Saturday, November 27, 2010

Guns to Growth

How Does Nature Do It?

Saturday Poetry Blogging

Day Lilies
by Rosanna Warren

For six days, full-throated, they praised
the light with speckled tongues and blare
of silence by the porch stair:
honor guard with blazons and trumpets raised
still heralding the steps of those
who have not for years walked here
but who once, pausing, chose

this slope for a throng of lilies:
and hacked with mattock, pitching stones
and clods aside to tamp dense
clumps of bog-soil for new roots to seize.
So lilies tongued the brassy air
and cast it back in the sun's
wide hearing. So, the pair

who planted the bulbs stood and heard
that clarion silence. We've heard it,
standing here toward sunset
as those gaping, burnished corollas poured
their flourish. But the petals have
shrivelled, from each crumpled knot
droops a tangle of rough

notes shrunk to a caul of music.
Extend your palms: you could as well
cup sunbeams as pour brim-full
again those absent flowers, or touch the quick
arms of those who bent here, trowel in
hand, and scraped and sifted soil
held in a bed of stone.

Photos by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

One of the surest ways for me to upset folks is to blog about personal finance.

That's not surprising; the entire issue of personal finance/prosperity/money is pretty fraught within the overall Pagan community. There are likely a number of reasons for the "issues around this issue," including the squick of New Age Prosperity gurus, a still-lingering notion from the late 60s/early 70s that it's "wrong" for tarot readers, reiki workers, Pagan clergy, etc. to charge for their work (although that's become less of an issue lately and was always kind-of tempered with a grudging, "well, at least bartering would be ok"), and a general preference for a more egalitarian, less hierarchical community (and little separates and creates hierarchy within the overall culture than disparate economic circumstances). Lots of Pagans simply have priorities other than "material success" and many of us have very grave concerns about the planetary impact of overconsumption of Earth's resources. You can probably think of other reasons. And, Goddess knows, the current completely dysfunctional economy has vastly exacerbated all of these issues; it's pretty difficult to read advice about personal finances when your job's been send offshore, you've lost your home due to mortgage fraud, or a health problem bankrupts you after years of work, thrift, and prudence.

All of which often leads, in my humble experience, to people reacting to what they hear in their head rather than to what's actually being said.

Which is, as seems lately to be too regular a practice with me, a long wind-up for saying: For the love of the Goddess, do NOT put yourself into debt this holiday season. Debt, like fear, is the mind-killer. Debt can poison your life, threaten your home, ruin your chance for a comfortable old age. Kate Moss, the anorexic model who has done as much as any single human to poison the body image of millions of women, is infamously supposed to have remarked that "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." (Ms. Moss has, obviously, never had good caviar, the soup at Bayona, my friend E's apple pie, Son's bar-b-que, DiL's clam chowder, my friend B's chopped liver, or a well-buttered lobster roll on a hot day at the National Cathedral's annual flower sale. And she is poorer for the lack.) I've looked at debt from both sides now, and I will say that almost nothing that you buy on credit is as good as debt-free feels.

