The Ritual of Coffee

I started drinking coffee when I was a junior in high school.  It was my first year working at Six Flags Over Georgia, and I worked late on the weekends, sometimes till midnight or even 2 a.m.  Neither of my parents was a coffee drinker.  I did not grow up with a coffee pot in the house.  Nor  was I a night-owl as a teenager.  I took after my dad and rose early, naturally wide awake about five minutes before my alarm was set to go off.  So staying up until midnight or later was different, and difficult, for me.  After the first couple of weekends, on a night when I was feeling particularly bleary, someone referred me to the break room and the coffee pot, that held a rather vile smelling black substance that was supposed to, if not put hair on my chest, at least keep me awake.  Some people drank it black, but I had to mask the age and bitterness with sugar and a load of fake “creamer.”  That was my first experience with coffee.  I didn’t do much better in college.  Where I went to school, you were required to live in the dorms unless you were married, and if you lived in the dorms, three meals a day in the dining hall were included in the tuition program.  Of course there was coffee, in huge urns on the steam tables as you went through the line to get your breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I learned to have coffee with my bacon and eggs in the morning, and there was also an urn of half and half to replace the powdered stuff.  One step up, for sure.  In the dorm, I had the requisite hot pot, and on the few nights I was there to study (most nights were taken up with rehearsal or set building in the theater), I opted for those International Delights instant “coffees” consisting of sugar, flavors and possibly a teaspoon or two of instant coffee.  I didn’t know from drip, brew, percolate, press, whatever.

I don’t really know when coffee became a “thing” for me.  I used to make my first husband coffee in the morning—hot water and a teaspoon full of instant whatever was on sale.  He liked it and whatever he liked was what we had.  I was never able to acquire a taste for instant coffee not mixed with other things.

Later, when I moved back in with my folks, and my mother was working regular business hours and had to get up early (a terrible chore for her), she discovered that having a cup of coffee at slump times helped her get through the day.  A coffee maker appeared in the house and we learned how to use it.  She preferred the thin “brown water” type of coffee and it smelled good when it brewed and I was always happy to have a cup of coffee with her when she wanted it, and later, after my dad passed, and she built a very large deck on to the back of her house, I loved having coffee with the birds and other critters on weekend mornings.  It felt very adult.

A college friend of mine stayed in Atlanta for work after graduation and we often hung out at her house.  Sometimes I would spend the night and wake to the aroma of the richest, darkest smelling coffee I had ever encountered.  When she poured it in my cup, it looked like tar, but once we thinned it nearly one to one with heavy cream and a little sugar, it actually turned into jet fuel. I realized that THIS was the coffee I had been seeking my whole life.  I have no idea now what brand or type it was, just that it was dark and rich and the grounds were oily looking when she put them in the coffee pot to brew.  I tried to make the stuff at home, but whatever coffee we bought never lived up to the challenge.  The grounds were dry, mealy looking, pale and anemic compared to my friend’s.  I despaired of ever being able to make coffee like hers.

Over the years I have come closer.  Different brands, different roasts, different methods.  And of course, now working overnight shifts, coffee is nearly as much a part of me as breathing.  The first new thing I bought when I moved in here was a coffee maker.  I found one with a thermal carafe, with no heat source under the pot.  I love this because the coffee doesn’t “stew” after it brews, but stays nice and hot for a good while…and if there’s any left, I can use it for iced coffee the next day.  However, over the past few months, I have come to make my coffee another way.  I got tired of tossing out coffee when I hadn’t used it all up, and there were times when I just wanted one cup and no mess left.

