The Winter of the Recluse

The Winter of the Recluse December 26, 2023

Road through snowy forest
From Pixabay by John_Nature_Photos

This winter I’ve become a recluse. Everything is just hard.

Here is what you do not want a person my age to say: I fell this summer and hurt my hip. I do the exercises I learned in physical therapy but it hasn’t been the same since. The focus of my magick these days is health. I give myself the affirmation that I move around as I wish in the world and chant the Mrityunjaya mantra faithfully every day for myself and my family. In short though it’s hard to move around.

This January is the fourth anniversary since Alex’s ALS diagnosis. He’s lasted longer than most, benefitting from the new treatments which prolong capacity, but the disease has progressed and he’s barely moving now. He can run his power wheelchair with eye movements. This is astonishing to everyone, including the people who installed the device that makes it possible. They’re all proud of him for his technological savvy. He remains cheerful and centered on his spiritual journey. I try to match him, stay cheerful, focus on the spiritual journey, and that takes up all of my energy. It’s hard to feel anything else.

This summer I presented in person again for the first time since PantheaCon 2020. I travelled to Babalon Rising where the community made me welcome and I’m deeply grateful for that. It was a Sisters of Seshat summer too, with a virtual temple, the founding of a new physical temple, and the third completed initiation series in the Isis-Nephthys Temple. I’m deeply grateful for my magical sisters.

With the coming of winter I’ve fallen back into myself. I’m not organizing meetings. I haven’t posted anywhere. I haven’t been on camera in months. The only reason I’m not isolated is that my friends hunt me down, distant ones set up Zoom sessions and local ones chivvy me into talking to them in person. I’m grateful for all of them.

Aside from caregiving what I do is write. I get up in the morning and sit at my desk for a few hours, and if I don’t get that time I don’t feel like I’ve had a real day. I’ve been working on a book since Babalon Rising, fleshing out the things I said there. It’s the re-imagining of the Western Magical Tradition I’ve been leading up to since my first book Ecstatic Ritual in 1990. At times I feel triumphal joy while I’m writing. Mostly though it feels like a race against time: can I finish it so Alex can read it? Can I finish it before I lose more capacity myself?

I’ve always admired reclusive writers: Edna St. Vincent Millay who wrote the greatest sonnet about love in the English language. Doreen Valiente who wrote the Charge of the Goddess and brought Her voice fully into being. May Sarton whose autobiography Journal of a Solitude starts like this: “Begin here.”

Before this I’ve withdrawn to create, taking a weekend or a week long retreat to work on a project. I always thought that’s what the women I admire were doing. I didn’t notice that this was an end of life gesture of self-protection and exhaustion. I understand that better now than I could at the beginning of my life or the middle; I’m not yet at the end but I can see it from where I am. I’m a recluse just now so I can focus not on starting, or continuing, but finishing the work.

I think about you, everyone who is reading this, every moment I write. I am profoundly grateful to you. Writing is a feedback loop, it doesn’t exist until it’s read, so you bring it to life. Thank you. My end-of-year wish is that we all make it through this winter happy and safe. (And that I get the darned book done!)

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