won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
Samhein’s coming. Are you ready for the journey inward?
Most modern Pagans live in urban areas. How well are those areas suited for Pagan practices?
* Here, via Green Man, is a great article, that talks specifically about how to create Sacred Space from areas that have been hit by natural disasters. You should read the whole thing:
We are interested in how people come together to leave a legacy on the urban landscape that expresses the social, cultural and sacred meaning of a place. In my past work, in places that are often underserved by green or open spaces, I’ve found that it’s usually the process of coming together as a community that makes a place sacred, not simply the existence of green space. If green space alone was all we needed to create healthy and vibrant human communities, then we would find the greenest places in the world home to the healthiest populations. It’s not enough just to surround yourself with good design and green, it’s also what we bring to those spaces as a community through engagement, stewardship, education, programming, and more.
In this project in particular, we’re looking at the role of green space and urban nature in the aftermath of an extreme or acute disturbance. We’re lucky in both cases to have been there from the beginning and really understand the process, and to be able to document the process of how groups come together whether in their official capacity as emergency responders or government representatives – or as individual volunteers or members of neighborhood groups. The way in which these folks join together to take on not only the relief tasks that need to be done, but how they innovate, adapt and create new ideas for making a place better is what I find to be quite profound.
North Brooklyn Farms is a pop-up oasis of kale, tomatoes, and eggplants growing in a former parking lot near the Williamsburg Bridge in the shadow of a defunct Domino Sugar factory. Built on pallets, the raised beds can be lifted and moved to a new location if the property owners develop the 8,000-square-foot lot.
Knowing the garden’s site could be developed next year, the farm’s founders, Ryan Watson and Henry Sweets, came up with the plan for a pop-up edible garden.
Until last spring, the farm was just another unsightly wasteland in a post-industrial neighborhood particularly devoid of green space. But then the owner of the lot, Two Trees Management, a New York City development company, offered to let it be used…temporarily.
. . .
To make money to keep the farm going, Ryan and Henry are holding special farm-to-table dinners cooked on site by a chef who creates a menu based on the available crops. Three days a week they run a pick-your-own farm stand and help customers choose and harvest vegetables.
* And speaking of cities that honor the feminine as well as the masculine, here’s an interesting article about what happens when cities are specifically designed to meet women’s needs:
In 1999, officials in Vienna, Austria, asked residents of the city’s ninth district how often and why they used public transportation. “Most of the men filled out the questionnaire in less than five minutes,” says Ursula Bauer, one of the city administrators tasked with carrying out the survey. “But the women couldn’t stop writing.”
The majority of men reported using either a car or public transit twice a day — to go to work in the morning and come home at night. Women, on the other hand, used the city’s network of sidewalks, bus routes, subway lines and streetcars more frequently and for a myriad reasons.
“The women had a much more varied pattern of movement,” Bauer recalls. “They were writing things like, ‘I take my kids to the doctor some mornings, then bring them to school before I go to work. Later, I help my mother buy groceries and bring my kids home on the metro.'”
Women used public transit more often and made more trips on foot than men. They were also more likely to split their time between work and family commitments like taking care of children and elderly parents. Recognizing this, city planners drafted a plan to improve pedestrian mobility and access to public transit.
Additional lighting was added to make walking at night safer for women. Sidewalks were widened so pedestrians could navigate narrow streets. And a massive staircase with a ramp running through the middle was installed near a major intersection to make crossing easier for people with strollers and individuals using a walker or a wheelchair.
Obviously, the world is changing and there are, thankfully, more men who are also involved in child-care, family matters, etc. These changes will likely improve their lives, as well.
Most interesting to me, though, was what happened with boys and girls:
[A] study, which took place from 1996 to 1997, showed that after the age of nine, the number of girls in public parks dropped off dramatically, while the number of boys held steady. Researchers found that girls were less assertive than boys. If boys and girls would up in competition for park space, the boys were more likely to win out.
City planners wanted to see if they could reverse this trend by changing the parks themselves. In 1999, the city began a redesign of two parks in Vienna’s fifth district. Footpaths were added to make the parks more accessible and volleyball and badminton courts were installed to allow for a wider variety of activities. Landscaping was also used to subdivide large, open areas into semi-enclosed pockets of park space. Almost immediately, city officials noticed a change. Different groups of people — girls and boys — began to use the parks without any one group overrunning the other.
This is a fascinating discussion of the history of opposition to birth control. Interestingly, it started in reaction the initial move for women’s rights. And that’s something to keep in mind when people try to tell you that it’s really religious and that it really isn’t anti-woman.
