Saturday, April 23, 2011


What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been

The truly brilliant and always-grounded Athenae has up a great weekend post asking people to discuss the most transformative trips they've ever taken. What a great question!

One thing that amazes me is how, for most of her commenters, the important trips were trips into nature. Oddly, one of my most important trips, much as I always push a connection with nature, was a trip from the mountains and woods to a city.

As I answered at Athenae's blog, one of the most transformative trips that I ever took was when I was five and my family moved from rural Colorado ("my city of mountains, stay with me, stay") to Washington, D.C. For that little, impressionable Pisces, walking off of the train into a city of marble monuments and heroic statues was completely transformative. My entire conception of what the world was and could be changed when I moved from wooded mountainsides to a city full of architecture and gardens devoted to an heroic archetype of democracy. I fell madly in love (and fifty years later, I am only that much more devoted) with every carved marble wheat sheaf and arrow, every faux-Grecian column, every naked woman representing some high-minded ideal (bite me, John Ashcroft, no, really), every amazing painting calling to me from the walls of a museum. I gave myself all the way to the United States Botanical Garden, to the National Arboretum, to the fountains (Lit! At night! I'd never seen a fountain before, not to mention imagined that they could be lit up at night! Kennedy was in the WH, it was Camelot in DC, the entire city seemed, to me, full of sparkling fountains that shone all night long. And there were ladies in pillbox hats and amazingly-constructed dresses w/ princess seams, wearing 3/4 length gloves! 3/4 length!).

I still love to retreat to the mountains, although, now, for me, five decades later, it is the Allegheny and Appalachian mountains that soothe my soul. I haven't been to the Rockies for forty years. And I've been v happy during some long, long trips to the California coast. But in my dreams, I am still, most often, in a very wet city on the edge of a river, a city full of marble monuments and archetypical statues.

Just last night, I dreamed that there was a wonderful arts program inside the Capitol, run by a brilliant and energetic young woman. I was hosting a young teen-age woman interested in government and art and, finding ourselves downtown with a bit of extra time, I decided to drive her to the Capitol to check out the arts program. We drove past statues that, while they do not exist in the "mundane" D.C., most certainly do exist in the archetypical DC: statues of heras, and feminine beasts, and deep principles. My (long dead) mother and I walked our guest into the Capitol which turned out to be, as only the not-so-"mundane" Capitol really is, full of open skylights that a young woman might step through and hurt herself and large bookshelves that she could climb on and pull over on herself. And, yet, we got our guest up to the front to meet the young hera running the history and arts program and, when I awoke to put myself magically back into the dream and started to soothe over the dangers, my young guest showed up in my not-awake-not-asleep dream and said, "Please, don't. I like it better like that." She's right. So do I. I love this city best with all of its dangers and pitfalls. Especially the ones that people mean when they sneer about "inside the Beltway."

I opened up and embraced them half a century ago when I was five. One of the first dreams that I ever had of this city was when I was six and dreamed that I was swimming in a fountain at the pool of Blessed Mary's feet, just outside Union Station, looking up and watching her nod to me. (There is no such "real" place in the "mundane" city, not even at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which somehow transposed itself with Union Station in my dream.) When I was six, Mary was the only image that I had for the divine feminine. Today, I see that ancient dream as my first attempt to connect to (swim in the water of) Columbia's symbolic city. May I swim here until I die. May you dream yourself into your own most important landscape.

How would you answer Athenae?

When you bring a child to a magical place, you can't be surprised if she spends half a century or so living there, both physically and in her dreams. Where will you take the most important child in your life?

Picture found here.

Daily Practice

Photo by the blogger. If you copy, please link back.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cottage Garden

It's an almost impossibly perfect day here on the banks of the overfull Potomac River. I'm doing work that I'm good at and that I love. My garden is taking off. My dreams keep telling me interesting things. G/Son is thriving and I'm having dinner w/ Son tomorrow at a new French place in D.C. And while the world goes to hell in a handbasket and Obama (who got elected because that evil woman voted for the war) is now sending drones into Libya, I'm still filled with gratitude for the chance to help re-weave the web every morning that the Goddess wakes me up to do this interesting thing all over again. One of these times, I'm bound to get it right. I live in a city that gives me a chance almost every day to quickly ground, center, throw a web of intent across a motorcade or helicopter or government official and raise energy from the Earth to guide those involved to open to goodness, mercy, compassion. No matter what else, I can go to bed every night in my little cottage and be grateful for that.

