Galleys, Black Kittens, and Grandmothers

Hello friends, some things have been happening. Ancestor Trouble galleys arrived last week, I have a gorgeous new website (thanks to Being Wicked), I shipped off my first pass pages, and a black kitten showed up at our house, a perfect forerunner to the Jung books I planned to give away this month.

The Kitten, Symbols, Trees, and My Ancestors

I mentioned early this year, in a newsletter about Jung, the collective unconscious, and personal symbols, that I associate black kittens with my mother’s mother’s line. In part maybe that’s because my granny had a black cat with sun-faded brown tips named Pyewacket, but the link feels much deeper than the memory of any one being. There’s something deeply feline-adjacent about our whole lineage, as manifested by my mom’s rescue phase, when she lived with more than thirty cats.

I wasn’t thinking of Pyewacket or my mom when I put a black cat figure on my ancestor altar a couple years ago, or the black cat candle in the downstairs bathroom, or the tapestry with rows of black cats in my stepdaughter’s bedroom. It just felt right. But soon after making the addition to my altar, I remembered stroking Granny’s cat as she purred on a chair in the late-summer Dallas heat and Granny explained that black cats had to be protected from people in the fall, with the approach of Halloween.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve had a fascination with black cats. They were animal companions to people more intriguing than I was, edgier than I was, more comfortable with witchery than I was. They seemed like companions who needed to choose you. And then, a couple Sundays ago, a 6-week-old black kitten turned up a little less than an hour before I needed to leave for a protest to protect the trees in one of the Forever Wild areas of Forest Park. These particular trees are directly across from the side of the house where I found the kitten, no more than 30 feet from the trees. I’m writing more about them elsewhere, but the second I saw the kitten I felt at ease. She felt like a sign from the land and my ancestors together that doing what I can to safeguard wild spaces of Lenape land near me is good.

“The trees gave you a present,” Lauren said, when I texted her a photo of the kitten, which more than any other story I can tell encapsulates why we have been such good friends for nearly eighteen years.

In hindsight, Max and I think that the kitten got separated from her mother in the flooding. The storm swept in hours after I learned that our Assemblywoman appeared to be targeting the park land across from our house for parking, and as I was out in the torrent cleaning the drain behind the house that night after joining a ruckus over the proposal on Twitter that day, I looked down at the paved street carved out a century ago between the hill where the trees grow and the hill our house sits on. I watched water rush down to pool in an enormous puddle too big for the drains, a lake that cars could barely pass through. That night and for days afterward, our lab, Daisy, was strangely interested in the side of the house. I found the kitten when I did because Daisy, who loves cats but is charged with keeping them out of the yard to protect the birds, was barking at her. Looking around the corner, I saw the kitten, five or six feet away from the dog and me, standing her ground and angrily meowing back.

Max and I sternly agreed that we could not keep the kitten. But we are keeping the kitten and have named her Ida Mary, Ida for the storm and Mary for my accused witch ancestor, Mary Bliss Parsons, for the positive aspects of her legacy and also as a way of keeping awareness of the harm she did front and center in my own life, a cautionary example. I am fifty years old now, the kind of person who drinks tea of mugwort, yarrow, and mullein all at once, who is comfortable claiming personal symbolism and meaning like this publicly without feeling the need to equivocate or apologize, and who has accumulated five animal companions after having a firm limit of two for decades because of a family legacy of animal hoarding. It feels right that the kitten chose me, chose us, now.

This Month’s Giveaway

This month’s giveaway books are Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections and James Hillman and Sonu Shamdasani’s Lament of the Dead: Psychology After Jung’s Red Book.

To enter, preorder Ancestor Trouble. (All preorders, whether before or after this newsletter, count. Official requests to your library to purchase the book for borrowers count, too.) If you’d like a signed or personalized copy, order at Greenlight and include the details of your request in your order comments at checkout. Send the receipt in reply to this newsletter or as a DM to me at Twitter or Instagram. Entries must be received by September 25, at 11:59 PM (Pacific). The winner will be selected at random, notified by email, and (unless they’d rather not be named) announced on Twitter and in the next newsletter. Last month’s winner was Ann M.

What I’m Reading

Right now I’m loving Lauren Groff’s Matrix, which is about a defiant abbess. I’m also listening to Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’ The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois on audiobook even though (as you may remember) I read it before it came out, because I knew it would be great read aloud and I wanted to spend more time with the characters. Both of these novels were longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction.

A public service announcement: if you’re looking to give away new books for the holidays, order soon because way too many of them are getting stuck on barges and whatnot and aren’t available.

Tea For Dreaming

If you find yourself sleeping poorly, or that your dreams have become less immersive or less richly symbolic over the pandemic, I recommend trying mugwort tea or tincture. Magical stuff.

Lately I’ve been steeping leaves I got in bulk from Mountain Rose Herbs, but if you’re looking for a small box of tea to start, Buddha Teas are always a good option. Mugwort grows everywhere, so if you can find a patch growing someplace you know is herbicide- and pesticide-free, you can pick it and dry it yourself. Artemisia vulgaris is an invasive plant in the Northeast, so you may be doing the ecosystem a favor. (A reader wrote from California to note my earlier error about mugwort: “Just a quick note from the West Coast, lest enthusiastic readers begin their plant harvesting — mugwort is actually native to the Western half of the country (CA mugwort/Artemsia douglasiana), so definitely not a favor to the ecosystem if harvested excessively.” Thank you, Jenn. I will note the correction in the next newsletter as well.)

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