Friday, December 31, 2010

A Spell for a New Decade

Respect for our planet.

Time outside in nature for our children.

Clean water.

Local produce.

Jobs for those who want to work.

Love of poetry.

A place for women.

Respect for wisdom, education, knowledge, experience.

A warm spot at the fire for Grandmothers.

An understanding, much greater than we've had, that we are all connected. Actions based upon that understanding.

A transformative woman president.

A much better role for men and fathers in our culture.



More salmon.

Councils of women.

Co-ops that grow sunflowers to remove toxins from the soil.


Women who use technology and social media to work magic.

A serious progressive movement.

An end to the duality and other evils of patriarchy. Bye-bye.

A free press.

Stories that are true.

A focus on ensuring that mothers' milk is safe. Everything else: second.

The rule of law. No, really.

Retirement for old women.

(Feel free to add your own.)

Picture found here.

New Year's Eve

There are only two things now,
The great black night scooped out
And this fire-glow.

This fire-glow, the core,
And we the two ripe pips
That are held in store.

Listen, the darkness rings
As it circulates round our fire.
Take off your things.

Your shoulders, your bruised throat!
Your breasts, your nakedness!
This fiery coat!

As the darkness flickers and dips,
As the firelight falls and leaps
From your feet to your lips!

~D.H. Lawrence

Picture found here.

Kali on a Candied Coconut Croissant

Well, this is disturbing. Ed Brayton notes that:
While I was on vacation, Chris Rodda reported here on a very disturbing new development in the ongoing battle between the military and the constitutional rights of non-Christians. The Army sends out a mandatory survey to soldiers to gauge their "spiritual fitness" and if you do not give answers that reflect religious belief you are deemed to be spiritually unfit.

The survey is called the "Soldier Fitness Tracker" (SFT) and it is part of a larger Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program designed to help support the well-being of Army personnel. And it turns out that there is also "Spiritual Remedial Training" that goes along with it if you aren't deemed sufficiently "spiritual."

Some of the yes/no questions on the survey include:

I am a spiritual person.

My life has lasting meaning.

I believe that in some way my life is closely connected to all humanity and all the world.

I believe there is purpose in my life.

When Sgt. Justin Griffith, the man who is organizing the Rock Beyond Belief event at Ft. Bragg this spring, answered those questions honestly he was deemed to be spiritually unfit and was "red barred." Al Stefanelli explains what that means, according to the text of the survey itself:

A red bar means that you face some significant challenges in this area. This means that you should focus most of your attention on this area, though you should also note that placing too much emphasis here could result in other dimensions dropping. The key is to properly balance where you need the most development with the areas you are already doing well in.

The survey then informed Griffith of his alleged problem:

Spiritual fitness is an area of possible difficulty for you.
. . .

If you "fail" this test, as Griffith did, you may be subject to Spiritual Remediation Training. The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers has more details on that training and its pervasively religious content.

It gets worse:
[T]his remedial training program is overseen by a chaplain named CH Lamb, who is endorsed by the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches (CFGC) and Jim Ammerman. CFGC is the endorser of a platoon full of truly insane fundamentalist chaplains like Gordon Klingenschmitt. I've reported on Ammerman's utter lunacy before. Imagine having someone like Klingenschmitt in charge of deciding who is spiritually fit to be in the military and it becomes obvious what a serious problem this is.

While I suspect that many Pagans could truthfully answer these "spiritual" questions in ways that would allow them to "pass," one wonders exactly why our military is even asking such questions. And how such fundie whackjobs came to control our armed forces in the first place.

/hat tip to JR in comments at Eschaton.

Picture found here.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Prayer for New Calendars

I know kisses are medicine

I know the ocean heals.

I know my mother loves me.

Open the doors open the windows

open the chimney and sweep out the cupboards of shame-filled crumbs.

Shake the rugs and empty the bottoms of the closets.

Dust off the cowgirl boots and put them at the foot of the altar

where the Icon of the Black Madonna glows in our sister’s circle.

Ah then,

then write it all down or paint it all out

or sing it all out loud or dance it into the sky.

Give your intention as a gift to your creative muse.

But whatever you do – don’t keep it locked inside.

The queen of shovels has sent you an e-shovel,

the post attached reads:

Just dig.

So in the final moment of this musing

dogged and drafted with sorrow and hope.

I beseech the Black Madonna

Mother of dark roots –

and red earth and bumble bees

mother of bright blooms and withered branches

help me to dig. Show us where to find the treasures

and how to excavate the glistening shards.

~Shiloh Sophia

You should go read the whole thing.

Picture found here.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Loving a Specific Place, Especially in the Winter

We've been, for the past several weeks, enduring much-colder-than-normal temperatures here in the melodic MidAtlantic. This weekend's snow storm mostly -- miraculously -- missed the areas around my little cottage, but we had really strong winds that made it feel even colder outside than one might have thought from just looking at the thermometer.

But this morning when I stepped out on the deck, clad only in a nightgown and bathrobe, to feed the animals, it felt almost like Spring. We're on the cusp of a warming trend that may make it positively pleasant to get out this weekend and work in the slumbering garden. In fact, I can see the 1st tiny green tips of some crocus and daffodils peeking up in a sunny, protected bit of the backyard. That used to worry me; I'd think how much Winter was left and that a few days of sun had tricked those Spring flowers into showing up, but I've learned that, short of an ice storm once the buds form, they'll be fine. They know what they're doing. And already I can feel the days becoming longer and the nights finally beginning to recede.

And, so, I'm back to bundling up and sitting outside (in a sunny spot; I'm learning from the daffs!) in communion with this tiny bit of Earth.

And yet, much of the East Coast is still buried under a comforter of snow, which some people love. Here's a great post from Dark Mother Goddess showing her garden covered in snow and describing how she uses the snow to deepen her relationship with her Earth and her family. It's no secret that Louv has made me a big advocate for getting children outside; I love and want to imitate the enthusiasm that DMG is teaching her son for the outdoors, be it snow-covered garden or sunny shore.

And here's Sally Smith working with the snow to create charming bits of art.

Sally's tiny houses always remind me of Storybook Homes, which I imagine would look magical in the snow. I've bought their book of plans for very small cottages and am beginning to dream about a retirement home in the West Virginia Mountains. Any home I'd build there would have to be built for snow.

