Nearly Beltane Potpourri

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* This weekend, I dug up a few clumps of daffodils so that I could divide them before the hostas that also live in those beds leaf out and make it impossible to dig there. Then, I had to dig, by hand, forty (Count them! Forty!) holes to plant the new bulbs. I don’t know who the Goddess or God of earthworms is, but I owe Hir an offering. My Bit of Earth is blessed with many big, fat earthworms and it’s impossible for me to dig anywhere without sacrificing a number of them.

Although the inestimable Miss Parker took a rather cavalier attitude towards earthworms:

It costs me never a stab nor squirm
to tread, by chance, upon a worm.
“Aha! My little dears,” I say.
“Your kin will pay me back one day,”

I’ve always taken a more reverential attitude towards them. I’ll be glad to make their food if, one day, my ashes compose this Earth.

In The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms, Amy Stewart writes:

There is a diagram of an apple tree pinned to the wall above my desk — an entire apple tree, meaning that the drawing shows its roots as well as its trunk and the branches. The tree itself is only five or six feet tall, but the roots extend an astonishing twelve feet into the soil and spread much wider than the outer boundary of the tree’s canopy. What’s fascinating about the drawing is this: the part of the plant that we think of as the apple tree is, in fact, a fairly insignificant part of the full plant. It’s just a squat, knobby protrusion at the top of a graceful, expansive system of roots.

Or is the tree at the top of the drawing at all? In some ways, the tree really seems to be at the bottom of its enormous root system. When I turn the picture upside down, so that the roots are on top and the tree is underneath, a much more graceful creature emerges. The limbs run like rivers in every direction. The shape of the root system is perfect, as airy and symmetrical as any arborist could hope to achieve through years of careful pruning.

When the drawing is turned upside down like this, I am forced to think about the tree’s function in a different way. The branches and leaves and fruit are significant, of course: they provide the pollen for honeybees, branches for nesting birds, fruit for the gardener, and leaves to carry on the endless respiration of oxygen into the air. But now that I’ve taken a second look, I see that the roots are the real body of the tree, and I wonder, in a way that perhaps I’ve never wondered before, what kind of life those roots have underground. How far does the rainwater penetrate? What does the [E]arth look like below the surface? If you asked someone what the ocean is like below the surface, most people could give you a reasonably accurate description. But how little most of us know about life below ground, even in our own backyards.

I realized that I understood very little about the plot of land under my own house.

***

To know the land for what it is, to find its heartbeat, to expose its soul, you have to go underground where it lives and breathes.

Grounding is the most important part of my spiritual practice and I want to know my Bit of Earth on the level that Stewart describes. And that involves, to a very large extent, being in relationship with worms. And their Goddesses/Gods.

It’s my religion, what can I say?

* More on knowing your own landbase.

* I had company for dinner this weekend and served, inter alia, radish salad. It got raves and, when I sent the leftovers home, the leftovers got raves in my guests’ bread and butter letters. I originally found the recipe at Sauveur and have adapted it a little bit.

INGREDIENTS

2 cups radishes, sliced as thinly as possible (I use the same knife that I use to peel carrots, saving for my weekly lunch the bits of radish that can’t be sliced )
3 Tablespoons sugar
1½ Teaspoons kosher salt
1 or 2 generous Tablespoons sesame oil
3/4 Teaspoon black sesame seeds
3 or 4 scallions, thinly sliced

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Slice radishes and place in a bowl with cold water and ice cubes. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

2. Combine radishes, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.

3. Toss radish slices and sliced scallions with sesame oil and sesame seeds.

4. Serve.

Radishes are incredibly easy to grow from seed, especially recommended for children and beginning gardeners, and can be planted from early Spring to mid-Autumn. (An easy way to know how far apart to make the rows or to plant the seeds? Take your garden trowel and either a Sharpie or some nail polish. Use a ruler to make one inch marks on the handle of the trowel.)

Radishes were domesticated in Europe prior to “Pax” Romana. They are low in calories, high in fiber, and very good for cancer survivors.

We Southerners cannot think of radishes without thinking of Scarlett O’Hara becoming ill after eating a radish on an empty stomach, but she wasn’t the only Southerner to survive on radishes. Many African Americans made do, especially in the Springtime, on radishes, as well, usually, in the same style as French peasants, by slicing the radishes on buttered biscuits or bread.

More from Michael Twitty on the terroir of Southern gardens.

Do you have a go-to radish recipe?

* Because I love you, please go read this, and this, and this and this.

* April is National Poetry Month. I know people who say that they don’t like/can’t grok poetry. Yet most of them can quote song lyrics until the cows come home. And the lyrics of many songs began as poetry. I blame their perceived dislike of poetry on the way that we teach poetry today. Poetry, if it does nothing else, should touch our root chakras, should move us from “this” reality into “that.” Poetry can be one of the most important building blocks of ritual.

And here is America’s Poet Laureate, you may disagree, but I don’t think that there’s any higher title. America’s poet laureate is Natasha Trethewey, an African American woman. She writes from a sense of place that should resonate with every Pagan.

