Almost Beltane PotPourri

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  •  “Mistress Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?”  Those are the words of an old nursery rhyme and, in The Secret Garden, when British children in India wanted to tease the heroine, Mary Lennox, they called her “Mistress Mary, Quite Contrary.”  And Mary was an unloved and, therefore, unpleasant little girl.  But, as she actually became a gardener, she also became far less contrary.  Some mornings, when I wake up and Trump is still sitting in the White House and it’s still Mercury Retrograde, I feel pretty contrary myself.  But time in my garden never fails to make me feel better.  Because we had such a warm February, my garlic is way ahead of where it normally would be this time of year.  Some of the allium are budding and whenever I walk past the front bed, I’m overwhelmed by the scent of lily of the valley.  My white camellias & white azaleas are in bloom.  How does your garden grow?
  • Asia has violets in bloom and a wonderful discussion of the spiritual and physical medicine inherent in these tiny plants.

I started those first lonely weeks without a single piece of furniture or any connections in town. It was exhilarating and terrifying, and some days I wondered how I would handle the bigness of it all.

I was still sleeping on a pallet on the floor of my room when the violets arrived. It started with a few small handfuls of violets, scattered here and there, like tiny daubs of lavender amongst the winter-flattened grass. And then one morning I awoke and the entire hillside was alive with grape and hyacinth. Stretching for almost an acre, I was living amongst a sea of Viola. It was spectacular, and often stirred me to tears. When I looked at them I had the distinct feeling that I too was being seen. 

Violets grow here in Virginia like weeds and I try to keep them to a small patch by the shed.  When I was a girl, we had a huge patch out in front and I used to make nosegays of them by the basketful.

I have to find a new magic because it is telling me to find it, because I hear the thunder of running feet through streets and the crash of falling stone and broken glass and it waits behind all that, or just before.

It is easy to ignore, isn’t it, here where rivers carry away the dreams of sleepers down to the sea which drowned Ys, when the great floodgates broke because she no longer cared to keep their world together, no longer cared for their dreams that kept the world together.

  • Terri Windling is talking about kindness, and a way of doing science that revolves around meditative walks and knowing the plants.  She’s talking about how we can be both scientific and, at the same time, have the mystical experience that Mary Oliver describes when she writes:  “for a pure white moment/while gravity/sprinkled upward/like rain, rising,/and in fact/it became difficult to tell just what it was that was singing.”
  • Check out the pictures of bluebells.
  • We all love Bill Moyers, right?  I do.  I’ve followed him for years because he does the kind of in-depth reporting so few people bother to do, because he interviews important thinkers such as Joseph Campbell and Wendell Berry, because he asks deep questions and is willing to step back and let his guests think through an answer instead of immediately re-centering himself.  And, of course, I follow him on Twitter.  Mr. Moyers’ practice on Twitter is to link to half a dozen or so articles a day.  They’re almost always good articles by smart people, writing about something that not every other Tweet is already covering.  And, as I came to realize over time, the people who write those articles are exclusively male.  Once I started paying attention, I saw that several days could go by without even a single citation to a woman writer.  It’s not that women don’t write about the topics that Mr. Moyers tends to cover:  the environment, politics, economics, etc.  Women write, prolifically and publicly, about all of those topics and more, but Mr. Moyers seldom cites them, features their articles, suggests to his audience that there are women with something important to say.  To be clear, I don’t believe that this is intentional.  In fact, I believe that it’s completely unintentional.  So I started simply responding to the Tweets with “Another man!” or “Why does @BillMoyers only cite men?”  or “Did any women have anything to say about this?” or “Ignoring women effectively silences women.”  Mr. Moyers never responded and weeks and weeks went by with me, whenever I could, noting how seldom he cited women and him ignoring me.  In the last week or so, I think I’ve noted an uptick in citations to women.  I’m going to keep just pointing out how often men are cited vs. women.  Could you pick a blogger or Tweeter and do the same?  Awareness is the first prerequisite for change.
  • A day is coming when water is going to be the focus or more and more of our attention.
  • Next year, in Edinburgh, next year in the Holy Land.
  • My escape reading for the last few days has been Virgin Earth by Philippa Gregory.  She, maybe as much as Mary Lennox, understands how gardening can make us less contrary:  “Joseph and Johnnie filled the sacks with the Flame tulip bulbs.  . . .   Whether the price for tulips ever recovered or stayed as low as it had been thrust by the collapse of the market, still there was something rich and exciting  about the wealth which made itself in silence and secrecy under the soil.”  I’ve never been able to grow tulips here because the squirrels dig up and eat the bulbs as quickly as I can plant them.  This year, I grew them in pots on the screen porch and FINALLY have tulips.  May it be so for you.

 

Picture found here.