Margaret Roach reprises some great 2010 posts about winter meals from the freezer (which can be a wonderful way to remember the Summer garden!) and snow in the garden, even on electric green lawn chairs!

Finally, Lunaea has a wonderful post about snow in Ireland.

And, so, all of Winter is a gift from the Goddess, a time to love the bones of our gardens and to dream about the coming of Spring.

May it be so for you.

Picture found here.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Deep in the Cellars of the Tower

Maybe it's the slowly-growing light. Maybe it's the mystically epic winds that have been blowing new ideas all over my snug little cottage. Maybe it's the way that the still-long-dark nights dance in my consciousness, but, whatever the reason, my dreams lately have been far more capable of making an impression than normal.

A few nights ago, I dreamt that my mother and my sister-the-antagonist were teaching G/Son an evilly racist form of Asatru (and, believe me, neither of them ever even imagined anything such as Asatru) devoted to Horus (I know. What can I say? It was a dream). In particular, they were teaching him a set of movements designed to mimic water-birds and to invoke some (in my dream) particularly racist form of Horus/Asatru worship. I was almost beside myself with anger, and I called them out on their behavior. I stormed outside to the front of my childhood home, where they had hooked my car up to their dilapidated car in an attempt to repair theirs. There was a license plate removed from their car (that I can almost see, but can't remember) that held the entire message of the dream. I got in my car and drove off, unhooking my car from theirs, and lecturing the First Ex-Mr. Hecate about just how angry I was. I always pay attention to the dreams where I tell him that.

Then, last night, the serious winds woke me up and made me realize how cold and bitter it was outside and how safe and warm I was inside. Maybe it was that I'd been thinking about Thalia's gift from her sister and how much I've been thinking about gifting myself with Jung's Red Book, but something drew me off into a dream about a red-stone house beside the road with a huge round turret out front. At first, I was, in my dream, driving past the house, just admiring the turret and the ornaments set around it. Then, I realized that, from my car, I could see right into one of the 4th story windows, and I thought, "That would be my bedroom, visible to all who drove by." In a moment, like Alice through the looking glass, I was inside the windows and realized that, no, this wasn't a bedroom, it was a lovely drawing room. There was a party beginning, and many of the guests had brought with them mask-faced guards out of a chess game. I wandered in and greeted the hostess, aware that she wanted to sell the house. I wound down the steps, a bit less enchanted with each level of the underworld that I explored. Wow, her kitchen's not as good as mine, by a long shot. Her bedroom's not nearly as nice as mine. I could make this kitchen good, but when I mention to her that I'd turn that low, industrial sink into a fireplace, she says to me: "Of course, you can't." She tells me that the house is selling for "75," but I can't figure if she means $75,000, $7,500,000 or what. I exit the home at the very ground level and begin climbing back up the outside steps. I realize that there are shrubs blocking each of the steps, and I like the outside garden a lot more than I like the inside lower levels. As I decided when I bought this cottage, the outside has more potential than it shows. Sheesh.

And I wake to write down the dream and realize that I'll spend a few years figuring it out.

Do you have dreams like this in the cold wind? Do you record your dreams? What magic work do you do with them?

Picture found here.

Black Cat Petunias

So, there is still snow in those bits of the yard (Northernmost exposure, and corners in the South East and South West) that get the least amount of Winter sun. Our serious winds have abated a bit, leaving lots of kindling spread across the yard, but it's still bitter cold. My beloved Potomac River is iced over, with circles, swirls, and geometric cracks marking the ice. The dirt beneath my yard is frozen for at least a few inches down. The Western sky is on display as early as 3:30 pm. The snowdrops haven't even sprouted and the hellebores (Lenten Roses, to the xians) aren't yet showing any buds. (Landscape Guy's hellebores have budded, but his seem to usually be 3 weeks ahead of mine, although we live 5 minutes away from each other.) Everything's cut back to the ground and mulched over.

But in this old Witch's heart, it's mid-April and I am out digging in the newly-warmed earth with my ergonomic spade, planting BLACK PETUNIAS in the front cottage gardens and the pots that sit on the back deck.

I'm not much of a fan of annuals. A plant has to be pretty special for me to be willing to buy it over and over again -- not to mention doing the work of planting it over and over again -- every year. I grow some daturas and marigolds from seed each year and I buy a few herbs, mainly basil, on an annual basis, but my strong preference is for perennials.

But my entire garden scheme is black and white, and it's often much easier to find white flowers than black. And I've been reading for months that this Spring would herald the arrival of a truly black (aka, not just dark purple or dark red, but really black) petunia. And this afternoon, when I arrived home from work, there was the Burpees Porn Emporium, er, the Burpee's garden catalogue. Now, I know that Burpees is kind of like Disney or GE or McDonalds. And I am careful each year, I am, to spread my purchases out among a number of local, heirloom, and organic seed sellers. But Burpees has, I'm not going to lie to you (heh, I'm not going to lie to you NOW THAT I'VE GOT MINE -- beforehand would have been a different story, and there's not a real gardener in the world who would blame me, either), Burpees had the black petunias. Burpees calls them Black Cat Petunias.

And so I got on the phone, in the midst of Mercury Retrograde, and I ordered almost 50 of those black beauties. And when the nice lady who first answered the phone mistakenly cut me off (Like I Said: Mercury Retrograde), I called right back, got a nice young man, and put the order through again, this time getting both the $5 off for a big order and the free shipping.

There won't be a day between now and mid-April when I don't imagine planting those black flowers. But they'll be in my front cottage gardens come Beltane and I couldn't be happier. That's one of the wonderful things about having a garden: the anticipation.

Picture found here.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Bazooms Blogging

I had my annual mammogram today. Since I was diagnosed with breast cancer -- a little over 13 years ago -- I've had a lot of them. Occasionally something weird shows up, I have a biopsy or an aspiration or whatever, and then we do them three times a year and then two times a year and them we go back to annual mammograms.

I work hard at not stressing as I get close to my appointment, and I'm pretty good at keeping myself busy with enough stuff that I don't have much time to sit around and imagine the worst. And then I show up for the appointment, careful to bring something really interesting to read (today's choice is a fantasy novel I'm working on: Canticle) so that I won't be tempted to pick up on the almost, to a Pisces, palpable fear and concern that fills the waiting room of the mammography center.

I don't really mind the physical discomfort of the mammogram. The more tightly the technician squeezes my breasts between the plates, the better picture she gets. And I want her to get a very good one. And it's only for a few seconds, at any rate.