I'm off now to sit at my altar, to which I'm bringing the first gardenia bloom of the season as on offering. They say that the Summerlands smell of apples. That will be nice, but I hope that they have gardenias there, too, because I may love that smell better than almost anything else -- well, except for the smell of Son's head when he was a baby -- ever. What's your favorite smell?

There's some great writing out there on the internets (as W used to say).

As always, if you only read one blog all week, it should be The Arch Druid Report.

Literata makes a great point here.

Thalia shows what it's really like to work with all you've got to be in relationship with a bit of Earth.

Beth Owl's Daughter talks about changing your home in order to change your life. Magic, indeed.

Medusa has a list of events from Wisconsin to the Netherlands. They will keep on speaking her name.

Patti Winginton adds to my comments about how Christians should (not) talk to Pagans.

Byron Ballard reminds us that in the midst of life, we are in death and the veils can thin at any time.

The always erudite and sensible Makarios links to Swidler's Dialogue Decalogue.

Teacats points out in comments that the divine S.J. Tucker already explained everything in song to Christians who want pointers on how to talk to Pagans.

And, on Twitter, Cary Rockland asks a question that's had me thinking all afternoon. What "success rituals" do you use to achieve peak performance? I keep wondering if I even have any? Best I've come up with is: lean protein at breakfast and remembering my "why," but I feel as if this is a question I need to work on a lot more. How would you answer it?

Picture found here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Me, In a Bad Mood

Jason Pitzl-Waters, at the Wild Hunt links to this interesting post by a Christian telling other Christians "how to talk to Pagans." It's not as creepy as the recent book on the same subject, but, well-intentioned as I am sure that its author is, it's still insulting and creepy. (The odious John Morehead in comments only makes it that much worse.) In the end, this entire post is all about "othering" Pagans under the guise of "no, really, try to treat them as if they were humans; they're so dumb, they'll really appreciate it!"

First, though, and I mean this, kudos for getting the capitalization mostly correct. It's more than most do.

As several people note in the comments to the post, the unspoken "elephant in the room" in any Christian discussion about "how to talk to Pagans" is that the advice isn't given to help you to have, say, a nice chat about the weather or your local neighborhood zoning issue, nor is it given to help you to convey to the Pagan in your workplace when you need to get their report. Oddly, most people wouldn't need a guide to help them talk to Pagans about those topics; believe it or not, we're pretty easy to talk to about zoning issues and when reports are due. (See also, e.g., your kids, my garden, the weather, today's traffic, where to go for lunch, taxes, whether to go into detail on a subtopic in our legal memo, who's going to play bad cop on the conference call, and the funny thing that happened to me this weekend. Difficult as you may find it to believe, I had conversations today on all of those topics with Christians who're unaware that I'm a Pagan and who have no need for a special guide to figure out how to talk to me. OK, they did have to e-nun-ci-ate very clearly, because, you know, it's difficult for Pagans to keep up with modern English.) No, this kind of advice is all about the need of most Christians to at least lay the groundwork (aka "begin to 'dialogue'" or "develop a 'relationship'") to convert the Pagan to the "one true religion," aka, whatever brand of Christianity said Christian practices. It gives the whole thing that skin-crawling, what-is-this-huckster-trying-to-sell-me vibe that makes most of us feel exploited and in need of a shower. Look, I've been a Pentecostal Catholic. I know you're desperate to convert me. (Points! I got points! Now Jebuz will surely let me into heaven; I've contributed to his Ponzi scheme!) Playing How to Win Friends and Influence People, by acting as if, "Oh, hell, no, who me?, No I just want to talk to you, [Insert Pagan's first name]; I'm not trying to convert you! [Smile and use Pagan's first name again]" insults my intelligence, which, in spite of what you appear to believe, is actually my one strong suit.

