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Crossroads are places of change. They are places of transformation, magick, bargaining and release. As I write this I am at the famously enormous Iowa 80 Truck Stop, a personal crossroads of which I am keenly aware, and a more nebulous one for the majority who pass through it. This place is brightly lit, spacious, filled with the shiny, the colorful, the distracting, the flavorful, the fattening, the costly, the flashing and the touristy. In the tradition of crossroads mythologies, I can just as easily see this as a place where adventures and good risks begin, as well as a place where people broker unwise deals with unscrupulous entities.
It does an amazing impression of purgatory.
For me, Iowa 80 marks the spot where the Eastern portion of this trip truly morphs into the Western portion, where the landscape becomes very different, the light is altered in angle and diffusion and the sky is much more of a vast, open space. I can feel the expansion of energy and space in all directions out here. It is similar to what I experience in the desert, and I am aware I am in the midst of a true pilgrimage.
Tonight I will be making chai from whole-ingredient stock given to me most generously by my friends who make it, through their company Sparkle Chai. I approached them about this because the act of sharing chai, especially amongst nomadic peoples, is a time honored tradition in the area of the world from whence it came, and I wanted to bring with me something I could share with fellow travelers, those who assist us along the way and those sharing the roads.
Chai at the crossroads will be my small kitchen ritual way of stepping into my role for the rest of this journey. It is the handing over completely of my energy and intentions to the Work of connecting with the amazing animals that wait to meet with me in Hill City and surrounding areas. It is my offering to the energies here, my thanks to them for seeing me here and beyond.
The bright lights of Iowa 80 are at one end of my shamanic spectrum. The wide skies of the Badlands of South Dakota are at the other. Thank you to Sparkle Chai, and to everyone who helped and who are still helping to make this dream a reality, most especially my dear Lexi who is my driver, my lighthouse, my Heart, always. I give you my blessings and gratitude here at the Iowa 80 crossroads and I raise my mug of chai to you all.
Edit: Made a PROPER cuppa this morning, after some practice …. Here’s how I did it.
One of the many amazing clients I have the pleasure to work with is Elaine K. Howley. She laughs easily, embodies joy and enthusiasm for life and is always the bearer of fascinating stories and first person accounts of incredibly transformative encounters with not only people, but all living things on the planet. She is a woman I admire greatly and I always come away from our times together inspired and enriched. Yet, if you met Elaine on the street you would probably not realize that she is an athlete whose sport is extreme, demanding and at times incredibly dangerous.
Elaine is a channel swimmer. What she does in the water is the equivalent of what Ironman athletes do both in the water and on land combined. The water she swims in for miles, hours, sometimes days in series is generally quite cold and very erratic in behavior, and the denizens of its depths often come to visit with her, sometimes with positive support, other times …. Well, not so much. The jellyfish story here on her blog is one of the latter.
Those of you reading who celebrate the Solstice this year may want to read up on Elaine and keep her in your thoughts or send her energy this year as Litha brings us the longest day of the year. On Friday the 20th of June, at 5pm EST, Elaine and her coach, Jen Dutton, will get into the waters of Lake Cochituate in MA and begin swimming. They will continue swimming until 5pm the following day, Saturday the 21st, bringing in the Solstice in true shamanic space, creating circles in the Lake’s nearly two miles worth of circumference.
So many things struck me about her choosing to do this swim on the Solstice. Perhaps it is because I’m a Water Sign, but there is a poignancy about the sacrifice of time and effort to honor the complete return of Light to the earth that is not lost on me, and I hope will not be lost on you either. I will be sending her my wishes for well being and increasing strength, with the hopes of feeling some of that in my own life and throughout my own Litha. Let those of you who are so inclined do the same. Elaine has said she will gratefully receive all energy and put it back out to the Universe for the Highest Good as she swims. I stand in awe of her accomplishments and in gratitude for her ability to achieve them.
Blessed Litha, Elaine. Thank you for your Work!
