Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday Poetry Blogging

Meditation at Lagunitas
~Robert Hass

All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.
The idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light. Or the other notion that,
because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what it signifies.
We talked about it late last night and in the voice
of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone
almost querulous. After a while I understood that,
talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
pine, hair, woman, you and I. There was a woman
I made love to and I remembered how, holding
her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
I felt a violent wonder at her presence
like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.
Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.
But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
the thing her father said that hurt her, what
she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.

Picture found here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Synchronicity -- Wherever You Go, There It Is

Sobeit has up a great post today about the need to consult our landbase when we make important decisions.
In all [E]arth traditions there is an understanding that the land is a witness to truth, that its very molecules do not lie, that its constituent fabric and all life forms that naturally grow upon it are wise in ways that humans rarely match.

. . .

One thing is certain: whoever lives upon a land with respect is welcomed by that land in ways deeper than we can imagine - a fact we should bear in mind when issues of race and culture are raised. For those who are true to the land shall find that the land also keeps faith with them. With our ability to move about the earth and settle at will, we do well to first consult the region where we are thinking of living, going straight to the land and speaking with its spirit, so that we can live with discrimination, truth, and respect.

"Wherever you are living, go and stand on bare, unconcreted earth and commune with the spirit of the land. Return to your home and in soul-flight go back to the site you visited and ask for a better sense of discrimination."
[From: The Celtic Spirit by Caitlin Matthews]

Earlier this week, a friend and I were discussing a point that Thorn Coyle makes in Kissing the Limitless:
The [E]arth remembers us, and the places where we grew up or have lived a long time recognize our patterns, just as we recognize the patterns of those places. Upon entering a new place, I always strive to introduce myself to the energies there. If there is time, I spend long moments in meditation, sending out tendrils of my life force into the land and sky, getting a better feel for the space and the beings that reside there, and noticing what is different from my home. This introduction also gives me a sort of permission to be there, and my time there is more joyously spent.

Starhawk is talking seriously about making a movie from one of the three or four books that completely changed my life, The Fifth Sacred Thing. (It's one of those projects that makes me think, "If it could be done well, it would be wonderful. But I'm so afraid that, once the process starts, best intentions and good plans notwithstanding . . . ." And I'd rather see it not done than see it done with compromise.) One of the things I love best in that book (well, I love a lot, but, lawyer that I am, one of the things that I love "really, really best," as G/Son says,) is the description of how decision-making happens. There are people from the various affinity groups gathered together in a room, each speaking from hir heart about how best to proceed against a threatened invasion. Some argue for war, some argue for sabotage, some argue for nonviolent resistance. And, then:
The Speaker raised her hand, calling for silence, and bent her ear to the Salmon mask.
"Friend Salmon says, 'Learn from water. Water is malleable, water is gentle, but drops of water wear away stone, and everything it touches is shaped by its passing.'" She sat down again. [And then the argument goes on, some calling each other cowards, some explaining what's wrong with that notion, . . . .]

When I first read that passage, all that I could think of was the question that my Environmental Law professor asked the class: "What's wrong with Justice Douglas' proposition that someone should be appointed to 'speak for the trees?'" Older, and maybe sadder than a lot of the class, my hand went up. "Weyerhauser will create a "Committee to Speak for America's Trees" and explain why trees long for, need, in fact, must have, clear cutting." I got an A.

I've been mulling over, lately, the notion of how we can have a democratic (forget consensual, let's just talk about honestly democratic) society when the money of large corporations appears capable of contaminating everyone and everything. I'm not a member of the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." I'm so far to the left of that, that it's difficult to even see that over the horizon. But I'd be orgasmically ecstatic to see that wing of that party these days. Because I don't. Other than Elizabeth Warren, I see, from the White House on down, a whole lot of people who, while I have no doubt that they went into politics planning to do good, are the sort of persons of whom Winston Churchill is once supposed to have remarked, "We've already established that. All that we're arguing about now is the price." And I wonder, more and more, how can we ensure that there's anyone who has (1) a real seat at the table, (2) in the Salmon mask, who (3) isn't colonized by those who make money killing Salmon and destroying Salmon's habitat?

And the only glimmer of an answer that I've been able to discern is encapsulated in Sobeit's post. We have to, as a cultural value to which we all give real credence, return to, taste, and listen to the Land, our Watershed. And while I think (and I am a woman who has given her life to The Law and would do so again, tomorrow, with a happy heart) that The Law can help to make a difference, what really has to happen is for us to begin to tell ourselves better stories. As Muriel Rukeyser said, “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” The universe that we perceive is, indeed, made of the stories that we tell ourselves and our children.

And we have to start telling a different story. Not only in our legal opinions, but elsewhere, as well, in those stories that seep into our bones before we ever read a law or a news story about a Supreme Court opinion.

