Saturday, November 19, 2011


Smudging. A few years ago this word would have had me laughing, conjuring up images of hippie-dippy people walking about their houses doing weird incantations and banishing evil from the premises. I thought it was a New Age-y thing that was great for other people, but, like drum circles, decidedly not my thing.

Fast forward to 2011, more than two years into a fruitless babymaking quest using every possible advantage we can. At this point, not only does smudging look like a great idea, so does keeping a ceramic elephant in the bedroom, wearing orange underwear everyday, having a stash of fertility earrings handy, talking to my spirit babies and welcoming them to join us in physicality, steaming my hoo-hoo with ancient Mayan herbs, lighting flying wish papers to communicate with our unborn progeny, lighting red candles every night, and outfitting a phantom baby with a veritable trousseau of onesies each time we attempt to....attempt. None of those things sound ridiculous to me anymore. I am a woman obsessed. I am a woman determined. I am, perhaps, a woman positively crazed with babylust.

After our last fairly disastrous attempt, an empathetic friend (no stranger to this horrible process herself) brought me a care package while I was recuperating from surgery. This care package was beautiful. It included a light, funny, trashy novel; a beaded bookmark; a terracotta angel from Guatemala; and...a smudge stick. A funny little bundle of white sage with instructions on smoldering it safely and banishing negative energy from your person or home or both. I thought this was awesome. I had just been thinking, I think we should smudge after this horrific outcome. We have some MAJOR bad juju that red candles just can't overcome, apparently. I think I am ready to eat my mocking words and seriously break out a smudge stick. And look what happens--my friend gifts me with a smudge stick. That Universe. Such a sense of humor.

We decided to smudge as we readied for our next attempt (or rather, I decided to smudge and Bryce gamely obliged my latest fertility-enhancing request). But somehow I had lost the instruction paper. Bryce thought we should go on YouTube for instructional videos. I, justifiably, was a little nervous I might lose his willing participation in this new ritual depending on the videos that we found. And boy did we find some doozies. The first featured a redheaded girl with questionable eyeshadow talking about how smudging takes her a whole day, because first she must clean her house. She will do her dishes, the laundry, straighten up, and all that while saying to herself (and the dirty laundry) "I cleanse you of any negative energy" in a soft southern twang. This is all before the smoking sage comes into play. She talked for over five minutes and never got to how to actually light the thing, so we switched videos. The next one also mentioned cleaning your house and your body first, and then the guy who slightly resembled Bob Marley smudged himself on his porch, all the while saying you can't smoke the stick like other more illicit herbs. We liked that guy, but he was smudging his body and not his house, so we moved on. The next one was a guy who smudged his living room of evil because his doorknob rattled for no reason in the middle of the night. Funny (although he was entirely serious), but not helpful. The last one was a very calm lady with a beautiful house who talked pretty normally about smudging (or saging, as she referred to it) and offered good advice (again with the cleaning first), so we watched her whole video. At least until she started saying you shouldn't let the smoke get to the dangerous point where you can't see anymore (that takes one huge smudge stick or serious pyrotechnic talent), and at that point we shut off the videos and decided to just do it our way.

Bryce holding the smudge stick like
a cigar, mid-smudge.We used up the
whole thing!
I cleaned the house first. I vacuumed, and straightened up, and scrubbed bathrooms, and steam mopped the kitchen floor. And thanks to that red-headed lady, I found myself saying "I cleanse you of negative energy" even though I totally mocked her when we watched her video. It couldn't hurt, right? Once the house was clean, and we were clean, we went to SmudgeTown. First we smudged our bodies. Then we smudged each room of the house, from basement to upstairs crawlspaces. Then we smudged the perimeter of the house and the yard. And the cars. And we spent extra time on anything that could have extra negative energy, like items that have seen other lives we've led, or my lower belly where my scars and the void my tube left behind are. It was strangely cathartic. And it smelled...not bad, not good. Vaguely like the other herb you smell at Dave Matthews concerts. Which had me worried the smell would linger and my fellow teachers would wonder exactly what I do in my free time.

We smudged and took it seriously, but not too seriously. We had fun with it, but were careful to be respectful of the ritual. Because we wouldn't have done it if we didn't think that maybe, just maybe it could make a difference. Our house is cleansed of negative energy. Our bodies are cleansed of negative energy. Maybe a little too much, as right after the smudging I got the worst stomach bug I've had in years. All I could think was that all the negative energy must have concentrated itself in my GI tract. It's gone now... And what we are left with is a slightly smoky, slightly pungent, but definitely positive house. And neighbors who must think we've lost it, as we walked around our front yard and house perimeter with a smoking bundle of herbs, fanning the smoke around. But I feel good about chasing away that pesky negative energy. It feels good to do something physical and symbolic to clear away all the negatives, all the loss, all the disappointments we've endured so far so that we can make way for the best joy we could ever hope to have.

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