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Greetings Blogosphere!

I have not been the most consistent blogger in the world. If there’s anyone out there paying attention this is not such a big surprise. My last post was over a year ago. In that episode, I announced that my poor old sweet-faced kitty Angel was dying of cancer. I got all philosophical and weepy about it, as I have a tendency to do. So here’s what happened next.

Angel’s vet had been so dire about it, I assumed Angel was going to close her eyes and drop her body any minute. I’d go out to dead-head the roses, and I’d worry that when I came back inside she’d be stretched out in the hallway, dead. The first few nights after the diagnosis in July, I couldn’t sleep well. I left my bedroom and went out to read on the couch. I fell asleep, but then I was awakened by Angel, running around on the family room floor, chasing a catnip mouse with a bell on it. Okay, I thought, she’s going to be all right for a little while longer.

I didn’t want to leave town with her so sick, but I decided I’d go to Santa Cruz and sit on the beach as soon as she died. When she made it to September, I thought—great, I’ll get off-season rates at my favorite motel by the wharf. When she made it to October, I forgot about Santa Cruz and decided I wanted her to live till the election. Yeah, that’s when this story gets crazy. I wanted my cat to live to see the first woman elected president of the United States. That’s right, I’m not proud of this, I know it sounds crazy. But remember what it was like a year ago: we were all full of optimism and hope. The polls, the media, the late-night comedians were all saying Hillary was going to get elected. The pundits were even predicting Democrats would take back both houses of Congress. We were going to take back the Supreme Court! I think I wanted Angel to live to see this because I was feeling so sad that my mother (who died eight years ago this week) and my cousin Joanne (who been gone only a few months at that point) didn’t live to see a woman president. It was silly, but I wanted the cat to see it.

We all know how that turned out.

Angel died a few days before Thanksgiving. I’ll spare you the details. Suffice to say she got really really weak and really really sick, and I called the vet on a weekend and scheduled a time for her to euthanize Angel the following Monday. Then I went to the store and bought one of those rotisserie chickens, and Angel and I ate it together all weekend. She also went outside and roamed around on the lawn and ate grass. She had a good death. We should all be so lucky.

After that I was sad. I didn’t want another cat and didn’t want to bother with Christmas. I didn’t put up a tree and I didn’t send out cards. But grieving for Angel made me realize that I hadn’t grieved anybody very well. So I found a grief support group. I talked mainly about Joanne who’d died in March, but I also talked about my Mom and about my friend Craig. They let me talk about Angel too. They were good people, and we met until the week before Christmas. Then I surprised myself and decided I wanted a kitten for Christmas. But then I doubly surprised myself and adopted two kittens for Christmas!! Their names are Valentine Rose (my black kitty) and Suzanna Christmas (my tabby who is called Zuzu—you know like Zuzu’s petals in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”) They are joyful little girls and they love each other so much. Sometimes I sing them the Skylar Sisters song from Hamilton, only I say their names and I call them the “Holiday Sisters.” Yeah, I know, it’s weird, but it makes for a good story.

Adopting my new girls was great, but it didn’t alleviate the depression I’d been in since the election. I cried election night, and I cried for days afterwards. It was the pussy-grabbing comments that got me. I can’t believe we live in a country where people would elect a man who brags about such things. I won’t get into it here, but it’s a highly personal thing to me, as it is to many women. But my purpose today is not to rant about politics, no matter how personal I feel the situation is. I want to tell you what happened next.

As I said, I was very depressed. I wasn’t in a clinical depression. I got up every morning. I cleaned the house and weeded the garden, I did volunteer work at the women’s center where we serve breakfast to low income and homeless women, I wrote with my writer-friends, I went hiking by the river. But always I carried a deep heavy feeling in my throat and chest. I tired easily and I cried at cat food commercials. More than sad, I was feeling hopeless about my country.

On Inauguration Day I volunteered for an extra shift at the women’s center. I wanted to feel useful. The next day I went downtown with friends and we marched in the streets. It was a huge crowd. The organizers announced that we all would gather at a park southwest of the state capitol and then we’d march there for a celebration. It was mobbed. We lined up in the street adjacent to the park by the Catholic Church dedicated to the Black Madonna. We stood there for a couple hours before we started moving. I’d been in anti-nuke marches in the 80s like this—where the crowd was so big that those of us in the middle just had to wait and wait and wait before we could move.

