Out with the old!

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of my leaving the UK and arriving in Olympia. This has been a big, exhausting, amazing year for me. I have learned so much. Let me share with you:

*I have an irrational love of the British Isles. The land there feels good to me in a way that makes no sense. It took me a good 2/3 of my year to stop waking up missing the Welsh sky.

*When you follow the magic, the Current, the flow, whatever you choose to call it, it will not disappoint.

*I have some work that I need help with, issues I feel ready to lay to rest. I am committed to going to therapy in 2013.

*Nothing is more important to me than relationship; nothing is more valuable in relationship than willingness to do the Work.

*I don’t cast spells often, but when I do they are remarkably effective.

*Perfection is a lie. So is self-improvement.

*Getting what you want is often WAY scarier than not getting it.

*I love bigger than I ever thought I could.

*What I feared most ended up feeling incredibly obvious and a lot less scary than I believed.

*I am not cut out for general teaching.

*I learned how to make rosehip jam, pork carnitas, and convert a lot of my favorite dishes in to gluten-free ones (I can’t eat wheat or gluten, or most corn).

*I need to sing again.

*I need a vacation.

*I am in the process of learning how to accept others without negating myself. I am also learning to trust my Fetch more (much work is needed around getting my Fetch and Talker to communicate more clearly – this will be a big chunk of work for me in 2013).

*Most importantly, I felt like my open heart surgery came to a close last night. Kali sat before me on her white horse, grinning happily from ear to ear, holding my bloody, severed heart in her hands. I looked down at my wide open chest. And you know what I found? I found a bigger, blacker, bolder heart was underneath all the time.

Let us ride forward in to 2013. Follow the magic!

One year ago, Wales

Today, if the world hasn’t ended, marks one year since my family packed up and drove away from Lampeter. We pulled out of the driveway before dawn. We watched the sun rise on the incomparable Teifi Valley. Our car was headed for Cornwall to spend Christmas with friends before heading back to the United States. (I linked to my last real post in Wales over on today’s A Sense of Place.)

Teifi River valley; courtesy of Autumnsonata on flickr creative commons.

Teifi River valley; courtesy of Autumnsonata on flickr creative commons.

I find Washington to be far more wild than Wales. It makes sense: it’s not been as cultivated for as long as Wales has. The mountains are taller and there are more things that can kill you here. But the magic in the Welsh land hovers so close to the surface. The magic in Washington is more embedded in the tangled weeds and thorns. Maybe it’s hiding out, away from the freeways and masses of people. Most of Wales is comparably less populated. There is more space between people there.

Before we left Wales I did a tarot reading for us. The results included a rocky time financially, followed with material success. Overall it was a positive reading, revealing that this was a good choice for our continued growth. Those predictions ring true. We depleted our savings by moving across the world and getting back on our feet, but signs look like improvement in that area is on the way. Much of the magic that has occurred in the past year has been the inner work of shedding old friends, old patterns, old fears. I don’t doubt for a second that we are supposed to be in Olympia.

Tonight I’m hosting a small gathering to celebrate the return of the light, and I’ll raise a glass to Wales and my friends there. I’ll leave an offering for the Fey and spirits of the Land of here. They’ll get the first serving of the mulled wine and spiced cider I like to make. Most importantly I’ll get to celebrate the long night and the slow growth of the light with the people I love most in the world.

May you be with ones you love this season. There is nothing more important.

Place – what does that even mean?

Today begins a new quarter! Hurray! Or hwre, as they say in Welsh. When I started this project I fully expected to be in Wales, exploring the green hills and red kites and Welsh mythology. Wales is a beautiful, powerful place; I miss it. Instead, I’m back in the US, in Washington state.

Place may seem like a strange choice for a religion blog. There’s no religion called Place. What does that even mean?

I put it last in my year-long exploration of the traditions that have informed my own personal beliefs and practices, because Place was the first ‘religion’ that I knew. Place, Land, Home – it can be called any of these things. In my testimony I talked about how I was raised secular, but I left out the specificity of being born and raised in Alaska. I don’t even know how I begin talking about the imprint Alaska has made on me. How to explain the sense of place and land to some one who didn’t grow up with that, or find it later in life?

Let me try.

