Tag Archives: Occupy

Seed Swaps with G/Son


My beloved G/Son is growing up so fast.

I know that’s what old women always say, but we say it because it’s true. From our perspective: the wind-sanded, rain-washed, sun-warmed sitting rock here, just before the edge of the cliff, (you know, the cliff that you jump off, or that you get pushed off, or that you dive, or dance, or dither off of to get to the Summerlands, the Isle of Apples, that place where Arthur and Galadriel went, into the West — that cliff) we can see how fast the Dance to the Music of Time (as I learned to call it when I was a young girl in college, taking all the Lit courses I could take) always proceeds, even when it appears, for a moment or two, to slow down. But the fast-action nature of Mama Gaia’s spin through the ever-more-quickly expanding universe has its good points, as well as its overall hint of saudade. And one good point is that I’ve learned to really treasure each moment that I get to spend with G/Son. I’ve learned not to take any of them for granted.

This weekend, I had hoped to take G/Son down to Occupy DC, so that we could bring the Occupiers some hats that I’ve knitted and a bag of apples that I bought and to show G/Son how people are trying to change our world so that some people don’t go hungry, homeless, without health care, while others have too much. But this was the weekend when the National Park Service attacked Occupy DC, and a five-year-old and an old woman with (what my grandma referred to as) a bum ankle aren’t a good match for police in riot gear. So we put our visit to Occupy DC on hold. But we sat quietly, took some deep breaths together, lit some candles and incense, and made pictures in our minds of the Occupiers being safe and protected.

Instead of Occupy DC, G/Son and I went to Washington Gardener Magazine‘s Seed Swap. We took envelopes of the woad and dill seeds that Nonna collected last year from her own garden, and a bunch of free sample seeds that Nonna got last year from various seed companies.

We registered and got our goody bag (G/Son kept the corn seeds and melon seeds and Nonna kept the chive and lettuce seeds) and raffle ticket. G/Son was v interested in the concept of raffle tickets, but he took it like a good sport when we didn’t win the box of seeds to grow lovely baby vegetables.

We answered questions from some of the volunteers who were sorting the seeds and came running up to us to ask about woad seeds. (Volunteer Ladies: “Do you grow them?” Nonna: “Yes.” Volunteer Ladies: “On purpose?”)

Then, we listened to Barbara Melera of Landreth Seed Co. (Landreth is America’s oldest (selling seeds since 1784) extant seed company. They’re in financial trouble. If you’re going to buy seeds this Spring, you could do some good by buying from Landreth. Just saying.) talk about America’s Love Affair with the Tomato.

While we were waiting, G/Son and Nonna talked about how G/Son doesn’t like raw tomatoes, but he does like tomatoes in pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, and catsup. G/Son was captivated by the title slide that Ms. Melera put up before her talk that said: America’s Love Affair with the Tomato: a Story of Adventure, Passion, Commitment, and Nonsense. Since he’s learning to read, G/Son was able to read most of the words by himself. Nonna helped with “commitment.” And we talked about what that word means. A former reading teacher (it’s like a disease; we can’t help ourselves), Nonna got G/Son to anticipate what Nonsense could have to do with growing tomatoes.

When the talk started and Ms. Melera showed a slide demonstrating how tomatoes first grew in Chile, but were first cultivated in a country to the North of Chile, G/Son called out, “Wait! That country is Mexico!” And he was right; tomatoes were first cultivated in Mexico. The talk was twenty minutes long. Midway through, Nonna broke out the Lunchables that she’d brought for G/Son (I’m not proud.) But G/Son paid attention all the way through and was rewarded when, near the end, Ms. Melera explained the “Nonsense” part of her title. She told us how the green-striped zebra tomato (which G/Son and Nonna buy in the Summer at the farmers’ market,) was developed by a man who, as a young boy, wanted to grow a green tomato to throw at people to make green goo. G/Son and Nonna laughed a lot (in fact, a lot more than any of the other (all grown up) people in the audience laughed) at that idea. G/Son also paid attention while Ms. Melera talked about two of her (and Nonna’s) favorite tomatoes: the pineapple tomato and the Black Krim, which G/Son and I came home to trace on a map from Chile, to Mexico, to Italy, to Russia, to America.

In the end, learning about how to grow tomatoes and about how people and this full-of-spirit plant have interacted over the centuries is almost as political an act as Occuping DC. I’m an old woman, sitting near the edge of the cliff, tossing breadcrumbs back, as far back as I can throw them, for my G/Son. Some of those crumbs are learning how to take deep breaths and make pictures of protection in our minds. Some of those crumbs are a discussion, when watching Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, about how it’s important for the leader of the country to identify with the landbase. And some of those crumbs are just the way that I make herb tea with honey for him, look at him with approval so that he’ll have yet another experience of what that feels like, play board games with him in our pajamas on Sunday morning, show him how I collect blue jay feathers, and the way that we snuggle, after reading Redwall, before bed.

