After 8 years of magic, I am leaving my wonderful witches' cottage in Berkeley and moving in with my beloved. Albert, to a new magical domicile.
This is a huge transition for me. I have been good friends with the spirit of place at Fox Court, a small community of stone cottages listed on the National Register of Historical Places. It was built in 1935 as a community for the laborers who were building homes in the Berkeley and Oakland Hills. The entire complex is charming- all brick and stone. Each apartment features a fireplace with a unique round chimney, English flagstone floor, hand-turned brick, and lots of little built-in drawers, cabinets, and nooks for magic. Each unit is considered a "studio-and-a-half" with the exception of three bonafide one-bedroom units. Perfect for one person. But not an easy place for love to grow in the modern era, though at one time I'm sure each unit housed a whole family. Thus, I move on, because I am ready for love to grow.
When I was first in Berkeley, looking for a place to live, I stumbled upon an ad on craisglist for this place. It was listed for one single day. The ad was from the previous tenant, who was seeking a sublet tenant. She was a journalist who had fallen in love and run off to live in Ireland with her husband. Although she knew the likelihood that she would return to Fox Court was slim, she was not quite ready to part with the special place that had been her cherished home. I fit the bill of what she wanted in a tenant, and moved right in. Part of our deal was that I would tend her things until she came to fetch them a year later. Most of her things fit into the single closet, and I had free run of the rest of the apartment.
I remember walking up the walkway to Fox Court for the first time, escorted by the original tenant's friend who was showing the place for her. I was in awe of the beauty and peace of the place, tucked away behind the video store and shipping store. From the street, you could barely see it. In fact, some other witch before me had placed a powerful glamour on the whole building. Many times throughout the years, people I invited over could not see the gate even as they stood right in front of it. I had to literally come and get them so they could find their way in.
There was a small, rusty cauldron filled with cigarette butts on the front stoop of my unit. No one knew how it had gotten there- likely the stinky legacy of a previous tenant. I took it inside, cleaned it up thoroughly, and began using it. I had left most of my magical supplies in New York when I embarked on my cross-country journey, and was grateful to be able to replenish. That small cauldron is still with me- it was consecrated at my ordination as the sacred tool of my Priestesshood. As High Priestess of Alchemy in my coven, a cauldron acquired by mysterious means seemed fitting. It sits at the center of my altar, where I regularly fill it with sympathetic stones and symbols representing me and the changes I wish to make in my life. I brew myself in there.
Right away, the spirit of place at Fox Court began chattering at me. I felt welcome, as if embraced by an old friend. It was so safe, so secure and quiet. I did a lot of healing in that home, healing that was desperately needed.
I also had a great many joyful moments, times of laughter, arguments and lovers' quarrels, and magical experiences there. First off, as I was moving things into the storage closet, I found a bag of moldy coconuts. One of them had an old man spirit associated it. I vibed with him a bit, and e-mailed the leaseholder- what was up with these moldy coconuts? Were they consecrated spiritual items? Should I throw them away? And who was the dude? "My grandfather gave them to me. Leave them there. I'll get them when I come." So for the first year, Grandfather and I hung out. When she came and claimed her things, he went with her. He was cool- he'd sort of seep out of the closet from time to time, and hover in the rafters. Once he sat on the couch with me, much to my surprise. He thought it was funny when I had lovers over. I thought he was a pretty likable dirty old man.
One Ostara, I offered a ritual to the Fae in the garden. There are beautifully landscaped gardens at Fox Court. I poured libations, chanted, prayed. That night, I was kept awake by the sound of hundreds of tiny feet running up and down the walls and over the roof. I had asked to learn a deeper understanding of the balance between shine and shadow. I feel that lesson is still unfolding in my life, as I witness and participate in the beauty and melancholy of every passing season, each yielding its own rich flavor.
My Coven, CAYA, was born at the Hobbit House, as it affectionately came to be known. Our first ritual was a Mabon, led by Molly Blue Dawn, and we celebrated it at Live Oak Park. Afterwards, we all adjourned to the Hobbit House and made stone soup from scratch. I put a stone in the pot and a bunch of water, everyone added their own vegetables. I'll admit, the final product did require that I doctor it a bit for flavor, but it was a lot of fun. I'll never forget- that was the night I met Iris and Jack (then Merrie and James), who have since become some of my best friends.
