They sent him back to her. The letter came Saying . . . and she could have him. And before She could be sure there was no hidden ill Under the formal writing, he was in her sight -- Living. -- They gave him back to her alive -- How else? They are not known to send the dead -- And not disfigured visibly. His face? -- His hands? She had to look -- to ask, "What was it, dear?" And she had given all And still she had all -- they had -- they the lucky! Wasn't she glad now? Everything seemed won, And all the rest for them permissable ease. She had to ask, "What was it, dear?" "Enough, Yet not enough. A bullet through and through, High in the breast. Nothing but what good care And medicine and rest -- and you a week, Can cure me of to go again." The same Grim giving to do over for them both. She dared no more than ask him with her eyes How was it with him for a second trial. And with his eyes he asked her not to ask. They had given him back to her, but not to keep. Robert Frost
I'm 52 years old today and, in the words of Holly Near's song:" I am open, and I am willing, for to be hopeless would seem so strange. It dishonors those who've gone before us, so lift me up to the light of change."
This morning, the doves who nest in my grape vines are back. I'm going to spend the day planting some seeds and listening to Handel's Water Music and then Son, DiL, and G/Son are coming over. Tonight, I'll read my tarot for the upcoming year.
Sun in Pisces, Moon in Taurus, Gemini Ascending, Sun and Mercury in my Tenth House. You play with the cards that you're dealt!
I was driving around Bethesda today, running a bunch of errands, and, as I sat in traffic, I couldn't help but notice a number of completely bleached-out "Support the Troops" ribbon-shaped magnets on the backs of SUVs.
Here's what I think. If your war lasts longer than the dye on the cheap Chinese pieces of shit that are sold to promote it, you lose. That's it. War over. Bring the troops home.
On the way home, I stopped to get gas and buy a Diet Coke. When I paid for the Diet Coke, I noticed that, behind the cash register, for sale, were two bumper stickers. One said, "This is America. Speak American." The other said, "Society of Americans in Favor of America for Americans." So I said to the gentleman of Middle Eastern extraction behind the cash register, "Gee, those bumper stickers are offensive. I don't like them. They make this place seem racist." He says to me, in broken English, "I know. Owner. He put them up. So far, we sell not one. Many people, they are telling me the same as you."
Here's what I think. If you're going to hire immigrants at minimum wage to run the cash register at your gas and go and you're going to pretend that speaking English is a prerequisite to living in America, you have to pay to send your employees to the community college for ESOL. And pay them for their time. Otherwise, you can shove your dickwad bumperstickers up your ass.
It's amazing that I ever manage to get anything done.
HANAMI Sleeping under the trees on Yoshino mountain The spring breeze wearing cherry blossom petals
In Japan, the advent of spring is heralded by a blanket of pink and white that spreads gently from the South to the North to cover the islands. Hana-mi translates to "flower watching", and it is a sport of leisure that has been enjoyed since the Heian Period.
Here, in Washington, D.C., we are blessed with hundreds of Japanese cherry blossom trees, planted around the tidal basin, adorning the Jefferson Memorial, creating magic in the city. The best time, in terms of avoiding the often crippling crowds, to see the blossoms is at dawn. Its you, a few breakfast picnickers with champagne and bagels and strawberries. But the best time to see the cherries, really, is at that moment in late afternoon when, as the sun sinks below the horizon, the temperature drops just a degree or two. That causes the cherry blossoms to give off their scent. Now, if you smelled just one, or just a hundred, cherry blossoms, you'd say that they had no scent. But when millions of them give off their scent all at once and you are blessed to be standing in the middle of them, then, you realize that cherry blossoms smell AMAZING. They smell exactly the way that early Spring smells, exactly the way that magic smells, exactly the way that dawn smells. If you can do it standing across from Thomas Jefferson with a crescent moon hanging over the monument and the water, well, then you can die happy.
Now, the purple hellebore is here, hot on the heels of the less-impressive white hellebore. And I've got my first daffodil, one of the minitures. The deep purple crocus are here, as well, just a few days after the white, gold, and light purple ones.
