Chapter 12: Is Anybody There?
Milly is having her mid-life crisis: her teenage children are making her
crazy, her husband is too busy and exhausted by his aerospace job to pay
enough attention to her, the circle’s quarreling is stressing her out,
and the Goddess seems to have deserted her. She seeks sympathy from Rachel,
solace from Joe, and advice from Brooke. Finally, the old women give her
a reality check.
The chapter title is from a song in the musical
1776. When all the other delegates walk out of the Continental
Congress, John Adams is left alone on stage. In despair, he asks, “Is anybody
there? Does anybody care?” I think we’ve all had that feeling.
It is useful to see that witches lead normal lives with family turmoil
and all the other stuff that regular people encounter in life. We see that
Milly’s husband, though busy, does love her and understands the circle
and the Goddess.
Huxtables. The all-American family of
The Cosby Show, a sitcom that led the TV ratings from 1984 to 1992.
Yes, the route Milly takes from Fountain Valley to Belmont Shore is the
most direct route on surface streets. I’ve driven it many times. Yes, it’s
often faster than the freeways.
We first met Joe in chapter 7. He will reappear in chapter 16. He’s another
sympathetic male character. Nowadays, alas, independent bookstores like
his are almost extinct. Billy Joel’s
An Innocent Man was released in 1984. Joe knows all the words
to all the songs. That’s what makes him the coolest guy in the book.
Dick works for
McDonnell Douglas, a major aerospace and defense corporation that
was founded in 1967 and merged with (was bought out by) Boeing in 1997.
In addition to jet airplanes, they built Skylab, which turned into the
Space lab, which turned into the Space Station. I have a friend who worked
at the company’s facility in Huntington Beach until he retired. He held
a Top Secret clearance and used to joke, “If I told you what I do, I’d
have to kill you.”
As Brooke comforts and advises Milly here, so will Milly comfort and advise
Brooke as she tries to come to terms with her feelings about Matthew (chapter
Every woman is a priestess at her own altar. This was a common cliché
then and maybe still is now. Generally speaking, neopagans and witches
tend to be individualists and like to do things (including magical work)
Romantic poetry. Joe is reading Wordsworth, Blake, Shelley, Byron, and
that bunch, not lowercase romantic poetry. He’s better educated than he
Milly at her altar. As my friend Ariadne Frye reminded me, it is important
that we do our inner work. It’s fun to have all the tchotchkes, and the
women in this book love their tchotchkes, but the true work is the inner
work, done in our imaginations and our hearts. We can, that is to say,
do magical work without a single candle or prop. Many neopagans I know
have constructed their own inner temples. The most famous literary examples
of the inner temple are in Dion Fortune’s novels,
The Sea Priestess (first published in 1938) and
Moon Magic (first published in 1956). (Amazon is selling way
newer editions than the ones on my shelves.)
Everyone I have ever had a serious talk with has admitted that sometimes
the Goddess just doesn’t seem to be present.
We all need to learn what Milly learns at the end. The Goddess manifests
as She will, not as we will. As my teacher,
Dagmola Jamyang Sakya, once told me, we often find Her in our friends.
We can also occasionally glimpse Her when we look into an ordinary mirror.
Should Milly and Joe feel guilty? Why or why not?
In what ways is your life normal and/or typical and/or average? How is
Have you been through your own dark night or mid-life crisis? What was
it like? If you haven’t been there yet, what do you expect?
Copyright © 2011 by Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. All rights reserved. Permission
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Secret Lives Reader’s Guide for personal use only.