CAYA's first Samhain happened in the Hobbit House. Attendees were led out to the back alley, where I witnessed their stories of "things that must be let go." Then each attendee went back inside, was blessed with psychic vision by Lady Kahina, and waited in meditation. By the end, a lot of the attendees had to go and the energy of the circle had dissipated and devolved into social conversation. But there had been some powerful purging, and for many weeks I received e-mails asking about when the next ritual would be. Two months later, we began hosting Full Moon Circles at the yoga studio where we still hold them today. That was 6 Samhains ago. I am still agog at how my community has grown since then. It started out with such simple magic from my heart and has evolved into an entity of its own. All children have to grow up, and it has been both a joy and a pain to watch my Coven come of age, with all of the stories, lessons, suffering, and bliss we have experienced together.
My first familiar, Sophocles, died at the Hobbit House when it was his time. He had been with me since I was 18, and he died three years ago. The vet came to the house, she kissed him on top of his head and called him "Handsome Boy" even though she didn't know that was his nickname. I had built an altar for Sophocles with roses, crystals, a white cloth, a candle, a little black cat figurine. I thought he would sit on my lap while it happened. Instead, he willingly crawled into the center of the altar and lay down. He was the picture of peace when he died, and the vet remarked that she wished every pet had that kind of end, full of love and compassion and the greatest respect. For my own part, I was honored to be his friend and to be there, holding his head when he died. My former partner was stroking his chest and face, and my other cat Medea (who passed on 6 months later) sat right there, looking on and purring her support and love for her best friend.
I could go on with more stories, and maybe I will at another time, but I actually can't bear to do it right now. Writing about the Hobbit House is very hard for me, as I stand on the verge of saying goodbye. My love affair with my home has never faded or waned. During times of financial challenge, it was my top priority to stay there. During times of joy, it was my safe haven where I could celebrate and be giddy without worry. A lot of fantastic, creative, fun meetings and parties happened at my hearth. There were also times, during painful relationship circumstances, when it felt like a prison and I grieved for the loss of my safety. But all's well that ends well, and now, in the end, I really only walk away choosing to bring the joyful memories with me.
So, why am I leaving? Because, as I mentioned before, love needs room to grow. Practically, there is only room for one at the Hobbit House. And now Albert and I are two. I pray that someday soon there will be three, if my body and the Goddess see fit. And that dream needs space.
At Winter Solstice 2010, I stood in the darkness beneath the blood red lunar eclipse, the sky streaked above with iridescent indigo clouds against the black night. With arms upraised, feet firmly planted upon the Mother, heart fully open, mind dissolved into the Void, I spoke to the Galactic Center above which our Earth was spinning. I asked for guidance and wisdom in moving myself forward: personal well-being, livelihood, relationships, and service. A simple song arose in my throat, "We give up the past to create the future." Singing it over and over, trancing and repeating and harmonizing with myself, I have been allowing change to wash over me this year. I am not surprised that this Samhain brings me many endings and new beginnings: moving from my home to a new home, stepping into a new role in my Coven as visionary and spiritual leader while releasing the role of temporal leader, my car dying, my sexual identity shifting away from being a lesbian to being...my fullest self, free from labels and saturated in pleasure and love. Albert, by the way, is amazing. He is intuitive, insightful, loving, caring, patient, and so very smart. It's all beautiful, and poignant, and painful, and it feels like it's happening at lightning speed. After months of prayer and years of discernment, the Great Road Opener is moving me to my next level in life. I do not know who I am becoming. I have liked all the selves I have ever been, so I look forward to getting to know this new one.
And in the meantime, I am cleaning and packing and moving stuff and crying, and crying some more, and laughing, and getting exciting about the future, and enjoying the present and crying some more, and visiting with my new neighbors: my dear friends the Wildes, and crying some more, and having crazy dreams, and doubting and fretting and laughing and crying some more. On Sept 30 I plan to have one last fire in the empty Hobbit House and burn a whole bunch of magical papers, talismans, and herbs. I plan to leave some little magical thing tucked away in a nook for the next witch to find when she arrives, seeking haven. May she find it. May I find it. May we all find it, right where we are.