Witch Hovel in the Woods, the Light of Usnea: Home Now

After sleeping in a warehouse for three weeks after my 5 month hike on the PCT, I find myself driving to Eugene one sunny fall afternoon to look at a home. I found it on a whim on Craigslist while dreading reintroduction back into "regular world." The people who lived on the property liked me immediately and in our email changes we communicated with a familiar language. 

I am greeted by M, who shakes my hand and the shirt he is wearing tells me I am with my people. Local environmental activism. We walk around the property and he picks up acorns which he will dry, leach and grind into flour later. We talk about lichen and fungi dyes.

My heart breaks when I enter the main central building on the property. Filled with skylights, wood panels and that smell. Why is it that us more feral folk have that smell? A large wood stove anchors the room together and the walls on the southeast facing part of the building are just windows. A nuthatch crawls on the oak outside the window, chickens peck in the yard and a bobtailed cat suns itself on the couch.

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I leave with my heart pounding and my fingers crossed as I drive back to my warehouse couch. 

I move in a month later.

witch hovel

And, I sit. I sit and I stare out the window of my small yurt dwelling, perched up on a hill, surrounded by oak, pine and swaying usnea. I make a small altar at my own southeast facing window, where I watch the glow of the sun come up over the far hill. Sometimes, it lights the lichen up in the canopy first. Setting the whole place aglow, with brilliant shimmering mossy light reflected out of billions of dew droplets.

I pull out my old friends one by one, my crow bones, my squirrel bones and fox from a box labeled "WITCH SHIT". They feel cold, as we haven't seen each other for almost 9 months. My bone throwing set feels coldest of all, I breathe on them and they stir a little. They need fire, warmth, touch.

And so I make fires, as it's my only source of heat. I set the newspaper up, the kindling and wait and watch. "A watched fire will never lite correctly," I tell myself. 

I track mud into my room, lichen finds its way in and into my hair, alder sticks in my bed.

At night the rain hits the oculus skylight in the center of my roof. I panic, my trail mind going into survival mode. The drops sound like a leaking tent wall, and it takes me a little while to find the rain soothing during cold times. But isn't that for the domesticated? I ask myself. 

How to I keep my feral creature awake? 

The deer family, a small herd of doe and their young, greet me on my dimly lit morning walks down to the main house for coffee. Fine mist swirls in the air and fills my lungs. I hear them bounding off in their elegant leeps thunk! thunk! thunk! Hearing the ground bear the weight of their lithe prancing bodies, they look back at me with caution. My favorite is a young buck, the cutest of all.

I brew coffee and watch him out the window eating the usnea and the fallen lichen. His fur is thick and ruffled in some spots. He turns away and follows his mother up the hill and into the forest. My landmates wake and they make bird calls to each other in the morning, while coffee brews and eggs turn white in bacon fat and well conditioned cast iron.

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The anxiety of the rain never leaves me, I still wake sometimes at night and panic a little. 

Going To Town becomes an ordeal of maintaining my anxiety levels. I can breathe right when I finally get home again. But the town holds me better than Portland did. I see the usnea hanging from rearview mirrors. At the small grocery store, I buy dried pineapple and the old man behind the counter wishes me a happy solstice, instead of happy holidays. 

Eugene was an old bastion of green anarchism and radical environmentalism, since gone silent. Much that is wild and feral seems to be going silent as time passes. You can see see it though persisting like dormant seeds in the soil: in the bathroom graffiti, on the street corner, in quiet passing conversations, back patches and zines left to be seen.

Waiting.

On the solstice night, coming up from the house after a shower a wren flies into my room - in the pitch black dark. I try and try to shoo it away, but instead it roosts in my oculus and blinks at me. I shrug and eventually put myself to sleep. All night the little wren sleeps quietly. We wake at the same time, right as the sky begins to shift into light. I open my door and it flies away like nothing has happened. I feel it was an omen, but of what I have no clue.