Beltane: is coming.

Picture by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

Mystical Experience: Wherever You Go, There You Are

chipmunk

This weekend it was sunny and warm and I sat out on my screen porch, potting up seedlings and feeling completely in the flow.

A tiny chipmunk ran across my patio and suddenly noticed me, noticing her. She stopped, statue still, as chipmunks do when they are afraid that a larger creature has noticed them. They don’t really think about it; they just do it, the way that we just flinch when we hear a loud sound.

I tried to tell her that I was behind a screen and that, besides, I wouldn’t hurt her for the world. My sending of that message was too large for her; I couldn’t get it through. I tried to focus my thoughts, to send my message of goodwill into her tiny body.

The sun was brilliant and photosynthesis was happening all around us.

I got too small. Suddenly, I was the chipmunk and I was the three, tiny, pulsing embryos within her, each a cosmos, each limned with energy and veins, blue ones and red ones. I was with my mother’s mother’s mothers and with my son’s son’s sons.

I never did manage to tell her what I wanted to say.

Eventually, my old, aggressive cardinal showed up at the birdfeeder and distracted me just long enough (not long at all) for the breeding chipmunk to disappear from the patio.

And yet, even now, when the weather has turned rainy and cold and I sit inside, knitting and hearing the sleet on the warm ground, I can sense her, sense her and the three tiny smears of cells within her, hiding underground, out beneath the deck, nibbling seeds and snuggling into the dirt.

I am not separate from this interconnected Bit of Earth, here where fungi connect trees and newly-dug daffodils grow new roots, where birds grab the small bits of yarn that I’ve put out, left over from last years’ projects, for their nests, and where some ancient powers make themselves known every time that I ground.

May it be so for you.

Picture found here.

Monday Evening Poetry Blogging

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St. Kevin and the Blackbird
~ Seamus Heaney
And then there was St Kevin and the blackbird.
The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but the cell is narrow, so
One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As a crossbeam, when a blackbird lands
and Lays in it and settles down to nest.
Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked
Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked
Into the network of eternal life,
Is moved to pity: now he must hold his hand
Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks
Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown.
*
And since the whole thing’s imagined anyhow,
Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?
Self-forgetful or in agony all the time
From the neck on out down through his hurting forearms?
Are his fingers sleeping? Does he still feel his knees?
Or has the shut-eyed blank of underearth
Crept up through him? Is there distance in his head?
Alone and mirrored clear in love’s deep river,
‘To labour and not to seek reward,’ he prays,
A prayer his body makes entirely
For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird
And on the riverbank forgotten the river’s name.

Picture found here.

Sunday Ballet Blogging

Everyday Pagans — We Are the Norm, Despite Current News

black-family

Given the recent unpleasant news about some Big Name Pagans (BNPs), I think it’s time for another of my Everyday Pagan (EDPs) posts. I love when people share their stories; please share yours in comments or via email. While a number of BNPs embarrass the rest of us, here is how some EDPs live their lives:

* C. works in the science lab of a large, East Coast university. She takes a lot of pride in preparing samples with care, and knows that, ultimately, even her mundane work of keeping petri dishes clean, recording results to the fourth and fifth decimal point, and turning in meticulous records will help to make mothers and babies safe. She practices a very strict version of Reconstructionist Hellenism and does yoga to keep her body fit. C. first read the stories of Greek Goddesses and Gods when she was seven years old and she has never looked back. She coaches a local soccer team and makes her own yoghurt. She invests her savings in solar energy companies and has done rather well, using an algorithm that she learned in college.

* Puton is a solitary Wiccan. Ze lives in the Pacific Northwest and works in the local IT industry. Puton was drawn to Wicca because it included mystery and myth and because it gave zir a chance to explore different Goddesses and Gods. Puton cooks a lot of vegan dishes and writes a Facebook page devoted to vegan recipes. Ze has two teen-aged foster children and spends most evenings helping them with French and Physics homework, laundering their team uniforms, and packing their lunches — bento box style. Someday, Puton hopes to get an MBA, but, for now, zir children come first.

* M. is a chaos magician. M. came to Paganism through Freemasonry (a family activity) and an interest in alchemy. M. has two children and two polyamorous wives. M. is a nurse at a small Midwestern hospital where he works, primarily, in the emergency room. M. owns a small farm where he grown many of the greens and berries that his family eats and the mushrooms that his wives sell at local farmers’ markets; most evenings, he can be found working there when he leaves the emergency room. M. whittles chess pieces in his spare time and reads his children a bedtime story every single night, remembering the stories that his parents and grandparents read to him.

* P. lives in Alaska and works most of the year on TAPS, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. P. came to Alaska as a young man from Austin, Texas and fell in love with the local landbase. P. bought a small cabin in Valdez and quickly learned to hunt and fish the local landbase. He and his partner have studied how to live in the short Northern Summers and are expanding their solar greenhouse. P. says that T. Thorn Coyle brought him to Paganism; someday, he wants to find a Feri group in Alaska with which to study. For now, he and his partner observe the Eight Great Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year.

Picture found here.

