a line in the sand

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Earth, Air, Water, Fire, Spirit.. these are the elements that make up our path. In order for life to exist, the elements must exist. Spirit encompasses the entirety of the wheel, all elements, and the working path. It is what drives us along and what holds us when we are feeling lost. We are all interconnected.

I found the above shuffled amongst the many notes that I had been sifting through lately. This season found my body revolting against me and I found myself with a bit of forced downtime.. this old sack of skin and bone decided it needed a time out. I spent this time gathering and organizing. Along with the earlier elemental musings, one jotted question held my attention – “What is witchcraft to you?”

I could wax poetic on the many things that shape my witchy ways – mythos, folklore, those tales of things that go bump in the night.. but in those collected bits I wrote down two names- Doreen Valiente and Sir Terry Pratchett.

“I’d say to a person who really wanted to know what was the spirit of witchcraft that they’ll learn more by, say, going out on the Downs at midnight and listening to the wind in the trees and looking at the full moon..” (Doreen Valiente, The Power of the Witch-a BBC documentary)

Doreen Valiente, often considered the mother of witchcraft, was a great bringer and defender.. being mostly solitary, I particularly liked her later views on hierarchy and initiation (still a well debated topic I hear in some circles).

“..if a witch started thinking of anyone as ‘just’ anything, that would be the first step on a well worn path that could lead to, oh, to poisoned apples, spinning wheels and a too-small stove” (Sir Terry Pratchett, The Shepard’s Crown)

I personally hold the thought that anything worth learning about witchcraft an be found in Sir Terry Pratchett’s writings.. and I stand by that.

Why all this musing? Compiling all these said jottings down had me thinking about personal path and the many things we should revisit along the way. The experiences of spirit that uniquely make up our path are not the same as those that make up another’s. What does witchcraft mean to you? It is a very important question.

In the outworld, so much infighting, opinionating, words turned about, and judgements seemed to be rolling around.. sometimes I think these things move in cycles. I am also not innocent in such matters of opinionating and judgement.. I am human. I have witnessed many fellow witches, myself included, burned by such things. People set fire for mere gossip and personal life choices. Much of these goings on have made me think about where I should draw my line in the sand. I cannot/must not be party to this burning. Aren’t we supposed to be holdng each other up and celebrating our diversity?

I was also introduced to a new term (or new to me), “corporate witch”. Now, while I have my own hangups about spirituality mixing with money (requiring vs. choosing.. there’s a difference for me personally), I must ponder where the seeker would be without a pagan shop? Here is where they wander in for a glance and hopefully leave with ideas, knowledge, a feeling of place, experiences, and yes.. somethings shiny to help them connect with spirit.

These things- differences of opinions, gossip, infighting, questioning the material vs the spiritual.. they are not new. However, maybe we can take a step back, consider that we do not always know what s going on in another’s life or what has shaped their path, and concentrate on what is important in our own. Maybe we can let them do the same. Their line doesn’t have to be your line. For me, I will hold true to mine and do the best I can. Oh, and if you happen to see someone being doused with gasoline, maybe hold them up instead of striking a match.

 

underworld reflections

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That day was an exercise on underworld and shadow. We paired off to revisit our last underworld experiences – shadows some of us were still working through, and in some cases we found ourselves baring our souls. Many of us were faced with strangers and yet, thought crept in.. were they truly? Spirit had brought us all there for a reason.. who’s to say.. who’s to say..

I was thankful to be paired with a beloved witchling that I had already shared some bonding with, although I wasn’t sure if that made such truths better or not so.. but at least a bit more comfortable for laying my bits of shadow and bone bare. Thought popped in of my journey card image and of the raven picking at the painful meaty bits still clinging to said bone.. and that’s exactly how I felt.

We spoke of shame, of fear, of missteps and of regret.. all those things one has lurking about in shadow still in need of some work. I could have skirted around and picked something easy, but I chose to pull no punches. I laid out my most ugly bits, tinged with regret in a sense, but not necessarily in the way one would expect. There was guilt in there but mostly a sense of failure.

