Turning The Wheel Of The Year — Reflections On 2019

December 28th, 2019 - filed under: The Farm » Family

2019 is drawing to a close, and with it, my blogging tenure nears its finish as well. It’s been 10+ years that I’ve been sharing my words in this space, and I’m finally, really ready to let it go. This will probably be the last blog on Bonzai Aphrodite — my final “year-in-review” post.

So here it is. A big one! 2019.


♥ all art by Danielle Barlow

New Year’s Day –to– Imbolc

The changing of the calendar year was a hugely transformative time for me. During winter, and after the holidays, I felt myself turning inward in a very much needed way. I experienced a sort of emotional hibernation. And it was during this period, leading up to Imbolc, that I made a series of significant lifestyle changes.

As it turns out, these changes would drastically alter the way that I experience my reality.

♥ I started going to bed at least an hour, sometimes 2 hours, earlier than I had before. I was in bed by 9:30, lights out by 10-10:30.
♥ I was no longer watching TV habitually every night. Now, I mostly just watch TV only on the weekends.
♥ I started waking up half an hour (or more) earlier than I had before. Instead of waking up and jumping into the day and the flurry of getting ready for work/school, now I creep out on my own to the living room and start my day either reading quietly with my coffee, or stretching and exercising. This quiet wakeup time has totally transformed how my days unfold.
♥ I began drinking a quart of water every morning before leaving for work. Starting off strong.
♥ And finally, I began deepening my spiritual practice. I became intentional around honoring moon phases, taking ritual baths, reading and learning the craft, and doing spellwork.

This was a real, true “reset” in my life. By the time Imbolc was coming around I felt like I had had a rebirth.

2019 was off and running.


Imbolc –to– Ostara

The world wakes up . . . but me, not quite yet. 2019 was definitely the year of false starts, and in this twilight period between winter and spring, I was certainly feeling them. Awakening and obscuring, awakening and obscuring, awakening and obscuring. My path had been set before me, but it was a very long time before I found the clarity to walk it.

So during this period I felt like I was in limbo. Maybe even taking two steps back, after my big leap forward at the new year.

Then in Santa Barbara, spring 2019 arrived with a flourish, with more cleansing rain than we’d had in ages. Literally. Southern California officially declared the end of the drought. Everything was alive. The wildflowers were in superbloom and the fire flowers were showing themselves after almost a decade of hiding.

But me? I was still hindered. Caught in a false start.


Ostara –to– Beltane

Finally, in April of 2019, it happened. I broke up with Jeremy.

Clarity. Pain. The bonfires of Beltane burning bright.

This separation was a long, long time coming, and to those who are close to me, it came as no surprise. I had been so unhappy, for so many years, despite all my trying. And I guess I’d just needed the time. To gather my strength. To find the strength to prioritize my own well-being.

In fire there is transformation. This was a period of aching change and razor-edge realization. I wonder if a snake feels pain when it sheds its skin?

But if Ostara was my false start, then the bonfires of Beltane had me regaining my footing, plunging forward, ready to begin anew. And there was never any doubt. Everything was high-resolution, crystalline clarity. I was shedding the skin of another life, of a path not chosen, and it hurt. But it also felt like a giant leap into freedom.


Beltane –to– Litha

I could see the life I wanted. Like a bouquet of spring wildflowers, I knew that I could gather all the precious parts to make a magical, beautiful bouquet of my life. I wasn’t there yet, but for the first time, I could see all the pieces around me, just ready to be picked.

I spent a lot of time alone during this period. On the weekends that I didn’t have Waits, I would often stay shut up in my house for days on end, just reading and cleaning and rearranging furniture. Reclaiming the space.

And I traveled to Hawaii, to Maui, for Damian and Danielle’s wedding. I was so honored to be invited. And I spent 10 days in Maui, mostly all by myself. 10 full days and if I wasn’t hanging with Waits, I was entirely alone. I did a ton of reading. I took long walks collecting beach treasures, and brought them back to build an elaborate altar in my hotel room. I did a lot of magic. And I jumped off volcanic jetties into the ocean, and I swam solo every day, and on my second-to-last day I rented a car and circumnavigated the entire perimeter of the island, the Road to Hana and beyond, traipsing through jungle and discovering rainbow eucalyptus groves and chasing waterfalls and getting lost on lonesome, unpaved, barely-there roads on the backside of the island. All by myself.

Alone alone alone.

There’s a verse in an Amanda Palmer song that goes

“Now I have friends and I’m not such a loser,
but I go to bars all alone and I sit there,
and order red wine and I write,
and I like being alone around people.
Yes that’s how I like it.”

And that’s how late spring of 2019 was for me.


Litha –to– Lammas

Midsummer and life was in full bloom. Finally the sun came to Santa Barbara, chasing away the May Grey and the June Gloom. Finally I could bask in the radiant sun. I felt radiant, too.

I had leapt, and I had landed on both my feet. I felt so firmly planted, rooted into my new life. Tapped into something profound.

I was using the new-start lessons of Imbolc and the brave-leap freedom of Beltane, and I was living life on my own terms. I was living the life that I wanted.

My parenting game was on point, and my relationship with Waits just continued to blossom and deepen. My career was thriving as well, bringing me creative outlets, opportunity to learn and grow, and a financial security I had never dared to dream of. And I was pouring myself into my magical practice, and my friendships, and my garden. It was a summer of abundance, where finally, my “cup” didn’t feel like it was always running on empty.

I felt fullness.



Lammas –to– Mabon

I had experienced summer in full technicolor. I dyed my hair the color of citrine, of sunflowers, of bee pollen. I was golden.

