Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Not yet

Still no baby; looks like s/he's coming in 2009. Morale is flagging a bit here at chez Inanna, though I know this is all perfectly normal: the lateness, the emotions in reaction to lateness, trying to keep busy, trying to stay focused, wondering what we could be doing differently while knowing, somehow, that everything is unfolding as it should. I got into the birthing tub tonight to try it out and watched the bright crescent moon rise through the window. We've created such a beautiful, loving space. I'm quite happy in this, the very definition of liminal space.

Adonis and my sister have shoveled out the car and gone for Thai food and dvds. I'm curious to learn which movie they manage to agree on. Another member of my birth team is coming over to hang out and braid my hair. I'll likely fall asleep early.

May She hold you close as we all tumble into the new year.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Uber-Cap

One day past our due date, and baby and I are hanging out with Adonis, Gryphon, and my sister, who arrived yesterday and is blessedly doing housework. If the baby comes in the next day or two, s/he'll have six planets in Capricorn, including sun and moon. Sun, moon, Mars, and Pluto are basically conjunct in the first six degrees of the sign. That's a little hard to get my head around.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Fair Yule

Belated solstice blessings, ye Pagani, and a merry christmas to those who celebrate today, too. (Earlier I was saying to Adonis, christmas is really the same holiday as solstice, you think Jesus was really born in midwinter?) I celebrate christmas when I'm with my parents and sister; growing up, it was always a special day in our house, and I don't mind continuing that. I like the candlelight service and carols, the special breakfast, the gifts. But I haven't missed them this year, as we've stayed home.

The solstice tree is sparkling, we've had special food, and we had a very sweet ritual in the birthing room on solstice night. For me, the solstice is about honoring the simplicity, darkness, and quiet of the season, so gifts are wintry and warming; this year I gave Adonis long underwear, flannel pajamas, and a new turtleneck the color of his eyes. There is a wreath on the door, soup on the stove, and cookies in the oven. Friends are stopping by to visit. Family are calling on the phone.

Last night Adonis tossed and turned and had unusually vivid dreams about moving through tunnels and greeting unexpected angels at the door. "Prepare, make way, the time is nigh." I thought immediately of all those dreaming men in the bible, men like Jacob, the Pharoah, and Joseph. The women, it seems, never dreamt, but instead were visited while awake by angels (Sarah, Elizabeth, Mary). Why is this?

I always appreciated Sarah's skepticism ("a child at my age? tell me another one") over Mary's obedience ("I am the lord's handmaiden"), but now I see, too, that to experience pregnancy and birth is to give oneself over to forces not of one's own ego and will. I made a conscious decision in the last couple of years to open myself more and more to the magic of what happens, to ride my life rather than try to steer it. I don't know why that works better for me, but it does.

That is my Pagan prayer for the winter solstice: to open to magic and mystery, to earth and the fullness of being human; as much as possible to bear witness to my own life without judgment; to love, to hope, to have faith; and to try to feel all of it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Still cookin'

Nothing to report yet on the baby front. I'm cleaning a little, cooking a little, sleeping a lot, watching movies. And I'm so happy not to be traveling for the holidays!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Slow times


Yesterday the sun was shining, which is a rare thing this time of year. I took Gryphon for a walk--more of a slow waddle on my part--so we could sunbathe. There is a nice stretch of land along the lake's inlet where it's safe to let dogs off-leash, yet few people take advantage of it. We rarely encounter anyone else there, except for disgruntled Canada geese, though we do see human, dog, and deer footprints in the snow.

Today we're getting a foot of snow. It's coming down fast and beautiful. I'm contemplating walking three blocks to the coffee shop for a mocha. But who knows? Gryph and I managed to stay under the covers till noon.

Today is Adonis's last day of work for six weeks! Hooray for parental leave!

The birthing room is almost ready. If I manage to do any work today, it will be finished. Last night two friends came over to help with the big tub. Amidst the art and quilts and houseplants, it looks less like a big agricultural trough and more like, as Adonis pointed out, a cauldron. I'll post photos of the room when it's ready.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pleasure is a holy thing

For several days I've been thinking about writing about sex. (That seems either fitting or nuts for someone about to give birth, no?) A few things prompt my reverie. (1) A recent conversation with a close friend that reminded me, yet again, how many couples of long standing aren't having sex, and how surprised I am every time I hear something like this. (2) Several recent articles and comment threads (at Salon, Jezebel, and the NYT) about the documentary Orgasmic Birth. (3) Jason's ongoing excellent coverage of the Pagan dimension of the struggle for gay marriage; in particular, his fine argument that legally forbidding same-sex marriage is a violation of Pagans' freedom of religious expression.

Paganism is, at its most cohesive, a family of religious (or spiritual) traditions (or practices) with some views or practices held in common. None of the Pagan religions are religions of the book (will someone come along to dispute that "none"?); as a rule, we're not doctrinal. So there is no one Pagan view on sex or sexuality, and certainly no one view is prescribed. Our views on sex and sexuality are as various as we are.

At the same time, we tend to be a libertarian and unconventional bunch, or to fancy ourselves as such, so individual Pagans' views about sex often do fall outside those of the mainstream. One example, prompted by Jason's most recent post, is that mainstream culture is heteronormative; that is, there is a pervasive cultural belief that heterosexuality is to be preferred to homosexuality or bisexuality, mostly for moral reasons. (Even those who argue that heterosexuality is better because it's more natural are, at base, usually making a moral argument.) Pagans, on the other hand, tend to eschew heteronormativity. We don't value heterosexuality any more than other expressions of sexuality; we don't think it's better or more natural than anything else. Wiccans often point to those words from the Charge of the Goddess--"all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals"--to make the point.

Are people attracted to Paganism in part because it doesn't condemn unconventional views about sex, and it even welcomes such views? I know I am. My own views about sex, and my own exerience of sex, fit within a Pagan worldview; they don't fit within the confined doctrines of the church I was raised in. At the same time, I often feel like an alien in the dominant culture more generally: my reaction to some women's claims that they experience orgasm during childbirth is, "cool! I should be so lucky." Yet many commenters in the articles I point to above responded either with "they're lying," or "ew, gross, orgasms and children shouldn't have anything to do with each other, that's incest." (Presumably such people do know how babies are usually made.)

In the healing tradition I study, sexual energy is just one manifestation of energy or the life force. In anti-sex, Puritanical cultures where we're encouraged from a very young age (birth? pre-birth?) to block, hide, and disavow sexual energy, we're literally blocking, hiding, and disavowing our life force. The result is physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual illness. The result is disconnection from the earth and from each other: pain, isolation, alienation, addiction. These are the results of living in a culture where sexual expression is permitted or endorsed only within very narrow norms, and where sexual autonomy isn't valued at all.

The reason to support same-sex marriage is because we live in what is supposed to be a secular nation, partial to no one religion, in which adults have equal rights and protection under the law. But the reason I haven't married is because I believe the institution of marriage puts narrow constraints on what's morally and socially acceptable, and that these constraints are harmful. Even if we loosen the constraints a little to allow same-sex couples to marry--and I think we should do at least that much, because people's lives and wellbeing are literally at stake--we're not challenging many aspects of traditional marriage that should be challenged. I have no problem with a couple's choosing monogamy, for example, but I have problems with a social system that removes most of the significance from that choice by making it normative.

(Actual same-sex partnerships do challenge the norm of monogamy far more than opposite-sex partnerships do; monogamy is less likely to be a long-term expectation for same-sex couples, whether they consider themselves married or not, than of married straight couples. I don't want to claim that same-sex marriage isn't highly transgressive, and in a good way. Clearly it is, or people wouldn't get so worked up about it. I also don't think that monogamy is any better or worse than polyamory. I value honesty to oneself and one's partner most of all. My own choices have varied at different times in my life and with different relationships, and my only regret is when I've failed to be honest, to embody integrity.)

