It Happened Again Last Night


It happened again last night.

Virginia is just days away from a major election and Dems need volunteers to hand out sample ballots at the polls.  So we gathered at my neighbor’s house (she’d pulled together an agenda, sign-up sheets, and information on canvassing between now and the election, gone to the store for pies and brownies, made coffee, and, generally done what you do when you’re having people over) and there it was again.

A room almost entirely full of women.  Out of fifteen people, there were two men —  the husband of the woman hosting the meeting and one other guy who was there with his wife.

It’s like that at just about every meeting I’ve been to in the last three years.  Postcard parties.  Dem breakfasts.  Precinct meetings.  Canvassing centers.  Organization meetings.  And, yes, it’s great to see women coming into their own, running for office, getting stuff done.   But, you know, you don’t need a vagina to write postcards, phone bank, or make sign-in sheets.  You don’t need a vagina to put everyone’s info into a spreadsheet or to bake cookies for the meeting.  You don’t need a vagina to run to Kinkos and get extra copies made of the flyers.

I’m asking men to step up to the plate and start helping us to defeat Trump and his ilk.  To do some of the less-than-exciting-but-very-necessary work it’s going to take to get progressive candidates elected up and down the ballot.  Give us a hand here, guys.


(#notallmen I realize that some men work very hard on elections.  This post isn’t meant to ignore what they do.  I’d just like more of those men’s brothers to follow their examples.)

Picture found here.

Words for Wednesday


For the Chipmunk in My Yard

~ Robert Gibb

I think he knows I’m alive, having come down
The three steps of the back porch
And given me a good once over. All afternoon
He’s been moving back and forth,
Gathering odd bits of walnut shells and twigs,
While all about him the great fields tumble
To the blades of the thresher. He’s lucky
To be where he is, wild with all that happens.
He’s lucky he’s not one of the shadows
Living in the blond heart of the wheat.
This autumn when trees bolt, dark with the fires
Of starlight, he’ll curl among their roots,
Wanting nothing but the slow burn of matter
On which he fastens like a small, brown flame.
Picture found here.

Dancing the Graveyards

It’s getting to be that time of year.



Monday at the Movies

It’s Just the Old Gods (and Mountains, and Hollers, and Rivers, and Runs, and Trees and, Well, You Know) Getting Older


A friend from the city came up this weekend, just back from weeks in Italy, Alsace, and Germany, and we drove up this morning into the West Virginia highlands.  After a hot summer and a long drought, we’re finally getting rain, and mist, and cooler weather.  So, sweaters on, we finished our coffee — and his photo tour of a beloved author’s Italian villa and gardens — and began to drive UP.  (I am still new enough to be loving the fact that, here in the Blue Ridge, there are really six directions:  North, South, East, West — and Up, and Down.)

I’m still puzzling out why this may be, but there is not a single hollow here — not a single downhill view of soil, and roots, and fallen leaves, and brown trunks — that is not crammed with Others, just as Elizabeth Barrett Browning said that:

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God, But only he who sees takes off his shoes; The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”

(There’s nothing wrong with plucking blackberries.  Last night over dessert, my friend said, “You take that blackberry,” which was, indeed, the most luscious fall fruit among the raspberries and blueberries on the still-warm creme brule that we shared.  But I still never want to lose my desire to “take off my shoes” in the presence of the Goddesses and Gods.  Or black blackberries.  I will take off my shoes in the presence of blackberries.)


You know what I mean.

I mean the Powers, and Spirits, and Beings of This Place.  Ancestors, both European and those Adopted from long before then.  Not a day goes by that I don’t see them up here.

The Cousins.  Just outside the edge of my view every single time I take a walk, cook soup, sit by my fire.

Goddesses and Gods, not the least of whom, for me, are Hestia, Hera, Pan, Freya, Diana, Hecate and, today, on this day of mists over the mountain, Nuit — the Goddess who most exemplifies arching protectively over the world, (just as Hopkins wrote that “The Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast and with, Ah, bright wings!”).   My friend felt her gentle cloak spread protectively over each mist-covered mountain and valley.

Other Ones too old and too alien for me to name.  (They’re in those rocks and at the edge of every river, run, branch, brook, course, creek, millstream, sluice, and spillway.  They’re just across the gravel road, beyond that meadow, dancing above that field of baby cedars.)

