Welcome, World!

The first time I attended an open Pagan event in my city, I’d already been a practicing Druid for several years, Meadowsweet & Myrrh was already a popular Pagan spirituality blog with hundreds of readers, and I’d already been in touch with leaders, movers and shakers of all stripes and flavors in the Pagan community thanks to the marvels of Facebook and other social networking tools. But I’d come to Druidry as what Bill Plotkin, author of Nature and the Human Soul, calls the “Wanderer in the Cocoon.” Those several years had been years of deep but solitary practice, and I spent them as a student of the local woods and creeks and meadows. I’d felt little need to reach out in search of human spiritual community — more vital and necessary to me then had been the lessons of solitude and attending, learning to feel the earth beneath my feet and the winds full of sunlight as living, engaged presences.

During my first venture out into the local Pagan community, I was nervous, shy and stuttering — and everyone took for granted that when I said, “This is my first public group ritual; I usually only practice as a solitary,” that what I meant was that I didn’t really practice at all. The kindness and welcome that came with that assumption caught me off guard, but it also woke me up to the fact that there was another side to the Druid spiritual life that I hadn’t been exploring very much… and now was a really good time to start.

Bill Plotkin would probably say that I’ve moved into the “Apprentice at the Wellspring” stage of my spiritual development. Having delved into the dark recesses of psyche and soul, confronting the realities of death, othering and grief — I now find myself urged forward by an intense desire to find my place in community again, armed and readied now with a surer sense of self and purpose, to study at the side of those master craftspeople and wise elders and to offer what gifts I can back to others in new and creative ways.

This change in focus has been palpable, its insistence growing in intensity over the past year or so. And it was what led directly to my decision to create a new home for Meadowsweet & Myrrh: one that was more personal and reflective of my spiritual and aesthetic sensibilities, and one that was more spacious and flexible enough to handle what the future might hold for me, both in my career and in my spiritual life.

This new website — freshly built with a few spare bits of construction materials and pseudo-Latin still laying around — will hopefully embody that sensibility and flexibility. I’m rather proud of it, actually, and there are a thousand tiny tweaks or neat little features that, if they do their job cleanly and elegantly, visitors to this site will probably never even notice. (Check out my kickass RSS feed sidebar widgets! And the river-rock inspired icon buttons GIMPed by yours truly from a picture of an actual rock that sits on my home altar!) But mostly, I’m proud of the thought that went into the design and layout of the website, combining the linear structure of a blog with the more organic, emergent order reflected in the nature photography and poetry that you’ll find here and there on this site.

One of the most non-linear and experimental aspects of the site is a new approach to commenting that I’m trying out, integrating blog posts and comments with the social and community-building tools of a forum. The result is The Meadowsweet Commons, a place where readers and others can get together to continue conversations sparked by posts to this website, as well as discuss ideas and exchange stories of their own, create their own profiles, signatures and avatar pictures, even send other members “private messages” (without having to share email addresses or other contact information). Guests not interested in all the bells and whistles can still leave comments on blog posts in the usual way — their comments will automatically be added to the forum conversation threads generated each time a new blog post is published (and linked to at the bottom of each post). It’s definitely a different model than what a lot of readers are used to… but I’m excited to be experimenting with new possibilities and pushing the medium in new directions. I hope you’ll join me in this little experiment and let me know what you think. (For more information about how the forum works, you can read About the Commons as well as the simple Comment Policy.)

Other aspects of this website are a bit less edgy, a bit more traditional. In addition to the blog — where I’ll continue to post essays, musings, news, poetry and photography on a regular basis — there are also a number of static pages featuring information about my writing and other work. Building these pages was actually a bit of a struggle for me. I felt constantly pulled between the enjoyment and fun of showcasing my work and making it more available to others, and the worry that I would seem arrogant or “mercenary,” that others would think I was exaggerating or bragging about things that weren’t all that special or important.

But as both Rumi and T. Thorn Coyle have said, you must ask for what you really want. What I want, and what I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember, is to be a writer, and to share my writing with a community of engaged and interested readers. Sometimes that seems like a really easy goal: all I need is a computer or, if we’re getting really rugged and old school, a pen and some paper. Other times, it feels like the most difficult, intimidating and impossible goal in the world. I care passionately about all the work that I do and all the writing I share, and the fear of being overlooked, unsupported, misunderstood or laughed at can loom large in my peripheral vision. But eventually I realized that if I’m not ready to stand up and brag about my work, to shout my enthusiasm and excitement from the rooftops — then why should I expect anyone else to?

So this website is only partly for you, the reader. It’s also partly for me — it’s like a kind of spell I’ve cast on myself, a sacred space that I’ve created for myself where I can take my work and my writing career seriously without feeling the need to apologize or demure. (Demure isn’t a verb, but it should be.) It’s a space where I can admit to being a little bit ambitious, and a little bit competitive, and more than a little bit crazy-in-love with poesis and philosophy and communication and creativity.

For now, there’s a lot of elbow-room and future-potential built into this virtual space of mine. I hope that it will grow into a future that’s full of welcoming, enthusiastic friends, unexpected guests and folks who feel like family.

So this is my welcome to the world: come on in, poke around, say hello! Thanks for making the journey, and I hope you enjoy your stay!

Alison Leigh Lilly
Alison Leigh Lilly nurtures the earth-rooted, sea-soaked, mist-and-mystic spiritual heritage of her Celtic ancestors, exploring themes of peace, poesis and wilderness through essays, articles, poetry and podcasting. You can learn more about her work here.

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