All acts of love and pleasure are My rituals. "All acts of love and pleasure" is a wide rubric. Give thanks and take pleasure in the expression of life force in its wide and various forms: sex and dancing, swimming in hot springs, getting a massage, laughing or crying with your best friend, eating a delicious meal, breathing mountain air, planting a garden, getting sloppy kisses from your pit bull, gazing at the moon, being present with your emotions, giving birth to your baby, making art, falling asleep under the stars. Feel it. It's not always easy. We hold ourselves back from pleasure. But pleasure is a holy thing. So practice.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

This is lovely

I would guess that the Winter Solstice is important because it combines a moment of poise and stillness--that only the dark can provide--with a real change of direction. Everything goes on but nothing is quite the same again. This echoes our experience of those Solstice moments of life: birth, menarche, leaving home and cleaving to another, death.... Womb moments.

To listen or be truly touched we have to be brought to the point of stillness. Only then can we be truly open to the other. Then we must enter the creative dark where all seems confused and uncertain and anything can happen. Then the light rises. Then all seems the same but there is that deep awareness that things will never be the same again.
--Paul, She changes everything She touches, "Evoking the Goddess"

A tree of happiness

Terri has tagged me for a "Tree of Happiness" award. I don't know what I've done to warrant an award, but I'm more than happy to play along with the meme. Here it is.

• Link to the person who gave the award to you.
• Post the rules on your blog.
• List six things that make you happy.
• Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
• Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog
• Let the person who awarded you know when your entry is up.

Six things that make me happy:

1. My relationship with my partner, with whom I feel blessed every single day;
2. My sweet-hearted pit bull;
3. Swimming in hot springs (I really should be a northern California girl);
4. Kindness, and the capacity to be open to it;
5. Walking in the woods;
6. Dancing.

Tagging six bloggers whose blogs make me happy: Cate, Kim, Lunaea, Molly, Luna, and Sia.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Full moon in Gemini

(Virgen de Guadalupe by Susan Grice; image found here.)


Today is the full moon in Gemini 22: Dancing couples crowd the barn in a harvest festival.

This degree Symbol is about celebrating the warmth and providence of the earth, the joy of nature's harvest, joining with others to celebrate, the reality of rhythmical or seasonal adjustments, agriculture, good old-time values, going out, having fun, listening and dancing to music, barns and dance halls.
Today's full moon is at its perigree for the year, the closest to the earth it will come. I don't think it will be visible where I am, given the cloud cover. But do try to see it if you can! Go here to read Lynda's full report for the day.

Today is also the feast day of the Virgen de Guadalupe, one of my favorite faces of the Goddess, beloved in Mexico and the southwestern U.S. Despite her roots in Catholicism, I consider her a goddess native to the Americas.

Today is the first day of the We'Moon calendar for the upcoming year. The theme for the year is "At the Crossroads." Since 2000, We'Moon has been progressing through the major arcana of the tarot for its yearly themes. 2009 is card 9, the hermit or the crone; Hecate the crone rules the crossroads. At the crossroads, our elders and ancestors, those who walked the path before us, serve as our guides. Read a statement of alliance from the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers here (and in the new We'Moon).

Today I'm ordering herbs to restock my pantry in preparation for birth and days postpartum. There is still cleaning and stocking to do before the little one, due at the new moon, arrives.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Lying in

In this morning's dark before the alarm went off, Gryphon climbed the stairs and crawled into bed with us, burrowing under the covers next to Adonis. I snuggled in closer to Adonis, relieved that today, at last, I didn't have to get up and go to work. The lying-in has begun! After several minutes Adonis had to extricate himself to go take a shower--he has far more resolve than I do, to pull himself out from between two warm, loving bodies--and Gryphon curled up to rest his head against my body, beneath my heart. I presume he was listening to my heartbeat, and the baby's, too. He rested like this for a while, and then straightened out his body so his head lay on Adonis's pillow, his body parallel to mine. We slept nose to nose until it was time for him to have his morning walk with Adonis. At the first jingle of collar and leash, he was out of bed and back downstairs.

Adonis and I left the house around our usual time, since I had to drive him to the airport to pick up a rental car; he's off for a 32-hour business trip to the city. When I got home, Gryphon was a little surprised, since most days he doesn't see me between breakfast and lunch. I've been craving long, lazy days at home with him, but most of this morning he's been on high alert, ready to jump up and bark at the slightest noise outside. Poor guy; it hadn't occurred to me that my being home with him might interrupt his morning sleep. Now I've got music on, and he's settled somewhat. Shortly we'll head back to bed with a book.

Spirit is not separate from Matter

Terri writes this incisive bit of thealogy at her blog:

Spirit is not separate from Matter. I don't believe with some people of faith that Spirit was inserted into Matter at some point in Creation. Neither do I believe with some Buddhists that Spirit is ultimately the important thing.

Spirit and Matter are co-dependent. They are so inextricably intertwined in one another that not even death completely separates them. Spirit suffuses every atom of Matter, and Matter interpenetrates Spirit from each and every one of those atoms. Spirit Matters, and Matter is en Spirited.

Thus the conclusion that Earth is Primary is inescapable. Our landbase is what makes our consciousness of Spirit possible....

Life does indeed teach Life, and toxified and sickly Life can only inform pathologically.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The sleepy sun


(Art found here.)


Joanna is celebrating Advent-of-the-Sun at her blog; each day this month, as we await the return of the sun, she'll post a small gift: a poem, photo, or recipe. (One year in the spring she posted a really good iTunes playlist for Ostara; might you consider a Yule playlist, Joanna?)

I also love the idea of celebrating the four Sun-days before the solstice. Beth Owl's Daughter uses a wreath with candles, like an advent wreath, but she calls it a Solstice Sun Wheel, and on each of the four Sun-days before solstice she calls and honors one of the directions/elements.

These dark, quiet days between Samhain and the winter solstice hold wonderful magic that I long to celebrate even as I resist anything too fast-paced, consumer-oriented, hard-working or hard-partying about the season. 'Tis a lovely time for a lying-in, isn't it? (Thanks, Hecate, for reminding me of that lovely, old-fashioned, and eminently reasonable idea.)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Birthdays and presents

Happy birthday wishes to two men who have long delighted me: John Crowley and Woody Allen. (Who knew they shared a birthday, and with my little friend IĆ°unn, too?)

Last night was our last childbirth class, and the man who delights me the most gave me an excellent footbath and foot massage and a very cool present. (Let's hear it for retro-aesthetic sexuality, postmodern femininity, and pit bulls.)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Where we're at


That's Gryphon with my baby belly. Four weeks till our due date.

Our birth team came over for the home visit yesterday: our midwife, her apprentice, and their nurse. They'd been up the night before at a birth. We showed them around our house and sat down with them to envision the birth. They described their different roles and asked what we needed from them. While they'll be there throughout the labor to offer support and monitor how the labor goes, they also described themselves as working quietly in tandem, largely in the background, meditating and holding space for us and the baby. I'll give birth in a space created by Adonis, my sister, and me, held by these three women with tons of experience (I have none, after all) who respect the instinctual, animal wisdom of my body, who will support Adonis and me but not interfere with us, who will offer us care and love throughout the birthing. In my wider community, word will go out via the mystery school's listservs that I'm in labor, and we'll be held by all of that love and energy, too.

I'm very excited. I feel so lucky that we've been able to create sacred space and intention around the birth; no matter what happens in terms of events, we've created a vessel to hold us.

I'm slowing waaaay down. My brain is enjoying more spaciousness, less pointed analysis. This morning as we walked home from brunch, Adonis delighted me with a high-flying exposition on capitalism, saving the earth, and Shiva. My response? "I need to pee, and then I need to lie down."

That's where we're at these days.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

iPhone


Life has been far too busy the last couple of weeks. I'm looking forward to things slowing down.

I was snapping photos of Gryphon today, to email to Adonis, who's out of town. There's my handsome boy. Photos on my new iPhone, I should add. Adonis is a hardcore iPhone fanatic, and I put off getting one for a long time, because I thought I could never love it the way he does, and hence couldn't justify the expense. After laundering my much despised cell phone last weekend--it was an accident, I swear!--and my verizon contract having just run out, it was time to take the plunge. I'm quite happy with my gorgeously designed, sexy, intuitive little machine. Using it is a total pleasure.

