catch my vision

Last night, I was in a migraine fugue, this one brought on by the chill of an artist’s loft where the borders of Brooklyn and Queens blur.  There were seven of us one male and six femme gathered to create our own vision board for this new year.  For those who don’t know, a vision board is meant to guide the mind towards clarity around a specific life goal. One tunes out the logic of the left-brain and allows the creative expression of the right brain to discover and identify through visually mapping out dreams and aspirations.

The session was held at Fleeting Dream Art Collective, a raw art space in the industrial bowels where East Williamsburg and Bushwick intersect. The surrounding neighborhood is a mishmash of brick and mortar, circa 1950s. The only sign of modernism, written on the warehouse signs half in English half Chinese advertising for cell phone supplies. The entrance is at the top of a long alley way, part driveway, part parking lot, the type of place one would steer away from in the dead of night.

Kate and I ring the doorbell and Andrea Kirk the location facilitator meets us outside and leads us up a back staircase and down a short hall to their space. They’ve just moved in, so the space is unorganized with workshop and art materials juxtaposed to bookcases and a beautiful wood and tapestry shoji screen. It’s a corner space with casement windows on two walls, a utility wall painted with creature art, in yellows and blues. There is a heater is suspended from the ceiling, at the entrance of the loft, counterproductive in the repurposed use of the space as the heat rises and stays above, rather than heating the humans below. 

Sara Nowlin the lead facilitator is seated on a furry turquoise pillow, she is wearing a scarf and hat. There are four others: Ben, Christina, Teresa, Patricia.  Once introductions are complete, we settle onto our own pillows, an array covered in furry pinks and blues, neon orange that conjures Alice in Wonderland’s caterpillar genie and the Cheshire cat. I choose the least colorful, a taupe floral floor pillow with fringes. Ready to take flight on this journey, surely a magic pillow would be just as adventurous as a carpet?

Sara walks us through how the afternoon activities will proceed, starting with a cast-off meditation where we shed all that prevents us from accessing our creative selves—the frustration, the inner critic, the martyr, the unknown into the center of the circle and light it on fire (figuratively of course). Andrea and Sara then fill the center of the with a small mountain of magazines, and for the next hour we’re guided to select a magazine, flip through and rip out (or cut) the images and words that resonate with or touch us most.  

I find myself pulling images of light and fire, women in pensive poses, looking outward some more direct than others. The colors are muted in neutral shades of orange, gold and gray. As I go through the pile, I find myself whittling away the words and the images of predictability, leaning toward the bolder representations of who I am, who I want to be. The mapping is cathartic, therapeutic; as the possibilities of what this year could bring become clearer in my eyes as my vision board takes shape.

By the close of the workshop it is nearly done, perhaps 60% complete, with a river of white space flowing around the images and words. There is still work to be done and I find myself thinking of books and magazines that are in the house, ones that I’ll have to buy to fill the blank spots. For the time being I am satisfied, and feel that it is in a good place.


Catching my breath. It’s a thing that I do sometimes. I find myself in the midst of a creative project and then I find myself in limbo. This happens (or is that I allow it to happen) often: I begin in full force, luminously charged by the energy coming from the work, from my heart and then, I not so much as stop but halt, pause. Sometimes it is in the timing, as I often get a creative surge in the late evening (which is most detrimental when one works a traditional 9-5). At times there may be a concern for my well-being, i.e., sleep deprivation, in a zone where I forget to eat or the worse of it is the onset of a headache (which for most people is simply cured by aspirin and a caffeine pill)--for me it is almost often a catalyst to something far worse; where a simple headache explodes into a full-blown migraine.

Yesterday afternoon I felt the pulse on the back of my head, and took an aspirin, a drink of water, a bite of a granola bar. It was snowing outside, and I remember thinking to myself that I should take a picture. The snow was iridescent in the sunless gray light. I was trimming a sunburst gold and pearl pin, an image from a copy of W magazine for the vision board. Something about it triggered a memory, the Field of Dreamsan early Kevin Costner movie about building a baseball diamond in the middle of a corn field. The spirit of his father telling him “if you build it they will come” – the ghosts of baseball past. It makes me wonder how much of what we vision comes from the past, the remembrances of who we wanted to be when we were younger?

I can’t shake the chill and excuse myself to use the restroom. It is at the end of a winding hallway of white walls and steel gray doors, the numbers written in black Sharpie. The cold snaps at my heel as I dash through the corridor. In the dark silence of the ladies, I rest my forehead on the cold tile to soothe the pulsations; I try a meditation to control my breath to control the flow of blood with my mind. It sounds almost mystical as I recant the memory but it’s pure hell, the minute by minute torturous. If anything has taught me about patience, about leading oneself back to the calm center, it is this.


Sara Nowlin, Life Coach  
Fleeting Dreams Art Collective


water magick: rituals

Somehow or another in the haste of leaving work tonight, I flipped the numbers on the address to the Observatory Room, an art and events space in the Gowanus. The Observatory is part of the Proteus Gowanus, an art complex, which hosts a variety of works-in-progress many of which are influenced by the turn of the 18th century machinations and themes. For instance, their most recent art exhibition presented in the Morbid Anatomical Reading Room was themed around the Resurrection.  The events schedule offers an eclectic selection of classes and lectures, including Channeling Elvis, Classic Mouse Taxidermy 101 and The Victorian Art of Hand Jewelry. 

