I touch the earth and offer gratitude
for this land I call home.
I reach towards the sky and offer gratitude
for sun, moon, and stars.
I place my hand on my heart
and breathe deep, offering gratitude
for all that I am and all that I have
and for the many blessings of my life…
I am finishing my last semester of college teaching. I have four children ranging from 18 months to 12 years and a thriving home business. I am exhausted. I feel wrung out, weary, overloaded, sped up, and on the edge of collapse. My dominant fantasy, the one that pops unbidden to my mind as I work through my never-ending to-do list is to just lie on the floor, flat on my back. I tell my husband, “this isn’t a sustainable pace for me. If I keep going like this, something bad is going to happen to me.”
I keep going.
I stand on the river bank with two friends and lift my arms to the sky. It begins to rain on us and I begin to cough. It is just a little cold, I decide. I continue teaching, working, mothering, going. I get a fever. I keep coughing. I cough through the last final exam of my college teaching career. I cough through Red Tent. I cough so hard through the month of July that I have to regularly sink down into a chair, out of breath, while trying to get going for the day. I try some “self-care” and finally grant my own wish to lie on the floor for a guided meditation. I cough so much that I cannot finish the meditation while lying down and have to sit up part way through. During this meditation (the “Moon Goddess Ally Journey” by Ros Simons), in the temple in which I meet the moon goddess, right as the meditation is coming to a close, the Cauldron rune from Womanrunes appears quite clearly etched on the floor of the temple–very large, covering the whole floor. It is very dramatic and powerful and feels like a needed wake-up call. I decide that August will be a “Cauldron Month” for me. The Cauldron in Womanrunes is a rune of alchemy and change, but also of containment and contemplation—a marrying of what might seem like opposites, but that which really co-exist. During August, I vow, I will take it all to the Cauldron…to let it bubble and brew and stew and percolate. I will pull my energy inward to let myself listen and be and to see what wants to emerge. I give myself permission not to create for public consumption during this month, but just to sit with myself and see what is bubbling, what is cooking, and how I might create a safe space for myself in which to stew up my truest magic.
While my time in the cauldron helps me clarify things, to restore my sense of spirit, and gives me some time off to rest, I continue to cough. I cough through my children’s birthdays and through the winter solstice. It isn’t until I step out onto the beach in January of 2017, that my cough clears. In less than five days at the beach, the cough is completely gone.
(Why didn’t I see a doctor for that cough? Well, because I am always pretty sure it will be better “tomorrow.”)
It is summer again. I have four kids who are all a year older and have more to do and more that they need from me. Our business is busier than ever. I feel tired. I feel wrung out, weary, overloaded, sped up, and like I’m burning out. I tell my husband, “remember when I got that cough last year? I feel the same way again, like if something doesn’t give, I’m going to get sick.”
My kids go to social justice day camp and return with a hideous amalgamation of assorted viruses that conclude with revolting cases of viral pinkeye, eyes matted shut with yellow goop each morning.
I hold out for many days, but as the last kid’s goopy eyes clear, I go down hard. My fever recurs for weeks, one eye is bloodshot and streaming, and the nastiness settles into my sinuses where I develop a sinus infection. I go to the river, lie on my back, and fully immerse myself in the healing waters of the aptly named Cold Spring. I ask for my fever to be lifted by these cool waters. We go kayaking and look for rocks and watch a heron swoop overhead and little fish gather around our toes.
I realize I am angry with myself for being sick. I wasn’t going to do this again this year, I complain. I’m only sick because I didn’t listen, because I’m not taking good enough care of myself. I even google, “spiritual significance of sinus infection.” Luckily, my gentler inner self takes my hand. She reminds me that I was the last woman standing in my family when it comes to this sickness, that I was actually the strongest, the one who waited until no one else needed me to care for them before getting sick myself. She speaks to me firmly when she says, “would you ever look your two year old in the goopy, disgusting eyes and tell him that he deserves to be sick? That he is only sick because he didn’t take care of himself? If you wouldn’t say that to a sick two year old, don’t you dare say it to yourself. Ever.”
I honor another Cauldron Month for myself. Going on a solo vigil at the river. Journaling. Lying on the floor. Working with clay. Giving myself a break from working and content creation and generating work for public consumption. The sinus infection does clear, though in December I get another one which persists until I lift my arms to the sky by the ocean again in January. After only two days at the beach, the sinus infection is gone.
Ah, this again. This sensation that my pace is not sustainable, that I need a break, that something has to give. I feel a tightness in my chest, a twinge in my nose, a constriction around my heart. I feel brittle and tired and strained. I tell my husband, “it is that time of year again. I’m doing something different this year. I am not going to get sick again.” I ask my Red Tent to witness my promise to myself, that I am recognizing this as an annual pattern and I’m going to proactively head it off this time. I will be slowing down now. I will be saying no. I will be letting myself percolate, and bubble, and grow.
I keep my promise to myself. I lay the groundwork for another Cauldron Month this upcoming August, scheduling posts in advance or deciding not to write them after all (except for this one for FAR which I forgot was due!), deciding not to create new ritual kits or newsletter content, but rather to re-use the previous year’s material. I let our customers know that custom orders are closed and that we are taking some time off. I shut off my personal social media accounts. I create new goddess sculptures. I sit on the rocks in the woods for an hour at a time instead of fifteen minutes. I write new poems. I try out radical ideas such as lying down when I feel tired. Stopping when I have a headache. Stepping outside when I need a break. Going to bed early(ish) and waking up with plenty of time for yoga and journaling. Saying no to things I could create and host and do. Not going to things. Stopping. Reading books I feel like reading. Sitting still with my hand on my heart and asking myself what I most need and then doing that. When I feel myself feeling tight and sped up, I do things like take off all my clothes and step out naked in the sunshine with my face lifted to the sky. I pick rose petals and hold them in my hand. I anoint my forehead with oil. I pick wild berries in the rain. I lie on the floor. We close our shop for an entire week and go to the river, where we sit in the water and go for walks, laugh together, celebrate our twentieth anniversary, watch the moon rise, and eat fun foods.
Listening to my heart, trusting my body, and taking care of myself is no longer a radical act that needs annual recognition and intensive planning. It is simply my life.
Molly has been “gathering the women” to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri and teaches online courses in Red Tent facilitation and Practical Priestessing. She is a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and wrote her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses, original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, and jewelry at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of Womanrunes, Earthprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Patreon and at Brigid’s Grove.