While I live in a beautiful spot, I have also rarely left the house and have not seen people outside of my family for 3 months now. Even at my most reclusive, that is hard; not so much not seeing strangers, but not going out into the world. I was and remain more claustrophobic than I have ever been before - even the wild spaces around my home - protected land, I should add - have been invaded daily by humans looking for places to roam. This may sound ridiculous, I feel hemmed in.
I am used to falling asleep to crickets and owls and awakening to birdsong. To relaxing to the tones of nature. Instead, due to my neighbors being home all the time, there is the constant drone of leaf blowers, saws, woodchippers, the bass of music, the rev of engines, etc. People have every right to live their lives, work on their projects, and thrive, don’t get me wrong. But it is just a change from the usual relative quiet I experience here in the weekday working from home. Even more upsetting, the nature surrounding our property that I so cherish has been infiltrated by people using it for what they will, leaving behind rubbish, damaging the fragile ecosystem, having illegal campfires, and more.
A few days ago, I went out for what has only been my third adventure in the outdoors since before the beginning of our “Shelter in Place” order here in California.
I knew my favorite hiking place would be busy, but since it is a county park and they are one of the few open spaces still allowing the public in, it was busier than I have ever seen it. The territorial side of me came out. This place has always been an escape into nature, and now it was filled with humans. Everywhere. Leaving trash. Carving the sandstone. Soiling the natural beauty of the place. I understand that they all just want to get out of the house and hike as I did, but I have little forgiveness for the disrespect. Indeed, I have often wished I were or could invoke a vengeful goddess to drown these defiliers in their own litter. And the selfish, cavewoman side of me hopes they all stay home once the pandemic is over.
I am conflicted by these feelings. I realize these are very much entitled, “first world problems,” but is anyone else having feelings of claustrophobia from the pandemic?
My intention was to spend the day at the park, testing out my new camera and enjoying nature, and despite it being so crowded, I did just that. I greatly enjoyed myself and the mindful, meditative state I entered while filming. It was exactly what I needed.
While the sense of being hemmed in hasn’t completely faded, and while I admit to feeling like a dragon, wanting to hoard all of my financial resources to secure my own vast tract of land one day (for which I’d have to be a billionaire in California), going out did me good and I am very thankful to live where I do!
I have been so entrenched at my computer over the past few days that my body is aching in strange ways. Ergonomic issues aside, I am happy to have spent my time thus: learning more about editing photos in Adobe Photoshop. Given that my sister Alex is an amazing photographer and editor, I had always let this be her realm. However, now that her health issues prevent her from taking and editing photos like she used to, I realized that I needed to step up and educate myself!
While my sister goes for natural light and looks in most of her work, which is beautiful, I am currently having fun making more whimsical portraits. I have been working on a batch of photos from a shoot Alex and I did ages ago when we were taking my author photo for Priestess (Afterworld Book 2). Intellectually, I know that the woman in the pictures if me. However, I am my own canvas at the moment, so it is important for me to separate myself from the woman in the photos. She has simply been called the "lady" in all of my file names. Not me, just a woman who may bear a passing resemblance. The Lady is far more glamorous with glowing, flawless skin and an enchanted bearing. I am currently sporting a chin covered in healing acne, more greys than I care to count, and tired lines. But the Lady... she has none of that!
I naturally made this separation at the start of the editing process. Over the past decade, I have become very adept at isolating myself from my image. Having a pen name helps tremendously. "K.M. Rice" can do all kinds of things that I would find a bit self-indulgent as "Kellie." I took a one-day acting seminar when I was 19 or 20 with the casting director Judy Bouley - a wonderful human being. She gave me a part from one of her films, Deep Impact. I was paired with a young man and we did our emotional "the world is ending scene." I was enrolled in "Intro to Acting" in college at the time, had never had a boyfriend, and had just been given my lines. Under Bouley's direction, however, I was later shocked by what happened.
I did the scene. By the end I had the necessary tears welled in my eyes. I would have kissed my acting partner without reservation if the scene had called for it (kissing a boy was a huge deal for me at the time). It was like I had gone into a different place in my mind. I was no longer Kellie. I was the character.
Later, Bouley would congratulate me as having real talent, remind me that I hadn't even finished my first acting class and that I was pretty. "She's good," she said to my mom when she came to pick me up. "I mean, she's really good." I think my mom was as shocked as I was to hear that praise, for most of the films I made at home were my excuse to be a lunatic! I still cherish Bouley's encouragement to this day.