Here’s a great list of political books for young children. I think that G/Son and I will be reading a number of them over the next few months.

And, at some point, we’ll get down to Occupy DC. This little person is the son of a kick-ass woman who puts bad people in jail and a father who practices kindness as an act of politics. He’s the G/Son of a feminist and the great grandson of a labor leader and a Catholic Worker activist. I’m going to make sure that the bread crumbs that I throw back from The Cliff show true.

Just take your time, G/Son. Don’t grow up too fast for your old Nonna, or, do, but, if you do, throw (in the way that the universe is changing and the Noosphere is growing) some crumbs back for me.

Picture found here.

Occupy the Paradigm Shift


When I moved from the world of education to the world of law, I encountered a new phrase: “in real time.” For a few years, I kept asking, “As opposed to unreal time?” (Of course, as a Witch, I regularly deal in non-linear time. And there’s chronos and chairos, but I was pretty sure that the lawyers, MBAs, and engineers to whom I was talking weren’t discussing either of those.) The expression just bugged me, but, bright girl that I am, I’ve been acculturated and now I’m about to use it.

As events unfold in real time, we’re often so busy processing everything that’s happening that we don’t stop, stand back, and realize that we’ve just witnessed a paradigm shift. Mary Oliver talks about this in one of her best poems when she says:

Every summer
I listen and look
under the sun’s brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can’t hear

anything, I can’t see anything –
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,

nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,

the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker –
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.

And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing –
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,

the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet –
all of it
happening
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.

And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt

swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?

One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn’s beautiful body
is sure to be there.

If you garden, you know what Oliver and I (but I, less eloquently,) mean. For a few weeks, I’ve been checking the cottage garden for the first snowdrop. I looked this morning as I went to my car to go to work and there were none, not even any green leaves. When I came home this afternoon, there it was, in all its snowy splendor: the first snowdrop, peaking out from under the lirope.

All of which is a rather long wind up to my point (and I do have one). This week, I think that we got our first indication of just how amazingly effective the Occupy Movement has been. It slipped in almost unnoticed, in the real time cacophony of noise about Tim Tebow, Beyonce’s baby, the resignation of one of Obama’s bankster friends, and the attacks by Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum on Mitt Romney’s activities as the CEO of a private equity firm.

Discussing Romney’s experience in business Gingrich, for example, said:

“Look at the one example from The Wall Street Journal story,” Gingrich said on Fox. “To put in $30 million and get back $60 million would have been a fabulous return. To put in $30 million and get back $90 million would be a fabulous return. Did they really need to take out $180 million if, leaving $30 [million] or $40 million, if the company would’ve survived, the people would’ve been employed, the jobs would’ve been there? These are places where they made money while the company went broke.”

Bain Capital specializes in providing financial and management advice, often taking over distressed companies, which in some cases means massive layoffs. Romney contends that the companies Bain turned around more than make up for the layoffs, and that he helped create more than 100,000 jobs during his time there.
But Gingrich likened Bain to so-called “vulture capital” groups that pick weak companies clean.

“The question is whether or not these companies were being manipulated by the guys who invest to drain them of their money, leaving behind people who were unemployed,” Gingrich said on Bloomberg. “Show me somebody who has consistently made money while losing money for workers and I’ll show you someone who has undermined capitalism. … That’s an indefensible model.

The darling of the New Apostolic Reformation, Rick Perry, made similar comments.

And, no, I don’t for one moment believe that either of these politicians really have an iota of a problem with private equity firms ripping off pension plans and shipping jobs overseas. Heck, they’ll both take all the campaign bribes donations they can get from such firms, will support policies that make the work of such firms easier, and will generally do things that hurt working Americans.

But I’d like for us to stop for a moment, ground, stand still, sniff the wind, listen to the way that the insects and birds have all become quiet, pay attention to the angle of Moonlight on the frozen ground, and notice the paradigm shift happening all around us. Just as fish are unlikely to discover water, we, so immersed in the internet and the day-to-day changes in the narrative of what Thorn Coyle calls the “overculture,” are unlikely to discover this instant when everything changes.

If you’d asked me last January, last Beltane, last Lammas, whether Republican candidates would ever criticize any form of aggressive capitalism, I’d have laughed at you. Heck, Barack Obama, the Democratic president, even today, wouldn’t do such a thing. No one in polite company would dare to suggest that there might really be something wrong with making millions at the expense of mill workers, and toy store employees, and blue-collar workers. Suggesting that it was less-than-patriotic to ship jobs offshore would have gotten you labeled as a dirty-fucking-hippy WTO protester, smashing Starbucks windows in Seattle. Yet, today, even Republicans are rushing to jump on the bandwagon and assure their followers that they, too, are against “vulture capitalism.” (Which Newt, et al. are carefully trying to distinguish from “real” capitalism. Good luck with that, Newt.)