In this challenging year, even as things are finally calming down from the maelstrom they were just a few weeks ago, I keep coming back to the phrase “more will be revealed”. There are new challenges ahead, positive ones, ones that will foster opportunities to manifest long held dreams, but I am personally struggling, in light of an unfolding professional opportunity that is happening all around me (which I can only allude to at this time … Sorry) with feeling as though I and my skills have, yet again, been passed over and rejected. It is difficult not to feel as though I am, once more, not enough. Not talented enough. Not attractive enough. Not experienced enough. Not legitimate enough. Not … Enough.
I suppose this thought pattern began when I was passed over for participation in an important art show in the 6th grade. My art went to the show, along with several other works of art accompanied by their creators. I was left behind and a girl whose surname was similar to mine was sent along with my artwork by mistake. My art teacher was absolutely mortified when she realized what had happened and personally apologized to me for the error, but the seed was already planted. Passed over. Not supposed to be there.
This continued in various manners in high school. Multiple times, my work, in the arts and in writing, was credited to others, and no acknowledgement of either mistakes or omissions was made with regard to any of it. Add to this multiple rejections of my work in my adult life, much of it done on spec, in favor of artists who were more talented, flashy, popular and charismatic, and I guess you could say I have a bit of a complex about it. Much hard work on my part has been ignored while bad behavior from others is glorified and I have been told, in all seriousness, “you bring this on yourself by only focusing on your work, so that’s all that people expect of you.” (Really? I can totally live with that, actually, but really? You say it like dedication is a bad thing.)
So at this moment in time, in which I am feeling once more overlooked and that my time spent doing the Work I do has been ignored, I wanted to sit with these feelings and really sort through them, in hopes on finally LETTING THEM GO. I Journeyed on it. I had some hard conversations. I expressed my frustrations to close friends. And I found a common thread.
My expectations of credit, acknowledgement and, possibly, reward were very tied in with what I had always been taught about what SUCCESS looked like. Successful people had these things, in spades, and without them I was unsuccessful (this word just autocorrected to “unswept cesspool” which I think is very telling about what it means to hold onto negative expectations …). 6th grade me was bullied relentlessly and I hoped that “success” would stop that (It wouldn’t have). I hoped for the same thing in High school where I was very much the social misfit (It wouldn’t have changed that either).
At this point in my life, I completely understand that the “need” for these things is merely a pattern of thinking I have developed the habit of employing. And I understand further that these things have absolutely nothing to do with success at all. My success is determined by what I bring to the table, the enthusiasm I bring it with and the doing of my Work to the very best of my ability. My success is determined by me and not by others, and I can let go of that faulty way of thinking, freed of my expectations of the expectation of others, out of an unhelpful and stifling cycle. I am free to return to my Work with renewed joy.
Here’s the kicker. In Journeying through these issues I realized that success wasn’t the main thing I was craving. It was CONNECTION I really sought. When I feel well and truly connected, and acknowledgement assists in this, things flow smoothly and positive energy abounds. When I feel ignored, shunned, cut off or disconnected, I now begin to wonder what I’m being shielded from, since none of these instances have resulted in anything negative, and in some cases, actively led to some incredible connections I hadn’t anticipated at all.
These days my Work is not only credited to me, it has gotten the attention of those who are getting a great deal of accolades and acknowledgements. I get to hang out and Work with these people, learn from them, support and be supported by them. They are not and never were the enemy getting what was rightfully mine. They are my friends, colleagues, teachers and family. I am connected to all of them, actively and wonderfully. And being surrounded by them, connected, getting to make a living doing what I love, is truly, TRULY, what success looks like for me.
I can totally live with that.
I love working in a magickal shop. Walking in feels like coming home and reuniting with family every single time. I am able to do the best possible work on all levels here at Good Mojo Tattoos, and am gratified that more and more clients are reaching out to me for ritual work.
Not all work I do here is ritual in nature, but the majority of it definitely falls under the heading of magickal. The father and son both getting their first tattoos, both Celtic crosses with protection imagery entwined about them, were certainly a powerful transformative experience. The Pisces combined with a yin yang led me into conversation with a younger generation of theater kids, who gave me hope that those doing storytelling work onstage these days really GET IT on a deep and meaningful level. The eagle and banner on a young soldier heading back to his base the following morning was a piece I filled with my own good wishes and gratitude for the service he and his fellow soldiers provide.
