Poverty is a social condition that puts us in charge of your life, and allows us to judge how you live in your poverty. Your money is, ultimately, your identity. If we strip you of all your money, we strip you of your identity, too. Your self-worth, your integrity, your self-esteem: all belong to us. Everything has it's price, and when you are poor, when you are impoverished and have to go to a soup kitchen to hope as kind and beautiful a woman as Michelle Obama smiles at you and serves you a hot meal, then you must certainly pay the piper, and you are more clearly a commodity than at any other time or position in your life. We own you, because you have become a public figure: you are poor. You are more nakedly dependent on our largess than the rest of society, so you are ours, and we will exact our payment for our charity.
And here's me going: THAT'S what I was talking about last night when I said that everyone feels free to weigh in on how each woman uses her womb.
I got this recipe from the divine Vicki at Eschaton.
1# shrimp, deveined, with tails intact
1 T chopped, fresh ginger (1 t ground ginger works, too)
1/4 t red pepper flakes
2 T finely chopped parsley (2 t dried parsley is okay)
1 bay leaf
1/4 teason thyme
2 T olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper, to taste
Combine the marinade ingredients and mix well. Marinate the shrimp at room temperature for a half an hour.
6 T butter, combined with one crushed clove of garlic.
Broil, saute, or grill the shrimp for a minute or two. Turn them over, and cook for 2 - 3 additional minutes.
For the last two months of her pregnancy, my brilliant DiL was on bed rest. On Saturdays, I'd cook up storm: a pot of vegetable pistou or of chicken, sweet potato, and wild rice soup, a roast chicken, collards, corn bread, tapioca pudding, spanikopita, stuffed peppers, walnut bars, berry salad with sugared ricotta dressing, blood oranges, grapefruit, pomegranate, and kiwi in honey, whatever I could cook up so that she'd stay off her feet. Someone, her doctor or childbirth coach or doula -- I forget who -- advised DiL to eat as much protein as possible, and so I made this shrimp recipe several times; Son and DiL both like shrimp and it's pretty much protein.
So, tomorrow is G/Son's third B/Day party. DiL has about 30 people, most of them three years of age or younger, coming over to her lovely, warm, inviting home. I cooked up four pounds of ginger shrimp, remembering those cold, scary months when we all worked every kind of magic that we could work to get G/Son safely here. And, I did that v odd magic that I've been doing for almost 20 years, I sent magic back to my scared self in 2006, standing at the counter chopping ginger and garlic, squeezing lemons, melting butter. I tell myself: It will turn out better than you can imagine. You can do this. Hang in there. It will be ok. And, back in 2006, I use and depend upon that magic.
Sweet Goddess, the absolute least that each of us deserves is one day -- one day! -- out of 365 that's devoted entirely to us. One day where we reflect upon what a gift it is to be born into this world of sonatas and trees and fountains and orgasms and wine and austere poetry. One day where the people who love us show up and say, "I'm glad that you were born." I love cakes, and gifts in perfect paper and beautiful bows, and champagne, and balloons, and flowers, and silly cards.
I've been thinking all day about birthdays. Yesterday was G/Son's third birthday. He iChatted me and couldn't wait to tell me, "I'm three! (/Universal Sign of Toddler Holding Up Three Fingers)." He and DiL had made chocolate chip cookies and his 'rents put a candle in the cookies (the "real" party, w the Batman cake, is this weekend). Then his 'rents, a sister witch who was over at my house, and I sang "Happy Birthday" to G/Son. (Hecate: "Hold that v witchy thought. I have to take this call and sing Happy Birthday to my G/Son!" Sister Witch: "No problem.")
We do that, in this country. When it's your birthday, we sing a song for you. For many of us, it's the only time all year that we stand still and have a song sung to us. And, that's mostly what I've been thinking about. It's such an unusual thing, in this culture, to have to do. To have to stand there and receive the intense, sudden, focused, musical attention of a group of people.
Last year, we took G/Son to a Mexican restaurant on the day of his actual (aka not the weekend when the big party was) B/Day. The waiters and waitresses came over w a piece of cake w a candle in it and sang "Happy B/Day" to G/Son. Last year, at two, he broke into tears. Too much attention, too many people focused on him, no context for how to handle all that sudden intensity.