As I promised the other day, I’ve been getting up a little bit early to sit at my altar and hold the modern Pagan community in my heart. This morning, what came into my mind was this speech by Sojourner Truth.
*Here, via @gleamchaser on the Twitterinator is a great article about a common sense worldview that embodies (did you see what I did there?) a bit of thealogy, to wit, “All Acts of Love & Pleasure Are Rituals of the Goddess.” The article contrasts Dutch and American experiences of teen sexuality.
So, why do you think the Americans and the Dutch responded so differently to the sexual revolution?
A couple of pieces are important. One is that [the birth-control pill was] quickly disseminated in the Netherlands, starting in the ’70s; teen pregnancy started to drop. There wasn’t this association between teen sex and danger and lives ruined that we have in this country.
There’s also a cultural piece. Coming out of the sexual revolution, the Dutch really decoupled sex from marriage, but they didn’t decouple sex from love. If the first piece is that there weren’t these immediate associations of teen sex with danger, the second is that it remained anchored in the concept of steady relationships and young people being in love.
There’s a strong belief in the Netherlands that youth can be in love — boys as well as girls — that makes sex in many ways seem safer and more contained because it’s embedded in a relationship.
It seems terribly sad to me that we view teenage love as being about “just hormones” and teen boys as incapable of being in love — but then we turn around and bemoan this culture of “hooking up,” when we’ve basically given adolescents no space to actually have loving relationships.
I do think this is something that resonates with a lot of people. Every culture has those aspects of human [nature] they celebrate. And the U.S. celebrates individual development and freedom, so there isn’t a good language for talking about social cohesion, whether between two teenagers or whether as society as a whole.
One of the things I really emphasize is the need for a better cultural narrative for talking about relationships and love that isn’t just, Marriage is best. That is not appropriate for teens and we need to validate their connections and give guidance around that.
Instead, we tend to pathologize teen relationships as obsession, co-dependence, addiction.
I agree. It’s become more popular to talk about teaching healthy relationships but a lot of that is about avoiding unhealthy relationships. Of course, that’s important. But there’s lots of attention to dating violence and very little talk about what it feels like to be in love. One of the things that always surprises people is that one of most popular Dutch sex education curricula is called ‘Long Live Love.’
For boys, our culture devalues their impulse to love. But research shows that in the U.S., boys are quite romantic. Other research finds that for girls, recognition of sexual desire and wishes is taboo, so they have fewer tools to assess what’s right for them. That makes things very difficult.
The cultural differences lead to different results. As the article notes:
Teen pregnancy rates are eight times higher in the U.S. than in Holland. Abortion rates are 20% higher. The American AIDS rate is three times greater than that of the Dutch
Of course, maybe I just like the article because it confirms my own prejudices, not the least of which is:
Can you explain the idea of gezelligheid and how it plays into relationships between Dutch parents and teens?
It literally means ‘cozy togetherness.’ . . . There’s a lot of intergenerational gezelligheid. The Dutch celebrate every birthday, whether 8 or 80, and you are expected to show up and enjoy it.
I’m a big fan of celebrating birthdays. Everyone deserves one day a year (my dad used to claim that he got a birthday week; that’s not a bad idea, either) devoted just to celebrating the fact that they were born. To celebrating that they got a shot at what Mary Oliver calls “one wild and precious life.”
*This morning, Landscape Guy emailed me this article about plant communication.
[Plants] do react to injury, fight to survive, act purposefully, enslave giants (through the likes of coffee, tobacco, opium), and gab endlessly among themselves.
Strawberry, bracken, clover, reeds, bamboo, ground elder and lots more all grow their own social networks — delicate runners (really horizontal stems) linking a grove of individuals. If a caterpillar chews on a white clover leaf, the message races through the colony, which ramps up its chemical weaponry. Stress a walnut tree and it will brew its own caustic aspirin and warn its relatives to do the same.
. . .
Since they can’t run after a mate, they go to phenomenal lengths to con animals into performing sex for them, using a vaudeville trunk full of costumes. For instance, some orchids disguise themselves as the sex organs of female bees so that male bees will try to mate with them and leave wearing pollen pantaloons. Since they can’t run from danger, they devise a pharmacopeia of poisons and an arsenal of simple weapons: hideous killers like strychnine and atropine; ghoulish blisterers like poison ivy and poison sumac; slashers like holly and thistle waving scalpel-sharp spines. Blackberries and roses wield belts of curved thorns. Each hair of a stinging nettle brandishes a tiny syringe full of formic acid and histamine to make us itch or run.