I am able to find these moments of magickal connection in any shop I work, really. Cirque du Rouge has connected me with many clients whose works are based in ancestry, mythology, modern storytelling, childhood touchstones and combinations of all of these things. The diversity of work there is amazing and I learn all I am able to from it. You cannot transform someone on the outside without transforming them on the inside. There is transformation in the doing of such work as well.
Finding a place of grounding and centering is crucial before and after this sort of work, and I am still finding out what works best for me in this department. Working with ankylosaur energy has been particularly effective for both grounding and shielding and this process is one I am documenting as the first portion of my book on working with dinosaur energies on shamanic space.
If nothing else, ground, center and shield is a practice all body workers should employ, however it fits into their worldview. This could be a simple as a long cold water wash of the hands, or deep meditative breathing to bring awareness back to the present surroundings. It could be any form of prayer or mantra, or a focus on the completion of the previous piece of work while breaking down a station and being mindful of new intentions while setting it up for the next work to be done.
My room at Good Mojo is rapidly turning into a lovely space for shamanic tattoo work. My altar will be set up above my doorway this week and there is art going up on the walls. I look forward to meeting new people and reconnecting with friends and family while I am here this season. Please stop in, introduce yourself, or write to me here so we can plan your next tattoo together. I look forward to working with you in sacred space.
It pays to go off trail sometimes. Lexi wasn’t interested in climbing around in the smaller trail off to our right in the slot canyon, being slightly uneasy in close spaces. I walked over to it anyhow, sharing the story of how Debby and I had clambered up into it the week before. That’s when it happened.
There was a loud rustling sound from a dry scrub patch just above my head to my left and as I turned quickly to see what the noise was about, we both saw a large gray backed bird fly down the canyon in the direction we were headed. We stopped and looked at one another briefly. We had actually seen that, right? I watched the curve ahead to see if the bird was following the canyon, but it didn’t reappear, which meant that it had either exited the canyon overhead or it was in the rocks around the next bend.
We quietly moved up the path and as I came around the curve I looked up, coming face to face with a great horned owl. It was seated in an alcove not thirty feet away from me, about twenty up the rock face. In the desert it isn’t unusual to find owls out during the day, and great horneds do quite well for themselves in canyons full of rabbits, ground squirrels, lizards and smaller birds. This one was big, clearly eating well and enjoying good health.
We looked at each other for quite a long time. The golden eyes were enormous, and it was humbling to look into them. There is such a huge difference between encountering animals in aviaries and zoos and having such an encounter spontaneously in the wild. It completely stops you. It forces you to be present and aware at that precise moment in time. It makes a memory that will be crystal clear for decades to come.
Lexi joined me around the bend and the three of us spent several minutes together before we moved up the path to complete our hike to the end of the canyon. I poured out a bit of our water as an offering with thanks as we started on our way once again. The canyon comes to a dead end and the hike back is simply the same path in reverse. I knew the owl would be gone when we came back down the canyon.
But it wasn’t. It had shifted position a bit, to a spot with a better vantage point. It was well aware of us as we came back down the path. I have a hard time describing what makes me want to stay in the presence of an animal people rarely see. It’s almost as if some sort of understanding will occur if enough time in structured silence is shared, and I actively seek that out when I’m able. It’s the unexpected encounters that are fleeting and completely unplanned that end up making deep impressions and they gift us with moments that we can stretch, as long as we are willing to simply be still and experience them.
In the midst of the extreme beauty of the canyon, having already had a stressful year a few weeks into it, this encounter was one of those perfect and untarnished moments where I could clearly hear the Voice of the World, gentle and soft, saying “hey, it’s gonna be fine … Here, hang out with an owl for a little while and enjoy the view in the slots … ”
It is a reminder we all can use, really. Take a moment every now and then and listen. Really tune in. And trust that when you need it, the World will send you an owl, or something similar, just to make sure you stop, breathe, experience the wonder that is there and truly pay attention.