November PotPourri

*Yesterday was a perfect Potomac watershed Autumn day. I left work early to meet up with Landscape Guy & head out to a local park where, he said, there was something that I had to see.

And, there was.

Down a steep, stoney path that I’d never have ventured on my own (but that I managed quite well, even in heels, on Landscape Guy’s arm) were some Celtic-knot tree roots beside a creek. The sight of them will sustain me and figure in my grounding visualizations for a long time. The late-Autumn-Maxfield-Parrish sunlight that we get this time of year was illuminating the at-their-peak crimson, orange, gold, and purple leaves. Landscape Guy noted that the trees that, in Summer, all blend together in a backdrop of green, stand out from each other and shine as individuals, come Autumn.

I’d never thought of it that way, but he’s right. One of his gifts is his ability to observe. When he walks my yard in early spring, he always sees things popping out of the ground that I’ve not yet noticed.

We walked back through the woods, noting a stand of hollies (that would be a perfect site for a Druid Yule ritual), some Mexican sage that I want to grow, and the giant full Moon, attended by Jupiter.

Today, of course, the weather changed. The morning was misty and, by afternoon, rain and wind moved in, blowing the colored leaves all over. It was cold, raw, damp. In the now-early dark, I slipped into my little cottage and made Hobbit food: Potatoes, mushrooms, and onions w/ a glass of good Burgundy. (In mere days, le Boujoulais Noveau will be arrivé!) This is my favorite time of year, although it’s also when I begin to “move back inside,” after living most of the time, from April through October, out on my porch.

Moon in Taurus, this snug little cottage is so dear to me. I have extra blankets on the bed, a fire in the fireplace, tea cozies on the teapot, candles in the window. I pull extra blinds and curtains against the windows and wrap shawls around my shoulders. Come Eostara, I’ll shed them as a snake sheds her skin.

*Some days at my job, I’m everyone’s big sister. It’s both a privilege and a PITA. The one good thing is that, with age, I’ve come to anticipate it and to recognize it when it happens. I keep a box of tissues on my desk. I ground as people needing “it” walk through my door, buzz me on the phone, “accidentally” run into me on the elevator. I smudge myself when I get home. I take a bath with rosemary, lavender, some smooth green stones. And then I go back the next day and try to do something technical, wreaking a bit of good rhetoric upon the world. My porous Pisces boundaries need mending. And, so, I spent all day today editing motions. It helps. I’m lucky to get to do work that I love with people that I (mostly!) like.

*Spent Sunday with my newest magical Sister. She’s cool, experienced, honest. I made a big pot of this chili (recipe from Washington’s Green Grocer) and froze what we didn’t eat. It will make a good dinner some cold night.

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup red onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 red, yellow or green bell peppers, minced
1/2 cup cilantro, minced
1 jalapeno or serrano. minced (I like it spicy but adjust heat to your liking)
about 2 cups chopped chard leaves (more or less as you like)
2 (14.5oz) cans black beans, drained
1 (14.5oz) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, with juice
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 big tablespoon cumin
just a little salt

Toss it all in the crock pot, set on low and let the magic happen! If you’re doing it stove top, you can bring it to a fast simmer and when the sweet potatoes are done, it’s ready. I would wait to add the cilantro until the last few minutes and you may need a little more liquid as it will cook off faster then it would in the crock pot.

Next time, I’ll at least double the Swiss chard and the jalapeno.

What do you cook when you get together with magical friends?

*Christine Kane‘s latest email invokes us “to being present and fully alive even in your challenges and [your] questions.” That was exactly what I needed to read today.

*Check out these amazing posters from the Paris protests of 1968. When I win the lottery, I’m going to build a museum of political posters and a garden of Goddess statues. What art will Occupy produce? A friend’s husband once suggested a Tarot deck of Soviet-style posters and I will totally buy that deck when it comes out. What Soviet poster would be the Six of Swords? The Wheel? The Page of Cups? Here’s one of my favorites. Queen of Swords? The Empress? Three of Cups? What poster makes your favorite Tarot card? What about Sixties concert posters? The Chariot? The Nine of Cups? Strength?

I’m sure someone’s already done it with Art Nouveau posters. Queen of Cups? Knight of Pentacles? The High Priestess?

