Enchantment Learning & Living Blog

Welcome to Enchantment Learning & Living, inspirational blog about the simple pleasures, radical self-care, and everyday magic that make life delicious.

Magic is a Hard, Gritty Thing (Part II)

I asked for a new life. In return, I had to bury my seed so deep in the earth it kissed Hell.  It was important that this black disk holding the heart of a hollyhock be warmed by morningstars and forced to carve its way out of the darkness.  This, so that I could know the value of my transformation.

Now, I am uncomfortable with tight spaces and have trouble breathing in the dark, damp underground.  That is the price I paid for freedom.

I dreamed of a book once, too.  One with my name on it and my thoughts in it.  All the Universe expected in return was blood and heartache, time and tears, and that long stretch of purgatory where no one knew what I was doing--or cared--except for the emerging words on the page.  They knew.  They understood.  Felt the relief of stories so long contained finally spilling across naked sheets.

I'm about a pint of blood short now and so have less energy for things that don't understand that my heart is buried inside an herb garden, in a constant state of becoming. I get tired if I'm away from my stories for too long, worn out when I'm asked to ignore the poetry of a Monday or the grace of a slammed door. 

That was what the magic required of me to see my hope eternally bloom.  And I paid the price willingly.  That garden?  It has rosemary and words and ink and lavender in it--but no weeds and no room for nonsense.  I worked hard to make it so.  

I picked out each and every weed and each and every shade with my own hands until my fingernails were cracked and rimmed with black dirt and my hands were bloody from the nicks and scratches of angry ghosts that didn't want to leave such a cozy home.  I have a few crooked fingers now and a predisposition toward dry hands.  But no weeds.  No shades secretly living inside the sunflower's underbelly.  Just an abundant harvest to look forward to.

Magic is a hard thing and doesn't take wishes lightly.  This I know, which is why I hold up deleted pages and crossed-out passages like offerings for another manuscript, another birthing. These tattered narratives will never see the light of day.  They are the willing sacrifices for a better story.  I bind them up and surround them with twigs for kindling.  I press flame to their feet and watch the fire gobble them up because that is what the magic needs if I am to write something that is honest and potent.

Magic is a gritty thing, asking for you to give until it hurts.  That's the only way it knows you're serious and not just looking for a topical solution to soul sickness.  That kind of healing requires long journeys down dark roads and through the caves of memory until all your pains are excorcised and your hair smells vaguely of brimstone and forgetting. 

After all that, it lets you taste the first ripe peach of summer, speckled with morning dew.  Your tongue is coated in sunshine and hard-earned deliciousness.  Juice dribbles down your chin.  Your fingers are sticky with fuzz and nectar.  And in your hand is another hard seed waiting to be kissed by morningstars.

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Magic Is a Hard, Gritty Thing (Part I)

With my book coming out in just a few short months, I’ve decided to write a few blog posts exploring the heart and soul of Everyday Enchantments, my writing life, and my life life: Everyday Magic. This is the term I use to explore the mysticism inherent in our daily lives, the sacred simple pleasures that heal the soul, and the radical self-care that keeps us vital.  

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

And it is.  But magic is also a hard, gritty thing.  It takes its own time and works in its own way.  You ask the Universe for something and it waits and watches and looks to see if you are, in fact, doing your part to make that desire come to fruition.  It asks for blood and sweat, time and tears, focus and energy.  So that when you ask for your Heart's Desire, the Universe first considers whether it is a wise wishing or an unhealthy infatuation.  In time, if it's the right thing for you, then the wish whispered on a dandelion head will make its way back to you.  Just as soon as it pleases and no sooner.

Let's face it, if magic were easy, more people would be doing it.

The hardest part about magic is that you have to let go of any notion that you can control all the variables in your life.  Surrender.  Listen to the Universe and your heart of hearts.  They will tell you where you need to go--and it's often not where you think you should be headed.  Magic is tricky that way.  Revealing its wisdom only when you're committed not to a specific outcome but to the art of learning yourself and the cosmic world around you.

It works kind of like this:  When you ask for light, you might expect fireworks to go off in the night sky immediately.  In reality, after hard labor, constant focus, and everyday conjuring, you get a small spark which you then nourish into a healthy fire to warm your home.  Still, you get the light, but in order not to take that conjuring for granted, you have to continue to work to keep it alive. 

Magic is a lot like self-care in that way.  When we taking about taking care of ourselves it’s often about pampering—lighting scented candles, sinking into bubble baths, taking afternoon naps.  Rarely do we talk about the hard work that goes into actual self-care, like waking up before sunrise to workout because that’s the only time you know you can realistically get it in, or swearing off processed sugar because you know that as good as it might taste, it’s no good for you.  Self-care is letting go of toxic situations and people regardless of what outsiders might think of your actions so that you can feel at peace.  It asks you to prioritize yourself without guilt in a world that sees that as a selfish act.  In short, self-care requires some serious adulting! 

As does magic.  You walk the fine line between infinite belief and hard labor.  As the common saying with writing goes, inspiration will never find you unless you're working.   Neither does magic.  It doesn't give anything away for free or shower you with unearned gifts.  There's always a price and the best magic, your own conjured magic, tastes all the better because it was birthed from your own sweat. 

So you plant your soul seeds and you tend them without rigid expectations.  Then one day those seeds sprout, blossom, ripen into delicious fruit if that is what is meant to happen.  Those that don't, find their purpose in feeding the worms in your compost bin.  But the fruit you do harvest is nothing short of divinity.  It tastes of your backyard, kissed by your sunlight.  Fed by your dirt and watered by your sweat.  It is summer in your mouth, the promise of eternal sweetness.

You get the idea. 

Magic is a hard, gritty, beautiful thing. 

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

A Summer of Sacred Simple Pleasures

At the start of last summer, I'd just completed the major edits on my first book, Everyday Enchantments, and needed time to goof around and recharge after such a big accomplishment. Needless to say, I wasn't doing much writing! This summer, however, I find myself longing for unstructured time and, frankly, more quiet time. It was a lively action-packed teaching year, to say the least, and it has taken me time to decompress from the excitement.

I find myself indulging in long afternoons writing to the soundtrack of lazy birdsong and late nights reading juicy novels...and mornings? They've been spent losing track of time. In the garden. At the writing desk. In the kitchen. You name it. I'm an introvert at heart and find I've needed to nourish that aspect of myself more. My quiet soul needs time to talk to the ladybugs that find their way into my lap and dance under the moon.  Not that I don't love my adventures--I've had plenty of those too and look forward to more over the summer.

This time away from the work desk has made me realize how structured my life is--happily so, I'm a creature of routine after all! But I realized my life had been more than structured: every minute, every second seemed like it had been taken up with one task or another. Yuck! I love my routine, but an integral part of making your routine a ritual is in allowing space, time, light to flow throughout your day.

That's why this summer, I've decided to embrace the gentler pace the season promises and relish anything and everything that makes me slow down and tune into myself. I want to linger over a glass of wine while watching the sunset and greet the morning birds with songs of my own--and a cup of coffee, natch.

I want to spend time in the kitchen playing with recipes and spells I don't normally have time to make and conjure. I want to wear flowers in my hair and feel blades of grass between my toes.  I want to prioritize delicious living and tiny daily delights. Why? Because I'm coming to see simple pleasures as something sacred.

