Fortifying the Present, Flaming the Future
by Sarah Gottesdiener·
Fortifying the Present, Flaming the Future
“Don’t mistake a lightbulb for the moon, and don’t believe the moon is useless unless we land on it.” —Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities
The First Quarter Moon falls on a Tuesday, just six days before the end of the year. This month, some of us have just celebrated Christmas, some of us have celebrated Yule, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus. All of us are most likely tired from the holidays, if not from the entire insane, ridiculous year we’ve all been through together. We’re looking to the next. Some of us are looking towards the future’s light. Some of us are trying to stay fortified in the present.
The Waxing Moon time can be a time to dig into discipline, knowing that part of what you are doing is traversing into the unknown, and that the doing of the thing should be a closed loop inside of itself, that gives sustenance and meaning— no matter if you see results in two years or twenty. Today or never. Meaning: the promise of the outcome, whether it be a smashed patriarchy, matriarchal utopia where healthcare is free and everyone is cared for, or our dream of affordable, sliding-scale healing centers for underprivileged youth on every corner, mustn't take over the present day activities. Engaging in your work, in your process, in your day, must be enough. That must feel vibrant, complete. Not every day, but most days, or a portion of most days. If they are not, you must adjust accordingly. I call spending too much time in the future “future tripping.” It can feel like a balm to stay in fantasies, but too much and you are too tangled up to see the road in front of you. Worrying is future tripping, trying to control or concretely know what the future holds most certainly is.
Activists, social workers, therapists, artists of all kinds, and other helpers—those of us so open to the never-ending injustices of the world—are especially susceptible to burnout. One of those reasons is the expectation of success happening very quickly, in a certain way. It is another symptom of “if/then” thinking I’ve discussed so much in this book, the thinking that takes us out of our bodies, out of the present moment, and tamps down our personal power. Like magic, we can’t control outcomes. But if we cast aside our predisposed expectations and pay attention, we can notice and note shifts. Rebecca Solnit discusses this extensively in her must-read book Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. She talks about the unexpected effects and reverberations of activism and art. In the book, she reminds us: “Paradise is not the place in which you arrive but the journey toward it” (80). While we are laying the bricks, toiling away ad nauseum, we must take breaks to sip tea. We must invite our friends over and ask them about the sculptures they are building, the piles of silk string they are unraveling, and discuss why this all matters. We must encourage their process, and in doing so, affirm our own.
Healing is not always quantifiable. It is not always a picture-perfect postcard. Much of the time it feels brutal, uncomfortable, it is riddled with impatience, it emits howls and wails. You know you might be on the right path to healing if everything feels almost impossible. There seems to be no language for certain emotions that are working through your body. There are sobbing fits consisting of enough tears to fill a bathtub. You can speak your authentic truth clearly, even if your voice is quivery and your heart is pounding. Every minute seems to take a decade to pass. Some of the time it feels like making a difficult choice; not one you necessarily want, but one you must. For if you don’t, the universe, or your future self, will drag you, your concrete feet digging into the ground, kicking and screaming, creating harder and harder circumstances around you until you are forced to change. The message is to soften, to snuggle back around in a spiraled seashell shape, until the noise abates and the quiet widens out into the ventricles of your heart, and the sentences of your passion ring out clear as a bell. Wipe off the layers of dust in the mirror and really accept the accurate reflection: the gorgeous, flawed human you are.
Progress does not always look like progress. It is not a straight line. It is a spiral, a circular pattern. It is our DNA lattice, our galaxy, our breath patterns. Like waves, our process surges and subsides. Like the Moon, we wax and wane, sometimes different, sometimes the same.
Because my metaphysical knowledge base is primarily the Tarot, I find myself comparing phases of the Moon to the cycles and cards. The New Moon time resonates to cards such as the Fool, the Star, the Aces, the Minor twos, and the Pages. The First Quarter through the Waxing Moon can correlate to the Minor fives and minor sixes, the Chariot, and the Knights: we assess the situation, face certain challenges, reconnect with our desires, and begin by moving forward in the material world. We make the conscious choice to keep going—in spite of, or because of, hardships and setbacks.
Knights learn by doing. They get messy. Dirty. Sweaty. Smelly. They are in their bodies. They get thrown off their horse. Knights climb back on and keep going. The trail gets lost. They have to scramble through thickets and brambles, lay face-down in the muck, and find their way to a cleansing stream, their way lit up only by the night sky, the path found by intuition and will alone. The mistakes, the breakups, the rock bottoms are all part of the process. In decks other than the Rider-Waite-Colman-Smith Knights are sometimes called Travellers, Learners, Sons, Apprentices, Amazons, and Princes. All of these archetypes are brilliant: work with whatever you feel called to embody.
