Since its inception in 2020, my series of Tending the Hedge interviews have highlighted inspiring individuals who engage in a practice of “magical stewardship,” living and working with intention. I wanted the series to be an exploration of themes of mutual aid, rejecting a mindset of competition and scarcity culture and instead lifting up the voices of others. I am so inspired by the myriad ways in which folks are tending the hedges of their own communities, so to speak— folks featured have talked about things like sustainability and stewardship, body positivity and social activism, spirituality and disability awareness, and staying true to oneself in a world that is full of “should’s.”

Today’s magic-maker and I met by chance when she stopped in my shop one day, and I am so thankful we began talking. When I suggested a collaboration with author Shelby Cohen last autumn, I didn’t anticipate that she would take my wisp of an idea and absolutely run with it — and I am so excited to see her enthusiasm take form of our upcoming workshop, The Craft of Writing, on March 25 from 1-3 pm.

Here, Shelby shares how she finds magic in words…

What are your pronouns and what is your sign?

She/her, and I’m a Virgo, fully and authentically, with Libra rising. If you go in for Human Design, I’m a Manifestor. We’re one of the rarer designs, only 8-10 percent of the population, and my throat chakra is highly active. The Universe sent me here to initiate, to spark ideas and bring them to life.

Are you a witch? If so, what does that word mean to you?

I would not say I’m a witch. I’m a child of the Universe. I’m a sort of recovering Episcopalian, who believes that there’s no difference between God and gods and magic – they are one. It’s man who has perverted religion into an avenue for power and destruction, but at their heart, all religions are one. There is magic in this world, and whether you tune into it via water turned into wine, transfiguration spells in the stories of magic we have told from the start, or in the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly, it’s all the same power.

What drew you to your work? Why is it important?

I’ve been a writer from the start. Twisting and commanding the 26 letters of the alphabet into poetry and power and emotion have been my jam since I was a kid. My friend Lori and I would write little stories in the notes we passed back and forth between classes in high school; nonsense narratives about sentient harmonicas, annoying teachers, or Kurt Cobain. In college, my Narnia fan-poetry earned top grades in creative writing classes, and I’ve worked in Communications in Corporate America for the entirety of my career. I was asked to be the food critic for the Watertown Daily Times in 2015 after writing an Upstate New York food blog for almost a decade. In 2017, I had the idea for a book about the people chosen to live in the world’s most luxurious survival bunker, after reading a conspiracy theory thread on Facebook (yes, there ARE good uses for Facebook!) about the Denver Airport. That began my transfiguration from a food blogger into an author. Words are magic in and of themselves. They can alter our emotions, how we feel about another person; they educate and inform us; they are how our mothers communicate their love in our first hours of life, and how we are committed to our graves. To me, words are the building blocks of the world in which we live.

How can others engage with this work and tend the hedge in their own communities?

No matter your medium – flowery, emotional social media posts, poems jotted on random notepads or the backs of receipts, an advice column for an online newspaper, mushy notes in your kids’ lunch boxes, or expertly crafted, highly professional work emails – you are a writer. If you take care with the words you write, you’re already tending the hedge! Now let’s take that writing a step further. Let’s hone it, shine it up, and get you published!

Did you enjoy this feature? Check out other magic-makers in the Tending the Hedge series!


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