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I keep sitting, for a month. I cry a little, I develop a romance with someone to distract me, I try to write but I cannot, I sit in hot springs and see the decaying leaves of Aralia californica, drooping weeping, my body aching for warmth and I stroke the lines the sun made on my body, remembering. Nothing can come out. Nothing wants to come out. 

Every night I dream about being on the PCT. Sometimes, it's snowing and I am still out there. Waiting in some warm building wondering to myself why am I waiting? It's done. I did it. Go home. Then I am filled with sadness and the deepest longing.

Sometimes I accept and refuse my post trail depression. Mostly, the sitting was deep metabolization of... everything that happened. And I loved it, I swam in it, drank deeply from it.

In those last cold Washington days, as I approached the Canadian border I knew, I was going to find my witch hovel in the woods. Where I would incubate myself with plants and spirit and fire.

And they must have agreed, because here I am.

My mornings now filled with incense and water in offering to the spirits of this land, to my own spirits that watch over me and walk with me, and to my ancestors. I write my dreams down and pray for more rain, as our winter so far has been so dry. It makes my nerve endings feel sapped and brittle. Like usnea left to dry. 

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I snap dried alder twigs for tincture and pour pine pitch salves, I set the florida water out under that Cancer full moon. I find my flow. I let myself sink into the difference of now vs. then. I manage to find ways to make myself suffer for my pleasures. For the goodness I have.

Funny, how for some of us, we feel we must suffer to have good things and so we create this ourselves. "The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven," I mock to myself. "So the John Milton says." Sometimes I tip my head back and cackle at myself.

I find my plant allies that will help me with my mind and they soothe me. 

A wind rattles through the trees one night, leaving piles of usnea glowing on the ground. They mesmerize me. If I am so attracted to them, they must be attracted to me. So I collect them, they fill all corners of my room. Leaving the scent of air, the trees, the wild.

Which I try so hard to keep within me.

A WITCHES RESISTANCE & ACTION LIST

 yarrow demonstrating its resilancy, strength and potency when growing in a harsh place

yarrow demonstrating its resilancy, strength and potency when growing in a harsh place

Just last Tuesday, like so many others I saw the headline that Trump silenced the EPA, USDA and it's scientists and a whole host of other horrifying events. I found myself hunched over my laptop or over my phone, white knuckled, jaws clenched, shoulders caved in, knots in my stomach. I went to bed that night my mind a swirling chasm of dread. Crushed under the weight of what to do, how to act, we're doomed I thought. It's happening. 

It's happening. And so very fast.

Times are fucking scary and very intense right now. For all of us, and even more so for so many other people. As I laid in my bed, unable to move from anxiety and the depression I have felt the past several weeks I realized, this is the exact reaction they want. Several people and friends I follow on Instagram talked about this very crushing weight we're all feeling right now and that we need to take care of ourselves and each other. We need to connect with each other and reach out. Build community or further strengthen those bonds, however that manifests for you.

Yesterday morning I woke up and dove into the news first thing, not the best idea for mental health. Somehow I surfaced from the deep current of it all and grabbed a breath of air and began a list for myself. I'm sharing this list with those who will pass by this. It's a reminder that small acts, the tiniest acts do in fact have an impact. Even if it means taking a hot bath with crushed red cedar leaves you found in your local forest. Resistance can be as subtle as a weed growing out of a crack in the concrete, or as bold as hanging signs in front of the White House and defying orders to stay silent.

So, this is my list of actions, prompts for more learning and understanding and self care for the witch in these times.

If you're reading this and have something to add, please leave a comment. This is by no means a list of perfection. Its things that feed and placed to start.

Be well, be strong.

Bye Bye Bye 2016

The years last bone broth is simmering behind me and everyone everywhere on social media is talking about the end. I want to too, just for myself. As Mercury has turned his back on us in the sky and transits seemingly backward for now, my words have felt hollow, shallow and useless. Like they hold no power. So usually in a time like this I am not prone to write, but here I am anyway. I wanna, for personal reasons, catalog the end of this year a bit. Or at least put something up where I can look back on the goodbye. 