And we should make more time for sacred things. We need to in order for our souls to grow and flourish. So unleash yourself. Let go of heavy mundane things that make it impossible for you to sleep in on a Sunday or linger over a cup of tea. Resist the temptation to fill up your calendar with one thing after another.

Slow down. Give up schedules--at least for a day or a few hours here and there (I know we all aren't off for the summer!). Remember what it was like to be the kid running around in the backyard, blowing bubbles and twirling for no reason except that it's fun. Get lost on a long walk. Find yourself in a good book. Listen--just listen and nothing else--to an old record because you haven't done it in forever. Whisper secrets into a candle and let it whisper back.

Treasure these moments. Honor them. They are sacred. Pleasure is sacred. And simple pleasures are one of the most profound experiences of all.

Here's to a summer of sacred simple pleasures!

A Summer of Sacred Simple Pleasures

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Soul Seeds

While writing my past few blogs, I’ve found myself coming back to one phrase: soul seeds.

I have no idea where this phrase came from or when it first appeared on my blogs, let alone how long it has been secretly burrowed in my unconscious. It is safe to say, however, that this phrase—this seed—was ready to sprout, grow, bloom at the start of the year. I wrote about harvesting soul seeds in my post on Imbolc, speaking about the importance of collecting dreams, thoughts, hopes, and intentions as you would seeds to plant later in the spring. This term came up again in Welcoming in Eros Energy and was likewise used there to explore the intentions and inspirations we must cultivate in order to reignite our zest for life.

Hmmm….so soul seeds are kernels of wisdom and insights that help us grow, flourish, and tend our inner landscape. And with enough tending, that internal world will speak to us, as mine did when soul seeds popped into my vocabulary. 

And yet, haven’t I been talking about soul seeds all along, every time I mention seeds or thoughts? Every time I write of releasing negative energy and nourishing the transformative? Haven’t I once referred to myself as a seed or even full of seeds waiting to burst open and experience their potential? My blog and stories are pepped with the wisdom of growing things. Only now, I have a phrase for the exquisite experience of holding sheer possibility in your palm.

So here’s something to consider planting in fertile ground, as the sun warms the earth, and winter turns to spring: your soul seeds. Your whispers of inspiration. Your hopes for the future. The small daily changes that improve the quality of your life. The unvoiced longings and the spoken desires. Plant them in your heart. Plant them in your garden. Swallow them. Or cover them in soil. Water them or hold them in your belly.

Let them sprout when they are ready. Let them sing to you in their own time, there own way, and when you are open enough to listen. Let them surprise you with these morsels of insight. Let yourself hold these seeds and cast them to the wind and find a crack of concrete or a narrow gap in your ribcage to make their home in.

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

5 Things I Learned in My Year of Radical Self-Care

As I look back on my year of radical self-care, I find that I've learned several important things about taking care of myself. It wasn't always easy and, in truth, I wasn't consistently great about maintaining my radical self-care goals. Why? Life happened. Real talk here: thinking about self-care and actively, aggressively cultivating it in the midst of tending to work, family life, and the inevitable curve balls the universe sends your way are two VERY different things. All in all, I've found that it's worth putting in the time and effort to building a healthier lifestyle; and even when I'd gotten off track (hello overwork!), I learned more about the importance of setting boundaries and letting go of things that don't enhance my overall happiness.  Although my year of radical self-care is now at an end, I plan to take the following lessons into the new year so that I can continue to develop my wellness routine. 

1. Self-care is hard work. When we think of self-care, we think about lighting scented candles and wrapping ourselves in fuzzy blankets for an afternoon of relaxation. And yes, sometimes self-care does look like that.  But more often than not, self-care is hard work involving a lot of adulting.  It means getting up before the sun to workout because you know that is the only time you can reliably exercise.  It means eating more greens and limiting sugar and carbs.  Most of all, self-care is about putting yourself first in a world that romanticizes overwork and overextension: a difficult thing to learn how to do if you are used to people pleasing...which leads me to lesson number two:

2. No is a two-letter word for happiness. Seriously, I've had to learn to say no. A lot. It was hard at first because I didn't want to let people down and, frankly, I just get really excited about things and tend to overcommit.  Then I realize that I am no use to anyone when I'm overworked. Worse, my self-care routine goes out the window due to lack of sleep, time, energy--you name it.  It's hard to see the magic of everyday life when you're overextended.  So I started turning down projects I knew I didn't have time for.  I scaled back on social commitments to give myself more time to be quiet (a necessity for an introvert like me).  I even gave myself more writing breaks so I could replenish myself through reading and daydreaming.  I found, through all of this, that a part of me is addicted to being busy and I've had to learn what it means to enjoy a full, healthy life without inviting in the frantic energy synonymous with that four-letter B-word.

3. I can't do it alone.  I started the year strong.  I would come home from work and hit the yoga mat or take a long walk, determined to get back on a regular exercise routine.  Then midsemester hit.  The days got a little longer, just like the housekeeping to-do list that kept me from my afternoon workout.  I quickly realized that I needed a space to workout that was separate from office or home, a place to focus on my wellness journey and surround myself with people just as invested in their own health.  So I joined a boutique gym (Rebel Workout for those of you in Albuquerque).  It was life changing!  Exercising got easier when I had a place I looked forward to going to every morning to see people who were cultivating similar self-care routines.  I was meeting fitness goals at a better rate, healing old injuries, and enjoying being around positive people who supported one another's growth.  It made me realize how essential it is to be around like-minded wellness-conscious people.  

4. It's addictive.  I love exercising and eating well.  I love having quiet time at home to read by candlelight.  I love finishing my days with a few yoga poses.  I enjoy my life more and stress less about the little things.  I have more energy and a playful spirit.  I delight in my routine again.  It is no longer an endless to-do list, but a delicious ritual that keeps the magic flowing...as long as I stick to my self-care routine!

5. The definition of self-care is always evolving.  Part of keeping the magic flowing is growing into new ways of tending yourself and those you love.  The deeper I go into self-care, the more I let go of energies that no longer serve me and embrace the healthy things that do.  The more open I am to my self-care journey--and it is a journey, with many ups and downs--the more I am able to find a deeper way of living.

So that's what I learned this past year of radical self-care.  What have you learned about self-care?

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

5 Ways to Make Self-Care a Priority During the Holidays

As I wrap up my year of radical self-care, I find myself needing to recommit to those important practices I started last new year.  In fact, it feels even more important to nurture wellness during the holiday season.  Let's face it, sometimes life gets busy and it is tempting to let self-care rituals get put on the back burner while we take care of business. The holidays can magnify this with the increased demands to socialize, consume, and otherwise do more. 

Don't get me wrong--I'm not a grinch! But I do think the dark side of the holidays is a sense of enforced cheer and manic consumerism. Think about all the times you are asked to buy more, commit to one more social activity, or overwork to get things done by the end of the year. Wouldn't it be great if we allowed ourselves to do less this season--and all year round?

And while things are merry and bright this time of year, there is also the shadow side of the solstice that asks us to turn inward and recharge for the new year: a facet of the holiday that often gets overlooked.  At its best, this time of year is about celebrating the abundance around us and celebrating the renewal of light on the darkest day of the year; at worst, it can numb us out with overstimulation.  By turning back to our self-care needs, we can better enjoy the season and all it has to offer.  In honor of this, I give you five ways to make-self-care a priority this month.