We had our annual family reunion in Northern California. We camped in the redwoods and I felt at home there. Up on the Lost Coast, it’s perpetually rainy and everything feels alive and it always smells of petrichor. I found comfort amongst those giants

And I travelled to Denver, to visit dear friends. Another trip forged on my own. It was a long weekend of vegan brunches and afternoon microbrews and home-cooked feasts and corn mazes and nostalgic television and walking an adolescent puppy all over every inch of downtown Denver. It was precious companionship with two of my very favorite humans, but also — it was independence. I felt so single, on that trip. So completely of my own person.

When I got back, Waits started school. And soccer season. And we went skating every single weekend we were together.

And when I didn’t have Waits, I was still hermiting myself away. I was utterly reclusive; all through spring and summer I had been basking in solitude. It’s all I had wanted, all the way up until the exact moment that I didn’t.

One day I woke up and I was ready to rejoin the world. Just in time for autumn.


Mabon –to– Samhain

So fall 2019 was all dating and mating. I discovered — and dove headlong — into the strange and foreign world of online dating apps. Tinder and Her, and a local community. I’ve basically been collecting stories ever since.

My friends and I make up silly monikers for all my trysts. There was The Ginger Tree (6’7″, red-bearded). There was Porch Date and Awkward Hang Glider and Culver Girl and The Winemaker and Katherine-Not-Catherine. And the Punk Rock Lawyer.

I was having lots of fun. And then, a few days before Samhain, my 93 year old grandmother passed away. It wasn’t unexpected, and truth be told she had been wanting to die for a long time. For years even. She had been praying for it.

So I was grateful for her sake that her suffering had ended. But still — it’s always painful, and deeply unsettling, to confront mortality. To get up close with Death. And of course, it’s so heartbreaking to have to say goodbye. This was Waits’s first funeral, and he insisted on being there. He loved her. And I’m so glad he was there, for her and for him and for me. For all of us.

Sex and death. Samhain season.


Samhain –to– Yule . . . & Beyond

Everyone tells me I’m glowing. That I have a joie de vivre positively radiating out of me.

2019 has been good to me, and it’s written all over my attitude. I feel rooted, solid, steadfast and strong. Just perfectly present in this life.

So much so that when my boss went in to labor 5 weeks early, plunging me headlong into the crisis of running the entire Intro Bio program with no plan in place and a million fires to put out and a million leaks to plug and other wreckage-evoking metaphors, well, I was able to step into leadership with calm and grace. A parry here, a redirect there, and a creative solution to keep everything afloat. I’m running the show now, at least for the foreseeable future, and the show must go on. It’s going on. And it’s good.

I don’t know that I would have been able to do that, to step into authority with such confidence and ease, even just a year ago. I’ve grown so much in 2019.

False starts. Spring showers. Fireguilding. Solitude. Technicolor. Transformation. Sex and Death. Strength.

2019 has been a true journey, and one I wouldn’t trade for anything. Because now, as this last post on Bonzai Aphrodite auto-pushes to publication, I find myself off on a peregrine adventure. Vesper and I will be chasing the sun, chasing possibility, chasing our wildest dreams, van-camping and surfing and wanderlusting our way through Baja, to celebrate the New Year under the stars on a remote beach on the Sea of Cortez, in who-knows-where, Mexico.

And who knows where we’ll go?

And who knows what 2020 will bring?

More adventure, I say! More travel. More challenge. More resilience. More sex. More laughter. (and tears.) More hurt. More hope. More love.

I welcome all of it, I welcome the good and I welcome the bad, and everything in between. All the soaring peaks and all the stinging valleys. I welcome all that life brings. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Because that’s how you know that the wheel is still turning.

I love you all, forever and always. Thank you for 10+ years of adventuring alongside me.

I’ll see you ’round the internet!

(@sayward on Instagram)

  • Ryan Patey

    Glad to hear things are looking so positive after all those changes! Now, figure out how to get that camper van on a boat to SE Asia and continue chasing the sun over this way. :D

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Not outside the realm of possibility! Lots of love to you Ryan!

  • Veronica

    Hi Sayward! Happy new year to you! I have been following you on Instagram and bought your book when I was pregnant but now stumbled over your blog and was looking forward to reading it, as I am a vegan single mom myself with many interests which you share here. Are you going to delete the blog or keeping it for people to read?
    Greetings from Germany, lots of love! Veronica

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Hi Veronica! I will be leaving the blog up for as long as I can, I would love to leave it up forever! There’s tons of great resources here, as well as photos and writings which are so precious to me. So yes, it will still be here! Hopefully you’ll find some useful info to help you on your vegan parenting journey. Lots of love and Happy New Year!

  • Carolann Lucian

    Hi Sayward! I’m a little sad you are done with blogging as I just found you! I wish you all the best and thank you for all your wonderful information! I will be following you on Instagram :)

  • Sandra Elanges

    I’ve been following your blog for at least 12 years. It’s been with me a long time and really impacted me in a positive way. Thank you for being you and for being there, the virtual friend on the internet you didn’t even know you were being :)

  • Veronika

    Hey Sayward. I read this post again just recently. Wow, all over again.

    I felt through all the words the first time, but now it felt like a mantra, a prayer (in this heathen’s heart), a spell in itself.

    And what a reflection on 2019 vs the hopes for 2020… If nothing else, it’s such a powerful recording of the thoughts and feeling, of where we were and where we are. The hopes for where we are going.

    Just wanted to thank you. This is so giving, enlightening, and illuminating.

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