Good food and good books just naturally go together. Have you ever been reading a novel and started craving the food the characters are eating?
Today I’m making parsnip soup because Elizabeth Anne Hawksmith, a very old witch, in The Witch’s Daughter cooks it over her cozy cottage woodfire. I’d never heard of parsnip soup before, but love roasted parsnips, so I thought why not?
I found the recipe at The Spruce Eats, picked up some parsnips, and started chopping. Because I’m gluten-free and dairy-free, I’m using faux butter and cream (cashew milk) so it won’t be exactly the same. But then, I never follow a recipe completely. I mainly look at the ingredients, explore my kitchen, and start creating.
I remember making Three Sisters Chili while reading one of Charles de Lint’s books set in the American Southwest, and there are many Saturday nights I’ve made chips and tea while watching Midsummer Murders. And way back, I remember having to make clam chowder to watch Pete’s Dragon, as the characters lived in a lighthouse and cooked up a batch on their woodstove. Then there’s The Godfather and spaghetti! The marriage of food and story is as old as us. What novel food adventures have you had?
In the book I’m currently writing (which is also set at a lighthouse) I’m going to add food, perhaps even a recipe. Do you have any ideas? They’ve already got their fingers greasy peeling fresh prawns and dipping them in butter. What do you think would make wonderful lighthouse food? Do you have a favourite recipe I can share in my novel?
Here’s my soup. I added some carrots along with the parsnips, which is why it’s this beautiful orange colour. And I ended up spicing it with curry power and ground coriander, then garnished it with cilantro. Yum. So glad it’s lunchtime!
I’m beginning my research on a new novel by delving into the world of mediums. I started with Bridging Two Realms by John Holland, a practicing psychic medium who is well respected. What Holland offers in his latest book (2018) is triple-fold.
First, Holland offers knowledge. The Spirit World is a different dimension to our material world. It’s all around us and vibrates at a very high frequency so we can’t see it with our physical eyes. But it’s there, and our loved ones are part of it. Where the veils are thinnest between the worlds, we sometimes experience it. For example, in a church or temple, in the forest, in a sacred landscape, we may feel ourselves as a spiritual being. I call these my “sacred spaces” and seem to experience this phenomenon most on the high hills of Ireland like Tara, Uisneach, and Croghan, where prehistoric kings were inaugurated.
Also, a sacred grove of trees, whether real or envisioned, can have a similar effect on me. And water. The ephemeral presence of water seems to lower the veils and is perhaps why we are so drawn to it and can relax and open our hearts when near it. Think falling in love on the beach—with yourself, with another, with a feeling or idea. I’m sure there are places you too have felt the divine presence of spirit. Be they angels, or faeries, or the spirits of our ancestors, at times we feel them near us and it opens our heart.
Second, in this book John Holland offers technique. He explains how to become the “bridge” between the “two realms”. The subtitle of this book is “Learn to Communicate With Your Loved Ones on the Other Side.” Holland believes we all are capable of this, and he wants us to be able to do this ourselves. “Psychic ability is simply the natural extension of our intuition” (116). The word “psychic” is from the Greek psychikos meaning “of the soul.” He says, “All mediums are psychic, but not all psychics are mediums” (82). A psychic perceives by reading your aura. A medium receives info from the spirits. People have different psychic strengths and he offers a set of questions to guide you in finding yours:
Clairsentience: a kind of inner knowing or feeling or sensing. This is akin to that gut intuition we are familiar with, or a strong, sometimes surprising, emotional reaction.
A few years ago, I visited a local Anglican church. I hadn’t been to church since I was fourteen, but I felt compelled to go. The moment I saw the choir come in wearing their colourful gowns, I burst into tears. After the service, I joined that choir. People were shocked. “You’re going to church?” I stayed with that choir for two years before I couldn’t reconcile it any longer with my pagan beliefs. But, I am still great friends with the musical director and she introduced me to the Sacred Web: a marvellous choir of wise women who sing of nature, spirit, and social justice. Feelings cannot be rationalized and sometimes we don’t know why we must do something. But we must. For as Robert Frost says, “way leads on to way.”
Clairvoyance: inner seeing/vision through the third eye consisting of “images, pictures, symbols, and colors” (139). Mediums often communicate with spirit people in this way: “they’re showing me a bright red sunhat…”
Clairaudience: inner hearing or “the ability to hear names, dates, certain sayings, and yes, even songs and melodies”. Sometimes we hear our name called out.
Once when I was driving home alone, and on the cusp of a life decision, someone yelled at me: “rape crisis centre”. I’d never heard of a rape crisis centre—this was thirty years ago—but when I got home, there was a phone message. I ended up working as a volunteer sexual assault counsellor for the next two years; something that propelled me into a paying job in a woman’s shelter, and later, my first job as a counsellor in the school system. Even the work I am doing today in support education harkens back to that voice, that moment of connection while alone (or not so alone) on a snowy country road in Ontario. Again, “way leads on to way.”
In the second half of Bridging Two Realms, Holland offers exercises and techniques to open and develop our psychic awareness.
A meditation practice is the keystone of any of this work. The more we meditate and shut down the hubbub of the rational mind, the more we are able to hear, see, and feel, the presence of spirit. Working with chakras and visualization also helps to develop intuitive powers. I’ve been working with the chakras for years, but I learned something new in this book:
“The base and crown chakras should always remain open and balanced, allowing you to be a conduit for energy to flow through your system” (184).
The other five chakras in between can be opened and cleansed, but then should be closed. This practice opens us to spirit. As does prayer. Prayers are “thoughts infused with love” (75). How beautiful is that? You can pray for your loved ones and they can pray for you.
And this brings us to Holland’s last offering. Hope. For what are we without hope? When our loved ones move on to the other realm, we are left here, sometimes in shock, sometimes in despair, sometimes just feeling so alone we can’t go on. But Holland wants us to know we are not alone. Maybe our loved ones are now “spirit people” but they are still with us, still accessible. They reach out to us in many ways. Here is a partial list of how we perceive them:
- Feeling a loved one’s presence
- Finding shiny coins, such as pennies and dimes
- Electrical items switching on and off
- Sudden appearance of specific animals, birds, and insects — butterflies are a big sign!
- Scents coming from no known physical source
The morning my mother passed in another part of the country, I was driving when my car was suddenly full of the scent of Stoned Wheat Thins, our favourite crackers. Of course, I burst into tears. My mom was there with me and there was no doubt about it.
Several times over the years, I’ve been awakened by the presence of someone standing at the foot of my bed. When it first started happening, I thought it was an attacker and I’d reach over, petrified, to switch on the bedside lamp. Of course, there was never anyone there…except there was. I don’t know who these visitors are, but now I know they’re not malevolent. They’re here watching over me. In the dream state, the veils are thin. This is another place we can experience the spirit world and bridge two realms. We are with our loved ones in our dreams.
And so, there is hope. Not only will you meet your loved ones again when you pass over into the spirit world (call it what you will) but they are around you now, watching over you, offering guidance and, most of all, love.
John Holland is quite a personable man. If you’re curious, here’s a video interview of him discussing Bridging Two Realms.
Have you had any experiences like this? Please share.