Inspired and refreshed by her rememberings as well as the beauty of the morning, Ursula knew it was time for the prosaic tasks of what Molly called “earth plane reality,” starting with a search through her closet. “Hmmm. Wheat color, I think, is calling.” She reached for a gold-brown flared skirt of soft hemp fabric to go with a jersey top and cotton sweater in different shades of yellow. Layers, of course, because who knew what the weather would bring. No bra, of course. She only donned that third chakra energy constriction on formal occasions when she felt a need to hide her looseness or conversely wanted a little sexy pushup. If she couldn’t afford to risk other people’s judgment, who would? She did her part daily to help change that fashion and modesty paradigm by not binding up what Nature had given her – not that she had all that much. She huffed indignantly as she always did when the subject came up. Truth be told, she sometimes even let her three or four chin hairs grow too. She assumed people noticed but nobody ever commented on either unconventional practice.
She found her spider web earrings after a few minutes of digging in her little box. “Might as well carry that energy into the day.” An amber pendant seemed to jump into her hand as she moved it over the various necklace strands hanging from hooks over her bureau. Amber would help keep her spontaneous, yet calm and give energy to any manifesting she might do this day. Running the brush through her shoulder-length gray curls, she smiled back at her reflection with a twinkle at her wrinkles. She liked looking her age (on the good days) and mostly enjoyed thinking about the fact that next year she would be turning sixty.
Glancing at her calendar to be sure nothing had slipped off her radar screen for the day, she grabbed her light brown jean jacket and gathered up the things she would need at the store, the new books she’d brought home to read, an extra load of papers from the proposal draft Molly had given her to review (maybe she’d have time this afternoon to look at it), and Stella, her trusty laptop.
She usually rode her bike down to Mahonia from her perch on the Mountain when Charley had their little car (especially if she could get a ride back up with him), but she had decided to walk the half mile to the RCar lot on the road to borrow the pick-up. Their recycling bins were overflowing so a trip to ReBound couldn’t be put off much longer. It would be nice to get a hug there from Molly and see if she wanted to help lead an upcoming Women’s Medicine Circle. Communing with the Goddess Demeter this morning had given Ursula an idea about a ritual.
She’d checked the night before on her computer – the RCar pickup was available for the whole day. She usually borrowed the truck every couple of weeks. “’Borrowed?’ Probably the proper term is ‘rented’ but it never seems like a financial transaction somehow,” especially since they’d been part of starting it as a neighborhood cooperative with a couple of people’s second vehicles. Now there was a newish Prius in their lot for longer drives and at the main lot in town one could get a van or a bigger pick-up, among other things. The little pickup in their neighborhood was old and funky but it served well for just this sort of thing. Charley had used it last week to haul firewood and just yesterday she’d seen it loaded with stuff the Bradys were clearing out before their move.
“Drat them for leaving the community!” She understood why the elderly couple was going back to the city but it always hurt her heart to lose the interesting ones. “Couldn’t they see how important the work is here and how much they are needed?” Sometimes she wondered why she trusted the local medical resources so much but she just did. She sighed as she closed the door.
That little dip in her energy didn’t last long. She dodged most of the spider webs across the shortcut to the road, noticing them all over the huge Sitka too. Goldfinches and Wilson’s warblers still chittered happily while the white butt of a flicker flashed away from her into the woods. A couple of jays squawked in their distinctive voices so she hollered back.
“It’s an interesting neighborhood,” Ursula observed as she often did walking down the hill. There were still a few houses on Mountain Lane not actually lived in, some of which were used regularly, either as second homes by those still able to afford such things, or as short-term rentals. There had been a fuss early on about the two recently established B&Bs, but she had always maintained that it was more neighborhood-friendly to have the houses used and certainly better than a new bevy of motels in town.
She waved to the elderly Crowes out on their deck. They had divided up their large home, converting part of it into a “granny flat” which was now rented affordably to a young couple who kept an eye on them. Ursula wondered how she and Charley might downsize in some way from the all space they’d needed with a big family.
