Jen Violi

is creating Initiation Station

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Medallions

reward item
reward item
$5
per month
Welcome to the End of the World Club! This tier is for you who are willing and able to pledge five dollars a month. Note that you can always make a pledge for any amount of your choosing, and all I offer will still be yours. I’ll still be here, loving you. At this tier, you’ll receive membership in the End of the World Club, which means in any given month, you may receive any of the following:
  • first access to new writing and reflection: entries in the initiation diaries, love notes, essays, prayers, laments, litanies of praise, to-heal lists, and whatever comes
  • prompts for writing and reflection
  • self-guided rituals
  • Patrons-only posts with provisions for the end of the world, i.e. books, movies, recipes, spells, songs, poems 
  • PDF handouts with apocalyptic reflection questions, activities, and other resources

Mushrooms

reward item
reward item
$23
per month
Welcome to the End of the World Club! This tier is for you who are willing and able to pledge twenty-three dollars a month. Note that you can always make a pledge for any amount of your choosing, and all I offer will still be yours. I’ll still be here, loving you. At this tier, you’ll receive membership in the End of the World Club, which means in any given month, you may receive any of the following:
  • first access to new writing and reflection: entries in the initiation diaries, love notes, essays, prayers, laments, litanies of praise, to-heal lists, and whatever comes
  • prompts for writing and reflection
  • self-guided rituals
  • Patrons-only posts with provisions for the end of the world, i.e. books, movies, recipes, spells, songs, poems
  • PDF handouts with apocalyptic reflection questions, activities, and other resources

Gravestones

reward item
reward item
$71
per month
Welcome to the End of the World Club! This tier is for you who are willing and able to pledge seventy-one dollars a month. Note that you can always make a pledge for any amount of your choosing, and all I offer will still be yours. I’ll still be here, loving you. At this tier, you’ll receive membership in the End of the World Club, which means in any given month, you may receive any of the following:
  • first access to new writing and reflection: entries in the initiation diaries, love notes, essays, prayers, laments, litanies of praise, to-heal lists, and whatever comes
  • prompts for writing and reflection
  • self-guided rituals
  • Patrons-only posts with provisions for the end of the world, i.e. books, movies, recipes, spells, songs, poems
  • PDF handouts with apocalyptic reflection questions, activities, and other resources

72

patrons

$711

per month

About Jen Violi

I’m glad to be here with you at the end of the world.


image: garden sign reading "Trespassers will be Composted" 

Last year, a month or two after Portland went into pandemic lockdown, as my love and I sat in our living room, neck-deep in grief, illness, financial fears, housing instability, and the aching world around us, I said something similar to him. I was attempting to quote Frodo from that gut-wrenching scene in The Return of the King, the one in which Frodo and Sam face certain death, amidst rolling rivers of flaming lava. Amidst, literally, fire and brimstone, Frodo says, “I’m glad to be with you, Samwise Gamgee, here at the end of all things.”

Every time I watch that scene, I’m moved by the acknowledgement of friendship and connection, how when the world as you know it is ending, loving communion with someone who gets it matters. It matters to be at world’s end with people who acknowledge and witness life falling apart and who hold your hand and stay by your side anyway.

Before I get any deeper in, I want you to know that this is a space where I will stand witness to loss and death and pain and heart-wreck, yours and mine. I get it, I see it, it’s real, and I will be with you in it. I believe that even in biggest of messes, we can still nourish and uplift each other. We aren’t built to endure alone.


image caption: hands breaking bread

We also aren’t built for linear lives, in which “Beginning” and “Ending” bookend the line. Our lives are circular, cyclical, in the context of circular cyclical life all around us. And any passage in the circle from ending to beginning, death to life, is an initiatory experience. Initiation.

So, here we are: Initiation Station.

In The Return of the King, that moment with Frodo and Sam is not only the end of all things, but also the beginning of something else. Moments after surrendering to the end, Frodo and Sam are lifted by the power of eagles’ wings.

Insert my many-year infusion of Catholic Church songs here. Particularly the funeral favorite “On Eagle’s Wings.”

“And he will raise you up, on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of his hand.”


image caption: hand holding broken-open pomegranate

That song broke my heart at my dad’s funeral when I was fourteen and at every funeral after. I couldn’t sing it without crying, and sometimes because of the crying and the heartache, I couldn’t sing it at all. It was all I could do to just sit there in the hard wooden church pew, hymnal gripped and open in my lap, the hard edges of the cover marking indents in my fingers, my teardrops thinning the pages to pulp. It was all I could do to just sit there.


image caption: me lying on the ground, looking at you

It was all I could do to just sit there when my dad died. And years later after the night a man violated my body. And when my marriage ended. When my friend was raped and murdered. When for several years, the funerals came so fast and furious, I couldn’t keep up. When my mother died and less than a year later, I was diagnosed with an incurable disease, faced the loss of functionality in my hands, and life as I knew it melted into unrecognizable.