The household I grew up in didn’t talk about things (still doesn’t). Almost everything was assumed, picked up through observing, or just discovered on one’s own. What I learned from my father, who was also born and raised in Alaska, was that the nearest thing to a god in his life was Alaska: its waters, its mountains, its communities, its resources. We were pretty subsistence-based. We went fishing all summer, catching so much salmon that I actually used to complain about having salmon AGAIN for dinner. We went berry picking. My father went hunting. Our freezer was stocked and our family fed and housed by the work of his hands. He built many of the houses we lived in. He told a few stories about spending summers camped out on Shelter Island fishing with his dad and brother. My dad knows all the waterways and islands and history of SE Alaska, like other people know freeways and commute times.

Place was also important to my mother, who raised me with Australian children’s books and music. I knew where her homeland was. I grew up with an understanding of just how big this world is, how diverse it geography and its creatures.

But there was something of the sacred in the way my father related – still relates – to the land. It’s not a tree-hugging reverence, but rather a respect for the forces at play in the land and weather and currents. It was an understanding of conservation and preservation, but not environmentalism. We take care of the land not because it is sacred and should be outside of our touch, because that land takes care of us, by housing us and feeding us.

I think there are many people in other lands that can relate to this. I’ve mostly found that people with a rural upbringing understand this, but I’ve also found some people with such a deep love of their city that they understand the complicated emotional connection to place as well. For a long time I felt like Juneau was my greatest love, and I kept cheating on hir by moving away. I always expected to move back and raise my children there. I only gave that up six months ago. Juneau is still The Home Land for me.

If this reverence and focal point in life isn’t similar to religion, then my degrees are worthless.

Or maybe it’s just that I’m bent to perceive the religious and/or spiritual in the world around me. Different lands feel different to me. The older and more traveled I become the more I find I am better at listening. Different places ‘speak’ differently, have different things to ‘say,’ and connect with me more personally. Some places want to dump their stories in your lap, others hold their secrets tightly, and sadly, some places are dead – either because that’s just how they are, or because it seems like the humans have stopped listening.

This quarter I’m diving into where I am: Olympia, Washington. I am going to take this spring quarter to explore the Land here: plants, animals, birds, geography. But a place is more than its land, it is also its people and its history. I’ll read up on the history (as told by white folk) and explore the indigenous peoples of the area, their customs, histories, traditions. I have heard that many of the reservations in the area have excellent cultural centers.

As I am as white as they come, racially and culturally, expect some awkward discussions of race. According to the US Census, Juneau’s population is 11.8% Native American or Alaska Native. (In comparison, Olympia is only 1.1% American Indian.) I grew up with Native friends, we learned about the myths and traditions of the indigenous people in school, and I knew people my grandparents’ ages who spoke Tlingit and remembered learning English for the first time. Alaska is a relatively recently settled land and many of the atrocities faced by other Native groups were avoided – however, that is not to say that horrific things didn’t occur and that Alaska has avoided rampant racism and white privilege. Oh no.

Washington also has the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of North America, the official shrine of Shinto outside of Japan. I have long had a fascination with Shinto, so I’ll be exploring a little bit of that too.

What’s exciting about this quarter is that much of what I learn or practice is very hands on – it’s doing, not just believing. And it’s stuff my kids can connect with. My family can attend the Shinto shrine and the cultural centers with me; we can go hiking and exploring together. It’s also spring. The forsythia is blooming yellow outside my window, the sun is getting a little bit warmer, the days are lengthening – let the great exploration begin!

Fifteen Years in the Wrong Shoes – part five

This is the final post in my ‘testimony’ series. (You can follow the links to parts one, two, three, and four.)

My family landed in Wales in the early autumn of 2009. It was a grand adventure. Husband had never been to Wales before; I had been once for three days two years prior. But the gods said go, so we went.

The rational reason for our moving to Wales was that I wanted to be nearer to my adviser and the academic community while working on my PhD. My area of specialty was the Virgin Mary, particularly feminist Mariology, and the woman at this particular university was one of the few people anywhere in the world focusing on this type of work. My topic was Marian co-redemption.

My husband and I love to travel and thought this was a great opportunity to explore someplace new. We went over on my student visa and our child was small enough not to be disrupted either in his social life or his schooling. But really we went because we felt ‘called.’

After getting settled, into house, into routine, I started work on my degree in earnest. I had an office which I shared at the top of the religions building. I worked in the mornings and my husband cared for our son, and then we would switch in the afternoons.

I began making some friends. It turned out that there were three other Feri practitioners in Wales (one student, one almost initiate and one Reclaiming Feri initiate). All were within an hour’s drive and one lived two blocks from me. Introductions were made by mutual acquaintances online. My first autumn there I had what was my first ‘definitive’ experience with the gods.