This year, what happened was so sweet to me. I've been telling G/Son for a few weeks that people would be singing to him, and he's been to some friends' B/Day parties to watch what happens. We've practiced it a few times. So, this year, he was ready for us. I watched him so closely. He clasped his little hands in front of him and he had the sweetest, expectant, but, also, tolerant, expression on his little face while we sang to him. Part of it was waiting to get to the part where he got to blow out the candle, but part of it was also a deep willingness to receive the attention inherent in a group of older people all singing a song to him. At the moment, G/Son seemed to me both brave and vulnerable, both tolerant and timid. He seemed to be growing up.
All day, while I wrote about directorates and sat in meetings and took conference calls, I kept coming back to that benevolent look, those tiny clasped hands, that gentle acceptance, the wonderful gift of that little man being willing to be the focus of attention.
/Sigh. I've done this before; pulled out the strings of my heart and handed them to a little boy who needed to take the thread and go walkabout. I can do it again. I always knew that I would come this way. But like the Zen master, yesterday, I did not know that it would be today.
We're a mere 18 days away from Ostara, a name that modern witches give to the Spring Equinox. My garden and trees are shrouded in snow. Last night, the wind wailed like a bereft lover and the stars held solemn wake in the ice-clear sky. Miss Thing and I huddled, I swathed in sweatshirts and socks, beneath cotton covers, duvets, tightly-woven tapestry, linen sheets. This morning, there was ice forming, again, on the beautiful Potomac River, just above the spot where it runs by the Lincoln Memorial.
And, yet, all my thoughts are for the Kore, for the maiden, for She-who-has-been-missed, for Spring. (Long before the xians sent their son god up from the underworld after a three-day stay, my pipple, well, you know. Eleusias.) I want to eat peas, and spring greens spiced with slices of radish, and violet petals. I want to drink warm cream from a gentle cow, and wild parsley tea, and melted ice. I want to dance barefoot on sun-warmed new grass and I want to bury my nose in a baby's scalp and smell that perfect smell.
One of the THE most magical nights of my life came nigh on 20 years ago, when the blossoms unexpectedly bloomed in mid-March, under a huge full Moon that shone just above the Jefferson Memorial, and I was in love with the Moon and Jefferson and the water and the trees and the blossoms and I learned, through pleasure sharp as a lover's whip, that this city, on a river, with monuments of marble and statues of alabaster and fountains of opal and quartz, was, indeed, built of magic and indeed needed sex to keep it alive.
The cherry blossoms are a koan for the Charge of the Goddess: [K]now that the seeking and yearning will avail you not. No picture of them, no video, no written description can give you the experience of being surrounded by millions and millions of cherry blossoms. I have experienced them in the sunrise, the warm mid day, the sunset, the moonrise, the sudden snow. I have flown home from across the globe and gotten cab drivers to stop for me at the Tidal Basin, dropped my bags, kicked off my pumps, and run to the water's edge to see the last pink blossoms floating softly on the gentle waves. I have loved them at that most magical moment when the sun is thinking of setting and the temperature drops the first degree and these "scentless" blooms give up their scent and you are in the arms of the Goddess, you are making love to the world, you are dancing naked in silks across the sky, you are, well, you are breathing in Gaia saying "Namaste," and it's all, it's all, it's all just, it's all just Spring in Washington, DC.
We all know that Obama went out with DC Mayor Adrian Fenty for lunch at DC institution Ben's Chili Bowl:
What's a hot dog between buddies on a Saturday afternoon of hanging out in Washington? A lot, if the guy buying is President Obama and the restaurant is the heart and soul of the city's U Street Corridor.
Sales nearly doubled at Ben's Chili Bowl after Mr. Obama and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty stopped in on Jan. 10 for one of the establishment's legendary "half-smoke" hot dogs.
Though the U Street neighborhood has long been the center of the city's black culture and among the most prosperous over the past couple of decades, the rise of Mr. Obama, the country's first black president, has created a wave of energy and prosperity that has rippled through the community.
"It's the cultural heart of the city," said Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt. "The scene isn't driven by politics or money, so it's a good opportunity to escape the D.C. bubble and meet a diverse set of people. . . . Sales of the signature half-smoke - a half-pork, half-beef smoked sausage on a bun with spicy chili sauce - went to 5,000 that week from the normal number of roughly 2,750. And the restaurant went through roughly 550 gallons of chili, compared with the typical 250 gallons a week.