When things end, for a time—sometimes a long, lonely, gut-wrenching time—it’s impossible to imagine rising into any kind of beginning. This is perhaps the worst part of initiation. The hopeless dark. And, every time I’ve gotten to this epicenter of pain, I’ve also come to moments of acceptance, exhale, and surrender to the fact that this ending is really happening, really happened. Being able to say, with varying degrees of despair and relief, it’s over.

In those moments of surrender, a strange alchemy stirs. A bell rings a single tone, and summons a new beginning. Or a tree shakes loose a single acorn and plants a fresh start. Or something gives way to or pick-your-own-verbs a something else. In these moments, I’ve experienced an often unspeakable knowing:

In the end, I begin. In this end, I begin.


image caption: dandelions in Sicily

This strange alchemy doesn’t always summon dinosaur-sized eagles to bear us on the breath of dawn. Sometimes it drops a tiny seed in the soil of the heart and takes years and years to grow into something that can be known or witnessed above ground.

Gargantuan birds did not come to lift me in the moments after my dad died. I was fourteen years old and two days into my first year of high school. Honestly, I felt utterly abandoned by the one person in my family who seemed to make me make sense. In the following years, I felt simultaneously reassured and ripped open every time someone said, you look so much like him, you act so much like him, or you’re so your father. I didn’t want to be him. I wanted him to be there, with me. I don’t know when or how I surrendered to or accepted the fact that he was gone. I suspect it’s been over years and many aching moments of understanding that oh, he’s not here for this. Or this. He’s not here for that either. I believe that each of those moments planted a seed. Seeds of compassion, seeds of capacity to bear witness to grief, seeds of an immense capacity for joy, seeds of a gift for creating sacred containers for other grievers and seekers of meaning. Thirty-three years after his death, I can see much of what grew.


image caption: typewriter on a bed of pink petals

I’ve been a minister, a teacher, student, a facilitator, an actress, a director, an editor, a mentor for writers and seekers, and a seeker and writer myself. One of the books I’ve written, a novel, Putting Makeup on Dead People, was published in 2011. Who or what I am now I can’t say exactly. I’m still all of those things, and more. I’m the daughter of Alfred and Claramarie, the granddaughter of Claramarie and Charles and Norbert, and Santa and Domenic. I come from Southern Italian, French, German, and English immigrants. I’m an initiate, a late-bloomer, a priestess, a water baby, a performer, a work-in-progress, a play-in-progress, a Scorpio sun & Aries rising & Leo moon, a weirdo, a witch, an orphan, a fool, and a mystic, whatever that means. I guess, really, I’m here to explore whatever that means. How not just me, but any person, comes to be through each devastation and rebirth.

Right now, it’s only been five months since I was diagnosed with systemic sclerosis, a rare autoimmune disease. I’m scared of the many ways this could unfold, and I’m doing my damnedest to stay present and rooted. Every day is packed with moments of oh, this is my body now. And now this. And this, right here, is my body, now. Noticing the mosquito in the bathroom and without thinking, reaching out with a quick snapping shut of my hand to squash it, only to meet a painful wall of resistance. Oh, I cannot do this. I can’t close my hand into a fist. I may never be able to do that again. Or oh, my body will not allow me to finish this work at the computer. I will never be able to write or edit or work in the same way at the same pace again.

I don’t know what beginnings this ending of my body as I knew it will spawn. I can’t see it. But I can feel it. After living through so many painful losses, I can trust that as I surrender to this ending, something is happening underground and deep within. I can follow the alchemical stirrings that led me to declare this place Initiation Station. To own the process that has already claimed me as its own disciple, priestess, devotee, mystic, whatever. There are a million names for the essence of what’s happening here, which is me, saying yes to the pull of my heart into sharing and learning all I can about how every finale generates an opening scene. One that can be ridiculously, inexplicably beautiful and delightful.


image caption: new hot pink bud in spring

Three years ago, when I first created this page, I called it The Story Sanctuary, and the fundamentals of that are still true. This place, Initiation Station, is still a sanctuary, a soft and sacred place to land. This is also still a place for stories. What’s different is that I’m owning the particular stories that call me to focus and attention. The stories of endings that birth beginnings. And how this process is initiatory, a rite of passage. How we’re never the same afterwards.