Downtown, I've seen the odd cherry tree and Bradford pear tree in bloom, although the cherry blossoms along the tidal basin are not expected until the last week of March. In my neighborhood, forsythia planted in sunny spots is now in bloom, although mine, deep in shade, hasn't opened at all. I may pick some this weekend to bring inside and force.
PS: Shot w/ my iPhone, not the lovely camera that 4LG gave me, so these are a bit blurry.
I've been thinking this week about what it means for a crone to celebrate Ostara.
Ostara, one of the eight major Wiccan holidays, is generally associated with the maiden aspect of the Goddess (when the Goddess is seen as maiden/mother/crone). It's Spring! New life! Bunnies! Lambs! Flowers! Persephone! Flora! What does that mean for a crone? (Yeah, I like the flowers and I love the returning warmth. And I can look fondly back upon the (v. confused, but v. brave) maiden that I was. That's not a Sabbat.)
But Ostara is also a holiday of balance. On the Spring Equinox, there is an equal amount of day and night. For me, the tarot cards associated with balance are Temperance, the High Priestess, the Moon, Justice, the Two of Pentacles, and, oddly, the Hanged Man. So many major arcana (hence, v. important) cards. Balance is clearly an important archetype and an element of many archetypes or it wouldn't show up so often in the tarot. And, yet, when the Hanged Man showed up recently in a v. important reading that I did for myself, it meant: the only way to succeed at this is to turn your own life upside down. To quote Rumi: "Now my loving is running toward my life shouting, What a bargain, let's buy it." Let's turn you upside down!
Balance is an important issue in the lives of so many witches. My own Moon in Taurus is always begging for balance, while my Ascendent Gemini longs to throw all caution to the winds and GO ALL OUT and my Sun in Pisces queries, "Balance? What's balance? Look at this v. exciting extremism that someone else is practicing!" When I was younger, my Sun and Ascendent signs won the battle. Now that I'm older, my Moon, often associated with the Inner Child, wins as often as not.
I keep preaching that magic is supposed to help one to live a more, not less, effective (well-balanced) life. What does that mean for members of an essentially ecstatic religion? Ecstasy, itself, is an oddly unbalanced state. And yet, those who practice balance -- eating a healthy diet, doing yoga, meditating, caring for their material needs so that they don't impinge -- those people are often the ones most able to throw themselves into ecstasy. From the greatest discipline, someone once said, comes the greatest freedom.
Tonight, my madcap friend R. gifted me with a lovely triptych of Tara. I'm drawn (that way, no wait, I'm not Jessica Rabbit!) to extreme Goddesses: Hecate, Baba Yaga, Cerridwen. Yet, those are not the Goddesses who have come to me in dreams. The Goddesses who've visited me in important dreams have been Mary, the Blessed Mother, Quan Yin, Brigid, and Green Tara, sweet, comforting, supportive goddesses (at least in my dreams) all. Balance. Balance between the dark, windswept crossroads and the warm and comfortable Irish kitchen in a downpour. Balance between the wild woman of the forest and the smiling, kind, Mother Mary, who, on my mother's kitchen plaque, offered a warm loaf of bread to the baby Jesus. Balance between the serious magician, stirring a witch's brew within which all things melt, recombine, become something unexpected and new, and the kind, black covered in green, Goddess who wants to hand out practical goodness. Balance between the champion way that I worry and the way that the kind Goddess and her consort who showed up at an important time in my life tell me: It will be ok.
For this crone, Ostara is a time to celebrate balance, to welcome balance, to dream of balance, to do divination looking for balance, to live, as a witch must live, as the Earth, right now, lives, in balance.
Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness, Thou foster-child of silence and slow time, Sylvan historian, who canst thou express A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme: What leaf-fring'd legend haunt about thy shape Of deities or mortals, or of both, In Tempe or the dales of Arcady? What men or gods are these? What maidens loth? What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
Another problem that I'm seeing in my (close-in, suburban) neighborhood is tracts of land that were bulldozed for housing projects just as the credit crunch hit. The "developers" are now nowhere to be seen. Now, the plots, which once provided habitat for wildlife and pollinators such as bees, are denuded and the land is eroding with every strong rainstorm.