1. Buy less.  The holidays, whichever ones you celebrate, aren't about things or buying more stuff.  They are about enjoying time with the ones you love and appreciating the fruits of your labor.  My family and I decided a while ago not to stress about buying people gifts and instead often give homemade treats, thoughtful tokens, and generally focus on good food and good cheer. We also avoid going out on Black Friday aka Manic Consumerism Day and instead promote Buy Nothing Day

Buying less is not only more environmentally and economically friendly, but also a great way to remove yourself from the fray of frantic shoppers. Take time to make your own gifts, if you have a crafty side, or buy local to support small businesses. Your neighborhood shops will have unique gift options in a more relaxed atmosphere conducive to a low and slow weekend afternoon of gift hunting.  Any way you do it, give yourself permission to buy less and invest more time in relishing the simple pleasures of the season.  It's where the magic is at.

2. Embrace hygge.  This Danish word for coziness is the perfect term for this time of year.  Light candles.  Enjoy a quiet night by the fireside. Cook a hearty healthy meal. Remember that some of the most joyful times of the season are the quietest. My fondest solstice memories are those where I literally did nothing: gazed into the fire, sipped a cup of homemade holiday chai, took a nap on the couch.  It's rare that we get this kind of time to rest, so why not make it a priority this season?

3. Pencil in quiet time.  I love a good party and this season can make a get-together even more festive with glittery lights, fizzy drinks, and bright spirits all around. But I always make sure to leave some time for me.  A lot of time.  I need quiet as an introvert, time to unwind and space to lollygag, otherwise I never completely recharge.  This season, give yourself permission to say no to social engagements.  Block out an afternoon that's just for you.  Gift yourself an evening at home doing nothing in particular.  Give yourself lots of these things, often and with wild abandon.

4. Feel what you need to feel.  Let's be real: the holidays can be utterly and completely sentimental and the Norman Rockwellesque depictions of heavenly happiness can be overwhelming...especially if you don't enjoy the holidays much yourself or have bad holiday memories.  Even if you do enjoy the season, you don't have to be merry and bright 24/7. .Just be honest with yourself about what you are feeling.  The solstice is about honoring the sun on the darkest night of the year, embracing the shadows as well as the light.

5. Stick to your self-care routine...including working out and eating right.  This is perhaps the hardest, and most important, tip of all.  I'm not saying give up your holiday treats, just make sure you carve out time for healthy meals and solid exercise.  And don't get down on yourself for indulging, either.  Enjoy yourself!  But in a season that can feel overwhelming in its excess (more of that consumption for the sake of consumption), your self-care routine can be a delicious luxury that keeps you connected to yourself. It also prevents mindless overindulgence where you consume food and drink without thought or appreciation. Feast and be merry, then take a long walk in nature or sink into a quiet evening yoga with festive twinkle lights as a soothing background to your flow.

Remember that this season is about winter, about following the patterns of nature, including moving into a more introverted state while the land rests.  We can find joy in the simple delights of the season that help us tune into the everyday magic around us. So this year, instead of getting caught up in the whirlwind of high consumerism, opt instead for a genuinely relaxing and festive holiday focused on renewal.

How do you make sure that you keep your self-care routine during this busy season?  However you do it, I hope your season is full of much rest, relaxation, and love. 

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

A Summer of New Literacies

The glories of summer are fading into the delicious settledness of fall.  School is starting.  The harvest season is upon us.  A regular routine is taking the place of those seemingly long unstructured hours of summer (though granted, my summer hours were still fairly structured since I happily taught for most of it).  Yet I still feel pretty adventurous and ready to ease into a full course load while continuing to carve out time for fun, play, and the little things that make life, well, lively!

Why?  I'll let you in on a little secret: this summer was my summer of new literacies.  Spring was the season of epiphanies, as it so often is.  An extra-full workload made me realize that there is such a thing as loving your routine too much.  I know!  This coming from the woman who champions her routines as rituals, but hear me out.  

I had a short break from springs semester before diving into summer and in that space, I realized something: all the adventures I wanted to have and all the things I wanted to try ended up getting shoved aside in an attempt to get stuff done.  And when I did have down time, I devoted it to the introverted hobbies that nourished me--not a bad thing in and of itself, mind you, it's just that my comfort zone became...too, well, comfortable to the point of feeling suffocating.  I needed to dust off the stagnant energy and remember what it was like to play.

And so I played.  I was inspired by Shonda Rhimes's Year of Yes which tracks the year she said yes to everything that scared her.  I, too, took the summer to say yes to things outside my comfort zone, with one caveat: they had to bring me joy, pleasure, excitement--all the things we think of when we think of summer.  Now that didn't mean I wasn't afraid or nervous when I tried new things; it just meant that my interest in them outweighed my skittishness.  I also allowed myself to say no to things that did not inspire me.  I'm a woman who loves the power of her no as much as her yes.  Saying no to one thing allows you the space to say yes to another, often something you are far more excited about.  And if something didn't end up being as fun as I'd hoped, that was okay too.  What was important was that I tried something new and allowed myself to experience life outside of my work.

I'd come to think of this experiment as developing new literacies.  I was fluent in books and stories, family life and introvert life.  But what other languages might I learn?  What other ways to communicate?  It was hard at first. So. So. Hard.  Like trying to rebuild shoulder strength after an injury when you can barely remember you have shoulder muscles (this was part of my summer plan too: heal thy shoulder, heal thyself). Or like when I studied French and could never quite wrap my mouth around nasaly consonants and reedy vowels, let alone remember how to spell the words that didn't always pronounce certain letters.  But even in the midst of the struggle, I also found myself looking forward to saying yes and yes and yes to more and more things. 

The results: I found myself dreaming more and acting on those dreams.  I took different dance classes and tried new workouts, I went on weekly adventures and challenged myself to shake up my routine.  I took better care of myself and found that in making time for fun things, I felt happier, healthier, and surprisingly more productive when I wasn't just teaching and writing all the time.  An important revelation during my year of radical self-care.

I also had to become more aware of how I think of myself.  Let's face it: words are my safe space. I'm a writer and a teacher and an introvert, confident in those identities.  But who was I beyond that?  A dancer, as it turns out.  And a lover of cucumber beer after yoga with friends and a farmers' market lush who has to have her shot of freshly pressed wheatgrass before she can even think about filling her bag with produce.  I'd found I was someone who liked TRX (although, let's be real, is still very much learning how to do it!).  And I was someone who looked forward to dancing to the gods and goddesses in her Afro-Cuban Folkloric class and spending Sunday night at a baseball game.  

I even dusted off my bike--in storage for over ten years--and started riding it again.  It was like remembering an old part of myself, reviving that dormant piece, fearless in her joy, with a little bit of light and air and relaxation--and a super sore body after that first trip out!  I painted and drank wine.  I took mini road trips so that I could remember what it was like to cruise across open land. I allowed myself to take in theater performances and nourish the relationships that make my life richer.  I let myself relearn the pleasure of not being an expert, not know what I'm doing, letting go of the need to always be productive.