Something to punctuate the end. 

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For me, this year was about breaking down, building up and moving into new territory. It was one of the harder years of my life, but an amazing one. Some major things that happened:

  • My paternal grandmother died. She helped raise me as a kid and she was the grandmother I was closest to.
  • Painfully watched my father succumb further to alcoholism. Recognized my own hereditary susceptibility to alcohol and realized that this beast is dormant within me. 
  • I hiked most of the Oregon Coast Trail. In doing so I learned how to backpack and manage hiking long distances all by myself.
  • I grew vast amounts of confidence (and give no fucks) in my writing while on trail/post trail and am totally comfortable calling myself a writer now. Despite my lack of formal education. 
  • I made the decision to leave my business and primary source of income at Haus of Gloi, of which I have been founder, creator and co-owner of for 9 years.
  • Launched Blood Moon Botanica and am now also reading tarot and bones professionally. 
  • Laid down ground work to step into a new job with Blood Moon Botanica after I finish the PCT.
  • Fell in love with a person I did not know could actually even exist.
  • Solidified personal political views/beliefs post election and will act accordingly to resist facisim and protect/defend what I love.

As the year has come to a close, I find myself separating from many of the monolithic structures I've built for myself to pursue deep and serious life callings. It's been a long game. Two years as a matter of fact (long perhaps, for an Aries). Making the decision to hike the PCT in early 2015 was what actually spurred a lot of these changes and decisions. It opened many doors I longed to walk though and to think I haven't even stepped foot on this trail and it's already changed me. 

In these last few months of this year it's actually happened. For some reason I've been startled to see years of work, dreaming and reaching finally materialize before me. Like, I'm making it happen. All those little tiny steps and things I did years, months, weeks, days ago are making these current moments and future moments happen. Inching closer and closer towards my (as cliche as it sounds) my own truth. Searing, white hot truth.

Saying that doesn't mean that I am not afraid. I am trusting that my thriftiness and Blood Moon Botanica will sustain me with a home and a living wage after I complete the PCT. The risks are great, the leaps are huge, learning to trust has been a struggle, learning how to let go. I've never been in a better position to chase after the things that matter the most to me. Plants, the land, herbalism, protecting and serving that which I hold most dear. I want to thank my past self, my spirits and ancestors and to all those who helped shine light on this crooked path I choose to walk. No matter how painful it was in the past to get me here to this point, this is the only way I would have it.

The witch has been created by the land to speak and act for it.
— Peter Grey, Rewilding Witchcraft

When you're moving toward what you're deeply called to do, the universe, God, Her, whoever - they conspire to put you where you need to be.

Now, I continue onwards towards what I know is right and I will trust the process.

The future is unknown.

2017 is unknown.

I am ready.

Bye bye bye 2016.

A Witches List: Life Bits + Tarot + Books + Coffee Death Limbo

Well, I can't drink fucking coffee right now. It's giving me heartburn. I don't know where it came from or why or how, but my blessed black dark bitter life elixir is no longer friendly towards my digestive system. So, it's been tea and eating as right as I can, when I can. Thankfully I live only a few blocks from one of Portlands best tea places, Townshend Tea. The loose leaf can rack up a bill, and very quickly I might add. A little of this one, a little of that one, $30! But dang, it tastes good. If I can't have my coffee, my tea might as well be exciting.

  witch hair and maps and no coffee.

witch hair and maps and no coffee.

Besides adjusting to a new life without coffee (aka: death) it has been busy, busy, busy with odd quiet moments in between. I've been thinking a lot about my upcoming trip, putting final touches on logistics, route, gear and food. My spiritual practice and what I will be doing with myself post trail. I've been reading a few books, new and old. Setting aside ego and pride to explore things I have an irrational dislike of. Spending time with a person I love and exploring this new place of being vulnerable and really being OK and happy in that state without letting fears override me - I've been applying that to all areas of my life lately. Slowly but surely.