That was when I turned to my Melitta.  Once upon a time, we had bought one-cup Melittas to take camping with us.  It’s very simple: Set the Melitta on your coffee cup, fold up a filter to fit inside, put in your coffee grounds, boil water, pour over, and voila! One perfect cup of coffee.  You can dump the grounds on the ground, shred or pack out the filter, no muss, no fuss.  I’ve been making my coffee this way now for several months.  A while back, I bought a small sauce pan with a lid and it holds just enough water for about two mugs (which hold more than a “cup”).  Sometimes, it’s the first thing I do when I wake up. Sometimes, I want a cup before I go to bed.  Sometimes, it’s that middle of the afternoon pick-me-up.  But at all times, the ritual is the same.  Run the water in the pan, cover, and turn the stove on high.  Choose the mug.  Pull out the filter.  I use the same filters that fit in the 10-cup coffee maker, but I fold them into a triangular shape to fit into the Melitta, like coffee origami.  Measure the coffee.  I discovered Seattle’s Best Coffee a number of years ago after a long series of trials and errors with other brands.  Seattle’s Best #5 dark roast is the only thing I buy for home use now.  Other people swear by other things and that’s fine.  But SB5 has that dark, rich oiliness that takes me back to the days of jet fuel and friendship and I love it.  Then, wait for the water to boil.  It doesn’t take long because at Pueblo’s altitude, water boils at 203 degrees F.  Did you know that?  Nine degrees is a significant difference, and in no time, the water is simmering, barely bubbling.  I normally don’t let it get to a rolling boil; my coffee doesn’t have to be that hot.  Then, carefully, so as not to get water into the folds of the filter and have it flop over the grounds, I pour the water into the pile of waiting coffee.  Immediately, the aroma wafts up and the mug starts to fill.  I lift the filter cone up and peek in to see how full the mug is. Add a little more water…just a touch more…and then done.  Set the filter cone in the sink, to be handle when it’s cooler.  Sometimes, I’ll even drink it black, but usually comes the stevia and a little half and half.  Then, I’m ready to take my cup of go off to wherever I need to be right then…the computer to work, the breakfast table, or maybe out by the pool for a quiet moment under the sky.  Care to join me?

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A Milestone

On Friday, I turned 60. It didn’t feel like much of a thing, but I wanted to commemorate it somehow. I have a lovely photo of my mother on HER 60th birthday, when I took her out to dinner with several of my friends when I still lived in Atlanta. We had a wonderful time and she enjoyed it immensely. My mother embraced every year she lived. She never shied from telling people her age; in fact, she was proud of it and in private scoffed at women who balked at revealing how long they had lived. I agree. Who cares? Why should women only be “a certain age?” It’s just another way to invalidate our power and our prowess. Men become “distinguished” and women become, what? There’s not even a word for it because so many of us are too busy trying to hide the fact that we’ve been here a while. But this isn’t a rant against the patriarchy, at least not much. It’s about me. I had a pretty good day, even though I had to work. I got lots of sweet messages on Facebook and a card in the mail from the friend who I figured if I got any “real” cards, it would be from her. Thanks, Ginny! 🙂

But the best part was, I got to pose for a photo with my mom. And this is me on my 60th with a photo of my mom on HER 60th. She would have loved to see this one through with me in physical form, but I know she’s having a celebration for me wherever she is.

Happy Birthday to ME!

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Conflicted

I have a bicycle in my living room. It’s up on a trainer, on a 30 x 30 piece of plywood so that when I ride it the back wheel doesn’t rub and mess up the carpet (yes, I am a conscientious renter). The trouble is, I don’t ride it all that much, but I haven’t let it become a clothes hanger or a prop for other items (although I will hang damp clothes on it if the dryer doesn’t get them all the way). For the most part it just sits equidistant between my two chairs, directly across from the TV cabinet, waiting for me to get on and ride to nowhere while I watch whatever I might choose.

I think about trying to sell it all the time, but something stops me. I’m not sure what. I’m not crazy about riding it on the trainer, but it’s a nice change sometimes from other forms of exercise. I haven’t taken it out of the house to ride it in the neighborhood for several reason. One, I’ve reached the point (age) where I no longer feel really comfortable riding a bicycle on a public street. My balance and riding skills are  okay, but I just don’t want to contend with traffic at all. Also, even though the streets in my neighborhood are wide and not terribly busy, there are many more hills on this side of town than where I used to live and I am definitely not comfortable on a bicycle on a hill…at least not right now.

I do love riding my bike on the many miles of trails here in Pueblo, but now I live quite far from the ones I used to ride on and it’s not feasible for me to ride the bike there, meaning I would have to transport the bike there by car, and I have a mid-size sedan, not a truck. Which means I would need to buy a bike carrier to put on my car in order to schlep it around. And I’m not sure I would ride it all that much, even if I did that. Sort of buying one more thing to carry another thing around with. And I think, how smart is that?

