… unless, for safety reasons, a “controlled” avalanche were triggered. I actually started to really worry about this, because some of these avalanches can wipe out forests… or villages. I ran with the thought before I reminded myself that this landscape, while based in reality, is of my own creation and I can do whatever I want. There doesn’t have to be a village or a forest at the bottom if I don’t want there to be, and I can cause an avalanche with my screaming however impossible it is in the physical world — it’s my fucking landscape.

Maybe it sounds silly, but it didn’t feel silly. The idea of expressing myself loudly, and drawing attention to my person is very uncomfortable for me, even when no one is around — even in this format. It felt like something truly powerful to visit this place. I have never physically been to mountain peaks like Mt. Everest, but there I was staring at ancient earth formations, high above the altitude I am accustomed to. I did wonder how effective this visualization could be if no one were there to witness me. I think having our emotions witnessed is really important. Being seen is important. I wondered, could an experience be a true catharsis without someone there to see it? In other words — If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one around, does it make a sound?? After considering this for some time, I think the answer is yes. This mountain range is a place inside myself, and I exist. Whether I choose to exist loudly or softly, every cell in my body bears witness and reacts accordingly.

I imagined the weight of the snow on the peaks as my own unexpressed emotions waiting to be released. I recognized myself as of the Earth. I let out my scream, I stomped my feet, I jumped up and down, running the gamut of tantrum having. The mountains seemed to rumble as the snow galloped wildly down the slope in a holy celebration of release, knowing the exact path to take from start to finish. The rocks, the trees, the very air itself — bore witness. The Earth, in all her ancient wisdom, took the anger — knowing exactly what it was even though I did not. She took it, diffused it, and turned it into something useful, as is her nature.

I took in a final deep breath of frigid air, and opened my eyes. I was back beneath the trees, the frogs still singing, the wind still dancing through the branches. I felt better — lighter, like a great weight had been taken from me. The sounds around me felt different, too. Whereas before they had been filtered through my own angst, I could now hear their joy.

I still get angry sometimes without fully understanding the source. It doesn’t happen terribly often anymore, but when it does, I know I can visit this place within me and tend to my need. It is not a place of blame, but of reclamation. Here, I stand fully within my own power. I can create and destroy at will. I can take back the power I have given away, I can take back all the places where stakes were driven in, and the gifts of my being exploited. Each time I do, I feel closer to the truth of me, and the truth is — I can move mountains.

I Suppose I Should Introduce Myself

This is me — Self-Portrait Me, Hangry Me, and Regular Me. I am about to present you with some facts about myself: a random earthling with a face, opinions, and internet access.

My name is Kali Adriantje. I grew up in Southwest Michigan, and lived there for the majority of my life until recently. I was raised by really interesting, complex, creative, and wonderful people who instilled in me a deep sense of compassion, a love of animals and nature, a love of music and the arts, a connection to the divine, a genuine interest in other people, a strong belief in equality and justice, and a fierce loyalty to those I love. I also cuss a lot. (thanks, Dad!)

I am one of two siblings from my parents marriage together, and the middle of seven siblings in total. I have the great fortune of having some of the coolest family members on the planet. Nearly all of us have some kind of musical or artistic ability, and those who don’t, express their brilliance in other equally magical ways. We don’t always agree, but we do really love each other, and I think we (usually) really like each other too. I know not everyone has that, so I am extremely grateful for each of them being the badass people they all are.

I have a love of animals on the whole, but a particular affinity for black cats. I have rescued/raised 6 total, but two are currently in my care, whom you shall now meet, as they are the source of some of my greatest joy in life…

Henry, aka Henny Penny

Age: 12 1/2

Smells Like: Sunshine & Morning Dew

Profession: Handsome Little Wittle Man, Conspiracy String Theorist

Loves: Blueberries, bananas, burrowing, unleashing entire balls of yarn upon the house at night

Dislikes: Having paws and tummy touched unless he is in the mood.

Warnings: Will steal a straw, even if it means taking the whole drink along with it.

