Saturday, May 21, 2011



Ritual is not only about entertainment. It is not only a pleasant pastime or an opportunity to socialize. It is not even simply a psychological tool to shape ourselves and our communities through shared emotional or aesthetic experiences, though it can certainly be used this way.

At the heart of my spiritual life rests the deep knowing that ritual is a way of listening to the Song of the World as it moves through the earth and the land, and engaging with that Song as something holy, wholly challenging and transformative. Shared ritual is when we accept the burden and blessing of being embodied beings of this dense, physical world that gives us life, and when allow ourselves to respond in kind, to speak back to the natural world with its energies and currents and wild mysteries. Ritual is not for our sake alone, but for the sake of the whole world. It is for the sake of the solitude and silence that surrounds us, that frightening shadow of void and absence that makes us who we are, makes us whole.

We ignore it or seek to replace it at our own peril, for the world is what is real. Even in our deepest solitude, the world of experience and natural forces persists.

* * *

We have been neglectful and arrogant for a long time in this country, intoxicated with our own power, lulled into disconnection by our own thirst for convenience and speed and ease. Those years of solitude I spent grieving and kneeling to the dust on the floor were not made up of my grief alone. The land, too, grieves. She misses us. She longs for us to once again touch her as a lover caresses the beloved, to whisper to her of our secret dreams and sit with her in the long silences of twilight. She aches to be with us in our ritual and our prayer. She loves to feel the pounding of our feet and our drums in dance and song and praise — not the scraping and gnawing of our machines and our indifference and our consumerism and our denial.

Our religious communities are not only human. The world, too, the earth and her creatures and her ecosystems and forests and rivers and storms — all these are part of our community of spirit, the community from which our lives crest and subside again like waves of the ocean. And we cannot embrace the world in its wholeness and holiness if we seek to escape it or deny it through digital media that robs it of its voice and deadens our ability to listen to its thrumming presence in even the deepest silences and loneliest moments. Digital and social media have their place, they can give us some direction and help us to share ideas and information across the globe. But they cannot ever replace the hard, necessary work of showing up to ourselves in all of our limited, bounded, frustratingly beautiful imperfections and engaging in the wildness and wilderness of a world so much bigger than we are.

Please, please, please: Go read the whole thing. And then go outside.

Picture found here.

Not on the Agenda for Today.

Also unlikely.

Now with a Whimper, But a Bang.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Creating Beauty

Did you create some beauty today? For my part, I put together an elegant legal argument and spent some time teaching young lawyers how to think and write about the law (which is as beautiful to me as the sand is to the artist above -- and almost as malleable a medium and certainly as susceptible to changing tides). And now I'm going to spend time knitting a sweater to keep G/Son warm next year. Tell me about the beauty you created.


Update: I see that SoBeIt and I are reading from the same book today.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How It's Done

A bit too long, could have cut out the Mrs. Ex-Ayn Rand lover bit, but, yes, MORE FRAMING LIKE THIS!

But, Alas.

Had a wonderful, impromptu lunch today w/ a dear friend who found herself downtown about noon and in need of sustenance. We caught up on each others' crazy lives, and discussed her amazing belly dance classes, mutual friends, and gardens. Then we spent time giggling over our well-laid plans to hit up nice neighborhoods following the predicted rapture this Saturday evening. Since we're pretty sure not to be going anywhere both Witches and thus guaranteed not to be getting raptured into the Christian heaven, we worked out a plan for dividing up the Jimmy Choos, Hermes, jewelry, good booze, etc. left behind by god-fearing Christians (Yes, I know what Jesus said about rich people, camels, and needles, but that's now been preempted. Prosperity Christianity assures the people in Georgetown and McClean (our first picks for looting providing good homes to the property of our neighbors) that they WILL get raptured if they just believe in Jesus, hate the poor, and vote for tax cuts. So I'm not too worried that anyone raptured will leave behind only stuff I wouldn't want).

