Demon at 211
Have I ever told you about my own personal demon? It’s a story for those who encircle me in the darkest of times. I think he’s always been with me. Me aging, the years enveloping me, but he always looks the same. Time just doesn’t permeate his visage. Some of my earliest memories have him painted in the periphery.
This particular story took place in the late 1990’s in a town called Kalamazoo, Michigan. I found myself invited to a local bar called Bourbon Street. I had never been to this fine establishment, but I had listened as people talked about it for years. I closed my shop early that evening and met my friends there.
When I arrived, my friends were already inside. Upon initial evaluation, I found the great Bourbon Street to be too dark and too loud, but to be fair, anyplace that wasn’t conducive to reading would have fallen into that category. My friends mingled their way into the room and I meandered. People watching was the only way I would salvage this social miss step.
I found a chair and parked myself, thoughts settling on the bound prose I had concealed in my satchel. Just then a man started in my direction. As he drew himself closer, I realized as uncomfortable as his closeness was, I could not hear him otherwise. He told me his name was Nathan. His friends had gone their own way, abandoning him. The conversation was pleasant. Now looking back, I see I was painfully ill equipped to converse with him because I lacked both a backbone and boundaries, but I did have a demon.
Nathan told me about his work and his family, who lived in Wisconsin. In a very unguarded way, I told him about my little shop situated in the next town over and I told him about my lovely grandmother best friend. Conversation spilled easily between us which gave me a false sense of ease.
Nathan knew of another place in the social district called the 211. It was a classier place and they had a jazz band that evening. They had lite fare and I was famished. I agreed to meet him there. As I drove the two minutes towards my new destination, all the episodes of Unsolved Mysteries resurfaced in my mind. As scared as I was of doing new things in a new town, I knew this was how people grew up. They collected experiences and tucked them in pockets until the pockets were overflowing with life lived.
A very young version of me ventured into the 211. As I think about it now, “211” must have been the address of the place. In the late 1990’s, people felt that was a clever way to name things. I found Nathan straight away and we sat down. The server brought our place settings and spoke to us as I figured out what I could eat gingerly and not appear to be a wild animal. I decided it would be a bagel and earl grey tea. He ordered a glass of wine. Nathan spoke of his grandmother and how special she was to him. They collected readers digest volumes together. The weight of the day and evening hit me all at once and I felt like I was ready to go home. I wanted to politely take my leave, but I honestly didn’t know if that was ok to do. I expressed my thoughts on calling it a night and Nathan suggested we exchange phone numbers.
My demon had been quiet until this moment. “Leave now,” he whispered in my ear. I recognized his voice like a gift from your favorited gifter, all beglittered, festooned with fancy paper and ribbons. “Gather your things and go” he said again.
I didn’t listen to my demon, instead, I gave the man my phone number. Nathan just kept talking and my demon became agitated as he spoke, urging me to leave. I told Nathan I really had to be going. As I started the motion to stand, he aggressively put his hand on my thigh, pressing me back down in my chair. He did not remove his hand.
I looked at Nathan in disbelief, I told you to stay awhile and relax” he said. He was upset that I wanted to leave, and now, he wasn’t going to let me go.
My demon laughed, “I told you to go and you didn’t, what will you do now?” I didn’t know. In my head, I silently asked for help. What I did not bargain for was the price I would have to pay. Please help me, I thought. My Demon replied calmly, “Now you must stab him. He won’t let you leave. Pick up the fork and stab his hand.” I knew he was right. It was the only option I could see.
My hand found the fork, nestled sweetly with the spoon and it joined the cast of characters, assembled under the table. I drew back in one quick movement and stabbed him hard. Nathan jerked away leaving blood on the leg of my pants. The fork, the deliverer of women, fell to the floor.
My demon broke the spell, “Get you things and go now, do it!” he insisted. His magic had teeth and I know now, never to doubt him. I quickly gathered my coat, purse and the fork and headed to my car.
As I settled myself in my car, I looked to see if I was followed. “He won’t follow you,” said my demon. “What about my phone number?” I said aloud. “I can fix that” my demon replied, as his voice filled my brain like smoke filling a glass jar. “How?” I asked. I knew his magic would bite, but I just didn’t know how deeply his teeth would sink in. My demon replied, “My price is something you don’t yet have. I will take care of your phone number and Nathan will never find you, in trade for one hour of your grief. One hour of time, spent with someone who you don’t even know yet. One hour, many years from now, as your dearest prepares for his final journey. That’s what I want.”
