Saturday, May 14, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011


Like Theodora Goss, I try to post something every day. Yesterday, Blogger was bloggered and wouldn't let me post, and I'm grateful to Twitter for filling the gap. If Blogger had let me post, here is what I was going to say:

If asked to name the "most mystical" flower, many would name the rose, or perhaps the lotus. Some would, not so much for the flower itself, as for the drug derived from it, name the poppy.

Me, I'd say that the peony is, in and of itself, a mystical experience. All the years that I lived in my tiny apartment, I'd buy armload of peonies (buy it and never count the cost) at the farmers' market on Dupont Circle. The man who sold them once told me that every week, in season, he shipped tightly-budded peonies to a woman in southern Virginia who would put them in water, pour a glass of wine, and sketch them as, over time, they opened. (Put peony buds in warm water and you can pretty much watch them opening. It's magic.) I used to go the Freer Gallery just to look at the pictures of peonies. When I moved, at last, to my little Witch's cottage, I began to grow my own, all white, although that doesn't stop me from sometimes, still, buying an armload at the farmers' market or (scuffs feet in shame) Whole Foods.

This week, the peonies are in mad, ecstatic bloom all over northern Virginia and I am grateful for each bush planted on my side-road route to Lorcom Lane and on my deep-DC route back home. There are peonies on my bed table, peonies on my dining room table, peonies on my desk at work, peonies on the table on my screen porch, peonies on the desks of all 3 secretaries who sit near my office, and peonies on my altar.

Here's a wonderful Mary Oliver poem about peonies.
This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open ---
pools of lace,
white and pink ---
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities ---
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again ---
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

Peonies, for me, are the flower of the "great (alchemical) wedding," and the flower that will call me "half-dressed and barefoot" (oh, you cannot imagine) into the garden, and call me to be "wild and perfect for a moment." Just before I am blessedly nothing forever.

You come, too.

Update: Byron Ballard's lovely rose certainly makes a strong case for the rose. Good thing we don't have to choose! ;)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Father of Waters

A part of my daily practice, believe it or not, is my drive to and from work. I have a choice of routes, but I always drive along the fey-populated Spout Run and the beautiful river into which it feeds, the Potomac. Batty old woman that I am, I find myself in deep relationship with the water, the rocks, the honeysuckle that's thriving just now, the runners and early-morning kayakers on the Potomac, the expanding colony of purple thistles just as you exit onto the T.R. Bridge, the homeless vet I chat with there most mornings, the dead trees just at the edge of the island facing the Kennedy Center. It's a good thing that traffic moves at a crawl.

As I was driving beside the Potomac this morning, NPR was reporting on the flooding that's been happening alongside the Mississippi River and its tributaries. "Mississippi" comes from a Native American word that meant, "Father of Waters," and it was aptly named.

I simply can't imagine how much water it would take to do what the news reports describe, nor how it would be to live -- as a human, a tree, a bird with a nest in that tree, a snake, a fox, or a rose bush -- within that flood plain. One thing that rivers do, that rivers need to do, is to flood.

And so my sympathies are with the Mississippi and with the Element that I call every day when I cast a circle, every time that I need something to dissolve, every time that I need things to flow along. And, as well, my sympathies are with the humans, and the trees, and the birds, and the snakes, and the foxes, and the roses.

Because they are all the same thing; they are all, to paraphrase HC, Goddess pouring Goddess into Goddess. And, yet, they are each separate and precious, and the desire of the human not to lose her home, and the desire of the fox kit not to lose her den, and the desire of the tree not to be swept away, are every bit as strong and as valid as the desire of the Mississippi to occasionally overflow His banks in a big way.

And so, tonight, I will sit at my altar, here in the district devoted to the Goddess Columbia, here beside Spout Run, here in the Potomac Watershed, and I will light incense for the Father of Waters and for all who live in His floodplain. I will send energy to strengthen the Web of All. I will listen to the words of Derrick Jensen, and I will be more grateful than I can express for having incarnated upon this watery, dangerous planet.

Join me at your altar, will you?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pesky Activist Lawyers

Via Twitter, Atrios highlights an interesting case concerning a jail in South Carolina that has (or perhaps the better term now might be "had), according to an email from a jail staff member, a policy that
our inmates are only allowed to receive soft back bibles in the mail directly from the publisher. They are not allowed to have magazines, newspapers, or any other type of books.

That's right. No Koran. No Pagan Ritual Prayer Book, nada. Just Bibles. Nice First Amendment you've got there, America. The ACLU filed suit and, lo and behold, the federal government sought and was granted permission to intervene in support of the ACLU.

Now, all of a sudden, the jail says that it has a different policy:
Officials at the jail responded to the ACLU lawsuit by saying that they only banned material containing staples and nudity. But the new ACLU motion to block this policy points out that legal pads containing staples were being sold at the jail. It claims that the no staples or nudity policy was "adopted post hoc and in response to this Case", and that it "eliminate[s] access to reading material almost as completely as the 'Bible only' rule".

Anyone who's practiced law for very long has seen this happen. The jail has what it knows is an unconstitutional policy. It doesn't want to give it up, so it looks for some other rationale that will let it achieve the same goal. No explanation for why the staff member seemed to think the policy was rather explicitly different (soft-cover Bibles, direct from the publisher, no magazines newspapers [which don't have staples], or any other type of books"). No, the policy is based on safety and prison control! Staples are dangerous and it's bad to let prisoners see pictures of nudity or bathing suits because, um well, shut up, that's why. One hopes the judge in the case sees this for what it is.

I mention this case because it shows what can be accomplished by the mere filing of a legitimate lawsuit. Once the jail's policies are under scrutiny, jail administrators start scrambling, and scrambling people often look disingenuous. To a judge. We saw a similar case when Pagan activists sued the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs over its refusal to allow Pentacles on gravestones. Once you file suit, and get discovery, you find out that the real reason behind the denials and delays and changing requirements is that George Bush doesn't like Witches. And then someone realizes that you'd better settle this case before a judge settles it for you.

All of which is by way of saying that, no, the ACLU doesn't always take all of the cases I might wish that they'd take. But they do manage to do some very good things. And it's important to note that you don't have to be guilty to be in jail. Get arrested and you can get thrown in jail, at least until you make bail or the charges are dropped.

That's why I'm a card-carrying member of the ACLU. Are you?

Monday, May 09, 2011

Wildlife: A Love Story

I get that there are huge problems with zoos. And I can imagine that dealing with crowds of people isn't fun for the animals. But I also get that if we don't convince our young people that nature and wildlife really matter, on a visceral, emotional level, we're headed for really bad trouble.

What's your take on this?