*I haven’t always appreciated Matt Taibbi, but, lately, he seems to have grown up and to be doing good work. Today, he gets it, I think, just right about the Occupy movement. (You should go read the whole thing, even though, of course, fuck Rolling Stone, which has been a bastion of sexism since, like, forever.)

[The Occupy movement] is a visceral, impassioned, deep-seated rejection of the entire direction of our society, a refusal to take even one more step forward into the shallow commercial abyss of phoniness, short-term calculation, withered idealism and intellectual bankruptcy that American mass society has become. If there is such a thing as going on strike from one’s own culture, this is it. And by being so broad in scope and so elemental in its motivation, it’s flown over the heads of many on both the right and the left.
. . .

What both sides missed is that OWS is tired of all of this. They don’t care what we think they’re about, or should be about. They just want something different.

We’re all born wanting the freedom to imagine a better and more beautiful future. But modern America has become a place so drearily confining and predictable that it chokes the life out of that built-in desire. Everything from our pop culture to our economy to our politics feels oppressive and unresponsive. We see 10 million commercials a day, and every day is the same life-killing chase for money, money and more money; the only thing that changes from minute to minute is that every tick of the clock brings with it another space-age vendor dreaming up some new way to try to sell you something or reach into your pocket. The relentless sameness of the two-party political system is beginning to feel like a Jacob’s Ladder nightmare with no end; we’re entering another turn on the four-year merry-go-round, and the thought of having to try to get excited about yet another minor quadrennial shift in the direction of one or the other pole of alienating corporate full-of-shitness is enough to make anyone want to smash his own hand flat with a hammer.

If you think of it this way, Occupy Wall Street takes on another meaning. There’s no better symbol of the gloom and psychological repression of modern America than the banking system, a huge heartless machine that attaches itself to you at an early age, and from which there is no escape. You fail to receive a few past-due notices about a $19 payment you missed on that TV you bought at Circuit City, and next thing you know a collector has filed a judgment against you for $3,000 in fees and interest. Or maybe you wake up one morning and your car is gone, legally repossessed by Vulture Inc., the debt-buying firm that bought your loan on the Internet from Chase for two cents on the dollar. This is why people hate Wall Street. They hate it because the banks have made life for ordinary people a vicious tightrope act; you slip anywhere along the way, it’s 10,000 feet down into a vat of razor blades that you can never climb out of.

That, to me, is what Occupy Wall Street is addressing. People don’t know exactly what they want, but as one friend of mine put it, they know one thing: FUCK THIS SHIT! We want something different: a different life, with different values, or at least a chance at different values.

There was a lot of snickering in media circles, even by me, when I heard the protesters talking about how Liberty Square was offering a model for a new society, with free food and health care and so on. Obviously, a bunch of kids taking donations and giving away free food is not a long-term model for a new economic system.

But now, I get it. People want to go someplace for at least five minutes where no one is trying to bleed you or sell you something. It may not be a real model for anything, but it’s at least a place where people are free to dream of some other way for human beings to get along, beyond auctioned “democracy,” tyrannical commerce and the bottom line.

We’re a nation that was built on a thousand different utopian ideas, from the Shakers to the Mormons to New Harmony, Indiana. It was possible, once, for communities to experiment with everything from free love to an end to private property. But nowadays even the palest federalism is swiftly crushed. If your state tries to place tariffs on companies doing business with some notorious human-rights-violator state – like Massachusetts did, when it sought to bar state contracts to firms doing business with Myanmar – the decision will be overturned by some distant global bureaucracy like the WTO. Even if 40 million Californians vote tomorrow to allow themselves to smoke a joint, the federal government will never permit it. And the economy is run almost entirely by an unaccountable oligarchy in Lower Manhattan that absolutely will not sanction any innovations in banking or debt forgiveness or anything else that might lessen its predatory influence.

And here’s one more thing I was wrong about: I originally was very uncomfortable with the way the protesters were focusing on the NYPD as symbols of the system. After all, I thought, these are just working-class guys from the Bronx and Staten Island who have never seen the inside of a Wall Street investment firm, much less had anything to do with the corruption of our financial system.

But I was wrong. The police in their own way are symbols of the problem. All over the country, thousands of armed cops have been deployed to stand around and surveil and even assault the polite crowds of Occupy protesters. This deployment of law-enforcement resources already dwarfs the amount of money and manpower that the government “committed” to fighting crime and corruption during the financial crisis. One OWS protester steps in the wrong place, and she immediately has police roping her off like wayward cattle. But in the skyscrapers above the protests, anything goes.

