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


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?