Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wandering through Fall

No deep thoughts to offer!  The past month has had a frenetic pace, both at work and at home.  I am entered in a local agility trial in November, so when I'm not at work or doing chores at home, I have been in full time training mode with the dogs.

So I have not been in a very contemplative mode.  Rather, I have been a very restless spirit, and every weekend have made time to hit the trails.  The wanderlust and desire to explore bits of nearby wilderness that was with me in the spring returned.  I found some great new places to hike, many miles of trails.  So many trails, so little time....

Despite my workload and all that's piled on my responsibility plate, I have felt curiously childlike and carefree.  Like a bit of milkweed floating in the breeze.  I'll take that as a blessing from my deities.  Enjoy the clip!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Living the Sabbats: Mabon

I can’t believe September is already more than half over.  Time flies when you’re having fun.  Or, working hard!

September has blessed us with beautiful weather, though definitely cooler.  Some years we get lucky in September, and get an Indian summer with the continuation of warm days…an illusion, perhaps, that summer can last forever.   Not so this year.  I still have a bunch of green tomatoes in the garden,  the small plum and cherry varieties, that I hope to let ripen on the vine.  Hubby snacks on them like candy and they’re great sliced on pizzas.  They taste so much better when they vine ripen, I am hoping we can eke out another week or two before the nite temps start getting too low. The weather man warned of a possible dip into the 30’s this week, but the vines fared ok, so far.  But it is definitely getting darker much earlier.  This week was the last week of outdoor agility for the pups.  The practices were from 6 to 7 pm; it was very very dusky by 7 pm!  It’s 7:20 pm right now, and full dark.  We’ll be practicing inside now, til winter’s end.

Gone are those seemingly endless summer days and long evenings.  Waning too, is the easy sense of optimism and confidence that seemed to coincide with summer’s growing season.  My husband’s sales, so strong and solid since the spring, took a dip last week.  There is every good reason to believe that this is a temporary “blip in the curve”; past years patterns have been good sales thru December, with January and February being the “dead” months we really need to prepare in advance for.  That’s been really hard to do, since we’ve been playing catch up with the aftermath of his layoff, and we have his mom as someone additionally dependent on us now.  This summer was the first time it seemed possible to actually save some money, despite everything.  Last week’s “speed bump”, coinciding with the cooler temps and loss of light, made me acutely feel the inexorable turn of the wheel toward the darker half of the year.

And yet, as I looked up at this perfect cerulean blue sky at lunch time today, I was reminded of the spectacular goodness that comes to us New Englanders at this time of year.  September skies can be ever so perfect.  Maybe it’s that incremental decrease in temperature that brings on that brilliant blue.  There’s a few trees in the neighborhood who’ve begun sporting red leaves, a teasing hint of the show to come.  And some of my mums are beginning to bloom.  In spite of the darkness to come, our Mother blesses us.

So tonite I am trying to figure out how to celebrate Mabon.  Mabon represents the second harvest.  Very logical to me as a gardener;  there are summer crops (Lammas) and fall crops – those plants that require the full length of the growing season, like my favorite, butternut squash.  The first frost is in our near future; although I like to leave things in the ground or on the vine for the longest time possible, very soon I will need to pick and pull and store.  But there are other meanings underlying this sabbatt for me this year.  Mabon is the equinox, and is a time of balancing.  The length of day equals the length of night;  at this time, what areas in my life can I bring into a more appropriate balance, so that I will be best equipped to meet the challenging months to come?

I stumbled across a suggestion for a Mabon celebration ritual online tonite, very simple, very apropos to where I am now.  It entails picking an apple, and slicing it horizontally.  When you do this, you will see a perfect star shaped arrangement of the seeds in the center, a natural pentacle.  With one half of the apple, I will be reflecting on the positive aspects of this past growing season, things that grew well, objectives we accomplished, areas where we made progress, regained ground from our previous losses.  After I reflect on these things, I will eat one half of the apple, to internalize those successes for the future.

Then, I will reflect on those things that did not progress or come to fruition, or reflected a stumbling block.  I will confer the energies of those things onto that half of the apple, and I intend on burying that half of the apple far into my compost pile, so the energies of the earth can transform those negative energies into something more fruitful for the next growing season.