Still, I hesitate to put it up for sale. I’m not sure why. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to take it to Denver with me, and I know there are always bicycles for sale via the Internet or at thrift stores, garage sales, etc. This has really become a point of angst with me and I feel like I’m going to have to do something one way or the other pretty soon. Not much more than a year left here and I have to think ahead. Walking has always been my go-to exercise so maybe I should just stick with that.

But I do enjoy my bike outside and I loved the feeling of being strong enough to ride up some steep hills in those days when I was training for things. I don’t know. Maybe I should just keep it until it’s time to move and then see what happens.

Universe, help me get clear on this, thank you.

 

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I Carry the World

I Carry the World

Sitting, quiet.
A moment in the sun.
Anchored firmly to earth,
My root reaches easily
Through flimsy flooring and concrete,
No barriers to life energy.
I seek the heat of Nature,
Connections we too often forget
But never lose.

Sitting, quiet.
I feel the rise of inner flame,
Creativity growing, flowing
Up from the space that
Creates all life.
The sunburst in the center
Illuminates all choices,
Connects the root to crown,
Allowing base emotions to
Emerge as higher actions.

Sitting, quiet.
The roiling work of anger
And defiance reaches
The overflow, finds the target heart
And stops.

I expand.
I fall.
Into the outward burgeoning
Of a heart too immense to burst.
I hold it all.
You, I hold, you.
You, that I love.
You, that I hate but want to love.
You, that I am convinced I can never love,
But must love anyway.
I hold you.
I hold you all in my heart and
My heart is held in you,
Even if you never know it,
Even if you think you have no heart.
You cannot escape it.
I cannot escape you.

This supernova heart will hold everything.
It will hold and hold and hold,
The bursting pulse of love,
The ache of disagreement,
The de-gloving of the soul that is war.
It will hold defeat and ravishment and triumph.

I hold it all.
I surround it.
I grip and cherish it,
Because every breath of it,
Every atom of every molecule
Is what we are and what we are
Is so much more than this.

I carry the world in my heart.

So. Do. You.

©2017

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What A Difference…

…a month makes. I haven’t died or completely given up, although some days it is definitely tempting. I’m still here, just trying to get my bearings in a world that seems determined to fling itself over the edge of total disaster.

I’ll have more soon.

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Merry, Happy, Blessed

Where I sit, the clock just turned over to December 24, 2016. Christmas Eve. The tree is up and there are some presents under it. We don’t have stockings, but that’s okay. I actually put up some lights on the thorny bush outside my door and they don’t look too bad, if I say so myself. E. was going to Denver this week, but his mom has a new job and they sent her out of town until the actual day of Christmas, so we will go up for an overnight next week. Thus, we’ll have our Christmas tomorrow and on Sunday, we’ll go to his aunt and uncle, who have kindly invited us. I’m looking forward to good food and good company.

I wish you all the same, a wonderful, happy few days away from the recent unpleasantness to spend with people you love and who love you. Laugh, hug, eat, play games, nap. Remember winter’s message to go deep so that we can emerge renewed with the light of Spring. All will be well. Don’t worry about how, it just will if you focus on the wellness instead of the lack.

Blessed be.

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Something Unexpectedly Nice

Fridays are my run-around days. They are also my Mondays, when I make the trek back to work and my insanely disturbed sleep schedule, so I’m not crazy about the day in general. However, I have managed to get them into somewhat of a routine. I get E. to school by 7:30 and then I go and donate plasma at 8 a.m. I started donating plasma about a year ago. It’s a two-fold advantage. I get to help people who need the things they use plasma for and I get a little extra money every week. I’ve settled on a Tuesday/Friday schedule and the extra has helped with a lot of little things without me having to dip into my savings more than usual. It works.

I’m usually done with the donation by 10 a.m. and after that I head to my favorite place in the world right now, Stitcher’s Garden, Pueblo’s lone specialty quilt store. I usually run by Starbucks and pick up coffee for myself and for Becky, the woman who works there on Fridays. She taught my very first quilting class and I have taken another class from her since and she is just an incredible wealth of knowledge about quilts, patterns, piecing, mathematics, you name it. She and a friend of hers have written several quilting books and designed a number of quilting tools called “squedges” that make the most amazing quilts. Visiting with Becky is definitely one of the high points of every week.