I started to sing with the Church of Wales chapel choir. Even though I was more personally identified with Feri at this point I still kept a toe in the Christian world.

But our time in Wales was our time in the desert. It was our crucible. The university I was a part of was merging with other universities and my department was gutted. My adviser was fired two weeks after I arrived. In the spring I lost my office and had no where to work or store my books. First the library, then my kitchen table. I transferred schools to follow my adviser. I ended up at a much better department at university in London, but there was no way our family could afford to move there, so I may as well have been back in the States doing the degree!

We had very few friends. The community we were in was not the best fit for us. This is not to say that it isn’t lovely and the people wonderful. It was a mutual ill-fit and an acknowledgement that Americans don’t easily fit into the British social scene, that Americans don’t have an easy place in a community carved up by Welsh-English divides, and that a family isn’t a good fit for a university culture. My husband and I spent A LOT of time together. Many of our weaknesses were brought the forefront. Our first summer there was particularly difficult. But by not having any other distractions we were forced to deal with things. We were made stronger as a unit.

My husband started his own business right before we moved. Building up his skills, clientele, and confidence while in a new country after having just endured a very expensive move meant we were barely scraping by financially. That was stressful.

And I got pregnant with our second child. One more complication in the mix!

My academic work was slowing down. My enthusiasm for the work was waning. I was tired of reading anti-feminist treatises – both ancient and modern. I was feeling more and more distant from the Virgin Mary. She wasn’t the focus of my devotion anymore. I wasn’t enjoying singing at the church and I particularly didn’t care for all the Lord-ly, kingly, martial language employed by the Bible readings. I felt really disconnected from all things Christian. Personally, I had given up on the term. I don’t know when it occurred but at some point during that first year in Wales I gave up using that term as a personal identifier. But my academic work was firmly and fully embedded in the Christian tradition.

Deep in winter, fully into my second year in Wales and hugely pregnant I started to wrestle with the idea of quitting my PhD program. The work that had seemed so important, the work that kept getting unexpected assistance when it got stuck, the work that had seemed so vibrant to me, went cold. I thought that perhaps this work had just been the ploy to get us to Wales, to force us into the verdant desert. I did a tarot reading about my degree. That reading revealed that for the sake of my greater spiritual growth I would indeed quit my program.

Now, I not only had to come to terms with shedding an old outdated self-identifier (Christian), but I had to wrestle with the idea of letting go of my PhD program. I have wanted a PhD since I was 12. I don’t know who I was trying to impress, but all these years I’ve felt I’ve had to prove something. To some one. Probably myself. What would I do if I didn’t keep going in academia? Would I ‘just’ be a stay-at-home mother? Oh, there was some internalized anti-feminist thinking I needed to unravel!

I spent a lot of time in meditation in the last weeks of my pregnancy. Our family life mirrored the pregnancy in many ways. Late in our second autumn my husband’s business began to take off. We were wrestling with the big challenges in our relationship and life together. We had little to do except ask the big questions and stew in the confusion.

Then the baby was born. It was a beautiful birth – a safe, healthy and peaceful home birth (a million thanks to the NHS). Spring was spent adjusting to this new addition to the family; I had to physically recover. And figure out what to do next.

And really, this leads me up to my first post for this blog. If not a Christian, what is my practice? If not a grad student, what is my work? This blog has helped me immensely with both of these questions.

The Virgin Mary will always have a place of honor in my home. I feel like she was the vehicle for a stronger divine voice (oh Mary, you are so often the vessel for other divine voices) that has been leading all these years. She was the way I could enter more fully into the Christian tradition, and it was through her that I heard the voice of the Great Mother for so long.

Looking back there was no single point where I decided once for all ‘I am not a Christian.’ It’s been a slow, but not unsurprising, reveal. In some ways it was like being in a quiet, safe relationship (Christianity), developing some new friends (feminism and Paganism) and after a while realizing that I’ve been in love with someone else for a long time (witchcraft).

I spent fifteen years in the wrong shoes. I am grateful I had shoes at all for the journey. I’ve learned a lot from Christianity – language, stories, myth, theological tools and insights, personal practices, such as prayer, contemplation, compassion, discernment, textual analysis, etc. But the shoes never fit quite right and I never thought to exchange them for a new pair. But now I’ve taken that old pair and retired them. I’ve got new shoes on. I need to break them in – or they need to break me in. But they fit better and I’m excited to climb the rest of the way up this mountain.

