I just read a blog by Vivienne Tuffnell on The Loss of our Youthful Dreams, which was very thought provoking. It made me try to remember what my own first goals and ambitions were and how they had all worked out. At first, it seemed like a jumble of things happening, of starting and not finishing, with a lot of wandering around doing things that seemed sometimes surprising but often irrelevant to whatever I thought I meant to be doing.
The earliest plan I had for my life, at the age of two, was wanting to be "a gran'ma and a doctor." The reason I know this is that everyone thought it was such a strange notion — in those days it was expected that little girls all wanted to be a mommy. Period. People liked to remind me of this and laugh for years. I'll come back to this later.
Sometime in primary school, I felt I also wanted to be a poet (who illustrated her own poems) and to have six children and to be a doctor. Sometime in high school, I was clear that I wanted to be write and illustrate children's books — and I still wanted to be a doctor, but was beginning to worry about the medical bit. I had realized that what doctors actually did wasn't really what I wanted to do. So I thought about nursing... and a week in the hospital showed me that this wasn't it either. Also in high school, I accidently became convinced that I'd never be a "good enough" artist and that the kind of books I liked weren't really proper children's books at all. So the children's books were out too.
By the time I became a freshman in college, it seemed like being a psychologist might be the right thing, so I took classes in the subject. Back then, more than sixty years ago, psychology was all about behaviorism and Skinner boxes and nothing to do with real people. As for consciousness — there was No. Such. Thing. So!
At the end of my second year in college, I threw it all up in the air, got married, moved onto a boat, got shipwrecked, had a baby, and my husband and I bought a bigger boat to live in. Some people are not fast learners.
We did a lot of work in upgrading and repairing the Samuel A Cobean, and then sold it, as planned. Next, we went off to Great Britain to buy a bigger sailing boat to go cruising. Around the world, perhaps. We didn't find the boat we wanted in Wales, England, or Scotland so Norway was next. In Oslo, we found exactly what we wanted. Almost. The entire first third of it was rotten so it was necessary to become serious boatbuilders in the west of Norway for several years. As we headed toward Romsdalen, we grounded our Gladhval in calm water and had our first taste of going aground. It was educational.
A few weeks later, arriving in Romsdalen, we began doing the heavy labor of boatbuilding which continued for a couple of years. There are Norwegians who are very kind and helpful. And then we sailed to Scotland, with major engine problems on the way, and worked on the boat some more. In Scotland, we were once again grounded and almost wrecked, following which we were caught in a hurricane and rescued by the Royal Navy. Scots are kind and helpful too.
This sounds silly, but after several years in Scotland, we decided to sail back to Norway because many of the building materials still needed were there. So, after tacking bits canvas over the most open places in the deck, we headed back to Norway in November during the equinotical gales. (The photo in the title graphic is Gladhval in the early morning mist on Loch Oich, Scotland, a moment of peace and beauty on the journey. )Crossing the North Sea again was a rough trip, but we made it, and arrived inside the skerries to find it so calm in the fjord that every star was individually reflected in the water. This seemed a good omen.
We were going north, perhaps back to the original boatyard — I don't remember now. Nearly got shipwrecked again — this time in very rough, scary waters with big rocks sticking up out of them. So we turned around and headed south toward Bergen. I'm not sure of our exact itinery throughout these years, but do remember the various groundings and near shipwrecks very well — shipwrecks create vivid memories. Surviving that and sailing back to Bergen, I decided I really wanted to go back to Scotland (heart's home). My son, Jon, and I left. Jeff, my ex-husband, still has the boat.
Then there were the years in Scotland where I applied my boatbuilding and painting skills to interior and exterior house painting and decorating. Then another wedding, this time to a "mad Scot" — Neil — and a new career in antiques and antiquarian books. First we exported them to Canada, and then we moved and imported Scottish stuff to California. All of these years, from the time I left school, may have seemed like a total distraction, but I learned some very useful things:
1) I was a lot stronger than I thought. I endured. Yes, I even persisted.
These were important qualifications for my Real Career, which was not antiques and old books.
I went back to college — psychology, as a study, had radically changed. Jung! Rogers! Real people issues! Um... even a parapsycology class where I met people who taught me tarot — outside of the class. There I was introduced to many things that were important, valid, and true. Exciting! Maybe I could be a counselor or something. Someone took me to a Spiritualist church, where one of the mediums told me I was a healer. I knew that — had known since I was two — but didn't everyone always do do healing? To ny astonishment, it turned out that they didn't. So in my kitchen, I showed a couple of neighbors how to do basic hands-on healing. The two became six, the next time around. Teaching teaches us faster. The friend who had taught me to read tarot moved away and sent all her clients to me, so I did readings and teaching in the back of our antique store.
In my early fourties, I was standing in a field under a full moon performing a wedding ceremony for a hopeful young couple. In the middle of this, it suddenly dawned that "a grandmother and a doctor" really meant a "wise woman and a healer" and that what I was doing at that moment was exactly a part of that. I thought that was all finally settled, but it wasn't.