I practice as a solitary; I have the house and the yard to myself this Saturday as the rest of the family will be working.  May the deities bless my planned ritual, and may my family experience Mabon blessings when they return home.  So mote it be.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Farewell to the Dog Days of Summer

“August…. Die she must…”  These are lyrics from a Simon and Garfunkel song that have long been embedded in my brain…

August has always been a bittersweet month for me.  Growing up,  August meant that although there were a few weeks of freedom left, the specter of school had returned.  Summer was when I could roam the woods and explore the streams, swim and fish at will… school represented a loss of that freedom.  Even as a parent of young children myself, I never understood the moms who were glad when school started up again.  I know my experience as a working mom was different than my stay at home friends, and I respected without judgment those differences.  For me, when my kids were school age, summer was an escape from so very structured schedules.  Sure, they had their day camps to go to while I worked, but when we came home, there was no homework, no backpacks full of school notices to clean out and go through.  Sure, there were wet bathing suits and sandy towels, but what’s a deck for anyways?  Happy, sun kissed kids.  And did I say, no homework?

August brought on the prospect of another dirty word:  “back to school shopping”.  Yuck.  That has been something that didn’t end with high school.  Shopping to send a kid to a dorm?  Ouch.  And then the textbooks….

We created the expectation with our kids that while we would pay for tuition and board, they needed to pay for books and other expenses.  My son was very successful at this; his younger sister, halfway through, does her best but needs an occasional “bailout”.  Both kids moved off campus after their sophomore year, which we welcomed as an expense reduction for us….  And this was the summer that my daughter did not come home.  She had the opportunity to join a couple of friends on a rental in June; the location was ideal and the rent was good. So.   Except for a few fun family gatherings, it’s been a childless summer.

The rhythm of this summer, this month of August in particular, has been very different.  My human kids are in good places in their lives; I don’t worry about them.  I am glad to hear from them; they both are doing well, but, I’m not exactly pining for them.  Does that sound awful?

I have my relatively new position, which is going well, but represents full days.  And when I come home from work, after exercising the pups, my husband and I have been enjoying sitting out on our backyard deck.  The pups play in their fenced area, I pick a few veggies, he smokes a cigar and barbeques supper….. Life has peacefully flowed like that lazy river we boated on in July.

And there were my doggie enjoyments as well.  Two nights a week, we had the opportunity to attend agility run throughs at our trainer’s backyard.  Other evenings, we opted for a romp on the beach.  We have to observe the local ordinances for going to the beach with the dogs, and we pretty much forget it during June and July.  But in August, the crowds thin out considerably during the after work hours.  The pups so love to run, run, run on the beach!  So August represented our return to the beach, during the allotted hours.

It’s been a peaceful month, even if it’s not been totally sunshine.  We still struggle from recovering from my husband’s layoff in 2009.  He’s one of the lucky ones – he found a new job – but we’re still in the process of repairing the damage.  It’s a miracle that we were able to keep our daughter in school.  It took me working two jobs for awhile, and freelancing at a number of things.  I’m down to 1 ¼ job now, have no regrets about what I had to do.  But this summer we’ve had to take on additional financial responsibility for my mother in law.  Basically, she’s out of money.  So we pay her rent too.  Initially, another family member had pledged to equally share this responsibility with us, but they have now reneged.  So.  We have chosen, to date, not to make a family feud about this.  Which means, we get to deal with this on top of everything else.

MIL is  eligible for several assistance programs, and she’s successfully filled out that paperwork for those programs by herself in the past.  This year, things are overwhelming her a bit.  So I took on that paperwork for her.  Once I did, it was like, no wonder she was confused!  It was complicated paperwork, and took me some time to figure out.  But figure it out I did.

So it’s been a different August this year.  With everything I’ve been doing with my pups, helping my MIL, enjoying some down time with my hubby, and oh yeah, working!  I struggled with finding time for a daily spiritual practice.  But I created a new altar this summer – in one of the kids vacated rooms – and if I do nothing else, I light a candle there after work, with a brief reflection on the day, thanksgiving, or request for help.  It’s a tall votive candle, safe to leave burning till I go to bed.

This August, I have felt – blessed.  It has been a calm and peaceful month.  I have some big financial obligations – but – the resources have been there.  I know this might be a trite saying, but “the universe has provided”.   My husband’s sales skyrocketed just when we needed the extra resources.  We were able to provide for everyone in our family without a stressful scramble.

But it’s more than that.  I have this feeling of being cared for.  Despite my lack of time for meditation or formal observances,  I have this sense that there are forces looking out for me, working on my behalf.  There is a reason everything has worked out so well.  Thank you to all the deities in my personal pantheon.  I am grateful for your positive energies and influences.

I got the wakeup call today that summer is officially over.  My daughter had paid her utility bills, bought her books for the fall semester, but now her bank account was dangerously low, could I tide her over?   Of course I can, especially since she’ll need to come home to collect!  I’ll gladly pay the love forward.