Next time around, could we please exercise a little bit of planning and caution? Maybe require a "development fee" upfront to be used to clean up these sorts of messes? If not needed, half could be returned to the "developer" and half could go for infrastructure improvements: protected bus stops with seats, greenspace, community gardens, etc. Not a bad idea for McMansions (aka any house over X sq. feet), as well, although those funds should be held for 20 years and used to upgrade the property when it gets turned into multi-family housing even though the developer didn't build enough parking, sewage, green space, etc. for that use.
Somewhere, in one of Starhawk's books, there's a several-paragraph description of the life that I imagine that I was meant to lead, a few paragraphs that changed my life and gave it purpose and named its directions, a description of a woman who makes confections going down to the docks in the afternoon to see in the boats, in a culture that honors mothers and women and the divine feminine. Lunea reminds me that that world is out there, possible, beginning to take shape.
I was at G/Son's b/day party today. Every one of the ethnically-diverse fathers at the party, from my amazingly gorgeous, brilliant, kind, hard-working, fantastic writer of a good Son, to a guy who works for a local sports team, to a computer guy, to the guy who lives next door to Son and DiL, every one of them was a 100% more involved and caring and great dad than any of the men with whom I grew up in the 1950s. Every one of them was changing diapers (I do not believe that my father ever, in his entire life, ever, changed the diapers of even one of his five children), running after their toddlers while their wives chatted, filling plates for their children, refereeing squabbles over sharing. They give me hope, they do, these young men. Their own sons will be -- so different.
Kathlyn Stone reminds us that conditions for women in Iraq have become much worse since the U.S. invasion.
International Women's Day, March 8, should be a global day of celebration over the economic, political and social achievements of women worldwide. Instead I mourn what my government has done to the women of Iraq.
The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq have brought an alarming increase in violence against women, including "honor killings” by religious fundamentalists. Women who do not subordinate their role to that of property of male family members have no value among the fundamentalists.
The Iraq Freedom Congress, a grassroots political movement headquartered in Baghdad, issued a statement congratulating women worldwide on International Women’s Day and asked that people everywhere stand with the women of Iraq as they face oppression from sectarian gangs.
While hundreds of women have been murdered by religious gangs, unveiled women are routinely targeted and threatened with violence if they don’t wear hajibs and follow strict Islamic law. The government has not moved to stop the violence or the threats, according to the Iraq Freedom Congress.
“Iraq Freedom Congress stands at the forefront of the struggle to expel these bandits from Iraq,” said Amjad Al-Jawhary, an IFC spokesperson.
The international protests against sexual discrimination are growing louder every year, says Al-Jawhary, and yet in Iraq, “the discrimination against women by sectarian militias linked to mullahs in Iran and groups of Al Qaeda has reached the level of sexual genocide, particularly in the cities of Basra, Baghdad, Mosul and Diyala. These groups have committed the most heinous crimes against humanity, and women in particular.”
The U.S. military occupation has “turned a blind eye” to the work of the religious gangs, said Al-Jawhary. He suggests that both the occupation forces and the present government have surrendered Iraq and future generations to the criminals through their failure to reign in the gangs.
"We must put an end to the killing of women,” said Fryal Akbar, head of the IFC’s Women’s Bureau at a press conference in Bagdad held earlier this year to draw attention to the escalation of violence against women.
“Women today have every right to defend themselves against the religious and sectarian gangs by all means." She also warned that the IFC will not stand by watching crimes being committed without consequences. "From our experience, these gangs will not put an end to their crimes unless serious action is taken."
A year ago today, Yifat Susskind of MADRE, an international women's human rights organization headquartered in New York, wrote “Since the United States invaded, Iraqi women have endured a wave of death threats, assassinations, abductions, public beatings, targeted sexual assaults and public hangings.
Both Sunni and Shiite Islamist militias direct much of this violence. These groups mushroomed across Iraq after the United States toppled the secular Baath regime. Ironically, the Shiite militias are the armed wings of the political parties that the U.S. boosted into power. Their aim is to establish an Islamist theocracy and their social vision requires the subjugation of women.”
Suhad Salim, another member of the IFC Women’s Bureau, described a young woman’s sense of hopelessness. “The deterioration of the security situation, the intervention of the political Islamic groups into everyone’s personal life and the enforcement of the Islamic law on the street has forced women to quit both school and work to stay home seeking safety. These conditions create desperation and hopelessness in life leading many women to buy shrouds and wait for their death.
