American’s Biggest Shadow


Over at Pagan Square, you can read my post on Mr. Cliven Bundy’s racist remarks.

Picture found here.

Getting Ready for Beltane Poetry Blogging

Alumni Reunion Weekend - May Day

May Day

~ Phillis Levin

I’ve decided to waste my life again,
Like I used to: get drunk on
The light in the leaves, find a wall
Against which something can happen,

Whatever may have happened
Long ago—let a bullet hole echoing
The will of an executioner, a crevice
In which a love note was hidden,

Be a cell where a struggling tendril
Utters a few spare syllables at dawn.
I’ve decided to waste my life
In a new way, to forget whoever

Touched a hair on my head, because
It doesn’t matter what came to pass,
Only that it passed, because we repeat
Ourselves, we repeat ourselves.

I’ve decided to walk a long way
Out of the way, to allow something
Dreaded to waken for no good reason,
Let it go without saying,

Let it go as it will to the place
It will go without saying: a wall
Against which a body was pressed
For no good reason, other than this.

Picture found here.

Earth Day


So, today is Earth Day. (And so this is Christmas, and what have you done . . . . Come on, you know you thought it.)

In too many unfortunate ways, Earth Day has become like Arbor Day or Emancipation Day: one of those silly old holidays that no one really celebrates, but that is good for elementary school teachers and feature writers on the local newspaper. Me, I’d like to add it as the Ninth Sabbat to the Wheel of the Year and hope that in a few centuries some Witch/historian will wonder why we ever saw the need for a separate Sabbat to honor the Earth when that’s what the other eight are for.

Most modern Pagans live in urban areas: cities and the areas that immediately surround them. While we may dream about a self-sustaining communal farm out in the country or a tiny cottage at the edge of the woods, most of us live in apartments, condos, townhouses, duplexes, small homes just outside a major urban area. We take the bus, ride the subway, drive through congestion into work. We vote in town elections, pay the county to pick up our recycling and trash, and buy only some of our food at a local farmers’ market.

But that doesn’t mean that we live divorced from Mamma Gaia. Even in the city, there are parks, sidewalk trees, hellstrips that have their own Priesthood and Preistessthood of devotees, and community gardens. There are balcony container gardens and townhouse rain barrels. There is urban wildlife: squirrels, pigeons, chipmunks, foxes, deer, and snowy owls.

Richard Louv writes movingly about the need for children to have opportunities to interact with nature. If our young people spend all of their time playing video games and none of their time climbing rocks in the culvert at the edge of town, how can we expect them to care about environmental destruction?

I’m not advocating a return to some golden day of yore. Goddess knows, G/Son can operate my laptop and iPad better than I can, but I do drag him outside (as do his ‘rents) every chance that I get. I help him to greet the Potomac River every time we see her and I show him how to plant seeds, esp. the all-important (in his world) pesto plants that make the “green noodles” that he loves. If you want the next generation to care for Mamma Gaia, what are you doing on a regular basis to introduce them to her?

Literata has a lovely post about romancing your landbase. She says that, “Landbase” is a word I use to describe the convocation of all the beings who participate in my physical environment, especially my local environment. It could be called my local ecology, my watershed, my bioregion, except that I am also including and invoking the spirits of place, the spirits of the land and water, plants and animals. All of these together, the physical and immanent, make up my landbase.” Here’s some of her very good advice:

This ability to maintain relationship is one good reason to work with one’s landbase close to home. It is not as effective to find a gorgeous national park within your bioregion and visit it once a year to acknowledge the grandeur of “pristine” nature as it is to greet the tree outside your window in all seasons. It is incredibly difficult to maintain a long-distance relationship; thankfully, “nature,” in the landbase, is all around us (and within us), so that kind of effort is not necessary. Don’t spend time introducing yourself to a place you’ll only visit once a year; say hello to the plants you pass every day.

If you’re just beginning to consider how to come into right relationship with your landbase, you could do a whole lot worse than to begin to read Wendell Berry. Berry discusses, from a particularly American (and isn’t that our landbase, American readers? Apologies to readers from other landbases, but I bet you’ll like Berry, as well) ground. I’d start with his poetry, but if poetry isn’t your thing, you could start with his novels about Port William, a country of his own imagination.