Even though September nears, thank you August, for a peaceful month.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Living the Sabbats: Lammas

Lammas, similar to Imbolc, is one of the points of the year that has taken some time to understand what this observance means to me.   I’ve been reflecting on this for the last few days.  A coworker is taking time off next week, to travel to one our most northern counties to attend the first fair of the season.  She goes there every year, and she commented to me that this fair means to her that fall is just around the corner.

She’s right.  There is still lots of summer business in my life: the yard work, tending the garden, dog events to attend and compete in, hiking, walks on the beach, another anticipated family gathering….  But at the same time many of our roadsides are now lined with golden rod and Queen Anne’s Lace in full bloom, and unmown grasses are tawny yellow.    I’m still picking peas and radishes, while I wait for other veggies to ripen, but the earliest pea vines (I planted several rows in staggered stages) are drying down. So.  The wheel turns once more.

Teo Bishop  wrote a thought provoking piece about Lughnasad (as this day is also known).  This is the festival of the first harvest, but he questions whether Neopagans are “enacting the rituals of an earth tradition without being fully engaged as an Earth Tradition.”  His point being, if you are not involved in the harvest of your own food, how should we connect to the meaning of this festival?  What is its symbolic value?  What is a useful metaphor for connecting to the spirit of this festival?

Quoting Teo:  The First Harvest is a time to take stock of our fields; to survey all that has grown throughout this year. Some seeds planted took root, and others did not. Some soil was better prepared, and better tended to. But, it’s undeniable that there has been change, and that change came through our hard labor, our perseverance, and on occasion, an unexpected storm.”

I like this.  As I look back over the past seven months, there are some places in my life that I definitely feel I’ve made forward progress, and I’m in a better place than where I was.  There are other areas, that I’m not as happy with.  But.  I still have a few months left of warmth and light, I still have the opportunity to work on those things, there is still the chance of bearing fruit in the final harvest.

However, Teo goes on to point out that while this is a time of celebrating the first fruits of the harvest, it is also a time that we should begin to “prepare — both psychologically and physically, if necessary — for a slowing down of things. The days will get shorter and colder before long, and we must prepare ourselves by setting some things aside, yes?”

He asks, how do we metaphorically prepare for winter?  In a more spiritual sense, what do we set aside?  “Is there a pantry in our heart or mind where we can store jars of canned goodies, and if so, what do we keep in those jars?”

It’s an open ended question, to which he invites our answer.  Here is mine.

First, I want to go back to the phrase “without being fully engaged as an Earth Tradition”.  I know that I am very lucky having a home where I can have a little garden space, and so am able to put my hands into that good Earth every spring, summer, fall.  There is no denying that this does foster a direct connection with the Earth and the goodness she provides.

But, this is not the only means of connection.  I’ve been blessed with this sense since my early years, long before I owned a home, long before I put a single seed into the ground.  As a tomboy in the woods, I learned the seasons, when and where the birds nested, protected the fledgling robins from the neighborhood cats, watched the caterpillars turn into cocoons and chrysallises, observed the birds starting their migrations south.  So many cycles, all connected into one larger one.

Yes, I’ve been blessed in living in proximity to natural spaces.  But even in an urban environment, there are the cycles of the sun and the moon; sunrise, sunset, moon waxing, moon waning.  Attention can be paid to these things, where ever you live; one can learn to attune to these energies regardless of your immediate environment.

The most valuable thing to put into our metaphorical pantry, the important things to seek for right now, to either harvest, or forage for and gather, are these:  what are the simple things, the daily experiences, that are available where ever you are, that allow you to feel connected to the natural cycles? To Earth? To the goodness the Goddess provides?

Is it walking the dog in the park?  Is it simply knowing the phase of the moon and its associated energy?  Is it observing whatever bird or animal life that is around you, even if all you see are pigeons and squirrels?  What are the avenues of connection that you can find, harvest, and store between this first harvest and the final harvest?

If you prepare now, you can find those connections, and continue to follow them, or at least, remember then.  Then you will be able to draw upon the sustenance of the Earth, even in the deepest of winter.  One of my most mystical and beautiful moments was in the dead of winter.  But perhaps that’s a seed for a future post.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Being in the Now

That’s an awkward title for a post, but I don’t know of any other way to express a profoundly happy moment I had this evening.