And, then, she takes the lead apron off of me and says, "OK, you can put your gown on." (It always kills me. I want say, "Babe, Balenciaga made gowns. That's a cotton bathrobe that doesn't really tie together in any comprehensible fashion." Instead, I say, "Thanks.") At that point, she sends me to a chair outside the room with the machinery and takes the pictures to show them to the doctor. I've learned that the longer it takes for her to come back, the more likely she is to say, "Doctor wants just a few more views, so please step back in." She won't tell you anything else. Asking, "Did the doctor see something?" won't get you any good information. But the more times that she comes back and says, "Sorry, we need just a few more," the less likely the news is to be good.

And, so, at that point, sitting there in the chair, sure that too much time has gone by, that's when I ground. That's when I breathe, and focus on my breath, and breathe myself into a still, quiet place where, whatever happens, I'm going to be able to handle it. I stand at the crossroads, not sure if I'm well or ill, and I call to Hecate, Mistress of Liminal Spaces. That's one of the times when I'm most grateful for a daily practice, for all the other 364 days of the year when I've practiced grounding and breathing and calling to my Matron Goddess.

And, most days, like today, the wait really isn't that long and the doctor doesn't want any more pictures. Instead, the technician ushers me into a "consultation room" and the doctor comes in and says, "Everything looks great. See you in a year."

May it be so for you.

Now, when many of us are organizing our 2011 calendars, is a great time to go ahead and make a monthly appointment with yourself to do a breast self-exam. Pick a day a month or two before your next mammogram is due and make an appointment to call and schedule it. When you do schedule it, maybe you can schedule something nice for later that day: lunch with a friend, a trip to a museum, a manicure, a nap. Or don't make a big deal about it and plan to go straight back back to work or to pick up the kids. Whichever, but just do it.

Picture found here.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pagan Books

This grey afternoon, a dear old Pagan friend of mine came over and we hung out, chatted while we made organic Swiss Chard and barley (I love cooking with friends; I need to do more of this!), did some ecstatic dance, watched the birds at the bird feeder, and generally had (what passes in my own odd world for) a very good time. She asked me what good Pagan books I'd read lately and, I suddenly realized that the answer was: "Not Many." I'm working my way through (and, unlike a lot of Pagan bloggers, being rather impressed with) Trials of the Moon (maybe because I don't believe that where one gets one's degree is as important as the force of one's arguments. It's a lawyer thing.) but I can't say that I've found too many Pagan books this year that have made a deep impression on me.

Maybe this isn't too surprising; after all, Paganism is, IMHO, a religion of experience rather than of faith or authority. You can read about mystical experience forever or you can go outside, sit on a rock, breathe deeply, and . . . begin.

But, still, when I first discovered Paganism it was through books (The Politics of Women's Spirituality was "first," although I'd grown up reading "Pagan" books such as The Secret Garden, and The Wind in the Willows, Grimm's, etc.) that gave some context to those "on the rock" experiences that I'd been having all my life. And it's a bit sad that there's not quite as much (at least that I'm aware of) great Pagan writing out there as there once seemed to be.

This year I enjoyed, and agreed with some parts and disagreed with other parts of, Restall Orr's Kissing the Hag and had reason to re-read Sacred Circles. But the most important "Pagan" book (and the author would completely reject that characterization) that I read -- and the book that I gave to Son & DiL, DiL's wonderful 'rents, and the First ex-Mr. Hecate and his partner -- was Louv's Last Child in the Woods. I read Dark Green Religion and thought that it didn't say much that I didn't already know and that it was most likely a New Yorker-length article that fared less well as a book, almost painfully "pumped up," but I can see why it's an important book for people, who, for example, frequent Huffington Post, to read. I bought and regularly refer to Bearing Torches: A Devotional Anthology for Hecate, (not of much interest unless you're devoted to Hecate), which is published by a group doing some v interesting stuff these days (Are we entering a phase where the best writing and publishing is done by groups almost fanatically devoted to very minute bits of Paganism? Is that good or is it bad?) . But it's not a book you read cover to cover. And, as always, I've had regular reason to resort to Illes' Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells. I imagine that I will have until I'm too old to turn a page. I'm trying to work my way through a few of (and I don't think that she considers herself a Pagan) Ingerman's books and I'm still not sure if she's so advanced that I'm just not groking it or if she's not advanced enough to challenge me, but I too often find myself going, "Well, yeah, of course, and . . . " Likely, I'm not yet advanced enough.

Mostly, this year, I read a lot of good poetry and a lot of legal briefs, some so good they give me chills and some so bad I wind up raging to Young Lawyer Guy about them. I'm consistently mad for Theodora Goss' bits of stories and for most everything that Rima writes. I'm starting, more and more, to find more good poetry on YouTube than on the printed page and this, still, makes me sad. I'm a dying generation.

A lot of good Pagan writing is being done, these days, on the web, and that's v cool. I always check out (these are listed in my blog roll) African Alchemy, A Pagan's Blog, A Witch's Daily, Aquila ka Hecate, Know Thyself, Medusa Coils, The Archdruid Report, and The Gods Are Bored. There are a number of others that I check out at least once a week or so. Thorn Coyle rather irregularly posts podcasts that I'll often listen to several times while knitting, cleaning house, or walking on the treadmill.

What's the best Pagan book that you read this year? What's the worst? Where do you go for regular Pagan inspiration?

Picture found here.

Sunday Ballet Blogging

Friday, December 24, 2010


Doing a bit of end-of-calendar-year housekeeping on the Blog List.

Now's a good time to let me know, "Hey, I haven't posted in a bit, but I'm ramping up, so don't remove me," or "Yo! I wish you wouldn't list me; I don't want to be associated with teh crazy," or "Geez, is there a reason why my fabulous blog, where I post daily, ISN'T listed?"

Just as a matter of personal preference, I'm less likely to list blogs that are mostly personal journal and more likely to list blogs that post on topics of spiritual growth/politics/art. Not that there aren't hundreds of amazing blogs that I don't list. So please don't take any decisions personally.

Picture found here.

Know What I Love? I Love How "The Shadow" Is Such a Part of This. Literally.

Flight From Embodiment from Alliance for Wild Ethics on Vimeo.

Shadows WILL show up and make themselves known, no matter how hard we try to squish them down. It's not just what they do; it's who they are.