Go out into the hellstrip outside your condo, spend time noting the plants, insects, rocks, beings, and powers that live there. Come back the next day with coffee grounds from your local Starbucks that you can dig into the hard ground. Come back two days later and water everything. When you do your daily practice every morning, call to the powers, and the spirits, and the beings that live on the hellstrip. The next day, go out with an old spoon and loosen the dirt around some of the native plants.

There. Now you can say that you honor Earth Day in your heart and try to keep it all the year.

As any Pagan should.

Picture found here.

Leap and the Net Will Appear


I don’t talk a lot about my job on this blog.

I can’t, although it’s not as if right livelihood isn’t a huge part of being a Witch.

But, a lot of what I do for my clients is confidential and, even once it’s public (as in: has been filed in court or has won a case), I still can’t identify myself with it because being represented by a Witch may not be helpful to my clients and I have a solemn duty to vigorously advocate for their interests.

But, in essence, what I do is write legal argument for a living. I produce persuasive prose, as I sometimes say, for pay, and it’s honorable work, work that helps to ensure that justice may be done, and work that I feel privileged to get paid to do.

There are two kinds of legal argument. The first involves laying out my arguments for why I’m right and why the judge should interpret the evidence and the law the way that I want hir to, in order to rule for my clients. The second involves answering the arguments of other lawyers to the judge, or of the judge to the next highest tribunal.

I’d almost always rather do the first. I can take the evidence and the law and arrange them in a logical progression in order to show why I’m right, why my clients should win. I’m in control and the “only” fee that that mystical entity known as “The Law” requires is that I delve as deeply as possible into the statute, the legislative history, the cases, and the evidence. It can be excruciating, but it’s also, in my own experience, almost always mystical and wonderful. There’s always a point at which it feels like dancing with something wonderful, and lovely, and right.

Answering someone else’s arguments can be fun, but it’s almost always, in my experience, more difficult. That’s because most other people don’t delve, as far as needed, into the statute, the cases, the rationale behind the law. (Or, if they have, they’ve found that their case is just wrong. That’s when, again, in my experience, an ethical lawyer suggests settlement. If you think a tribunal is difficult to convince, try convincing your own client that s/he may not have the case s/he imagined. But I’ve done it; oh, Goddess, have I done it.) And trying to answer an argument that’s less than logical is hard; it’s, in W’s words, hard work. It’s more difficult than it is to answer an argument that simply misapprehends the evidence or that understandably failed to catch a subsequent development in the law.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that, lately, I’ve had bad writer’s block because I’ve been trying to answer a sketchy and less-than-well-developed argument. Finally, in the last few days, I just punched through the writer’s block and started an almost stream-of-consciousness writing marathon. I ranted. I copied pages of earlier argument based on case law. I wrote in circles trying to explain why an illogical argument was illogical.

But, by this afternoon, I had written myself into enough dead-ends and enough spirals to have a large hill of debris. And I’ve learned to trust myself and to trust the writing process enough to know that I’ll be able to climb atop that hill of debris and have the long view into another country: that country where there IS, in fact, a logical way to write this argument. And then, once I had that view from the heights, it took me only an hour or so to create a new outline and to show the evening secretary how to take a bit from here and a piece from there and to shove them into the new outline in order to create, well, actual persuasive prose.

It takes practice and experience to learn to trust the writing process and your own ability to do law. It takes having thrown yourself off the cliff and learned, in Christine Kane’s words, to leap and to trust that the net will appear.

And, even now, I sometimes wonder — as I did this past week when I just couldn’t face the work and had to play hookey, when I journeyed night after night through nightmares about not being able to clean up a mess, about not being able to find my way out of a giant hotel, about being unable to get a class of misfits to settle down, when I played multiple rounds of Mah Jong — if I’ll pull it off. But I’m old, I’ve been doing this for decades, The Law and I are old, if embittered, lovers, and while there may come a day when the courage of men fails, it is not this day, at least it never has been, so far, for me.

May it be so for you.

Picture found here.

Sunday Ballet Blogging

Fallen In Love With Solid Ground

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


Robert Browning wrote:

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.