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.