In the last cycle, or year, what lessons did you have to learn through making mistakes?
What knowledge and skill sets did the bungles, the mishaps, the setbacks teach you?
Have you forgiven yourself for these, or forgiven others around you?
How will you continue to move forward with the lessons you’ve been given?
At this time, consider the cosmic carrot dangling above your head. The ideals you strive
towards, the glimmering promise that gets you out of bed, the bar that always raises, just a little bit higher, slightly more refined, or maybe more tattered, humble, raw, each time. We will always have those cosmic carrots. We need them—we need the idea of the Moon as much as we need the Moon itself. We must also remain grounded, in our bodies, in our actions, in the world around us. We need to enjoy the present, or at the very least learning—through staying conscious, through inquiry of ourselves and those around us, through doing, through trying, through attempt.
Following are some practical ideas to try during the Waxing Moon. If one or two of these call to you, then by all means, incorporate them into your routine every day. The Waxing Moon is the opportune time to introduce new habits and embark on activities that have to do with the external world and the physical body/self.
Work on something you love every day; start work an hour earlier, or stay an hour later;
announce a new project or new website to the world; apply for a new job, grant, or volunteer position; socialize more, especially with people you don’t know very well, who you admire and want to forge lasting partnerships with; focus on your energy, do check-ins with your energy multiple times a day and call your energy back; start a savings account or increase the amount you contribute to your savings; tend to your beauty by getting a haircut, having a spa day, or getting a pedicure; attend to your health by adding in supplements or herbal infusions or tinctures you’ve been curious about, or making an appointment with an acupuncturist or massage therapist; start a movement/exercise pattern/habit; have more sex, whether alone or partnered; go someplace beautiful and new to shift your perspective. In other words, engage with the external world a bit more, particularly places that will stimulate your brain, nourish your body, and offer a different vantage point and a sense of adventure.
If you find yourself wishing to begin planning and thinking about the year ahead, now would be the time to do so. Take the time first to reflect on all that you have
accomplished and all that you’ve done in the past year.
Even if you don't feel amazing about this past year, you made it. That's a lot! You still breathed. That's around eight million breaths a year! Give yourself a pat on the back for surviving, and hopefully, thriving.
If you’ve written in a journal, a planner, or this workbook, that will help jostle your memory.
The following is a recipe for Fire Cider— a common, very old tradition of making a fortifying and fiery tonic to support your immune system, your hope, your sustenance, and your fire through the rest of the winter and through next year. May you and your loved ones be healthy, happy, and loved. May you have the strength to resist all that does not serve the greater collective, and the courage to work for a better future for yourself, your loved ones, for the health and happiness of all people, for all animals, for the Earth, for water, for air, for fire, for the Sun and for the Moon.
Basic Fire Cider Recipe*
You will need:
quart jar with lid
bottle of apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup grated horseradish
1/8 cup of fresh garlic
1/2 cup chopped fresh white onion
1/4 cup grated fresh ginger
zest and juice from 1 lemon
dash cayenne pepper
Some people like to add one or two jalapeño peppers, chopped, and any other fresh herb, such as mustard seeds, thyme, rosemary, or turmeric root, that you feel called to add or have on hand.
1. Add all your roots/veggies/herbs except honey to the quart jar.
2. Fill your jar with apple cider vinegar. Make sure all the matter is completely covered by your vinegar, and leave at least a few inches of liquid over the veggies/roots/herb mixture. Cover it, and let it sit in the cupboard away from direct sunlight for at least one moon cycle, 4 weeks, up to 6 weeks. You may wish to visit your cider from time to time and shake it up a bit.
3. When the cider is ready, shake well. Take the herbs out of the vinegar and squeeze any liquid in them back into the jar before composting or throwing out. Strain all the rest of the roots/veggies out, and pour the liquid into a clean jar.
4. If you wish, you may add some honey to your Fire Cider. You can take a spoonful of the cider a day to keep you warm in the winter and soothe sniffles and sore throats. Add some to soup, tea, or toddies to boost your immune system and help circulation. Fire Cider will keep for a few months in a cool, dry cupboard. You can also refrigerate to extend its life.
*Adapted from a recipe I've done a few times by trial and error: exact amounts were found on the interwebs. You can also look into Fire Cider recipes by Rosemary Gladstar, and many other wonderful herbalists.
Excerpt from Many Moons, 2017, vol 2.