We Witches spend a lot of time talking about grounding. And it’s certainly a huge part of my own practice. When I ground, I spend time getting in touch with, getting into right relationship with, the roots of the plants that surround me and the mycelia that connect all of those roots to each other.
I wake up early to have time to sit in my warm, cozy cottage, drink coffee, and meditate.
This morning, I was up early enough to finally hear my CSA, From the Farmer, make their delivery. A box on my doorstep with apples, oranges, shallots, mushrooms, lettuce, carrots, a parsnip, beets, and some cider. My bedroom is near the front of the house and I’ve been wondering how they manage to slip up onto my step, leave my box, and disappear without waking me. This morning, I saw; the delivery person — swathed in coat, hoodie, hat, gloves, scarves, and sweat pants — almost tip-toed up to my door.
And I stop to bless them; to thank the workers who grew and harvested the food, the warehouse people who packed it, the silent driver who delivers it to my door.
About 45 minutes later, I made a second cup of hot, sweet coffee and heard the trash man come and empty the recyclable bins. My town does two trash collections on the same day. The first is for recyclables and the second is for the small bit of trash I have that isn’t recyclable and that I can’t compost. It’s cold, dark, dangerous work this time of year, with the sidewalks and roads still icy and temperatures before dawn hovering around 15 degrees. It’s dangerous, hot, and smelly work in the Summer and it’s not well-paid.
Derrick Jensen notes that:
“All gave some, some gave all,” read the bumper stickers, but no one ever mentions, at the huge police funerals or elsewhere, that garbage collection is far more dangerous—with a far higher mortality rate—than police work; and don’t hold your breath waiting for the next Bruce Willis or Tom Cruise action flick about courageous garbage collectors putting their lives on the line to clean up the mean streets of New York or L.A.
I stop to bless them, the people who carry away what I no longer need, who recycle what can be recycled, who work in the cold, and the danger, and the dark.
With whom would you find yourself in relationship if you woke up early to sit?
As we move closer and closer to Samhain, it can be useful to examine our relationship to daily practice. We all know that daily practice is important to our religious development. And when we fall out of practice — because work, family, illness, or whatever gets in the way — we know that it’s important to return to our altars and begin again. As Rumi wrote:
Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times.
Come, yet again, come, come.
For me, a basic practice involves grounding, centering, casting a circle, and spending time in contact with the powers, spirits, and beings of this place. Yet the details of how I do each of those things can change over time and, when I find the practice getting stale (or perhaps it’s more apt to say, when I find myself getting stale), then it’s time to re-evaluate and switch things around.
I do an alter cleansing at each of the Sabbats and a major cleaning of my ritual room for Samhein. Just now, when many of us are evaluating the past liturgical year and setting goals for the coming one, is a good time to evaluate how our daily practice is working for us. Do we need to add to it? Have some parts of it become too simple or boring? Does the space where we do our practice support us or work against us? Sometimes, something as simple as beginning by listening to new music or by lighting a new candle can make a difference. Sometimes, it’s time to consult Tarot or go into trance and see what larger changes are needed.
I’m making a major change to my ritual room: I’ve always sat on a yoga blanket on the floor, but my old knees seem less enthusiastic every time that they have to get me up from that position, so I’ve bought a desk and chair for a new altar. I think it’s going to encourage me to change a number of things about my practice — both the What and How. I’m looking forward to the adventure.
What’s your relationship to daily practice? How often do you make changes? How might you use your Samhein reflections to improve your practice? I’d love to hear from you in comments.
Lately, my daily practice is more and more a matter of getting grounded enough to learn from the mycellium that connect everything in my little Bit of Earth.
(Random mourners at the funeral: “You can’t deny, she was an intelligent woman, a successful lawyer, very well-respected in her field. Imagine her dying out in that back woodland and no one finding her for days! They said her hands, and mouth, and lungs were full of soil!
Accumulated a nice nest egg, owned her home, paid her taxes, always voted, bought cookies from the girl scouts, donated to the local library, did a lot of pro bono work, and brought bundles of herbs and baskets of muffins when new neighbors moved in.
Too bad she went so crazy in the end, imagining she could talk to the fungi attached to tree roots or some such! Just think! She spent her evenings thinking that she was “talking” to fungi and that they were the Earth’s brain cells! They say she died happy, though. Wonder who’ll get her Hermes collection.”