Fun Fact: Has a beautiful singing voice

Lumienne, aka Lumi

Age: 1

Smells Like: Moonbeams & Fresh Spring Rain

Profession: Baby Fluffins

Loves: Asking questions, turkey, creating toy stashes under furniture

Dislikes: Loud things, an empty bowl

Warnings: Will steal food from your fork if she thinks it’s yummy enough, steals candy and hides it with her toys, will jump into the refrigerator

Fun Fact: Told me her name in a dream

I am an animist, an eclectic pagan, and a healer. I started reading tarot cards when I was 14, but for more than a decade now, I have also practiced foot reflexology. I have added many other tools along the way — foot reading, energy work, past life regression, herbalism, and aromatherapy, to name a few. From 2016 through 2020, I co-owned a holistic healing center where I assisted my clients in their health and healing work. I taught classes on intuitive tarot and meditation, and I created a monthly group, called Flourish, intended to help people (myself included) connect with their creativity and move through blockages.

I love making things — drawing, painting, making candles, bookbinding, and tons more… Where I currently live, I have a wonderful workshop, which I sometimes like to call my Hag Room, in the basement that I don’t use nearly enough. I wanted to meet my 9-1 deadline for launching Muse & Metaphor, and every waking moment lately has gone into writing and editing, scheduling posts, then deciding I don’t like them enough to share them yet, unscheduling, editing some more, etc. Eventually, I will be selling some of my wares on my Ko-Fi page, and whenever possible, I will be using my own art and photos in my posts regardless of my skill level.

One of my oldest and greatest loves is writing. Though this is by no means my first run around the block as a blogger, I am a bit rusty, so please bear with me as I retune my instruments! I created Muse & Metaphor as a way to rekindle my old flame and keep the hearth fires hot.

I am quite nervous to be doing this, but after many years of sealing myself off and all the resulting damage, I feel called to really put myself forward. So, I thank you for being here with me today. I hope to see you again soon!

In Gratitude and Love,

Kali

Preening

I have been in a constant cycle of huge life changes for nearly two years now, not the least of which has involved moving multiple times. Because of the utter pain in the nethers that is the precursor to the actual moving, I have been doing my best to consistently pare down my belongings.

It isn’t that I have a problem with having stuff — humans are stuff havers. We love to create beautiful spaces, surrounding ourselves with things that hold meaning in our respective lives. My problem is having stuff for the sake of having it, and letting it just sit in a box or collect dust, no longer being used or enjoyed. It gets forgotten, sometimes broken, sometimes chewed on by mice, and it takes up precious space. I have had to get ruthless in my giving away, selling off, and just straight pitching of things that no longer have a meaningful place in my life, or that, even though I enjoy them, could be better enjoyed by someone I love. It isn’t always an easy process, but once I get past the initial hemming and hawing, I find myself joyful on the whole in moving forward, and I find that I am not missing those things at all.

Since I made the decision to jump states last winter, I have been at it again. Aside from the fact that I have pared down a great deal already, what has made this round of moving so much easier for me than previous times is a lesson I took from a robin this past spring. I was sitting outside taking a break from packing, watching this cute little bird hunting for food with a downy feather poking out from her breast. Watching her started me thinking about the necessity of preening, molting, and shedding in wild animals; and what might happen to a bird if, for whatever reason, it refused to preen itself. 

Preening is a daily, sometimes even hourly practice in the bird world, and is primarily a matter of survival. As amazing as feathers are — enabling flight, providing insulation, and waterproofing — they break down over time, and must be repaired or completely culled. If a bird were to refuse this process, clinging to its favorite feathers as we do our stuff, the feathers would get filthy and matted — stuck together by the detritus of their daily meals, not to mention the meals of yesterday. They would struggle to fly, and would become more susceptible to predators. Given that nests are lined and insulated with precious downy feathers, the bird might find it challenging to properly care for their young, that is, if they could attract a mate at all. New, fully formed feathers would push into the matted mess, causing more discomfort and dysfunction in the life of the bird.

Preening has become a potent metaphor for me in respect to letting things go. It is both an internal, emotional process and a physical catharsis that leads me to a greater sense of self and a knowledge of what I am capable of. If I wish to fly, I must be willing to care for myself in this way. The active removal of things that don’t work for me anymore creates space for more — more beauty, more love, more life, more connection.

Thank you for spending time with me today!

