Saturday, March 12, 2011

Paying Attention in the Garden

Landscape Guy came over yesterday to walk the garden with me and make plans for this year. It's hard to believe that we began working together three years ago. I think that this is the year when the garden will finally begin to come into its own; the last three have all been about taking things out, getting structures in place, and putting in plants and trees. This is the year for things to begin filling in and growing out. One of the amazing things for me about walking the garden with Landscape Guy is how much he notices. I swear I wouldn't have noticed the tiny beginnings of drancunculus vulgaris or petasites hybridus that he saw as soon as we stepped into the woodland garden, nor the lilium 'Casa Blanca's, poking up like miniature chartreuse horns in the front cottage beds. I think it's a combination of experience (Landscape Guy's been gardening in this little corner of Zone 7b for years and years) and keen attention.

And that's true, in general, I think, of having a relationship with your landbase: experience and attention make a big difference in what you're able to perceive. You can have some relationship with your land (whether your land is a park near your apartment, a strip of weeds growing beside a parking lot, or a large tract of land) by showing up on the 8 Sabbats, but it won't be the intimate relationship you can have if you pay deeper, more frequent attention and give yourself the gift of experience. And those two things take time. They take carving time out of your day to become the Witch of This Place. And, as Annie Dillard told us, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." And so it comes down to asking yourself, daily, if you want to spend your life, for example, watching tv or developing a deep and ongoing relationship with the manifest bit of the Mother where you find yourself.

This time of year, for those of us in the myth-crammed MidAtlantic, is such a wonderful time to commit (or recommit) to paying attention to your landbase. Spring and Autumn are our two most liminal times, when things shift and change hourly and daily and reward us so intensely for our attention. I love to pick a small area -- a few inches, a square foot, a specific corner of the garden -- and see what changes I can notice. Sometimes, I take a picture of the same spot every morning and evening and use those pictures in my daily practice or for divination. (If I had an ounce of artistic talent, I'd draw or paint or sculpt it, but, well, I'm about to be 55 and I know my strengths and my weaknesses.)

Last Fall, Landscape Guy and I put in two new magnolias in the SouthEastern corner of the woodland garden. He reminded me that magnolias are originally swamp trees and said that it would be almost impossible for me to overwater them, especially as they were getting established. And I watered all Fall, until it was time to put away the hoses and turn off the outside faucets. (Actually, I managed to water one day past that date, but several hundred dollars of plumbers' bills later, we'll gloss over that little mistake, m'kay?) Over wine yesterday, I asked Landscape Guy whether I should start watering the magnolias again and he said, "No, not yet. I think you'll just know when it's time." And I was reminded of Wendy Johnson's advice:
Every garden is unique, quirky, distinct, and disobedient, just like every gardener, and no one can really tell you how to water your garden. Yet all well-watered gardens have a common song that greets you the moment you walk through the gate. Watering is a form of courtship rooted in affection and experience, and in the desire for the garden and gardener to know each other inside and out. ~ Gardening at the Dragon's Gate: At Work in the Wild and Cultivated World

I'll just have to pay deep attention and keep asking the magnolias if they're thirsty. It will be good experience for me.

You come, too.

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

Alone Has Looked on Beauty Bare

Euclid by Thomas Lynch

What sort of morning was Euclid having
when he first considered parallel lines?
Or that business about how things equal
to the same thing are equal to each other?
Who’s to know what the day has in it?
This morning Burt took it into his mind
to make a long bow out of Osage orange
and went on eBay to find the cow horns
from which to fashion the tips of the thing.
You better have something to pass the time,
he says, stirring his coffee, smiling.
And Murray is carving a model truck
from a block of walnut he found downstairs.
Whittling away he thinks of the years
he drove between Detroit and Buffalo
delivering parts for General Motors.
Might he have nursed theorems on lines and dots
or the properties of triangles or
the congruence of adjacent angles?
Or clearing customs at Niagara Falls,
arrived at some insight on wholes and parts
or an axiom involving radii
and the making of circles, how distance
from a center point can be both increased
endlessly and endlessly split—a mystery
whereby the local and the global share
the same vexations and geometry?
Possibly this is where God comes into it,
who breathed the common notion of coincidence
into the brain of that Alexandrian
over breakfast twenty-three centuries back,
who glimpsed for a moment that morning the sense
it all made: life, killing time, the elements,
the dots and lines and angles of connection—
an egg’s shell opened with a spoon, the sun’s
connivance with the moon’s decline, Sophia
the maidservant pouring juice; everything,
everything coincides, the arc of memory,
her fine parabolas, the bend of a bow,
the curve of the earth, the turn in the road.

Picture found here.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Susanoo and Amaterasu

The shining sun Goddess Amaterasu had a brother, Susanoo, lord of storms and of the sea.

Susanoo was an uncontrollable man, often given to violence. When he quarreled with his sister, Susanoo lifted up Amaterasu's beloved pony and threw it at Amaterasu and her priestesses.

Amaterasu was so angry that she hid in the cave called Iwayado, and there was no warmth or light upon the Earth.

The other Kami, or Goddesses and Gods, tried to lure Amaterasu out of her cave, but her anger still burned, and she refused to come out. Ame-no-Uzume, the Kami of joy, knew what to do. She placed a mirror near the entrance of the cave. Then, she did a bawdy dance, which made all of the other Kami roar with laughter. Amaterasu was still angry at her brother, the Kami of the stormy sea, but she wanted to know what made everyone laugh. She crept to the edge of the cave and peeked out at Ame-no-Uzume and, angry as she was, Amaterasu had to laugh. In that moment, a ray of her sunlight escaped from the dark cave and reflected in the mirror. Amaterasu saw her own lovely face and could no longer remain angry. She returned to the world, bringing sunlight and warmth.