If only there were a nice Blogger interface application so I could blog easily from the iPhone.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Hope


My sister just sent me this email:

I called [my friend, who is African-American] this morning and she told me that when her stepson woke up and found out who won, he was so excited, he told her "Mommy, now I can be president, too." And her girlfriend called her to tell her that her seven year old son dressed himself in his Sunday suit for school telling his mother that if he was going to be president he'd better start dressing like it.
There are a lot of people this morning dreaming of a much better and more equitable world. The power of that inspiration can't be underestimated.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I voted...


...and then I went to a Rotary club pancake breakfast. People are so excited; it feels like a national holiday. Friends and new friends, hugs and blueberry pancakes all around! Blessed be.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Samhain blessings

(Art found here.)

It will be a quiet observance at home this year: no altars set up, no decorations unpacked. I might carve a jack o'lantern after work, before trick-or-treaters arrive, if I have the energy.

But this time of year is magical regardless, and I've spent lots of time out of doors with Gryphon, watching the changes in the sky and earth, feeling the shimmering liminality, talking to my dead; imagining Lugh, who died a year ago, and my grandma, who died in the spring, and my baby-to-be, who arrives with one more turn of the wheel, spending time together on just the other side of the veil.

Blessings to you in these holiest of days.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Doggerel

I found this in my in-box from Adonis this morning:

I love pit bulls!

And I love you!

Therefore, you are a pit bull!

My response: oy, logic in the hands of amateurs.

His response: I prefer to think of it as poetry in the hands of amateurs.

Hence the pun that titles this post.

ETA: The occasion for this bit of doggerel was Adonis's purchasing for us the 2009 The Unexpected Pit Bull calendar. 100% of proceeds from this sweet, beautifully photographed calendar go to support pit bull rescue and advocacy groups.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Six random things

Thalia (new blog!) and Terri have both tagged me for this meme. Here are the rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.
I've organized mine by (random) theme.

1) Dancing. When I was not quite three, I insisted to my mom that I had to take ballet lessons. No one knows where I got the idea. I think she had been putting me off for a bit, because, you know, I was a toddler, so one summer day I told her I was going to go sit on the back step and wait for her to make the phone call to the ballet teacher. Bless her, she did find a school that offered a dance-and-tumbling program for toddlers, and she found the money to give me lessons. I studied dance into my college years: ballet, tap, jazz, modern, and musical theater. I was never more than a devoted amateur. My top two female baby names are those of favorite dancers from my youth. (And I can tell you one, because Adonis has vetoed it: Isadora. The other is currently our top choice for a girl. Stay tuned.)

2) Sex. I started having sex when I was 16. Since then, in 22 years, I've never gone more than six months without a sexual partner. I've had sex with women and men both, with friends and people I've been in love with, but never with a stranger. Sex is one of my favorite things in life (along with dancing), and my partner, Adonis, is the best lover I've ever had. We've been together for nearly 13 years.

3) Handwriting. I have beautiful handwriting. I'm proud of it, and I always get compliments on it. However, my grandmother, who was a teacher for nearly 50 years, was frustrated because I never learned to hold a pen correctly. Apparently, there is a correct way to hold a pen. (Don't ask me what it is; I can't do it.) Also, I don't know how to type correctly, though I'm fast; that has never bothered anyone but me.

4) Food. I was a vegetarian for 11 years because of a philosophy book I read, Animal Liberation by Peter Singer. That was not healthy for my body. I resumed eating meat about seven years ago, largely because of arguments in a philosophy book I read, Animal, Vegetable, or Woman? A Feminist Critique of Ethical Vegetarianism by Kathryn Paxton George.

5) Illness. I'm the only member of my immediate family not to have a life-threatening illness.

6) Travel. I visited the Soviet Union once, in July of 1989, months before the end of communism. (For the record: we never saw it coming. I remember vividly the day my mother woke me with the news.) I've never been to Russia. But I did visit Poland both during (1989) and after (1994-95) communism. I lived in central Europe after college, and then I traveled to most of the former Soviet bloc countries.

Consider yourself tagged: Sonja, Deborah, Diana, Morninghawk, Patrick, and Sabrina.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Smack in the middle of desire

Despite the name of this blog, anyone who's read for a while or knows me in real life knows that I'm a big fan of desire. It's one of the most delicious and satisfying features of being incarnate. So I'm quite enjoying this part of my pregnancy where I could literally eat all day long. So far today I've had a Greek yogurt with honey, raw cider, a scone, a decaf Americano with cream, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, a pear, carrot sticks, some sesame sticks, and the apple I'm working on now. Good times.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Parenthood, flexibility, fear, and politics

I took a personal day from work today, wanting to rest, work around the house, and write. I've started the dishes, cuddled with the dog, read some blogs, and had some oatmeal and tea. A bit of writing, and then I'm upstairs to finish unpacking the bathroom. I want to spend as much time as I can preparing the house--I work slowly and deliberately--but it's felt difficult to do while working full time, caring for the dog, running necessary errands, getting enough rest.... I'm a Pisces. We're easily overwhelmed. Lately I've been thinking about this quality a lot and trying to find some value in it, rather than just hating it and wishing it weren't true. If I know that I get overwhelmed easily, and I'm practicing acceptance, what is the healthiest way to proceed, and what gifts can I discover?

Last night Adonis and I attended our first Birthing from Within childbirth class. I've felt so much serendipity around our pregnancy so far, and very little anxiety or fear. (I just want the house to be ready!) All indicators are that I'm healthy, the fetus is healthy, and things are proceeding normally; we've opted for very little testing or intervention of any kind, preferring to embrace the inevitable mystery of the process, and that feels like the right choice. We feel utterly blessed to be working with our calm, hugely competent, compassionate midwife and her apprentice, a Witch with something of an attitude. The childbirth class is just us and one other couple; the other pregnant woman shares a first name with me, is due a week before I am, and lives with her partner two blocks from us. Like us, they're first-time "older" parents. The teacher is certainly Pagan-ish if not Pagan. Both Adonis and I were relieved after the first class to have an intentional space for focusing on the birth. Sometimes little bits of doubt creep into my brain--maybe we should be doing things some other way, having sonograms, planning a hospital birth--but then I'll have an experience, like attending last night's class, that confirms for me the way we've chosen to do things.

My family has been relatively chill, for them, but it's clear that they're taking on the worry-work that is eluding me. That bugs me. I'm sure it's a good lesson for parenthood to be dealing now with disagreement, conflict, and their fear about my choices; there's going to be plenty about the way Adonis and I parent that my own parents won't like. But the shock for me has been how my parents apparently don't care what my reasons are. They don't want to be reassured. They don't want explanations. They don't want to--or can't--hear why I value what I value. They just want to express their own fears and opinions and then hope I change my mind. There's no dialogue, no conversation. I think of the premium I place on gathering information, thinking things through, listening to my intuition, consulting my values, consulting my partner...and I marvel that these people, my people, don't use the same methods or value the same things. Didn't they encourage me to think critically? Didn't they teach me to consult my own heart and conscience? I thought they did. Maybe I was wrong. It's unsettling and weird to realize--at my quite advanced age, I know--that in an important sense, they don't care what I think. They don't want to understand what I'm doing or why.

All of this led Adonis to make an observation with which I quickly and easily agreed, once it had been articulated: when we're parents, we want to engage our kid(s) in conversations about what they believe and value, and to listen and sincerely try to understand, even if we disagree. I feel as if my parents maybe tried to do this when I was growing up, but I haven't felt that openness from them in a long time.

Something that's very true for me, though clearly not for everyone, and probably doesn't have to be true for everyone: to love me means that you care enough to hear what I believe and why I believe it.

Is that quite right? Of course my parents love me; of course they care for me. Yet still I feel this lack--a fundamental way of being cared for that I get from my partner and many of my friends and teachers, but not from my family of origin. That care expresses itself in wanting to hear what I have to say, wanting to know what I believe, and valuing the fact that I value something. It's a way of taking me seriously. It is, I believe, what Iris Murdoch means when she talks about "loving attention." It requires curiosity and flexibility on the part of the parent, the lover, the one who cares, and it requires a temporary suspension of fear and ego.