Pagan Gift Giving

One of the things that I've been thinking about lately is gifts.

I love giving gifts, often gifts not associated at all with any recognized holiday. And I love to receive gifts from people who have spent time thinking about who I am and what I'd like. But, especially at this time of year, I can get crabby about "expected" gifts, both those that I'm "expected" to give and those that others give to me because "it's expected."

In A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry Into Polytheism, John Michael Greer talks about the act of giving gifts within the ancient Pagan world:
The principle of reciprocity provides the proper context to the much-misinterpreted Roman religious maxim do ut des, usually translated "I give that you may give." Too often, even by those alert to the complexities of Roman religion, this has been read as a commercial transaction in which Roman worshippers paid their gods in advance for some benefit.

This is unjust. What the maxim actually implies is the exchange of gifts as an expression of ancient rules of friendship and hospitality. Behind this conception lies a concept of an exchange of gifts between different orders of being as the bond that unites the universe. As Walter Burkert has pointed out, the exchange of gifts is among the foundations of human culture, and the sharing of food and the exchange of gifts remain important sources of interpersonal bonds even today.

Modern theorists of religion have wrestled with the habit of making gifts to gods, ancestors and spirits, on the assumption that there are no obvious returns on the investment. To ancient and modern Pagans alike, however, the assumption is transparently false. If such beings exist and govern the natural world, their gifts are as obvious as food and drink on the table, rain on the fields, fertility in the soil, and the fact of life itself. The gods are primarily and superlatively givers of good things, and the world in which life takes place is their gift to us.

In the same way, and for many of the same reasons, anything that is a source of benefit to human beings may be seen as a giver of gifts, and an appropriate recipient of reverence and offerings. This is the thinking behind Shinto habit . . . of worshipping the builders of irrigation systems as "water gods." The same principle underlies the Greek Pagan tradition, baffling to many modern scholars, of building temples and making offerings to abstract concepts -- Peace, Victory, Mercy, and the like. In modern India, where such ideas form one strand in the rich fabric of Hindu religion, musicians make offerings to their instruments and craftsmen to their tools in a similar spirit.

. . .

If Pagan gods are verbs, as the Christian god is sometimes said to be, the verbs in question are conjugation of "to give." Yet human beings and, indeed, all other entities have the capacity to give as well, and in giving, to imitate the gods.

I love that notion: that when we give, we should do so in conscious imitation of the Goddesses and Gods.

May you always receive what you most need.

Picture found here.

No Comment

/hat tip comments at Eschaton

Friday Poetry Blogging

Dancing with Green Bees

Find your way to the third hearth
to become a woman of clay -- again.

Just when you believe you are
the definition of thirst,
have endured too many erasures
sealed inside a sere landscape,
you will whirl into the dance
of dragonflies.

Or the dance of the green bees
-- starting in the yellow sheen of morning,
of cactus bloom, of meadowlark, of the shining --
will fling you maiden-like beneath birdshadow.

The path to the third hearth
is strewn with surprises of sparkling quartzite.
You are amidst a fortress of rock, a cathedral of stone,
and the elemental particulate that has undergone
its many metamorphoses as have you.
Landscape bids you to absorb time,
breathe earth dust, the primordial.

There at the third hearth
the women of clay await you.
By their painted faces will you know them.

~Karla Linn Merrifield, printed in Crone, Issue No. 3.

Picture found here.

Staying in Love When It Snows

As regular readers know, it's important to my spiritual practice to be in active relationship with a specific piece of land, rather than just having warm feelings for the intellectual construct of "the Land" or "Earth." A large part of my daily practice involves getting in touch with and listening to the specific, small (less than a quarter acre) bit of land on which I live and garden. When I lived in an apartment with no yard, I adopted some spots near me as "mine."

Even in Winter, if it's at all possible, I'm bundled up and outside, even if only for a short time. I've learned that, as long as I can keep my hands warm (I've been known to wear mittens over gloves and one of my goals for the coming year is to learn how to knit those fingerless gloves that I could wear over full gloves), I don't really mind the cold, at least down to around 25 degrees or so. Finding out how to dress comfortably for the outside (for some people, it means fleece-lined boots, while for others it's a hat or a big warm scarf around the neck) can make it easier to maintain a relationship with your bit of Earth even in Winter. And, really, not knowing what a place is like in Winter is sort of like "knowing" a person, but being ignorant about a huge chunk of their life.

That said, as an old woman with a previously-broken-and-still-held-together-with-screws-and-plates ankle, I'm more than careful about not going outside when it's snowy or icy. When you really can't be outside, one way to deepen your relationship is to learn about your land. What do you know about the First Peoples who lived there before you? Do you know where your water comes from and where your waste goes? Can you identify the birds and other animals who live in relationship with the same bit of Earth as you do? Can you identify the trees that live with you? A lot of that information is likely available on-line. Additionally, Field Guides, which you can often get quite cheap secondhand, are a great way to get to know more about your area. A coven might want to buy a set and circulate them. I keep, for example, Birds of Virginia, on my porch so that when I see a bird I don't recognize, I can try to identify her. But in the Winter, when I can't go outside, I'll read a page or two every day in order to try and learn about local birds. And now, thanks to Margaret Roach, I'm in lust for this: The Bird Songs Bible. If you have children, all of these make good family activities on snow days and are a great way to instill a love of nature in the next generation.

If you garden, keeping a garden journal can be another way to deepen your understanding of your bit of Earth. During the year, I'll note on Facebook when each new flower first blooms. Then, on a snowy day in Winter, I'll go through and make a chronological listing in my garden journal. It's interesting to see, from year to year, the patterns and the variations. More serious gardeners additionally keep track of last frost, rainfall, hours of sunlight, and temperatures. Margaret Roach also has up an interesting podcast about the process of preparing to order seeds for next Spring, another great way to spend a snow day.

Finally, even when you can't be outside physically, you can do meditations and trance work to communicate with your bit of Earth. Let it know that you want to listen and then be willing to open up and learn what is taught. You can do art inspired by your relationship. You can raise energy and send it to, for example, the shivering animals, the roots deep under the snow, the earthworms and bees that are so necessary to the Earth's survival.

How do you keep your relationship going when it has to be, for a short time, a "long-distance" relationship?

