Apocalypse: Face Your Fear

Imagine the air stays clean

imagine the grief is gone

imagine the ocean clean

imagine the people together.


Imagine the planet healed

imagine the people healed

imagine the fear is gone.


Imagine the poets were right

and this is the moment we changed.

Apocalyptic vision

Have you ever imagined soulless zombie armies, mushroom clouds, alien invasion, and of course, pandemic? We have read about the apocalypse in novels and watched it over and over again on movie screens. We have imagined dystopia and a violent, imminent end to everything we know, and we have probably imagined ourselves amongst the survivors, because who wants to contemplate their own mortality? 

These are modern apocalyptic visions. They are rooted in fear, and they always happen to someone else. Except now, perhaps. 

The fictional pandemic has suddenly become real, and the political instability is happening to all of us in some way, right now. If we are lucky, we get to sit it out on the couch in our yoga pants. If we are not lucky, we may have been sick, or someone we love may have been sick, or maybe we have to leave the couch because our jobs are essential. We may also be out risking danger to protest for a better world.

It is happening to all of us, and while we are probably all scared and thinking apocalyptic thoughts, we are also experiencing the current moment in very different ways. 

It turns out it is not zombies or aliens or nuclear war. It is a virus, a microscopic enemy we cannot even see. It is social upheaval, dredging up all of the dark aspects of this world we need to fix, and it looks like it might have to get worse before it gets better.

Open your owl eyes

Expand your owl vision. Owls always see the truth and are comfortable flying through dark shadows. Summon your owls. Athena is a battle goddess, and the owl at her shoulder protects her in dark places.

This is not the first apocalypse

It has happened many times before, and it is possible to think of apocalypse as more of an ongoing situation than a one-time event. Every time a species goes extinct, they have had their apocalypse. Every time a habitat is destroyed, it is an apocalypse, and the thing most apocalypses have in common is that they are generally man-made.

 Are we the apocalypse?

Did the virus jump species to humans because we put so much pressure on the natural environment? Maybe. And is it the nature of the virus to invade a host and drain it until it is exhausted in the same way humans invade the land and drain it until it too is exhausted? Possibly.

While pop culture defines apocalypse as the kind of explosive world-ending event we have seen in the movies, people have, in fact, been predicting the end of the world pretty much forever. 

And in some times and places, it did end. But never for long, and often not at all.

Notice the fear behind the apocalyptic vision.

Apocalyptic predictions generally follow times of disruption or uncertainty, often involving war, plague, or the sighting of comets in the sky. 

One of the earliest apocalyptic predictions was made in ancient Judea by the Essenes, who thought their battle with Rome was the end battle. For them, it was the end, but it was not the end for everyone. 

The world has been predicted to end by antichrist, fire, and flood at different times by different people—yet still, we are here. 

Between 1290 and 1335, Joachim of Fiore predicted the end of the world twice. His second prediction was a rescheduling of the first after it failed to materialize, and that was followed by the Black Death, which many considered the real end times.

Cotton Mather predicted the end of the world three times, and Nostradamus was specific in his prediction of July 1999. 

We all remember the Y2K predictions and the Mayan Doomsday of 2012. 

How many times and ways might the world have ended?

Bad things have happened, bad things are happening now, but the world has not ended yet, and neither have we. Every previous apocalypse has been based on a false fear.

We are living in our own apocalyptic Between Times, which brings us to our next universal law:

The Universal Law of Courage: Own your fear and face it down through direct action.

This is how to make your fear a constructive agent of change in a rapidly changing world.

Read more in Owl Magic: Your GUide Through Challenging Times from Sea crow press.

“ This combination of reassurance that there is still magic to behold, that we still have the power and vision to significantly change our world for the better, combined with practical steps that empower us, is healing. Owl Magic” provides just the right amount of heart to remind us what it feels like to be a human being with hope, and enough history to help us put our lives into perspective.” ~Vashti Stopher Klein, author of The Soprano, the Monster, and the Dragonslayer

All shall be well

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

It’s been a long week of political uncertainty with second lockdowns casting their shadow. We are perhaps finding that life does indeed happen while we make other plans.