“I asked Sawsan Ali of Althawra city who is 30 years old why she quit school and stays home. She has lost her ambition and tends to think about death. Sawson answered: “There’s no hope for safety in the foreseeable future, my rights as a woman do not exist. Everything is against me as a human: family, traditions and culture. Killing and terrorizing women have become a daily show. Why should I live? I cannot go to school safely or voice my opinion. Whatever I do is opposed by others. Basically nothing is left to live for, therefore I am preparing for death.”
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — It's in the voices of the young that hope can be found for women in Afghanistan.
While their mothers and grandmothers wept for their past on International Women's Day, the young girls laughed and sang for the future.
More than 1,000 women gathered at two events in Kandahar on Saturday to celebrate the day devoted to women's rights around the world.
Young women know a different Afghanistan than generations past - they can go to school and find work. But neither they nor their elders know peace yet, and many said Saturday that is the only thing holding back the full advancement of women in Afghan society.
"When security becomes good, when it becomes safe and we feel we can leave our children outside, no bomb blasts, no kidnapping, nothing, that's when things will be better for women," said Rangina Farescshta, one of the women who attended a rally organized by the provincial women's council in Kandahar.
When the Taliban descended on Afghanistan over a decade ago, the public lives of women effectively came to an end.
The world gasped in horror as thousands of Afghan women were shrouded behind the veil of the burka, losing their jobs, their schools, even their ability to go out in public alone.
Since 2001 and the fall of the Taliban, women are slowly rising back up through the ranks of Afghan society. They sit in government, run hospitals and have regained the right to an education. "This year is better than last year and the year before last year," said Dr. Farishta Bwar, who works in the department of public health. "Every day the women's life becomes a little better."
But a chilling list of statistics enumerate the hardships still facing the estimated 11 million women in Afghanistan, about half the population.
The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission recorded 2,374 cases of violence against women in 2007, including 165 cases of women setting themselves on fire. But the commission concedes the number doesn't really reflect Afghan society because such violent incidents often go unreported. According to the United Nations, one woman in Afghanistan dies every 29 minutes due to reproductive health related complications.
Their average life expectancy is 44 years, about half that of a woman in Canada. Though more than two million girls in Afghanistan are now registered for school, there are no numbers on how many actually attend class.
"There was a girl who was going to school and she was threatened and she left school altogether," said Foozia, 14, who still attend class at her school in Kandahar city where conditions are safe. Foozia said she was at Saturday's rally because it's important to show support for the women of Afghanistan. "We want a peaceful Afghanistan where every woman will be able to ask for her rights," she said.
It's violence that made the old women cry at Saturday's rally. One after the other, women who'd lost their sons, husbands and brothers to the fighting in Afghanistan rose, wrapped in white scarves, to share their stories.
Sobbing, they called for peace and for women's rights.
There are an estimated one million widows in Afghanistan, many under the age of 35, who face particular difficulty in society. Without men to provide for them, they must use whatever meagre skills they have to eke out a living, but more than 85 per cent of the women in Afghanistan are illiterate. Canada funds a number of programs aimed specifically at widows in Afghanistan. It also spends millions of dollars through the Canadian International Development Agency on education, health and human rights programs aimed improving the lot of all Afghan women.
But men still have control, said Farescshta. "Husbands, fathers, sons have the power to stop women from going outside to make society beautiful and make society educated," she said. "Husbands, they (often) don't let their wives and sisters and mothers to do work outside, to get education for their children."
The young girls outside one of Saturday's rallies said their mothers and fathers were supportive of them being in school For Sabeera, 10, it's all she wants to think about. She and her classmates, dressed in the glittery greens and reds of Afghanistan's national costumes, shook their heads with an emphatic "no" when asked if they want to grow up into a life like their mothers. They don't wish to marry, nor have children, Sabeera said, they want to be doctors or teachers or police officers. An impish grin broke over her face as she stood to recite a poem she'd written. "I am going to school of my own choice," she said. "There is competition among the girls in school. I do not want to be behind them. I have to be ahead of everyone. I have to succeed."
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 . . . ."