This weekend, I read G/Son the story of Merlin and King Arthur. And it gripped him and raised questions within him as it has (repository of so many Western archetypes that it is) in generations and generations of post-Roman Celts. In the version we read, Arthur goes to France to besiege Lancelot for daring to sleep with (the Queen of) Arthur's Land, Albion. And it is while Arthur has turned his back on his land in order to pursue the demands of Patriarchy that Mordred raises an army against Arthur, requiring Arthur to abandon his fight with Lancelot and return to Arthur's own land to slay Arthur's Son (destroying what Patriarchy pretends to be about -- male progeny -- for what it's really about -- death), lose Arthur's relationship with Arthur's land, and sail off to a land ruled by three women in order to be able to return again in the hour of England's greatest need. Although the book clearly said that "Some said that Mordred was the King's own son," that was too much for G/Son to process. So on each successive reading of the story, when we got to the part where Arthur and Mordred slay each other, G/Son said to me, "Nonna, why the King fought with his own brother?" And each time I would say, "Arthur fought with his closest male relative because he didn't know what else to do. He had boxed himself into a corner by imagining that he could own and control either a woman or The Land. Arthur was a good man who wanted to help people, but he made a big mistake. He couldn't see that women, like Guinevere, and that a landbase, like England, must be free to make their own choices. Mordred made the same mistake."

The stories that we tell, the stories that we hear as children from our Nonnas, the stories that we see on tv, the stories that they show at the movie theatres: those stories matter. They matter in as basic and as important a manner as whether or not we can find a way to do what Sobeit, Thorn Coyle, Starhawk, and Justice Douglas have all urged us to do: to listen to our Landbase, to pay attention to our Watershed.

Because, after all, we desperately need a Lorax, who speaks for the trees:
Yes, I am the Lorax who speaks for the trees, which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please. But I'm also in charge of the brown Bar-ba-loots, who played in the shade in their Bar-ba-loot suits and happily lived eating truffula fruits. Now, thanks to your hacking my trees to the ground, there's not enough truffula fruit to go 'round!

Picture found here.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Missing the Memo

Last night, I had dinner (on the porch in spite of the record-breaking heat here in the mystical MidAtlantic! Of course, we did have shade, the ceiling fan, and a bottle of icy grand cru from Arnould & Fils, recommended by my brilliant friend Stoat) with a beloved magical Sister. I asked her, "You'd tell me, right? Mercury didn't unexpectedly go retrograde and I just (in retrograde Mercury fashion) missed the memo?" Because it would explain a lot. (Blogger, you fickle, evil BitchGoddess, I am looking, inter alia, at you.)

And speaking of missing the memo, I'm not sure why I am just now finding out about the amazing sculpture of Fidelma Massey. If I'd known about her sooner, I'd have planned my garden around one of her sculptures. As it is, I'm going to have to sit down w/ Landscape Guy and see where we can work one in. There's a spot he's been pointing to along the Southern boundary for a few months and saying, "Something needs to go there. You need to figure out what."

And, in true if-Mercury-isn't-retrograde-who-is? fashion, I'm not sure where I first found Ms. Massey's work. I thought it was at Sally J. Smith's site, but now I can't find it there. (And I'd love, someday, to get Sally to build one of her fairy houses in my garden for G/Son, too. He's so fascinated w/ the fairy door on the big maple in my woodland). Whoever brought Ms. Massey to my attention, many thanks!

Which of her works do you like best?

Pictures: Google "Fidelma Massey" and click on "Images".

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A Stroll Through the Garden

David Salisbury asked for some pictures of my garden. I'm the world's worst photographer and I'm always too busy to run inside and get the "real" camera, so I wind up using my iPhone. But here are a few that I've taken over the years, in relatively seasonal order.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Gaia Needs Good Media Relations

Here's what looks like a pretty neat film.

I'd like to use it to make another in my regular series of points about dealing with the media. Observe the difference in how Francesca De Grandis and Joan Marler come across. Both women make incredibly valid points, but Marler looks directly into the camera while De Grandis is often looking off to the side or at the person holding the camera, rather than into the camera.

It's a fairly common trait to look off to the side when you're thinking of what you want to say, but people who do research on jury reactions will tell you that most people subconsciously think that you're looking away because you're prevaricating, that there's a reason why you won't "look them in the eye." My bet is that, in person, De Grandis doesn't come off this way, as she fairly often does look up and into the eyes of the person to whom she's speaking. The problem in this case is that "that person" is the one holding the camera, not the camera. And her real "audience" is inside the camera.

This isn't something that you're likely to "get" without someone showing it to you, but it is an easily mastered skill once you're aware of the issue and spend a bit of time practicing, even with a friend who has an iPhone that takes video. If you're planning to be taped, or if you're making your own videos for youtube, it's really worth spending some time practicing, critiquing yourself, and then practicing again.

Gaia can use all the help she can get.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Monday Poetry Blogging

A Lesson from James Wright
~Mary Oliver

If James Wright
could put in his book of poems
a blank page

dedicated to "the Horse David
Who Ate One of My Poems," I am ready
to follow him along

the sweet path he cut
through the dryness
and suggest that you sit now

very quietly
in some lovely wild place, and listen
to the silence.

And I say that this, too
is a poem.

