A Home Made of Bells
Some time ago I embarked on what I half-jokingly called a “spiritual KonMari”. In the same way that the tidying program promises to put your house in order, I wanted to bring clarity to my spiritual house as well as my physical household. The process ended up going in directions I had not at all expected, as I was quickly reminded that hearth and mind and faith are all related in complex ways.
I tend to be the kind of person more interested in mysticism than the mundane, and my practice reflected that – lots of meditation and direct interactions with spirits, lots of hands-on magic and astral travel and hours and hours in the library and the whole life-eating nine yards.
But there was a point when I realized that that way led disordered thinking and unhealthy relationships, and I had to move away from a lot of those things. (Also, I’m too old to go without sleep for days anymore and Bug doesn’t like it when I meditate while she wants to play. C’est la vie.)
I spent years stripping layer after layer like paint from a Craigslist dresser. I’m still not sure there is hardwood underneath. It may be all paint and the memory of drawers. But I have gone far enough down and it’s time to build up again.
Once I stripped all of the things that no longer worked for me away, I found that I had a pile of good stuff left over, raw materials and things to upcycle with no rhyme or rhythm to them. I had a few practices, and a few spirits I loved, whose presence in my life brings me joy. I had trinkets that make my heart sing to touch them, and some habits and gestures that keep me grounded and happy.
I spent a month working on a daily practice. I learned a lot, chief of which was that I don’t want the kind of daily practice I started with. I began with the assumption that anything worth doing had to wait until after Bug was tucked into bed and I was alone, not going to be disturbed. What I realized when I was actually doing it is that doing that takes the fun out of evenings spent with Bug, because I’m distracted waiting for her to fall asleep.
As the month went on, I found I was continually being pushed to other things and I was prompted to think about why Brhenti wanted me to darn socks or why the best place to honor Pechak and Velos was at the confluence of two rivers. I started to understand why honoring differently put me in such a different mindset. It helped ensure I was able to see Brhenti in the small things. It helped me to understand some of the nature of Pechak and Velos’s relationship to each other and to Mara.
I finished the month with a few very concrete things that lay a solid foundation. Some of them are more practical than others but they all help with the building process. And it’s very much a building process.
I like learning about unusual styles of house construction – straw bale, earthbag, cob, I love them all. I keep circling back to the idea of building my own house, if I had land and time enough. I grew up watching This Old House on PBS, enjoying the slow transformation of a project over an entire season; HGTV is fun but it’s not the same.
I’m fascinated by the process of building something one step at a time, from almost nothing to a fully-functional modern home. Sometimes I dream of building a home with my own hands for my family, something we can settle in.
I don’t have land and I’m running low on straw bales, but I see this as the same kind of opportunity. You could say I have a barn full of reclaimed materials, old windows, flea market furniture and empty wooden pallets. Some of them are in great shape and some need more work, but overall I just need to start slowly, lay a solid foundation, and then build up from there. It’s all about thinking about why I’m doing something.
For example, I was thinking about bells, mostly because I ran out of places to hang wind chimes. I’ve long used wind chimes as a part of my wards, but bells were one of those things I liked but didn’t end up using as much as I wanted. I’ve experimented with them in lots of different ways, but nothing quite clicked. I had a tube of bells in red and green and gold that I picked up after Christmas for 90% off somewhere, thinking I’d string them for some purpose.
Now, Bug’s been having a rough time sleeping, and I was trying to think of something that might help. We’ve got night lights and white noise and the like, but too often she wakes up scared and doesn’t calm for anything. It’s hard for her, because she ends up fighting sleep a lot, and it’s hard for me and her mama because if she’s not sleeping, at least one of us is probably not sleeping either.
Bug isn’t able yet to articulate what’s scaring her, so we’re coming at the problem in the metaphorical dark as well as the literal one. We’ve talked some about powers watching over her in a broad sense, and about how the visible wards on her room are there to protect her, but I wanted to see if something a little more direct would help.
I got out some ribbon and the bells and called Bug over to look.
“Which of these colors do you like?”
“All of them.”
I tied the first bell on one end of the ribbon, and then showed her how I was stringing them like her beads. They were fiddly enough that I had to start them on the ribbon, but I had her do as much of the stringing as she could. I let her pick how many bells she wanted, and we ended up with three clumps. While we worked on it, I talked to her about how the river sprites would hear it and come protect her if she rang it at night.
I made one for the back door as well while I was at it – mine’s fewer bells, and equally spaced, with more knot magic thrown in. It’s still pretty simple, though.
Even if I wanted to go into mysticism again, I couldn’t. Parenthood has taught me more about living in the moment than my flailing attempts at meditation ever did.
I need a faith for a household. Something I can offer my daughter, and something that brings me that joy even when I don’t have time for complicated daily practice. I need something with a solid foundation, with practical benefits, and one project at a time, I think I’ll get there.