As she walked past the spring she realized there was another reason to use the car this morning. She needed to pick up the empty gallon jars to refill with water. She and Charley and their family had been using the spring for ages but it was only in the last couple of years that it had gotten more general use after it had been decorated into a community shrine. There was often a car at the pull-off as more and more people realized that it wasn’t good for their bodies to ingest the chemicals required to make tap water officially potable. There was nothing like the lively chi energy in the water coming right out of the Mountain. Charley and Owen had piled stones in a cairn up around the copper pipe that streamed water year round. Someone had added a ceramic water sprite and tucked a few crystals into little niches. Watercress grew in the run off. She might as well pick some for tonight’s salad while she was there.
Arriving eventually at ReBound, Ursula eased the pickup into one of the parking spaces in front of the dark green bins lined up under signs for various recycling categories. It wasn’t always easy to get a spot this close but she’d lucked out today. As usual, before she attended to the overflowing boxes she’d brought with her, she did a quick scan of the yard to see what was going on.
A volunteer whose name she couldn’t remember was busy explaining the difference between gray board and corrugated cardboard to a well-dressed woman who had obviously never been there before, while a boy of seven or eight was showing his grandmother where to put the egg cartons so families with chickens could pick them up. Ursula waved to two friends in heated conversation in front of the aluminum can bins and smiled at a new employee who was getting ready to empty the plastics milk jug tote.
Looking further down the recycle line she caught sight of Molly Burns with her arm around the shoulders of an older woman. They were looking together at a photo. As Ursula watched, the woman was enfolded in Molly’s arms for a long minute and then, beaming, went inside the resale store while Molly picked up speed in the opposite direction towards the trash dumpster. On the way there she gave a thumbs up to a man loading a pile of folding chairs into a pick-up and patted the shoulder of another who was tinkering with a mysterious metal contraption as if it might be made to take off any moment.
Ursula chuckled as she saw that the purpose of Molly’s beeline was to greet Pia Rosen who had just finished tipping her trashcan into the dumpster. Molly’s short, round figure in plaid shirt and dirty Carhartts, enveloped the taller, thinner Pia with her unruly tangle of hennaed curls, purple tie-dyed harem pants and swirling orange poncho. It was delightful – literally made her full of light – to watch the connection of the two, and Ursula couldn’t resist joining them.
“Hey, let me in on this!” she chimed.
“Look who the bear dragged in,” teased Pia as Molly laughed. They both opened their arms to include Ursula in their embrace.
Pia ducked a little so their boobs and bellies lined up and they swayed in synch feeling the energy swirling sweetly between them. Long years of tears and triumphs in various organizational endeavors, agonies over children’s growth pains, and laughter over mates’ foibles, they’d seen each other through a lot. They’d had some awful fights among themselves too. It all added up to a special intimacy that tingled between their bodies now.
Ursula was the first to break the spell, the story of her morning bursting within her. Pulling back a little, though still entwined, she told the others about the spider and bird magic leading to her connection with the Goddess Demeter. “So I was thinking that maybe we could do the Women’s Medicine Circle next Friday evening on the mothering of adult children. In honor of Demeter.”
“Heaven knows we all need help with that one,” agreed Molly.
“It might give the young ones some perspective on the boundary dilemmas between parental involvement and non-involvement….” Ursula’s voice trailed off as images of her four kids flashed in her head.
“Send money or not,” said Molly.
“Butt in or not,” added Pia.
“I was thinking we could have us older women be Demeter and the younger ones be Persephone.”
“So we’re talking daughters. Maybe line up in two rows facing each other and each call out our fears and joys about separations past and future.”
“Tie it in with the losses of the season.”
“I can gather grasses for Demeter,” said Pia.
