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A Very Long Interview

I cannot shake the nagging feeling that I am forgetting something this evening. I hate this feeling -- it will dog me until I remember or until someone reminds me. Often it is the former and it happens at very late (or early, depending on your perspective) hours. If you know what it is, please feel free to enlighten me.

Okay, so loner-blues has sent me an interview. If you remember the meme from awhile back, it went like this:

1. Leave me a comment saying, Interview me.
2. I will respond by asking you five questions. I get to pick the questions. ;~)
3. You will update your blog/site with the answers to the questions and leave the answers as comments on my blog.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

I have a feeling I forgot at least one interview, so feel free to leave another comment if you'd still like one. A warning... I think I must have asked tough questions because very few of those who asked for interview questions actually answered them!

Anyway, my questions from loner-blues, who I think actually snuck in WAY more than five questions, but I'm game! ::grin::

1) When did you first become interested in the practice of witchcraft? What about it appealed to you? When and why did you chose to become a Reclaiming witch? Are you raising Gabby and Nina in the Wiccan tradition? Why or why not?

That's a hard answer to pinpoint -- witches and magic have always been on my radar screen. I played at being a witch a lot as a child, but it wasn't until my late teens that I realized people really followed a religion called Witchcraft or Wicca. I grew up in a very small town and ordered a book by Erica Jong called "Witches." It blew my circuits a bit, talking about the Great Goddess and the practices of Witchcraft. It was a bit sensationalistic, but it planted a seed. Another seed was planted by Marion Zimmer Bradley's "The Inheritor," a book set in San Francisco and written about witches. I read that book so many times it finally fell apart. Still, I didn't realize that there was a community of people practicing until I graduated from Podunk High and moved to the Bay Area for the summer following my senior year of high school. There I went to work at a Waldenbooks and inherited the New Age section. I guess you could call me "The Inheritor." Heh. Anyway, I picked up a book by Scott Cunningham called "The Truth About Witchcraft Today," and it grew from there. I was in a serious exploratory phase for about six more years, dabbling with a few Goddess-y feminist types in Northern California before returning to Arizona, where I began a regular practice in 1995 and really started to grow into the word "Witch."

The Craft appealed to me for two main reasons -- the link to nature and the return of the feminine to deity. My family camped a lot when I was growing up and my parents tried very hard to instill an appreciation and love of nature in my semi-urban self. It worked. The second part was more of an "a-ha" response to the reason I left Christianity -- there were too many questions left unanswered AND I really didn't like the woman being the cause of "man's" downfall. It has never made sense to me that God made man in his image and yet women bear life. There are several other inconsistencies I uncovered in my years of searching Christianity, but the upshot is, it wasn't the right place for me. I've said it a million times and regular readers know it -- I have no grudge against Christianity. It simply wasn't right for me. So anyway, my real "conversion" came when I read "The Spiral Dance," and suddenly found words for many of the things I felt were missing from my spiritual life.

Conveniently, that brings me to the third part of this question. Starhawk's work was undoubtedly very influential in my early work as a Witch. As i moved through various books and experiences, it was the one book that stuck with me as relevant -- some of the others did not. So in 1999, I discovered that the Reclaiming tradition was still alive and well, and that it had a website. Not only that, but they offered Witchcamps across the country -- week-long super intense workshops created in seclusion. I decided to go and my experience of life as a Witch -- actually, of life period --- changed forever. The main draw for me was the personal work and the ecstatic ritual, but I also felt the pull of a tradition that mixes the spiritual with the political. Reclaiming is a very nebulous tradition, very hard to pin down and define. It means different things to different people. To me, it's about building myself through work and ritual so that I can do the work I need to do in the world. That work may not be as direct as rioting in the streets, but it's important work nonetheless. Reclaiming Witches, like it or not, are rarely passive Witches. They take action in this world and that action is deeply rooted in values -- I find that important. I am not interested in segregating my spiritual beliefs from my political ones -- indeed, how could I?

Am I raising Gab and Nina in the Wiccan tradition? Well, I suppose it depends on what you envision when you say "raising them in a tradition." Certainly they learn the values of my faith -- but those values are quite personal and not dictated by a minister. Certainly they celebrate many of the Wiccan holy days. Certainly they are exposed to Wiccan beliefs around life and death. But they are also free to explore other paths, and, when the time comes, free to make a choice.

2) You wear so many different hats: wife/lover/mother/daughter/friend/witch/writer/activist/dancer/working woman; what is it like to fill so many roles? Does one (or more) ever conflict with another? How do you balance or maintain focus with so much going on in your life?