Now all of a sudden I feel like I'm talking about reasons to support Obama over McCain this election. And I am. McCain is the inflexible, calcified, ego- and fear-driven, dismissive patriarch writ large. So is Sarah Palin, for that matter: age and sex don't define these things. While McCain and Palin are both so readily dismissive of women's health and other items on the "liberal feminist agenda" (not that he has a damn clue what that means; I was still shocked to hear him state the matter so baldly), Obama and Biden appear utterly believably as good dads--literally, not in an archetypal sense, though that, too, must matter. Obama is able to convey his flexibility, curiosity, and devotion to the best in people while running the most impressively tight and creative campaign for president I have ever seen. One of McCain's slogans may be "country first," but it's pretty clear he's really about himself first, foremost, perhaps only. Obama, on the other hand, really appears fearless, and he appears largely to set his ego aside in pursuit of a larger, shared good.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Reading if not writing

There has been so much to write about in the last few weeks and no time to sit down to write. Both work and home life have been busy, and as I enter the third trimester of pregnancy I don't have as much energy as I would like to have. (Practicing acceptance...ahem.) I've contented myself with reading your blogs; there has been more writing than usual, it seems to me, in the Pagan blogosphere, so much of it excellent. As always, I delight in the good work regularly issuing forth from Jason, Hecate, Lunaea, Molly, Anne, Sia, and Joanna.

Recently, Hecate has written about calling on the ancestors:
When I call North/Earth/Pentacles, I'm calling ancestors, bears, wolves, foxes, moose, caves, mountains, plains, stones, decomposing bodies, the power to be silent. What I learned, almost by accident, tonight, is that, if you call Obama's ancestors to come protect him, well, they will Show Up. No, really. They. Will. Show. Up. He can be protected from the racist hatred being stirred up against him. His ancestors -- from both sides -- will Show Up and deflect the danger.

I pass this along for others who are doing protective magic for him.

He stays safe through January 20th, when his own Secret Service, loyal to him, can take over. This is my will. So mote it be.
And about the practice of magic more generally:
You can't set out doing magic in order to obtain this feeling, this cellular and organic understanding that you are a vessel for, and an opening into the world of, magic. But at some point -- after half a lifetime of grounding and centering and casting circles and calling the quarters and speaking intentions and chanting and dancing and drumming and visualizing and raising cones and releasing cones and being frustrated and being enchanted and returning daily to your altar, happy, sad, frustrated, disbelieving, coming, as Rumi said, yet again, come, come, even though you have abandoned your vows a thousand times, come, yet again, come, come -- you find the mystery within yourself. And it seems to me, not that I would know, that it's just like what they said about those who experienced the Mysteries of Eleusis: ever after, they had no fear of death. Ever after, you know that you have found within yourself what you could never find without: that which has been with you from the beginning and which is attained at the end of all desire.

And, yet, and here's only one more lovely paradox, you have to get up the next morning and practice again, sit zazen again, ground again, connect again with the mist in the Autumn garden and the squirrels in the trees and the current in the air and the Fifth Sacred Thing.

Lunaea has written about her call to an unestablished priesthood, a call I also hear:
It started when I went looking online for Benedictine monasteries that offer retreats, as I've been feeling that after my big work push is over this year it might be a good idea to get away and center myself for a few days. Perusing these websites, I read about the pattern of the days for the monks and nuns, the hours dedicated to prayer, to silence, to work, to leisure, to study, to collective worship. I read the descriptions of vocation, what to do if you feel the call to such a life, and I was filled with wistfulness, because I am indeed called to such a life, but not to Christianity. I admire the religion, in its best and highest forms, as I do all religions, but it doesn't speak to the core of my being, certainly not in the most passionate way required of a nun. (I like Jesus, but I don't want to marry him.) Clicking through the web pages, my wistfulness grew into deep longing, an ache in my heart. I want that sense of committed community, I want spiritual directors and counselors, I want a home I can count on for life, I want peace, I want time for devotions... I want, I want, I want....
After my ordination this spring, my healer from my first year at the mystery school said to me, "welcome to the life of a freelance minister and healer." What does that look like? What will it mean?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Joy seeping in

Gryphon is next to me on the couch, sleeping underneath a quilt. This is his favorite way to sleep, completely buried in covers, preferably with a warm body next to him. Earlier this evening he was lying alongside me with his head resting on my belly, and the baby was kicking more than I've felt in days. (Either the baby has had a mellow week, or the kicking has become less novel, so I notice it less.)

Earlier still today we took a walk through a beautiful, spirit-filled state park. The leaves are turning. There was no one else around, so I let him spend some time off leash. It's so fulfilling to see him begin to enjoy himself more, bounding in the dead leaves, or even walking on leash beside me, his head alert but relaxed, his tail lifted, a spring in his step. It's like joy is seeping into him. That capacity for joy after all the hardship in his life is a basic spiritual lesson for me. It's a holy thing to witness.

We spent my lunch hour on a quilt in the backyard (how grateful am I that I live in a place where I have a 5 minute commute to work? incredibly grateful). He wandered the yard a bit, and rolled in the grass on his back, and sat next to me to share my apple. I had a magazine with me to read, but I spent most of my time watching him and rubbing his head and belly.

In many ways it's been a hard week. I've felt dissatisfied and unsure of what I need. I've been weepy. I've felt lonely and isolated. My job is mostly boring me. I've had a couple of minor disappointments. I've been anxious about the state of the world. The equinox was particularly intense, energetically. (The penumbra of Mercury moving retrograde, perhaps?) I've felt spiritually disconnected. And yet. I've been blessed by this wonderful new relationship with this sweet dog. My spiritual practice has been to spend time with him.

Today while we were walking and I was watching him and thinking about his blossoming, I thought again of one of the most important lessons for me of the last several years. I credit Lugh, my first dog, largely, as well as the mystery school and my ever-deepening relationship with my beloved life partner. The role of care and loving attention in enabling a being to flourish cannot be underestimated. It is crucial, as essential as clean water. It's such a simple thing, so potentially abundant, something any of us can do. Cruelty, willful ignorance, and neglect sadden me more and more as I grow older; my willingness to tolerate those things diminishes. To care for one another in simple ways; to offer respect, love, attention, and a spirit of nonjudgment to this person, this animal, this tree, this soil...I'm tempted to say that that is all we need.

A little reminder


"Is there a Goddess living in your backyard, watching out for you and only you? What luck! You should be happy."

(Anne Johnson)
(Photo found here.)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Decorating for Samhain, Target edition

I was at Target this morning checking out their Samhain decorations, and I heard a college kid say, far more loudly and self-importantly than was warranted, "can you believe they have the Halloween stuff out? it's hardly the middle of September." My second thought was, well, yeah, kid, where've you been, marketing has been getting out of hand at least since you were born. But my first thought was, it's almost Mabon, of course we have to start decorating for Samhain next week. (Hey, I'm not the only Witch who gets itchy to decorate and celebrate this time of year.)

Target is usually a great resource for fun, inexpensive, elegant or kitschy Samhain decorations. I love picking out a few things every year. This year, alas, the choices seemed thinner and tackier than usual, and the prices a bit higher. (I appreciate kitsch, but I hate tackiness.) I bought only this kitschy-but-cool altar to the Horned God and a (faux) snakeskin lined tray in black (couldn't find it on-line), the latter more for year-round glamour than Samhain per se.

(These pumpkins--also in green--were handsome, but I didn't know where I'd put them. I might've been tempted by these if I'd seen them. I love these, but $25 for 10 lights? Ooo, but I didn't see these.)

Where do you go for fun, tasteful Samhain decor?

Update: I got two big, full, beautiful hardy mums in different shades of rusty orange at the grocery store this (Sunday morning). Those are for the front porch.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The beauty in brokenness

Molly, still recovering from a seriously broken arm, has written a beautiful post inspired by some photos her daughter took to depict life on their farm to a far-away friend. Rather than take picture-postcard photos that try to convey a glossy and complete picture of the farm, Molly's daughter Elizabeth took photos of fragmented imperfection: September tomatoes, a cabbage with torn and bug-eaten outer leaves "reflecting the actual effort required to become a cabbage," her disheveled younger brother asleep on a screened-in porch. The photos and writing capture the beauty of this time of year between Lughnasadh and Mabon.

