Saturday, January 22, 2011

To Die a Free Woman


So when Comstock and his fellow inspectors showed up at her cramped residence on West 23rd Street with a warrant for her arrest, Craddock steeled herself anew. "I wish to fight right through to a finish," she wrote her lawyer shortly afterward. "All I ask is that you use me in the most effective way possible." As an unabashed sex reformer and a mystic founder of her own Church of Yoga, Craddock was to Comstock a twice-damned purveyor of obscenity and blasphemy. He wanted to shut down her whole operation—the distribution of her pamphlets, the delivery of her lectures, even her face-to-face counseling sessions. "I am taking my stand on the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States," Craddock countered, "guaranteeing me religious freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of the press."

Craddock could do little more than watch as Comstock conducted his raid. Scanning the shelves of her private library, he found sixty-one books and 536 circulars worthy of removal, all of which he could use as evidence against her before once again pulping such filth. A heavy-set man with mutton-chop sideburns and creased blue eyes, Comstock had been at this for a while, having led the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice since its incorporation in 1873. For three decades now he had been frustrating the designs of shady booksellers, sketchy impresarios, dime novelists, condom distributors, abortion providers, birth-control advocates, and taboo-breaking artists. Imbued with a strong sense of Christian discipline from his Connecticut youth, he had further honed his self-control through prayerfully resisting the temptations of army life during the Civil War—the whiskey drinking, coarse language, and tobacco chewing that marked the camaraderie of his fellow soldiers. "Boys got very drunk," Comstock noted of his army mates at one point in his diary. "I did not drink a drop. . . . Touch not. Taste not. Handle not."

"She thought her only option at that point was suicide," Schmidt says. "That that was the only way she was going to die a free woman."

That oddly keeps on being the only choice they leave us.

I'll just add that having my carefully-collected and painstakingly-archived books rifled by a fundie would pretty much do me in, as well.

Picture found here.

Exchanging Seeds

I can almost feel Imbolc stirring itself from deep inside my Mother and beginning to rise through the root-chilling red clay and rock-hard frozen surface of my tiny bit of Earth. I am longing like a thirsty woman for a taste of that icy water of inspiration, for all that I know that Imbolc is often considered a fire festival. Imbolc is a time to honor inspiration and the plain old hard work of forging new tools, as well as a time to commit to a warming that we can, often, only believe, rather than sense. I am willing, even if it makes me a foolish old woman, to commit to the warming. (My broken ankle, which simply FEELS itself more this time of year, and my too-cold-even-in-socks-toes, and my full-of-pain-even-in-gloves-fingertips are all ready to commit, as well.)

I am sifting, and hunting, and dreaming about which poems I will contribute to the Sixth Annual Brigid Poetry Festival. So many poems; so little time.

By Imbolc, I will have made my selections -- limited this year, as I'm really serious about upping my already-quite-healthy level of savings -- from the many issues of garden porn seed catalogues that arrive this time of year, and will start some seedlings -- always one of my favorite acts as a priestess. (My nomination for the best seed catalogue cover in years: this year's Seed Savers cover. Who knew that deep purple, deep red, and bright yellow were so gorgeous together?) Also, can I just say that the picture in this year's catalogue of their seed-drying barn, (go here and click through 24 times) is number two on my list of places in which I'd almost kill to, but likely never will, do ritual? (Number 1 is (after dark on the night of a full Moon, when the park is closed) the old Capitol pillars at the National Arboretum.) I want to dance through that barnfull of heirloom DNA in the worst kind of way; I've been there in my dreams almost every night since I've seen it. Seed Savers, I don't suppose you'd like some Witches to come bless your crops?

A few days after Imbolc, I'm going to an v exciting seed swap. I have woad, and pineapple sage, and sunflower seeds to bring. I'd love to find someone with Pam's Choice foxglove or Hollyhock Nigra to give away. I certainly wouldn't turn my nose up at coconut echinacea or Bowles Black viola.

What can you bring to life's seed exchange? What would you like to get?

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

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011


There's this:

Premises 1 through 10

and, this:

As the current round of catabolism picks up speed, a great many jobs will go away, and most of them will never return; a great many people who depend on those jobs will descend into poverty, and most of them will never rise back out of it; much of the familiar fabric of life in America as it’s been lived in recent decades will be shredded beyond repair, and new and far less lavish patterns will emerge instead; outside the narrowing circle of the privileged classes, even those who maintain relative affluence will be making do with much less than they or their equivalents do today. All these are ways that a society in decline successfully adapts to the contraction of its economic base and the mismatch between available resources and maintenance costs.

Twenty or thirty or forty years from now, in turn, it’s a fairly safe bet that the years of crisis will come to a close and a newly optimistic America will reassure itself that everything really is all right again. The odds are pretty high that by then it will be, for all practical purposes, a Third World nation, with little more than dim memories remaining from its former empire or its erstwhile status as a superpower; it’s not at all impossible, for that matter, that it will be more than one nation, split asunder along lines traced out by today’s increasingly uncompromising culture wars. Fast forward another few decades, and another round of crises arrives, followed by another respite, and another round of crises, until finally peasant farmers plow their fields in sight of the crumbling ruins of our cities.

That’s the way civilizations end, and that’s the way ours is ending.

The Arch Druid and Derrick Jensen have more.

Picture found here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Full Moon

There's a gorgeous full Moon in the sky.


Come back into your body.



