The Pack: Mary Evans
How the cult-fave Spirit Speak artist protects herself in creepy hotel rooms.
The Traveler: Mary Evans, artist and founder of Spirit Speak
The Base: Joshua Tree, CA
I moved to Joshua Tree in November 2016. I ask everyone, Why did I move to Joshua Tree? It’s mysterious. I kind of got pulled in. I wasn’t actually, directly trying to move here.
I had already moved three times in 2016—I was living in Oakland, I moved to Nashville (where I’m from), and then back to Seattle—and I wanted to move again. At that point I’d moved so many times that there was nothing keeping me anchored; my business can go wherever. The week I was planning on moving back to Oakland I saw a psychic a friend recommended, and the psychic said, “You’re not moving this week—you’re moving to Southern California and you’re moving in three weeks.” He wanted me to move to Pasadena. I thought, okaaay.
So I messaged a friend who was going to be in LA the Friday I was supposed to move, and she said she was going to be looking at houses in LA and Joshua Tree. So we came to Joshua Tree, crashed on a friend’s floor…and that became my house! Three weeks after I met with the psychic I moved to Southern California and I ended up here.
I feel really connected to the nature and the landscape here, unlike anywhere else I’ve lived—and I’ve lived in other really beautiful places. And there’s the quiet and the peace, which I think a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have wanted, but where I am now that was really attractive to me.
I’ve made five different [tarot and oracle] decks, the first one came out in 2014. I had been playing with tarot a lot leading up to that point, and I didn’t relate to the decks that I had been using. I wanted to make something that was a little more modern and simplified, and quick to feel emotion or understand something. Just modern symbolism, because with older decks, it’s so old that it’s not obvious even though it may have been before—at least, not to me. So I thought about doing a deck for a couple years, and then a friend invited me to do an art show. I make art really quickly so I thought, I can make a lot of tarot cards by then—maybe I can do a whole deck? It was no pressure because it was just an art show at a boutique, but I ended up getting really into it and doing it all. Some of my friends had shops and wanted to sell it, and that’s how I made my first tarot deck and became a business owner.
Unlike the cities where I may have relied on other people to navigate or the city itself and its energy to guide me, here I feel very self-created. I created my own self-sustaining bubble of a world. When you live in a rural area like this and you’re happy and excited, you’re doing that for yourself. That’s been really good for me. Whether things are going really well or they’re not, it feels like my responsibility to cultivate the life that I want.
Will I be here for the forseeable future? I hope so. It can be the best place ever, and it can also hand you some difficult cards. Sometimes you learn what you need to learn from this place and you move on—I see people do that.
I don’t travel without at least one tincture or potion with me. I have a lot because I have a lot of friends who are herbalists, like Peri Lee. I always bring her ocotillo—it’s a desert plant and it’s really good for boundaries, so that’s great when traveling. But you can also take a full dropper if you’re having stomach issues, nausea, or a nervous stomach; traveling really upsets my body, so I always have ocotillo with me to either energetically push things away or to calm my body. She also makes a peppermint spirits that I normally travel with—you can add it to your water, just for fun, but it’s also good for digestion. You never know what you’re going to be eating when you travel.
Another one I got from Jenny Q’s [a Joshua Tree-based herbalist] is a blend with valerian for sleeping. Rachel [from Snakeroot Apothecary] makes this really great protection spray called No More Bad Juju that I normally have in my bag at all times.
I’m really into protective measures when I travel. I don’t know if I’m suspicious or I just like to feel like I have little amulets with me, but I normally will travel with garnet. I have one garnet that’s really small, so I’ll make a kit of garnet and palo santo, which is nice to have in case your hotel room is creepy or you just don’t feel right about it [laughs]. And then maybe a special note or photo of a loved one or ancestor—a picture of my grandmother or something she’s written as a way to feel confident while exploring, or a photo of my sweetheart.
In my little travel bag I also have a little black candle, a lighter, and these very small tarot cards—they’re really cute! My mother gave me these jade beads, and although I rarely wear them, it’s like having mother’s protection and love [with me when I travel]. I do also like to bring a journal. If I’m traveling really light, having the garnet is the most important thing for me; the rest are extra-good things to have.
I’ll sometimes make a little altar if I’m traveling with a scarf or something: I’ll lay it down with these items out, just to make it my space. Even if I’m somewhere for a short period of time. When I’m sleeping, I’ll take my rings off and stick them in my travel bag—so my kit is practical!
—as told to The Glassy