I even found grace and enjoyment from the uncertainty and inevitable social anxiety that comes from exposing yourself to new things.  It meant I was outside my comfort zone and that was a very, very good thing.  Most of all, I found how important it is for me to cultivate the daily adventures that shake up my routine and relish the company of other wild and wonderful dreamers, livers, and adventurers.  Now that the summer is almost over, I find I have developed a new literacy: bravery.  I am no longer afraid to taste new things, to learn new languages, to experience the world one yes at a time.  And the cucumber beer? Trust me.  It's a thing.  And it's delicious. 

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Reading Romances: 10 Life Lessons I've Learned from Reading Trashy Novels

Confession:  I am addicted--and I mean ADDICTED--to trashy book covers.  Vintage pulp.  Over-the-top fantasy.  Macho westerns.  And of course, most especially, romance novels.  Those covers are a particular weakness with their half-naked heroes with rock-hard abs and the heroines with uncooperative dresses that practically fall from their bodies.  The lusty gazes.  The idyllic background.  It all promises, well...you know.  And if there's a lusty pirate on the cover, I'm done for (what can I say? I love a good story about swash-buckling social transgression!).

I've been collecting trashy book covers for as long as I can remember.  But it hasn't been until recently that I've started reading romance books in earnest, thanks to my new addiction, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, which has guided me through the delicious world of these novels.  Don't get me wrong, I've read plenty of paranormal stories, cozy mysteries, and fantasies with strong romantic elements, and studied courtship novels almost exclusively while earning my degree...but I'd never fully immersed myself in this genre.  

Sure I've read Nora Roberts here and there or thumbed through the books I'd bought for their covers, but I hadn't completely committed to the romance. One of the big reasons is that I found it so overwhelming!  There are so many books and so many authors, I didn't know where to start. And (she says shamefully), there was the whole romance novel stigma.  You know, the whole, "you read THAT?!"  Why yes, yes I do.

And love every minute of it.  I've become partial to historical romances.  They are, as Sara Wendell from Smart Bitches would say, my catnip.  One of the reasons I've fallen in love with the genre is that it is about hope and all the soft, gushy feelings our society doesn't value in the way it should. Naturally, I would turn to this genre during my year of radical self-care because it reminds me how powerful pleasure is.  

This is also a genre of reinvention (these stories have come so far from the early years of Fabio heroes foisting themselves upon virtuous maidens!).  It encourages us to sweep off the dust of experience, heal the scrapes inflicted by a hard world, and remember what it is like to feel hope and other giddy, luscious things.  And the heroines!   Let's just say each and every one of them is epic in her own way but they all teach you how to cultivate romance in your own life.  

When I say romance, sure, I mean chocolates and flowers and orgasms as that comes into your life; but I also mean remembering what it is like to see the world through rose-colored glasses.  To know yourself and what brings you joy.  To take pride in owning your capacity for pleasure in all things.  And to work hard for your happiness.  So without further ado, I offer you 10 life lessons I've learned from reading trashy novels.

1.  It's important to nourish--and value--your internal life.  We live in a world that values extroversion and concrete achievements, so much so that I often come home tired of this out-there energy and in desperate need of emotional sustenance, the kind that honors the rich nuances of the human spirit that goes beyond material accomplishments. What a treat it is then to crack open a book and read about the deep internal lives of fictional characters.  Romances are delicious character-driven stories.  They offer insight into how our thoughts and past experiences shape who we are now.  Most of all, they show us the often intangible, but no less important value of taking the time to process the world around us.  Sometimes the most profound changes and experiences are revelations that burst upon us when we create space to reflect.  

2. Happy endings are real.  Seriously, who doesn't need this reminder right now?  Not only are they real but you have the power to make them happen.  What you choose to give time and energy to can determine the quality of your life, so let go of toxic people and situations and thoughts.  So yeah, happy endings real, but it takes a lot of hard work to get there!  Which takes us to lesson number three...

3.  Happiness is hard work. The conflict resolution never falls into the heroine's lap and true love doesn't just happen to her--she works at it, to understand herself, to resolve her situation, and to open herself up to love (of life, of herself, of the hero(ione)).  Guess that whole stereotype of the hero fixing things for her is busted! In all the romance novels I've been gobbling up, never once do I see a fainting damsel in distress looking for a knight in shining armor to whisk her away from danger.  She always meets trouble head on and eventually enjoys the perks of a capable hero by her side (or under or on top of her...wink wink).  

4.  Hope can take you a long way.  Romances are about hope and letting go of a jaded worldview that limits your potential and capacity for happiness.  Hope is one of those soft, gushy feelings made out of rainbows and wishes.  Because it is light as a feather, it is often overlooked as unimportant or not as enlightening as darker emotions.  But these stories refresh and revive and inspire hope.  They remind us to dream and wonder and always, always look for the joy in the day.

5.  Pleasure is powerful.  Okay so I've been reading a lot about multiple orgasms and endless sweaty nights and more sexual positions than I can properly name, but...what's wrong with that? Again, just because it feels good doesn't mean we should dismiss it as not important or serious. In fact, pleasure in any form (not just the mattress-breaking kind) is one of the most profound ways we experience life and learn about the kind of life we want to cultivate. 

6. Leave plenty fo room for sexy times!  (See number 5.) Light beeswax candles.  Wear clothes that make you feel beautiful.  Cook a sumptuous dinner.  Kiss.  A lot.  Or enjoy some quality solo time (wink wink).  Watch the sun set.  Watch the sun rise.  Paint your nails.  Walk naked around the house (wait, you don't do that?).  Read a book.  Do anything and everything that makes you feel sexy and vibrant.  

7. A good heroine takes action. Every book I've read has a dynamic heroine who takes charge of her life.  Personal chef business failing?  Move to your hometown for the summer to figure out your next move.  Crushing on the rakish duke?  Seduce him at the masquerade.  Captured by pirates?  Join the crew!  Even if she starts out as a doormat, she grows into an empowered woman.  

8.  It's never too late to reinvent yourself.   This goes back to hope.  Sometimes we get stuck.  Sometimes we get a lot stuck. Sometimes we worry that we've gone so far down a road that we can't turn back, pull over, or blaze a new trail.  We become afraid. Our vision narrows.  We begin to resign ourselves to an unfulfilled life.  Trashy books tell us that is the exact moment when the universe needs to shake things up.  Get accidentally snowed in with an unrequited love (make sure there's plenty if mistletoe!) or win the lottery and finally live a life free from the social constraints of the marriage market. When the universe intervenes or you take matters into your own hand by quitting your terrible job to travel the world, these books remind us that we don't have to stay on the tracks we--or others--have laid out for us.  We can reinvent ourselves at any time.  

9. Emotions matter--trust your instincts.  Ahhhhh, the whole he-should-be-perfect-for-me-but-there's-no-spark plot.  Or the seems-like-a-good-guy-but-really-is-evil.  It's easy to succumb to social pressures or our own convoluted ideas about what might make us happy; but if we actually stop and listen to what will bring us joy, we will find it's often not in the generic socially acceptable picture-perfect version of our life we tell ourselves we want.  Real life is gritty (even in a romance novel); real life asks you to question the status quo; real life asks you to be true to yourself.  The only way to do that: be brutally honest about your feelings.  Not what logic tells you make sense.  Your feelings.  Those hard-to-quantify-oh-so-magical things that let you know when you're moving in the right direction (hint: it is towards the gentleman thief with a shadowy past and a mullet that would make any 80s rockstar envious...or whatever).