Clarification

I wrote a post a few days ago over at Pagan Square. In that post, I shared some thoughts about the recent discussion/discussions that Pagans have been having concerning how we manage issues related to sex, sex abuse, and sexual harassment at Pagan events and within the larger Pagan community. Although this discussion started when a Pagan musician was arrested for and admitted to possession of child pornography and then spread to concern over having Yvonne and Gavin Frost present at an upcoming Pagan event, the discussion has now gone well beyond those specific events and beyond the issue of pedophilia/child pornography/child abuse. If it was not obvious, my post was a reaction to how this larger discussion has evolved, not specifically to Mr. Klein or the Frosts.

Earlier today, Galina Krasskova reacted to my post. It appears to me that I have been misunderstood, so I want to make my own position completely clear.

As I said in my post, “[I]f all acts of love and pleasure are rituals of the Goddess, sex without legal consent is the Pagan equivalent of a Black Mass, the turning of a sacrament on its head for evil.” I believe that any form of pedophilia/child pornography is wrong, because it involves sex without consent. (Minors are not legally able to consent to sex.) I believe that practices that pressure anyone, even those who can give legal consent, into having sex that they do not want to have are wrong. I believe that the use of power-over, which can come from being a teacher, a Big Name Pagan, an experienced Pagan dealing with new Pagans, etc. in order to obtain sex is wrong. I believe that when victims speak up, they deserve to be listened to and to have their concerns addressed, rather than swept into the shadows, as has sometimes happened in the past. I disapprove of the Frosts’ teachings.

As I discussed in my post, I believe that it is a good thing for Paganism to be having this current discussion. I urged there and reiterate here that I believe that the discussion would benefit from invoking deity, from breathing, grounding, and centering, and from not immediately assuming the worst of each other. Finally, I noted that an understanding of the current astrological weather may help us to navigate this very emotional topic.

I welcome further discussion of these issues, either here or over at my Pagan Square blog.

Peak Cherry Blossom PotPourri

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* Columbia’s District houses many treasures: the original Constitution, Matisse’s cut outs, precious Native American art, the huge collection of books, records, and film in the Library of Congress, masses of ancient azaleas at the National Arboretum, the Statue of Columbia (Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace) atop the Capitol, the only painting by da Vinci in the Americas, and Calder’s largest mobile. But one of the of the loveliest treasures in D.C. is the collection of cherry trees that surround the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials. Many of them were gifts from Japan to America, given over a hundred years ago. When they all blossom, at least half of D.C. and tourists from everywhere come to be amazed. Peak bloom is often a different date from the “official” Cherry Blossom Festival and this year’s peak was delayed quite a bit by our long, cold Winter.

But today was the day. Finally, we had sunny weather and temperatures in the seventies. Finally, after several weeks of “will they or won’t they?” the cherry trees burst into bloom, all at once, perfect, ethereal, magic. For my landbase, for my shining city on a swamp, today was one of the most extraordinary days of the year.

I slipped out of my heels and into my walking shoes at 11:30, hailed a cab, and got as close as we could get to the Tidal Basin. The traffic is always impossible on peak day, so you have to be prepared to get out and walk. I hiked from the Freer Gallery to the blossoms and then all around the Tidal Basin. I paid tearful respects to Mr. Jefferson, sent blessings to all the young lovers having picnics under the trees, and to my former and future selves, walking with joy among the blossoms, under the blue sky, next to the tidal Potomac waters.

Is there an event that is particularly special to your landbase? How do you celebrate it? Have you ever seen the cherry blossoms?

* I lost a lot of herbs this long, cold Winter. It’s not surprising. Rosemary, sage, lavender, etc. come originally from the warm Mediterranean and our climate was distinctly NOT Mediterranean this Winter. I’m going to use the loss as an opportunity to redo the herb bed. I had far more rosemary, sage, and lavender than any one woman could use or give away.

I’m planning to put in more vegetables: cardoons, lettuce, squash, radishes, peppers. Coffee for Roses has a good list of suggestions for those of us who plan to grow more vegetables.

* I recently had a question on Twitter from someone who wondered why I post so many things that are about Arlington, VA and D.C. Were most of my followers, ze wondered, from Arlington? And, of course, the answer is “No. I’m not sure where they’re from but, obviously, many of my Twitter friends come from far away.” But, as I explained, I post a lot about my landbase because that’s what important to me and because I want to model what it can look like to be in relationship with your landbase. The Natural Capital has a great post up about plants that are in bloom in one of our local parks: bloodroot, cut leaf toothwort, fiddleheads, trout lily, and more. I would share this, not because that’s what’s blooming everywhere, but in the hopes that people will search out similar blogs for their lanbases, will go out and see what’s blooming in their cities. What’s your favorite site for information on your landbase?

* Many of you have been kind enough to inquire about Gemmy and the Place Without a Witch stories. Please know that Gemmy is coming back, and hopefully soon. I need to do a bit of research for her next adventure and now that the weather has turned wonderful, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to do it soon. It’s nice to know that she’s been missed!!

Picture found here.