So this week, I did that, and got some thread and notions to finish my squedge quilt that I had put together a few months ago. I’ll be quilting it myself later this month on the shop’s long-arm quilting machine–my first time using it, so I’m excited. (quilt top photo below)

Anyway, normally after the quilt shop, I hit the grocery store, but I had already done that this week, so I had a spot of time between the shop and picking up E at 1 p.m. as he gets out early on Fridays. So, I decided to head to one of my favorite Chinese places for a bowl of hot and sour soup and some wontons.

This is a tiny place in a small strip mall next to an Albertson’s. It’s run by a very brisk young woman who is also busy raising a family while she works. When you walk in the door, there’s a round table for about 6 to your left, beyond that, one 2-top, another round table to your right, the service counter/register straight ahead and then on left along the wall, a couple of long tables that could seat up to 8 people and then 3 booths. Not a lot of space for just one person, unless you pick a single chair at one of the long tables. When I got there, all the booths, the rounds and the 2-top were taken. There were people sitting at one of the long tables, but I couldn’t determine if they were customers or family. I ran back to the ladies’ before anything, hoping perhaps someone would be done by the time I came out.

No luck. So, I chose one of the chairs at a long table, up against the wall. Then another lone woman came in and did the same thing at the table in front of me. The owner came and took my order and the other woman’s, made the rounds doing all the things you do when you work in a busy restaurant. I got my soup, and a little while went by and I looked up to see four people standing in the doorway, hoping for a table. I motioned to them and asked if they were all together. One of them said, no two and two. I said they were welcome to come and sit at the other end of the table where I was, which would have left empty chairs between us, but no one seemed inclined to do that.

Then, the lady in front of me turned around and asked if I was by myself. I said yes, and she said she was too. I asked her to join me if she wanted to and that would free up the table where she was. And she did. We struck up a very nice conversation, about kids and grand-kids, and house sitting and driving and weather. Then, one of the women who had been standing at the door came over and asked if she could sit with us, too. Turns out it was not two and two at the door; she had been there on her own. Of course, we were happy to have her sit with us. More chatting ensued. I got compliments on my hair, which I had dyed blue around Halloween and had mostly cut off, but there is still some solid blue highlighting my gray patch in front. I really like it! Then it turned out the woman in front of me had purple in her hair, which I hadn’t seen at first because she was backlit from the front window. I loved it! Two women “of a certain age” with brightly colored hair who had not known each other fifteen minutes earlier.

However, the place was really busy, and time was hard on for me to go get the boy, so I asked if I could just get my wontons to go. When I left, the other two were happily chatting together and I don’t think the people at the door had ever sat down. They missed out on a great experience. I normally am not terribly forthcoming when I’m out, but I’m going to change that. I’m going to be more open to these kinds of serendipitous opportunities. We did not exchange any information, I may never see her again, but I got her name, Iris, and I had a lovely time chatting with her for a few minutes, and I will always remember our encounter with a smile.

These days, that’s worth a lot.

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Did I Pass?

Yesterday, I drove to Denver to deliver a quilt gift that I made for a friend of mine. True to form in Colorado, although we have had nearly summer-like weather up until about Thanksgiving, we had our first really cold and snowy day yesterday. I don’t like driving on the highway in snow, but I wanted to get this gift to my friend in person and she was only available yesterday this week. So, off I went.  It was cold yesterday, perhaps feeling more so than it was because of the late-season warm weather we had. I was fairly well bundled up in layers, and grateful that my car has a good heater.

Just a little south of Colorado Springs, nature made a demand and so I pulled off to a familiar stop–a gas station/rest stop that is a little larger and busier than average. It’s about a hundred yards down a frontage road off the highway.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed a man standing by the stop sign with his dog. He was pretty obviously homeless, with a small backpack on the ground, and he was holding up his own sign, handwritten on a piece of cardboard box. I figured it would say the usual, “Anything helps” or “out of work veteran” or something similar. It didn’t. It said, “Testing Human Kindness.”