Real ghosts.

And the really exciting things we almost miss — a small family of deer on a very steep ridge, buzzards, bobcats, eagles — not to mention the llamas at a tiny farm on a hill or the emus, grazing grass as if they were born to these mountains.

I was reminded today of the (somewhat unseasonal) Jethro Tull song that asks:

Have you ever stood in the April wood and called the new year in?
While the phantoms of three thousand years fly as the dead leaves spin?
There’s a snap in the grass behind your feet and a tap upon your shoulder.
And the thin wind crawls along your neck it’s just the old gods getting older.
And the kestral drops like a fall of shot and the red cloud hanging high.
Come a, come a Beltane.

Well, if you can feel it at Beltane, you can’t help but feel it here at Samhein, on the opposite side of the Wheel of the Year.  You open your senses and you immediately feel that, up here in these ancient hills, it is, indeed, just the Old Gods getting older.  Because, of course, they need a place to do it (get older) and, indeed, they are doing it (getting older), aren’t they?  Just like the rest of us.  The Old Gods are getting older.  Then, it all feels so homely, warm, natural, perfect.  I’m up here getting older, along with the Old Gods, getting older.  (I age at my pace and they age at theirs.  It’s all real.  It’s all metaphor.  There’s always more.)

So here’s what happened.

We drove up, and up, and up.  (My ear drums pop over and over — we go up, they pop, we go down, they pop.  If I’m lucky (often, I’m not) they won’t keep popping for days.)  As we went up, we could see clouds curling, swirling, and hovering over the mountains.  To me, this always seems as if the sky is making love to the mountains.  And, of course, the higher up that we went, the more that the trees turned red, and gold, and apricot edged with black, and orange, and salmon, and pink, and bittersweet brown, and velvet emerald, and then they turned into blankets of Goodbye to the Sun.

Going up, and up, and up, we finally drove into one of the clouds.

It was glorious.  We were, as my friend said, literally  “between the worlds,” just what we mean when we say, “The circle is cast.  We are between the worlds.  What we do between the worlds changes all the worlds.”  The road was hilly, and narrow, and twisty and the views to either side were of mist slowly dancing through brown, wet tree trunks, and, when you opened the windows, the scent was mineral and dead leaf.  I couldn’t breathe it in fast enough.  The mist got thicker, and thicker, and thicker, and the magic got stronger, and stronger, and stronger and, then, almost instantly, we drove out of the mist and back out of what Van Morrison called The Mystic.

And then a few hills up and we did it all over again.  And again.  And again.

We drove up past Lost River which keeps appearing, reappearing, disappearing, reappearing, and just generally reminding you how mysterious this landbase and the water can be.  Every time we drove through the mist, we opened the windows, breathed in the air, and did all that we could to become one with the land.

And, then, we were back.  A tiny local diner with a turkey and succotash special brought us back.  A local farmers’ market with gluten free treats for my friend brought us back.  We found the book in my library that I’d wanted to lend and my books brought us back.  We found a bowl of pistou that I wanted to send back with my friend and it brought us back.  The cats came out and waited beside the fireplace — they’ve learned to love the warmth.  And my cats always bring me back.

I am awed, and overwhelmed, and delirious with joy at the mere possibility of becoming the Witch of THIS place.  I may not do it.  It may destroy me.  But all of that is OK.  I am up here and I am breathing the minerals, and the mist, and the dead leaves, and the rivers and runs, and, whether I do or do not do, I got the chance to come up here and compose my soul.

May it be so for you.

Picture by Green Man.  If you copy, please link back.



A Witch Without a Place — Chapter 4


“Herne, where’s Daddy?” Gemmy gasped as she ran into the hospital waiting room.

It had been a long and terrifyingly slow drive from her office to the local hospital and she’d made a mad dash in the pouring rain from the back of the parking lot to the emergency room entrance.  Herne glanced up from the heavy botany book on his lap.  “He’s back there, talking to a doctor,” he pointed, showing that, distracted as he might appear, Herne knew, as always, exactly what was going on.

Gemmy stopped and put her hand on her son’s shoulder.  The world might be turning completely upside-down, but Herne would always be calmly in control of the situation.

