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Picture this setting for a magical tale. I've spent the night as an out-of-town guest on a compact houseboat chock-full of lovely décor from around the world. I'm sitting at a booth in the kitchenette that doubles as the place my friend, Gretchen Lawlor, does astrology and essence consultations. At my elbow, a picture window opens on yachts flying foreign flags and on a cloudless autumn sky reflected in Seattle's Lake Union. I treasure Gretchen in part for her own endless supply of magical tales -- particularly those that accompanied the making of her essences.

Is that not a redundancy? Can't most essence makers spin magical tales about the alchemy that transpired when they made a favorite essence? No doubt they can, and I'd love to write a storybook of their untold tales one distant day when my supply of topics is exhausted. Be that as it may, Gretchen's essence stories are exceptional and exotic -- just as exceptional and just as exotic as her essences. Her collection includes an essence made in a grove of gnarled, ancient hawthorns on a long-deserted Celtic isle; one of whales swimming companionably alongside her kayak in Puget Sound; another of a late-night May Day ritual in a century-old rhododendron forest; and several combinations of waters of the Ganges, Lourdes, and other holy spots. I'd dearly love to see Gretchen write her own book of tales.

Gretchen's need to overcome writer's block is the reason we've been sitting at her table for four hours. A book is welling up inside her -- a volume of wisdom distilled from her eventful life -- and she needs to shift the project out of Someday gear into Do It Now. I've been giving her an intensive AND intense coaching session based on 35 years as a writer, but now it's my turn to play client. Gretchen often ends her consultations with tealeaf readings, and I've begged her to look at my tealeaves, the dregs of far too many cups of chai brewed and sipped while I coached her.

My question, too, is about my writing career. It's been a long, modestly successful one, yet one that has gone stale and needs a more creative direction. I've explained my concerns, and now Gretchen turns my teacup this way and that, pondering images she finds among the leaves. Awaiting her revelations, I gaze out at the lake and stunning sky, and then focus in on the window at my elbow. Scattered along the ledge are a dozen miniature objects and bits of folk art -- magical, mysterious items chosen to evoke healing, and to make this booth a vortex of change for clients.

The cosmic clutter on that windowsill includes several stock bottles of Gretchen's own essences, since she often finishes by mixing clients a dosage bottle. She says the array of essences shifts constantly, but among them, I spot an old friend -- Cobweb. Some years back, I wrote a tale for Vibration of what happened when I took Gretchen's Cobweb at a critical juncture -- a juncture, not too coincidentally, that involved an earlier dead end in my writing. As the essence's description had suggested, it helped me knit together lost parts of my life, and gave me hope and a fresh perspective on writing.

Now serendipity prevails -- as it so often does. There's that bottle of Cobweb on the ledge just as I ask the tealeaves to reveal my next creative direction. I reach over and take a hit right out of the bottle. Despite her altered state, Gretchen opens her mouth for a hit as well -- as eagerly as a baby bird opening its beak for the food its mother brings back to the nest. Just then, on the outside of the crystal-clear windowpane, we notice that a spider has joined us and has commenced to weave a brand-new web.

My relationship with spiders has changed in the few years since that first, powerful encounter with Gretchen's Cobweb Essence. Throughout life, I had maintained a respectful relationship with spiders, a live-and-let-live pact in which they never bit or troubled me, and I never disturbed their webs or allowed anyone to kill them. There were cobwebs in almost every corner of my home. Spiders weren't my totem, for that would be Raven. Nonetheless, I paid homage to the Native-American goddess, Spider Woman -- the female force of creation who joins all nations, all tribes, and indeed everything in the universe together in her web -- and to her arachnid kin. A few years back, for some unknown reason, that rapprochement began to change -- no, to deteriorate.

The venomous Brown Recluse is a particular concern around the country, and it was one of those that bit me in my bed, leaving a hard, pointed cyst on my neck that took many months to heal. Though I pondered how I might have affronted Spider Woman, the answer I received was that her kind are now on the offensive against our kind because of our stronger, more toxic pesticides, so the more virulent species are multiplying rapidly. They're a bit like coyotes, apparently, in that the more of them we manage to kill, the more abundantly they reproduce.

After the spider bite and a number of unsettling psychic encounters with Recluses, I had become leery of spiders for the first time. I swept away their cobwebs, and firmly declared my home a spider-free zone. Given this history, I am at first alarmed by the spider outside the houseboat's window, but Gretchen hastens to assure me that it's NOT a recluse and that there's no way for it to get inside the boat. The creature seems to have no awareness of our presence or at the very least no fear of us.

I've never observed one in the act of weaving, so I watch in fascination. Over the next half hour as the tea leaf reading unfolds inside, the spider deftly and methodically spins her web outside. It's clear that there's a system to constructing that jagged circle, the exact structure spiders everywhere have used for millennia, and that this spider is an old hand.

In the dregs of the cup, Gretchen sees a three-stage rocket heading for a shower of stars, and interprets it to mean that my current "false starts" are but the first stage in a process that is headed somewhere grand in rather short order. She discerns a map of New Zealand and suggests I look for fresh markets among metaphysical publications there. I won't give you more details -- who wants to listen to someone else's reading? Let's just say that her observations give me a fresh perspective and new hope.

She caps it off by mixing a dosage bottle of Cobweb for me to take home. We check on the progress of the web outside and shake our heads in wonder, agreeing that the spider somehow participated in our process. It was as though she'd been summoned there -- perhaps by Spider Woman herself -- to empower the work of the session and of the essence. The minute the reading is done, the spider stops her web-weaving, and exits the scene. We speculate that she's probably gone off to lunch, exhausted from her spinning, and is asking herself, "Now, what was THAT all about?"

Editors' Note: Find out about Cobweb and other of Gretchen Lawlor's essences and see her Vibration articles here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ivory Phoenix is the nom de plume of someone who for the past twenty years has been a devout user of vibrational healing tools like flower remedies, homeopathy, Reiki, and lightwork, and who, despite all that, has yet to reach perfection. Go figure. Ivory's Vibration Magazine Frequent Contributor Page can be found here.

DESIGN CREDITS: Art from Clipart.com. Brown Recluse drawing from Ohio State Education.

The World Wide Essence Society does not mean to imply any recommendation of nor give certification to any individuals or companies above. This article is provided purely for informational purposes. We ask consumers to make their own determination as to quality of the services and products offered above. This article is not meant to be advice, and the information is not meant to replace medical or psychological treatment.
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