My "almost nothing" qualifier consists of this: (1) I think that education is priceless and that, since, sadly the United States doesn't support quality life-time education, it can make sense, over a lifetime, to borrow money for an education. Often, though not always, the investment is financially sensible, as a good education can result in earnings high enough to justify taking out the loan. I can also think of situations in which the way that education enhances everyday life can make it worthwhile to incur an educational debt even when it won't be financially rewarding and will require lifetime sacrifices in other areas. (Yesterday, I mentioned to family that G/Son is getting quite good at arithmetic and can count to 100. G/Son disappeared, and I thought at first that I'd embarrassed him by making him the center of attention. But in a moment he re-appeared from the table where he keeps his recent papers from Montessori school and said to his other grandparents, "I can count to 100 and this will help me." Then, he used the number chart that he'd handmade at school to count off the numbers from 1 to 100, including the teens which, for some odd reason, still give him a bit of trouble. Later in the evening, he brought me a map of the world that he'd colored in and showed me the names of the continents. I can't put a price on that.) (2) I think that, in some circumstances, borrowing money for a mortgage can make sense. Certainly, in the midst of today's mortgage fraud crisis (and it may take a number of years to work this out), and joblessness epidemic, I'd be very hesitant. You can always rent for one more year and put the difference in the bank. But buying a small home that you can pay off in 10 or 15 years can be a good investment because, even if the Catfood Commission reduces us to penury in our old age, one can at least be generally certain of a roof over one's head. (3) I think that, for people first starting out, and especially now while interest rates are quite low, if you live in an area where a car is necessary (and, ask, first: is it really necessary, right now?), it might make sense to borrow a small amount of money to buy your first car, especially if this will allow you to get to a job, get out of your house with your small child, get to college, etc. Eventually, your goal should be to be able to pay cash out of savings for a new car. (4) In some rare circumstances, when you are just starting out in life, it can make sense to use a credit card in emergencies. Here's the kind of emergency I mean: You're out of college, in your first home, with an infant. The used car that you bought a year ago, that you use to drop your child at day care and get to your job, needs a new radiator. Your trusted mechanic says that a new radiator will get you at least another 18 months out of this car. Your savings won't cover the repair. W/o the car, you'd have to take 3 busses to get your child to day care and yourself to work and then 3 busses the other way at the end of the day. Put the repair on your credit card and then cut expenses to the bone to pay it off as fast as humanly possible. Once it's paid off, start putting the amount of your monthly payment into the bank for at least a few months. Next time, you won't have to borrow to cover the repair. (5) You're in the middle of Full Catastrophe. You've lost your job, you've got huge medical bills, and you need to rent a U-Haul to move out of your house and in with a relative. You need another chemo treatment to stay alive. You need to buy a plane ticket home to see your dying mother.

Beyond those sorts of instances, my advice (and, feel free to ignore it or dispute it) is to not borrow money, esp. via credit cards. Whatever you think you need, you really don't. If you buy things with a credit card that you cannot pay off at the end of the month (ie, you're using the credit card for convenience or to earn airline miles) then you are, simply, living beyond your means. And you cannot live beyond your means for any length of time.

This time of year is especially difficult. No matter which, if any, holiday(s) we celebrate about now, there's a pressure to spend money whether we have it, or not. What kind of creepy parent wouldn't get their child everything they want for xmas? What kind of jerk can't donate to the office fund for the xmas party? What kind of friend are you if you don't buy cards to send to everyone you know? What sort of person doesn't get a gift for the doorman, the mailman, your secretary, the guy who does your hair? What kind of niece doesn't go buy her aunt another unwanted bottle of eau de toilette? Do you want to be the only one on your block without flashing lights that up your electric bill and pollute the planet? Everyone else you know can afford to go camping on the Winter Solstice. What kind of money-grubbing jerk won't contribute to the gift fund for the Circle? Are you really going to wear those thread-worn robes to the Solstice celebration?

Come on. Stop. We're Witches. We deliberately live outside the village, at the edge of the woods where things are wild. And one of the first elements of effective magic is the ability to perceive reality. Send an email: Dear Friends and Family, This year, with Bob out of work and my medical bills, we can't afford to send gifts. Please feel free to reciprocate by not sending gifts to us. We hope that you have a wonderful holiday and that you don't spend even one minute standing in line to buy "stuff" for us.

You'll feel better as soon as you hit "Send."

Here are some additional very worthwhile thoughts about spending money just now:
Every dollar we put into the strange river which is the economy is a vote for the kind of world we want to live in. Do you want a world of blood and exploitation (which is the one we live in now), or a world of art and effort and justice? The choice, as ever, is yours.

Picture found here.

People Keep Doing It; I'm Going to Keep Complaining About It

Here's an interesting article about a Pagan who claims that he was denied a permit to work as a limo driver because of his religion and his sexual preference for BDSM. The Pagan, Peter Hayes, makes some claims about his interview that, if true, would be pretty disturbing:
He applied for a chauffeur's permit with the Vancouver Police Department's taxi unit in May 2005, and was interviewed by Barker, who was tasked with vetting his application.