So much had passed and those choices were made in what seemed another lifetime.. but the lessons were needed. For me, I think, it was the lingering shame and the feeling of inadequacy to be found in my failing.. forgiving oneself is really the hardest. I think it is important to acknowledge to those who walk the path with you, that even those of us who have walked a long time still make said missteps large and small. We are but human and sometimes our best isn’t always something great.. it is just all that we can do in that moment.. and that is okay.

Sitting across, baring my immense horrible, I wondered how they saw me now. Did they find me less of a person in my inadequacies? Was I this broken thing – tarnished and pitted? Was I unworthy? Was I no longer the same person in their mind? Was I going to lose this fledgling friendship because I allowed them to see those ugly bits? Were they having the same thoughts in reverse? It’s a very scary thing to allow one so close.. terrifying.

As Wendy wove through her song “Rewind”, it really sank in.. yes, we all would like to have that magical rewind button. We all have times when we feel fucked up and blind.. and that’s okay, at least for me. It’s all part of the journey and we’re allowed.

Looking across from my side, I saw a brave and beautiful soul scorched by the fire of past hurts.. vulnerable and yet backed with an extraodinary quiet strength just finding its way to the fore. I saw the struggle to be open warring with the need to withdrawal – something that I very much relate to. They were brilliantly equisite, even in the not-so-comfortable soft bits they were still adjusting to.. and in that too, there lay such beauty.. and I loved them all the more.

As I placed my written release in the cauldron dirt, I decided the time for hanging on was through. I was going to allow myself to let go of that burden, that shame. I was going to work towards self-forgiveness and move forward.. I hope they chose to do the same.

the phooka

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I had been seeing spirits all weekend, one in particular had just brushed against me the morning after it all.. misty and joyously child like. After all the goings on, I wondered if it had something to do with that past weekend but at the time hadn’t thought to question it.. the time had passed. It was tough going that weekend and at one point I found that I was having to ask myself that all important question, “If I was going to stash a body, where would I put it?” As luck would have it (and I do mean luck), everything turned out fine. Not long past when thought had posed the question, the rest of the witchlings had arrived and all fears were put to rest.. there were tearful assurances, a bit of anger unable to be released, and life started its slow move back into normal.

What did stick in my mind were two things – should I have paid more heed to the seemingly normal inquiry and that I’d seen what I thought was the devil earlier that week. I didn’t pay him much mind either.. that horned figure peering out at me from the living room window one morning.. but maybe I should have.

The night of the happening (a story not mine to tell), I was at a street fair getting my tarot cards read by a local witch. In my mind the question rested firmly on career but as I was taking my leave, she inquired about my friend.. had I talked to her recently? I said yes, of course, I talked to her every day. We exchanged a bit more conversation and I moved on, but I didn’t call. Instead, I received a call that next day and the devil did cross my mind then.

I told my friend much later of him. I use the term “him” lightly.. the image seen having seemed somewhat familiar- dark with long curling horns and very Froudish. I realized I had come across said image the day of while searching the witch cabinet for birthday wrappings for another. It had crossed my mind even then what I’d glimpsed peering out at me.. Phooka, it turns out.

The Phooka (also puca, meaning “ghost”) is an Irish goblin.. his roots in Scandinavia, I read, before finding his way to Wales and Ireland. He is said to be an air fae who never enters human homes.. except in Wales where it is reported that they sneak in through the chimneys Santa Claus style.

They are thought to be both a bringer of good and of bad fortune, who appear in forms both terrifying as well as pleasing.. often as a horse or a goat (among others) but always covered in dark fur. They have been known to lead people away from harm, albeit on a very wild ride through the brambles, only to dump them into the mire – chuckling as they gallop away. All things considered, I think that maybe next time I shall pay him better attention.

 

beyond division

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“..scales fall from your eyes.. resurrection, rebirth.. beyond division.. innocence and experience become one..” – Judgement card, the Mary-El Tarot

I’ve always liked the idea of working in cycles.. the fool making his journey to find oftentimes that he is back at the beginning, the seasons moving through time, the imagery of the serpent swallowing his tail. It all speaks to me of cycles and of revisiting things from a new point further along the path.