Even with such a promising start, I quickly realized that acting wasn't for me. I enjoyed it and do so still, however, I didn't want to go through rejection after rejection. It was difficult enough to feel comfortable with my appearance on my own without being constantly judged for it by strangers. And while this story sounds like the push I should have used to launch an acting career, the truth is that I attended the seminar because I wanted to learn how to be a horseback-riding extra in a film like Lord of the Rings. A few years later, I did my one and only "modeling" photoshoot with a photographer, not for pay, but for a free headshot... because I also had it in my head that I could audition for a small role in The Hobbit. My youthful naivete warms my heart. Though those dreams never came to fruition, the law of attraction works in mysterious ways, and none can say that I did not eventually find my way to Middle-earth!
This division of insular self and public self is important for an artist. I may be my own canvas at this point, but the Lady is not me. She is K.M. Rice. She is an elf or a faerie, a witch or a sorceress. The Lady is whoever and whatever I need her to be. She has me in her, but she is not entirely me. Instead, she is a fragment, a reflection, a moment in time. The Lady is imbibed with my passions and aesthetic and yet remains an ideal, separate from the artist who looks like a ragamuffin most days and has to remind herself to eat.
It's strange how there are so many different sides to people, but we would be terribly boring otherwise. For now, I am having fun exploring the parts of me that are embodied by the Lady. Who knows what she will come up with next!
I never really thought I wanted to get back into blogging, but it is a sign of things to come in my creative world. I had a blog a decade or so ago then shifted my focus to my video content. It seems that a similar shift is once more occurring, only this time, the other way around.
I have been wanting to restructure my online presence for some time now. I write, I take photos, I film, I vlog, I am one half of a webseries, I paint, I craft, make jewelry, I bake… the list goes on. For a long while, I could not see the obvious thread that connects everything I do into one intricate web. I branded myself as an author under my pen name and as such felt torn among my many passions. Yes, writing is my profession and the core of my career, but there is also much more that makes me “me,” and most of my loyal followers, or wildlings, have not become so from picking up one of my novels, falling in love, and looking me up online. Instead, many seem to come to me from Happy Hobbit, my vlog, or my social media posting. At some point, they grew curious and picked up one of my books, liked what they read, and stayed. No matter your path to our little community, I am so thankful that you are here.
I ran a poll last year asking my followers what content they would like to see more of from me. The overwhelming result was more vlogs of any kind, just not on writing. I was happy with that result, for I was running out of steam on my author vlog where I shared writing advice, but I didn’t know why. I am still struggling with the direct causes, but I now understand that they are linked to the same reasons I did not immediately pick up the camera and begin filming new vlogs on different subjects.
Was it imposter syndrome? Lack of time? Lack of confidence?
I have asked myself these questions again and again, for I carry the guilt of knowing what my followers want yet being unable to deliver. The nearest I can come to explaining my hesitation to jump back into the word of vlogging is this: it does not bring me fulfillment. Don’t get me wrong. My vlog was a blast at first (anyone else remember “Linda”?) and I found the engagement very enjoyable. At some point, however, it had started to become a chore. My viewers deserve my best efforts, not false enthusiasm for something my heart is no longer invested in. I slowed down then stopped my vlog altogether without ever making a conscious decision. I still stand by that, for I hold to the creed of picking and choosing where I invest my time and energy. If I was not capable of filming with authentic joy and enthusiasm, then I could not expect anyone else to take precious time out of their day to listen to my thoughts on camera.
Another reason I found it increasingly difficult to film was the emotional debris from my personal life. I am facing a challenging chapter in my story. Exerting energy on my ailing loved ones means that I have less for my creativity. Striking this new balance means that I need to be more discerning about where I invest that energy. For a long time, I shamed myself for not having the creative drive in the same way that I did five years ago, for not delivering to my audience what they wanted, and for not being a successful “booktuber.” It has taken a while for me to realize that it all comes down to one simple fact: my life, and myself along with it, have changed.
And that’s ok.
I no longer felt confident and safe enough to share so much of myself with the world. I no longer trusted the strangers who walked through my virtual door. Yes, this is in part due to several negative online stalking incidences, but as someone who has had an online presence of some kind since before YouTube began, I have a decent ability to ignore the trolls. Instead, this was more of a shift within me. I was no longer comfortable holding up aspects of my life or personality for public scrutiny.
I have always been a private person. For years I have struggled to push myself to become something against my nature – a public persona with the energy to give to strangers and receive energy back. While I do love sharing, interacting, educating, meeting readers/fans, etc., and while it does gift me so much emotionally, it is draining energetically. Perhaps it is the introverted side of me that needs to rest but sharing joy and giving to my followers is a delight that also requires me to take a step back and regenerate with some quiet time.
