Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Long Goodbye: Part Two

Then, out of the blue, several things happened at once. Most of them were things that, for one reason or another, I did not want to mention here on Meadowsweet for a little while... out of a sense of privacy, respect, and a bit of base superstition.

Synchronicity Abounds

The first, already known to readers, was that I posted the announcement for the Samhain to Solstice "Same Time Tomorrow" Donation Drive, which I'd been planning for a couple months in hopes that I might generate enough funds from supportive readers to move this blog to an expanded website with its own domain name. Almost as soon as I'd posted the announcement, however, a creeping sense of regret and frustration began to steal over me. I knew that I would dislike always wondering, as each day passed, if anyone would like my work enough to donate, which is why I'd only planned it as a temporary measure. I had no idea how painful it would be to feel overlooked as the month went by, with less than one percent of readers acknowledging the donation drive, and my readership numbers actually shrinking after I shared my request for suppport. Yet within a week of the donation drive announcement, a new job opportunity came my way and I began working from home as an independent contractor with a more flexible schedule and better pay than my former waitressing job — doing work that, being project-based and detail-oriented, satisfies my Gemini urge to plunge into the nitty-gritty and make measurable progress on particular tasks, and then move swiftly on to the next one. Experiencing the sense of job satisfaction and enjoyment I got from this new work put my frustration with blogging into sharp relief.

While all this was going on, I had also committed myself to working through the Nine Lessons as an aspirant of the Druid Order of the Three Realms, a community inspired and organized by Bob Patrick and Paige Varner (whom I'd worked with as editors of the practical spirituality journal, Sky Earth Sea). This aspirant work involved keeping a fairly simple daily diary about the various activities and thoughts of each day and what connections there were between them; I supplemented this with my on-going daily tarot readings and some notes about the turnings and changes of the sun, moon and local landscape. As the weeks progressed, I began to see in no uncertain terms how much of my energy was siphoned off worrying about the medium of blogging and the logistics of scrambling for reader attention and feedback. I was reminded of my journal entries from my trip to Northern Ireland for the Celtic Spirituality and Peacemaking retreat, and how refreshing and freeing it had felt to write from a place of deep connection and contemplation. I felt more and more that I needed to find a way to return to this kind of writing, and blogging was simply not the appropriate medium for that sort of work.

And even as I was slowly turning these insights over in my mind, I found myself suddenly sucked into an intense conversation on a forum that I had frequented only casually in the past — a conversation about Brighid as a goddess of the Forge of Creation, Lady of the Star Fire arising in the depths of the universe. Synchronicities piled up around these discussions, sparking a renewed interest in poetry and creative writing as well as a deeper exploration of the liturgical craft. A group of us, scattered all across the world, decided to hold a ritual on the next full moon — the blue moon of November on a night when the sun crossed from a sign of water and ice into a sign of fire and flow. During the pathworking of this ritual — as well as those of a few nights before and a few nights after — brought me to the feet of a dark goddess of starlight and forge fire whose auburn-amber hair curled like tongues of flame, and who lectured me kindly about neglecting my soul work and avoiding my fears.

It seemed the universe was conspiring to send me a message — but the message seemed tangled and garbled, and I had no idea how to interpret it or act on its convoluted symbolism. It was during this time that I pulled the Seven of Cups for daily divination on three different occasions, a card indicating too many choices, some promising deepening authenticity and spiritual integrity while others tempted with fantasies of ambition and success. But which were which, and how to make a choice with so many options available?


  1. Ali, thank you for sharing your struggles. I've always wanted to write and have not done so for varying reasons, the top reason being unable to figure out how to make an income from it. And then there's this yuckiness that I get from even considering "income." How do you turn your soul's meaning or language into income without taking the very soul out of it? That's my question anyway.

    Babble, babble. I'm just babbling. But I do want to say thank you.

  2. The seven of cups is a slippery card--it often means, too, that you have put too much weight on your emotions (how things make you feel) rather than your passions (the things that drive you to thought and action).