I often draw a card around Yule-ish to help figure where I want to start my work in the coming year.. what I need to be paying attention to. This past card was Judgement. It brought to mind that cycling back to things previously discarded and of which I am currently working on. She has visited me before on other matters and no doubt she will visit me again.

Early one evening, post equinox celebrations and plant fondling with friends, Lola and I found ourselves discussing earlier discussions.. and Judgement popped in to remind me of more work needed. As I said, she tends to do this every now and again.. only this time it was a little more personally.

I tend to be a very judgmental soul – at least in my own spiritual. I strive very hard to work through it, to be honest and vocal about it in my path. It’s important to me that although there may be times when my words are twisted, that I am upfront in such matters. I strive even harder in this said vocal to impart the point that I am applying it to my path – just mine, and beyond that it is of no matter. Everyone must judge for themselves the path they wish to tread.

Somehow though, I seem to (mostly) unintentionally squash some toes.. which generally isn’t my intention at all. My intention is and always has been to keep things open and (sometimes painfully) up front.. to be clear in my words. I am not so sure I always succeed. This is where, Judgement whispered, I had done Lola an injustice. I had not done so well at explaining our working relationship.. my response tends to be that I’m working with someone and honestly I tend to ignore most outside rabble.

It’s no big secret that I have a long standing dislike for rigid structure in my spiritual.. that mentor-student, priest/ess-initiate, syllabus-degree, insert-whatever-here thing that works so well for most is just not my cuppa. I am a terrible teacher and an even worse student. Shiny things distract me constantly. To be clear, I am not saying there is no value in the system but that for me personally I prefer an even exchange.. no one above another as everyone old and new I think brings something to the table, a free flow of discussion, a sharing of information. Luckily I don’t work in huge groups so it isn’t a difficult thing to accomplish.. this is what Lola and I base our practice around.

We did put together a very loose structure around those cycles of what we wanted to incorporate within each wheel turn and revisit it every season to decide on a focus. Sometimes we stick to it and other times spirit calls us in a different direction. Sometimes we compromise. Always we collaborate to make sure it is something that works for both of us.

We entered into this partnership with baggage and tangle. Make no mistake, we lost much and had lots of ugly bits to work through. Many things were loosed along the way to get to where we needed to be but we did it. We worked hard on those shadows and made those painful choices to come out with something beautiful. Owl had called us forward and spirit tied us tight as we stepped forward, took each other’s hand that day and on even footing, we answered her call. I doubt either of us take it lightly. We shouldn’t.. it was hard work.

“Scales fall from your eyes.. resurrection, rebirth.. beyond division.. innocence and experience become one..” Who here holds the innocence and who holds the experience? We both do.

the ring of fire

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The midpoint between winter and spring came in threes again for me this turn. Many associate this time with the goddess Brigid and the parting of the winter crone Cailleach’s rein. Brigid is of the hearth.. of fire and healing.. of prophecy and light.. of cow, ewe, cockerel, and snake. I tend to embrace the serpent aspect of cycles at this time and the coming light.

Dolls, crosses, and beds are traditionally made to honor Brigid. Offerings are left in hopes that she will bless one’s home with fortune and well-being. Feasts are made. Fires are lit.. all to bring in the new and to celebrate the first stirrings of the approaching spring. I’ve never really been one to make the dolls, crosses, and beds. I usually light candles throughout the house. My feet during this time are planted firmly in the realm of honoring fire and serpent.. of the coming warmth and the shedding of skin.

Sometime before this turn of the wheel, I spoke with Lola. I told her how I felt this turn was bringing a solid break in many things that we had been working to release. She felt it too.. the slow and steady climb.. the joy sneaking in. The cards spoke of a definite close to said things.. the wind carrying them off with a heavy sigh of a great weight lifted.

My first celebration was a simple candle lighting at the hearth.. I am a big fan of simple. It involved a cup of tea, some cat cuddling, and much quiet contemplation. Later in the week, I went to dinner with some old friends. Lola and I left honeyed milk out in the garden. Cin lit the fire pit and we burned away those things left unsaid.