Picture found here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


For the last few days, we've had very strong winds, making our below-normal, cold temps feel even colder. Wind, for me, is all about the Powers of the East, Air, Dawn, New Beginnings, Swords. At our Solstice celebration, I was talking with one of my Sisters about a painting that hangs in my home, showing a woman walking into a strong wind. I have always loved the idea of walking into the wind, of letting fresh new air blow over me and all my ideas. I live a lot -- no, really, a lot -- in my head. THE big challenge for me, in this incarnation, is to integrate my oversized Talking Self with my physical body, my Younger Self, my Sacred Dove. And I've still got a long way to go. But, give me words and ideas and sentences, heck, give me footnotes and case holdings and conflicting interpretations, and I'm off to the races, riding air drafts, soaring on wind gusts, riding, like an eagle, on Boreas, Chinook, Etsian, the Mistral, Typhoons, and, well, and the Wind.

Conversely, I take such a hugely sensual pleasure in being inside, wearing a soft cotton nightgown, on my sturdy bed and firm mattress, weighted down by cotton blankets, and comforters, and woven bedspreads, balanced upon ice-cold soft pillows, newly-turned from the wall-side, and listening to the wind whistle and howl around my snug little cottage. And there's hardly been a night for the last few weeks when I haven't been awakened at some point and given the chance to snuggle down even deeper under the covers and listen to the wind sough through the branches of my ancient oaks.

May it be so for you.

Picture found here.

What He Said

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Welcome, Returning Light

And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs -
Because Sophia over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

~with apologies to Gerard Manley Hopkins

And, so, although I have lived here, on this bit of Earth, lived here Summer drought and Winter blizzard, lived here ordinary day and ecstatic night, lived here in sickness and in health, lived here, slept here, planted here, eaten here, done magic here -- solitary and with Sisters -- for nigh on a decade, and, so, and, yet, on the Winter Solstice the lovely land that owns me had a lot to show me.

The thing about mystical experiences is that -- although "I only am escaped to tell thee," -- mystical experiences cannot be told. This is why the Charge of the Goddess says: "And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without. For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am That which is attained at the end of desire."

And, yet, knowing, as I start, that, at the finish, this thing cannot be told, I will try to tell it.

Every tiny plot of Earth is crammed -- crammed, I tell you, crammed -- crammed and jammed and overfilled and flowing over with Goddesses and Gods and Genius Locii and Fae and Spirits and Beings and Living Rocks and the Bright! Alive! RNA and DNA and Mitochondria of the Worms and Chipmunks who grace this place and every tiny plot of Earth is full to the brim of Consciousness in every form of incarnation and those things that de Chardin hardly dared intimate and, oh, poetry. And there is mystery and easy ecstasy in the skies and the turning of planets makes music in the spheres and as above so below and, well. And, the entire Earth is crammed with divine poetry and music and what I imagine mathematics must be for those, like G/Son, who think in such terms and, well, also, "Everything," our speaker is reduced to noting, "is Alive -- EVERYTHING." . . . .

I was right. You can not tell it.

But you can know it. And my wish for you on this day when the Light begins to return is for you to know it deep inside your cells. And to live in the truth of that knowing.

What would change immediately for you?

Io! Evoe!

Picture found here

A Modest Suggestion

Now that we've gotten rid of "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" maybe we could ratify the ERA?

Picture found here.

Solstice Celebrations

Here's a nice story about the Stonehenge Solstice celebration. Kudos to the author for understanding how to capitalize.

And, here's another nice one about Icelandic Asatru and other Pagans celebrating the returning sun. Kudos again for correct capitalization.

Sadly, not everyone seems to have gotten the message:
In their quest to bring the Christian religion to the pagan people of Western Europe, the Church cleverly incorporated existing festivals and rituals into the Christian calendar. One of the many correlations between ancient winter festivals and Christianity revolves around the older Celtic name for the festival of Alban Artuan – or the “Light of Winter”. When deciding where to put the Christian celebration of Jesus’s birth, it is little wonder that they chose this festival to herald the arrival of the “Light of the World” – a human beacon of hope and light into a time of darkness.
It is thought that pagans may have been the original “tree trimmers” as they brought greenery into the house as a symbol of life through the long dark nights. The evergreen was brought in and adorned with decorations to symbolise the various stellar objects that were important to them; the sun, the moon, the stars. These also served as gifts to the pagan gods.

Dear Caledonian Mercury, If you capitalize "Christian," then you should capitalize "Pagan." If you capitalize "Christians," you should capitalize "Druids." It's not complicated.

Picture found here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Now That's Not Something You See Every Day

Once every several hundred years, we have a full Moon lunar eclipse on the Winter Solstice. And that's approximately how often I will ever agree with anything that Ross Douthat has to say. So it's especially amazing that both events would occur within the same 24-hour period.

But I agree 100% with Douthat that:
Thanks in part to [a] bunker mentality, American Christianity has become . . . a “weak culture” — one that mobilizes but doesn’t convert, alienates rather than seduces, and looks backward toward a lost past instead of forward to a vibrant future. In spite of their numerical strength and reserves of social capital, . . . the Christian churches are mainly influential only in the “peripheral areas” of our common life. In the commanding heights of culture, Christianity punches way below its weight. [Cute phrase, huh?]

[T]his month’s ubiquitous carols and crèches notwithstanding, believing Christians are no longer what they once were — an overwhelming majority in a self-consciously Christian nation. The question is whether they can become a creative and attractive minority in a different sort of culture, where they’re competing not only with rival faiths but with a host of pseudo-Christian spiritualities, and where the idea of a single religious truth seems increasingly passé.

Or to put it another way, Christians need to find a way to thrive in a society that looks less and less like any sort of Christendom — and more and more like the diverse and complicated Roman Empire where their religion had its beginning, 2,000 years ago this week.

Exactly. I agree completely. Perhaps you guys would like to get started on that, well, now. Now would be good.

(Douthat says, as per usual, a lot of whiny, silly stuff with which not even an easily-confused four-year old would agree. For example, he snivels that Christmas is the season "when American Christians can feel most embattled. Their piety is overshadowed by materialist ticky-tack. Their great feast is compromised by Christmukkwanzaa multiculturalism." Really? Your piety can't stand up to sales of stuff? The same sales of stuff that, if they aren't accompanied by the sales clerk wishing you a "Merry Christmas" send you into a temper tantrum? So stop watching tv and stay out of the malls; go to church instead. Stay home and pray the rosary. And your "great feast" (by which I imagine you mean Christmas Mass) is "compromised" because other people are celebrating other holidays at approximately the same time? Really? If so, your "great feast" must celebrate a rather anemic god. Maybe you shouldn't have gone around appropriating other people's holidays if you've got such delicate feefees. Then you could have had one all your own. But, hey, as noted, it's not every century that I find something Douthat says not only correct, but quotable, so let's not quibble.)