It was easy to give up something that wasn’t mine just yet. “Ok” I said. I was so afraid Nathan would call the police and I would be charged with assault. One hour of unclaimed grief seemed so far away. Grief wasn’t worth anything anyway, right?
I am a lot older now. I’ve experienced grief. My dearest is dead. My demon, who has been fed by my bargains, remains. He is full of my most vulnerable moments. He sits in the corner and waits for blood or something equivalent. He has become a time capsule of precious things I was willing to trade. Nathan never called.
The story of Demon at 211 and the images are copywritten @2022 My Dearest Witch, all rights reserved.
April 18th, 2022
There are brave souls, holding up lanterns and candles in the night. They unfold the quilts, the books with quickly written directions, they tell the salty stories of home.
There once was a house that held those it loved and healing was its gift. A house whose walls were draped in stories. The spice cabinet was full of exotic things and a mortar and pestle sat on the wooden countertop, ready to work. The house was alive and its caretaker was wise. Baba Yaga was a sharp-tongued newt of a lady, comfortable in her wildness. She honored the importance of salt in the stories.
Baba was born in the house and she know she would give her last breath to it as well. The house had legs, which made traveling easy, but Baba was unable to sink her roots down into the fertile ground. He roots grew inside. A Yaga house is a container, this one was full of old woman magic.
At night, when the town slept, she gifted the candles around her house a flame and intention; a warm glow drawing people nearby. One night in particular, a woman wandered the woods, seeking the house and the witch. Salted tears on her cheeks, she saw the glow of the candles and it pulled her closer and closer. The woman knocked on the door, hoping for respite or death, she would be fine with either at this point. The door opened, as if the Yaga had been expecting her. The old woman gathered her in her withered arms, but the woman could not stop crying. The witch set out collecting vessels to collet the tears.
Where ever the Yaga travelled, stories seem to follow her forming a spiked fence around her gifts. The words were barbed, to keep people away from her wild. It has always been the object of the townsfolk to surround the Baba Yaga in stories of dark witchery. This is sure to keep folks in fear of her instead of letting the light shire on healing. Healed women are much harder to control.
Baba Yaga held the woman like she was a child and told her stories of old women who survived. The house held them both as a great soul mending wove the woman back together. After the tears stopped, the Yaga heated them in a bath. She told the woman that her tears held magic. The gritty bits of her story served as the spell. The Yaga did not take the woman’s pain. She taught her how to put herself back together.
And in the days that followed, the towns folk told stories of how Baba Yaga would steal children who wandered in the woods, cooking them in her pot and eating them up. But the woman knew this was not true. She knew the Baba Yaga had tenderly fed her magic The Baba Yaga, the old witch, the wild woman, the old mother, the hag in the house, had mended her soul with salted tears and a needle, threaded with stories.
January 29th, 2022
While my father isn't an art critic, I do want him to be proud of what I do. He came over the other day and wanted to show him what I was working on. I've been beavering away in the studio, working on my collection of work for Bewitching Peddlers of Halloween, a magical art show for Halloween specific work, in September. This owl will be quite a special piece.
My dad commented, "is that a turnip?" This comment really made me question my skill as a maker. does this look like a turnip? I did make a turnip called Ms. Neeps a few weeks ago, maybe he was just recalling that piece. Can my father see? So many questions came into my vision.
Nothing makes a person question their work or path like stray comments. My father would never say a discouraging thing about my work, and even though ill intent wasn't there, this is an illustration of how your brain can tell untruths, based on a grain of a comment. Don't believe everything your brain tells you.
The life and death of Hiss and Cackle as told by an observer.
No one from the town could recall the actual birth of Hiss and Cackle, it’s commonly thought that the birth was concealed because the two were joined together in a forever kind of way. It is storied that from the beginning of people's memories, they were only ever remembered as little old ladies, skipping right over Maiden and Mother and settling into Crone.
The two were, rightly so, called witches, but they gave each other their formal names. One was called Hiss; she was the one with some teeth left. The other was called Cackle for the sound that emanated from her facial region as she laughed. They sometimes used the monikers, Blow Smoke and Old Crow interchangeably for each other, in the kindest way possible.
Because it seemed as though the two were born very old, they never had much of a use for parents. Often, it felt as if there were just too many cooks in the kitchen. So, they moved into a cottage covered in ivy, with a secret address.
It was a special extravagance to be invited to their cottage. As you walked in the general direction, you would smell wood violets first, then warm spices from the hearth would unfold to your nose, followed by hints of sandalwood and bourbon dancing through the air.