My third found me with those closest, all of which have become family to me.. spirit has tied us pretty tight over the past year and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It was to there that I carried my first Brigid’s cross that I have made in ever. On it I wrote our names.. these are the people who stand with me to weather the storms and they are home to me.

We danced a silly, happy dance around the tree to silly, happy music.. to wake the serpent and honor these cycles. We drank and feasted. We tossed our offerings into the fire.. for me it was tobacco, the heart stone gifted to me by Blau so long ago, and the Brigid’s cross. It was a goodbye to that which was broken and a call for prosperity for us all in this new growth to come.. and it ended with some very wise words from the Dudiest Dude- “fuck yeah!”

from the distance, I am standing

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There is a brick building facing a street and I am viewing it from the distance. I find myself by the water.. it’s still body surrounded by moss laden trees. Something is gliding along in the murky depths but I cannot see it.. gator, I think. I can feel its movement. I am barefoot in a loose white shift.. feet sinking into the muddy bank.

I find myself entering a shop.. is this the brick building? The girl behind the glass counter has long heavy dark hair and her face is painted like a sugar skull. I see an impression of the stag’s horns coming from her head and his skull flashes beneath her skin. She is of the old ones. The room is dark and hazy. I can smell Baba behind the fuchsia curtain that closes off a further room. She smells of warmth and food.. and a bit of death. I can hear her humming.

I am back at the water’s edge, crouching in the mud. It is sticky and humid. I can still feel the creature’s movement just underneath the surface. He wants me to join him. Bear is peering out from the trees across the way. Her eyes catch in the light and I can see them even from this distance. The mud smells like decay but I do not move. She is waiting for me to decide.

I am once again standing in the shop, covered with mud and I stink. My hair is dirty and there are bloody tears moving down my face mixing with the mud. I still cannot see Baba but she whispers to me in layers.. welcome home.. this is your home.. come home.

I had gotten up really early that morning to join the quiet. It was raining softly outside and so I opened up the workroom door to the garden while I smudged. I applied the ointment, lit the candles, and set the incense to smoke. I cradled bear’s skull in my lap, running my hands here and there over her while I settled my breath. My fingers danced over her nasal cavity and up her forehead. I stroked her there for awhile, whispering things I cannot remember. I explored her eye sockets and her remaining teeth. I noticed how the base of her skull was still slightly greasy, even after all this time.. and I continued to whisper to her.

The journey was not as usual. There was no slow methodical work towards where I was trying to go. I did not see the brown one or the white. I was breathing and stroking.. stroking and whispering.. and then I was just there gazing at the brick building full of windows. After I was done, I left offerings for those mine and the old ones. Then I left a something extra for bear and went to spend a few hours working in the garden.. and I brought the blackened coneflowers in for Baba.

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.. this was some time ago last year and I have meant to post it many times but life and other found me putting it off. It was to be my last belated post of the year but seems to have found itself to be the post of the start of a new one.. funny that. So much has passed since and although I seemed to have put my journey work to the side for the now, I find myself quite busy. I have lost and gained so many friendships over this past year and greatly deepened some existing ones. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

My tribe is yet again evolving and I have even joined in on a new group.. something I am quite excited to see the evolution of. It has been a long time. Lola and I continue to walk together in path and that relationship has brought so much to me. I gained a new name and cemented a relationship with a brother of path.. recognizing in spirit something we already knew. This I will carry with me always.

The solstice came with some work still needed and a deer jaw tied in silence. I spent the holidays surrounded by old friends. I caught a fleeting glimse of the shadow man and dipped my wrinkly toes into a few new things.. something I plan to carry forward into the coming year.

conversations with ivy

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I am sure she felt a little like I wasn’t paying attention that night as I wove the binding cords and fixed the vessel to be passed on to those who needed, but I was.. I always do in such matters. Conversation flitted through many things, as it often does, but Baba found her way in. We were discussing the making of sacred space and thought poked at me that I really needed to do better.

Later in the week or so, I listened to a lady speak of working with Baba.. how it was good for her to have her own space, favored offerings, and how she is often of threes. I thought of Baba’s layered whisperings. The lady mentioned returning to find the rum depleted and the food dull of color.. and Baba’s love of tobacco.