10.  Value yourself. This is another important lesson.  Either the heroine already understands the value of self-respect or she grows into it by the end of the story.  In either case, romance novels are powerful vehicles for showing that strong women--vulnerable, emotional, capable women--have to value themselves first and foremost.  Everything else comes out of this.

Bottom line: if reading romances is wrong, I don't want to be right!  (Cut to me sweeping out of the ballroom--bedroom?--in my disheveled fuschia regency gown and running after said pirate...book.) We could all use a little romance in our lives.  A little tenderness and hope.  And if my laptop background now features scantily-clad Victorian lovers mid-tryst or a Fabio-like hunk wrapped in pink satin sheets with a woman rocking 80s bed head, then so be it.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Conversation with a Zombie

He said he would love to have me for dinner--but I was careful.

I made sure that I wasn't on the menu for one.  And I took particular effort to choose a location full of breathing bodies.  A restaurant for the living.  It wouldn't do to surround myself with a host of these purgatory-like creatures, else my limbs become stiff and my skin turn as gray and rotten as a cadaver's.  You become who you hang around, they say.  

Still, I was curious.  

We sat across from each other at the dinner table.  The white tablecloth was as smooth and unblemished as his collared shirt.  He had dressed for the occasion, taking care to hide the evidence of his affliction as best he could (though truly there was only so much he could do, with a missing ear and half a brain).  Still, the tuxedo and carefully applied makeup was enough to create the illusion of pumping blood beneath his pallid, blush stained cheeks--in the right light. Which was another reason why I chose this place.  Candlelight can hide a multitude of sins.

He studied me as much as I did him as if he was trying to remember what it was like to be alive. When I reached for my wine glass, so did he--only his thick decaying fingers almost crushed the stem, whereas my nimble live ones carefully brought the dark red to my mouth.  I tried not to notice how he stared at my lips--stained now from the wine--wondering, perhaps, how I tasted.

That could have been me, of course.  If I had enough in me to make my heart stop beating and my brain stop questioning.

They're always the first to go: the ones that want to be lead.  Then the tired.  Then the hopeless.  I could never be any of these things, though I have at times been weary and known the company of despair.  No, I could never be any of these things.  Not with the fire burning in my belly.  I could feel the heat in my cheeks as if to remind me that blood still pumped through my veins.  Perhaps it was just the wine.

I couldn't even call what we had a proper conversation.  For one thing, it was hard to make out his words as he struggled to form sentences around a fat and full tongue without lips to soften the vowels and only a few teeth to slide against the crisp edges of constants.  For another, we were both frequently lost in our own thoughts, wondering how things might have been different if I had just a little less heart and he a little more.

In the end, we let the darkness beyond our candlelit table swallow any of the taboo questions: do you miss the taste of buttered toast or pickles?  Or is gray matter your only desire now?  And then the ones he refrained from asking me:  Can you describe the way your filet tastes--and the mashed potatoes?  Will you remind me what it is like to wake in the morning after a full night's rest, ready to greet the day?  

We both politely ignored the blood pooling around my rare steak and the ring of red our wine glasses left after a nervous waiter overfilled our cups.  The poor man didn't know that the infection wasn't contagious.  Well, not like in the movies.  It was the thoughts that did it. Or, really, the lack of them.  

So much easier to silences your questions.  So much easier to allow yourself to be swept up in the collective undertow and drowned in mindless oblivion.  So much easier--if it weren't for the fire in your belly.  The light in your veins.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Things I Want to Relearn

The curve of your own smile.  Sometimes you touch your fingers to the corners of your mouth just to feel the way they turn up when the sun kisses your lips.  You don't always believe that your body remembers how to express joy. 

Then there's the bliss--more a memory now--of abandoning yourself to the woods.  The city, a thing forgotten like an unremarkable story or adequate meal.  Where is that spontaneous wildling unafraid to go deeper?  The forest (be it in a book, heart, or landscape) is made up only of trees and dreams and roots and shadows, after all.  And they all want you there, going so far as to lay down a bed of fallen leaves to pad your steps and covering their rocks with moss so that you may rest your head in comfort.  It has been so long since you listened to their secrets.  So long since you told them yours.

And how did that game go, where you picked your way across the stream, searching for the next foothold on rocks smoothed over by the water's caress?  You weren't always thinking of snakes and eels hiding under them.  You weren't always worried about slipping.  There was only the cool, clean feel of the water lapping at your feet and rushing between your toes.  Feel it now and let the wet ripples carry away your worries.  

And you can't forget your hair, nor the times you wore it loose and wild (though some would call it a thorny thicket or a nest of copper wires--but those are voices best forgotten as you relish the way your curly auburn locks cascade down your naked back and fall around your open shoulders).  You must remember how to weave flowers into your long tresses and let the only chains you wear be made of daisies.

Next, find those delicious beats that pull you toward the dance floor.  Court your inner hedonist and let her play and laugh and move her body in the way that it was meant to be moved: in time to the heady heartbeat of congas and claves and vocal chords wrapped tight around a melody. This is you remembering that your natural state is joy--and that there's nothing wrong in sinking into a song's lusty embrace.

Perhaps by reclaiming these pieces of yourself--like stray strands of string and dandelion heads--you can begin to weave a new story unfettered by the dead-end plots that made you forget yourself in the first place. You never belonged at the bottom of a well or stuck under the heel of another's boot.

Weave together more forgotten things into this wild tapestry: scraps of bright ribbon and grapevines, bits of memory and the feathered corners of well-loved books.  Stitch it all together with those small pops of energy that tell you everything you need to know before logic tries to smother the sparks.  Then, when you have incorporated your last fingernail and sage leaf, finish it off with the whispers of the universe--here in a dream, there in the roadrunner crossing your path--that ask you to remember, relearn, truly understand that you are a daughter of the moon.  

That your life is in long fingers curling around tree bark, feet resting on fat branches, as you peer past the foliage into the endless horizon.  

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Things I Want to Unlearn

They are like the tight laces of a corset, these lessons, cutting into your ribcage and squeezing the air from your lungs, taught to you by people and things that prefer you breathless—and so, unable to speak.  Each tug of the ribbon wraps steel and bone tighter around your frame.  Containing you.  Small sips of air sucked through half-open lips are the only sign your heart still beats.  Those and one delicious thought: a pair of scissors.  

You could use the ones you have set aside for your embroidery.  No bigger than the palm of your hand and engraved with bird’s wings.  Silver and sharp.  Stronger even than the metal jacket closing in on your pumping heart.

You give into your impulse.  Wrap your hands around the cool silver of the thin blades.  You are alone.  No one can stop you.  Slowly, carefully, you reach behind you for the knotted tongue at the base of your spine.  You almost can’t slip the thin blades under the satin; the laces are so tightly pulled together.  But you do it and feel the first lace pop loose of its eyelet.

There it goes—

—the temptation to search for the rotten fruit in a barrel full of blush stained snow apples.  All you need to know is that you have an abundant crop—and faith in your ability to pick the best jewels from the orchard.  You’ve been through enough harvests to know the difference between worm-softened cores and firm flesh.

Then another:

The flash of disappointment when you see your imperfect body, alone, at night, freed from the corset’s confines.  The puckered skin along your stomach—the shiny purplish lash along your arm—the bruised streaks where your ribcage pushed against the corset’s skeleton all day, every day—and others, so many others—aren’t scars.  They are life lessons tattooed on your skin.  Trophies from the risks you took, the jumps you made, even the moments when you knew it was best to retreat into yourself.  The times you dared to live beyond the narrow path someone else decided you should walk.