Second, thanks for the slide show. No, really. Maybe I can put together a bunch of random slides showing stereotypes of Christians to illustrate the post I'm not going to write called: How to Talk to Christians for Fun and Profit. I spent today in a business suit, Hermes scarf, and Ferragamo shoes, and, oddly, none of those show up in your illustrative slide show of modern Pagans. Maybe you can put together a slide show of Hispanics in low-riders? Irish Catholics drinking too much? Christians handling snakes and denying their children needed medical care?

I can't get over the notion that, in a different context, this same post could be called "How to Talk to Black People" or "How to Get a Women's Libber to Date You." So we get gems such as:
Pagans are people, just like us, and they appreciate a personable approach.
Thanks. No, really, thanks. Nice of you to let me into the Human Club. Bite me. And, it's "just as we are," not "just like us."

[B]e mindful that 80% of communication is nonverbal and the average Pagan is far more sensitive and attuned to symbolic communications than the average Evangelical.

And black people all like basketball and they're a lot more sensitive to rhythm than you are, so be sure to snap your fingers and groove while you chat them up. Women are much more in tune with emotions, so be sure to use "feeling" words when you talk to them. Jews love money, so if you're talking to them, be sure to mention that you got your suit wholesale. I guess that you have to have been on the receiving end of some of these "dialogue" tactics to understand how truly insulting they are. Hispanics? More excitable. Chinese? Inscrutable. And every single old white man must want to discuss golf, right? Look, I'm as Pagan as they come and I LIVE in my left brain. I'm literally learning disabled when it comes to "right brain" skills (see e.g., nonverbal communication). What I understand is what I can read in a well-written legal brief. Sorry to fail to live up to your stereotype of me. See why I think you only want to sell me shit? See why you piss me off?

Do … focus on Jesus.

Right. Because, first, most Pagans have never heard of him and are just dying to have even more Jesus stuffed down their throats. Kali fuck, you can't live in this society for 5 minutes without having Jebuz, Jebuz, Jebuz rammed down your gullet, so for sure a great way to have a conversation with most Pagans is to focus on Jesus. (When talking to the mark, er, um, customer, keep referring to the product.) Look, while the number of "cradle Pagans" is growing, the majority of Pagans living in America today were raised in Christian families. Like many of us, I, for one, got more Jesus growing up than I got fluoride, physical education, exposure to classical music, or history of the Americas before Columbus. I've forgotten more about Jesus than most Christians ever learn. I know Jesus; I had, for years, an intimate relationship with Jesus, and I left him. "Focusing" on him is as respectful to me as it would be for you to focus every conversation with me on my ex. I don't feel a need to spend my conversations with every Christian "focusing" on Hecate or Columbia. My relationship with those Goddesses is personal and I can't think of a single reason why you'd care. Accord me the same respect. I realize that leaves you with no reason to talk to me, since apparently the only reason for you to talk to me, even though I am "people, just like you," is to convert me to Jesus. That's ok. Keep on moving.

Not only should you not expect Pagans to take the bible as authoritative as you do, you should not expect them to take any scripture as authoritative as you do.

Sigh. You know, this isn't a bad point, if you accept the premise that the Christian's only real goal is to convert the Pagan. Telling me that I have to accept Jesus as my personal savior because your holy book says that I have to do that to get into your heaven is pretty silly, given that I don't accept your holy book. But, Kali Fuck: "take the bible as authoritative as you do"? Again, I live in my left brain. If you can't write English (hint: Buy an "ly" or revise the sentence), you're not going to have a very good conversation with me. And my Book of Shadows sure doesn't look anything like the Book of Common Prayer (one of the great products of the English language, BTW) or a Catholic missal. But keep on misconstruing.

Finally, there's:
Don't … be afraid to challenge, as long as you’re respectful
Through many years of experience I’ve found Pagans aren’t beyond being challenged, provided the challenge is respectful, and preferably within the context of relationship. . . . With such a history of bad blood between Pagans and Christians[,] I can’t promise you won’t have a bad experience, that you won’t ever experience rejection, even following these tips. But I can say that most the time, if you approach Pagans with the right attitude, you’ll find them quite open to conversation about things of the Spirit.