    If it's the lady of star and forge, direction and fashioning, that comes to find you and help you on your way, then you probably need to dry out a bit.

    It probably also means that you're heading into a phase of your life that will (or ought to) harden you, where the raw parts of you will be transfigured and given new form.

    You don't want to be too wet, too centered in your emotions, during that phase. It messes with the process and, well, it hurts more. You may want to look for what tests you rather than what comforts you.

    I suspect you write often from the water; so it *might* (emphasis on might) mean you won't be connected to that part of yourself for a little bit. This is where you learn the lessons of your bones rather than of your blood or flesh.

    On the plus side, after the forging's done, you might get a mighty nice dip in the cooling waters, and find a vital and sweeping resurgence in writing again. Who knows, though, the forge is an amazing place!

    I'll say a prayer for you, for the change your restlessness portends. Best of luck, Ali.

  3. Ian, A very interesting interpretation! This is why I decided to share this write-up on the blog after all, as a kind of long farewell. I did a follow up reading to explore some of the meaning behind the Seven of Cups, which I'll be sharing in the next part of this series. I hope you come back and share some of your thoughts on those cards, as well.

    It's interesting that you mention about "drying out" and not remaining too centered on emotions. I do a daily tarot reading, as I mentioned, and for the past month I have drawn almost exclusively Wands and Cups (fire and water), with many of the cups cards coming up again and again, in particular the Four of Cups and the Ace of Cups. I wonder if you have some interpretation of this? It seems that, especially with these last two in combination (which they have been in some multi-card readings), the message is almost the opposite you suggest: that I have been turning my back and/or refusing the offer of spiritual renewal and insight to be gained through engagement with emotions and intuition, and that I need to in fact become more receptive to these.

    I wonder if you have a take on this. It's odd to hear the suggestion that I am "too emotional" or "too wet," since I have a tendency to be much more of a fire-and-air person, led by intellect and passion far more than emotion and intuition. It seems recently, I have the feeling of being literally "burnt out." The metaphor of "losing my temper" comes from the symbolism of the forge, in which the smith uses water to keep the temperature of the metal steady so that it can be sharpened. Too little water, too much heat, and the temper of the sword's blade is lost. So a lot of the synchronicity and symbolism seem to be focused on better integrating my emotions, rather than distancing myself from them.

    On the other hand, I have only been exploring Tarot with any depth for the last few months. I'd love to hear your take on some of these thoughts, as well as some of the later stuff (which will probably be posted in the next day or two).

  4. Ali,
    To Grow is to Change.
    You were given an Chance to reeeeeally look at your Reflection AND you did. Bravo!
    This is a Great age of Transformation.
    You will be missed ....Blessings on your Road!
    From one Bard-In-Trainging to another

  5. A commenter said this (and then deleted his or her comment, but I would like to respond to this part in particular):

    "If money is a constraint to you, then why move to another platform. It didn't make sense, and gave the impression that you were simply mercenary."

    This is, perhaps, the biggest stumbling block for me. It is precisely not about the money, and not about the cost of hosting a website. Though the expenses that this commenter quoted for running a website are unusually low, I could conceivably have paid to host this blog on its own domain.

    But it's not about the money. Or not simply about the money. Money is a reflection of intention and power, and where people are willing to invest their money is an expression of where their values lie and where their intentions are focused. Now, I have been told many times by many people that my writing was wonderful, inspiring, insightful and a pleasure to read. I appreciate that support and it is one reason why I have always loved blogging, because it means I can share my writing in a timely manner at no (or very little) cost with countless readers.

    But it also seems readers very easily forget that writing is not easy. It's not something that just happens, without any effort. Many of the articles and posts I have shared on this blog over the years have taken days, even weeks, to research and write. This has become increasingly true over the last year, during which I also increased the frequency of my blogging. Were I to submit these articles to print magazines, many of them could earn me on average $50-75 a piece (I know this because, since my decision to wean off blogging, I have begun submitting my work to print magazines). But of course, by submitting to print magazines, there is often several month- to a year-long delay in publication, and only those readers who buy the magazine get to read it. For a long time, I preferred blogging, because it was more immediate and more accessible to everyone regardless of income, and I had more personal control over content and style.