And we all know that the menu at the recent WH dinner was tres elegant, local, seasonal, good: Chesapeake crab agnolottis (stuffed pasta), wagyu beef, Nantucket scallops, and huckleberry cobbler for dessert.
What you may not have heard is that, apparently, the Leader of the Free World likes carbs: [Michelle Obama reveals that]: "There are some mean waffles and grits that are made in the morning that have become a regular staple for some of us," . . . . But she didn't reveal exactly for who[m] that breakfast pairing has become a morning favorite. Though she was quick to add that she's not the one who eats waffles every day.
Dear Mr. Obama:
The best grits and waffles and grits in DC aren't in DC, they're in Falls Church, Virginia. And you know you owe it all to Virginia; come show us some love. Go to the Original Pancake House and get a side of their cheese grits and an order of: Bacon Waffle: Our golden brown waffle baked with real bits of bacon. Served with whipped butter and hot syrup. Or, if it's too late in the day for breakfast, Vidalia makes some of the best shrimp and grits in the city: Yellow grits, andouille sausage, pearl onions, and spicy shellfish cream and you can wash it down with their rosemary lemonade. Have their homemade cookies for dessert, and then walk the girls over to the Ritz for a swim in the pool or walk all the way to Georgetown to burn off the calories. More good grits recommendations here.
Or, if you ever want to have dinner with w a witch, I make a pretty mean grits casserole:
3 c. quick grits - cooked according to directions 2 sticks butter 9 eggs, whipped with a whisk 1 c. cream 1 1/2 lbs. grated sharp cheddar cheese 1 C chopped onion and pepper sauteed in olive oil 1 C chopped up or mini shrimp, seasoned with Old Bay seasoning Tabasco as desired
Mix together and bake 1 hour in pan sprayed with Pam in 350 degree oven.
They're now blanketed under several inches of snow, but I took these picture of my hellebores yesterday, before the snow began in earnest. Landscape Guy and I transplanted them a few feet this Fall, and I wasn't sure if they would bloom this year, especially given the dry, cold Winter we've had. The deep purple ones don't have buds, but the white ones have big, fat buds that I expect will open by this weekend.
Wiki says: Commonly known as Hellebores, members of the genus Helleborus comprise approximately 20 species (ongoing fieldwork may see this figure change) of herbaceous perennial flowering plants in the family Ranunculaceae, within which it gave its name to the tribe of Helleboreae. Many species are poisonous. . . . In the early days of medicine, two kinds of hellebore were recognized: black hellebore, which included various species of Helleborus, and white hellebore, now known as Veratrum album ("false hellebore"), which belongs to a different plant family, the Melanthiaceae. Although the former plant is highly toxic, containing veratrine and the teratogens cyclopamine and jervine, it is believed to be the "hellebore" used by Hippocrates as a purgative. . . . "Black hellebore" was used by the ancients in paralysis, gout and other diseases, more particularly in insanity. "Black hellebore" is also toxic, causing tinnitus, vertigo, stupor, thirst, a feeling of suffocation, swelling of the tongue and throat, emesis and catharsis, bradycardia (slowing of the pulse), and finally collapse and death from cardiac arrest. . . . However, although Helleborus niger (black hellebore or Christmas rose) contains protoanemonin, or ranunculin, which has an acrid taste and can cause burning of the eyes, mouth and throat, oral ulceration, gastroenteritis and hematemesis, research in the 1970s showed that its roots do not contain the cardiotoxic compounds helleborin, hellebrin and helleborein responsible for the lethal reputation of "black hellebore". . . . Several legends surround the hellebore; in witchcraft it is believed to have ties to summoning demons. . . . During the Siege of Kirrha in 585 BC, hellebore was reportedly used by the Greek besiegers to poison the city's water supply. The defenders were subsequently so weakened by diarrhea that they were unable to defend the city from assault. Some historians believe that Alexander the Great died because of a hellebore overdose, when he took it as medication.
It's a lovely, poisonous, little plant and it blooms even before the crocus.