“Good,” said Ursula. “Cuz I don’t really want to cut any more of mine than I’m taking now for the store shrine. Could we get pomegranates for Persephone? I’m not quite sure how we’d use them but in the Greek story, Persephone was fated to return to the Underworld every year because she had eaten one pomegranate seed.”
“I wonder how we could adapt that so the return each year was less a consequence of that and more because of Persephone’s love of the dark lord and his realm. It might help all us moms deal with our kids responding to a call we don’t quite understand,” Molly mused.
Ursula gave her a thumbs up and a knowing grin.
“I’ll bring my flute,” said Pia. “Maybe pipe the young ones off?”
They were still scheming when a voice called out from across the way, “Molllllleeee.” They looked up to see a figure wagging thumb to ear and little finger to mouth in the universal telephone symbol.
“Gotta run,” said Molly. I’ll provide the pomegranates and think of how we might use them in a new way. Can one of you put out an email?”
“Sure thing, sweetie,” said Ursula. “We’ll cover what we think of and the rest can be improvised.”
“I’m glad serendipity and our brainstorming skills are working today,” said Pia. “This will be good for all of us.”
“Oops, I’ve left the pickup in front of the bins,” said Ursula. “I’d better unload and head to town to open the store.”
“But where shall we meet?” asked Pia.
“Didn’t we say last time it was my turn to host? I’ll check with Charley to be sure the men are gathering somewhere else.”
“I just saw a cool cornucopia basket inside that seems to go with this somehow – Demeter’s bounty, you know,” said Pia. “I’ll go get it and send out the email announcing our theme. Let me know if you think of anything else we need.” The two gave each other another quick hug as they parted.
Once parked in town, Ursula schlepped her stuff to the purple one story building, the smell of sage and lavender enveloping her as she opened the back door. Cindy’s lavender sachets and eye pillows seemed especially potent this year. The sage had come from some folks passing through.
Bear Essentials was Ursula’s storefront in Mahonia on the corner of 4th and Main. Started as a resource for the area’s burgeoning spiritual community, she’d even included a book and DVD rental service to encourage exploration of genres. Until recently the local library didn’t have much woo woo material and Charley had gotten tired of the space their own extensive collection took up in the house. Bringing them down where they were more available and where loans could be tracked and replaced if lost had worked out nicely. She rounded out the inventory with magical paraphernalia – crystals and stones, figurines, divination cards, smudge sticks, a little ceremonial clothing and some pretty geegaws. She rarely bought stuff new unless it was locally made, preferring to rely on things others wanted to sell. ReBound had done a great job of accustoming locals to passing on what they no longer wanted. Now people clearing out just brought this New Agey stuff to her to sell – often on consignment.
The store had a south facing back room looking out on a little fenced-in garden where she could do her tarot readings and which she sometimes rented out to others wanting to give psychic sessions or healings of various sorts. Several locals had gotten their start here before moving on to places of their own. She and others in the Healers Guild had worked hard so that the town was becoming rather a Mecca for city folk wanting to re-treat, re-group, re-generate and re-create here by the Pacific.
She settled her armloads of stuff behind the counter and unlatched the front door. The shrine just outside, between the building and the sidewalk, was an eclectic collection of little things around the three-foot high bear that she had commissioned from Arlo Rosen, Pia’s woodcarving son. People were always adding or taking away stones, sand dollars, feathers and the like. She smiled to see the bouquet of blue cornflowers and a plastic leprechaun, new since yesterday afternoon. Rubbing the bear’s head affectionately, she placed the wild grasses behind him and said a sympathetic prayer for Demeter, soon to be childless again until spring’s return. She also sent a plea that the upcoming ritual would ease her own motherly pangs – and perhaps Demeter’s as well. Of course, in a tourist town they all lost something to the year’s turn towards the autumnal season, though if one was going to thrive here they had to also, like Ursula, enjoy the intense rains that called for cozy indoors time.
Turning to go back in she flipped her open sign outward. It sported the Charles Schultz cartoon of Lucy at her consulting booth with the sign, “The Witch is in.” Indeed.