Elizabeth’s pictures suggest there is no obligation to strive for something other than what is or to strive to explain everything fully. They have an acceptance of transience. the illusive, and the natural processes that break down everything except the loving eye that bears witness to this brokenness.

Most growing seasons, I spend much of my time in the gardens working to bring the plants to their full and ripest point. I love this peak moment when I find it in a Flower, but these pictures reminded me of the beauty of things past their peak, broken, or imperfect.

Flowers never try to hold onto this peak moment, because going to seed is as important to them as their peak moment of beauty. Unlike our culture, they make no effort to hold onto some impossible moment of eternal youth. And this surrender is not a loss. The gardens have a deep beauty and gravitas as they pass into fall and winter. Plant architecture may be broken, but in fall, the gardens have great heart and wisdom.

In previous growing seasons, I too often fixated on “garden problems”, racing from one to another to clean things up. This year, I had to go wabi sabi on myself. In my brokenness, the path of least resistance was to look for the beauty in things just as they were. This proved so much easier than expected. The untended beauty of gorgeous volunteer Flowers as well as weeds reminded me, just as my broken arm reminded me, that sometimes the light shines best through a crack in the vessel.

No matter how much our minds might tell us the glass is half full, when we are forced to stop and really look at it, the glass is always overflowing. Nature always overflows our cup. Life always overflows our cup.


Read the whole post, and see the sweet photographs, here.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

His dark materials

Via Bookslut, a list of Philip Pullman's favorite books.

I can at least say that I own and have intended to read The Book of Disquiet and Rilke's Duino Elegies; that I've dipped into The Gnostic Gospels, Maus, and The Varieties of Religious Experience; and that I've heard of many of these titles and most of these authors...

...uh, but I've got some catching up to do.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Pagan church 2

When your lover makes you brunch: organic pancakes with butter and maple syrup; bacon from local, humanely-raised pigs; local apple cider, unpasteurized! (If you're from an apple-growing state, you probably drank it as a kid, but it's nearly impossible to find now.)

Pagan church

Yesterday, Adonis, Gryphon, and I took a morning walk, first to the neighborhood coffee shop for iced mochas, then up into the neighborhood gorge. We passed several churches and enjoyed the singing and organ music coming through the open doors. It was Gryphon's first trip to the gorge, though we have fond memories of taking Lugh there and letting him splash in the cold water on hot days.

Gryphon has poor eyesight, probably owing to malnutrition when he was a puppy. The three of us waded into the gorge where the water is gentle and just deep enough to cover our feet. Then Adonis carefully led Gryphon on his leash on a short path through that section of the gorge. Since it's sometimes slippery on the rocks, I opted to stay where I was and watch them. The second time around, Gryphon was off leash, slightly more confident, but still following close at Adonis's heels, even gently touching Adonis's heels with his nose, Adonis guiding him by hand over some trickier parts.

I stood in the lush, green, rocky gorge, hearing only the sound of the water over the rocks, feeling the cold water running over my feet, watching my beloved partner gently guide my beloved dog through the green-filtered sunlight and water. And I was filled with joy.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Spreading the love

Three Four readers have graciously nominated me for this peer-driven recognition:

And what better compliment is there? Thank you Sabrina of Pagan Dawn (and welcome to the Pagan blogosphere), Diana of Diana's Muse, Terri of Aquila ka Hecate, and Livia Indica of NeoPagan Ink! Thanks especially for the kind things you said on your blogs about mine. Whenever my enthusiasm for blogging wanes, it's kind words from readers that keep me writing. I appreciate every link and email (even if it sometimes takes me forever to answer them).

Here's how to share the love:

1. The winner can put the logo on her/his blog
2. Link the person you received the award from
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs
4. Put links of those blogs on yours
5. Leave a message on the blogs nominated

And here are 7 more blogs I love.

Gaian Tarot Artist's Journal: It's no secret to my readers that I adore Joanna Powell Colbert's art and writing. Her tarot deck (still in progress) speaks to my soul more than any deck I've ever known. I read her blog for tastes of her luscious worldview and photos of her magical life. She's a Goddess-sister very close to my heart.

At Brigid's Forge: Lunaea Weatherstone is another Witch whose work I've admired for a long time. Her blogue is so elegant, her ideas so inspiring. She has a fascinating tarot, and she makes gorgeous Goddess rosaries; I'm the proud owner of one. It gets compliments from everyone.

Medusa Coils, with several contributors, is an excellent resource for keeping up on news relevant to the Goddess communities. My favorite feature is their monthly "Buzz Coil," which mines the Pagan blogosphere for treasure; they always come up with a post I've missed or a Pagan blog I haven't heard of yet.

The Wildhunt Blog: Hands-down the best Pagan reporting on the web. Relevant, fresh, insightful, extremely smart. I know you're all already reading him anyway. Huzzah, Jason!

Hecate: A daily read. Love her politics, her commitment, and her stories about her grandson. Unflinching.

Lynda Hill's Sabian Symbols: One of my favorite, trusty blogging resources for astrological news and interpretation. When I forget where the heck the moon is, I go here. (Uh, and I look up in the sky. But often it's cloudy.)

A Basket of Kisses: Not a Pagan blog, but a blog run by two Mad Men-crazy witches, Deborah Lipp and her sister, Roberta. I spend way too much time here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Meet Gryphon



Last Friday we brought home our newest bundle of joy. No, not a human baby; we still have several months to wait for that. The newest member of our family is a lovely adult pit bull, whom we've named Gryphon. We've waited a long time for him.

I have a fondness for many non-human animals (and a Pagan respect for all), but ever since my sweet Lugh radicalized me, my heart belongs to pit bulls. They're profoundly people-focused dogs, loving, loyal, and affectionate. While they can be horribly abused and exploited, they retain their optimism and love for people. It seems like it's nearly impossible to damage the heart or soul of a pit bull. See how the Michael Vick dogs are doing? (For lots more information about pit bulls, see the links in the sidebar.)

Gryphon was left behind in an apartment to starve to death. He was in bad shape when he was found and brought to the SPCA in a city north of here. That SPCA, like most, still, alas, is a kill shelter, but Gryphon's execution was stayed for a long time because he was a favorite of the staff. Still, after a year, no one had adopted him. (Pit bull adoptions are problematic in that city because of prevalent dog fighting. Also, he's really big. And he really looks like a pit bull.) When Gryphon started to show signs of kennel stress, some volunteers at the shelter called a pit bull advocate they knew and asked if she would take him, thereby saving his life, and try to place him in a home. She tried for a year. She attempted one adoption, but when it quickly became clear that the people had adopted him for the wrong reasons and it wasn't a good environment for him, she took him back and decided to keep him, even though her Lab was increasingly jealous and destructive, and even though she doesn't have a lot of money and works two jobs, which necessitated leaving the dogs at home for up to 12 hours at a time. Not ideal or what she wanted, but an economic necessity. On those days, Gryphon would spend up to 12 hours in his crate. But when we met him, he was clearly healthy and well-socialized, a testament to her devotion as well as his temperament.

The foster mom took down all the posters advertising his availability. But she forgot to take down the one at our SPCA, the one where Adonis and I volunteer. The day we closed on our house, Adonis went to his dog-walking shift and saw the poster. Somehow we'd missed it before, even though we always look at the SPCA bulletin board. He took a photo of the poster with his iPhone and brought it home to me. He called and talked to the woman. We went to meet the dog, out in the country about 45 minutes' drive from our town. After spending about two hours with him and his foster mom, we knew he was ours. We called her the next day and told her we wanted to adopt him. She was thrilled.

The next weekend we went to visit them again. We talked with the foster mom about our experience with dogs and pit bulls. She called the volunteer coordinator at our SPCA to ask about us. And then, last Friday, we brought him home.

After Lugh died last fall, we had hoped to adopt again within six months. But our landlord forbade it, not because of anything we or Lugh had done, but because our adopting Lugh had apparently strained relations with the neighbors, who didn't want a "dangerous" dog living next door. We were crushed, and our resolve to buy our own house was strengthened. Was it a coincidence that we learned about Gryphon the same day we closed on our house?