Paris turned away from the very young, very serious intern and slumped with relief to see Gemmy.

“Gem.  She’s fine.  She’s going to be OK.  Gem, I’m so sorry.  I didn’t want to call you away from work; she just kept crying for you.  We went down to the creek to take some samples.  I didn’t know how bad the flood would be.  She fell down and . . .  Gemmy.  Oh, Goddess, Gemmy, I’m so glad you’re here.”

Gemmy’s gaze followed Herne’s outstretched arm to a tiny room at the end of the hall.  It wasn’t even really a room, just an area walled off by curtains.  She tore to the bed inside and grabbed Chessy’s hand.  Her daughter was still chilled, grey, barely breathing.

“This is my fault,” Gemmy told herself and the universe.  “My daughter’s on death’s door and it’s all because I work too much.”  Nothing that Paris or the doctor could say would change her mind.

Slowly, Chessy opened her eyes and connected with Gemmy.  “Sweetie,” Gemmy said.  “It’s Mommy.  I’m here.  We’re all here — me, and Daddy, and Herne.  You’re going to wake up now, right?  You’re back with us?”  Chessy smiled and took a deep breath.  Her cheeks turned pink and her breath came more regularly.  She held onto Gemmy’s hand so tightly that Gemmy’s fingers turned white.

“Daddy cut my sandwich wrong,” she whispered.

Paris wrote down the intern’s information, checked on Herne, and walked slowly back to where Gemmy sat, clutching Chessy’s hand.

“Babe.  Babe, look at me.  I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have called you.  We were just too cooped up inside and so I took the kids to the creek.  Chessy fell and breathed in too much water.  It was all my fault.  You could have stayed at work; you didn’t need to come.  It was all my fault.”

“It sure as fucking was your fault,” Gemmy snarled, pounding on Paris’ chest.  “You nearly killed my little girl and you’ve traumatized my son!  What the fuck is wrong with you?  Why can’t I leave the children with you for even half a day, Paris?  Why are you incapable of being a parent?”

Picture found here.

Doing Boycotts Right


Got boycott fatigue? I know I do.

Look: boycotts work. At least some of the time. Bill O’Reilly is still off the air (mostly). And witness the success of Sleeping Giants.

The thing is, it can be really hard to keep up with everyone we’re supposed to be boycotting (check out the list at #GrabYourWallet and Grab-Your-Wallet if you don’t believe me). And the proliferation of boycotts has made them less effective, since we can’t all remember everyone we’re supposed to be boycotting, or why.

Meanwhile, it’s impossible to boycott everything that might have any connection to anyone or anything that’s objectionable, because no one’s hands are completely clean.

“These goods are sustainably produced, but has the company achieved pay equity?”

“This firm has done a great job of promoting diverse leadership, but they also do business with Israel.”

“I heard I should boycott products with palm oil, because the farming practices are bad for orangutans, but it’s IN EVERYTHING.”

“Georgia’s trying to legislate a draconian abortion ban, and we were all down with boycotting North Carolina over its anti-trans bathroom bill, but Stacey Abrams says not to, so I don’t know what to do.”

Boycotts: whatever you’re doing, you’re probably doing it wrong.

My spouse has come up with a pretty solid framework: focus on institutions more than individuals, and on objectionable behavior that’s made part of company policy, not just that someone involved with the company happens to believe.

It’s Chick-fil-A versus Home Depot.

Chick-fil-A is run by a homophobe. Home Depot’s retired co-founder supports TrumPutin. Both are bad.

But Chick-fil-A gives money at the corporate foundation level to funding anti-LGBT work. Bernie Marcus is no longer at Home Depot and has given money personally to TrumPutin-supporting PACs.

Spouse’s position? No Chick-fil-A sandwiches, but yes to getting tools at Home Depot. Which makes sense to me.

(Relatedly, I remember when we were SUPPOSED to go to Home Depot rather than Lowe’s because Lowe’s personnel policies were anti-LGBT, while Home Depot’s were LGBT-friendly. Or you can skip them both in favor of your locally-owned neighborhood hardware store. But I digress.)

(Oh, and for what it’s worth, the Chick-fil-A boycott seems to have backfired.)

Image found here (and it’s worth clicking the link, because the writer raises some additional good points on the efficacy, or lack thereof, of boycotts).

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