More air in your lungs.  You can feel your chest expand.  

Enough for you to reach higher and cut through another lace—

—and there goes the bricks and mortar you once used to make a fortress for yourself.  You called it a home, but the walls grew bigger and bigger until it felt like a tomb.  A place to bury the pages of your stories.  The ones that no one would read because they lacked the light that could spark them to life.

Let those bricks be reduced to rubble.  Let your stories breathe like you can now.  And find their own homes when you set them loose like birds to the sky.  In their own time.  In their own way.  And remember that your real home is never behind tightly-cinched cloth-wrapped whalebones or mortared stone.

How long did it take you to remember that your home is in the earth and the sky?  That the roots of trees and flowers will always be your welcome bed and the wind is there to sweep away the last cut ribbon from your cage.  

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

What Love Looks Like

You find it in the small hand, no bigger than a silver dollar, pressed against your forearm as your niece finds her balance.  Each finger, barely larger than a thick blade of grass, has left its mark on your skin though nobody could tell by looking at it.  You find it too, in the fuchsia baby blanket that cannot possibly hold all the tenderness you feel for this little creature that has made her way into your life; this blanket gets bigger and bigger with each passing day so that you can loop happiness and abundance into each shelled stitch.  You want her to remember that her palms were once wrapped around your thick thumbs as she learned to hold herself upright--you want her to know that she has always been strong, always been eager to experience this world.  She only has to look at this blanket, or wrap it around her slight shoulders, to feel the support of her auntie and know that she, like her mother, is a force to be reckoned with.

This four letter word people bend into two kissing curves that pucker into a point looks nothing like a real heart.  A real heart is messy, made up of pumping blood and so many veins and memories that keep it going.  And something else that you cannot fully name but know it is sweeter, more life-affirming than the oxygen that this organ provides.  It is that moment (years ago now, a recollection tattooed into your artery walls) when you said everything was fine, and your parents knew what you really meant was that you were slowly being swallowed by fog, and so sent you a care package full of sunlight, red chile pods, and pinon coffee.  Yes, that kept your blood pumping and chased away the darkness.  You were not alone.

It is on the journey home with your older sister and the promises you made each other to live as extraordinary beings (and the bottles of wine and long conversations that prompted those promises, now like so many matches lit and thrown into your enteral fires).  Then when she found her roots and wings, you found another brother.  Here is the solid earth-forged spirit that grounds, ready to remind you that you don't need to carry so much weight on you shoulders--shouldn't.  But there is more.  You find this ephemeral warmth in the taste of kimchi and oysters on the half-shell chased down with a dirty martini.  This is always somehow accompanied by images of your brother arranging all your boxes, most of them books, into your travel pod so you could bring your life home.  Or of him and wife walking through the park that was once your refuge on their wedding day. There was so much sunlight that afternoon.

And still, you find this thing--this beating, pumping thing--woven into each breath.  You can't even look at the inside of an orange peel without thinking of long full fingers scraping away pith one orange quarter at a time to transform this fruity carcass into leathery hugs, a reminder that your younger sister is always close though an ocean separates you.  Close enough that you can never simply tear a banana open with a quick tug of its gnarled stem but must carefully slice the skin apart from stem to nubby bottom so as to better preserve that yellowed husk; she would know somehow if you took a shortcut.  And you think of the man that loves her.  Here you know a kindred spirit, one who understands instinctively that the internal life is just as important than the external one--perhaps more so. There is much to be found on the page and the inward-turning gaze.

You don't have to be anything other than yourself with these people; you can be the quiet wildling with bare feet and kinky hair happy to get lost (found?) in a book or a garden--or a kitchen.  And when you can't always give yourself permission to be this elusive creature, they remind you that your soul was forged from ink and summers playing outside with your siblings and always, always from feeding the wonder and delight that makes each day worth getting up for.

That's the day-in-day-out of it: the barely contained smile from your sisters because they know you are all thinking the same thing...and probably shouldn't say it out loud.  We are surrounded by strangers, after all, and the thought is not fit for polite company.  Even the frantic lick of puppy tongues on your hands and pawing of your furry charges when you haven't seen them for some time tells you that your life is full. Or the smell of green chile stew and the pure pleasure of a tortilla fresh from the griddle in the kitchen you grew up in that reminds you at the end of the week that you are surrounded by love.

That's it.  That's the word.  Such a small one for an awful lot of feeling.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

What Writing Looks Like

You are lost in thought, have moved from gathering herbs to the opening scene of one of your stories (there are herbs in that too).  You are no longer in your garden but in the kitchen of a home that only exists within the puddles of ink gathering onto your page. 

Casual onlookers would see nothing out of the ordinary, nothing more than a woman pruning her garden.  The fools.  They do not see the story weaving itself before your eyes, made of rosemary, eggshells, and a spark of imagination.  They do not know that what they just witness was nothing short of magic.  (Perhaps one day they will, though, when they pick up that story with that opening scene in that kitchen built of words and paper.  Then they will know how you spun stories out of stolen moments among your plants.)

Or take the hour you spent away from your writing desk because your body no longer wanted to sit still but dance the silent dance of yoga asana, freeing the words nesting at the bottom of your spine.  Your prose came more fluidly after that as if your spine were a pen dipped into the ink of your day, ready to release the stories it has acted out on the mat and absorbed between sunrise and sunset. 

Sometimes your writing is the evening you set aside for more words, but after a day of being saturated in them, you find that there is nothing more appealing that pajamas, a glass of wine, and whatever old movie is playing on the television.  And if your hands must move--that twitch a phantom ache from not pressing your fingerpads on the keyboard--you will knit, stitching memories into the threads you loop together for your infinite blankets.

Then there are the words hastily scribbled on a crumpled tissue or old handout as your students pour over their marked up papers, trying to make sense of the narrative you wove into those tight margins.  This is when the words come most of all: it the space between breaths, when you are not allowed to labor over this comma or that scene, but can only hastily spend a brief flash of insight onto the wilted edge of last month's essay prompt.

And yes, sometimes you even find yourself writing at your desk, as people so often suspect you do in order to lay sentences, like bricks, into the walls that make up the home of your craft.  This comes with its own pull to wipe the excess mortar between those brick for the most elusive of miracles: a page without typos (if such a thing exists, you often wonder, when you run your fingers between your bricks, once again hoping to smooth out the pebbles in the thick cement you had already combed through).

More often than not, writing is in the moments you close your eyes and let sleep take you; where else would you find the worlds carved into the inside of a star or the memory that seems to come from nowhere except the amber-leafed shade tree you find only at the crossroads between wake and sleep?  Other times you find yourself in similar dreamworlds, this time within the folds of book covers rather than your sheets. Yes, your writing is in feeding your soul, so that each story you devour becomes a future bone in the vertebra of your own.

You find your words, too, at the tip of a fountain pen waiting to spill its black seed onto your page.  Sometimes you keep those seeds in the pen, for as eager as they are to make their mark in this world, you can tell they are not truly ready to commit themselves to paper.  This moment, between holding your pen in your hand and pressing its tip to a blank page, is where the writing happens, not so much in what will be written as in what you ponder to possibly transcribe. 