We are not the first to experience this.

Over the past few days, I have been thinking a lot about an earlier pandemic and time of unrest, and the surprisingly relevant legacy of a fourteenth century anchorite who overcame dark times with faith in love and a kind of yoga she called Body Prayer.

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”  ~Julian of Norwich

I think we could all use a little bit of Julian of Norwich at the moment because her experience can stand us well today.

The following is an excerpt from my new book Owl Magic: Your Guide Through Challenging Times:

We find ourselves living in uncertain times

In Europe, the end of the fourteenth century was also a harrowing time. One-third of the population died of bubonic plague as the Hundred Years War raged and the church split between rival popes.

 
Like today, the structures people assumed were permanent began to vanish. And like today, a certain kind of wisdom helped people survive the uncertainty.

Think of it as Owl Wisdom.

Owls have a quiet about them, allowing them to observe and notice. They embody an independence that lets them forge ahead with the vision to see the way. They occupy the moment and work with what they have. They soar above the fray.

Here is the owl wisdom you can apply to your situation, the same wisdom women mystics of earlier times tapped into as their worlds convulsed.

In the late fourteenth century, one mystic found peace in the storm by finding a connection to a loving God through something she called Body Prayer. Her name was Julian of Norwich, and what she called Body Prayer looks a lot like modern yoga. 

It is also full of owl wisdom

As an anchorite at the church of St. Julian in Norwich, England, Julian of Norwich would have been at home with the idea of social isolation. An anchorite chooses a solitary life to cultivate internal focus.

triangle (1).png
Julian of Norwich, Stained Glass Window from St. Julian’s Church, Norwich, photo by Evelyn Simak


Quarantine? No problem

Her real name is lost to the ages, but it is almost certain she lost her husband and children to the plague and nearly died of it herself. While ill, she experienced a series of visions about the nature of love, which redefined her connection to God and faith in goodness through awful times.

 She described her experience in the first known book in English written by a woman. It was called Revelations of Divine Love.

She was surprisingly modern. As her contemporaries worshiped a harsh patriarchal god, Julian of Norwich called in a radically feminine deity that added motherhood and love to the equation. Her god was both father and mother, and, as the transcendentalists would centuries later, she saw God in everything as she declared salvation universal.

Here is an expression of our next law straight out of an earlier time of pandemic and social upheaval:

The Universal Law of Love: The force that binds everything together.
It is not romantic love. It is the energy behind the Law of Connection. It is unconditional and all accepting. It is the opposite of fear.

Think of it like gravity.

It is the glue that can hold us together, individually and collectively, through tumultuous times.

Every situation presents a choice of action. Imagine what happened when Julian of Norwich’s life was derailed by bubonic plague. In no time at all, she lost her family and all the trappings of active, worldly life in medieval Norwich. She could easily have reverted to fear, the opposite of love, and simply ceased to be.

What sustained her in her Time Between?

Love.

Our lives have also changed rapidly. Within one week, most of us found ourselves in a state of lockdown due to the coronavirus. It was a scene repeated all over the planet. Maybe some of us have been sick or lost loved ones. Some of us are sheltering in place comfortably. Some of us are suffering, some of us are dying, and some of us are leaving quarantine and picking up the pieces in a changed world roiling with political instability. For all of us, the futures we planned are uncertain.

What can sustain us in our Time Between?

Love.

The Pose & The Meditation: Body Prayer

Stand firmly on your yoga mat. Body Prayer consists of a series of four standing poses. First, initiate your prana breath, breathe deeply, in and out. Then shift your focus.

• Await – the posture of receiving. Hold your hands open at waist level. You are welcoming the presence of God or your highest self. 

• Allow – this is the posture of opening. Reach up with your hands open to welcome the coming of God’s presence or the presence of your own highest self. 