Picture found here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dancing with Shadows

It can be difficult, as I discussed recently, to find good Pagan books. This week, I've begun reading -- and am being blown away by -- David Abram's Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology. Abram, to my knowledge, doesn't self-identify as a Pagan, although his bio at The Alliance for Wild Ethics says that Abram is:
An accomplished storyteller and sleight-of-hand magician who has lived and traded magic with indigenous sorcerers in Indonesia, Nepal, and the Americas . . . .
and he's certainly studied and written about magic. Becoming Animal is, in any event, a Pagan book, in the true sense of the word. The Politics and Prose write-up says:
The shapeshifting of ravens, the erotic nature of gravity, the eloquence of thunder, the pleasures of being edible: all have their place in Abram’s investigation. He shows that from the awakened perspective of the human animal, awareness (or mind) is not an exclusive possession of our species but a lucid quality of the biosphere itself—a quality in which we, along with the oaks and the spiders, steadily participate.

I'm particularly struck by Abram's discussion of shadows. Having worked with James Hillman, it's not surprising that Abram writes about shadows in ways that have multiple meanings. Although he's ostensibly talking about the kind of shadows we cast upon the ground when the sun is shining, I find some of his passages to be equally applicable (and I can't believe Abram isn't aware of what he's doing) to Jungian shadows, as well. Here's a small example:
One of the marks of our obliviousness, one of the countless signs that our thinking minds have grown estranged from the intelligence of our sensing bodies, is that today a great many people seem to believe that shadows are flat. . . . We identify our shadow, in other words, with that visible shape we see projected on the pavement or the whitewashed wall. Since what we glimpse there is a being without depth [heh], we naturally assume that shadows themselves are basically flat -- and if we are asked by a curious child about the life of shadows [again, heh] we are apt to reply that their lives exist in only two dimensions [ok, I'll stop with the "heh"s, but I think you see my point].

. . .

[M]y actual shadow is an enigma more substantial than that flat shape on the ground. That silhouette is only my shadow's outermost surface. . . . [The] apparent gap between myself and that flat swath of darkness is what prompts me, now and then, to accept its invitation to dance, the two of us then strutting and ducking in an improvised pas de deux wherein it's never very clear which one of us is leading [heh; can't help myself] and which is following. It is now obvious, however, that that shape slinking along on the pavement is merely the outermost edge of a thick volume of shade, an umbral depth that extends from the pavement right on up to my knees, torso, and head -- a shadow touching me not just at my feet, but at every point of my person.

Or maybe I'm completely wrong and Abram, trying heroically to get us back in actual touch with the physical shadows cast by our bodies, would berate me for needing to find verbal twists and psychological constructs literally breaking through his words. Indeed, in the essay on magic, linked above, Abram says:
For it is likely that the "inner world" of our Western psychological experience, like the supernatural heaven of Christian belief, originated in the loss of our ancestral reciprocity with the living landscape. When the animate presences with whom we have evolved over several million years are suddenly construed as having less significance than ourselves, when the generative earth that gave birth to us is defined as a soulless or determinate object devoid of sensitivity and sentience, then that wild otherness with which human life had always been entwined must migrate, either into a supersensory heaven beyond the natural world, or else into the human skull itself--the only allowable refuge, in this world, for what is ineffable and unfathomable.

At any rate, it's a meaty book (odd choice of words, perhaps, for a book entitled "Becoming Animal") and one full of the Pagan understanding that EVERYTHING is alive and longing to be in communion, that, "it's all real; it's all [heh] metaphor; there's always more."

If you've read it, or Abram's earlier book, The Spell of the Sensuous I'd love to know your reactions.

Update: As the stumbling oral reading above makes clear, this is a book written to be read, not spoken. The language is lush, almost rococo, and one needs to remain fully present to read it. I'm reading it, as a result, as a series of amuses-gueule, and not in one or two "swell foops," as my grandma used to say.

Monday, January 17, 2011

No Justice w/o Peace and No Justice w/o Peace

Not going to segregate my moral concerns..

Maybe My Favorite Quote, Ever

Bend, motherfucker, bend towards justice.

What Does That Bust Say to You, Mr. President? So Far, You Are Acting Deaf to Me


More and more, I look back at the Sixties -- Summer of Love, Selma, Consciousness Raising Groups, and Woodstock -- as a kind of Brigadoon, that settles down unnoticed on our Moors, gives us an example, and then goes back off into the clouds to stay pure for another time when it's needed. I was, pace Mr. Dylan, so much younger then; I'm older (better funded, more grounded, smarter, more focused, and more committed) than that, now.

And, I agree with Joan. We shall overcome, someday.

My New Name for a Blog

What the Letter from Birmingham Jail Said.

I was going to try and excerpt the best parts, but, really, if you're an American, or if you're someone who loves justice, or if you're human, you should just go read the whole thing.

Once More

All my life, they've been shooting the heroes down. All my life, easy access to guns has taken down those who tried to lead us forward. I think it's time to get to the root of the problem. Let's get a "well-regulated" militia under regulation.

Sad Times

A Few First Class Funerals

The Greatest Demonstration for Freedom in the History of Our Nation

You know, now that I'm an old woman, and not a little girl of 12, when I look at Dr. King, I can see how he is just carrying the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. And although it's not nearly enough, what I want to say, from this distance of 43 years, is, "Thank you. Thank you for the better world that I have lived in. And, most of all, thank you for the better world in which my G/Son will live all the days of his life. Thank you, Dr. King."

Maybe we all need, certainly I need, to pick up a little bit more of the world's weight, so that no one person ever has to bear so much all alone. I won't, pace Mr. Frost, be gone long; you come too.

Sunday, January 16, 2011