This is a profound statement about who law enforcement works for in this country. What happened on Wall Street over the past decade was an unparalleled crime wave. Yet at most, maybe 1,500 federal agents were policing that beat – and that little group of financial cops barely made any cases at all. Yet when thousands of ordinary people hit the streets with the express purpose of obeying the law and demonstrating their patriotism through peaceful protest, the police response is immediate and massive. There have already been hundreds of arrests, which is hundreds more than we ever saw during the years when Wall Street bankers were stealing billions of dollars from retirees and mutual-fund holders and carpenters unions through the mass sales of fraudulent mortgage-backed securities.

It’s not that the cops outside the protests are doing wrong, per se, by patrolling the parks and sidewalks. It’s that they should be somewhere else. They should be heading up into those skyscrapers and going through the file cabinets to figure out who stole what, and from whom. They should be helping people get their money back. Instead, they’re out on the street, helping the Blankfeins of the world avoid having to answer to the people they ripped off.

People want out of this fiendish system, rigged to inexorably circumvent every hope we have for a more balanced world. They want major changes. I think I understand now that this is what the Occupy movement is all about. It’s about dropping out, if only for a moment, and trying something new, the same way that the civil rights movement of the 1960s strived to create a “beloved community” free of racial segregation. Eventually the Occupy movement will need to be specific about how it wants to change the world. But for right now, it just needs to grow. And if it wants to sleep on the streets for a while and not structure itself into a traditional campaign of grassroots organizing, it should. It doesn’t need to tell the world what it wants. It is succeeding, for now, just by being something different.

I’m sitting every day on conference calls, knitting caps to keep the Occupiers warm this winter. What are you doing?

*G/Son lost his first baby tooth this week. He’s lately developed an aversion to having his picture taken, but he was happy to have Son take a picture of his gap-toothed smile to send to the grandparents. I admit that it made me cry. He’s growing up so fast and I, well, I am a sentimental old woman who remembers what a cute little baby he was, this now-big boy who reads everything, and prints pictures from my computer, and finds on my iPhone the YouTubes that he wants to watch. This weekend, we are going to visit some nature centers and check on some snakes who were, two weeks ago, about to shed their skins. If we have time, we may run down to the national Mall and see the Capitol or a museum. Or maybe we’ll bake cookies and make some art with stickers and ink stamps. We’ll likely read about the Last Wild Witch and/or King Arthur and/or Redwall. And we’ll talk. Maybe over popcorn, or maybe over apple cider, or maybe over the candied spiced nuts that we stock up on every year at the ren faire, or maybe while he takes a warm bath with his plastic dinosaur toys. But the important thing is that we’ll talk, this child and I who are separated by half a century. We’ll talk, and he’ll teach me about what it’s like to be a five-year-old in the early days of the 21st Century, jazzed by more technology that anyone can comprehend, and I’ll teach him about knowing the Earth, as an old gardener and his link to the past, and we’ll both learn a lot.

May it be so for you.

Picture found here.

4 responses to “November PotPourri

  1. Ah, you Mexican sage is what I know here as Salvia leucantha — there is no end to the magic of salvias!

  2. I so love reading your posts. They are heartfelt by me and bring me to tears-in-my-eyes reflections and remembrances.

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


  3. Another simply magical posting! Thanks for including the words from Taibbi — so true and especially upsetting when read aloud over morning tea and toast. Just to step outside this morning is such a treat — a fresh, cool, bright day here — very very True Fall! Made chilli here — but added cinammon and crushed cloves and a half-glass of good stout to the mix! Brought out the old area rugs, switched around accessories and made out one-and-only living room cozy and warm and welcoming. Must buy more cider today! Blessings on Your Hearth and on your dear sweet GS … and thanks for the reminder that I must make more spicy-and-sweet nuts — maybe cashews this time!

  4. I just want you to know you are appreciated. Your posts, especially ones like this are deeply felt and illustrate a life well-lived. This posts are inspiring in that they show that the simple things, which must be strived for, are the true treasures. You make me long for my future grandchildren, a closer relationship with nature that illness has prevented, and more participation in the important things that get swept away sometimes just trying to survive. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

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