• Accept – the posture of taking. Cup your hands at your heart and take in whatever comes.

• Attend – this is the posture of willingness to act on what has been given. Extend your hands with palms open.

Await, allow, accept, attend. Repeat the sequence while maintaining the breath.

Read more about Julian of Norwich in Owl Magic, your toolbox for challenging times.

  • Guided meditation
  • Yoga
  • Stories & Poems
  • Writing Prompts

Times of change are the times of greatest transformation.

Go For It: Launching Your Book in the Time of COVID-19

‘The best-laid plans of mice and men go oft awry…’

“The best-laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men gang aft agley…”

That’s some nice Robert Burns to start the day: “The best-laid plans of mice and men go oft awry…”

And they do, especially for authors launching books in the middle of pandemics.

Old school. How I launched my first book in 2017 at my fabulous local library.

Before COVID-19, authors introduced new books with in-person readings and signings. Maybe a party. Definitely a celebration, because it’s no small thing to write a book. In the last few months that has changed completely, for both traditionally and self-published authors.

Suddenly we all need to figure out how to launch books without actually leaving the house.

This is even more challenging for the self-published or small press author because most of us do not have an army of publicists and a big publishing house to support our efforts. The regular challenges of promotion are compounded by not being able to engage with your audience in person.

In Amsterdam, as the most beautiful spring weather on record eased the strain of lock down, I spent a lot of time eating stroopwafles. The classic Dutch waffle/syrup cookie sandwich, best cut with strong coffee, stroopwafles are the perfect size to balance on the top of your coffee cup so they get warm and gooey.

Dutch still life with tulips, Moon Tide galley, and coffee with stroopwafle.

I may have looked idle, but I was trying to figure out how to promote a book about Cape Cod to other people who love Cape Cod. As you probably know, Cape Cod is on the northeast coast of the U.S., and that is a long way from Amsterdam.

I had planned a beautiful, garden book launch on Cape Cod with the local historical society, with a reading, flowers, wine, and a book signing. I had plans for another reading down the road in the lovely Swedenborgian church, and I was grateful for the community support the book had inspired.

But all I could think of was Robert Burns. He pegged it. The best-laid plans do go awry, sometimes in ways we never imagined. Many, many writers have been caught short by the quickly changing circumstances brought on by COVID-19. The entire publishing industry has been caught short.

So we need to be agile.

We need to harness the technology that made self-publishing possible in the first place, and we need to move it all online. Even though we miss the experience of direct contact, this is how we can still connect to readers.

In the end, I grabbed my phone and recorded my book launch at my desk. It took a couple of minutes, and it was far easier than I had imagined as I sat there eating stroopwafles.

I posted it online, and people liked it.

It’s doable people, be brave and think outside of the box, and if you’re launching your book in these times, I’d love to hear how you adapted to the situation.

COVID-19 style book launch, I never left my desk.

Go For It: Self-Publishing and the Small Press

The written word is powerful if people can access it.

When everything stopped suddenly due to COVID-19, and those who could stayed home to flatten the curve, a bunch of couch-bound, new writers in residence began a conversation on social media about the current state and future of publishing. We were wondering how best to get our work in front of actual readers.

Otherwise, why were we writing?

First, a disclaimer: I do not claim to be an expert on the publishing industry.

But I am a writer, and I do have work to share because what use is it to anyone stashed on some hard drive far from the light of day?

In the course of this writerly, couch-bound discussion, an agent piped up advising writers to do it yourself, to just go for it, especially if it’s time-sensitive. Because traditional publishing takes years to produce a book, after you’ve already spent years trying to get noticed, and by then, you’ve missed your window of opportunity.

I was happy to go with that.

Think about how the printing press completely revolutionized Europe by putting books into the hands of the people, effectively moving knowledge from the confines of the monasteries and the universities to the commonweal.