Gryphon is bonding beautifully with us. I'm surprised at how swiftly and easily it's happening. We've set him to a routine to increase his sense of safety, and we're spending as much time as possible giving him exercise, love, and attention. This fall we'll begin obedience classes. We'll slowly transition him to the homemade diet we feed our dogs. Molly's "Animal Wellness" flower essences are wonderful allies, and Gryphon, Adonis, and I are all taking the "New Beginnings" essence. Soon we'll have a ritual to welcome him formally to our family. And this weekend he'll get his first bath.

Last night during our evening walk, we approached a group of children outside a small daycare center in our neighborhood. We were soon surrounded by six small children and the proprietor, a woman who proudly announced that she was grandma to two pitbulls. Gryphon stood patiently while the children petted him and asked questions, even if he was more interested in grazing on the grass. A man who I think was the son of the daycare provider and father to a couple of the children came over and showed his daughters again how to approach a strange dog (first ask the owner's permission, then let the dog sniff your hand, then stroke gently under the chin; never pat the dog on the head). He asked me questions about whether we'd rescued the dog and where we'd found him. As we moved on, the man said to me, "it's a good thing you did." I'm so used to encountering fear and anger from strangers about pit bulls that I almost started crying in gratitude.

Then we arrived home to a friend who'd come over with treats and toys to play with Gryphon. Lucky dog. Lucky us.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Baptism


(The Guardian [Queen] of Water from the Gaian Tarot, by Joanna Powell Colbert)


Still no internet connection at the new homestead, so blogging hasn't been possible. That should change today. Also, things have been a bit hectic while trying to get settled in the new house.

My dad called Sunday morning and said, "is it true that you're not going to baptize your kid?" Oh boy. Talking to my mom later that morning, she said, oh yeah, he's really upset about that, he keeps saying "that's the final straw, I'm disowning her." (What you need to know about my blustery but very loving parents: they would never disown me. Dad threatened to disown me for having a child outside of legal wedlock, but then he helped us with the down payment for our new house, so you can see how that goes. They adore Adonis, and my mom says that we have the best marriage of anyone she knows--except for the part where we're not married.) Both my parents would prefer that we have the baby baptized. My sister, who is a formidable advocate for us, told them that I wasn't going to do things the way they would have me do them, so they just have to suck it up and let it go. My mom is actually kind of adjusting to this idea. Oh but it's difficult for me, the oldest and always a good girl, to "let them down" by doing things my own way.

Why not baptize the baby? Well, there is the obvious reason that Christianity is not my religion anymore. But that's not my main reason. I would even consider baptizing my baby for my parents' sake if I could get past the symbolism of baptism. Yet I believe strongly in the symbolic value of ritual, and how ritual enactment in part constitutes reality. The ritual message of baptism is this: human beings are born innately sinful, in pain and blood from a woman's body, products of a sinful act; being born human, from sexual intercourse, and of a woman necessitates purification, the cleansing with holy water. And to this I say, bullshit. Human beings are not innately sinful. To be born in the midst of blood, sweat, shit, and ecstasy is a holy thing.

I like the idea of an elemental blessing. I imagine that at a Wiccaning or Pagan baby naming ceremony, though I've never attended one, the child is blessed with earth and fire, water and air. In becoming human we become one with the elements, and to enact that symbolically seems a good thing. So we'll have a ceremony, and there will be a sacred cup filled with water, but the ritual will be something altogether other than a Christian baptism.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Moving II

I'm sitting on the couch in my old apartment as two strapping young college men load all of my worldly belongings into a truck. They're working their butts off, bless them. I jokingly offered them my CD player from 1989 (it still works! I bought it after my first year of college!), but they declined. Now it occurs to me that my CD player may be older than they are.

Oh, now one of them is carrying the bedside table I've owned since 1974. (I was 4 when I got it.)

I live with a geek

One of the first things I heard this morning, while still lying in bed:

"What the hell happened? My light saber application crashed my iPhone!"

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Goddess avatar

Here's my Goddess avatar. You can make one, too, here. (Thanks, Grian/Lee. And thanks to Terri, whose first I spied.) Why yes, that really is a baby in my belly. I feel at least as surprised as it looks.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Moving

We're packing. And painting at the new house. Well, I'm not supposed to be painting, low-VOC paints or no. I did a lot of the taping around molding and doors, prior to the painting. Adonis and a friend primed the walls in two bedrooms and the upstairs hallway in our new house. I packed all afternoon back at the apartment. I pack in a very organized, methodical manner, and it takes me forever to get anything done. I'm also easily overwhelmed. Adonis blitzes; he's very efficient and doesn't worry too much about organization. He unloaded dozens of boxes from the attic this evening; I sorted through them and decided what to keep, recycle, trash, send to the library book sale. I'd say that we make a good team, but he gets way more done than I do. For this post, I asked him whether I was actually contributing anything. He replied, "you're doing a lot, and you're gestating." So there's that.

We're so happy about the new house. I have a gazillion ideas for it.

Now it's night and we're sitting side-by-side on the couch amidst the boxes, him playing poker on his iPhone, me typing away on my iBook, eating blueberries.

Movers come on Tuesday.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Making my own way

I come from a highly opinionated people. It's a joke in my family--and at the same time completely true--that we each think we're right and others are wrong. About anything. Always.

For a long time I was part of a profession--academic philosophy--that encouraged the formation of strong opinions, carefully defended to the death. I wrote an academic and political blog, back in the early days. It had a fairly large readership, for those days. Many of my cohort from early blogging are still writing, doing excellent work, and establishing and maintaining high profiles. I commend them. But I rarely read them, and I even more rarely envy them. For me to write that blog, I had to work myself into a state of righteous outrage on an almost daily basis. That was my fuel. Much of the rest of the time I was depressed. It didn't work for me.

I used to argue politics all the time. Hell, I was professionally trained to argue. I loved it. But I burnt out. Now, I even sit out on political discussions among friends. I don't gather data. I don't try to defend any views. The whole concept of reasoned argument, which used to be my raison d'etre and my holy grail, bores me. I still respect reason, but it has assumed a more, shall we say, balanced and reasonable place in my life.

Part of what I had to learn--thank you, mystery school--is just how unhappy I was making myself by clinging forcefully to my beliefs and my conviction that they were right, that I was right. It's as if I was holding my worldview tightly, clinging to it desperately, when what I really needed was to wear it more lightly. That's a practice. I'm working on it.

Of course, as is the way with families, it still drives me absolutely freakin' crazy when someone in my family refuses to entertain the thought that just because I'm doing something differently from the way they would do it, it doesn't mean that I'm wrong, where wrong gets cashed out as "naive, misguided, idealistic, romantic, potentially harmful." I am idealistic and romantic. Really, it's just who I am. (My part of fortune lies at 30 Aquarius, for Goddess' sake.) But that doesn't make me hopelessly ineffective in the world, unrealistic, unreasonable--though according to my family's running narrative, it does.

You know how having a baby can make everyone around you crazy? Like everyone has a gazillion opinions and horror stories and they need to know the sex right now? And why don't you want to know the sex right now? And oh, aren't you cute and young and naive, you have no idea how much work it's going to be raising a child? (Do you know how much work it is getting a Ph.D. if you haven't tried? No? I didn't think so. Bite me.) I think that as these things go, I'm getting off pretty easy. Maybe it'll get worse as I get more visibly pregnant. But I live in a community where people don't automatically freak out if you say the words "home birth," where there is some acceptance of trying things a different way. (Only in the United States, where something like 97% of births take place in hospitals, is "home birth" a weird thing.) I think my family is showing admirable restraint so far. But I've been pretty clear with them that I don't want their fear to mask and express itself as concern that I don't want what's best for my kid, my partner, me. Because they really do know me better than that.

So here, just for the record, are some ways in which Adonis and I plan to parent our kid, things that might bother some people, Goddess bless them.
  • Non-medicalized prenatal care from our awesome midwife; no ultrasound or prenatal testing unless deemed medically necessary
  • Home labor and birth (my sister will be there; she's attended a home birth before)
  • No baptism
  • Wiccaning (we plan to give the kid a Wiccan name to use until s/he comes of age and chooses a her or his own magical name)
  • The kid will have my surname (my family is actually fine with this)
  • With dogs as integral members of the family, not accessories
  • Celebrating the sabbats and esbats
You know, crazy stuff.