Eileen, a massage therapist and healer from London was travelling through San Diego. In a grocery store, she asked the clerk if she knew of a good psychic reader. The clerk didn't, but the customer behind Eileen said, "I know just the right person!" and gave her my phone number. After her session, Eileen asked, "Would you be interested in coming to London and Cornwall to teach and do readings?"
Would I? You have to be kidding — of course I would!
Eileen went back home and made arrangements. I bought tickets and went for six weeks — time to teach enough to pay for my tickets and expenses. And then went home, having arranged to come back in three months to teach some more. That was the beginning of my tick-tock travels over the Atlantic. People started wanting me to do classes and readings in other places, and finally in Bath on Beltaine, someone asked what it would take to get me to actually move there. I muttered that I was thinking about moving back to Scotland. But they emphatically said, "Bath!" and repeated their question. It was about three in the morning after our celebrations and I was heading back to San Diego the next day. I mumbled that I supposed I'd need somewhere to live and somewhere to teach. I was to come back anyway (tick-tock) around Midsummer. They said they would have places waiting for me to live and work. And they did, so I stayed and tock-ticked in the other direction after that. And started travelling once in a while up to Scotland, just because I loved it — and still do.
And about that time, a helpful student showed a publisher friend of hers the notes that I gave to the class and told him that he should get me to write a book on meditation. He did, I did — Moon Over Water — and then I did a second one on imagery and inner journeys, Sun Over Mountain.
Then I reversed that situation as well, moving back Scotland, travelling to England and Cornwall — and to California. Scotland is my own magical homeland. I thought I was settled forever. I liked travelling and my cats didn't mind it too much. We even went camping together. Then I got sick.
Nearly died of pneumonia; couldn't go back to work for months. I began to feel as if I'd never be really well again. Every doctor and every healer I knew told me that staying in the good Scottish rain would kill me the next winter. That was August, and by December it was evident that they might well be right. On the 12th of December the cats and I travelled — Arrochar to London to Los Angeles to the desert of Borrego Springs.
As it happened, that was a bit extreme — going from saturated to anhydrous — and it felt like I would soon crack, crumb into dust, and blow away. The cats and I moved up into the mountains, where there was a bit more water in the air, it was cooler, and we were all happier. From there, I drove to San Diego once in a while to teach.
Unfortunately, even occasional teaching was too much. Couldn't teach, couldn't do healing or counselling; made myself sick again every time I tried. Wasn't getting much better — in fact all of my energy seemed to be needed just to stop getting worse. It felt like my path had gone over a cliff and me with it.
Just about then, on my 60th birthday, Brian Froud asked me to write the book for the Faeries' Oracle. I could do that — stay home, write some every day, and rest as needed. This was my third book, and it sold much more than I expected. With the advance, I moved to Washington State, bought a bit of forest, and my wild son gradually built a home for me there. I still wasn't settled, though I hoped I was. But after some to-ing and fro-ing, I may be settled now in the middle of three acres of forest with a nearby super-neighbor and caregivers, near Port Townsend.
Port Townsend is filled with artists and writers, sculptors and photographers, a plethora of poets, yoga teachers, tarot readers, craftspeople — witches and elves and gnomes commonly walk the streets. At 79 (2017) I rather hope to be settled in this perfect place — it feels like home. And I can write whatever I most want to — which tonight is this.
What else am I writing? Another oracle for starters. And a book (or five) about tufted faery cats and humna — half human, half faery people. I've even found a way to do the illustrations — with help.
Is the faery cat book for children? Well, yes — and for their parents. And teen-agers and grandparents. And people trying to find a way to live together in a world where so many of us have become strangers and refugees. I've gotten ambitious, you see. I may have accidently (if you believe in accidents) become a "wise woman" in a forest, a grandmother, and a writer-illustrator-poet for children and others.
So all this time I've been working back and forth through my ambitions, often without even realizing that they truely were long-standing ambitions instead of happenstance. I may get there yet, wherever "there" is. I'm also taking classes in writing — you always need to be trying to get better at things or they get boring. And I keep thinking about teaching a class in using the tarot to help write a book or story. You know, plots and character development are a lot like reality — if you believe in reality.
Tonight I just happened onto a video about someone doing his version of one of the things I used to do in Scotland, teaching individuals ways to learn and grow by traveling in magical places. I'd love to go make that learning trip with him, if it were possible. And the Irish Journey mentioned on these pages. Who knows what may yet happen or what paths might open?
(I'm now somewhat flummoxed — there are four copies of Moon Over Water for sale from three UK booksellers, priced at about UK £250 each. Other prices range down to one penny plus post and packing. On the other hand, Sun Over Mountain is offered for between one penny plus post and packing to £1,402.63. Someone has a lot of faith in me or else has gold-plated the book. I didn't dare look up the price on Amazon.com) (I'm unendurably curious — Amazon.com Moon Over Water, priced from 99 cents plus post and packing to about $40, and the same price range for Sun over Mountain, which sounds more reasonable. Obviously, I should get busy and put them on Kindle — or somewhere. Maybe I shall.)
List of Things I'd Like (Or Might Like) To Do
• Marzipan's books
So, what did you want to be when you grew up? And where do you think you might be on the path to getting there?