 

 

 

 

Words for Wednesday

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Such Singing in the Wild Branches

~ Mary Oliver

It was spring
and I finally heard him
among the first leaves––
then I saw him clutching the limb

in an island of shade
with his red-brown feathers
all trim and neat for the new year.
First, I stood still

and thought of nothing.
Then I began to listen.
Then I was filled with gladness––
and that’s when it happened,

when I seemed to float,
to be, myself, a wing or a tree––
and I began to understand
what the bird was saying,

and the sands in the glass
stopped
for a pure white moment
while gravity sprinkled upward

like rain, rising,
and in fact
it became difficult to tell just what it was that was singing––
it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed

not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers,
and also the trees around them,
as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds
in the perfect blue sky–––all of them

were singing.
And, of course, so it seemed,
so was I.
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn’t last

For more than a few moments.
It’s one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,

is that, once you’ve been there,
you’re there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?

Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then––open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

 

Picture found here.

This Is Not Normal; None of This Is Normal. Except for the Part that Is.

It’s what we say, isn’t it?  When Trump does some insane, gross, shabby, cruel, unheard of thing — which happens pretty much several times a day, everyday — we remind ourselves that “this” isn’t normal.  It’s a way of resisting what he’s doing, of refusing to “normalize” him; his greedy, grubby family; his anti-American administration; his regular violations of the Constitution.  “This is not normal; none of this is normal,” we say to each other, tweet, post on Facebook.

Except that, part of it is.  Part of it is entrenched so deeply in Patriarchy that we almost don’t notice it, kind of the way that fish don’t notice water.  What part is that?  Let me give you a list of names and see if you can identify what they have in common.

  1. Ralph Kramden from The Honeymooners
  2. Fred Flintstone from The Flintstones
  3. Archie Bunker from All in the Family
  4. King Triton from The Little Mermaid
  5. Big Daddy from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  6. King Lear
  7. Your Uncle Who Ruins Every Thanksgiving Dinner
  8. That Boss You Had

Some of you may be too young to have watched The Honeymooners, but here’s Wikipedia’s description of Ralph Kramden:  “Ralph is frustrated by his lack of success, and often develops get-rich-quick schemes. Ralph is very short tempered, frequently resorting to bellowing, insults and hollow threats.”  Ralph is obviously less intelligent than his wife, Alice, who regularly has to deal with the results of Ralph’s crazy schemes.  In almost every show, Ralph waves his balled-up fist at Alice, and yells, “To the Moon, Alice, to the Moon!”  Canned laughter always follows this threat of wife-beating.  Yet, Wikipedia assures us, as the show’s writers carefully did, that “Well-hidden beneath the many layers of bluster, however, is a soft-hearted man who loves his wife and is devoted to his best pal, Ed Norton.”  Ralph was an insecure bully and a buffoon, but, because he was a man, those traits were completely forgivable.  The audience had to accept him as soft-hearted guy who really loved his wife and friend.

Fred Flintstone?  A stone-age version of Ralph, with just a little bit less spousal abuse thrown in for comedy.  But lovable.  Archie Bunker?  Ralph with more emphasis on ignorant prejudices and a penchant for verbally abusing his wife, rather than threatening to hit her so hard she’d land on the Moon.  But lovable.  King Triton?  Ralph without a wife but a terrible tyrant with cruel rules.  But lovable.  Big Daddy?  Ralph in the South with an Archie-like penchant for verbally abusing his wife and children.  But lovable.  King Lear?  A regal Ralph, a fool who misjudged people and caused all sorts of death and chaos.  But lovable.  Your uncle and your boss?  Well, you fill in the blanks.

In fact, from cartoons, to tv shows, to Shakespeare, the idea of an ignorant buffoon to whom everyone must kowtow and whose messes others are regularly required to clean up — generally without letting said buffoon know that they’re doing so — is a staple of our culture.   And we’re taught to love that buffoon and accept that, despite the buffoon’s behavior, the buffoon really has a soft heart and is, deep down, a good person.  Well, as long as the buffoon is a man.  No woman who behaved the way Ralph et al. behave would ever be seen as soft hearted, lovable, good.

So it’s not completely accurate for us to say that Trump — a blustering buffoon; a venal man, full of prejudices; a shyster in love with get-rich quick schemes that leave those foolish enough to trust him bankrupt and broken; a man who mistreats women; a boss who regularly messes up and needs his underlings to clean-up behind him — is not normal.  He may be an extreme example of the trope, but we’ve been taught from childhood to accept men like him, to work around them, to look for the good in them, to keep believing that they’ll be better next time.  And you can see this socialization in Trump’s supporters:  the guys who say, “Aw, I know he talks a lot of shit, but I think he’ll help out coal miners,” or the women who say, “I didn’t think he’d deport my husband or take away my health care.”  We can’t imagine how they can accept him, but their culture has taught them to accept men like him and to believe that, deep down, they’re really well-meaning.