Fifteen Years in the Wrong Shoes – part four

This part of my testimony is all about graduate school, and it brings us up to the present. When we left off I had just moved to Berkeley, started work on my master’s degree, and broken up with my girlfriend. You can read parts one, two, and three by clicking the links.

I think I always knew I was going to end up in Berkeley at the Graduate Theological Union. It had been on my radar for years. I liked the small school consortium and the ecumenical and interfaith make up of the place. It had a small Orthodox seminary with a chapel, and also had some of the most liberal Christian seminaries in the country. Liberal, but also academically respected. Rosemary Radford Ruether, pioneering feminist theologian, also taught there. I was very excited to dive deep into feminist theology.

And dive I did. I explored so many things. I bought my first tarot deck, something I’d been wanting to do for years but had been dissuaded by my ex-girlfriend. I read all kinds of new theologies. I started studying Latin. I loved most of my classes and, honestly? I could stay taking classes like those for the rest of my life. Nerd Niki was in heaven.

Emotionally and spiritually things were more complicated.

I still considered myself a Christian, although I recognized how ill-fitting the label was. I spent a year considering converting, officially, to Orthodoxy. I spent Tuesday evenings at the Orthodox Institute, attending services and fellowship (dinner and conversation). I was able to participate in readings and chanting (my first and only visit to the area Greek Orthodox church reminded me how rare it is to be able to participate like that). I felt welcomed despite my lack of ‘official’ status.

One of the things that I love about Orthodoxy is the lack of questions around ‘being saved.’ While most of the students attending services were ‘cradle Orthodox’, those born into the faith, many were also converts, and baptism is the act that yokes you to the Church. I’ve never been baptized, but I pondered it in my heart.

I felt more attached than ever to the Christian tradition. Attending services on Tuesday evenings at the Orthodox Institute, taking advanced theological classes, spending my days with other seminarians who were there to become priests and pastors, community organizers and activists, scholars and professors. Of course the more I found a potential fit, the more confused I was in general. One of the few times I went to chapel I had a vision of Athena standing at the altar, filling the entire vaulted space.

I was incredibly – and privately – judgmental about many of the people who arrived at school to be pastors. It seemed to me that those who sought to lead, inspire and heal others were the most in need of guidance, wisdom and healing themselves. Of course, only now do I recognize that perhaps those of there to study and perhaps someday contribute to the greater discourse might have been searching for wisdom and knowledge in an equally hungry and dysfunctional way. I know I was.

Still, I had a hard time feeling like I was on the same page with most of the Christians at seminary. I think I was so used to feeling like the odd one out and used to clinging to what I found liberating in the tradition that I never considered just walking away. Even after finding T Thorn Coyle’s book Evolutionary Witchcraft.

I was working part-time at a neighborhood bookstore. One day while tidying the shelves, I noticed a new book with an intriguing title. I pulled it off the shelf and read the flaps, the back, the table of contents, looked through the notes and index, and skimmed the introduction (isn’t that how you check out a new book? no?). I bought the book and took it home with me. I read the whole thing, then went back and worked through the exercises. Here was an approach to witchcraft that I could relate to. There was no polarity or gender essentialism. I liked that while ritual was part of the work, the way magic was described was not as some mystical gift that you discovered on your 13th birthday, but as a tool that one could hone and use. My queer, feminist, practical heart was pleased, as was my mystery loving, devout soul. After I discovered that Thorn lived in San Francisco, I emailed her and asked if she spoke or taught in the area. Yes, but not right now, was the reply; she’d put me on her mailing list.

And so I continued on with my work. I wrote my master’s thesis, mainly a literature review of white,* contemporary, feminist writing on the Virgin Mary. That process was a struggle, a dark night of the soul. I remember little of the three months I spent writing: 16 hour days in front of my laptop, double and triple checking my notes and sources, freaking out, fearing I had nothing to say, and what did any of this matter anyway? In the end, my thesis isn’t that great, but I passed and got my degree and moved on, with one eye to possibly going back to school to work on a PhD.

