As you know, last month for my birthday I revisited the Mermaid Woods–what I call the Outer Cape, my perfect place, the region where I finally want to own a home. While I was there I stopped by Atlantic Spice Company, a kitchen and condiment supply store in Truro, Mass, my favorite oceanside town. I bought hot pepper salt for myself and B, licorice-mint tea in bulk for my Ruby Intuition clients, and pretty little pot covers in Oshun and Yemaya colors (sunflower and oceanic blue). In short, it was a magical shopping expedition, but that’s not even the best part of the story. The best part is that while I was ogling hand creams made from organic local herbs, I started speaking with a woman with the most beautiful white hair. I always initiate conversations with women with beautiful white hair because I’m preparing for the day that my head is all salt and no pepper, and I welcome advice from women who’ve already walked that path. This woman was lovely–funny and warm-and we traded details of what had brought us to this magical store in that magical moment. I offered her my birthday good wind–I always do that on my birthday–and in return the white-haired woman said she made hand creams of her own. “I live in Upstate New York, and I make a potion of local beeswax and lavender. Give me your address and I’ll send you a jar.” I gave it to her and as I did, I said, “I want you to know I’ll remember you fondly even if you throw my address away as soon as we part ways.” I meant it, too. She’d made me feel so good in our conversation about getting more radiant and true as we age.
Well. You know how this story goes. I came home Monday from a sad few days in Pennsylvania, and sitting pretty in my mailbox along with ugly bills and an uglier note from my landlord was a jar of lavender-beeswax lotion from this beautiful white-haired mermaid. People shine so much light when you least expect it. And it really brings home what I was feeling the Saturday before I’d left town. I’d spent the whole morning doing errands in my neighborhood and saying hello to everyone doing the same. In the middle of jokes exchanged at the farmers market, I’d remembered my favorite human truth: There are no strangers, only cousins you’ve not yet met.
Two years ago I wept through Christmas Eve services at my beloved Middle Church not because of the love pouring through the story, but because a man I adored chose not to accompany me. Through the holidays that year, he disappeared as was his wont from time to time, and I grew so sick from heartbreak that I rattled whenever I breathed. When I finally healed I promised myself I’d never let a callow lover hold me hostage again–that the serenity of solitude would forever be my ideal way to commune with the universe.
Last year I attended these services by myself and wept only because of the light they shed in the dark–for the brilliance living at the core of every faith’s winter solstice story. It was good. But last night a cabal of esteemed witches came along to share borscht and candles and the big tears borne of hope, not despair. And it reminded me: No matter what we are told, we do not need others to be whole. But we must hold them as sacred as we do ourselves, today and every day. Love and light to you all.
Tonight I walked home with the sunset and slowly up the stairs to my pre-war apartment, quiet and calm and drifting on a cloud of Ella Fitzgerald and twilight. I was wearing a Harris Tweed coat and a little felt hat, and it suddenly hit me that this moment could have taken place any time in the last sixty years. There once again at my kitchen window with my beautifully striped permakitten I smiled at the citysky and at at all the other women through time who’d watched the heavens from the land where I was perched. When we surrender to its magic, Mercury retrograde opens portals to other eras like a time machine that doesn’t believe in time at all.