Hat tip to Chas Clifton for the info on the lunar eclipse.

Picture found here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Have a Fantastic Solstice. No, Really.

From Strategic Sorcery:
Now you may not know this about me, but I am the mythic Yuleclipse Fairy. I need you to know a few things.

Tuesday is a lunar eclipse. It will be visible from most of North America

Tuesday is also the Winter Solstice - the longest night.

Tuesday is the first night that a lunar eclipse has occured on a Winter Solstice in 456 years.

Tuesday is the day that you will be outside doing magic.

If you don't do something I will know and I will be displeased. You don't want to piss me off. Just get your lazy ass out there and meditate, cast a spell, dance a jig, do something!

You should read the whole thing.

Picture found here.

Sunday Dance Blogging

Saturday, December 18, 2010


If something is really, honestly indefensible, it can be defeated. The people perpetrating that indefensible thing will want you to think that what they are doing is inevitable. They will want you to think that it cannot possibly be changed or fixed. That it is the way it has to be, that that is the way it's gonna be, they will want you to think those things. And it's not true. An indefensible practice or policy is, in America, vulnerable."

- Rachel Maddow

hat tip: Comments at Eschaton

Picture found here.

Saturday Poetry Blogging


The vastest things are those we may not learn.
We are not taught to die, nor to be born,
Nor how to burn
With love.
How pitiful is our enforced return
To those small things we are the masters of.

~Mervyn Peake


Which, of course, reminds me of this:

No one ever told us we had to study our lives,
make of our lives a study, as if learning natural history or
music, that we should begin
with the simple exercises first
and slowly go on trying
the hard ones, practicing till strength
and accuracy became one with the daring
to leap into transcendence, take the chance
of breaking down the wild arpeggio
or faulting the full sentence of the fugue.
And in fact we can’t live like that: we take on
everything at once before we’ve even begun
to read or mark time, we’re forced to begin
in the midst of the hard movement,
the one already sounding as we are born.

At most we’re allowed a few months
of simply listening to the simple
line of a woman’s voice singing a child
against her heart. Everything else is too soon,
too sudden, the wrenching-apart, that woman’s heartbeat
heard ever after from a distance
the loss of that ground-note echoing
whenever we are happy, or in despair.

Everything else seems beyond us,
we aren’t ready for it, nothing that was said
is true for us, caught naked in the argument,
the counterpoint, trying to sightread
what our fingers can’t keep up with, learn by heart
what we can’t even read. And yet
it is this we were born to. We aren’t virtuosi
or child prdigies, there are no prodigies
in this realm, only a half-blind, stubborn
cleaving to the timbre, the tones of what we are,
even when all the texts describe it differently.

And we’re not performers, like Liszt, competing
against the world for speed and brilliance
(the 79-year-old pianist said, when I asked her
What makes a virtuoso?—Competitiveness.)
The longer I live the more I mistrust
theatricality, the false glamour cast
by performance, the more I know its poverty beside
the truths we are salvaging from
the splitting-open of our lives
The woman who sits watching, listening,
eyes moving in the darkness
is reheasing in her body, hearing-out in her blood
a score touched off in her perhaps
by some words, a few chords, from the stage,
a tale only she can tell.

But there come times—perhaps this is one of them
when we have to take ourselves more seriously or die . . . .

~Adrienne Rich

Picture found here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

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

Here's an article about a Winter Solstice celebration that manages to trip both of my switches. First of all, there's no reason why "Pagan" shouldn't be capitalized throughout this article. If the author were writing about a Catholic celebration of Christmas, for example, "Catholic" would be capitalized. Or, if the article were about various Christian Winter celebrations, "Christian" would be capitalized. So should the article capitalize "Pagan."

And, then, of course, there's the by-now-almost-de-riguer-shooting-of-ourselves-in-the-foot by the Pagans involved:
Although there are many “preconceived notions” about paganism, Cannon-Nixon and Gillingham said most of them aren’t true.
“We don’t believe in the devil,” Cannon-Nixon said.

There is absolutely NO reason for Pagans to keep doing this. Just as when Dick Nixon infamously went on national television and announced to Americans that, "Your President is not a crook," thereby convincing any remaining doubters that he was, in fact, the world's biggest crook, all that it does when Pagans run around announcing that "We don't believe in the devil," is to convince any doubters that Pagans, must, in fact, kiss the devil's ass at every full Moon.

I'm going to keep saying this until people stop doing it.

Picture found here.

And I'll Choose the Wood(s)

Brother and Sister
by Terri Windling

do you remember, brother
those days in the wood
when you ran with the deer
falling bloody on my doorstep at dusk
stepping from the skin
grateful to be a man?

and do you know, brother
just how I longed
to wrap myself in the golden hide
smelling of musk
blackberries and rain?

tell me that tale
give me that choice
and I'll choose speed and horn and hoof
give me that choice
all you cruel, clever fairies
and I'll choose the wood(s)
not the prince.


Picture found here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My New Name for a Blog

What Gus Said.

Picture found here.

Ground as Hard as Iron

It's not, as we all know, really, at least astrologically, Mid-Winter. In fact, it's still, for a few more days, technically Autumn. Real Mid-Winter is late February when it (normally, and, oh, Goddess, please again this year!) begins to warm up along the Potomac and the crocus start promising to bloom.

But here in the magical Mid-Atlantic, we have ice (and flocks of Canada Geese) on the Potomac, an inch of snow in my garden, and it's so cold in the mornings that my knitting-sore fingers twinge and ache even inside leather gloves. The Earth in my garden is, indeed, hard as iron and the water in the small spring just up the street has frozen, hard as stone. Just this week, Landscape Guy and I got the plants cut back to the ground and a layer of mulch on the cottage gardens.