I've posted serious poems about the end of the world before. And of course, we all know what RF said about fire and ice. Yet, what I can't quit hearing in my head every time someone explains that the end of the world begins this Saturday evening (just as I'm hoping to have Son, DiL, and G/Son over for Sancerre, roast chicken, corn, biscuits, and broccoli (G/Son's favorite veg, what can I say?)) is Dorothy Parker's poem, which I know by heart, about predictions that the world will end.
The Flaw In Paganism

Drink and dance and laugh and lie,
Love, the reeling midnight through,
For tomorrow we shall die!
(But, alas, we never do.)

Although, Parker's (oddly, she almost never is) wrong, that's not the flaw in Paganism (which she had the decency to capitalize; well, she left her estate to Dr. King, so of course she was wonderful and ahead of her time); it's the flaw in Christianity, esp. the hate-filled Christianity of this nutjob predicting the end of the world.

Dude, Jesus ran around w/ 12 men. He preached love and understanding. I really don't think that the word "lesbianism" is in the Bible. But if you do get raptured this Saturday, I'll be glad to see you gone. I don't even want your stuff.


Update: What my friend Tim Said.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


"My" homeless vet is having heart troubles. I spent a lot of time today trying to find a VA service that will go out to the TR bridge on-ramp and do outreach to him -- and came up empty. Tomorrow, I'm going to take him aspirin, which I know can help to stave off a heart attack. Are there any other supplements that are good? (Damn. I hate feeling powerless. Hello, Shadow.)

Dill, oh dill! Why will you never grow where I want you to grow, but always grow where I've planted rosemary or thyme? Why? (Hello, again, Shadow!)

Butterbur, if you keep encroaching on the day lilies, you will find out that I can be as Kali, Bringer of Death. I am just saying.

Oregano, please see my comment above re: dill.

Spent today reading, thinking, editing, talking to smart people, and writing. Once, in my wicked youth or childhood. . . . Sometimes, your job IS your daily practice. And that, pace R. Frost, has made all the difference.

Anne Hill has up a great post about talking to children about dreams. A few months ago, G/Son was awakened by a bad dream. He headed across the hall into his 'rents' room. Sleep-addled and hoping for a few more of Lethe's blessings, they pulled up the covers, snuggled him in between them, rubbed his back, and attempted to get some more sleep. He shook my beautiful DiL awake: "Mommy! You did not ask me about what was IN my dream!" Children want to talk to us about their dreams; it's up to us to teach them that what they dream matters. Thank the Goddess, my G/Son has a wonderful mother who woke herself up and asked the important questions. A while later, G/Son spent the night with me and, when he woke up, in that magical, information-rich moment between sleeping and waking, he said, "Nonna! Can you hear my friends? I think I hear my friends from my old school." I told Son and DiL about G/Son's dream, and they've been making opportunities ever since for G/Son to spend more time with some of his old friends. And he loves it!

African Alchemy has an interview w/ Adrienne Rich, who GOT ME THROUGH LAW SCHOOL w/ A SNIPPET OF POETRY Rich says: "Nothing 'obliges' us to behave as honorable human beings except each others’ possible examples of honesty and generosity and courage and lucidity, suggesting a greater social compact."

Thorn Coyle. Leonard Cohen. A good cause. For precisely what are you waiting?

Dear Glitter Person I do not know you, but I think I love you. Why thrice-married Newt Gingrich ("I was against Ryan's plan to deny health care to old people before I was for it") gets to complain that allowing gay people to marry will "destroy traditional marriage" is way beyond me. Also, as someone who is financially responsible, I have to say that if your estimated worth is only about a million dollars, you've got no business owing between 1/4 and 1/2 of that to Tiffany's. And I love Tiffany's, purveyor of all things Elsa Peretti. (As I've posted before, one of my rules for dealing w/ a bonus is to get yourself some little thing you want before investing most of the bonus. I've spent more than a few of my bonuses on Elsa. Unlike Newt, I could afford them w/o going into debt.)

If you don't check in every day with In the Mists of Avalon, you should.

What the Arch Druid Said. This week as every week. If you only have time to read one blog, this is it.

