When I applied to take over the “Maiden” column for SageWoman Magazine eight years ago, part of my pitch was that I was a long-term investment. Even then, I wasn’t especially young and I was already married — but I was child-free by choice and intended to stay that way. That was enough to saddle me with the label “maiden” in a society that too often measures a woman’s maturity based on whether or not she’s settled down to become a “real mom” (step-moms don’t count — that is, unless they marry a widower whose wife died young and tragically pretty while the child was still an infant). I joked with the magazine’s editor, Anne Newkirk Niven, that she could consider me a “forever maiden,” playfully embracing the stigma of naive idealist and unsettled/unsettling millennial provocateur.
And so, “Forever Maiden: Wild Dirt-Worship in the Digital Age” was born.
I want to take a moment here to say that these last eight years working with Anne have been awesome! Sure, in my last post I vented some frustration about the state of the publishing industry these days — but Anne shines out as an example of what excellent editorship looks like. She has always been both an advocate and adviser for my work. She is tireless in her devotion to the magazines she edits and to the Pagan community in general. (And believe me, I haven’t always been an easy writer to work with; I can be too verbose, too intricately poetic if a fey mood takes me, and I don’t envy the copyeditors who’ve had to slim down my prose to fit on the printed page and find pull-quotes that don’t make me sound like a madwoman.)
But what’s with the retrospective, you ask? Well… my time as a columnist for SageWoman is nearing its end. Though still not a “real mom,” even I can’t pretend I’m the dizzy-eyed youth I used to be. And if the past few years have taught me anything, it’s that one mark of maturity is knowing when to step aside and make room for other voices to be heard. (OK, Boomers?) Eight years is a good run! I’ve spent those years using my column to deconstruct gender essentialism, confront rape culture, examine our cultural notions of beauty and belonging, and revisit childhood memories with a questioning (and hopefully more woke) mind.
My final pieces for SageWoman will be in this same vein — circling curiously around what it means to seek a sense of closure that locates us firmly in the larger more-than-human community.
My penultimate column is out now in the latest issue, SageWoman Magazine #95: Blessings of Air. (As always, this issue is beautiful and bursting with lots of insight from fellow writers and artists, so be sure to pick up a copy for yourself!) Here’s a sneak peek of my piece “Cowbird/Changeling” (pdf download):
Mostly you only hear how awful cowbirds are. You don’t hear much about their service to the bison, the careful balance of their hollow bones, their wandering souls. In a country that supposedly prides itself on cowboy individualism, it’s strange how much we hate the cowbird. As if there were only one rule for birds we expect them all to follow.Excerpt from “Cowbird/Changeling,” SageWoman Magazine #95
So how does a cowbird learn to be a cowbird? This fascinating article from the Audubon Society shares the latest research:
“When I saw them do it, I was just shocked. You’re gonna leave in the middle of the night to go somewhere you’ve never been?” Louder says. […] “These guys are really cool. They have these crazy behaviors and what they’re doing is really complex,” he says. “If this was easy, everybody would do it.”
And for some light-hearted fun, Jeff just sent me this silly-yet-educational “What Bird Are You Most Like?” quiz from Cornell Bird Lab. (The cowbird isn’t one of the options, sadly.)
I got Raven: “Extremely intelligent and sociable, you love practical jokes and figuring out tricky situations. You’re devoted to family and friends, playful, acrobatic, and hardy. Even those who don’t like you can’t help but respect your many talents.” Ha!
What bird are you?