    But as someone who hopes to make a career as a writer, I made the mistake of wondering if perhaps my readers would be willing to "put their money where their mouths are" and demonstrate their support and appreciation by donating. The good thing about a donation drive is, in theory anyway, that those who can afford to give do so, ensuring that those who cannot afford to donate are still able to enjoy the benefits. This is something Jason at the Wild Hunt does every year, and many professionally-run blogs I've seen that choose to go ad-free have donation buttons in their sidebar (including the Wild Hunt and my fiancé's blog). I didn't like the idea of having a permanent donation button, since even that felt a bit too "greedy" to me, and so I thought a good compromise would be to host a donation drive as a temporary measure.

  6. The response, as this commenter pointed out, was almost entirely one of resentment and suspicion. "Why do you need money? It's free to run a blog. I run three!" But this response assumes that my writing itself is not worth anything, that the hours of time and energy that I put into writing are not of any value. That the only "cost" of blogging is the website fee. That if anyone can run a blog for free, then they must all be equal in the skill, talent and effort that they put into that writing. I did not expect to become rich from the donation drive. But I did not expect the kind of grossly ungenerous response that I got. Statistics have shown that blogs that run on donations and reader support can often expect a ten percent return - that is, ten percent of readers donate. Even that, to me, seems fairly low. Yet during this donation drive, less than one percent of my readers responded. I am not sure if this speaks more to the current economic times, or to the greater prevalence of selfishness and cynicism among Pagans. For whatever reason though, this along with other factors led me to decide that if my writing is of no value to so many of my readers - if they could so terribly misjudge my intentions despite quite a long post explaining the nature of the donation drive - then perhaps this was a signal that it was time to move on.

    As I've had to explain before: my religion is not a hobby. My writing is not a hobby. I do it from the depths of my soul, and my request for support is out of natural pride in the value of my work and the hope that it will be valued by others. If that earns me accusations of being "mercenary," in a culture where everything is for sale and rank consumerism rules the day - then I think we have lost touch with some of the most basic values of generosity, charity and community.

  7. And of course, then there are times when the unexpected generosity and kindness of strangers is absolutely amazing. So I do want to thank all of you (and you know who you are) who have continued to be supportive and passionate, each in your own unique ways and with your own beautiful gifts and talents.

    Thank you, friends.

  8. I will be eagerly awaiting Part Three of your journey notes. I am curious as to what will happen. After #1, I was sure you would quit writing online. Now I am not so sure.

  9. E Sheppard - Yes, I'm finding it rather amusing, myself! :) I had no idea these would generate so many replies, as I basically wrote out the whole thing last week and have just been allowing each post to go up when scheduled. But there are no foregone conclusions here...

  10. Keep in mind that these days, the web is NOT a good place to assess the true worth of your works. As an example, my wife Donna makes wonderful beaded jewelry, and when we do festivals or other live events, she does very well. On the net? Not so much -- her works, while beautiful and very well done, can't compete with similar things made in third-world countries at a tenth or less of the cost. And there is also simply so MUCH out there now also ... we still sell much more to friends or people we meet in person than to those who happen upon her webpage.

    The worth of your words are measured in the friends you have made, and the magick of your inspiration to others.

  11. Feral Boy - So true! You pretty much hit the nail on the head with this one! I think I had begun to lose sight (or lose hope) because of the messy-crazy nature of the internet. But you are very right about this.

  12. Just from an initial look at your blog, I believe there would definitely be a market for your writings. You could market them on a website; however, you should compile all your essays and sell them initially as a pamphlet and, ultimately, into book form as you continue to write. Without question, I would buy a compilation of your essays.

  13. Just letting everyone know - People have been leaving insulting comments (which are delivered directly to my email) and then deleting them before I have a chance to respond. This is not only insulting and frustrating for me, but cowardly of those people. If this continues to happen, I will disallow comments on future posts.