Sunday Ballet Blogging

Fallen In Love With Solid Ground

Look! Up on the Hill! The Fires of Beltane!

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Robert Browning wrote:

HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD
Oh, to be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England—now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossom’d pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops — at the bent spray’s edge —
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower
— Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

And I can only stand in awe and say: “Oh, to be in Edinburgh, now that Beltane’s there.”

You can read about the festival here:

Our bonfire is lit every year by the May Queen, at roughly midnight, when May Day begins at the start of summer. In Celtic times, livestock was driven close to the fire to drive out disease, so it’s important that our bonfire be a source of much heat and smoke.

We make sure the space on the hill is thoroughly cleaned both before and after the festival so that we not leaving any mark on the hill itself.

Many different types of wood go into the bonfire. Sadly, we don’t have time to wait around while the fire is kindled; the bonfire uses the same sacred fire that is lit from a single spark at the start of the Beltane festivities.

So Dani of the Beltane Bees has been gathering up some old pallets, which will form the main structure of the fire. Pallets aren’t very traditional, but they’re exactly what we need: a big structure to form the fire around, full of holes for airflow so that the fire can inflame quickly and dramatically.

May it be so for you.

Picture found here.

Playing Hookey

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I was such a goody-goody in high school that I never once, not even ever, skipped a class.

No, really.

Finally, after I earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, when I was several years into studying for my juris doctor’s degree, a few friends and I took a much-planned evening off from law school and had dinner in Baltimore’s Little Italy.

I felt amazingly risque.

Since then, I’ve been mostly a nose-to-the-grindstone kind of girl, putting in thousands of extra hours at work, billing way above budget for decades, and penning briefs that win cases against interesting, if I do say so myself, odds.

But I skipped work and spent today outside in a local wood that has always shown me exceptional magic. The sun shone on the trees and there was an amazing green mist, made of sunlight and sprouting leaves, pulsing through the brown branches and trunks.

I remembered who I am and why I am here.

That old Wendell Berry. He was on to something.

Tomorrow, I’ll go back to my regular life and I’ll write, as I am privileged to do, prose for pay. And I’ll carry a bit of that green cathedral with me.

As for me, Beltane came this morning when I spent time with that green mist, with those brown trunks and branches, with a hidden plot of hyacinth giving up its scent to the late morning sun.

May it be so for you.

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

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

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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.