I found a job with a Bay Area adult Jewish education non-profit. I loved it. To someone raised secular and in what feels like at times, a rather tradition-less, white-bread non-culture, the rich tapestry of the Jewish world was inviting. I grew up with several Jewish friends and have long loved much about Jewish culture. At one point I asked myself ‘why not Judaism?’ There are so many things to love about Judaism. I particularly like its long tradition of questioning – questioning scripture, tradition and God Himself. But that last piece is part of my inability to embrace Judaism: I’m not a fan of Yahweh (or YHWH or G-d). I also realized that the narrative of Judaism is not my story. I remain a committed and loving friend of the Jewish tradition (and according to my former boss – and totally tongue-in-cheek here – an honorary Jew).

Realizing that piece about one’s narrative tradition was an eye opener for me. It’s helped me also see that while much of my own personal journey has followed along the Christian path, often times right along with it, the Christian narrative isn’t mine either. But I still didn’t see that clearly then.

About two years after reading Thorn’s book, I finally got an email saying that she would be teaching a two-year class on Feri witchcraft, using her book as a basis for the structure. I, and my then-fiance (now husband), signed up. I think there were 32 people initially, whittling down to about 23 or so by the end. This was my first ‘real’ forray into formal paganism of any kind – I still identified as a Christian! My love of the Virgin Mary was the only thing keeping me there, but still I clung to the claim. While many participants came to Feri and/or Paganism from a Christian background, now long rejected, no one ever dismissed my claims or experience. No one ever outwardly judged me. I felt very welcome.

What I struggled with was ritual. The theory, the personal work, the strong emphasis on personal practice – all that was welcome. But group ritual? I was profoundly uncomfortable. Chanting? Singing? Trance work? In ‘public’? I was freaked out. I look back and I realize that there were a few personalities and ‘performance styles’ that clashed intensely with mine. These days those things would be less of a problem, but starting out, with my issues of personal spiritual expression and performance anxiety…. it was a hot mess for me. I didn’t get much out of the rituals and mostly thought that they were psychological exercises.

After the two years were up, I felt changed. More open. More confident. Part of a larger, if amorphous, community. I felt I had connected with something – even if I was just touching the fringe on a great train of a cloak, like the woman being healed by touching the hem of Jesus’s tunic…. Early on in the training I remember thinking ‘This is great, but Feri isn’t for me.’ At the end of it, I wanted more. Feri was for me. But I wasn’t sure quite how. I was pregnant with my first child during the second half of the Feri training. He arrived just 8 weeks before the final gathering. Juggling new motherhood, work and a new degree program took up a lot of my energy.

During this time I was also getting more and more involved in yoga. I’d had my first yoga class when I was living in Seattle. It was mainly Iyengar style. I liked it a lot, and I incorporated a lot of what I’d learned into my own daily stretching and workouts. When I moved to Oakland after grad school the neighborhood studio had a woman teaching Anusara** style yoga and I loved it. In fact, much of the metaphysics sounded a lot like Feri to me.

Yoga and Feri were more and more the realities of my spiritual practice and informed how I viewed the world. Still, I did not take them on as identities. I clung to the last remaining shreds of a Christian identity. When our son was 7 months old my husband and I went on our first ever vacation together. We were in Australia visiting my family (my mother is Australian). My parents and sister had my son for the weekend. Husband and I were driving off to Daylesford in Victoria, talking about life and what to do next. We couldn’t stay in the Bay Area and raise kids – too expensive, not enough trees. I had recently started a PhD program through a university in Wales. My adviser was one of the few feminist theologians specializing in Mary and she was the only one I wanted to study with. What to do? Where to go?

In the midst of the discussion about what things we needed in a community, my husband turned to me and said, ‘Let’s move to Wales.’ It was like a bolt of inspiration from gods. We both recognized the sheer insanity of it, but also the odd ‘rightness’ of it. While in Daylesford we both got tarot readings – separately and by different people. Both readers commented on our up coming move abroad. Neither of us had said anything to anyone about this decision. Nine months later, almost to the day, we arrived in Wales. We’d sold or given away almost everything we owned. We’d scraped together the $10,000 for moving costs, plane tickets, and visas. And there we were. In rural Wales. We’d followed the voice of God and …… it led us into the verdant wilderness. Which will be the subject of part five.

Holy cow, five parts. Thanks for reading!

*White, because I am not fluent in Spanish, and so much of Latin America’s writing on Mary is inaccessible to me, and because there is little written about her in the African-American Christian tradition or in other cultures. Most of the writing on Mary comes from white European or white American writers (or if they’re not white, they are not writing in a racially intersectional way, which defaults to white, at this point). To include other cultures and a wider discussion on race within the theological discussion of Mary would have made my masters thesis unruly and way too long.

