At noon last Sunday I cleared everything off my table. Next I got out the plastic folder in which I keep images torn from magazines and catalogs, pictures of cats, and fancy colored paper. Then I found my elementary school-size glue stick, a couple pairs of scissors, and my collection of sparkly stickers. Four hours later, I finished my 2017 collage.

I started making these yearly collages in 1994, when my friend Suzan called together a group of her friends to make goal boards. We all brought our own poster board, and Suzan had a big pile of (mostly business) magazines on her floor. She directed us to search through them for images of goals we wanted to meet and things we wanted to acquire in 1994. Here’s my first goal board. It’s the only one that has corners.
A year later, I decided I didn’t want a New Age goal board. (Well, yes, I’ve always had trouble doing what everyone else in the program is doing.) I decided to do Art…or at least what my naïve imagination thought might be artistic. And I decided round was a better shape than square, so I drew around the portable altar my friend Darcelle had given me some years before. I’ve done that every year since. My collages are twenty inches in diameter.

For the first few years, I just let my imagination whiz along. The collages from the first decade are…uh…well, I guess you could say…energetic. Make that frantic. Heaped to overflowing with images. While the other women in the goal board group were combing Time and Businessweek and similar magazines for new jobs and luxury cars and fabulous clothes and great shoes, I was going through Sunset Magazine and pulling out gardens and open doors (very symbolic). I was also cutting images out of catalogs. Sure, I found things I wanted, but it was the headlines (“Celestial Treasure,” “Power & Healing,” “A Passion for Beauty”) I really wanted. As I look at these collages now, I see they’re actually fairly goal boardish. They all have the year and a photo of me, and the background colors are mostly blue, purple, and green, though I’ve also used orange, yellow and pink, plus a couple (early) red ones. I have all of them in a really big plastic bag in my closet. Here’s the collage I made twenty years ago. See how fancy I got? I even put ribbons around it. But now I see it as unfocused and overdone. No matter. It was fun to build.

Early on, I also started cutting pictures of goddesses out of the Sacred Source catalog: Athena. Dame Fortuna. Green and White Tara. Hera. Isis. Sophia (Holy Wisdom). Hestia. In 2009, I added Mars. That’s because I’d invoked him for protection. I was living in a building owned by a nice, elderly man who took in people—criminals—he thought needed “help.” One was a drug dealer who had been in jail at least once. His girlfriend was a defrocked nurse who got caught stealing prescription pads. (And what does one do with prescription pads signed by physicians??) These two had pretty much taken over running the building. I felt threatened, so I called on Mars, and he sent two legionaries to stand at my door. No one but me could see them, but the criminals left me alone. And the god stands on my collages. This is not, however, the Mars that was conflated with Ares, who was a berserker. Mars was originally Hera’s son, a god of agriculture who protected his territory and his people.

Ten years ago, I decided that my collage should be a kind of hanging altar, so I pasted scenes suggesting elemental fire on the right (east) side, elemental water on the bottom (south), elemental air on the left (west), and elemental earth at the top (I don’t think we all have to follow the Gardnerian arrangement), with the year and a little photo of me in the center. Plus lots of sparkly stickers and images of two cats and eccentric shapes cut out of fancy origami paper and more goodies from catalogs.

This year’s collage us the only one I’ve done on ivory paper. The deities are Sophia, Mars, Dame Fortuna, Green Tara, White Tara, Athena (notice the safety pin), and Hestia. I usually put the images of two cats (that don’t necessarily look like the cats I live with) in the southwest quadrant, and this year I added a little umbrella. The Blessed Bee in the white flower is on cardstock and wouldn’t stick, so I stuck it down with stars. After I finished the collage and hung it on the wall, I cleaned up after myself. I studied it before I went to bed and thought it looked all right. Half an hour later, I got out of bed, turned on the lights, and made some adjustments. The cats were crooked, so I used my Xacto blade to lift them and level them out. I also added more stars to the blue shape behind Mars. I cut three T-shirts out of the Northern Star catalog and trimmed them squarish and pasted them down. Satisfied, I went back to bed.

The collage is now hanging above my home altar. Can you see the little woman with the book and the sphere standing in the doorway of the little house? The box on stage right holds the ashes of three cats. That’s Bastet under the glass dome

I feel good when I’m making my collages, but it’s a bit daunting, too. I’ve been told (by actual artists) that I have “a good eye.” I lay my images down, move them around a lot, take some away, add others, move them around some more, and—finally—glue them to the poster board. I also have to hold the collage up before I punch the hole in the top to make sure everything’s straight (which the cats weren’t). I’ve also noticed that, like my writing, my collages are slimmer now, less overwrought. And now I’m suddenly thinking…maybe I’ll add ribbons again next year! (Thanks to my friend Ricky for taking the photos because I can’t seem to hold my phone still enough.)