Everything here smells good. As do the gardenias in my garden and the earth after all this rain. Not to mention the (see above) dill, oregano, chocolate mint, sage, and deep black iris.

If you care about social media, you should read my brilliant friend, E. No, really. Every day.

This morning, I passed a new (at least newly-advertised) farmers' market at the OPM (that's Office of Personnel Management for those of you outside the Beltway). Thanks, Michelle Obama! Mr. Bittman has a great article about how Detroit, yes Detroit, is embracing locally-grown food.

If you're interested in checking out some Pagan events, you should be checking regularly with Medusa.

After days and days of heavy rain, I got to go sit outside in my bit of Earth and reconnect. It felt wonderful. What's going on in your bit of Earth?

What's rocking your world these days?

Picture found here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What He Said

My friend the great Dakota activist Waziyatawin once said, “That defeatist attitude makes me want to scream. The battles we’re fighting are overwhelming, but we know things won’t get better if we do nothing. Our only hope is enough people intervening and taking action, people willing to risk something now so we all don’t lose everything later. The only sense of empowerment I feel is by taking some kind of action, whether it’s writing, working to undermine the existing structures, or sitting on the open prairie in December with a Dakota man trying to save our landbase.” She went on: “If our actions will do nothing, why would anyone even want to live anymore? That kind of hopelessness, in the defeatist sense, means an embracing of victimage and complete powerlessness. Here the salmon have much to teach: either they make it upriver to spawn, or they die trying.”

If our actions make it so there is even a one-thousandth of 1 percent chance that things will work out better for ourselves and the planet, then it is our moral duty to act and act and act. Before it’s too late.

Am I optimistic? Not in the slightest. Am I going to quit? Not on your fucking life.

You should read Derrick Jensen's entire post here.

Picture found here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Raise My Social Security Taxes

I have a great job and I love it. And I may as well say this on the night of a Full Moon as any other night.

I worked my ass off, teaching all day and preparing for and going to law school all night -- for six really (really!) long years -- to get it, making an insane commute and coming in near the top of my class, interviewing my (again) ass off [you'd think I'd have a smaller one!], landing a great summer job, making assistant editor of law review, and then landing, at an advanced age, in a first year position where, yet again, I worked my ass off for years in order to prove myself. Those were, IMHO, fair trades, and I would gladly, in Teasdale's words, buy it [all over again] and never count the cost. I love the intellectual stimulation of my job, the atmosphere of the firm where I work, the clients for whom I work, the projects that I help to make happen, and the other lawyers with whom I work. I love the calibre of my opponents; maybe some things feel better than besting people who are really, really good at what they do, but I'd be hard pressed to name them on a day when I've fought off the collective strengths of a bunch of (natch) men who are used to winning because they are so good. I love the demands of the courts in front of which I practice and I love getting paid to research, think, and write. It's what I was born to do and I do it, if I say so myself, pretty damn well. You have to be a huge geek to enjoy doing what I do, and yet, there are nights that I drive home completely mainlining the law and can't go to sleep because I am so excited by what I do. It's not something I post much about on this blog, but it's a big part of who I am.

Which is all a long wind-up to my main point, but also crucial to a preliminary point that I want to make. I make, thank the Goddess, a darn good living and I know that. And I appreciate it and I am grateful for it and there were many years when I did more important work and got paid a whole lot less. And I recognize my responsibility to give back, not only through pro bono hours (which I do, every year, and just finished doing for this year), but also through a program of planned giving to political and charitable causes that I select every year. And I don't apologize to anyone for what I make because, see, e.g., paragraph no. 2 above, I worked, and still work, my ass off for it.

Yet, I've learned that the fastest way in the world to start a war in the Pagan community, to make readers angry, and to trigger all kinds of shadow issues is to post about finances. We may say that we don't believe in sacrifice ["Nor do I demand aught of sacrifice, for behold, I am the Mother of all things and My love is poured out upon the earth."], and that matter is not fallen, but talk about prosperity, financial good sense, or living well, and Pagans often respond not to what you've actually said but to what they hear, coming through the shadows of their own issues about money. Which explains, I hope, my long-winded wind-up to what I'm going to say:

I'm through paying Social Security taxes for the year.

