Growing in Drought

Growing in Drought December 14, 2014

I went ahead and planted my winter crops, because I am a goddamn fool.

The lettuce. The mustard greens. The nasturtiums and spinach and even the fava beans, which never even made it to beanhood last year before beetles destroyed them.

What’s the point, I wonder, when we’re not going to get any rain? What’s the point, when everything’s just going to get baked? My garden causes me more stress and guilt than pleasure. There are days–many days–when I dread going outside because I don’t want to see the latest casualty. The permaculturists all make container gardening sound so easy. You’ll feed your family with the beans from your patio! Screw you.

Yet I’m mildly proud of myself for getting the timing just right this year. I put the seeds in hours before the storm started. Then, a few days later, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw all the little seedlings coming up.

Hello, babies. I hope I don’t kill you.

* * *

Recently a fight broke out among my coven. After it happened, one of my coven mates and I happened to have dinner with a mutual friend who asked how the coven was going. Fine, we said, it’s fine, the coven’s fine, everything’s fine. Then we noticed that my coven mate was mashing his bread into a singularity and I was stroking the handle of my butter knife.

There are times when I think Witchcraft is the stupidest thing ever and I should just join a synagogue. I mean, seriously, what are we doing waving daggers and magic wands around? Don’t we know how ridiculous we look?

A painting of an angel holding a chalice in one hand and leaves in the other, with Hebrew text at the bottom.
“Aleister Crowley’s Guardian Angel” by Cameron

But yesterday I went to see the Cameron exhibition at MOCA. Cameron was an occultist and an artist and a Witch and a performer, and she combined all of it in her art and her life. Her art was life was magic was life was art. I was originally supposed to go with a group, but this is the time of year when non-Christmas plans tend to fall apart, so I ended up going alone. I wandered through the exhibit space, examining the pen lines in her sketchbooks, the paper warped from watercolors. I saw one of Aleister Crowley’s handbound books that she’d owned. I saw a beautiful athame that had belonged to her partner. I watched a film she’d made about ceremonial magic. Cameron’s paintings gave me shivers. Oh, they were beautiful.

And this was in a mainstream art museum, presented earnestly, without snide commentary or condescension. I know, Witchcraft is trendy right now. But magic was presented as art; art was equated with magic.

When I got home I got out my brushes and drew and drew and drew.

* * *

What would Aiyana Jones have been, had she lived? Trayvon Martin? Michael Brown? Would they have been poets? Healers? Artists? We’ll never know.

Right now I’m reading a novel, Mistborn, where the sun glows red and plants are brown and ash constantly rains down from unceasing volcanoes. Most of the population is enslaved and the emperor responsible for it all is believed to be God. I find that the best fantasy reflects to the reader not the way things could be, but the way things are right now.

Ash is raining and the sun is red. We are murdering our children. We point to the forces at the root of the destruction and say, Look, behold, our omnipotent god.

* * *

I know my utter failure to garden competently isn’t entirely my fault. It is effing tough to garden in the middle of a drought. The master gardeners don’t have time to help you with every single plant. The community gardens all have waiting lists 5 years long. I called a gardening service for a consultation, hoping that maybe a visit or two was within my price range, but the owner of the company never got back to me. I made the mistake of letting slip that I wasn’t sure I could afford it. Nature is for the rich.

When I can, I visit Temescal Canyon, crunching over the dried creek beds and wiping sweat from my brow. Once, after pouring an offering of milk, I was guided to a little clearing off the trail where I found heaps of trash. When I started cleaning it up, I found a coyote skull. The spirits are there, watching for allies.

Earlier this week, I went the doctor because my hair is falling out. After a couple of days the tests came back normal, aside from low vitamin D. Stress, the doctor said. Deep down, I knew that was what it was. There’s never enough time to both work and live, never enough support to both raise a child and care for yourself. I emailed my Reclaiming planning cell to tell them I’d need to cut back, and spent the rest of the evening watching My Little Pony and feeling sorry for myself.

But when I drove out of the garage the morning of the appointment, the first thing I saw was the moon hanging in the western sky. It was perfectly framed between the two buildings across the street, in the direct center of my field of vision.

The message she gave me wasn’t profound. Just a quick hello. Hello, I’m here. Hello, I said.

* * *

The Fool (Rider-Waite Tarot major arcana #0)How do you grow a garden in a drought? How do you grow spirit in a wasteland? How do you grow people in a culture of death? Consumption and militarization spin on and on and on, sucking up life, turning it to dust.

Sometimes you organize protests. Sometimes you get out your paints. Sometimes you just plant a seed and pray and pray and pray that it does all right.

I dream of a world re-enchanted, green and lush and full of joy.

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