This is sacred space to share with you what I’ve learned and am still learning about life, death, and resurrection. This is a place where you don’t have to hold it together, buck up, or pretend that everything’s fine if it isn’t. Here we’ll affirm that sometimes, there’s no returning to normal, no business as usual. This is a place for the most unusual of business. This is a place where we acknowledge the end of the world. That worlds end, and worlds begin. Here, instead of ignoring the million apocaylpses we’ve endured, are enduring, we bear witness and sometimes, with open palms, we receive blessings, and gifts in the process.

image caption: the sun behind me, looking up

Feel free to take a breath right now. Or cry, or laugh, or yell. Think Julie Andrews spinning on that mountain singing, “The hills are alive, with the sound of doomsday!”

Even if the end of the world feels awful, acknowledging it can be such a relief. Like taking off ill-fitting pants. Stripping off an ill-fitting life.

The root of the word apocalypse means revelation, uncovering. While everything does not happen for a reason—you won’t ever catch me saying that—I believe that we can give reason and meaning to what happens. We can tell new stories about old shit. We can let the decimation and destruction, the crumbling of old structures and identities, reveal buried seedlings and tender sprouts, ancient foundations and clues to our secret selves.


image caption: me excavating my life in the ruins of a goddess temple at Morgantina

Initiation Station is a space in progress, for you as a work-in-progress, for you whose broken heart and regenerative power cannot be denied, for you who understands that the murk and mystery of in-progress and its wildly strange alchemy may be the only things that makes sense.

Initiation Station is a space where you will find reading material, recipes, writing and reflecting prompts, spells, rituals, and provisions yet to be determined, as you die and decompose and recompose. All while giving yourself permission to not have to compose yourself at all. Here you can officially become a member of the End of the World Club.

In this new iteration, I’m choosing to compost the idea of hierarchical tiers of patrons. I don’t want what I offer to you to be dependent on how much you can pledge for a month. I don’t want to assign value based on your contribution, because I know that $100, $5, and $20 mean very different things to different people. I also don’t want to give myself busywork my body can’t handle, just because I think it might validate me and my gifts. I want us all to show up already worthy, you know?

I want to offer what I offer because it feels good and authentic, because I’m called to do it, because I can and want to. And I want you to become a patron and offer what you offer because it feels good and authentic, because you’re called to be part of and support what’s happening here, because you can and want to. Maybe that’s crazy. As is likely true for you, I was raised in a culture with a different dominant model and operating system. Choosing to compost that system definitely feels scary to me. But here at the end of the world is not the place for clinging to the way things used to be. We don’t have that kind of time.

For fun, I chose some arbitrary amounts and names and pictures for a few tiers, and I invite you to select one of those if it makes sense, feels right, or works for you. Or, simply make a custom pledge for an amount of your choosing. Regardless of what you select, I'll be here for you with open arms.

So welcome beginners, enders, seekers, pilgrims, initiates. Welcome to you, bedraggled or bedazzled, upended or undone, exhausted or exhaling at last. All welcome and love to you in formation. Thank you for showing up.


image caption: sun on my face, smiling at you

I’m so very glad and grateful to be here with you at the end of the world, right at the edge of whatever comes next.

With all my love and gratitude,
Jen


image caption: standing in the outgoing or incoming tide
Goals
72 of 107 patrons
My hope/prayer/intention: to reach 107 patrons by Summer Solstice. After the past harrowing year of illness and diagnosis and treatment, the work I’ve done for the last ten years has to shift. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I can’t do the intensive developmental editing I used to do, the work that generated the bulk of my income. In order to continue to share my gifts with the world, I need to change things up. Every patron here allows me to do that. And I’m loops around the moon grateful for each one of you. Thank you! AND, as this community grows and I have access to more resources, I’ll be able and excited to offer more including such possibilities as: live & recorded seasonal retreats, as well as meetings of the End of the World Club, on Zoom. Doesn’t that sound fun? P.S. One of the most important things about living with a chronic illness is making sure fun doesn’t turn into over-extension. So I promise, I'll be pacing myself.
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By becoming a patron, you'll instantly unlock access to 57 exclusive posts
2
Audio releases
38
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34
Writings
By becoming a patron, you'll instantly unlock access to 57 exclusive posts
2
Audio releases
38
Images
34
Writings

Recent posts by Jen Violi

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