In Gratitude and Love,

Kali

Angry Sun

Scroll to the bottom if you want to skip the reading and listen instead.

Disclaimer time…I am about to talk about some mental health stuff and meds and things like that from the perspective of my own personal life story and experience. But before I begin, I need you to know that this is not an anti-antidepressant blog. There are very real people out there for whom anti-depressants and other medications are an absolute necessity — maybe you are one of those people, and I commend you for taking care of yourself. While I don’t think medications are always prescribed properly and, far too often, they are offered up in place of rather than in addition to good old talk therapy and innumerable other tools, I can absolutely understand their need, and I can absolutely understand that not everyone shares the same privilege of access to other options. Please do what works for you.

When I was 14, I was going through some rough things, and I had this doctor who, after invading my actual physical personal space and talking at me through a bevy of unkempt nose, ear, and eyebrow hair for five whole minutes, diagnosed me as “manic depressive” and prescribed me pills. He didn’t actually ask me any questions, he just sat way too close to me with a smug, all-knowing grin and focused in on a sun I had drawn on my jeans. He said it was an “angry sun.” He seemed really pleased with himself for discovering the “angry sun,” but didn’t actually seem to care about what was in my head that might have made it an “angry sun.” Apparently, my “angry sun” determined a need for antidepressants, which ultimately I refused to take.

I think a greater help to me at that time would have been if that doctor (or any doctor for that matter) had bothered listening to me. Much of my identity seemed decided upon for me based on snap assessments. To know a person, you typically need to actually have a conversation. A lot can be garnered in five minutes if there is an actual dialogue, but I am pretty sure making a teenage girl uncomfortable with your proximity to her body says more about you than it does about her.

It also would have helped if I’d had the language or means to express what I was feeling, but the words weren’t there yet. How could they be? I had no context for what was happening to me (something I may discuss down the road), nor did any of the adults in my life, though they did the best they could. Sometimes the words still aren’t there, but I keep pushing. I am in a place in my life now where usually, even when things are challenging, I am able to move through with relative ease. Some of this resiliency came from the recognition that my triggers are my responsibility — both their management and their healing; some of it came from the knowledge that all states are temporary, even if they don’t feel that way while we’re in them; and some of it came from the simple act of accepting my emotions as valid and in need of healthy expression in whatever form I could muster. (Trust me, I found plenty of unhealthy expressions in the process as well…)

Healing is not a perfect, painless, or linear process. What is easier than doing this work, is succumbing to depression, listening to the illogical voice of anxiety, isolating myself and locking my heart away, but I don’t believe the path of least resistance leads to less pain. In fact, I believe it usually leads to more. So I keep pushing back to remind myself that I have a right to be here, to feel my feels, to move forward without anchors dragging bits of my heavier past along with me.

It looked more like this…

And let me tell you something — it is worth every last second of my effort to keep going. I find my strength every single time, even when it feels like there’s no fucking way I can. I continue to adopt new tools and methods, and I continue to invest the time to make them valuable to me. This is a big key… time. Most people want that instant gratification, and obviously no one wants to feel like shit. I am no different in that respect. I just know that, generally speaking, healing doesn’t work like that. I also know you can’t diagnose a child with bipolar disorder by sitting too close to her and “studying” a singular piece of art drawn on her jeans which was based on the suns from CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt!

What works for me is what works for me. Healing looks different for everyone, and while all tools are valuable, they are not all valuable for all people. It’s that whole frog kissing/prince scenario, but with therapists and coping tools!! Sometimes the coping tool is a bath, sometimes it’s medication. Sometimes it’s both. Sometimes it’s neither. Sometimes it’s some anomalous nameless thing that you haven’t found the magic to obtain just yet. Are these things by themselves going to solve the problems? Not likely, but they can help clear the windows enough for you to see inside yourself. And maybe one day, you’ll be able to do more than cope with what you see through the windows — eventually, you might be able to walk through the door and clean the fucking house.

Just keep trying, and try everything — even if some of the things you try make you seem totally nuts, and even if it feels like you are clawing your way out of a pre-dug grave just your size in the middle of nowhere. Keep trying. You deserve to be seen, you deserve to be heard, you deserve to be expressed.