I believe in breadcrumbs.
Since the night I snuggled up to my Oma’s bosom to hear her read Hansel and Gretel for the first time, breadcrumbs have fueled my imagination. Haunted and yet mesmerized by this tale of witches and evil stepmothers, it was the breadcrumbs I remember most. And I began leaving them too. I didn’t do it consciously, but then neither did Hansel (they fell from his hands as he walked). In writing and documenting my feelings since the days of my teens, it turns out that I too have left myself a trail of tender bits of nourishment that have guided me home when I’ve been lost in tricky passages, grasping for clear direction.
They say the itch comes in cycles of seven; for me it’s longer. Ten years ago I was in a similar place, and ten years before that. I yearned for a deepening of the path each time, filling journal pages with my questions, enrolling in workshops, and gathering my most trusted peeps together in support of my molting. I’m in such a transition again today, feeling that the path is either deepening, veering off into a brand new direction, or both.
My fiery Sagittarius (Rising) is ready. In the early morning, I hear her stamping her hooves to prepare the ground for new adventures that will rattle my cage, reset my marbles, and bring in the next stellar thing. My earthy Virgo (Sun) is all in her head. She knows vitality is essential to her heart and change to her soul. What’s vexing is that we’re presently in the in-between place where one foot is happily tapping away on the known ground while the toes of the other foot are already dipping the new waters. Cue the breadcrumbs.
These notes to myself prove to be treasure-filled. In a journal from 2006, I find an entry where I envisioned meeting my future self 20 years anon (which is only 10 years now). I wrote out in detail how my future self looks, how she will greet me, what she’s up to, and what advice she will have for me. It’s a poignant read, inspiring enough to lift me from the goo of my current ambivalence and place me expectantly on the back of my patient Sag.
As in any good fairy tale, there are demons all over these writings. And history shows me that the ones we come into this life with are the ones we’re fated to fight. The same menahudi that tried to trip me up a decade ago are back in full force, which is depressing except for what I’ve learned about that: demons are our teachers and the level of our resistance to them is equal to the size of their gifts. In my last blog posting, I sent a love letter to fear and in that same spirit I acknowledge these others, some of whom I’ve endowed with names, descriptions, habits and skills in an effort to understand them better and win them over:
Missy Incompetence is mousy, prim, and whiny. Her strengths would be persistence and soft-spokenness if she had a better message, but it’s all about “not enough” for her. Grim Reeper Mama is steely, cold and deadly. She insists that time is running out and barks “Why don’t you quit art and go back to a real job before it’s too late?” I gotta hand it to her, she’s the very spirit of clarity and confidence. Greener Pasture Patsy misses a lot and is obsessive, always looking for something other than what she has. But she still has a killer bod, can seriously multi-task, and is light-hearted and spontaneous which makes her adorable too.
Argh! Fighting these three is futile. I’m better off getting cozy with them over cocktails and dinner. (Mata Hari: I totally get what you were onto in choosing to sleep with the enemy.)
My breadcrumbs are clues that help me see the oh-so natural struggle that is the artist’s life and how well things have actually worked themselves out since the last time I was drifting. I see how life and craft are richer and more fulfilling than anything even my Grimm-trained imagination can ever conjure up. Knowing that is a real blessing.
Leave breadcrumbs. Not only is writing a cathartic activity no matter how scratchy and haphazard it may feel in the moment, but it’s cheaper than therapy and a huge vote of confidence in your inner guru. Keep those scribblings near your passport, will, marriage license, bible and whatever else you’d grab in a fire. You’ll find that these testaments to your vulnerability and longing, as well as your hopefulness and gratitude, will provide ample direction should you one day find yourself in a dense forest at night with a wicked stepmother in tow. And if there’s a budding writer in you, you’ll have the seeds of your memoir.
I’m reminded of a tender tidbit from the life of Goethe, my fellow Virgo who shares a birthplace with me and whose poems have reliably lit my path. He lived to spend his 82nd (and last) birthday in August 1831 in the mountainous region around Ilmenau surrounded by his grandchildren. There in the woods he’d visited often in his youth stood a tiny wooden hut. He came upon the hut while out walking, and on the wall inside it was a poem written 51 years before. As he recognized his own handwriting, he wept.
Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh, (Over all the peaks there is peace,)
In allen Wipfeln spürest du (In all the treetops you feel)
Kaum einen Hauch; (Barely a breath;)
Die Vögelein schweigen im Walde. (The little birds in the forest are silent.)
Warte nur, balde ruhest du auch. (Just wait, soon you will rest too.)