This would be my first visit to the facility and uncertain of what to expect by way of location and building, my misdirected address led me to the South Brooklyn Casket Company. I must admit I was slightly startled but not the least bit surprised, and even the sign on the door instructing visitors to stand front center so the VTC could identify entrants, seemed to make sense. Until a passerby who I can only assume noticed my startled expression, asked if I was looking for The Observatory at #534 (when I of course realized my mistake) and correctly directed me to an entrance on the corner of Union Street and Nevins Street (something to remember for future attendance). I was greeted by Pam Grossman, Magickal Practitioner, historian and leader of this evening’s session on Water Magick Rituals.

Class was held in the Morbid Anatomical Gallery, and after a brief introduction about what we would learn (the history of water as a magickal element, the goddesses and spirits most prevalent in water, how its powers are related to the spring season, recipe and ingredients for creating ritual bath salts), the fifteen of us (14 women, 1 man) formed a circle and celebrated our intentions for the evening.

At registration we were instructed to bring a mixing bowl, cushion and altar objects or totems, offerings for the goddess to be charged with magickal energy. I wasn’t sure what to bring but my intentions for 2013 are clear and so I brought items that reflected their fulfillment: health (hematite disk), a love relationship (my mother’s wedding ring), calm and patience (a tortoise sculpture), channeling creativity (a 3 wishes runes) and adventure (a sea turtle charm from Puerto Rico). We place our totems on the altar and then Pam asks us to stand. She begins to cast the circle, guiding us through prayers where we embrace each corner of the earth South, West, North, East; including the Above and Below and harnessing the circle with the Center, that lives within each of us, instructing us to recite “blessed be” after each.  We sit down and close our eyes to embrace the presence of energy in the room. Pam lights lavender and smudges each of us with its smoke as she chants and sings around the room. Once the casting is complete, the session begins.

Pam welcomes us to the space and introduces herself, shares her history with Wicca. “I’m a fan of people who empower other people” and she explains that her mentor Robin Rose Bennett, opened the doors to that feeling through her teachings, to the beauty of shadow and memory, the luxury of ritual and mysticism.  She segues into describing the altar and introduces us to a few of the water deities, some of whom are represented by the statues, telling us their stories. These include Yemaya, the ocean water goddess, mother of the children of the fish linked to fertility and protection, and Artemis Ephesus, the goddess of the wilderness, guardian of young children and patron of women in childbirth.  (I later find out that Artemis Ephesus was born on the island of Ortygia--a place that is very much a part of my personal history.)   

Magick is defined as a symbolic action of intent and Pam believes that “everyone can do magick” that we’ve “all been practicing since birth.” Every time we channel our gut, our intuition, follow our instinct, listen to our heart—we are working magick. Centered on the interexchange of ideas and thought, the sharing of knowledge Pam explains that spells are meant to illuminate and bring clarity, relinquish negativity and replenish positive energy. (Honestly I could listen to her descriptions all day, the selection of words is so beautiful and I find them casting a spell over my mind, leading me on a peaceful meditation.)

We learn next that 2013 has been coined the Year of the Witch, and Pam explains that it goes beyond the symbolism of the #13 and delves deeper into the mysticism of feminine magic. One of the most notable symbols aligned to the female witch, she continues, is the snake, and as we all know this lunar year honors the snake (the black water snake to be exact). The snake is sometimes seen as fire in water, and this duality of elements represents the possibility of creativity, of lighting it from within.

Soon it is time for us to prepare our own spell, and she walks us through the three types of water spells:
  • The Blessing transforms water through words and intention;
  • An Infusion charges the water with an herb or crystal, and depending on the steep or soak can be consumed as tea or a medicinal; and
  • Purification introduces salt into the formula, a combination of blessing and infusion, it holds a powerful energy.
Pam then explains that we will be creating a recipe of our own from the ingredients she has brought, for a purification bath. The selection of offerings includes a variety of salts (grey Celtic sea salt, pink Himalayan, dead sea salt, black diamond and Epsom); herbs (roses, chamomile, lavender, calendula, blue violet leaf, hawthorn, mugwort, linden leaf); and oils (comfrey, motherwort, lavender, rose geranium).

We spend the next half-hour mixing ingredients for our own bath salts, using spoons and our fingertips to mix them into our bowls. Once the first stage is complete we nestle back down into a seated position and meditate on the bath mixture. The room is silent, layered in scents: one part air, one part fire, one part earth, one part water. Pam instructs us to re-initiate our intention through mental meditation, I've written my intentions down on paper, and recite them, breathing in healing salt, breathing out mantra. 

We each then add a pinch of our salt to the center bowl in an offering to the water goddess. Forty-five bell chimes, three for each of us solidifies our intent. We then pass the bowl, dipping a finger to bless the third eye of our neighbor to the right, with a voiced blessing. I received courage, and gave conviction. 

A final blessing is offered as each of us adds another hope for the group. And then Pam sends wishes and prayers in reverse to the spirits at Center, Below and Above; East, North, West, South, to close our sacred space and end the circle. 


Recommended Reading: 
The Cosmic Serpent: DNA & the Origins of Knowledge by Jeremy Narby, Goodreads
DIY Magic by Anthony Alvarado, Goodreads
Grimoires: A History Book of Magic Books by Owen Davies, Goodreads
Healing Magic: A Green Witch Guidebook by Robin Rose Bennett, Goodreads
Psychomagic: The Transformative Power of Shamanic Psychotherapy  by Alejando JodorowskyGoodreads

Pam Grossman, Magickal Practitioner and Historian

Observatory Room

Proteus Gowanus