Like I mentioned in my last post, I am having a weird time being in a limbo of not being able to take action on some things I'd like to get started. I don't usually put the lid on things and right now I have no choice but to keep the lid on this I WANNA DO IT NOW stew of ideas and plans. A very good exercise for someone like myself. It will also be a great to come back from my trip and have a course of action I can take, that way I hopefully don't get caught up in post trail blues.

I did a cool thing earlier this month and gave my living room couch away for free on Craigslist. I then moved my bed into my living room and now, I have a blank slate of a room that will be solely dedicated to witchcraft related activities. I've been dipping back into old practices and relationships to deity and spirit that I had set aside for a few years. While my house is primarily conducive and supportive of my practices, I don't know why I had never thought of doing this before. I'm glad I did. I'm looking forward to doing more with it when I get back from the coast.

TAROT

On Instagram I have been doing another month long tarot challenge! I love these and I especially love doing these with a new deck, as it gives you such a great opportunity to work with it on the daily. I chose to work with the Wild Unknown, a deck I own but have had an aversion to since it is so very popular and hip. To challenge myself on this, I decided to use the deck and get over my ridiculous snobbery. So far, it has been powerful to work with and I definitely appreciate the strong voice that this deck has.

Have you seen the Pagan Otherworlds Tarot that is being produced by Uusi? Well, ya need to go look at it right now. I don't think I have been this excited by a tarot deck in... forever. Not only does this deck have the traditional 78 cards, but it has FIVE lunar cards and "Seeker" card. How cool is this deck? The Lunar cards might be a great way to work with time frames within readings. Who knows! I'll have to try it out.

  photos from and by  Uusi

photos from and by Uusi

The folks behind Uusi are super great people too. I got a little post card in the mail from them to let me know when my deck would ship and when the book will be arriving as well. Decks should be arriving in August, the companion book in October. I like that the book will be coming out a few months down the road after the deck, as it will give me to opportunity to read and work with it purely by imagery and intuition, my preferred method of card reading. EXCITED!

READING

For a long time, I harboured a dislike of Amanda Palmer. I didn't have any real rational reasoning for this. I think that sometimes, it is good to explore our dislike of something - just to check in on where that is coming from within us. Likely, we dislike that someone or something because it presents to us our lack, or they inspire jealously because we are not living like them, or are as great as them, or living a fabulous life like them, or are married to your author crush Neil Gaiman, happy, successful, or any other number of things you feel you are not or have not. 

In the same vein of challenging myself to read with the Wild Unknown tarot, I decided I needed to read her book The Art of Asking. Magically, the book appeared in my lap - a side benefit of loving a man who works for the best bookstore in Portland and possibly North America. 

I'm about a quarter of the way through and I think I have underlined and made notes on half the pages so far. If you are doing anything, anything at all - perusing your passions in any shape and form, you will love this book. As an entrepreneur and someone who has bucked at conventional ways of living my whole life, this book has been hugely affirming so far. Especially within the realms of work that makes one vulnerable, like reading tarot for example. She really highlights the struggle of an artist and the effect of crushing self-doubt.

In both the art and the business worlds, the difference between the amateurs and the professionals is simple:
The professionals know they’re winging it.
The amateurs pretend they’re not.
I laughed thinking about every single artist I knew - every writer, every actor, every filmmaker, every crazed motherfucker who had decided to forgo a life of predictable income, upward mobility, and simple tax returns, and instead pursued a life in which they made their living trying to somehow turn their dot-connecting brains inside out and show the results to the world - and how maybe it all boiled down to one thing:
BELIEVE ME.
Believe me.
I’m real.

It's really good. And as I figured, my dislike of her was not about her but about me and my own self-worth. Good things to explore.

ADVENTURES

When I leave the Portland metro area, sometimes I realize that I forget where I live. It's been nice to go with someone and be able to share seeing beauty like this.

  lava canyon, mount saint helens

lava canyon, mount saint helens

  june lake, mount saint helens

june lake, mount saint helens

  avalanche lily, mount saint helens

avalanche lily, mount saint helens

  bagby hot springs area

bagby hot springs area

I had the pleasure of driving my friend Ashley and her husband Marcos out for a two day backpacking trip! It was great seeing them and we all went for a dip at the hot springs. It had been ages since I'd been here. It's a popular spot for Portland folks. Beautiful nonetheless.