I'm working at home today: taking conference calls while I chop vegetables for pistou, reviewing applications for solar power while the dishwasher runs, furiously knitting cowls and hats for Yule. And, every so often, I stop and wrap my shawl around my shoulders and go out on the porch to watch the snow, throw some more peanuts to the squirrels, and toss carrot peelings to the rather aged rabbit who seems to be adopting me. (I told her, I did. I said, "Babe, there's a fox who lives up that hill and she'll be around here any minute. Fair warning and, if I were you, I'd go beg scraps from someone else. There's a nice lady up the street with no trees in her yard who'll feed you." The rabbit told me that foxes are her version of an ice floe, she knows where the fox is, and she'd still appreciate some carrots. So, who am I to argue; I peel another carrot for the soup and bring the scraps outside for my leggy new friend. Madame Fox, I hope you appreciate what I'm doing, in the end, pour toi.)

This wonderful song, with lyrics by the poet Christina Rossetti is one of a number of Christian songs that are so lovely that I just get past their Jesus gloss. And since, as we Pagans like to remind the Christians this time of year, they appropriated quite a bit of what they've got from us, it's not all that difficult. Heaven can't contain your god and he infills the material world? Welcome to my religion.

And, you've got to like a song that celebrates the fact that "a breastful of milk," is enough for a baby (isn't it great how that works out? ;) Because a breastful of milk is what most mothers have! ) divine and/or human. My favorite lines, though, are these:
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

We Pagans know a lot about worshipping with a kiss and, well, maiden mothers? We invented those.

And, as for:
Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,

well, shoot, that's how I experience Air every minute of every day.

Stay warm. Feed the animals.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


About two decades ago, I was doing something v difficult and, one evening when things seemed most difficult, I got a blast of energy from my future that sustained me and got me through the rough time. It taught me more than I can say about sending magic backwards and forwards in time, something that I've been doing ever since.

And, last night, I lived the night that generated that blast of energy and knew that I was sending it to my not-yet-40-year-old-self on that long night in the past. Turns out that, when it came time to send that energy back, it was the easiest thing in the world to do. It's all good.

Picture found here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Damn; It's Cold Out There

I put out birdseed and peanuts this icy morning and the squirrels, birds, chipmunks, and a big brown rabbit showed up. I looked at that leggy old rabbit and wondered, "What are you here for?" She looked back at me with the largest brown eyes. I went back inside to the veggie drawer and got the slightly wilted carrots I'd been saving for soup. Yep. That's what she was here for. Goddess forfend that I ever send anyone away from my door hungry or thirsty. Time are tough all over. And, yet, those Solstice bells . . . .

Monday, December 13, 2010

Because It's the Right Thing to Do

hat tip: Bouphonia

Mistress Mary, Quite Contrary, How Does Your Garden Grow?

Gardeners love to talk about the bones of their garden, especially at this time of year. By "bones", they mean the naked trees, stark walkways, walls, mulched spots, and other permanent features, which somehow seem to stand out very clearly once all the flowers and leaves go away (and a dusting of snow, such as the one we had this morning, can make the bones even more visible). It's a perfect time to be out (albeit, bundled up) in the garden, spending time with it, learning from it, sitting in silence with it, and figuring out why some things work and some other things maybe don't. If it's not slippery outside, I'm bundled up and outside in my garden every dawn and every evening this time of year. It's absolutely the best thing I've ever found to do before I begin the process in January of perusing the garden porn (seed catalogues) and figuring out what I "need" for next Spring.

And I think the same is true of this time of year vis-a-vis our lives. Although December is often a time of too much rushing around, getting ready for holiday parties, baking, buying gifts, running ourselves ragged, trying hard to ignore the dark, sometimes even in December the weather intervenes and keeps us at home, inside, with our own thoughts and our own lives for company. And January and February, even more so. I have a hunch that, as global climate change brings us more intense Winters and as tax cuts for billionaires make it more and more difficult for towns and counties to clear streets, we may find ourselves spending more days snowed in than has been our previous wont.

Sure, you can spend your snow days in front of the tv or buying more stuff online.

Or, you can stop. Bundle up by grounding. Cast a circle. Sit with the bones of your own life and figure out why that wall makes perfect sense but that walkway needs straightening. Listen to your life and figure out which shrubs need to get rooted out and where you need to plant a new vine.

Spread a teaparty on the table and invite your Shadows in for a one-hour tea. Set some ground rules, esp. about leaving when asked, and then ask them what they need you to know.

Pull out all of your old journals and catch up with yourself. Can you see some overarching themes, just as a gardener might realize that her garden really is about simplicity and that's why those fussy roses have never quite worked?

What indoor activity puts you into a meditative state of mind? The treadmill? Folding laundry? Kneading bread or chopping vegetables for soup? Painting, throwing pots, dancing? For me, it's knitting, I can sit and knit and find myself deep in worthwhile insights.

Do a tarot reading and then take a nap, announcing your intention to dream the reading into your life. Cast the runes, stare into the fireplace flames, scry in the bowl of melted snow.

The plants in our gardens give themselves this time to pull back and go within so that they can survive the Winter weather and come back stronger in the Spring. Between now and Ostara, it's a gift that we can give ourselves, as well.

What bones do you see in the garden of your life?

Picture found here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bring Me a Rose in the Wintertime, When It's Hard to Find

Landscape Guy and I got together last week to exchange holiday gifts. He's quite a good giver of gifts; this year, he gave me Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart, which I've been longing to read.

It's odd, isn't it, how some people just do manage to give really meaningful gifts? I suppose that, if I had to pick the best gift that I've ever gotten, it would be a wicker picnic basket that an old love once gave to me. It had these amazing leather straps and pockets inside that held things like wine glasses, and cheese knives, and red gingham napkins. I still have it, and I treasure every picnic to which I've ever taken it. One year, for my birthday, he redecorated my bedroom while I was at work and I'll never forget walking, unaware, into that room and experiencing this huge blast of color. Last holiday season, that lover's lover sent me 100 snowdrop bulbs; that was a pretty good gift and I'm eager to see them bloom in a few weeks. My wonderful DiL once gave me a great book on herb gardens and a gift certificate to Burpees: a perfect gift. One Mother's Day, after we'd had a big argument, Son gave me a beautiful cut-glass keepsake box that still sits on my dresser, and one year when I was so sick from chemo that I wanted to die, he took me to see Showboat at the Kennedy Center and to lunch at what is now Willow. Later, when it looked as if the cancer might have spread to my liver, Son called me every single day to say that he loved me; I still have the voice mails that he left. Those were amazing gifts. But the gift that I remember the most from Son is a big bouquet of flowers that he brought to me from his job just after he graduated from high school and started working. I can still see him, in my mind's eye, through the kitchen window, walking home in his one good suit, carrying that bouquet, bought w/ his first paycheck. T & E once brought me some rose petals from roses stuck on the WH fence during a Mother's Day protest; I used those in a v powerful ritual. I have a decorated pencil from a goody bag that G/Son got at a birthday party to which I took him. In the car, going through the bag, he came to the pencil and said, "Here, Nonna. You can have this pencil." It sits on my desk, in my pencil jar, and I smile every time that I look at it. I have socks and silky scarves given to me by Circle Sisters and I feel warm, and loved, and blessed, and supported every time that I wear them.

