The closet altar is dark, with a large electric beeswax candle flickering seductively in the center. Freya and Odin sit perched on either side, with tokens for the Vanir, the ancestors, my fylgia and other helpers, and Yggdrasil set in place around them. I lean over the top of the altar and gently rest my neck and chin on one of the antlers perched there. I inhale deeply. The smells of honey, beeswax, honey whiskey, sugar, and chocolate meet my nose. The whiskey has been out for almost two days now, and is starting to smell a bit musky, but I’ll leave it out until tomorrow. No sense in rushing it. It’s not for me, after all.
(The honey whiskey had originally been bought for my ancestors–that’s what they used to get in California, before I moved. This time, however, with Odin (and therefore Loki) being honored along with Freya on the same altar, the Blood Brothers decided to abscond with the Jack–and they are going through it mighty quickly, I have to say. I’ve already had the finances talk with all of Them, which boils down to, “If you want good liquor, and frequently, make sure that I have the money for it.” Luckily my ancestors are a pretty easy-going bunch, and are just as happy with beer or cider. And everybody seems to love the smell of honey.)
So, I’m here in the Midwest. I was shocked when I realized that I’d have to move, and pretty emotionally wrung out by the time the move actually happened. The drive out here is pretty much a blur (luckily we got out here right before the winter weather kicked in) and the settling down period was lost in a blur of holiday visits and work projects. Now the holidays are over, and people at work are all back from their various vacations. I’ve gotten involved in program meetings out here and started making connections with the local pagan community. Even my new health insurance kicked in (and already the ACA is kicking the ass of California’s state-run health insurance). So, life has officially re-started. Here I am. After three days in a row of double-digit negative temperatures.
So, how are things going? Freya had a complex agenda when She sent me out here. I only know part of it and half of what I think I know will inevitably turn out to be wrong, but there are a few areas of my life that I can take a pretty good guess at:
Family. I have seen 90% of all of my close family members (5% were unavailable during the holidays and the other 5% have died in the last five years–though one is now near and dear as an Ancestor.) I haven’t that much family in such a short about of time since I graduated high school, for crying out loud. I’ve always been an in-between child–I’m the oldest grandchild on my Mom’s side of the family and the second-to-youngest grandchild on my Dad’s side of the family, so, no matter what family we’re with, I don’t have many people my age. Now I can hold conversations and interest with the cousins who are fifteen years older than me with kids in college as well as with my cousins who are just out of college themselves, and I did so willingly, and with relatively little effort. I watch them all really closely–who has my Mom’s facial expressions? Who walks like my dear departed grandfather? And more importantly, which of them looks like me? What piece am I filling in on this family tree?
My last visit home I discovered the power of taking pictures of old photos will my iPhone. The quality is as good as, if not better than, we get when we scan them. So far, I was able to grab a bunch of 70s photos from my aunt’s wedding album and some of my Dad’s old Vietnam and family photos. I even came across my Dad’s birth certificate (no birth time recorded, unfortunately–what were they thinking back then!? slackers) which I promptly snapped as well. Pretty much any time I come across a piece of family memorabilia, I save it to my phone or my computer somehow. And so, family memories remain preserved. I wish I could do the same with what I hear–my Mom and Dad will bust out with a new piece of family lore pretty much daily–“You know, we said so-and-so died of a heart attack, but he was actually an alcoholic”; and “Did you know your great-grandmother was married twice?” and “Your great-uncles and great-grandfather were all amazing craftsmen–they would build anything out of wood.” Who knew? It’s not like my sister and I haven’t been asking my parents for this kind of info for years, but it just never comes out under direct questioning; it comes out at the dinner table while talking about the local game and the sales at Macy’s. You can’t force this kind of data-retrieval and you can’t replicate it, which is part of the reason I am living with them here, now. (And also part of why I am traveling to Scandinavia in a few months.) It’s both heartwarming and completely frustrating when anything new comes up.
Spirituality. Well, there are no Heathens here from what I can see, so I’m hanging out with Druids (not a big stretch, honestly) and visiting a fascinating variety of my hometown’s New-Age, pagan/hippy-ish hybrids, not the least of which because they are occurring in my hometown. (My hometown has more Christian churches per capita than any place else in the state.) I’m looking forward to meeting even more new people and trying out the various Pagan gatherings that the Midwest hosts (yes, Jason; I’ve got ConVocation on the books already, though it may be a stretch getting there so soon after PCon).
The Land. Flat plains; lush, damp river valleys: how I have missed you. You, with your four full seasons and deciduous forests complete with oak, maple, and buckeye. Your white snow and bare trees, stubby dead cornfields and, above all, water. I sat in my car one evening last week in a local park that overlooks one of my favorite childhood places: Sinnisippi Gardens. Ah 🙂 The greenhouse, the duck pond, the flower clock, the white Roman columns, the bike path, and, flowing gently behind it all, the river. My river. (If you look closely at its banks, you will see “Cara’s River (TM)” inscribed every hundred yards or so. True story.) I just sat there in my car, rapt, getting high off of the fact that I was now back in my hometown and living in a place where I could go see that area any time I want to, for absolutely no reason at all. My land. As I sat there I imagined I could feel 18 years worth of deposited (mostly) happiness flowing back into me. It was a high like few I’ve ever experienced, and I hope it doesn’t go away any time soon. (Though the -30 wind chill can go away now.) But, dude–I knew I was an earth sign, and that I missed my land something fierce, but nothing really prepared me for that kind of reaction. I’m really fascinated to see how it will grow and change.
Sigh. And now off to bed early so my Mom and I can get up early to head out to the closest Trader Joe’s, an hour and a half away. Love you, Chicago!