Somehow, someone involved with Occupy tapped into the zeitgeist and managed to perfectly frame the correct criticism of the overculture. And, like all good magic, once it was articulated, it spread. Someone managed to get the framing right, in spite of, or perhaps because of, all the criticism of Occupy’s lack of “specific” complaints. (In the end, “Shit Is Fucked Up and Bullshit” may have been the best articulation.)

Of course, the danger — and it’s real — is that Gingrich, Santorum, et al. will appropriate the paradigm shift and suck it dry of all real meaning. But at the moment, that’s not what worries me. What worries me is Obama’s emotional need to distance himself from Occupy, to imagine that he can show that he’s a better friend to the vulture capitalists than Gingrich.

Regardless, that sound that you just almost didn’t hear was the sound of a paradigm shifting. Can you amplify it?

Poster found here.

This Is What a Patriot Looks Like


I was thinking the other day about the people who are continuing to Occupy various places, even through the depths of Winter. I recalled Thomas Paine‘s statement that:

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

There are Winter Patriots all over America. People who show up, even when it would be easier to stay home, who show up even when the sun isn’t shining on their deeds. And as Paine explained, those Winter Patriots “deserve the love and thanks of man and woman.”

As The Wild Hunt reported, a public school in North Carolina recently handed out free Gideon-donated Bibles to young students, a pretty clear violation of the First Amendment. The principal of the school defended her actions, saying that:

If another group wishes to do the same, I plan on handling that the same way as I have handled this.

And that’s where our Winter Patriot comes in. Byron Ballard (and if you’re not reading Byron’s blog and following her on Twitter, you should be) didn’t just get mad and complain about this on a blog. She called the principal’s bluff.

It was very cold and very early today when I met Ginger Strivelli in Weaverville and followed her to her son’s school, North Windy Ridge Intermediate, part of the Buncombe county school system.

She had a couple of boxes of books that had been donated from several Pagan authors and supporters all over the East Coast. I added a handful of books and brought two copies of the Mountain Area Interfaith Forum’s Diversity Guide, which was created as a resource for public schools.(If you or your school needs one, it can be downloaded for free at the Center for Diversity Education’s website–diversityed.org/K-12.)

We were there to deliver the materials that she was assured would be “made available” in the same way the Gideon material was, right before the winter break. No surprise to find that, in consultation with the system’s superintendent Dr. Baldwin, the principal Jackie Byerly and asst principal Danny Fusco couldn’t do that at all because the central office was reviewing its policy regarding religious materials in schools. They suggested that they would “hold onto” the books, in case the school system needed to review them for appropriate content, once the policy was vetted.

Uh-huh.

We determined that leaving the materials was not the best plan because we are certain the new policy will preclude distribution–even passively–of these materials, and that these books can be used for the active Pagan prison ministries in the area. Ginger and I had a meeting with the principal and her assistant that lasted for some time and we left with the books. As we knew we would.

We have dealt with this issue again and again in this school system. Enough is enough.

The Earth religions community is frankly tired of dealing with this every few years. As long as any child in a public school system is bullied, coerced or ostracized for the spiritual path of their family and themselves, the situation is not fixed and the school environment is not safe.

There will be more media, more “good Christian” people threatening violence, more bullying and “othering” before this is settled. But settled it will be. Of this you can be certain.

Byron’s efforts are going to make it very difficult for the school to continue to hand out Christian propaganda. (To be clear, the school shouldn’t be handing out ANY religious materials, as even that act demonstrates a government preference for religion over atheism. But if the school is going to hand out religious literature, it’s important that they be forced to do so even-handedly. And the simple act of making them follow their own rules (as Saul Alinsky knew) often makes them change their rules. This happened a few years ago in Virginia, as I’ve blogged before. (That school district ultimately decided that maybe they’d be better off sending no religious literature home with kids. Duh.))

No one’s going to write a history book about Byron’s work today. She’s not going to get a medal or have poems written about her (but only because I can’t write poetry to save my soul). She’s a Winter Patriot who just keeps showing up and making it more difficult for those who want to trash our Constitutional rights and turn America from a free country into a theocracy. (It’s surprising, or maybe it’s not, how often this is women’s work.)

And it’s not enough, or even the beginning of enough, but tonight, at my altar, I’m going to take some time to send gratitude to our modern Winter Soldiers — those who Occupy physical space and those who show up and make Dominionists eat their words.

I shan’t be gone long. You come too.

Thank you, Byron.

Picture found here.