“Well I heard she fancied herself a Witch. It was a rather extensive collection, wasn’t it?”)
One thing that I’ve learned is that mycellium value very highly the ability to communicate/carry information between not only, say, my two Japanese Temple Pines, but also between, for example, the Temple Pines and the Bracken’s Brown Magnolias, and the White Oak, and the Daisy Gardenia shrubs, and the, well, you get the idea. And the soil keeps shifting and the plants keep shifting and the mycellium that connect the plant communities of the Eastern MidAtlantic to the plant communities on the other side of the Appalachians are very important. Information, for them, is material; it’s cells, and microbes, and droplets of sugar water, and it’s also concentrated sunshine, and it’s also the way that the stars were formed. They’ve/It’s been doing this for a long, long time. The planet didn’t just get connected when someone developed the internet. (Some say that mycellium are “sentient,” which, duh, of course they are, and that they know when you are present. After you walk, “the very ground leaps up” to absorb the nutrients you’ve left behind. Of course it does. And that makes walking a holy act. Maybe that’s one reason why I love to go outside barefoot.)
And, so, I was delighted today to read this story about one of America’s oldest flowering plants. I wonder about the mycellium that connected its roots to those of its neighbors. The article says that:
There’s also a much more recent history of this fossil that’s just as fascinating. Jud[, the student who wrote about the fossil,] did a bit of research and found that it’d been excavated in 1971 by a former Smithsonian curator, Leo Hickey, who went on to Yale and died in February before working with Jud to re-analyze the fossil after all these years. Hickey had found it during a dig at the Dutch Gap, in Virginia, in sediments that were exposed over a century earlier, by freed slaves who were forcibly taken from the Roanoke Island Freedmen’s Colony by Union troops and forced to dig a canal in August 1864.
While digging, they exposed ancient fossil-filled rocks, and a few decades later, in the 1870s and 1880s, scientists worked there to collect fossils and create some of the Smithsonian’s first fossil collections. Later, Hickey and other researchers returned to collect remaining specimens.
Jud honored this recent history in naming the ancient species that this specimen represents. “Potomac refers to the Potomac Group beds where the fossil was found, capnos is a reference to living poppies that are quite similar to the fossil and apeleutheron is the Greek word for freedmen,” he says. “So the new plant will be named Potomacapnos apeleutheron: roughly, ‘freedmen’s poppy of the Potomac.’”
I love that. I want to go see the site in my state where this earliest flowering plant was found. I want to pour a blot for the Freedmen for whom this Potomac poppy was named and for the likely-still-extant mycellium that talked to its roots. Maybe they’ll talk to me.
I had dinner the other evening with Landscape Guy and I was thanking him for my garden in Autumn. I told him that, while we collaborated to make my garden lovely in Spring and Summer, he was responsible for the fact that I really, really, really love my garden in Autumn. I was busy thinking, “I want lilacs in April and crocus in March, and daisies in August and casa blanca lilies in June,” but I never even thought about Autumn. Yet, here it is, November, and the toad lilies are just finishing, the Autumn camellias are going strong, and the glossy magnolias and Japanese temple pines are setting off the blazing red Japanese maples. November is all Landscape Guy’s doing.
I suspect that I say this every year, but this year, this year, this year — this year the Japanese maples are so red that it breaks your heart, that it turns you inside out, that it demands that you STOP and that you PAY ATTENTION. I’ve tried and I’ve tried to take pictures, but my iPad camera isn’t up to the task. There’s something that the clear, Autumn sunlight does to the leaves that just won’t show up on a camera. I would share them with you if I could; really I would.
There’s almost no fire in my chart. Whenever my madcap friend R. (a Reiki master) does Reiki on me, she says, “Wow. Your root chakra is weak.” Well, yes; yes it is.
One of the meditations that I do as part of my daily practice is one that I learned from my brilliant friend E. I work my way through each of my chakras, imagining the most vivid picture that I can call to mind of the color associated with each chakra.
Today, I’m getting ready for company on Wednesday (the curse of single people who like to entertain: starting early) and I’ve been cleaning and baking and preparing. But, in between the rosemary shortbread and the Chinese tea eggs, I’ve been going out to sit on my screen porch and work quite deliberately at absorbing the firery reds of the sun-lit Japanese maples that Landscape Guy put in my yard. And I pull that image into my root chakra. And I close my eyes and I visualize it there, even in the dark, even when the leaves are all gone. And I gaze at the firery reds of my sun-lit Japanese maples and I pull that image into my root chakra and I close my eyes and I visualize . . . .