Yes, it's true. There are a few of us who won't melt if you challenge us. Weird, huh? And if you just approach those Negroes in a nice way, you can talk to them about almost anything. Well, OK, speak slowly, cuz they do, and be sure to say how articulate that Dr. King was. Be nice, and don't use the "N-Word," cuz even the ones who aren't too techy will go off on that, for some odd reason. But you can challenge some of them, for sure, if you do it nicely. And even those women's libbers can be calmed down and appeased to the point where you can often get their phone number; can't promise that some aren't so bitter that they won't reject you, but, hey, just use "feeling words," and keep trying! If you keep your sentences short and just speak loudly, even your Hispanic gardener can understand what you're saying.

I'm not even going to discuss the "Don't dump on women, gays, and the environment." Patriarchy; soaking in it; all I'm saying.

Here's an idea. Stop approaching every human being on the planet as a "customer" and see how that changes you. Spend some time talking to your Jesus about that. Meanwhile, you can ask me about the Nats' latest game without a guide book.

Picture found here.

And We Are Living in the Material World . . . .

Richard Louv notes:
For decades, our culture has struggled with two addictions: to oil and to despair. But what if our lives were as immersed in nature as in technology every day? What if we not only conserved nature, but created it where we live, work, learn and play? The filmmaker Camilla Rockwell recently sent me a clip from her film Mother Nature’s Child: Growing Outdoors in the Media Age.

Here's Rockwell's interview of Louv:

Richard Louv: Human Energy Through Nature Connection from Camilla Rockwell on Vimeo.

Here's Louv discussing easy ways that you can help the child (daughter, son, niece, nephew, grandchild, godchild, neighbor's child, student, etc.) in your life spend time out in nature -- now, in your neighborhood, town, suburb. I like method No. 7:
Find a guide book. Consider “I Love Dirt,”; Joseph Cornell’s classic “Sharing Nature With Children”; and “Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature.”
I'm going to buy Coyote's Guide to Connecting with Nature for me and G/Son.

I'm also planning to read Louv's new book: The Nature Principal. One, and it's just one, of the things that I love about Louv is his ability to convey the need for a relationship with the material, natural world in a way that anyone, even non-Pagans (and you know how difficult they can be to talk to!) can get. I gave his last book, Last Child in the Woods to everyone in my family last year at Winter Solstice.

How did you connect with nature today?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Elements: Fire

Sometimes occasions just collect goodness to them, and the minutes settle themselves into the fire like sticks, tessellating into the perfection of the night, and you recognise that clear familiar joy under the stars of being outside by a fire with the edge-folk you love so.

May it be so for you.

Read the whole post here.

Find Rima's art here

Tuesday Poetry Blogging

Last Spring

Fill yourself up with the forsythias
and when the lilacs flower, stir them in too
with your blood and happiness and wretchedness,
the dark ground that seems to come with you.

Sluggish days. All obstacles overcome.
And if you say: ending or beginning, who knows,
then maybe—just maybe—the hours will carry you
into June, when the roses blow.
Source: Poetry (March 2011).

PIcture found here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

I'm In

Elements: Water

[I]n order to see when the correct proportions and balances have been achieved, the [garden] designer must look with eyes conditioned by meditation. Creating the right feel of water is a contemplative experience arising from a certain state of mind, not something arbitrary or something achieved by application of standard rules. The relationship with water should be personal and intimate. On both a practical and metaphorical level, in the West we have relegated water to a diminished role. We should instead offer water the respect and understanding that it deserves. When we create a waterfall, a stream, or pond, think of it as expressing enlightenment, and always try to convey that energy. The water is not simply one possible physical part of the garden; it is the connection between all the parts.

Martin Hakuba iMosko, Asla, and Alxe Noden in Landscape as Spirit; Creating a Contemplative Garden

Is your relationship with water personal and intimate? How do you incorporate water into your home, bit of Earth, daily life? Do you know from which body of water your drinking water comes? How could you find out? If you knew, how would you invoke Water differently?

Picture found here.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Ballet Blogging

My lilacs have big, purple buds. I've loved lilacs since I was a little girl.