As you may know, there's a "cap" on the amount of income subject to the Social Security tax. After you earn $106,800.00, you stop paying Social Security taxes. I passed that point some time ago.

And, yet, what always strikes me is that I've managed to live pretty damn well during the months that I do pay Social Security taxes. I don't have any debts other than my mortgage. My 401k is fully funded. I've put money into savings. I've paid off my 30-year mortgage at a 15-year rate. I have a house-cleaning service that does most of my housework, a lawn service that seeds and mows my lawn, a Landscape Guy who helps me with my garden, and I shop at Whole Foods and Balducci's as often as not. I get a weekly massage and I head to Georgetown once a month to get highlights from the guy who used to do them for a lovely French actress. And then I go out for oysters & martinis. I can afford to take G/Son to the toy store or the Ren Faire and I can rent all the movies on Netflix that he wants to see. I've spent a lot of money on my garden which, although it is probably an investment in the value of my property, is mostly for my own enjoyment. I've given money to causes that I like and I've helped to make sure G/Son gets the kind of education, organic produce, and sports programs that I wish all children could get. When things come up, be they the need for a new hot water heater or the desire to send money to friends protesting in Wisconsin, I'm able to cover them without really missing a beat. (To be fair, there are things I don't spend money on. I own an 8-year-old, modest, hybrid car and I haven't been on a vacation in a years. I live in a tiny cottage. I have neither a flat-screen tv nor cable and I can go all week without turning on any lights unless I have company. I don't spend a lot on clothes and I don't go out much except for the occasional ballet.) Bottom line, I could pay more taxes and not be miserable, as could all the people who make even more than I do.

And you know, I could go on living pretty well even if I had to pay Social Security tax until August, or October, or even December. Which is my point (and, see, I did have one). I wouldn't work any less intensely or "innovate" any less (seriously, at this level, more money is v. nice, but beating the opposition will keep me from "going Galt," for many, many hours), or be any less interested in making more money (seriously, Moon in Taurus, what more can I say?) if I did have to keep paying Social Security tax.

I don't fancy myself an investment genius. I pay once a year for some professional investment advice and, as soon as I'm through paying the Social Security tax, the delta goes into saving for my retirement, and the difference is that, at least for the time being, that delta benefits my financial advisor and the investment community rather than some old person who needs medicine and rent and would like to buy hir G/Son a new book, or some music lessons, or a pair of soft cotton pajamas. And, the difference is that the money I invest for my retirement can disappear tomorrow in another market meltdown.

And, so I say: "Raise the cap. Keep on taxing me." I make a good living and I worked hard for it and I'd be proud to be able to pay more Social Security taxes now than, say, some school teacher who may not make all year what I've made from January until now. I can afford it and still live a v nice life. I'd rather pay it than see old people live out their last years (I'm going to be there soon), worrying about bills, scrimping all the time, unable to enjoy their retirement. What's happened to America that we want to make old people suffer so that Paris Hilton, or an investment banker, or Hecate Demetersdatter, who already have quite a lot, can get even more? We used to be better than that. We used to believe E pluribus unum; we used to believe that those who've benefitted from the investment of the many into America (and I went to public schools and a state law school, drove on public roads to and from law school, benefitted from the existence of federal agencies and courts, and benefitted in other unnamed ways from the investment of many Americans in America), should give back to America; we used to believe that "United We Stand; Divided, We Fall."

I still do.

Raise the cap on my Social Security taxes.

Picture found here.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Factual v. True.

Witches don't proselytize and I am, if you wake me up at 2:00 am and ask me what I am, a Witch. And I don't proselytize.

I have a Pisces G/Son who has ancient eyes and who is Here, unless I miss my guess (and given those old eyes of his in every photograph ever taken of him, I don't imagine that I do), to Connect to the All, and I am his Nonna, but I will not be the person who "shows him the way." His 'rents are a bit agnostic and his other grandmother is devoutly Baptist. G/Son tells me that, at his other grandmother's house (and I love her, she's a wonderful woman, a great cook, a fantastic matriarch, and a dear friend of mine who has accepted my religion in a way I had no reason to expect), they say Grace at every meal and she teaches him about Jesus.