Ha -- your last question assumes that I maintain balance and focus! ::grin:: I think most people fill many roles if they simply stopped to think about it. I'm not alone in this by any means. Of course these roles sometimes conflict with each other. Frequently, I have to forgo the things I want to do based on making choices about my time with my family vs. time away, so the mom role dominates. It has to right now -- my children are too young for it to be otherwise. Because things are often so hectic and frenetic I have had to learn the value of saying no -- and also the value of saying when I've bitten off too much and have to spit something out. That's not easy for me because I really hate to disappoint people, but I've had to learn to do it to stay sane. I also find taking care of my body to be helpful. I feel more capable of juggling when I'm eating well and exercising. Daily work with meditation is helpful too, though admittedly, I have to work very hard to keep up with that.

3) Though nothing can ease the grief of losing Jasmine, what are your outlets for that pain? Does Jasmine herself (or possibly, her spirit) play a role in any of these methods?

Writing is the number one outlet for my grief. If I hadn't started blogging right before she died, I don't know what I would have done. I suppose I would have really driven my friends crazy. Music is another one -- music is often the handle on the faucet of my tears. Songs that were part of my life during her life -- particularly those that were in the CD player when I was pregnant or when she was little, and then again towards the end, are especially effective. Finally, dreams have been an outlet. This is where I find Jasmine to be most present. In my dreams, I can give her the last hug, cry with her, say good-bye. I am not-so-patiently waiting for some kind of direct contact with her, but so far, nothing doing.

4) You and Jeff have been together for a long time now; how has your relationship changed over the years? ( I.e., from high school sweet hearts to young newly weds; married couple without children to married couple with children, etc).

Jeff and I have been together continuously since I graduated from high school, almost 15 years ago, and we were on-and-off for two years prior to that. I have spent half my life with him. Our relationship has changed because we've both grown up. The high school part was pretty typical, I think. I loved him then, but I can safely say it is quite pale compared to how I love him now. We were babies. Our child-free years were brief -- we had Jasmine in 1993 and I graduated in 1989, so we had what? Four years before Jasmine? And really, only three because we planned her pregnancy, so she was with us even before she was with us. The summer before she was conceived was one of the most joyful of my life. We had great friends, lived in a town we loved (Chico, California) and I had a job I adored (assistant manager at a bookstore). We had lots of lovely dreams of parenthood which were really destroyed once Jasmine arrived. I think this happens to some extent to everyone. Reality is rarely what we fantasize. But Jasmine had, unbeknownst to us, a genetic disorder that made things just a little tougher for us. She vomited a lot, didn't gain weight, was sick a lot... all the classic symptoms of CF. Finally, at 15 months, she was diagnosed, creating another major shift in our new family. Suddenly we had to adjust not just to having another life to care for, but a life that required some special care, the kind our friends who had children weren't having to worry about. This adjustment destroys many, many relationships. Fortunately, it brought us closer together. We worked together, communicated well -- Jasmine was our glue.

This last year has been hard on us. Not only are we grieving the loss of our child, but our lives have shifted more radically than ever before. The focal point of every decision for the decade prior to Jasmine's death was Jasmine's health. Were we close enough to the doctor? To the hospital? Was the air clean enough? Could we protect her from illness? And on and on. When that was removed, we were suddenly faced with living a "normal" life -- except that what is "normal" to most people certainly isn't normal to us. The loss of Jasmine removed a smoke screen from several problems that have been present in our relationship from the start, problems that were masked by caring for her. So now we are in therapy to work it out. I love Jeff and have invested too much time to walk away from the relationship without trying every possible thing. And besides, to do anything else would be a betrayal to our children. I'm not suggesting that people should stay together for the sake of children, but I realize too that our problems are not those of abuse. They're problems that can be worked out. And so we are.

5) What has keeping an online journal done for you as a writer? What effect has it had on a more personal level? Does pursuing writing as a career still appeal to you? Why or why not?

Hm. It's helped me build awareness of my audience, but I'm still completely at a loss as to what "works." Well, maybe not completely, but I'm just not always good at predicting reactions. Have I honed skills? Probably, though not through any kind of conscious effort.

On a personal level, keeping this blog has saved my sanity more than once this year. It's a place where I can get things down, sort them out and really think before taking action. I wish I could say it's helped me build confidence in my writing, but really, it hasn't. See, the truth is, and I'm a realist about this, I know I'm a good writer. But I'm not great. And there are a lot of great writers out there. I'd love to have a career as a writer, but I'm not sure I want to settle for mediocrity, and I'm afraid that's all I could produce. Worse, I'm afraid I'd produce one great thing and then never be able to do it again. I guess I carry the specter of James Mortmain from "I Capture the Castle" -- I would hate to live out the rest of my days like that. Okay, truth? I'm just afraid of failure. My dream always has been and always will be to write for a living. If I can just get over the fear, maybe I would have a chance. I suspect that if I scraped away all the trappings of the "work" I've done over my relatively short lifetime, my life's work is to overcome this fear. I hope I don't die first. I'd hate to have to do this all over again.

Great interview, Cat -- thank you!!!

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