I was there with my friends, and I felt great. I felt strong and healthy, as if I could stand there for days. I thought about a song Holly Near used to sing about a woman born on a mountain who was not going to let the developers come in—“You may drive a big machine, but I was born a great big woman!!” I love that song. My friends and I used to sing that to each other when we were young, living in our first apartments, going to Take Back the Night marches, raising money for the Peace Center.

My depression went away. Just like that. My friends said, oh, it was being out there in the crowd, it was taking action, feeling optimistic. But I knew that wasn’t it. I didn’t feel optimistic that day, and I don’t now. I feel terrible about my country. Just terrible. But for a while I felt a deep sense of grace. It was different than anything I’d ever felt before. There have been times in my life when I’ve felt very happy, filled with hope, even euphoric—you know, like falling in love, or finally getting that job you’ve been wanting, or getting your first poem published, then getting a poem published in a nationally distributed anthology! That’s good stuff. But this was different. What made it different was this: I felt forgiving.

I don’t know if this is a universal or even common experience, but there have been several people over the years that I’ve been unable to fully forgive. Some of them I don’t see any more, some I do. Some I’m friendly with, but I don’t trust them. Most I’m sympathetic to—I think, oh, I understand, they did what they did because of a misunderstanding, or because their life is hard too, or they had cold parents, a hard family life, a difficult spouse. Or maybe they were mean to me because they’re just mean, manipulative people and overbearing control freaks. Yeah, sounds about right.

I pray about this often. I’ve come to believe that when it comes to forgiveness, you can do the best you can—you can be friendly (though protective of yourself), you can pray for the other person, you can wish good things for them—but to fully forgive, to completely let go, that takes God’s grace. It’s not something we can do on our own.

And so here I was in the streets with my sisters on the day after Inauguration Day, and it began. My depression lifted and I felt forgiven and forgiving. This feeling lasted several months. I didn’t feel euphoric, though I generally felt good and healthy. Some days I was happy. Some days I was sad. It wasn’t about that. It was about an awareness of God’s grace. I couldn’t sustain it though. I’m not sure why. It drifted away. The Universe gave me a little taste, and then it drifted away. I don’t know if I did something to lose it. I don’t know. I wish I could feel that way all the time, but I know I can’t MAKE it happen. (I have another story about grace and forgiveness, but that’s for another day).

That brings me up to now. We’ve been bombarded these past few weeks by news of hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. We’ve seen the worst mass shooting in modern history in Las Vegas two days ago. We fear we may be at the brink of nuclear war with North Korea as our president tells the secretary of state (not in a face-to-face meeting, but via social media) that he’s wasting his time trying to negotiate with “Little Rocket Man.” I feel awful. But I keep writing, because I don’t know what else to do. I pray and I write and I hang with my cats and my friends, and that’s about all.

I’d like to say that I’m going to post more on my blog. I don’t know if that’s true right now. I don’t know if anyone cares. Is anybody out there? I’m not sure I really want to even have a blog. I want to write novels and poems and I was told at one conference or another that I should have the blog to promote the novels. And so here I go:

I have a new novel coming out in a month! It’s called Ghost Owl. It stars my young heroine Mariah Easter. I’m very proud of this one. My readers tell me it’s a page-turner!

So to update–I have three novels out now: Yellow-Billed Magpie, Red-Tailed Hawk, and Ghost Owl. They are stand-alone stories, but they have the same characters. I think it’s nice to read them in order, but it’s not necessary. I also have a short-story collection called Rover. All four books are available right now at Amazon—yes, even Ghost Owl. But if you’re in Sacramento, I suggest you wait and buy books from me at my Ghost Owl launch party at Hoppy Brewing Company on Thursday evening, November 2nd from 5:30 to 8:30. I’ll be selling all books that evening for the low low introductory price of $5!! Great for holiday gifts.

Finally—jumping ahead—my goal for 2018 is to learn how to market better. This will definitely include the website—but what about this blog. I don’t think I’m ready to give up on it yet. It will continue to be my usual crazy musings, and a bit of rough, barely edited flash fiction that I often write with my writing groups. I hope folks like it.

Thanks for reading this far. Now please drop me a line or give me a like so I’ll know somebody is there! Thank you!