One thing you could expect, was as you prepared to leave, the ladies would offer you something to take home. It wasn’t something old or unwanted though, it might have been 1/2 of a wonderful idea, the name to a song you would write, or a string of words, that when spoken just as they were whispered to you, would heal a wounded heart. These gifts were important and light as a feather.
As much as Hiss and Cackle thought about their beginnings, they also contemplated their endings. They thought of how large the casket would have to be to hold two sisters. They thought of how it would happen. Hiss would say to Cackle, “Sister, I want to die first, so I don’t have to be one breath without you.” They always agreed that it would be Hiss to go first and Cackle just one breath after. Then they would go on together to the next chapter. Maybe this time, Hiss would be the mother and Cackle would be her child, connected briefly by a cord, but forever by the heart.
Hiss and Cackle were lovingly dreamed into life in my Battle Creek, Michigan studio. They are one, two really of a kind. I create my work using fine antique textiles, wood and clay.
Ms. Neeps The turnip lady
Ms. Neeps the Turnip lady
Sleeping deep in the ground, bundled up in earthen soil, was a turnip, touched by magic. The Farm Witch tended her garden with more than water and hard work. She nourished the ground with stories, with intention and with love.
One evening under the moons watchful eye, her garden received a gift in the form of sparkling moondust. It fluttered down like a blessing onto her hedgerow, over the loosened dirt and flowers already in bloom.
Even for a witch, who had seen many a curious thing, The Farm Witch was truly bemused. She fell right back onto her tush in the dirt, smiling up at the moon in her big hat and linen skirt.
There wasn’t long for moments of deliberation as to the “what on earthiness” of these events, because truly, there could be no explanation. A blanket of moon magic had just drifted down and settled on her hearts work, and she was grateful.
Just then, the dirt started to wiggle. It looked as if a mole from the under garden was awake and roaming about. It wasn’t a little mole though; it was something else from the dirt. Right before her eyes, The Farm Witch saw a small arm shoot up then another. Next came the legs and then a naked turnip body. The Farm Witch was quite familiar with the circle of life, but never had she witness the birth of a turnip lady.
The witch gathered the wisping tendrils of root, the off white and dusty purple head, and the curious little body close to her. Wrapping the turnip lady in a scrap of worn, soft fabric, The Farm Witch nestled her with care in her foraging basket and headed into her little cottage.
These are the early beginnings of the turnip lady and how she came to be, but there is more to know.
Because she was nourished by a special magic, destiny sent her like an arrow to things meant just for her. As she grew, the turnip lady sought out quiet joy and because she was born of the under garden, she knew the dark and set out to be a light, an illumination from within. She knew she was odd and special, and she also knew that turnip ladies don’t just crawl their way from under the garden for nothing at all.
The turnip lady was properly called Ms. Neeps by The Farm Witch, who became her loving caretaker and friend.
The two created a ritual of going to market together. The Farm Witch searched for things to grace her garden and Ms. Neeps scoured the stalls for books. She loved, so much, to fill her sweet little turnip head with poems, spells, and stories about the unexpected and sometimes even the unthinkable.
On one of those trips to the market, something absolutely atrocious happened. There was an incident that I’d rather not go into a great deal of detail about, involving an out-of-control donkey pulling a cart. I will say, the cart knocked into a stack of apple crates, spilling them across the ground.
Ms. Neeps was not unscathed. A ragged old crate fell right on the small turnip lady. It was more than a scratch and less than death.
The Farm Witch often tended to those in need who could not or would not see a credentialled doctor. She put people and critters back together the best she could.
After getting Ms. Neeps back to the warmth of their cottage, she began searching the shed for just the right thing. She found a tiny piece of furniture, a dresser, that must surely have belonged to a fairy. Putting both the lady turnip and the small dresser on her dinner table, The Farm Witch cobbled them both together in a remarkable way. In the end, she sat back and smelled the magic making in the air. She was grateful.
They called it a new chapter of magic. Ms. Neeps atop a storybook dresser, completely brimming with books and The Farm Witch with the deep knowing that even if our roots begin in the dirt, they don’t necessarily have to remain there. Our stories can begin again, maybe at the hand of a witch who cobbles things back together, or maybe with a book, offered to you by a turnip lady.
The story of Ms. Neeps and the images are copywritten ©2022MyDearestWitch, all rights reserved.
in the new year
Unapologetically, I am in a liminal becoming. I am actively pursuing the life I dreamed of as girl.