Sadly, someone took it upon themselves to sprinkle glitter all over the trail. Sigh.

I feel like a complete dork, but if I am within the vacinity of the PCT, I have to stop. Even if it's just to walk a few hundred feet of trail. You can see it snaking along behind me there. It carries the footsteps of so many people, all their pain and hunger and who the fuck knows what else. A year and a half of longing makes that narrow path something very, very special and symbolic to me. 10 measly months and it'll be my home for a little while.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I am curious, because I know I am not the only one. Have you tried exploring something you irrationally dislike? Did you ever discover the root cause?

My next post will likely, maybe, be from my tent while I am on the coast. See you then!

Leaving For the Oregon Coast Trail + What Do I Need?

It's 100 degrees here in Portland this weekend. I sucked in all the cool air last night, shut up all the windows before it crept over 70 degrees this morning and I am sitting in fine comfort, for now. I am cool blooded though, so I enjoy the heat for the most part. Sipping holy basil and mint tea, with a little watermelon on the side. Good refreshing things.

My mind keeps drifting back to this this picture I took almost a year ago, when I was on a camping trip with my herbalism school. It was such a hot and dry summer last year...

 Oregon Coast Trail Oswald West - Thru Hiking

It's always cool on the coast, or at the very least there will be that persistent breeze rolling in off the ocean. Filling you up with the sweetness of negative ions, salty skin and tousled hair.

My stomach flips a little in that good way; when I look at my calendar and see July creeping up faster than I thought possible. In less than a month now, I'll be living on the Oregon coast for a month.

My home and all that I'll need to live outdoors will be on my back. I'll be avoiding lingering in towns and spending as much time as I can out on the route that will take me to the California border. From there, I'll have to find my way home. Likely by a mixture of bus and train.

It's going to be super amazing. But I am also kind of preparing myself more for the uncomfortable aspects of what I'm doing. The word for it is called thru-hiking - when you hike one long continuous trail from beginning to end. It's my preliminary step towards finding my style for when I take on the Pacific Crest Trail next year. To know what I am comfortable with, what I need and don't need, what I want and don't want. 

I don't know what to expect. I have never done anything like this in my life. I've never even been on a trip this long before, as I have spent the majority of my adult life... well, adulting. Running a business, tending to the day to day.

It's been both easy and hard for me to set aside time like this, for a big endeavour. It feels kind of like a chink in my mental calendar year - I'm excited and a little irritated by it. Aries don't like to slow their roll and I can't get rolling on some projects I've wanted to pick up. My ingrained scheduling will be disrupted and I feel like I can't begin anything right now. 

It's a preparatory limbo.

What I do know is, my constant companions are going to be the ocean, trees, plants and the moon as she moves the tide back and forth. Controlling my movements of when I can and cannot hike. When I can and cannot pass around a point, or make it to the next headland, to my next camp spot. 

I keep thinking about how I should prepare for the spiritual aspect of this hike and I think about how I am going to do that when I am on the PCT too. I think about physical tools I would need to engage in spirit work, pay homage to the moon in her phases, or to honor a spirit of place. I think I need these physical accoutrements to make contact, to do the work, to engage. Then I realized I don't. I realized...

All the tools we need are in us. 

So I decided to stop stressing about that part. Because either they'll find me, or I'll find them... we'll find each other somehow. I'll figure it out when I get there. I keep telling myself that.


If you're wanting the more detailed and nitty gritty aspects of my hikes and the preparation that I do for them, you can follow me on my other blog, Witch Wandering (which, there are no posts yet, but soon). In that space I will be keeping a daily trail log (updating on trail when able to do so) and posts on what I carry gear wise, eat, prepare, etc. I do hope to squeeze in a from the trail post here too, if possible. We'll see how it goes.