As you can see, it's all pretty abstract. We don't know who it is who'll be joining our family, so we just have to wait and see. We're flexible. I think that will serve us well.

Edited to add: Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the big one. Unmarried, we are, as a matter of principle.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Links on the UU church shooting

Shakesville has a moving first-person account of the shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church last Sunday morning. Melissa McEwan has (as always) excellent commentary on the shooting as a domestic terrorist attack, and violent, eliminationist rhetoric in the mainstream conservative movement. The gunman, whose stated motive was hatred of liberals and gays, had also years previously threatened the life of his ex-wife, a member of the church.

(You can go here to send messages of love and support to the church.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Thoughts on a Pagan ethic: guilt and gratitude

(1) We have a way of structuring our moral lives, in the dominant U.S. culture at least, that makes no sense: thinking of things in terms of "deserving" or "not deserving." This musty old moralism is an artifact of Protestantism, perhaps ("work hard and you'll get what you deserve"), or even of the Old Testament ("an eye for an eye"). These moral categories may cause various familiar affective problems--a misplaced sense of guilt and entitlement, for example. But another kind of problem--we might call it an ontological problem--is that these categories of desert fail to describe reality. In a world where the distribution of wealth, luck, and opportunities is so disparate, it doesn't make any sense to say that we get what we deserve.

(2) I'm someone who is inclined to feel guilty for her many blessings, as long as I'm thinking in terms of desert (deserving). Gratitude is tainted for me if I feel like I don't deserve what I have. And how could I deserve what I have, when so much of it comes down to luck? Many opportunities have come to me because I benefit from unfair systems of privilege, for example, because I am white in a racist society, or because I was born into the middle class in the United States in the late 20th century, when we lived on resources ransomed from the future. Why should I have so much when others don't? When I think in terms of desert--and inevitably I think that way--I feel nearly paralyzed with guilt.

(3) Guilt in most, if not all circumstances is a useless feeling. It's a form of moral disempowerment.

(4) How do I escape the labyrinth of guilt? I need a new way of thinking about the things I have. I used to think that there had to be a way of eschewing privilege, as if I could refuse to be white in this racist society, or as if it would be a good thing to turn down the chance for a university education. I still hold to this idea in some ways; I refuse to marry, for example, in part because it seems to me an exercise of unjust privilege. (Whether I'm cutting off my nose to spite society's face remains to be seen. And it's not as if I give up heterosexual privilege by refusing to marry my male partner. Hell, most people assume we're married anyway. )

(5) One of the characters in Widdershins says it this way: "accept the gifts that you're offered." There may be extrinsic reasons to accept those gifts; doing so may put you in a better position to help others, for example. But I believe there are intrinsic reasons, too, to accept gifts graciously and lovingly offered. The character who says to accept gifts also believes in doing good without thought of recompense. We might also accept kindnesses without feelings of obligation, of needing to pay anything back. Perhaps it is a better thing to say, humbly, thank you.

(6) The power to effect good lies in being a good steward of whatever gifts we're given. We are all of us surrounded with blessings. As a Wiccan I feel strongly how the earth offers Herself up freely to us, how She provides us with all of our needs. What shall we do? How shall we act? We shall guard and nurture the gift, rather than squander it.

(7) This is the idea I'm trying on in place of guilt: to be a good steward of my many blessings; to treat my fellow beings as worthy of respect, integrity, and love; to guard and protect, and to make wise use of that which has been given to me. In other words, to live in balance with the blessings. To live in accord.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lunations

I spent the weekend in a workshop studying astrological lunations. Lunations are roughly 29-year cycles divided into 8 phases (like the 8 phases of the moon) of 3+ years. An individual's cycles depend on what phase of the moon s/he's born under and the progression each year of the natal sun and moon (the natal sun progressing about 1 degree per year and the natal moon progressing about 1 degree per month); where sun and moon come together on the same degree of the zodiac, that's the new moon.

For example, I was born under a last quarter moon in 1970; my first new moon occurred right after I turned six, in 1976. My second new moon occurred in 2005, and I'm nearing the end of that phase, moving into a crescent moon phase early next year. Each 3+ year phase has a different energy, so it's interesting and useful to track the events of one's life via the moon cycles in order to reach a better understanding of what was happening when and why.

In short, studying lunations is one way to study the energetic cycles in a life and to get a "big-picture," relatively impersonal view of the events in that life. The Sabian symbol for each new moon is like a book title describing the 29-30 years covered by that volume of one's life. The first volume of my life was marked by Pisces 17; title: "An Easter Promenade." There I see the symbolism of traditional religion, of crucifixion and resurrection, and of stately walking in one's best apparel. The title of the current volume is Aries 16: "Browning dancing in the twilight." I love the magical feeling of this symbol, the picture of the elementals dancing in liminal space.

I began the mystery school and this blog is 2005, with the dawning of my dark moon.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ten things

Ten things that are making me happy these days:

1. My partner, who never ceases to delight me,
2. The nervous new pit bull at the SPCA last week who curled up on my lap and went to sleep,
3. Raspberries and cherries from the local farms,
4. Swimming in the cold, lush, green gorges, under the waterfalls,
5. The Gaian Tarot eights,
6. My prenatal yoga class with the best yoga teacher in town (who teaches only prenatal now, so I had to get knocked up to join her class),
7. Dancing at the Saturday evening outdoor concerts,
8. My appetite,
9. Dreaming about new gardens,
10. Anticipating closing on our house one week from today!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The temple of Artemis

A year ago I was meditating here.

These are ruins of the temple of Artemis near Ephesus, in present-day Turkey. The temple was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was the home of the famous many-breasted (or bull-testicled) statue of Artemis.

On the day I visited, there were several men selling reproductions of the statue, set up on tables near the ruins. Though I'd tried to haggle over prices (it's expected) throughout my time in Turkey, I'd also kept to the practice of not bargaining over the price of magical tools. (I'd purchased a knife to use as an athame and several goddess statues.) I picked up the statue that called to me and asked the man, "how much?" "Dollars, euros, or lira?" "Dollars," I replied, thinking of the $10 bill I had in my pocket. "$10," he said. Done.

The temple grounds were ringed with blessed thistle, which made me think of the epithet Thalia Took assigns to Artemis, "defend your boundaries!" I sat at the foot of the column you see here and meditated, surrounded by a few friends. Someone snapped a photo of us. A friend commented later on how it was the fertile women in our class--those of us still bleeding and hoping to have children--who had meditated in the temple, gathered around the column, while the rest of our class explored the grounds. Artemis is a guardian of children and animals, and She is traditionally invoked by women in labor as a Midwife.

Much has changed in my life since I sat meditating at the temple a year ago. The Mother took our beloved Lugh, something we can't pretend to understand but which we know happened as it should. I invoked Artemis on Lugh's behalf, several times, and I will invoke Her again as we adopt other dogs. I've invoked Her in her Amazon aspect on my sister's behalf, as she faced breast cancer. And in six months it will be my turn to invoke Her in childbirth.

She has accompanied me since before I knew I was a Witch, at least since I was an voracious young feminist, if not since I was a child who loved the wild places. And there is something of Her in me: guardian and fierce protector.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Your typical pregnant, Pagan summer

I've finally emerged from the exhaustion and nausea that accompanied my first trimester. It feels so good to be able to stay awake after work, do things on the weekends, and even enjoy a meal! The last few weekends have been lovely idylls with Adonis--the farmers' market, brunches with friends, swimming in the gorges, going to the movies, Saturday night picnics and outdoor concerts. We've also begun packing our apartment; movers are scheduled to come in three weeks to move us into our new house. I'm glad we're enjoying the beautiful summer, even with all the change swirling around us.