Just in case you’re tempted to rush home and cuddle your passionflower — resist the urge. Passionflowers release cyanide if their cell walls are broken by a biting insect or a fumbling human. Of course, because nature is often an arms race, leaf-eating caterpillars have evolved an immunity to cyanide. Not us, alas. People die every year from accidentally ingesting passionflower, daffodils, yew, autumn crocuses, monkshood, foxglove, oleander and the like. And one controversial theory about the Salem witch trials is that the whole shameful drama owes its origin to an especially wet winter when the rye crop was infected with ergot, an LSD-like hallucinogen that caused girls to act bewitched.
Devious and dangerous as plants can be, they adorn every facet of our lives, from courtship to burial. They fill our rooms with piquant scents, dazzling tableaus and gravity-defying aerial ballets as they unfold petals and climb toward the sun. Think of them as the original Cirque du Soleil. And many an African violet has given a human shrinking violet a much needed inter-kingdom friendship. But they do demand looking after. And we love our social networks. So I expect texting will sweep the plant world, showering us with polite thank-you’s and rude complaints. What’s next, a wisteria sexting every time it’s probed by a hummingbird? A bed of zinnias ranting as they go to seed?
I admit that I’d love to get texts from some of the plants I love. But, for now, I’ll have to settle for running my own roots down among theirs every evening and having our regular “chat.”
*This morning, driving to work alongside Spout Run, I was marveling (thanks to a recent insight from Landscape Guy) at trees that spend all Spring and Summer growing leaves, all in preparation for a two- or three-day display when they turn red, or gold, or orange, or purple, or, sometimes, all four at once. And then I had to laugh at my own desire to anthropomorphize. Do they, indeed, celebrate their Autumn splendor or do they, as we too often do, bemoan the chartreuse buds of their youth, ignoring how unique and amazing they get to be when they blaze out near the end? And where’s the lesson for me in that?
*Brava to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra which is devoting a season to works around the theme of Revolutionary Women. Too often, we recognize men as revolutionaries, while calling women who perform the same function “mad, shrill, maniacal.” This weekend, they’ll be doing Joan of Arc at the Stake If I didn’t have to work, I’d be there.
They’re also celebrating Harriet Tubman and Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman. The other day, G/Son saw a bumper sticker in the bakery parking lot that said, “Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History.” He sounded it out with his nascent reading skills and then said, “Nonna, why does it say that well-behaved women don’t make history?” “Well,” I said, “Do you want some hot chocolate? My explanation may take some time.”
I’d love to see major musical works based on Max Dashu’s Reclaimed Histories. On the lives of Emma Goldman, Margaret Sanger, Dorathea Dix, Dorothy Day. Who would you include in a celebration of Revolutionary Women?
Because I know, in the center of my being where I know that I am a woman, that the body matters. There is a wisdom in the body that cannot be overwritten by any intellectual formulation. There is a meaning in the body that is the true meaning of my life. No man can know it, no man can explain it to me, no man has ever gotten it right, and it is a transgression when a man arrogates to himself the task of explaining to me what it means to be a woman.
Because my sisters matter. When I navigate the common divide by rejecting my sisterhood with other women to assume the mantle of manhood, I lose their company. I leave their conversation, their nurturance, the collegial sense of companionship which women of goodwill achieve so easily.
Because there are those among my sisters who cannot navigate the common divide by abandoning their bodies. They cannot bring themselves to sacrifice what the body knows and the company of other women in order to achieve in the world. So they give up — they never enter into the [magikal] lineage at all, or if they do, they content themselves with embodying the muse, the sexual vamp, the all-accepting whore, the love-without-limits mother, and they pursue accomplishments vicariously through the magical men in their lives.
Because I know, in the center of myself where I know the most important truth of my life, that I am not deformed or incomplete [because I am not a man], that I am not fitted only to be a helpmeet, that it is not my purpose in life to be someone else’s inspiration and servant. I know that I reason clearly, that I possess a soul, that I am both a material and a spiritual being. Thelemite that I am, I know that my will is my own and no one else’s.
I refuse to accept that I must abandon my body and my sisters, call the universe Lord, call myself he, center my magic in an organ that looks suspiciously like the male member, enact mystery plays about men’s lives in the world in order to be a magician. And I am incensed that I struggle every day of my magical life with this divide that no male magician has ever had to face, because his body and his gender and his way of knowing in the world is perfectly reflected in the lineage.