All of which, in my opinion, makes it even more important for us to keep pointing out what Trump is doing and to insist that “This isn’t normal.”  And we need to do the same when we read our children stories about kings who won’t let their daughters sing or talk to humans, when we see a play about a Southern patriarch who blusters and mistreats his family, when our uncle ruins Thanksgiving dinner.

Hat tip to Propane Jane @docrocktex26 for first pointing out the relationship between Trump and how our culture normalizes male pathology.

Monday at the Movies

Sunday Ballet Blogging

The Magical Battle for America 4/14/17

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Thank you, again, to those who’ve been willing to do this magical work.  Some of you have been doing it from the beginning and some are just now joining, but I think that what many of us are finding out is that this is not easy work.  There are forces that push back, often quite insidiously, whispering that you’re too busy, today’s too nice a day, who knows if this will work, maybe you should just sleep in, jog, clean house.  Maybe you should just give up, give in, surrender to the new normal.  So if you’ve so far managed the simple task of continuing to bring yourself to this work:  Thank You.

We’re basing our work on the work that Dion Fortune and her society did during World War II to protect the Isle of England.  One big difference, though, is that Fortune and her group could concentrate mostly on attacks from outside, while America, today, is under attack from Putin, without, and his puppets, Trump et al., within.  We’re fighting a war on dual fronts.  And, as I’ve noted before, Fortune had well-established archetypal icons upon which she could call, while we Americans are still kind of working on the fly.  We’re young.  Our archetypical protectors either come from oversees (we are a nation of immigrants and there is nothing wrong with calling the fey folk who came over from the old country with your mormor, or farmor, or bubbie, or nonna, or grandpap) and/or are young and often compromised.  See, e.g., swamp foxes, or cowboys who fought Native Americans, or Founding Fathers who kept slaves, or railway builders who despoiled the land and killed the bison.

Nonetheless, we’re willing to do the work needed to protect America.  To date, we’ve brought in elemental forces: rain, wind, sunlight.

Now, we’re going to work with with a quintesentially American element:  wildfire.  There is evidence that America’s forests, especially in the West, evolved as a result of, and in order to work with, and in dependence upon, wildfires.  There’s little to no evidence that wildfires are similarly integrated into the life of plants and/or animals on any other continent, so this may well be one uniquely American elemental force.  A wildfire is, by definition, uncontrollable.  It cleans out indiscriminately; whatever is in its path must renew.  One of America’s basic, most well-known stories, Bambi, tells the tale of surviving a wildfire.  Let’s use this native, American element to protect our landbase.

*************

Breathe.

Ground and center.  Cast a circle.

Anchor yourself firmly to your landbase.  Notice a small detail that will call you back when this working is finished.

Breathe.

As you move astrally to our American plain on the astral plane, you can see again the safe hillock where you do your work.  You can see the five giant banners, shining in the sky:  Walden Pond, the Underground Railroad, the Cowboy, the Salmon, and Lady Liberty.  Do they seem more defined since we began our work?  Do they have anything special to tell you this week?

You find your place and sit comfortably, grounded and connected to the plain.  Focus on your own breath.  Breathe in the fresh prairie air and breathe out any fears, distractions, concerns.  Each new breath that you take makes you feel lighter, stronger, more energetic.  Each old breath that you release leaves you feeling calmer, more in control, more focused.

Look to the West.  You see Salmon in the Northwest and Cowboy in the Southwest.  In between them, you see brilliant fire racing Eastward.  Maybe a lightening strike started this fire.  Maybe the heat of the sun, shining on dry tinder, started it, but whatever started it, this American force rushes across the continent.  It brings down all that is old, dried up, ready to go.  It especially burns down lies.  This fire will not allow falsehoods to stand.  When Trump’s family members lie about their contacts with Russia, Wildfire will burn away their excuses.  When Trump tries to hide the truth about those to whom he owes money, Wildfire will burn away the lies.  Wildfire will burn right through all of the walls and obstructions protecting Trump’s tax returns from America.

You sit safely upon your hillock and watch Wildfire.  You can stand and direct the cleansing power of Wildfire where it most needs to go.  Rise up.  Ground.  Lift your dominant hand and direct Wildfire where it will do the most good.  There are sources that need to be “burned.”  There are people born here who have worked with Russian sources to harm America.  See Wildfire burning away their protective coverings.  One characteristic of Wildfire is that it leaps from tree, to tree, to tree.  See our magical Wildfire leaping from compromised source, to compromised source, to the ultimate source.  See seeds, that need the heat of a Wildfire to open, bursting open.  See the life of our democracy renewing itself in the light and heat of Wildfire.  Whenever lies grow thick upon the mountains, whenever liars build forts from dried logs, whenever the truth is buried beneath an undergrowth of shadows, American Wildfire will burn away what is unnecessary.  You are an American Witch and you can direct the cleansing force of Wildfire.  Wildfire, itself, becomes an American force of magical protection.  You give strength to this elemental force.

