A few months after I decided to part ways with the church for good, summer arrived in Grand Rapids.
One muggy Saturday it started to rain. I sat in my studio apartment and watched the rain falling on the green, green grass, and felt the charge in the air that meant a storm was coming soon. I was restless and anxious, but the rain was beautiful. I needed to walk in it.
I grabbed my sandals but didn’t put them on. Instead I carried them as I walked slowly around the perimeter of my apartment complex, at the edge of the neatly clipped grass. To my left, a strip of woodland–all young trees and tangled, snarled undergrowth–separated my complex from the adjacent property. The air was hot and the rain was cold. I had recently cut off all my hair, and the raindrops tickled my bare neck and shoulders. I wanted to plunge into the trees, but I didn’t do it. What if I got in trouble for trespassing? What if there were snakes and thorns and spiders or . . . who knew what? I’d grown up in the country and spent my formative years alone in the woods, but this little plot of trees seemed different, and inaccessible.
But standing in the wet grass and looking into the green shadows, I felt that stirring again, that awareness–here is the sacred thing, the sacred place, this is what I’m looking for.
I went back to my apartment and dried off. Outside, the wind picked up and twilight fell. The storm was approaching; my skin tingled with it.
I had one of those concrete squares outside my apartment door, roofed by the balcony of the apartment above, with a sort of half wall to afford me a little bit of privacy. I wanted to watch the storm, so I spread a blanket on the concrete. I brought out a few candles and a stick of incense I’d bought on a whim, and I sat there with the candle light and the sweet smoke and watched the spectacular display of lightning. While the storm swept through I felt intensely alive, like the electricity was under my skin as well as in the air. It didn’t last long enough–not at all. But the charged feeling accompanied me through the rest of the evening. I didn’t know what had just happened to me, but I knew it was important somehow.
It was December of the same year, in an apartment in New Orleans, that I opened my first book on Wicca. I found the book on my lover’s bookshelf and picked it up out of idle curiosity. I huddled in a blanket in a corner of our unheated, unfurnished apartment and read about the holiness of the earth and creating sacred space. I thought back to the night of the storm and my instinctive need to honor it in some way, about my blanket and candles–so similar to the instructions for casting a circle in the book. I realized that the night with the storm had been a kind of initiation, or at least had marked the beginning of a shift. I hadn’t known it then, but I’d started down a path toward a more meaningful interaction with the world–both its visible and invisible aspects.
What followed was a year of exploration, sometimes slowed or complicated by poverty, relationship drama, work drama, and frequent bouts of scary illness (pneumonia, etc.). In the midst of painful circumstances I discovered Scott Cunnigham’s works on Magical Herbalism as I was also discovering books on herbal remedies. This simultaneous discovery took my spiritual path in a direction heavily steeped in herb lore and magic. It also made me really, really want to have a place where I could grow a garden. That seemed out of reach (see “poverty”, above)–so of course a lot of my first spells were about getting more money. I’m sure a lot of us have done it: a spell with a silk pouch and oats and pennies, and a cheesy rhyme about “coin and grain and silk of green, money to my wallet bring” or some such nonsense. Of course it didn’t immediately dump a load of money in my lap, and I learned my first important lesson about magic; it never works the way we expect. It’s not a shortcut to anything–it is, instead, a way of tugging on the threads of the universal web to shake something loose. It was followed immediately by my second lesson–when you start tugging on the threads of the web, sometimes the thing you shake up the most is yourself. Sometimes the thing you are trying to summon to yourself is missing for a reason–and in order to get it, you have to let go of the things that are in the way. And sometimes, YOU are the thing that’s in the way, which means things are going to happen to change you whether you like it or you not.
In other words: Be careful what you wish for.
While my life exploded around me over and over, I started having dreams about tsunamis and earthquakes, about being in the middle of a forest while all the trees were toppling. Strangely enough, these dreams were comforting. In all of them, I was unscathed by the disasters. For the first time I understood what intuition was, and began to realize that I could trust mine.
And the next place intuition brought me was to a level one Reiki class with a woman I met through my partner. But I’ll tell you all about that next time.