Hayes arrived at the interview dressed all in black: black trench coat, black shirt, black dress pants, black tie and shiny black military boots.

When Barker asked what the occasion was for all the black, Hayes testified that he said he always wore black, like many Pagans. [I'll admit that I know lots of non-Pagans who wear a lot of black and that I know many Pagans who dress in all the colors of the rainbow. The limos and town cars I've been in have all been driven by drivers wearing black suits and a white shirt. I'm unaware of any branch of Paganism that requires its members to wear all black, and one can question the intelligence both of dressing that way for such an interview and of immediately referring to one's religion, rather than just saying, "Oh, it's just how I usually dress," or something. However, neither the fact that Mr. Hayes wears black nor the fact that he's a Pagan appear to be legitimate reasons for denying him a permit to drive a limo.]

During the interview, Barker told Hayes that he would not be granted a permit.

Hayes testified before the tribunal that the officer called him a "sex cult leader" during the interview, and was refusing the permit because of that. [It's unclear how Mr. Hayes' sexual preferences came up during the interview.]

He also said that Barker was "completely unprofessional, snarky and demeaning," "intentionally aggressive" and "rude and insulting."

In a letter to the VPD, Hayes wrote that Barker told him he posed "an extreme risk of recruiting passengers/customers into my cult during work hours."

The authorities, obviously, tell a different story:
But Barker told the tribunal that he denied the permit after a background check revealed a series of troubling allegations against Hayes spanning 10 years.

In the mid-1990s, Hayes was charged with the sexual assault of a child, although he was eventually acquitted. A decade later, in 2003, neighbours called the police to say that Hayes had danced naked in his bedroom in view of small children, but no charges were laid.

That same year, Hayes's live-in girlfriend reported to police that he had pushed and scratched her, but she did not want to pursue charges.

Barker testified that even though Hayes had not been convicted of a crime, he was worried that he could "be alone in the limo with the doors locked, gosh knows where, with kids or a female relying on him to get her home."

The tribunal ruled that Barker's testimony was credible, and that he was unaware of Hayes's religion or BDSM practices before the interview. [The fact that he was unaware of Mr. Hayes' religion and sexual proclivities before the interview seems irrelevant. If he became aware of them during the interview and used them as the basis for denying a permit, that would seem to be inappropriate.]
This decision also appears to eliminate the opportunity for the relevant board to consider whether BDSM is a protected sexual orientation.

So, was this a case of discrimination? Reasonable caution? What's your take?

The article includes the all-too-frequent confusion as to whether or not to capitalize the word "Pagan." First, we get:
A Vancouver man's enthusiasm for bondage and his pagan beliefs were not the reason he was denied a permit to drive a limousine

but later in the article, we get:
According to tribunal documents, Hayes says that he is a practicing Pagan

This isn't complicated, people. "Pagan," as used here, is an umbrella term that describes a category of religions that include Wicca, Druidism, Asatru, etc., just as the term "Christian" describes a category of religions that includes Catholicism, Baptists, Methodists, etc. If you would capitalize "Christian," (an you know that you would) then you should capitalize "Pagan."

I guess that we should be grateful that the anonymous, meant-to-titillate photo chosen to illustrate the story focuses upon Mr. Hayes' sexual practices rather than upon his religion.

Picture found here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Serene & Bright, And Lovely as a Lapland Night

Aurora Borealis timelapse HD - Tromsø 2010 from Tor Even Mathisen on Vimeo.

And we get to live here.

/hat tip NTodd's Ma

Thank You

Sun in Pisces and Gemini Ascendent, I have all of the signs in the Zodiac that look in two directions. As a result, I can often see both sides of any argument. It makes me a good lawyer, but, on occasion, an annoying friend and, to tell the truth, at times I can even frustrate myself: "Yes!" cannot be the answer to EVERY either/or question. Which is a long (two-sided) wind-up for saying that I can see both sides of the whole "gratitude" thing.