Unapologetically, I want my kids to describe me as an anti racist, left leaning liberal, who spoke up against trumpism, racism, and the bland words of people whose opinions don’t pay my bills.
I want my kids to tell people that I believed in magic. So, by goodness, I need to live that way.
Joseph Takens, my late husband, was placed in my life to teach me something, many things, but one thing was to find my bones, my backbone. He teaches me to find comfort in the ache of love and to continue on anew when the page turns.
I’m sprinkling my own path with magic and I’m hoping my kids follow it, like sparkling bread crumbs.
I wish you a good year ahead. Thanks for sticking around.
Grief and the Holiday
There are no proper shoes or boots for sloshing through the mud of Christmas season. Any gifting holiday that requires us to interact with hostile family members, hard focus on grief, or makes us feel like we are checking the boxes of the Holiday experience, is a recipe for contempt.
Gathering together with your argumentative uncle was once a mild day of contention, but in this American climate of 2021, it’s no longer mild. To sit in fellowship with someone who disagrees with your opinion is human, we are all different, but to sit in fellowship with someone who applauds things like 1/6, suppression, and hate is hostile. And you don’t have to do it. Not for family, not for the holidays, not to keep the peace. Because YOUR peace is worth something too.
Embracing the large pink bear in the room called grief is my new hobby, and what I’ve learned from getting down in a puddle of it and rolling around, is that grief feels different for each of us. Holiday grief is more intense because it pushes those left in your family to the front. The ones who are gone are REALLY gone. As a country we are processing a collective grief of over 800,000 deaths due to Covid-19. There are lots of empty seats in our homes and lots of hugs that we will never feel again. My only advice for addressing the pink bear in the room is to do so with grace. If you’ve been visited by grief and loss, maybe have something of your loved one close, so you can connect with it as you move through your space. Grief makes some of us feel like we are always on our last nerve, in this case do less. Stop sooner. Just sit and enjoy something instead of trying to create a Christmas masterpiece of the day. Hint* paint by numbers are back in style.
I hope you recognize what you need and seek a safe place to enjoy the Season.
Matthew Merton's Missing Moonglow
Matthew Merton’s name flew off of the pages of a book and into my heart, as I created him into being. I worked on him ever so slowly through the months and he neared completion at the ending of October. He stayed in my studio through the full moon of Samhain, sleeping so sweetly. Moon magic is very important to owl creatures. As the gentle moonglow touches an owl’s wings, their very feathers are imbued with wisdom and knowledge. But alas, little Matthew Merton, fell asleep, all cozy in my studio and missed the enchantment.
Knowing that Samhain and a full moon would coincide, I popped outside just before dusk and left empty glass bottles to capture just such moonglow. As I finished working on Matthew Merton, he had a sad look that I could not budge from his wee beaked face. “Why Matthew, are you sad?” I asked. “Because, I missed the moonglow! I missed the wisdom of the moon. I will forever be a featherbrained creature, because I missed it.”
I collected my moonglow potions from every corner of the hedge and row and placed them into a woven basket. My bottles dripped with magic. I brought them in to my cottage and prepared my finest wax for sealing up the bottles. One bottle was specifically for Matthew. As he sat all featherbrained and distressed in my studio, I told him how wonderful he was and how blessedly pink and magical he was to become. He closed his owl eyes and I poured my captured moonglow over him. It dripped like glittered-honey over his head, his heart and his wings. His eyes opened slowly, as if this was his very first wake.
I think his eyes may have been a little bit brighter. I know for sure, he soaked in the knowing that he was gifted with all the wisdom I could fill him with. He found his moonglow, with a little help.
I hope you enjoyed this little story of how Matthew Merton began.
Matthew Merton is available in my ETSY shop, My Dearest Witch
copywrite 2020, My Dearest Witch
He saw her as hungry, so he tossed breadcrumbs at her feet. He knew her heart and knew she would accept anything.
She ate up the morsels, one by one. It felt good to be full. But after awhile, she acknowledged it was so much work and she was crawling on the ground all the time. It made her feel less like the goddess she had grown into an more like a child, accepting whatever was provided.
She decided being hungry was better than crawling on the ground.
A little look in my studio
This is my worktable. No matter how much space I have, I always end up with about a dinner plate sized spot to create in.
I’m a huge lover of drawery furniture! I’m making tags now for all of the drawers so I can find things easier.
This wonderful apron was created especially for me by Kimberly Sherrod of Calamity Kim. She recreated one of my art works on it and it’s really a treasure.
A place for the faeries to dance.
My Dearest Witch is a term of endearment. A love story between my heart and my hands.