Breathe.

Return to your own body, your own landbase.  Open your eyes.  Rub your face, move your arms and legs.  Notice the detail you  selected to call you back from the astral.  Drink some water.  If you like, have something to eat, maybe strawberries and mint or broth made from nettles and ramps.

During the course of this week, you may want to visit the bannered prairie several times in order to strengthen its presence on the astral.  You may want to repeat this working several times.  You may want to journal about it.  Are you inspired to make any art?  Can you sit beside a warm fire, or light incense, or stare into a candle?   What actions are you inspired to take for the Resistance?  If you’re willing, please share in comments what happened and how this working went.

Picture found here.

 

 

You Need Closure

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My spouse is not a hot head. He doesn’t get angry or yell or rage or raise his voice. He’s a kind, gentle soul, normally.

These are not normal times.

We were both raised evangelical. In high school, he had seriously considered being a minister. By the time we met, however, at a religious college, we were both well on our way out of the church.

My path took me to a “gap year” type situation where I was working retail and customer service type jobs before starting grad school, which meant that for the first time in 17 years, I had a whole year when I could read anything at all I wanted. I proceeded to work my way through the local library’s entire catalogue of second-wave feminist classics. While reading Robin Morgan, I got introduced to the concept of W.I.T.C.H., and then through the local UU church, to Cakes for the Queen of Heaven and Rise Up and Call Her Name.

I knew almost immediately that I’d found my place and my people. I also knew that I had a lot of psychic baggage hanging on from 22+ years in a misogynist world founded on a patriarchal religion and run by woman-hating men. And I knew I needed to deal with it, or it would eat me alive.

The very first ritual I ever created was for myself only, making peace with and releasing my religious past. I created an elaborate trail of my entire religious journey, from memorizing my first bible verses at age two through getting “saved” (or “born again” if you prefer) at age five. I wrote about Sunday school and church camps and revivals and altar calls and Awana and youth group and Vacation Bible School and singing in the choir and 13 years of fundamentalist christian grade school and many years of Marches for Life and summer missions projects. I remembered my awakening to the fact that there was a better than average chance this was all bullshit around the age of 12 and the fact that my mother tried to support me, as much as the constraints of her world view would allow. I honored the resulting years of questioning and then hitting college and learning to think critically and acquiring better intellectual tools. I went all the way up to the present, having found the Goddess, where She was waiting for me all the time. I named names. I laughed and cried and raged and screamed and argued. I felt nostalgia and sadness and loss and love and regret and relief that I made it through relatively unscathed. And I forgave. I forgave my deeply misguided but well-meaning parents. I forgave my teachers and coaches and youth ministers and pastors, despite the fact that they had not asked for it, did not want it, and would never understand why they needed it. I forgave my equally deluded childhood friends. And I burned it all, and dumped the ashes in the creek that ran along the edge of the property, and set my face, my heart, my mind, and my spirit towards the future.

Which brings us back to my spouse.

I’ve been saddened and disappointed by evangelicals since the election. My relationship with my evangelical family is on life support, and the prognosis is not great. But I’m neither angry nor surprised.

As Maya Angelou (may her memory be a blessing) wrote: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

My spouse made an intellectual break with evangelicals due to their rampant hypocrisy long before I met him (although you’ll never convince my mother-in-law that his leaving the path to the ministry is not directly and solely my Jezebel ass’s fault). But I don’t know that he’d ever made the emotional break. And now, after more than 25 years, he’s grieving it like the loss of a lover. And he’s been stuck on the anger stage since about November 10.

All that was to say this: so many of us are grieving painful breaks with people and organizations and situations and institutions we thought we knew right now. But we can’t move forward if we can’t let go of the past. You have to be sad about it, and live through that sadness, and release it, to move towards the future. I don’t know what that future will be, and neither do you. We’re all afraid, but I have hope, and I have to hold to that vision of hope, of a better future. There is much work to be done to help us get into and stay in the “Good Reality.” And we can’t get there with pain and anger and regret dragging us down. So do what you need to do to get closure with whatever is holding you back, because we need you, unreservedly, in the fight for hope and the future and our lovely, fragile blue-green planet and our children’s children’s children.

And I guess I need to help my non-religious spouse find his way towards his own ritual of closure before his anger burns him up.

Image found here.