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I spent a few weeks slowly moving Baba’s area to a larger space and making it more hers. If we were going to be spending a greater amount of time together, I wanted it to be something more. I began the work. I cleared off what used to be the main altar and began collecting the pieces.. crow’s wing, birch branches, and the image of old woman death.. Baba always being the old woman in my dealings.

I dedicated the space to her on the dark moon before all Hallows when experiences that I choose not to share assured me that the boundaries were indeed blurred. I fed her over three nights and on the final one, I shared a smaller meal and the tobacco brought to me by Walking Bear. I had participated in a dumb supper with some of my closest earlier that evening and time was short.

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The following weekend, my fellow witchlings helped me dress the burrs and magnolia cones in rosemary and spirit calling herbs. These were to be left in the graveyard the next day on walkabout with Cin. I try to do this offering a couple of times a year in remembrance of those long forgotten dead.

For me Baba often does work in threes, so I felt it no coincidence to have celebrated in such.. the making of space, the dumb supper, and finally a trip to the graveyard to leave the offerings as I entered this turn of the wheel with a stronger dedication to Baba.

and we ended with owl

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(part 2 of a weekend of spirit)

Air, fire, water, earth, spirit.. what do these mean to us? We all had a voice and in turn called to what that element represented. Wendy sang in soulful song intermittently as she guided us on each separate journey. We discussed their presence, what they were bringing, and ideas on how to balance them within our lives. Surprisingly, air was very prominent in the meditation for me, as of course was water. I walked with Bear on both.

I took the forms of many birds as I left the meadow, the air rushing through my feathers.. falcon, sparrow, crow, raven, pigeon, and then finally owl. I soared through fairie mounds to take her form settling in a forest tree further away to overlook Bear.. her strong presence felt even from my distance as she wandered below near the river’s edge. Soon I was off again, shifting through the many forms to settle as crow on the old woman’s shoulder.. who whispered to me words I could not hear before I headed back to the meadow to become owl once more. I was quickly sucked back to my form and then to my body in the now. Air for me was swift and changing.. the cleansing rush of forceful movement.

Hawk’s feather and red cord binding; and the things left unspoken.. this was fire. It was the ecstatic sway of responsibilities calling in battle with heart’s passion, and the laughter of those surrounding me. I bound it tight within my chest but could not find the release needed.. maybe it was just not time. Then water came and I let spirit move me from my body.

I approached the ocean with Bear at my side.. waves crashing and the smell of salted air. As I waded out, Bear became one with the waves and carried me out to the lulling of calmer seas. Her strength and comfort enveloped me as my body dissipated. A mermaid swam through, swishing her tail through the water that once was my solidity. I became part of that great body and traveled far.. becoming river and then rain. I ran in great rivulets down an ancient tree before making my way onward through the land. I saw Hare out in that wildwood before I made my way back to the ocean. There I flowed back into physical form. Bear, once again in the waves, carried me to the shore where the feeling of the warm sand beneath my feet brought me back to myself. Wendy spoke of allowing ourselves to become one with our emotions, to hold space with them.. I realized that work was needed there.

Earth was the pounding of my heart and my feet connected to the ground. I stayed very much in my body with earth. I felt every breath as earth held me solid and brought me a sense of home.. breath and bone and connection. It was sustenance and the friends who are my family, the spirits of the land and those witches who walked the path before; and the call of my ancestors over time that was liminal. Spirit expanded that connection out and reminded me of all that I had in the now.

The next day brought pagan pride and a real sense of that community. From the many altars set to the varied paths welcomed.. it was a humbling experience. That afternoon we saw Wendy in concert. Hearing her sing is beyond any words I can give but to me she will always be that beautiful soul guiding my journey into places needing to be seen.

That evening in ceremony we broke bread with everyone calling to their own path.. my heart sung at the diversity that was represented there. We made our way down to the water’s edge, chanting the elements and sharing this feeling of one. A prayer was said for the healing that was needed.. not just in the area but as a whole. I couldn’t help thinking that maybe our feeling of togetherness would grow across this great nation, if we did the work needed. It ended with the release of a rehabilitated owl.. full circle for Lola and I. I hope our prayer was carried off on its great wings.