So you let your words come to you of their own accord.  You let yourself feel your craft wrap around you like a cozy sweater, stocking up on all those images and feelings and memories (some your own, some pressed within the pages of books), until your pen is full to bursting, ready to let the abundance of your prose gush onto the page.  In the meantime, you get lost in thought.  You make a cup of tea.  You take a long walk down a forgotten lane.  You feed your senses until you feel as if you might burst with the pleasure in peeling and eating an apple.  That is what writing looks like. 

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

The Haunting

There was the wishing vessel.  Bold as the dawn, solid as earth.

Strange.  Its home was on your left side nightstand; its height measured out in the stack of paperbacks behind it; its radiance mirrored in the collection of raw stones and gems circling it.  Instead, you found it on the right-hand nightstand where your water glass should have been. You took this vessel in your hand--this vessel, hewn by your mother's hands, baked with the power of hope and sealed with a sea-blue glaze marbled with pebble brown streaks.

Stranger still: it felt heavier than it should as if weighed down by your bottled wishes. You held it in your hand a moment longer, wondering what occurred in those eternal moments between closing your eyes and waking.

Then that evening as you chopped vegetables for roasting, thinking about things that belong in other lifetimes (half-remembered thorns that only nip at your heels when you are tired), the lights flickered in and out of consciousness.  Of course, that would have meant nothing if it weren't for the misplaced wishing vessel and your keys, now no longer in the drawer where you know you'd left them.  Or the sudden chill that swept through your home, easy enough to blame on the draft forgotten after months under the gaze of the summer sun.

It wasn't until you drifted off to sleep, in fact, that you knew the truth of the situation: you were no longer alone in your own home.  You felt the ghost brush cool, soft fingers along your naked back and settle in next to you as you hovered between dream and wakefulness.  Then there was your whispered name the next day as you tended your garden, sounding nothing so much as dried leaves rustling in the wind.  And the wishing vessel again misplaced, perching precariously on your bookshelf, so much heavier this time as you carried it back to its rightful post. The faint scent of memory and wet dirt began to permeate your home. Yes, you had a ghost, a living, breathing ghost contained within your walls.

Each day the specter became more and more distinct, once a faint shadow hovering just beyond sight, now a thick presence that didn't feel the need to hide any longer.  It patched a form together from stray bits of thread, used tea leaves, and lint from the bottom of your laundry basket.  The smell of mulched garden debris and damp earth became stronger each day, strongest of all at night when the darkness could feed it.

But you grew tired of its presence. You grew tired of never finding your keys where you always put them.  Tired of hands, now with the feel of knobby sticks for fingers, pressed against your back before sleep took you.  Tired of never knowing where your wishing vessel might turn up--and when you found it half buried next to your rosemary, as if a seed waiting to sprout the hopes buried inside it, you reached your limit. 

It took so long to dig out that heavy, heavy vessel.  Longer still to drag it in from the rain.  The ghost was no help; it merely watched you puff and pant and try to set things right.  This had to stop.  You wanted your home to be yours again.

So you did the only thing you could: you brought another spirit into the conversation--one holier, more honest even, than you or your spectral companion: whiskey.  You poured a glass for you and your phantom guest, now bearing the faint outline of a person, smelling of moss and old books and the inside of a wishing vessel.

"So how is it you found me?" You asked the specter sitting across from you at the kitchen table.

"I found a blossom of indecision, a wrinkle of silence and traveled down the puckered road of an old scar."  Its voice was like crackling leaves and smoke. 

A gulp of whiskey was your response.  You drank in companionable silence for some time as you mulled over its words.  The rain beat out a tattoo on the window pane.  The shadows in the room grew longer in time with the setting day.

"And where did you find this blossom, this wrinkle, this scar?"

It gestured to your curled up palm.  You opened it and saw several little half-moons carved into its surface.  What had you been holding on to so hard? So tightly? 

As if in answer to your soundless question, the wishing vessel now sat between you on the table, still caked in dirt.  The table creaked under its weight.  There was your collection of unspoken wishes, your barely-acknowledged hopes like lead dandelion puffs.

"It's the voice that does it," your specter explained. "Just the sound of your lips and tongue wrapped around one of those dandelion heads." 

What would it hurt, you thought, to give voice to all those dreams you'd stashed away for so long? What would it take to breathe life into the many roots and veins you'd allowed to go dormant? What would it cost you to loosen your grip on those fragile seeds you have guarded and protected and stashed away for a rainy day, much like this one?

"They are stronger than you think," the ghost again replied to your unvoiced thoughts.

You brushed the dirt from the vessel and dragged it toward you.  You held it between your hands--gently this time--as if it were a butterfly flitting through your laced fingers.

Perhaps just one.  There is no harm in allowing one stray seed to breathe and bloom.  You named it, this wish, to yourself. To your ghost. To this vessel that had held it for so long. You felt it being released into the air around you like a cloud of sandalwood perfume or the flap of wings.  Your skin tingled with this unblemished possibility permeating the air around you, and you closed your eyes to savor this new-found lightness.

When you opened them, the ghost was gone, and with it the smell of dead things.  There were only the two whiskey glasses and the vessel (so much lighter now) left, along with a stray blue thread that once held the specter together.  The other wishes slipped more easily from your lips after that, the hopes too.  You felt only sweet release, the joy of freeing these pods into a life you dared to think possible. 

Your home was your home again. Your wishing vessel was once more what it should be: a womb, not a stopped bottle, fertilized by syllables slipping from your vocal chords.  And the air was thick with dandelion seeds.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

5 Life Lessons My Niece Taught Me

So my little niece just turned one year old this weekend and I cannot even begin to express the wonder and joy I've experienced getting to know her. Too often with children we think we are the ones teaching them all about life: how to crawl, then walk, how to eat solid foods, and how to behave.  And we are.  But these little humans are also teaching us valuable lessons too.  I can't believe the number of revelations I've had while watching my niece explore her home or experience her first taste of frijoles, mustard, and peaches (she has quite the adventurous palate).  But for this blog, I've narrowed down all the things my niece has taught me to five all-encompassing life lessons:

1. Don't over think it.  Adults tend to complicate things; we can get so caught up in hectic days or convoluted paths to happiness when the most wonderful things in life are the simplest.  Being an auntie has slowed me down and made me get rid of the unnecessary clutter in my life, simply because I do not have energy for anything that seems to weigh me down or makes me feel muddled. 

2.  Trust your instincts. Remember when I said adults tend to over-think things?  Well with a baby in your life, you begin to learn how important instincts are.  Take my niece for example: when she likes something, you know it.  When she doesn't, well, you know that too.  She is ruled by her instincts right now and more often than not, they guide her in the right direction.  It made me realize that I, too, should be relying more on my gut-reaction to certain things and not talking myself out of the way I feel.  Our instincts are powerful guides on this journey through life; the more we listen to them, the stronger they get.

3. Always leave time for naps.  Okay, so sometimes she fights her naps, but she always wakes up so happy and rested after them.  And I've found that a sleeping baby is a powerful sedative. She sleeps, I sleep--and feel better for it.  As it turns out, I can fight naps too in my effort to get more done in my day.  Yet more often than not, a little R&R is better for you that squeezing in one more thing.  The marvel of it all is that I usually do end up doing that last thing post-nap just with less fuss and stress because I am rested.