Hoo, boy. Given the huge amount of sheer ugliness that seems to flow out of everyone these days, that sign nearly stopped me in my tracks.  I pulled into a spot, went in to the warm store and availed myself of their very nice facilities. When I came out, directly across from the door was a rack of hats, gloves, jackets, etc. The man outside weighed on me. It was SO cold out there–colder than in Pueblo closer to Colorado Springs, higher in altitude, at the foot of Pike’s Peak, and the wind cut like a knife. I hadn’t paid a great deal of attention to his attire, but I remembered he had some kind of a hat on, but his other clothing didn’t seem nearly adequate enough. I debated a jacket, a hat, something. I wasn’t sure, I didn’t know. What I really wanted to do was buy him a house.

In the end, I went to the coffee stand, chose the largest cup I could find, filled it with hot coffee, added lots of cream and sugar, paid for it with a twenty and got the change. I got in my car and made ready to leave. As I pulled out, I stopped at the sign and rolled down the passenger window and handed him the cup of coffee and then the money. He was very gracious and grateful. His dog, a black Lab mix, stuck his head in the window for a pat. He blessed me and we wished each other Merry Christmas and I got back on the highway and went to Denver. I cried most of the way. I realized after I got a few miles up the road that I had a bag in my trunk with an extra pair of gloves and a knitted hat (black) with an attached neck scarf that I could have given him if I had only remembered it at the time. I also had a waterproof picnic blanket I bought back in the summer that zips up into itself to make a seat cushion. The waterproof part seemed particularly important yesterday.

I thought, “I’ll stop by on my way home and if he’s there, I’ll give those to him.” But I didn’t stop. It was full dark by then and I was sure (I hoped, I prayed) that he would have gone to a shelter by then. But, I’ll probably never know.

I don’t often feel this moved. I see people out in the pleasant weather, at exit ramps and intersections, wearing pretty nice shoes and smoking cigarettes. I usually pass on by. But I can’t imagine anyone standing out in that weather yesterday unless they absolutely had no other choice. I hope the store owner let him come inside from time to time. I hope they let him use the bathroom if he needed to or let him get the dog some water. I hope he had a place at a shelter last night and tonight, which is just as cold.

I hope I always remember to practice kindness.

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Relax, It’s Only Birth

So, Donald Trump has been elected. The (slightly less than) half of folks who wanted his brand of America is busily celebrating and in a lot of instances being great examples of how to be sore winners. The (slightly more than) half who voted for Hilary or other candidates are mourning and running around in fear and agitation, wringing their hands and saying, “How could they?” I know this because I’ve done a fair amount of it myself since Tuesday. The November 8 square on all my calendars is now solidly black. It was not a happy day.

But, I continued to sit in meditation. And sometimes, when I sit, I feel my vision pulling back, kind of like being inside Google Earth. I pulled back from my own single body sitting on the floor in my bedroom, to just above my apartment building, to above my neighborhood, where I could see the track where I walk, the college where I swim, the complex where I go to movies. Then I pulled further up and there was my old house several miles away, the Pueblo Reservoir, the mountains to the West, the plains to the East, pulling higher and higher, just like a jet taking off, until I viewed Earth from an orbital perspective, that iconic photo from the space station or an Apollo mission, a sweet blue orb hanging in the depths of space like a fire opal sitting on black velvet. You can’t see all the seething and discontent from there, can you? You also can’t see the sweetness and the joy and the beauty.

I let all my judgment go, just for a few seconds. It was difficult, for sure. I felt like one of those sea anemones that open up and drift in the tides, but pull back into themselves when a hand waves over them. I would open, drop judgment and then it would come swooping back over me and I would close up tight. Being open is difficult. It makes you terribly vulnerable. But in one of my moments of release, I realized something.

Donald Trump represents an opportunity. People have been crying about change for a while. The promise of change was what drove the Obama election. But after he was in office, while somethings changed or moved forward, many things, things that we all hoped for, did not happen and the old boy, business as usual, it’s who you know, not what you know network didn’t change much.  Hilary in office would have represented a different face of the same coin. A prettier, more acceptable face than Trump, to be sure, but still, business as usual. Some small things might have changed, and some small changes already made might not be in the gun sights right now, but overall, not much would be different.