On the one hand (we Pisces haven't hands, but we Geminis have four!), I can agree with Barbara Ehrenreich that this whole "Bright Siding Thing" has gone way too far. Too many of us get talked into doing crazy shit in the name of being "positive," and the whole "be grateful" thing can cover an awful lot of privilege when it's directed at victims of abuse, people whose jobs got shipped off to someplace where there's available slave labor, or women with cancers growing in their breasts because it is profitable for multi-national companies to pollute our air, water, and food chain (Carolyn Myss has a standing invitation to bite me). My Ascendant Gemini comes with a rather well-developed capacity for cynicism and snark and there's a reason that my first poetry love was (and is) Dorothy Parker. As Derrick Jensen has said, there's actually something quite liberating about realizing that we're completely screwed; I've drawn energy from that wave for almost my life's entire dance. (Parker: "Drink and dance and laugh and lie. Love the reeling midnight through. For tomorrow we shall die. But, alas, we never do.")

On the other hand, I've found the spiritual practice of intelligent gratitude to be very rewarding. I work pretty hard at never having a drink of water and never eating a bite of food for which I don't stop and thank Earth, the people who worked to bring those gifts to me, and myself for the work I've done to ensure that I have what I need. I sit zazen almost every single day in my garden or my ritual room and send gratitude out to the Universe for my healthy, happy family, for a job that I love, for my circle of women, for the roof over my head, and for the absolute lagniappe (years after the breast cancer and the broken ankle that, even mere decades ago, would have killed me) of the moment when G/Son points to my computer and says, "Nonna, that word is 'fox,'" or says, "Nonna, I think your cold is better; I don't hear you coughing as much." When I was in my 20s and going through a very rough patch (personally, professionally, physically, and spiritually), I somehow, long before I'd read anything about practicing gratitude, began the practice of forcing myself to write down three good things that had happened every day. When I go back now and read that datebook, some of the things I had to count to get to three seem pretty strained (it was a tough time), but the practice was transformational for me. It forced me to focus on what I wanted more of and to stop only thinking about the things (almost everything, at that point) in my life that hurt. Whenever Son, growing up a Scorpio through and through, was mad at the world, I would say to him, "OK, that's all true. But tell me three good things that happened today." (Sometimes, I think he thought the best thing that could possibly happen in the whole world would be to have a mom who didn't ask idiotic questions. But he never got to be grateful for that.)

And, so. We have a secular holiday devoted to being grateful. We Americans should be not only grateful but also ashamed and afraid for the fact that we consume far more of the planet's resources than we ought. And we owe a debt of gratitude to so many.
Plants and Animals in the Garden,
We welcome you -- we invite you in -- we ask your forgiveness and
your understanding. Listen as we invokve your names, as we
also listen for you.
Little sparrows, quail, robins, and house finches who have died in our strawberry nets;
Young Cooper's Hawk who flew into our sweet pea trellis and broke your neck;
Numerous orange-bellied newts who died by our shears, in our irrigation pipes, by our cars, by our feet,
Slugs and snails whom we have pursued for years, feeding you to the ducks, crushing you, trapping you, picking you off and tossing you over our fences;
Gophers and moles, trapped and scorned by us, and also watched with love, admirations, and awe for your one-mindedness;
Sowbugs, spitbugs, earwigs, flea beetles, wooly aphids, rose-suckers, cutworms, millipedes and other insects whom we have lured and stopped;
Snakes and moths who have been caught in our water system and killed by our mowers;
Families of mice who have died in irrigation pipes, by electricity in our pump box, and by predators while nesting in our greenhouses;
Manure worms and earthworms, severed by spades, and numerous microscopic lifeforms in our compost system who have been burned by sunlight;
Feral cats and raccoons whom we've steadily chased from the garden;
Rats whom we've poisoned and trapped and drowned.
Deer chased at dawn and at midnight, routed by dogs, by farmers, by fences and numerous barriers;
Plants: colored lettuces, young broccoli, ripe strawberry and sweet apples, all of you who have lured the animals to your sides, and all plants we have shunned: poison hemlock, pigweed, bindweed, stinging nettle, bull thistle;
We call all plants we have removed by dividing you
and separating you, and deciding you no longer grow well here;
We invoke you and thank you and continue to learn from you. We will continue to practice with you and for you.