I find nothing more restorative than nature. And that’s when it hit me.
Nature is the common thread to every passion I follow. It influences my writing, my art, my jewelry, my crafts, my photography, and yes, often even my baking. Nature, the great Mother, fuels me endlessly. So long as I can lean into nature, I my creative roots can drink from her plentiful well of inspiration and energy.
As such, I am in the process of restructuring my public presence to celebrate the natural world, which in fairness, I have been subconsciously doing on my social media for a long while before now. While this may not come across as a big change to my followers, it is already making a difference within me.
I am energized again and excited about creating to share with you all once more. I invested my stimulus check into a fancy new camera that I am just beginning to learn how to use. I have (obviously) begun this blog and who knows, may post the occasional vlog with a new aesthetic. I will continue to write my books, help other writers bring their visions to life by story editing their novels, and following wherever my writing path takes me, but for now, most of my projects will be created under the beams of light gifted by nature’s perfectly imperfect hand.
Thank you so much to those of you who have followed me on the journey this far. I can’t wait to see where we all go from here!
Blessèd Beltane and welcome to my inaugural blog post! Since this is a time of sowing seeds to bear fruit, it felt an important moment to begin this new venture. To learn more about this sacred time of year, read on and please feel free to leave a comment below.
In ancient Celtic times, the peoples of the North Atlantic Isles observed this period of time as the beginning of the summer pastoral season marking the halfway mark between the vernal equinox and the summer solstice. Beltane, or Lá Bealtaine in Irish (a Gaelic word I still struggle to properly pronounce, much to my Gealetacht beau’s dismay) is one of the four Celtic “fire festivals” that mark the shifting seasons, the other three being Samhain (end of autumn/Halloween), Imbolc (beginning of Spring), and Lughnasadh (end of summer/first harvest). Though Ireland was largely Christianized after the era of Saint Patrick, there is a growing interest in the ancient festivals that were never truly extinguished. In the rugged southwest of Ireland, far from Dublin, the British were less capable of enforcing their rule (which included suppressing the native language and customs). There are still communities of Irish speakers (known as Gealtachts) and Beltane is still observed. In fact, Beltane is a several-day festival celebrated in Dingle, County Kerry, and includes a celebration of the arts and a traditional burning of an effigy in mumming garb. There are similar, larger Beltane festivals across the isles, including Scotland.
As the term fire festival would suggest, bonfires have traditionally played a large role in Beltane. Cattle were driven to their summer pastures by passing between two large fires meant to bless their wombs and protect them from illness and malice – the latter being from either human or the otherworld. The Aos Sí, or sí (“shee”), commonly referred to now as the “faeries,” often meddled with the wellbeing of mortals, both human and animal. Feasts ere held and dances around the flames. Even the ashes were thought to be protective.
The tradition still sometimes observed in the modern world of decorating a May pole also comes from this ancient belief of merging with the land in its time of fertility. The pole was once a tree, decorated and venerated (it doesn’t take much imagination to understand what an erect tree or pole symbolizes) and the “May Queen” often a virgin – a symbol of the goddess’ transition from maiden to mother. The May pole symbolizes the union of the feminine and masculine – two forces coming together, celebrating each other’s respective power.
In ages, past, couples would join together in lovemaking, either sneaking away to their own abodes or to the fields and plains and groves where they wished to add their fertile energy to that of the landscape, and vice versa. To this day, we often excuse distracted, flirtatious behavior as “spring fever.”
This coupling, both literal and symbolic, brings forth fruitfulness and ensures survival. It is as natural as the budding leaves and the blossoms pollinated by the bees, gifting us future sustenance. It is the way of the world, and all too often, we are taught to suppress this natural state of being, rather than to venerate lovemaking, whether with the goal of a child or not, as something powerful, sacred, and giving.
Beltane marks the waxing of the sun – the source of all life on our planet. That is no trivial thing, nor is this a time lost to the annals of folklore. The suntides are as alive and well in all of us as the turning of the seasons. We have only to learn to listen.
While we may no longer live agrarian lives, and while the pandemic is greatly restricting our ability to come together and to visit places of natural beauty, there is still much we can do to observe this time of hope, optimism and growth. Instead of a bonfire, lite a candle with the intention of blessing the growth both in your life and in the world. Take a moment to meditate on the endeavors in your life which you wish to bear fruit and take a symbolic step toward achieving those goals. Even those of us in the most urban areas can find a tree on the street. Observe the new leaves, so fair and green, thin and fresh, ready to absorb the gifts and energy of the sun.
Let the golden light fill your heart and run in your veins. Today is Beltane.