Today, in Japan, Susanoo's violence was great and the uncontrollable sea stormed over Amaterasu's land. It must seem to the people of Japan as if the lovely sun Kami has again withdrawn from them. My own heart is heavy with sadness at the loss of lives, homes, family altars, and pets and with fear for the damage done to Japan's nuclear plants. I'm going to go to my altar, light a candle to reflect in my scrying mirror, and dance like Ame-no-Uzume, in the hopes that the people of Japan will soon bask under Amaterasu's warm light, rather than Susanoo's angry seas.

You come too.

Picture found here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

For Wisconsin

I am so proud of each of my friends who've been at the Capitol for a month and who will be there until things are put right.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.


This is what brave women look like. Heras. How can you incorporate this into your life?

Link is jammed. Try this.

Shadows of Shadows

If you imagine someone who is brave enough to withdraw all his projections, then you get an individual who is conscious of a pretty thick shadow. Such a man has saddled himself with new problems and conflicts. He has become a serious problem to himself, as he is now unable to say that they do this or that, they are wrong, and they must be fought against. He lives in the "House of the Gathering." Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.
Carl Jung in Psychology and Religion (1938).

In response to yesterday's post about the need to do shadow work, one of my readers asks about how one actually does such work. It's a good question. Jung, himself, is not particularly accessible to laypersons. So where to begin? A number of years ago, several friends and I worked through Dark Moon Mysteries by Timothy Roderick and I found it a good place to start.

While I am definitely not a psychoanalyst (and don't pretend to be giving psychological advice), I have spent -- and will spend, until I die -- a good amount of time doing shadow work. Shadows, by their nature, have this conflicting desire to stay hidden and, yet, to make themselves known. So catching one in action, shining a light on it, and inviting it to come openly to the table to share what it knows, is, in my practice, at least, a big part of the work. Once aware that there's a shadow in action, most Witches and magical workers are pretty good at figuring out ways to trance, journal, do directed dreaming, do Tarot work, dance with, paint, do spell work with, and generally tease the energy bound up in a shadow out into a space where that energy can become available for productive uses.

I've found two pretty reliable clues that I've got a shadow issue. When something always bugs me inordinately, the reason is almost always bound up in a shadow. For example, having to deal with customer "service" of any sort tends to drive me completely crazy. (Comcast, I'm looking at you. But I'm also looking at the IT folks at work, the receptionist at the dishwasher-repair shop, the person who invented "Press 1 if you want to . . . .", and, well, you know.) Lots of people get frustrated when dealing with this stuff, but they don't get almost hysterical and obsess about it. I do. All that excessive-to-the-actual-cause energy is coming from somewhere. In my case, I think it comes from a shadow issue bound up with feeling that I may be powerless and that I won't be able to get the help that I need. There've certainly been incidents in my life that I can point to that seem likely to have caused more suffering over this issue than I was able to effectively process at the time, which is often what causes a shadow.

My experience is that it's often a lot easier to sense when someone else has a shadow issue than it is to identify our own. But sometimes learning to see when others may be tripping over their own shadows can help me to realize how to look for my own. When I see someone who gets really worked up over some issue in ways that don't make sense, I wonder if there aren't shadow issues involved. The classic case is someone who gets hysterical over gay marriage. It's odd; other people getting married would seem to hardly impact you. What is it that makes you get so upset about it? What need gets served by trying to control that aspect of others' lives? What is it about sex, marriage, family, homosexuality, etc. that triggers such a strong over-reaction? Because none of the "reasons" offered -- it will destroy "traditional" marriage, it's bad for "the children," it will lead to polygamy, incest, etc. -- make any sense.

And that's the second sign, to me, that I'm probably dealing with one of my shadows: when the "reasons" that I give myself for why I just can't [do X, get over issue Y, face problem Z] simply don't make much sense, when I step back and cross examine them like the lawyer I am.

How do you do shadow work? What resources have you found useful? Do you agree with Vaughan-Lee about the need for shadow work?

Picture found here.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Tuesday Poetry Blogging

Bees and Morning Glories


Morning glories, pale as a mist drying,
fade from the heat of the day, but already
hunchback bees in pirate pants and with peg-leg
hooks have found and are boarding them.

This could do for the sack of the imaginary
fleet. The raiders loot the galleons even as they
one by one vanish and leave still real
only what has been snatched out of the spell.

I’ve never seen bees more purposeful except
when the hive is threatened. They know
the good of it must be grabbed and hauled
before the whole feast wisps off.

They swarm in light and, fast, dive in,
then drone out, slow, their pantaloons heavy
with gold and sunlight. The line of them,
like thin smoke, wafts over the hedge.

And back again to find the fleet gone.
Well, they got this day’s good of it. Off
they cruise to what stays open longer.
Nothing green gives honey. And by now

you’d have to look twice to see more than green
where all those white sails trembled
when the world was misty and open
and the prize was there to be taken.

Picture found here.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Jensen on Hope

What Literata Said

And I can’t find a way to understand my relationship with the earth that makes styrofoam carryout containers a worthwhile thing.

You need to go read the whole thing right now.

Picture found here.

Happy Women's Day

One percent -- ONE PERCENT -- of the world's property.

/hat tip to watertiger.

Sunday, March 06, 2011