 

we started with owl

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(part 1 of a weekend of spirit..because I’m wordy)

Our weekend past equinox started with owl and ended with owl. Lola commented later that it seemed as though we were on the right track.. after all, our journey together had begun with owl as well. We started our visit at the Carolina Raptor Center. As we walked among the wooded setting, quiet except for our murmuring and the occasional chatter of the birds, I felt very at peace. We pretty much had the place to ourselves as dusk set in. It seemed a perfect opening for the weekend ahead.

That evening I met a joyous witch named Gabi, who was the source from which flowed the most beautiful house of spiritual bits that I have been lucky enough to set foot in – Laughingbrook Spellcrafting and Ancestral Arts. Everywhere to be found were objects of pagan artistry.. of someone’s creative soul and hard work. Their site states, ‘Pagan-made ritual tools and supplies carry a more profound love and beauty’.. yes, and the store sang with it.

I was struck with that familiar feeling of place when I first approached the hearth area.. the image of crone singing to me in lulling tones of Baba. Tables of somethings shiny, wardrobes of books and bobbles, and the hum of the many tarot decks urged me forward. I came upon what I could only describe as “the wall of bones” to my friends later. They were tucked away with other speaking things in this gorgeously twisty piece of wood that covered a good portion of the wall. I gazed at them lovingly.. you know how I feel about dem bones.

I wound my way even further into another room which housed a beautiful altar. I was told one could leave things there to retrieve at a later date. It whispered to me but I restrained myself from touching anything on it out of respect, it was an idea that I loved.. and still there was yet another room calling to be explored. There I found many jars of lovelies.. a snake in particular caught my heart and I may have to go back for him. I feel sure he is curled up waiting still for my revisit. And speaking of heart, remember my earlier mention of that joyous soul? She said to me later, with sincerity wrapped around every word that I had a home there now. I feel like our world needs more souls such as hers, and yes.. even though I live quite a bit away, it did feel like home.

 

 

la bella luna dea

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I was there to find the crows, I thought as I wandered this place that was once home.. and I had to go to the bathroom. Nearing the edge of the neighborhood, a couple I did not know let me into their house to do just that. I was walking out when I saw the huge raven, his glossy black feathers stark against the ground. He was dead and I needed to take him with me. I knew this, but I had no gloves to protect me.

A large green caterpillar crawled out of his neck and I hesitated a moment before setting myself to the task. I decided to take his wings and his head.. which was being stubborn. I snapped it forcefully to the side and twisted it off.. sometimes it’s best just to get these things done as quickly as possible.

As I was leaving, I noticed the birds clustered in what looked like a large raised garden bed. There were too many to register. They were smaller and black with bits of white spots on their feathers. Their beaks were yellow and one was staring at me with great piercing eyes. What was he hoping to see, I wondered?

That week my dreams were full of small creatures, small creatures made large, and places that were once home. One morning my path was crossed by two cats, there but not there, and more whisperings than usual. I spoke that which seemed to be needed and wondered what all this activity was for.. that day, I heard from her.

La Bella Luna Dea and I share crow. We don’t often talk but when we do, our conversations are precious to me. This one was all about the shifty moonstone, friendships, the loss of, the whisperings of spirit, and her creative soul. If not for her artistry, those lessons I hold most spiritual may never have been set to rest. I look upon her work every day and am reminded of why I serve spirit. She was working on something for me, she just needed to have it realized and I could not wait to see.

She said that she had felt the need to make contact and I am glad that she did. I told her that only one thing lay heavy on my mind, tough choices and the longing of what was lost.. words that became truer as the weekend progressed. Later that night I was restless. I held her in my mind’s eye and pulled three cards.. instruction, protection, and the journey. I saw the instruction of ancestor, the image very paternal. I saw the need to protect the spiritually wounded. I saw the cyclic change that is the journey. It was time to let the bones be laid bare..

**beautiful artwork by Caroline Hedgepeth**