*Yesterday evening, I found myself across town at a meeting that was ending at the height of rush hour. Instead of sitting in a cab for 40 minutes, I met Son and DiL for dinner. Afterwards, driving home along the pearly pink Potomac just at dusk, I was talking to the River when I turned onto Spout Run and watched a doe sprint across the road, from the woods into the water in the run.
I know that gardeners are supposed to be at war with deer (and, seriously, if they ever show up and nom my day lilies and hosta, well, it’s not going to be pretty) but I ward my tiny Bit of Earth against them and, so far, it’s worked. For years and years, seeing a deer has been a sign of good luck for me, a message from the universe that I’m on the right track and just need to keep on keeping on.
I drove the rest of the way home feeling very, very blessed.
May it be so for you.
Today’s nature writers have a serious decision to make. If we still want to be thought of as anything other than incestuous literary outcasts who are the only audience for our own writing, then we better think hard about what it means that America’s premier novelist is a birder writing about overpopulation and land conservation. If we hope to end up something other than jaded academics that make a living teaching expensive nature writing classes that students love but aren’t professionally going to benefit from at all, then I say we get Franzen’s back.
Here’s why: Franzen has brought environmental issues into the limelight, and not just in the literary sense. He’s a household name. For someone writing about environmental problems, that’s an accomplishment that can’t be understated. Who else besides Al Gore can claim such name recognition? These days, not only has writing about environmental issues become marginalized and out of vogue, heck, being ecologically literate isn’t even important.
Being late on a regular basis (you know who you are) is a sign of your sense of privilege and of your clear disrespect for others. It says, as loudly as it can possibly say, “My time is more important than yours. It was more important for me to sleep in, get up and putter around, finish reading that chapter, etc. than whatever you might have done with the time that you spent standing around and waiting for me. That effort that you put into getting up early, leaving on time, being prepared? Well, that was sweet, albeit now wasted, but I’m too important for that.”
Seriously. That’s what everyone is thinking when you stroll in twenty minutes late, even if they’re too polite to say it.
And, no, that regular call that, by now, we all expect, that call that you make just as the ritual is supposed to start, saying, “OK, I’m leaving just now [from my home, 45 minutes away from the ritual,] and will be there soon,” no, that doesn’t make it OK. It makes us roll our eyes. At you.
The other week on our drive up to Longwood, Landscape Guy & I were talking about self-respect. There are two things that both of us do as a sign of respect not only to others, but, also, as a sign of self-respect. We’re both almost always on time. And we both make our beds almost every morning, even though we live alone. (Yes, sometimes — maybe once every few years — you leave early enough to arrive, based on past experience, on time at the ritual space. And there’s a bad traffic jam and you’re late. And, sometimes — maybe once every few years — I’m swamped at work, fall into bed at 2:00 am, claw my way out of bed at 6:00 am, and leave for work w/o making my bed. Note the operative words: once every few years.)
Both of those acts are ways of saying, “I am the kind of person who . . . .”
Do you operate on Pagan Standard Time? How tolerant is your circle of this practice? What do you do out of self-respect?
Performing chores and labor in a ritual context is a meditative exercise. Unlike Eastern meditation that seeks to disengage the mind, and is passive both physically and mentally, pagan meditation is active. It differs, too, from the Christian form of meditation of Western civilization. Often Christian meditation involves reading passages from sacred texts or from prepared devotional texts. One is to silently ponder the meaning of these texts, applying them to himself or herself. . . . The method used by Teresa of Avila was similar to Eastern meditation in that her “recollection” involved suppressing the intellectual mind and the senses as she focused on a prayer so that her soul might recall its spiritual origin. ”Recollection” was preparatory to other stages of quiet meditation. In both Eastern and Western (Christian) meditation a goal is to disengage the mind from the body. This is due to a perspective of the physical world being somehow evil and contradictory to the spiritual world. . . . Pagan practice instead begins with a notion of the Universe being composed of body, mind and soul, and a desire to bring these three parts into harmony. Harmony is sought within one’s own being, and also in the world around us. . . . But the starting point begins by introducing ritual into our daily activities, developing a sound mind and a sound body in harmony with our soul, which will in turn bring us into a harmonious relationship with the Gods around us in Nature. The garden quite literally feeds our body, our mind, and our soul, even as the garden acts as a euphemism for tending our relationship with the Gods in the Universe.
Vadete in pacem Deorum.
For me, it’s weeding. Odd as it sounds, I love to weed. It’s one of the most meditative tasks I know, other than kneading bread or knitting.
To work in my garden is to co-create the manifest (thank you, PaganMamma) world in partnership with the Goddess. I am never so humbled nor so honored as when I pull weeds.
*Do you have a picket pin?
*What JMG Said:
Being a Druid today means learning how to take less from nature and give more back, reshaping every detail of our daily lives in order to honor and heal the living Earth. Being a Druid means composting vegetable peelings instead of sending them to a landfill; it means walking or bicycling instead of filling the air with tailpipe fumes; it means buying groceries from local organic farmers instead of from multi-national agrabusiness. Such acts are practical necessities to everyone who recognizes the interdependence of all life. To Druids, and all others who follow nature-centered paths, these things are also acts of worship, disciplines of the spirit, offerings we make to the Goddess-Planet on Whom we live our lives.
“Reshaping every detail of our daily lives”: that’s a spiritual practice. JMG’s discussion ties in with my recent post about the importance of just being outside and observing to the process of becoming a Witch. Composting, for example, is messy business and mundane in the extreme. It’s hardly the esoteric training that anyone hoping to become a Witch or Druid might imagine. And, yet, it’s magic. It’s necessary. And it’s what Witches and Druids do.
*I’m going to get to this exhibit in the next 72 hours, or die trying, even if I have, thanks to a crush at work, to speed-walk through it. How important is art to your spiritual practice? To your practice of magic? How do you make time for it?
*Here, in the heart of deep Summer along the Potomac, the early morning hours are often the only ones when it’s really comfortable to lie between clean sheets and drift, half asleep and half awake. That makes it even more difficult to drag myself out of bed. Lately, these guys get me up and onto the treadmill. (I’m fairly certain that getting an old, American Nonna up to exercise is nowhere in these young men’s mission statement.) Who inspires you to live healthy? Whom might your inspire, all unawares?