Donald Trump does not hide the ugliness. He celebrates it. He celebrates divisiveness over everything. He celebrates power over and would not know how to behave in a “power with” situation. It would cripple him. So, in a way, if we want anything to change in a meaningful, permanent way, electing Donald Trump was the best thing that could have happened because he will be a catalyst.

We are going into labor, folks. We’ve been in false labor, even Braxton-Hicks, for a while, thinking, yes, it’s going to change, we’re going to move forward, things will get better, we really can clean up this mess, and yet behind us, all we hear is spinning tires and all we feel is that we’re sinking deeper into the muck. But now, the water has broken and birth is going to have to happen soon.

To those of you who have never given birth or attended at a birth, it’s a hugely violent and messy process. You can have soft lights and nice music and a water bath, and chanting and all that, but the bottom line is that a new, living creature is trying to push its way out of another person’s body. Never easy under the best of circumstances. And all drapes and medical terminology aside, birthing is fucking hard work. There’s a reason they call it labor.  And it’s full of sweat and blood and puke and tears and snot and shit and amniotic fluid and lots of screams and an occasional

OHMYGODIHATEYOUIHATEYOUIHATEYOU!!!!!

OHMYGODWHYDIDIEVERLETYOUTALKMEINTOTHIS!?!?!?!?!?!?!

And sometimes, you have to literally reach into the mother’s body and turn that baby around so that it comes out right. And sometimes you even have to cut it out if there’s a problem.

But we have this opportunity. We are poised in this incredible cusp of power and force and energy, if only we don’t lose it, if only we will recognize it, if only we will see each other and work together.

The old way is never going to give us what we want or need. If we want things to change, we have to change them. We have to birth the new way and if we have to scream and cry and bleed to do it, in the end, if we have a beautiful new baby to love and nurture and raise to maturity, won’t that be worth it?

Are you ready? I am.

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Samhain

In less than an hour here, it will be Samhain or Halloween, as it is more commonly known. It’s a time of mystery, contemplation and connection with the parts of ourselves that we don’t always think about, not just about jack o’ lanterns and candy.

I’ve been very scattered lately and feeling stuck and blah and completely disconnected from anything meaningful. I go through my routine, do my work, pay my bills, fetch and carry the boy to and from school, get everything done, but there’s no spark, no drive, no real energy there. Just automatic movements.

But just tonight, I felt a push, an urge to maybe reconnect to the person I once was and to open up to the person I might become. I lit a candle and some incense. They’re burning now across from my desk, the candle on the bookcase/altar behind my door, with photos of my parents lit by the soft light, and the incense on my dresser on the other side of the room, next to Buddha and my shamanic mesa (i.e., medicine bundle) which is open on the top, allowing the incense smoke to waft over the contents. My mesa has been dormant for quite some time, just like me. But, again, earlier this month, I felt the need to bring it out. I left it out on the night of the full moon, open to the soft light of that heavenly body.

There are items in there that I accumulated during my shamanic studies, symbols of my journey around the medicine wheel, tokens from places I have been, gifts from friends. I need to sit with it more often, to become familiar again with the energy of each item. They’re my tools and I need to learn them once more.

I started reading Pema Chodron’s “The Places That Scare You” and there is a lot in there I needed to be exposed to and understand. About being in discomfort, about feeling things you don’t particularly want to feel, but allowing yourself to do it anyway. About not running away. I don’t know if I’m running away, but maybe this blah feeling, almost non-feeling, is a form of running away. I don’t know. I’m not sure you can force yourself to feel things, but you can be open. You can be still and allow. This weekend, I started meditating again. There’s no excuse. I wake up, I go pee, for 10 minutes I can sit and meditate. It’s not that long. Right now it feels good. Later it might bring up things, but I hope by then the habit will be stronger and that as above, I can sit and just allow the feelings and simply be with them.

That’s what Samhain is all about. It’s the new year, a new cycle, time for something different. I don’t have to know what it is. I only have to sit with the idea. And allow.

Blessed be.

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