I Want to Run Like the Lions, Released from the Cages

A long time ago when I wrote my will, I wrote in a few poems and songs that I’d like to have at my funeral.

And this is one of them.

I hope that, if there’s still a planet left and still people to light fire to my Viking ship, they’ll listen to this song and remember the Occupy Movement. I’m going to be running down tomorrow, just ahead of the snow, to drop off a bunch of caps that I’ve knitted. Thank you Little Steven. Thank you Mr. Browne. Thank you, patriots at Liberty Square.

Cowls for Christmas, Phygrian Caps for Occupiers.


G/Son comes, although he doesn’t (yet) really realize it, from a long line of marchers and protesters.

My grandma once marched in a Suffragette march, although she had to lie to her parents in order to go. My dad was taking me to anti-Viet-Nam-war marches when I was barely into my teens. He worked in the union movement; walking a picket line was a sacred act in our family.

Son and the First-Ex-Mr.-Hecate marched to protest Bush I’s Iraq war.

Back before G/Son was born, Son and DiL once asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day, and I told them that I wanted them to come with me to the Million Mothers’ March in Washington, D.C. They did. Years later, they marched with me and some women from my Circle in the March for Women’s Lives. I marched in a lot of anti-war marches while George Bush was in the White House.

This afternoon, I went over to G/Son’s house for Thanksgiving dinner (prepared by my wonderful DiL, who is, honestly, the most amazing cook EVER). When I sat down, I pulled out my knitting and G/Son said, “Nonna, are you knitting a Christmas present?” He likes to guess what I’m knitting and he knows that I usually knit something for everyone in the family for Christmas. I said, “No, I’m knitting Phygrian caps for the people who are at the Occupy D.C. protest. They’re protesting how some people are too rich and some people are too poor. Some of the protesters are out in the cold without enough warm things to wear, so I’m knitting caps for them. A Phygrian cap is a symbol of freedom, like you see on some pictures of Columbia. In Rome, a Phygrian cap was a symbol that a slave was freed.” “Oh, well, then, that’s good,” G/Son said. “I know how to spell cap: c-a-p.”

I love that kid.

He and the other men in the family are getting cowls this year. But I’ve had them finished for some time.

Picture found here.

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Update: I’ve had several requests for the knitting pattern for the Phygrian cap. I used the linked pattern (which is for a doll), doubled the number of stitches, doubled the size of the needles, and played around with the proportions. Later this week, I’ll try to write down what I did and post it. How cool would it be if the Occupiers began to wear Phygrian caps?

Standing Up for Freedom of the Press: This Is How It’s Done

Stolen from the divine Dependable Renegade.

“If Anything Is Sacred, the Human Body Is Sacred.” ~ Walt Whitman

Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.

More here.

I haven’t felt so bad about America in a long, long time.

One of the things that daily spiritual practice does for me is to help me to be aware of the difference between how I feel at any given moment and who I “really” am. Between my moods and my core. Between what’s going on and where I’m going. In Kissing the Limitless, T. Thorn Coyle urges magic workers to distinguish between how they feel and who they are. Thus, she suggests that there is an important magical distinction between saying or thinking, “I am heartbroken,” vs. “I feel heartbroken.” I think she’s right about that.

And so, while I feel heartbroken by what I see happening in America, it doesn’t deprive me of my heart and will and mind. It doesn’t strip from me the skills of a Witch: to know, to will, to dare, and to keep silent. It doesn’t change my devotion to Columbia, Goddess of America and genius loci of my city. It doesn’t weaken my commitment to the Occupy Movement. It doesn’t change my relationship with my landbase, watershed, Bit of Earth.

After throwing up, shaking, and after crying into my morning coffee, I grounded, walked in my first-time-this-year-frosted-over garden (the Wheel turns, and a Witch’s job is to turn the Wheel), fed the birds and squirrels and chipmunks, kept my daily appointments, drafted a pleading, got on the treadmill, and then began to lay out the altar for tomorrow’s ritual in support of the Occupy Movement. Tonight, I will sit down at my altar, burn herbs from my garden, and ask Hecate Triodia, who creates the conditions in which change can occur, to move within the hearts and minds and limbic systems of America’s militarized police. They, too, are children of the Goddess, walking-wounded victims of patriarchy. I will force myself to see them as fully human in the hopes that they may someday (as may we, someday, all) be.

I can do this. I can hold within me, at the same time, both this stomach-wrenching, nerve-ripping pain and horror and my love of America, freedom, kindness, power-with instead of power-over. Of course I can. It’s the work of a Witch to hold opposing forces within the sacred magical tool of her own body. And I am a Witch. I am the Witch of this place. I am a Witch of this time. I am a Witch of this crossroads in time and space and history, this crossroads where my own Patroness will provide the conditions for change.

And so are you.

Picture found here.