~by Wendy Johnson, Green Gulch Farm, in Earth Prayers from Around the World: 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations for Honoring the Earth, ed. by Eliz. Robers & Elias Amidon.

Photo by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

For Fun

It is, after all, the secular season for gratitude.

hat tip: Margaret Roach at A Way to Garden.

Margaret's video about "Gardening How-To & Woo Woo" is also worth a watch. Love her discussion of how the garden and the gardener are one. And, of course, it reminds me of Yeats:
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

How can we know the gardener from the garden? I'd hope that, someday, in my case, you couldn't.

Bring Me Some Peace When There's Talk of War, When It's Hard to Find

Bring me some peace when there's talk of war, I've got peace on my mind.
Oh, peace is sweet, most any time, and, yet,
Bring me some peace when there's talk of war
And how easy we forget.

Tonight, I will light a candle for peace in Korea. You come, too.

I May Disagree, But That's Because I Think That We Can Learn to Control Population

Monday, November 22, 2010

There's Something Wrong

with a culture that refers to its gentials -- the organs that create life and give intense pleasure -- as junk.

I am just saying.

Do It

Why We Lose So Often

I think that "aspirin to lick" is going to become a catch-phrase for me.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sing It, Sister

Judge Kimba Woods rocks.
Mr. Epstein will be permitted to attend the bris in the joyous event that a son is born. But the court would like to balance the scales. If a daughter is born there will be a public celebration in court with readings from poetry celebrating girls and women. So ordered, New York New York, 11/18/10.

Your Honor, if I may, I'd like to suggest the following poem. I'm sure my readers will have others.

/hat tip to Soprano in comments at Eschaton

Picture found here.

Food to Die For

While I'll admit to being a bit of a foodie, I grew up in the South and my mom was from even deeper in the South and I do love good Southern cooking, even if it's not as fashionable as some other forms of cuisine.

A few years ago, a friend gave me Food to Die For: A Book of Funeral Food, Tips, and Tales,. Now, down here, South of that line drawn by Mr. Mason and Mr. Dixon, when someone dies, we start to cook. It's almost as if we believe that you can stave off any more deaths if you just prepare enough food. Food almost immediately gets taken over to the family of the deceased and more food (usually, lots more food) is prepared for after the funeral when family and friends gather together for comfort. So I've come to love this book not only for its hint of Goth mixed with Southern Lady, and for its historical discussions of funeral customs, but also for its recipes, which I use for many occasions other than funerals.

I pulled it out a few days ago looking for appetizer ("pick-up food," according to the book) recipes that I could use for Thanksgiving. Cucumber Sandwiches, Cheese Straws, Ham Biscuits, Deviled Eggs, five different recipes for Pimento Cheese (I adore this stuff; do they even make it outside the South?), Hot Tomato Bouillon. As the book explains:

The greater the extent offerings for a bereaved household or funeral reception can be prepared before presenting, the better. Completely ready food is an act of great thoughtfulness appreciated by those staffing unfamiliar kitchens crowded with people and all sorts and conditions of food. . . . It could be said that the more a funeral repast resembles a cocktail party -- with or without the alcohol -- the better.
And the Goddess knows that if my own after-party does not resemble a rather nice cocktail party (avec the alcohol), my unquiet ghost is going to show up and want to know the reason why. My circle knows where the really good bottle of champagne is stowed.

I think I'm going to make ham biscuits, one of the simplest (make buttermilk biscuits, split them and butter the inside, fill with thinly-sliced Smithfield ham, serve with hot pepper jelly, if desired) and most delicious foods of the South, deviled eggs from a friend's recipe, and my own crab dip that, while not found in this recipe book is, indeed, to die for.

Picture (and another review of the book) found here.

Sunday Dance Blogging