I've been reading Kim Antieau's novels and, on Joanna's suggestion, I've begun reading Charles de Lint. Adonis and I have become big fans of "Mad Men," and I was delighted to find a couple of familiar Witches keeping an obsessive blog about the show. And of course, we're watching and rewatching Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (fan blog here). Aren't you?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Midsummer


I've lived most of my life in the northern United States, so I'm accustomed to the long summer evenings around solstice. (When I was a kid, I lived far, far west in the eastern time zone, so it didn't get dark till around 10 p.m.) Now that I'm pregnant, I'm in bed every night by nine, and the sky is still light. Strange. It feels like being a kid again.

Twice in my life I've spent the summer solstice far north of this, once crossing the Baltic Sea by ferry from Sweden to Russia, and once on the shores of Lithuania. In both places, the sun doesn't fall below the horizon the whole night. I remember waking in the middle of the night to peer from my porthole, to watch the strange northern sun hover high above the horizon. And I remember drinking beer in large groups around bonfires in Lithuania, skinny dipping in the cold water before huddling back into our rough Polish sweaters, and stumbling to bed early in the morning.

This weekend's celebrations include a city-wide festival that begins tonight with a fantastic parade, and my ordination on Saturday. It's cool, damp, and gray here, not much like midsummer, but that means the strawberry season will last longer (unless it's too wet), and I won't sweat through the ceremony this weekend. Maybe it will even be cool enough to have a solstice bonfire in the fireplace.

The liminality of the Beltane season gives way to the fullness of Litha. Gather your herbs, leave out cream for the fairies, build your fires high, and dance the sun to sleep. Merry midsummer!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Blessings

It has been an inward season for me, even as the world has burst forth in bud, bloom, and green. I'm astonished that it's almost Midsummer, and almost my ordination day. I'm pressing my dress and shawl (the one John brought from India this winter), and polishing my silver pentacle (the one Adonis brought me from Arcata) in preparation for the day. My ordination as a minister of healing arts is strictly speaking non-sectarian, but I'm pledged to the Goddess, and this is another rite of passage on that journey. I'm terribly proud of myself, and tremendously grateful.

There is an old poem that speaks of blessings raining down like blossoms. That is what life has felt like. I'm pregnant; our baby is due at the winter solstice. We conceived six months to the day after our beloved Lugh crossed over. And we've finally found our house: a sweet old house with beautiful gardens that border those of a friend--she's already suggested that we build a stone circle where our yards meet--four blocks from where we live now, in a vibrant downtown neighborhood. We move in August. Adonis is making plans for the birthing room; so far my contribution has been to order prayer flags to hang over the altar.

I've been spending a lot of time in bed, as much as I'm able, and I've been drawn to reread novels that are spiritually important to me: so far, Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver and The Mists of Avalon (though I can never bear to read the last 200 pages, after Arthur's duel in the realm of fairy). If you have suggestions for novels that have been importantly to you spiritually as a Pagan, please leave them here.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The lioness, 1910-2008

This Beltane season has been beautifully liminal for me, for several reasons. I'm holding that liminal space in my body and breath.

Last night around 9 p.m. my beloved grandmother passed beyond the veil. She was 98 years old. She died holding the hands of both her daughters, my mother and my aunt, who talked her over and beyond. It was a peaceful death.

She had been dying for several weeks. I got to see her two weeks ago, to tell her I loved her and to hear her say that she loved me. My grandma was a formidable woman, someone who taught me unconditional love, the kind of love I can feel in my bones. Dying, she was radiant with light. I held her hands, then her feet. I watched her face. I sensed the presence around her, knew that our ancestors were holding her, waiting for her to join them. I expect she'll be one of the first I see when it's my turn to cross over the threshold again.

About a week ago, she had a vision of the Mother--for her, Mary. She called out, "Mother!" At her bedside, my mom said, "is it your mother?" Grandma shook her head. "Is it Jesus's mother?" Grandma nodded. My mother was slightly appalled, also amused; Lutherans don't believe in the divinity of Mary. But I know Whom she saw.

One of the last things she said was, "life goes by too fast."

Blessings, safe passage, and safe return, beloved one.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Merry Beltane!


Blessings of fertility and love to all my friends in the northern hemisphere. (And in case Terri in Johannesburg stops by, Samhain blessings for you!)

This holy day and liminal time honors the quickening of desire, the impulse toward life. We honor all forms of sexual love, as well as the love among friends and family and love for the earth and all her inhabitants. May all beings be happy.

Today find a way to honor your deepest longings, and to rejoice in your abundant blessings. May all beings be loved.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Got Bit - the memoir meme

Stewgad is my very good friend in real life, which means I never read her blog. It turns out that sometimes she reads my blog, so I feel a little bit bad about not reading hers. If she hadn't told me last night when I was over at her house that she'd tagged me for this meme, I'd never have heard about it.

The meme is the "six-word memoir," which as you may know by now is a challenge to write your life's story in six words. This meme is inspired by a recent book that collects people's six-word memoirs, called Not Quite What I Was Planning. I actually like that as my six-word memoir, but I'll try to exercise a little more creativity here.

But I'm still going to cheat. My memoir comes in two volumes, each with its own six-word title.

Volume I is Tried to Be Someone Else Entirely. Volume II is Gave Up, Followed My Heart Instead.

(Feel inspired? Haven't done this yet? Then consider yourself tagged.)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Desire's end, part II

A couple of months ago, a grumpy old guy named Billy visited this blog and apropos of nothing except the blog's name left this comment:

Hey, there is no end to desire. We have been at that for billions of years.

The whole cosmos is nothing other than sexual energies, it's just in our human forms that it gets all messed up.

So maybe he didn't get the reference to the Charge of the Goddess, or maybe he didn't care, but the thing is, I agree with him. Desire seems to be a fundamental operating principle of the universe. As such, it seems perverse to wish for or anticipate its end.

Feri tradition tells a creation myth in which the Goddess gazes into a mirror and, falling in love with herself, gives birth to the universe. It seems to me at least a lovely metaphor, and I think more than that, to say that longing is what draws us into this world (the parents' desire for each other and for a child, the soul's desire to incarnate). Longing lures us through life, however messy and complicated, and it beckons to us from beyond the veil. How unfortunate it would be, then, to deny the power of this longing, to try to make ourselves, as if we could, beings without desire.

Yet we do just that. We deny ourselves all kinds of pleasure, including the pleasure of simply feeling our desires. Think about the fundamental things humans long for: food, water, shelter, touch, sex, companionship, beauty, comfort, meaning, creativity, expression, and connection to the world around us. Which of these isn't affected by practices of self-denial and wishing things were otherwise? How often do we fear that our wanting something will be too painful, that our desires will languish unfulfilled, and so we cut ourselves off from the wanting? What would it mean if instead we allowed ourselves fully to inhabit our desires, to know them intimately, to know ourselves intimately? Is it too much of a risk? What are we risking? And what do we lose if we don't taste the depths of those things we want?

I know my own litany of fear runs like this. I won't get what I want. I want too much, and that means there's something wrong with me. I don't deserve to want or receive things. I'll be judged. I'll be rejected. My needs can never be met. I'll have to give too much of myself away. It will be too painful. I don't want to be needy. I don't want to risk being disappointed. If I "give in" to my desires, they'll overwhelm me, or someone else. I'm powerless in the face of them. I'll hurt someone. I'll be consumed by them. I'll lose control. I'll feel empty, isolated, alone.

In a puritanical culture, whence come many of these fears, desire is something to be kept under tight control if not altogether annihilated. It's an unseemly artifact of our animal natures. We identify desire with women, in whom it's deemed uncontrollable. Like the feminine, it needs to be mastered. Desire leaves us vulnerable and exposed. We feel its tremors, and we turn away.

What would it be like if instead of trying to master, ignore, or squelch desire, we rode its currents instead? What if we became intimate with not just the contents or objects of our desires, but with the very shape, texture, and taste of desire itself? What if we allowed ourselves to dive deep into the wanting? What if we sat with desire and allowed it to unfold within us, to reveal its layers and secrets, to discover what's underneath the ripples of surface longing?

What if we were honest with each other about our desires? What if, instead of furtively confessing, we boldly stated, explored, investigated, and celebrated them? What if we stopped being coy and embarrassed? What would it mean to take responsibility for desire in the full context of that desire? To work skillfully with it? What if we acknowledged and accepted that we're desirous beings and got to know ourselves as such?