4.  Stay playful.  Life, after all, is an expression of the joy and abundance we cultivate.  Everything is a game to my niece, from blinking to stacking blocks.  This is an important reminder to cultivate that exuberant enthusiasm that makes everything feel like play.  It also makes you appreciate just how much fun we can have in our daily lives if we stay loose.

5.  Keep it magical.  Seriously, have you ever seen a baby marvel at the way a flower opens or at the smoothness of a rock?  Have you ever watched them trace the pattern on a rug with their tiny fingers or giggle and bounce when a catchy tune comes on?  At the end of the day, life is a mystical magical experience and it's important to take the time to marvel at the simple wonders surrounding us.

What have you learned from the little ones in your life?

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Life is a Celebration

Yesterday I had a cookout--fresh corn and kebabs on the grill--and Django Reinhardt on the record player.  Why?  Because it was a Tuesday and I was hungry.  This morning I did yoga to the sunrise and drank coffee on the patio because that's the best time to talk to the birds (and my plants).  There was a moment just now, too, where I just let my mind wander and allowed myself to breathe in the heady aroma of blue sage because I could.

On Thursday, I burned an expensive candle and had a glass of even finer whiskey solely because I enjoyed the searing light of fire within and without; there was no point in waiting for a 'special occasion' (whatever that is, like a fence that limits pleasure to some distant future moment).  Monday was another story--I drank up the stars late into the night because that was as long as it took to finish my conversation with them.  And the blades of grass between my toes today were proof that walking barefoot was as good for my soul as it was for my soles. 

Later I might decide to twirl--in the rain or on the dance floor--for the sheer pleasure of feeling my body move.  And I will most definitely lose track of time at some point in the week; those pesky seconds and minutes dissolving into bliss.  Perhaps it will be while reading--no, napping--under a shady tree, or swimming in the mellow current of summer.  Either way, it will happen on a day just like any other, with no special importance to it except that it is today; or maybe that it is every day, a gentle celebration of fresh mint from the garden, a new book to read, a spontaneous picnic. 

In any case, tomorrow I will marvel at the host of ladybugs making their home in a broom plant overflowing with tiny yellow flowers.  They too seemed to have found their joy in the thin green stalks they climb upon. 

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

To the Everlasting Yes!

It is not the question that matters, only the answer.

The Why is full of too many uncertainties, a tangle of threads knotted into a heavy ball of your potential histories (what was, what is, what will be, and--strangest of all--what might bes, those thin strands of chance that vanish and reform with every step in a new direction).  It cannot be fathomed nor untangled; to try to separate one cord from the rest is to further knot yourself up.

And that is the reason it is not the Everlasting Why that matters, only the answer: Yes! 

Let go of holding those threads so tightly and let them find their way around one another until they are not a snarl of string but a rich tapestry of the adventures you take on.

Yes, it is the Yes.

There is the thread that gives you life. You don't even need to understand, only feel it in the dreams carved into your bones.  To taste it in the first strawberries from your garden or the spinach leaves with the tang of minerals from your lettuce patch.  To see it in the way the robin gathers dry grass for its nest or in the industry of bees sucking down pollen from your fat hollyhocks; in the way it rains when only sunshine is promised, feeding the earth and allowing your seeds to drink up the evening's sweetness.   

This is your Yes, that heady tingle of something just beyond your sight that permeates your worldly experience, filling it with light and the warming caress of an afternoon breeze.  Here in the stillness is your answer.  It clears away the dust and doubt, the painfully literal that, like a bookmark, attempts to pin down your story to one set page when it is an ever-evolving tapestry threading each day with new experiences. 

It is tempting even to call this Yes transitory (more of that dust and doubt), but it is ever constant in the way it fills you up with breath and possibility--why not make your Yes the stuff of your everyday?  Why not fill your heart with it until there is room for more Yes and more Yes and more Yes.

It is not about the Why, only the Everlasting Yes.  The Yes.  The Yes.  The Yes.

You must only feel the Yes.

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

On Living Your Creed

It is not always enough to believe--you must live it every day.

You must find your home in its embrace; however strange it may seem to others, however difficult it may be, you must turn away from other outstretched arms, seductive folds that would gather you into the temporary ease of all-inclusiveness.  Yes, this collective energy can momentarily assuage the wear and tear of walking your own path but ultimately stifles you with the price you must pay for this comfort: silence.  Only your voice, that seed of sound and breath, the song of who you are, the breeze that allows your wings to unfurl.

But you cannot turn your back on your creed.  The one made up of lessons learned the hard way and a future paved by dreams and flashes of inspiration and--sometimes--past lives, those tatters of ghostly tendrils that snake their way through the cracks in the earth beneath your feet.  It is yours and yours alone.

If you know each seed you plant will blossom, you must sow wisely.  If you know each thought is a thread coloring the tapestry of your life, you must think carefully.  If you know that your lungs need fresh air and open space to fill them up, you must find a land without fences in which to breathe deeply.  If you know that only you can create your future, you must wake every morning to pave the next row of stones that carve out your path.  If you know your life is made up of conversations with the universe, you must speak with the cosmos often, shout out to it, sing to it, and listen to its response even if no one else can understand or hear the exchange.  They see only dust, where you see stars.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

On Bravery

Bravery. 

The act of planting a small seed in soil you aren't sure is fertile enough--but hope, desperately hope--that it is. And the seed, a small husk holding only a new possibility, that fragile little flicker of promise--of what, you might not even know.  Yet you still dare to image another way of being.

Bravery, vulnerability's bold lover.  Not in donning armor but consciously, when the moment is right, casting off that thick chainmail and exposing the tender skin underneath to wonder, to the simple chance that there is life beyond the mundane.  It is in that tentative first step into a new way of living.  Pushing past the fear, the little whispers that try to keep you tethered to the safety of the un-evolving. 

It's in taking the risk to believe that you are on your path even as you wonder if it is a path at all (you only see a faint ribbon of dirt half-buried in bramble).  No matter.  You will make it one.  You have made it one.  Your feet moving forward--first one, then the other--do so in response to the prompting of the loose earth beneath your feet--it calls to your soles--soul--as your soul calls to it.  And that is enough.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

On Everyday Enchantment

Enchantment.  A spell wrapped in a noun.  Three syllables.  One state of being.

To live with Enchantment is to see beyond the brick and mortar that make up your home and into the magic infused within its frame.  It is to peel back the layers of your day-to-day and search for that elusive energy that winds its way up your spine and outward into your life.

To learn from Enchantment is to listen to Coyote's call when he plays his tricks.   He is a messenger really--there to make you listen.  To trust in the power that is you, that is the earth; the power that is the beating of your heart, a rhythmic tattoo that forever pounds out your path regardless of how many times you try to stray from it.  It is to absorb the wisdom of the moon and the stars, and the prophesying of the seeds burrowed deep in the dirt.

It is to conjure.  To create.  To believe that the bulk of your day--the most important parts--occurs in the moments and spaces others can too easily overlook.  Because when you are looking for everyday enchantment, it finds you.  Always.  It nourishes you.  It makes its home inside your skin and feeds your soul. 

Yes.  That's Enchantment.  A spell wrapped in a noun, planted in the earth and nourished with moonlight, roots stretching to the underworld and leaves unfurling towards the heavens, creating a waking dream in the here and now if only you are open to it.

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!