This weekend, G/Son spent the night with me so that his 'rents could have a bit of adult time. The weather wasn't wonderful, but we did spend some time in my garden and we played with toy knights and toy trains downstairs in Nonna's basement. G/Son played on Nonna's treadmill, running as fast as he could and being a runner like his Dad. We curled up on Nonna's couch and read our new Geronimo Stilton book, including some time spent learning the secret runes in the letter from the Queen of Fairie. We watched some movies: Batman Beyond (a regular favorite), Hook, and Phineas and Ferb. (OK, Phineas & Ferb did require a slight discussion of feminism and how women are portrayed as anti-male, anti-adventure, and anti-fun in modern media. G/Son: "So you are saying they show girls like this on purpose?" Nonna: "Yes, that's what I'm saying. Just always ask yourself: 'Qui Bono?' That's all that I'm saying. Just ask that." G/Son: "OK, I'll ask that. Now I'm going to push 'Play.'")

Ever since he was a little baby, I've sung G/Son to sleep with three songs: Hush Little Baby, and We All Come from the Goddess, and Hoof and Horn, Hoof and Horn, All that Dies Shall Be Reborn; Corn and Grain, Corn and Grain, All that Dies Shall Rise Again. I admit that I never thought of any of them as a way of protelyztizing, or even as particularly religious songs. I sing them because their repetitive nature tends to put little babies to sleep. (And because, to be fair, their unchallenging scope allows me to sing them. You'd have to love me the way that my G/Son loves me to want to listen to my singing. I'm a woman of many talents; singing isn't one of them.)

Last night, just as we climbed, clean-toothed and cotton pajamaed, under our heavy covers and turned out the lights, it began to rain in earnest. Through the open window, we practiced listening to the rain drops all together and then we practiced listening to each individual drop. G/Son was watching the lightening and listening to the thunder, clutching his new Thor Super Hero toy in his hands, and explaining to me how lightening and thunder do not mix well with water. He said, "Nonna, sing the song about the drops of rain." And, so, I did. "We all come from the Goddess, and to Her we shall return, like a drop of rain, flowing to the ocean." I said, "Each drop of rain that we hear outside is flowing into Spout Run, into the beautiful Potomac, into the Chesapeake Bay, and into the Atlantic Ocean. And, someday, that is how I hope to flow."

G/Son said, "Nonna, I know who the Goddess is. Jesus." And he sang a song that I think he must have learned from his other grandma about "Jesus we love you and we know you will heal us." I said, "Yes, a lot of people worship Jesus as a god. And 'god' is the male form of 'goddess.'" G/Son thought about this for a bit and then he said, "Nonna. I know who the Goddess is. She's the Statue of Liberty."

And I said, and if this is wrong may the Goddess forgive me, and if this is right may the Goddess forgive me, because I am only trying to walk a middle way, "Yes, the Statue of Liberty is a statue of a very important Goddess. The Goddess of Liberty. And I pray to that Goddess every day."

And G/Son said, "Sing to me again about 'hush little baby,' and then sing to me again about 'corn and grain.' Is the 'corn and grain' like the seed in your garden that comes back every year?"

And I said, "Yes, what matters most to me in the whole world is the way that the seeds in Mother Earth's body come back every year. Listen, now: 'Hush little baby, don't say a word. Nonna's gonna buy you a mocking bird. If that mocking bird won't sing . . . .'"

I don't want, I don't, to bring this serious intellect to the Goddess. Nor do I want to turn it away. What I want is, and well, this is selfish, is for him to come, as I am trying to come, shedding all kinds of detritus, to what is true.

This weekend, we were talking about King Arthur and the difference between what is factual and what is true. I won't mind if he grows up to discover that what he learned from me is less than factual. As long as he grows up to learn that what I told him was true.

Picture via the blogger. If you copy, please link back.

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