Ps—Guess what! I went to Youtube and found a video of a group of strong and beautiful women singing The Kentucky Woman/Dreaming on This Mountain song—and I think it would do your heart good to spend a minute and forty seconds listening to it. Here’s the link

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Intuition

The last day I spent with my friend and spiritual guide Craig before his sudden death, he said to me, “Nancy, you need to rely on your intuition more.”

I was surprised by this. It seemed to be an out-of-the-blue comment, made during a lull in the conversation while I was driving him home. Besides, Craig knew full well that nearly every major decision I’ve ever made was prompted by intuition.

“I do rely on my intuition,” I said a bit defensively.

“Even more,” he said. “You need to rely on it even more.”

In the year since he’s been gone, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what he meant by this. Yes, thinking. About intuition. Probably not what he had in mind.

You can’t force yourself into intuitive leaps through effort or rational thinking. It just doesn’t work. What you can do is cultivate conditions in your life that will be conducive to the flourishing of intuition. Then you wait. It takes patience, faith, and an attitude of joyful expectation. It takes living an Advent kind of life.

I had an intuitive flash last January to take a sabbatical from my blog and a lot of internet stuff so I could focus on revising my trilogy of novels. In 2015 I plan to spend more time here again. In the meantime, have a blessed Advent. Take the time to enjoy family and friends—and yourself.

And please check out my blog’s new novel page. It’s freshly pressed!

Bridget’s Feast Day

Sure, this weekend brings us SuperBowl Sunday, but also something more important than that:  it’s the Celtic festival of Imbolc, the traditional celebration of the beginning of spring, also known as St. Bridget’s Feast Day.  My thanks to Anne Hill, President of Creative Content Coaching and host of Dream Talk Radio, whose facebook post reminded me of this holiday.  I have to admit, most years I let it slip by unnoticed.

This weekend Anne is hosting a virtual poetry festival in honor of Brigid, the Celtic Goddess of Poetry.  If you have a prayer of praise, petition to the goddess, or wishes for the Earth, feel free to post a link on Anne’s page here:

http://gnosiscafe.com/gcblog/2014/01/31/9th-annual-brigid-poetry-festival/

Since Brigid is the goddess of poetry, it might be a good time for all us writers to send Brigid our good wishes and ask her to bless our endeavors this coming year!

My own contribution, a poem of praise to Bridget in her many forms, was something I wrote in 1985 after visiting Ireland with my mother, my aunt and my cousin.  I spell the name of the goddess/saint as my great-grandmother Bridget Cassidy Moss from County Donegal spelled her name.  I just read on Wikipedia that this is an “anglicized” spelling, which of course I find horrifying!–so if I’m wrong about this spelling, I leave it to one of my more knowledgeable Irish cousins to help me out here!

And so–Happy Imbolc to All!  As one who has many eclectic beliefs, I urge you to take a few moments this weekend to say a prayer to either the goddess, the saint, or both–your choice.  Remember, the NFL is not a deity.

Bridget

I was conceived by a woman

of the Fir Bolg

who caressed the paper thin bark

of a lone birch tree

and its small green leaves

fluttered like the hands of children

making shadows in the sun.

I was borne by a woman

of the Tuatha de Dannan

who cradled me

in the blue cup of a lupine

carried me in a wreath of fresh blossoms

she braided into her blonde hair.

The Celts named me

in contemplative dreams

of flute notes and turf smoke.

I stoked the dying embers

of the hearth fire

in the dampness of morning

and Oisin, in that hazy half hour

between wakefulness and sleep,

tasted poems on his tongue.

But the Christians say

my body was conceived

in the last hours of darkness

on a Beltane morning.

At daybreak

a cloudburst

cracked

the sky

and raindrops

caught in my eyelashes,

fog hung like heavy cream

thick and cold

in my throat.

I retreated to a peat fire,

spread cut river grass to dry,

then wove it into a cross

I presented to my father.

Finally I followed Patrick

to Slane,

sought abby walls to shelter me

from bitter chill

of a waning moon.

Still music of a Gaelic phrase

swells my lungs

and curls my lips.

They cannot silence me.

I cast my cloak onto the wind

and like fire it spreads

enveloping the hills and loughs

with a brilliance

even the Welsh women see

across the water.

Call me goddess or saint

but my face is always beautiful.

Nancy Schoellkopf

1985