This is how I do a spiritual practice that is rooted in my own Bit of Earth, in my landbase, how I do a spiritual practice that honors the spirits and powers and beings of this land.
What was your spiritual practice today?
Picture by the blogger. If you copy, please link back.
The word wild is like a gray fox trotting off through the forest, ducking behind bushes, going in and out of sight. Up close, first glance, it is “wild”-then farther into the woods next glance it’s “wyld” and it recedes via Old Norse villr and Old Teutonic wilthijaz into a faint pre-Teutonic ghweltijos which means, still, wild and maybe wooded (wald) and lurks back there with possible connections to will, to Latin silva (forest, sauvage), and to the Indo-European root ghwer, base of Latin ferus (feral, fierce), which swings us around to Thoreau’s “awful ferity” shared by virtuous people and lovers. The Oxford English Dictionary has it this way:
Of animals-not tame, undomesticated, unruly.
Of plants-not cultivated.
Of land-uninhabited, uncultivated.
Of foodcrops-produced or yielded without cultivation.
Of societies-uncivilized, rude, resisting constituted government.
Of individuals-unrestrained, insubordinate, licentious, dissolute, loose. “Wild and wanton widowes”-1614.
Of behavior-violent, destructive, cruel, unruly.
Of behavior-artless, free, spontaneous. “Warble his native wood-notes wild”-John Milton.
Wild is largely defined in our dictionaries by what-from a human standpoint-it is not. It cannot be seen by this approach for what it is. Turn it the other way:
Of animals-free agents, each with its own endowments, living within natural systems.
Of plants-self-propagating, self-maintaining, flourishing in accord with innate qualities.
Of land-a place where the original and potential vegetation and fauna are intact and in full interaction and the landforms are entirely the result of nonhuman forces. Pristine.
Of Foodcrops-food supplies made available and sustainable by the natural excess and exuberance of wild plants in their growth and in the production of qualities of fruit or seeds.
Of societies-societies whose order has grown from within and is maintained by the force of consensus and custom rather than explicit legislation. Primary cultures, which consider themselves the original and eternal inhabitants of their territory. Societies which resist economic and political domination by civilization. Societies whose economic system is in a close and sustainable relation to the local ecosystem.
Of Individuals-following local custom, style, and etiquette without concern for the standards of the metropolis or nearest trading post. Unintimidated, self-reliant, independent. “Proud and free.”
Of behavior-fiercely resisting any oppression, confinement, or exploration. Far-out, outrageous, “bad,” admirable.
Of behavior-artless, free, spontaneous, unconditioned. expressive, physical, openly sexual, ecstatic.
Most of the senses in this second set of definitions come very close to being how the Chinese define the term Dao, the way of Great Nature: eluding analysis, beyond categories, self-organizing, self-informing, playful, surprising, impermanent, insubstantial, independent, complete, orderly, unmediated, freely manifesting, self-authenticating, self-willed, complex, quite simple. Both empty and real at the same time. In some cases we might call it sacred. It is not far from the Buddhist term Dharma with its original senses of forming and firming.
It was very hot and muggy this weekend, but G/Son and I got up early to go to the farmers’ market. On our way out the door, he spotted one of our neighborhood cottontails, breakfasting on my neighbors’ lawn. We spent a long time watching her, as G/Son crept closer and closer. Eventually, he got inside her circle of comfort and she took off for the next yard.
At the farmers’ market, we bought tomatoes, corn, peaches, and a bar of handmade soap that G/Son picked out for his mommy. I always give him some money to spend “on his own,” and he made a bee-line for the lady who sells donuts, fresh and hot from her little donut machine. She threw in an extra one and G/Son was delighted.
When we got home, we sat inside the car and watched a momma cardinal and a bright goldfinch hang upside down and pull sunflower seeds out of the now-drooping heavy heads of the sunflowers. G/Son pointed out the other goldfinch, eating seeds from the centers of the black-eyed susans that bloom so reliably and last even through the drought.
That evening, just before bed, I read G/Son a wonderful book called What Does It Mean to Be Present? I asked G/Son when, during the day, he’d been most present and he said, “Well, Nonna, of course it was watching the bunny and the birds because you can’t do that and think about any other kind of thing or want to be any other kind of place.”