Monday, October 5, 2015

Let's Sage This Joint

My apartment is modern and cozy, bright and jolly, quiet and peaceful. The only sounds I hear are the call to prayer and a rooster in my neighbor’s garden. A few friends have come over for Turkish red wine in the evening. We sit on my balcony, or since the weather’s taken a chilly turn, in my living room. Everything is great, but the other day I came home from work and instead of collapsing on my couch as I normally do, I sat delicately on the edge, as if it weren’t really mine, as if I were a guest who didn’t feel entirely welcome. I felt as if some cloud of enmity was commandeering my space. It could have been the thunder storm brewing outside, but I felt like Macbeth saying to the witches, “Speak if you can: What are you?”

I went out in the thunderstorm to buy myself a gorgeous bouquet of roses and lilies, a bundle of sage, a bag of sea salt, and a few boxes of incense. I cleaned my apartment, mopped the floors with sea-salt water, lit incense, and opened the windows. The claps of thunder and the sound of rainfall gave me a sense of calm and I soon fell asleep.

Not knowing what to do with the sage, I asked a friend of mine to come over a few days later to help me perform a “smudging ritual.” I had only heard of this ceremony from my previous landlord, who swore by this tradition to rid apartments of bad energy after tenants moved out. My friend instructed me to turn off all electronics, open the doors, close all the windows and cover the mirrors. The bathroom mirror adheres to the wall and therefore I couldn’t just drape a blanket over it. I resorted to taping paper towels onto the surface. My friend stood in the doorway to check my progress. I had climbed onto the washing machine and was hard at work turning my mirror into a mummy. It looked like a 3-D art piece. My friend commented that I had an interesting way of doing it and said, “Isn’t it fascinating that our minds work so differently?” She showed me how she would have covered the mirror using long strips of paper towels, and her way did seem a lot more efficient.

I’ve never been one to come up with organized and efficient ways of doing anything. I remember the assignment in the fourth grade to create a water purifier. I rushed home and got out my marble run sets. I owned several and could combine the tubes to make the most colossal water purifier the world had ever seen! I incorporated some other parts and secured it with tape so no murky water would leak through. Next came the fun part of mixing dirt and water and putting my creation to the test. The next day when I wheeled my water purifier to school in a wagon and saw everyone else had simply tied a piece of their mom’s pantyhose to a plastic cup with a rubber band, I felt pretty darn silly.

At least that water purifier earned me an award for creativity. My paper towel mirror also deserves an award. In case anybody wonders why my lipstick is crooked, it’s because “Quilted Likeness” is still on display. :)

When I was finally done with my art project, my friend asked me to relax and basically get into the right headspace before she lit the sage. She waited for the bundle to flame and then she blew out the fire. The sage continued to smolder. Holding the smoking sage, I walked around my apartment, going clockwise around each room and repeating some empowering words my friend had prepared. Afterward we buried the ashes in the garden and went out for chicken marsala. I can’t explain it but when I returned to my apartment, after letting the smoke permeate into every nook and cranny, whatever was bothering me before had been banished. I opened the windows to air out my place and felt pleasingly light on my feet, as if I’d been lifted out of water. Maybe it’s all in my head, but my place feels like my place again, with my books lying next to the couch, my Picasso and Klimt prints, my colorful bedspread, and my postcards of Paris.

I didn’t purify anything measurable, like what I set out to do in the fourth grade with my homemade water purifier, but after my saging ritual I feel like the marbles in my mind purifier are right on track.

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