Picture found here.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Explaining Myself

Just the first few minutes of so much empty space allows my breath to sink deeper into my belly, my spirit to expand. My INTJ self looks at those images the way a thirsty woman looks at pictures of icy water. The times in my life when I've been most surrounded by emptiness have felt the most freeing to me.

This weekend, G/Son asked me, apropos of nothing as far as I could tell, "Nonna, why Pop Pop was your only husband and you never had another one?" (There was another one, but we'll wait until he's older to get into that.) I replied, "Well, what I found out about myself was that I really like to have some time alone so that I can think my own thoughts." G/Son replied, "Well, why you don't like to be around people?" I said, "Oh, I do like to be around people, a lot. But I also need time to myself." G/Son then said something that floored me. "Well, sometimes you don't see me for days and you don't miss me."

If anyone has ever misperceived anything about me, surely this. But I think that it was really more an inquiry than a statement.

Honestly, there's not a day, indeed, there's hardly an hour that goes by when I don't think about G/Son and his 'rents, offer up energy for their safety, health, and happiness, and wish that I could be with them. Luckily for me, my family lives close by and I get to see them more often than, say, DiL's 'rents or Pop Pop and his partner. Goddess knows, there are more days when I stop myself from bugging them (with a phone call, a request to iChat, a visit to take them out to dinner or brunch) than there are days when I give in to my longing to be with G/Son. And, of course, often when I do call or iChat, this busy 5-year-old wants to head off to look for worms under bricks or to watch some Harry Potter before bedtime.

So I was floored.

I paused a bit before answering, especially because, as G/Son has his Sun in Pisces, Moon in Taurus, and Ascendent in Scorpio, I imagine that he's going to be, maybe even more than his Nonna, one of those people who will need a lot of time alone as he gets older. So I want to lay down enough breadcrumbs, along the appropriate paths, to be of some use. After grounding and centering, taking some connecting breaths, and touching the Great Grandmother in the Sky Depository of All Wisdom, I said, "Well, actually, I do. I think about you every day and I wish that I could be with you. But I know that you, and Mommy, and Daddy need space to live your own lives. And so, when I miss you a lot, I think about how I want you to be healthy and happy and then, sometimes, I light incense for you. And, I think about how, by really thinking my own thoughts, I can be a better Nonna to you and a better mother-in-law to your Mommy and a better Mom to your Daddy."

G/Son thought about this for a moment and then said, "Nonna, Guess what?"

Me: "What?" (This is a phase all kids go through, in my experience. "Guess what" is sort of a way of beginning a conversation.)

G/Son: "My new favorite colors are red and yellow, because those are the colors Harry Potter wears and, tonight, if you read me the book about Geronimo Stilton, can you let me read the words that are in big print, because I can read them now and I can also type the word "Batman" on the computer and, Nonna? do you have any blueberries for me because I am hungry and when I am hungry I like blueberries a lot, even though blue isn't my favorite color any more, and, Nonna, Guess What?"

I love this kid.

Talking to the Media

I rail pretty regularly about Pagans who, IMHO, shoot themselves and the rest of us in our collective feet when they talk to the media and defensively announce, "We don't eat babies/worship Satan/dance naked around a fire (which we, you know, do)/do spells (ditto)/etc." I think it's also important to point to examples of Pagans who do a good job dealing with the media.

Here's local Pagan, Iris Firemoon, showing how it's done.

First, note Iris' picture. It matches her objective of coming across as someone you might work with, a person you might know.

Then, observe how Iris starts out with a positive definition of what Paganism is and then moves on to explain the positive things about Paganism that attracted her to this religious path. In that context, her discussion of the discrimination that she faced is perfectly logical.

It's midway into the article before Iris mentions that one of the questions people ask when they find out about her religion is whether she casts spells. That's not reinforcing a negative frame; it's answering a logical question about a religion that involves, you know, casting spells.
Yes, I am a witch and cast spells, but we have a strict code of ethics. We don’t do magic that harms people. People think magic is a big deal, but it is just the willed movement of energy. For me, it is akin to prayer, but more active. Rather than will someone or something to intervene on your behalf, with magic you seek out the action yourself. The hard thing about spells is that you can never really know if things happening can be attributed to your work, but I don’t believe in coincidences and sometimes the gods like you and may work in your favor.

There's a perhaps subtle, but hugely important, difference between defensively volunteering that Pagans don't do something that we, of course, don't do, and explaining why we do do something that we actually do. (You know, I doubt that I've been inside a bookstore in the last 25 years when I didn't check out the Pagan books. And I've seen hundreds on casting spells. I've yet to see one on how to prepare babies for dinner.)

Iris answers the question in a straightforward manner and moves on to explain that many people in DC are open to her religion.

She closes with a plug for a cause she cares about (raising funds for a Pagan community center in DC) and provides a reliable source for those who want more information. Positive, upbeat, focused. This is how it's done.

(Of course, the capitalization for this article is terrible. Iris explains elsewhere that the article was adapted for non-Pagans, although I can't see how that makes discriminatory language ok. But it's pretty clear that this problem didn't arise with Iris.)

Picture found here.

Sunday Ballet Blogging