Wicked Plants has an interesting chapter, "Dreadful Bouquet", about a gift of flowers:
On July 2, 1881, Charles Julius Guiteau shot President James Garfield. His aim was not quite good enough to kill the president; Garfield lived for eleven weeks as doctors probed his internal organs with unsterilized instruments, searching for the bullet that was actually lodged near his spine. . . . On the morning of his execution [Guiteau's] sister brought him a bouquet of flowers. Prison officials intercepted the bouquet and later discovered that there was enough arsenic tucked between the petals to kill several men. Although his sister denied having poisoned her brother's bouquet, it was well known that Guiteau feared the hangman's noose and would have preferred to die some other way.

Wicked Plants goes on to suggest an arsenic-free bouquet composed of flowers that "would do quite a bit of damage all by themselves": larkspur and delphinium, lily-of-the-valley, bleeding heart, sweet pea, tulips, hyacinth, Peruvian lily, chrysanthemum, and monkshood. They're not all in season at the same time, but if death at my own hand were what I wanted, I'd treasure a gift of that bouquet.

What's the best gift that you ever got or gave?

Update: What Witch wouldn't want THIS????????

Picture found here.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

Synchronicity, You're Soaking In It

I love the artist's discussion of how her childhood spent in Nature influences her art.


[H]ealing the broken bond between our young and nature—is in our self-interest, not only because aesthetics or justice demands it, but also because our mental, physical, and spiritual health depends upon it. The health of the [E]arth is at stake as well. How the young respond to nature, and how they raise their own children, will shape the configurations and conditions of our cities, homes—our daily lives.

~Richard Louv
More here.

Hat tip to Margaret Roach, in A Way to Garden.

Solstice Blogging: Snow on Snow on Snow, In the Deep MidWinter, Long, Long Ago

Up rose the wild old winter-king, And shook his beard of snow; "I hear the first young hard-bell ring, 'Tis time for me to go! Northward o'er the icy rocks, Northward o'er the sea, My daughter comes with sunny locks: This land's too warm for me!"

~Charles Godfrey Leland

With apologies to Ms. Rossetti.

Picture found here.

Tangerine & Roasted Thyme

Here's a lovely dinner for a Wintery Friday night.

What are you feeding your Inner Child these days?

Picture found at the link.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

For My Friend, The Singer

Nursing You by Erica Jong

On the first night
of the full moon,
the primeval sack of ocean
& I gave birth to you
little woman,
little carrot top,
little turned-up nose,
pushing you out of myself
as my mother
me out of herself,
as her mother did,
& her mother's mother before her,
all of us born
of woman.

I am the second daughter
of a second daughter
of a second daughter,
but you shall be the first.
You shall see the phrase
"second sex"
only in puzzlement,
wondering how anyone,
except a madman,
could call you "second"
when you are so splendidly
conferring even on your mother
firstness, vastness, fullness
as the moon at its fullest
lights up the sky.

Now the moon is full again
& you are four weeks old.
Little lion, lioness,
yowling for my breasts,
rowling at the moon,
how I love your lustiness,
your red face demanding,
your hungry mouth howling,
your screams, your cries
which all spell life
in large letters
the color of blood.

You are born a woman
for the sheer glory of it,
little redhead, beautiful screamer.
You are no second sex,
but the first of the first;
& when the moon's phases
fill out the cycle
of your life,
you will crow
for the joy
of being a woman,
telling the pallid moon
to go drown herself
in the blue ocean,
& glorying, glorying, glorying
in the rosy wonder
of your sunshining wondrous

Picture found here.


Is it just me, or are the Fae, in fact, out in greater force than normal this cold December? Has the Wild Hunt, in fact, been out riding more frequently and with more force than is usual?

Driving home along Spout Run (admittedly, one of the most Fae-inhabited spots in DC) late Tuesday night, I had to roll up my car windows (which I usually keep down even in the coldest temps) and call loudly to Bride the Bright and Vesta the Virtuous in order to make it home to my own snug cottage. And, somehow, a part of me is, even still, wandering those chilly banks, trailing my cape and soaking my boots in those icy waters, finding myself irrevocably lost, twigs in my hair and dirt under my nails, as I look for the entrance to the hill from whence those dancing tunes still beckon. It's a killing cold, and, yet, and yet . . . .

And, tonight, standing for a moment in the bones of my winter garden, talking with the lovely crescent Moon, something suddenly chilled my blood. "My" fox walked out into the middle of the yard, stared at me and said, "Go. Inside. Now."

And so, I did.

Picture found here.

Apologies to Tolstoy

The amazing Theodora Goss writes that:
With apologies to Tolstoy, all A papers are A papers in their own way. They don’t just lack mistakes. They have something extraordinary about them, a level of engagement with the texts, a felicitous style. They grab and keep your attention, and it’s interesting to think about what does that. Usually, I think, it’s the student’s voice. The student already has an individual voice. The student is already thinking, and writing, in his or her own way. There’s an enormous pleasure in seeing something like that.

Shorter Ms. Goss: When it's done well, we cannot know the dancer from the dance.

I find that the same thing is true of a compelling legal brief; I spend almost as much time reading and editing briefs as I imagine Ms. Goss spends on student papers. And there's little that sends a thrill down my spine quicker than a well-written brief -- although it's painful if it's a brief directed against my position. Good legal writing is something that people like to pretend is an oxymoron. But good legal writing is, IMHO, some of the best writing that there is. It informs, persuades, and carries the reader along in an elegant and almost seamless manner from the initial question to what appears, by the end, to be the only possible conclusion.

How do you know good writing when you see it?

Picture found here.