Late last night, I stepped out, as I often do, onto the back porch for a moment before going to bed. It's my final moment with the trees and animals in my backyard, and I wanted to see if I could find the first sliver of the new Moon. It was cold and the sky was covered in clouds and then -- it rippled. (I don't know how to describe it any better, that moment when the veil moves aside a bit, thins so that you can see more through it than you could see before, you take the pill that makes you larger. So, it rippled.*)
The wind changed and tiny ice crystals began to fall, with a lovely bright noise, from the cloudy night sky. The branches of trees and lilacs, heavy with swelling buds, rustled like sistrums. The bark on the birch trees made love to the sudden cold. The atmosphere was instantly charged and I fell, standing upright, through caves of ice, across frozen fjords, into what C.S. Lewis called Northerness, high across the Arctic sky with Serafina Pekkala. My Scandinavian many-times-great grandmothers smiled at me, waved from their skis, reminded me that I come from a people who revel in the cold, pointed to my bare feet, and flew off into the dark. And I was back, on my own terra cotta tiles, in my own screen porch, watched seriously by my own squirrels and cat. And the wind chimes made a very serious "ting" as if to say, "Now, Listen. Now it begins."
And, there they were: the Maiden and the Crone, Spring and Winter, dancing around my frozen backyard, already carpeted with icy snow, dancing with the kind of stately gaiety reserved for special occasions. I watched them, so happy together, a beloved Nonna and her beloved granddaughter, and was reminded of the line: Life and death upon one tether/And running beautiful together. And, that's how it happens. We get one last big snow and that snow mulches and waters the already-emerged green shoots of daffodils and crocus. The warm winds of March will blow in within hours and melt the snow and it's all as it should be/has been/will(please the Goddess)be.
I've had an incubating idea for a post about how the old Maiden/Mother/Crone-Spring/Summer & Autumn/Autumn & Winter paradigm no longer works now that women live longer (thanks, Louis Pasteur!) and that Ostara ought, more than the festival of the Maiden, be thought of as the festival of play, something that even we old crones really enjoy. I wanted to talk about how one becomes freer, in some ways, to play and have fun as one ages, but you know, I'll let that gestate for a year. Just now, I'm all drunk on that loving dance of grandmother and beloved granddaughter.
Turn, Wheel of the Year, turn, and turn, and turn me around with you. I love my life more than I can say.
*It's so difficult as to be impossible to write in any comprehensible way about ecstatic experience, about what happens to a mystic in the moments when all the barriers dissolve, when what appear to be the false boundaries fall away and what appears to be the true web appears. St. Teresa tried, St. Catherine of Sienna tried, Rumi tried, Mary Oliver tries. My own pathetic efforts fall far short. (And, no, it doesn't pass my notice that it's during liminal times that this devotee of Hecate, Goddess of the Crossroads, is most likely to feel the infinite touch the buckle of her spine, to use Oliver's phrase.) In the end, words don't work for mystical experience, which happens to Younger Self, not Talking Self. Go catch that one moment in 53 years when the ice starts falling with exactly that sistrum sound. Go have an orgasm that dissolves all the borders. Go twirl around on a grassy hill with a friend and fall rolling down the hill on the green grass that's grown there for years longing for a child's body to roll down it. Stand in the sun and see that photosynthesis is the ultimate act of love and pleasure and fall down struck by the love and pleasure of seeing it. Go drink the mad witch's brew, love the reeling midnight through, grok the stars, come back, and we'll "talk." But talking won't really do any good, will it? And, by then, you won't mind, will you?
Ladies! Listen up! Detecting breast cancer early is the key to surviving it! Breast Self Exams (BSEs) can help you to detect breast cancer in its earlier stages. So, on the first of every month, give yourself a breast self-exam. It's easy to do. Here's how. If you prefer to do your BSE at a particular time in your cycle, calendar it now. But, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
And, once a year, get yourself a mammogram. Mammograms cost between $150 and $300. If you have to take a temp job one weekend a year, if you have to sell something on e-Bay, if you have to go cash in all the change in various jars all over the house, if you have to work the holiday season wrapping gifts at Macy's, for the love of the Goddess, please go get a mammogram once a year.
Or: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pays all or some of the cost of breast cancer screening services through its National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. This program provides mammograms and breast exams by a health professional to low-income, underinsured, and underserved women in all 50 states, six U.S. territories, the District of Columbia, and 14 American Indian/Alaska Native organizations. For more information, contact your state health department or call the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER.
Send me an email after you get your mammogram and I will do an annual free tarot reading for you. Just, please, examine your own breasts once a month and get your sweet, round ass to a mammogram once a year.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."