A few months after I decided to part ways with the church for good, summer arrived in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I lived alone in a studio apartment.
One muggy Saturday, I sat in my apartment and watched the rain falling on the intensely green grass between buildings, and felt the charge in the air that meant a storm was coming soon. Suddenly I felt an irresistible urge to step out into the rain.
I grabbed my sandals but didn’t put them on. Instead I carried them as I walked slowly around the perimeter of my apartment complex, at the edge of the neatly clipped grass. To my left, a strip of woodland–all young trees and tangled, snarled undergrowth–separated my complex from the adjacent property. The air was hot and the rain was cold. I had recently cut off all my hair, and the raindrops tickled my bare neck and shoulders. I wanted to plunge into the trees, but I didn’t do it. What if I got in trouble for trespassing? What if there were snakes and thorns and spiders or . . . who knew what? I’d grown up in the country and spent my formative years alone in the woods, but this little plot of trees seemed different, and inaccessible.
But standing in the wet grass and looking into the green shadows, I felt that stirring again, that awareness–here is the sacred thing, the sacred place, this is what I’m looking for.
I went back to my apartment and dried off. Outside, the wind picked up and twilight fell. The storm was approaching; my skin tingled with it.
I had a tiny concrete patio outside my apartment door, roofed by the balcony of the apartment above, with a sort of half wall to afford me a little bit of privacy. I wanted to watch the storm, so I spread a blanket on the concrete. I brought out a few candles and a stick of incense I’d bought on a whim, and I sat there with the candle light and the sweet smoke and watched the spectacular display of lightning. While the storm swept through I felt intensely alive, like the electricity was under my skin as well as in the air. It didn’t last long enough, but the charged feeling accompanied me through the rest of the evening. I didn’t know what had just happened to me, but I sensed it was important somehow.
It was December of the same year, in an apartment in New Orleans, that I opened my first book on Wicca. I found the book on my lover’s bookshelf and picked it up out of idle curiosity. I huddled in a blanket in a corner of our unheated, unfurnished apartment and read about the holiness of the earth and creating sacred space. I thought back to the night of the storm and my instinctive need to honor it in some way, about my blanket and candles–so similar to the instructions for casting a circle in the book. Instead of feeling like I was discovering something new, I felt like I was remembering something, or coming back to something I had missed.
What followed was a year of exploration. I started reading anything I could get my hands on about paganism and magic. I also got sick far too often, and In the process of researching herbal remedies to treat my frequent illnesses, I discovered Scott Cunningham’s works on magical herbalism. This took my spiritual path in a direction heavily steeped in herb lore and healing magic.
Which brought me to my first Reiki class, which I’ll tell you about next time.