Printing c. 1770

Books, which had previously taken years to create from vellum, pen, and ink, making them expensive and rare, suddenly became cheap and affordable with the mass production made possible by the printing press. Next thing you know, vernacular language overtakes Latin, the fledgling middle-class is off and running, the Reformation is underway, the nation-states are rising, and Capitalism, for better or perhaps worse, is becoming a thing.

What would the American Revolution have been without Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, fresh from his printing press?

The written word is powerful and revolutionary if people can access it.

Next, consider the internet, which is the equally revolutionary successor to the printing press, allowing writers to share their work with readers far and wide, maybe without even leaving the couch.

Modern digital printing press connected to the internet

I went back and forth for a long time about the validity of self-publishing and the apparent need for the Official Publisher Stamp of Approval, and I concluded that because the technology to publish has fallen into the hands of writers and they are using it, the stigma of self-publishing has begun to fade. At the same time, traditional publishing simply does not have enough room for all the good writers out there, so self-publishing provides the obvious alternative route.

This article will be duly shared through my blog on my website, i.e., self-published.

You could argue publishing houses are the gatekeepers preventing loads of rubbish books littering up the place but, plenty of rubbish is also selling through traditional publishers right alongside the good stuff.

Self-publishing isn’t much different, some of the books are good, and some of the books are bad.

What is different about self-publishing and the small press is how they level the field, allowing voices that might never have been audible a chance to share their work. And before you get too excited, promotion is harder than writing, but that’s a story for another blog.

I spent the COVID-19 lock down laying low in Amsterdam, creating things out of thin air, mostly on my couch. So now there are two new things in the world: One is a book called Moon Tide, a Collection of Cape Cod Poems, and the other is a small press called Sea Crow Press.

Moon Tide is my second book, but it’s my first self-published book. Sea Crow Press evolved because Moon Tide seemed to need a home, and it was just worth creating.

I am following the news from the safety of my couch, and I am watching with the rest of you as the systems we took for granted fail. Self-publishers and small presses have always worked outside of these systems, and joining their ranks is a liberating experience, especially now in the current climate.

If not now, when?

I would not be at all surprised to see a wide selection of exciting and new self-published books coming out of the COVID-19 lock down. Mine will be among them, and so far, creating my own poetry book has been an incredible experience.

I am excited to share this book with you, potential readers, and I am pretty sure this is why most of us are writing.

It starts with the vision of a book and evolves into learning how to create a new business for a new time. Sea Crow press is fledgling but already has several new titles in the pipeline to follow Moon Tide. One is a guided journal for these difficult times, another comes from Nelipot Cottage in the cozy English countryside bringing readers a collection of essays about barefoot horses and holistic riding practices.

Watch this space.

To create books, I had to outsource cover art while embracing a steep learning curve that continues to rise, and I had lots of help from other generous writers who have traveled this path before me.

If you are thinking about going for it yourself, check out Vellum software for interior formatting. Make sure your cover art is good because that is your first impression, and you only have one chance to make your first impression. Get up to speed with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), paid on delivery (POD), why you need ISBN numbers and where to get them, and give the process the time it needs.

Read and re-read, and maybe find an editor.

Keep writing people, and be very, very brave.

An independent imprint curating creative non-fiction and poetry.

Sea Crow Press is named for a flock of five talkative crows you can find on the beach anywhere between Scudder Lane and Bone Hill Road in Barnstable Village on Cape Cod.

According to Norse legend, one-eyed Odin sent two crows out into the world so they could return and tell him its stories. If you sit and listen to the sea crows in Barnstable as they fly and roost and chatter, it’s an easy legend to believe. 

Sea Crow Press is dedicated to telling stories that matter. Moon Tide, a collection of Cape Cod poems, is its first offering.

If you can’t get to Cape Cod, Moon Tide brings the Cape to you!

Horseshoe crabs, ghosts, tree men, black dogs, and daffodils. These characters come alive in Moon Tide, a collection of poems charting the course of a Cape Cod year.