WHAT SALEM MEANS TO ME.
Over the past few weeks I’ve called for submissions for any sort of artistic expression of WHAT SALEM MEANS TO YOU. And over the past few weeks I’ve been wrestling with my own submission for that project, because it’s very very personal and for the past year my personal life has been pretty complicated. Although I cringe at the idea of writing some super emo post about my life I realized that in order to explain what Salem means to me, I have to talk about the real things that go on behind the HIGHLY CURATED version of my life that I show the world. Again, maybe this is super narcissistic of me, and totally don’t read anymore if all you care about is the highly curated version. I don’t blame you. But I figured if by writing this post I could help anyone feel less alone in their tough choices, in the ways in which their lives don’t fit a traditional narrative, less alone in any way, really, I needed to write it.
To me, Salem is all about re-birth. Salem has reinvented itself over, and over again. It invites you to do the same. It invited me to do the same when I moved here 6 years ago, and it continues to inspire growth, and change and it promises to hold space for you while you do it.
When I first moved here I was about to start grad school, fresh out of a long term relationship, going through complicated family issues and I knew nothing and no one here. I was in my Saturn Return. I cried every day until the sun went down. At night I would walk around the historical district and feel the energy of the 300 year old buildings and cobblestone streets and I could feel something in me shifting. It felt ancient and mysterious and unlike anything I had ever experienced. One night as I was walking home through a funeral home parking lot, the sunsetting light was hitting the buildings in this perfectly warm way, and I felt in my bones that I was supposed to be here, that I’d been here before in other lifetimes and everything was in alignment now that I was back. That even though it was hard now, I was on the right path. It was obviously incredibly reassuring.
I left Salem in 2012 to move in with my partner Dave, in Somerville, a 40 minute drive away. I understood that that was the direction my life was going and even though I missed Salem, we would visit often. I always knew I would be back. Salem was the only place I’d ever lived that I could imagine “settling down” in. This is when/why we got my cat/soulmate and named her Salem.
I opened the store in 2015 and by then Dave and I were coming to a fork in the road. I always thought we would get married and be together forever, I mean, if you can stand each other for 5+ years you assume you’ve made it as a couple. But by late October we realized that while we still loved each other, we just weren’t on the same page anymore. It was devastating, and heartbreaking and in many ways continues to be. It was a divorce in every way except name. For 5+ years I knew I was okay because Dave loved me. I had the best person in the world in my corner. I had the golden ticket we’re told we want our whole lives. But I had to let it go. In a life jam-packed with tough decisions, this was by far the toughest.
So back to Salem I went. I found myself a tiny little attic apartment and life went on. I grieved, I retreated, and I processed. In the early days it was almost impossible to feel grounded. Dave had always been a grounding, stabilizing force in my life, and now I had to find that energy in myself. I wasn’t back in Salem as the 28 year old grad student studying gender and power and witches, I was Erica Feldmann, M.A., Head Witch In Charge.
Next week I start another new chapter. I’m moving into a beautiful new home with a new love and it feels like a huge step into a new space I inhabit in this world. A new North, a new baseline, and a new phase. But in order to take that step I had to close a lot of chapters that felt like they were inextricably tied to my very personhood, to my core. It’s been about burning down and rebuilding. It’s been The Tower, and it’s been intense and has required constant tending. I’ve had to let go to things I didn’t feel ready to let go of. I’ve had to risk things that are more precious to me than anything I’d ever known. Things I told myself I would NEVER EVER risk losing. But the older I get I keep learning that the path forward, onward, upward, requires sacrifice and pain and detachment, but as long as you have something to cling to you’ll be okay. Salem is the thing I can cling to. Salem is the place that looks like the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen even while standing in a funeral home parking lot.
The name Salem means “peace” in Hebrew. My friend Lindsay says that Salem is “a place for wild women” and that as a wild woman I am meant to be here. I think it’s that combination that makes it so special to me and really embodies what I love about it so much. We can celebrate witches and we can look out at the ocean in stillness. Inherently, Salem is a place that understands haunted pasts and futures so bright.
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