**Anusara is in the middle of a huge ‘scandal’ and upheaval. You can google it for yourself. I still think the system has much to offer and I continue to practice in this style, while also being deeply disappointed by what has unfolded.

A New Year

I’m not much for New Year’s parties or resolutions. Now that I have kids I have even less desire to stay up late among raucous revellers. Going to bed early suits me just fine. I feel like the Gregorian new year is oddly placed anyway. I always feel like it should come either at the winter solstice or perhaps on the vernal equinox. January 1st feels like an arbitrary, but satisfying bookend to the winter holiday season, a point marking the arrival of the longest, coldest part of winter for me: January and early February. This year I felt like my new year began on December 28th, when I boarded a plane for the United States, leaving behind my adventure in the UK.

In my last post I mentioned that I didn’t have many Christmas traditions. I had forgotten about my one New Year’s tradition. Does it have to occur on New Year’s? No. This year it occurred in the post-Christmas time, with friends. I made my yearly collage – a collage of all the things I want more of in the year to come. It’s sort of like a visual resolution poster, only I focus on what I want to fill my year with, rather than on improvements or things I want to stop doing. I can’t remember how many years I’ve been doing it now, or even where I got the idea from. Maybe five or six years now? What never ceases to amaze me is how many of the things come to pass. I consider the poster a magical act. I hang it in my kitchen, for myself and all to see.

Here is last year’s poster:

Collage for 2011

I think this was the first year I moved in a more abstract direction. Things that did not come to pass: I didn’t make it to Iceland (that scenery picture) and I didn’t get much singing in my life (the musical notation). But I did get inspired (this blog). I made choices about my PhD program (I quit). I made some strides toward a healthy postpartum body (I lost the baby weight by eating well). My family added a baby and grew financially. I made some more friends in Lampeter. I had hoped for greater spiritual clarity and I got it. I had hoped for greater clarity around my academic work, and I got that too. I got what I hoped for, but not necessarily in the ways I expected. That’s one of the beauties of this practice.

Here is this year’s collage:

Collage for 2012

(I apologize for the blur. It was the best I could do with my camera phone.)

This year I got even more abstract, and I did not want any white space and I ended up spilling beyond the borders of the poster board. After doing it I realized that it sort of works from a ‘top down’ view. At the top we have the ‘cosmic woo’ and it filters down into a very material, earthy sense. The word I’ve been mulling over all winter is Primal. My family has been loosely following the trendy Paleo/primal diet – with tremendous results and enjoyment. I like the philosophy underneath these movements and want to apply it to more of my life. It fits in with the desire I have to get more in touch with my Fetch, to rely less on my Talky Self. It also applies to how I am viewing my own spiritual urges and needs.

In the collage there is a sort of triptych, three ladies: a forest nymph, a Dia de los Muertos face and a woman that reminds me of a priestess, pouring out her waters. I want to evoke these forms in my own life. I want to know the Land, the earth and that Wildness that comes from time spent in the forest. I want to grow in my understanding of the ‘darker’ side of life, in my understanding of my ancestors and the Mighty Dead. I want to grow in my abilities to minister. I’m not sure what that means! I am interested in what shape this takes when I look back in a year’s time.

In tarot cards, I see the Empress, Death and Temperance, with a bit of the High Priestess.

At the bottom, from left to right we have: salmon and marrow bones (for more primal, healthy eating, and salmon from Alaska), a healthy body, a baby (for family and deciding whether or not we are done with our family), some beautiful earrings (for beautiful things, and more wabi-sabi style), a picture of Sonya Tayeh, a choreographer whose work is fabulous and punk rock (dance is something I always put on my lists of ‘if I had unlimited time or money’ but I never get around to doing), a mostly covered picture of Debbie Harry (punk rock older lady, not that I want to sing punk rock, but I love the attitude. I do not rock. I sing Mozart), a picture of Wales (not that I want to go back but I want to bring what I learned there here, as well as tap into the spirit of that land), and a glacier (Alaska). The words say: joy, freedom, family, exhilaration, and tradition – all things I want more of in 2012.

I hope you have a rich, joyous year ahead. What do you want more of 2012?

**In a side note, I may be slow to post again as I am still in the moving in phase. Boxes are moved, but not unpacked, furniture is being acquired, etc. But have no fear: I will post again within a week!**