Like so many people I interact with either personally or thru the blogosphere, it is so easy to be overly busy, or simply, totally stressed.  If you are employed, the demands throughout the work day probably amount to packing 12 hours of work into 8, unless you want to take it home or stay longer.  A, B, and C are all options I, and probably many of you, have had to exercise…

And even if you are employed, you may still have to do stuff on the side, in the name of making ends meet, for all the needs of the family.  Been there, done that, still doing it….

And if you are unemployed…I will say no more, other than that I know you are using all your forces of creativity to get through these times.  My family has been touched by that circumstance too.

“Making a living” can sap a lot of the availability of energy it takes to make time to follow a religious path, whatever label you care to apply to yourself.  The ideal of some kind of daily ritual, even if it’s only a few minutes, can be a big ideal to achieve.  Even if you do it, sometimes stress makes it seems like just so much going through the motion.

Been there, done that too.  I want to have a rich inner experience, I want to develop the personal rituals that will kindle that, but sometimes, despite what I write, plan, and do… it just doesn’t happen.


Tonite, I figured that out.  Because for the inner experience to really be real, you have to really be there, in the moment.  If you can’t find the mute button for the static noise from all the other sectors of your life, so that you can quench the disturbance, it ain’t gonna happen.

Now, I know there are those of you out there who are going to say “Duh”.  I need to practice more grounding, meditation exercises…Yes, you are correct.  The metaphysical police right now should pull me over for doing 90 miles an hour in a 30 mile zone.

Ok, so what helped me tonight?  My dogs. Yup.  My dogs.  I belong to a group of dog enthusiasts who periodically get together for “Yappy Hour”.  Every so often, on a Friday evening, we pool our resources to rent an indoor facility with all the agility equipment to practice run throughs with our dogs, in preparation for future agility competitions.  The group is large enough so each individual’s share of the cost is a bargain, but the group is also small enough to nuture real friendships.  We celebrate our dog’s successes on the course, and laugh over their foibles, and in the meantime, enjoy shared food and drink.  It’s a happy time for all of us, and we all love the practice.

For whatever reason tonite, my dogs and I really clicked and worked well together on the agility course.  I hadn’t expected that to happen.  This week has been chaotic, on all fronts, and the dogs did not get their usual outlets, which does not bode well for performing well!  I almost didn’t go tonite.  But late afternoon, I checked in with my immediate family members, all the burning fires had been laid to rest… so I said, even if we bomb on the course, we’re going.

And then we went, and we did awesome!  It was so wonderful, when I came home I gave the pups an extra special supper, and now have a candle burning in thanks to Epona.

And as that candle burns, I am reflecting.  Why was tonite so great?  Because I was able to be, in the now, on that agility course.  Having laid the rest of the family’s needs to the side for the moment, it was just me and the pups.  There was no work, no worry, no past,  no future, there was only just this run through the obstacles.  There was only me, giving direction to my dog, communicating to my dog, my dog understanding and following those prompts and commands.

We were in the moment, together.  Even though it wasn’t a competition, it was still a rewarding and heady experience.  It’s always awesome when you do something terrific with your dog.

But on the way home, I couldn’t help reflect that those moments with my dogs, when I was totally on key, totally there, totally present… totally in the now….. those moments were also a teaching moment, somehow, for my spiritual practice.   I keenly felt the joy of being right there, right then.  I can’t explain it well, but I felt that somehow, being able to experience intensely the immediate moment was important.  That perhaps we too often gloss over or overlook the immediate moment.  That we lose the ability of just being right here, right now.

Dogs are wonderful beings for giving you love and keeping you grounded.  They know nothing else but the moment that is right now.  I’ve read that they don’t experience time the way we do.  That’s why when you return home  from work, you get the hero’s welcome, as if you had been gone for a week.  All they knew is that you were gone, and wonderfully, now you are back with them.

Ok so you can all call me crazy, but I always love to point out that d-o-g spelt backwards is g-o-d.  In a previous post I had cross posted a wonderful story:  The Story of Dog.

May the spirit of Dog teach you the joy of now.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Lazy River

These are a few pics from my vacation.  The Songo River winds its way slowly but surely between Brandy Pond and Sebago Lake in the great state of Maine. Memories from our lovely carefree afternoon on the water. Hope you get a chance to get away this summer too...Summer Blessings to all!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Manifesting: Making Hay While the Sun Shines

Had a bit of vacation recently.  Sad to say, it’s the first time in over two years that hubby and I have had more than a long weekend off together.  His layoff, finding and establishing himself in a new job, me working two jobs as needed…. Kinda puts a kybosh into any assumptions about taking a real summer vacation together.  But even though it wasn’t for an entire seven days, what we had last week was wonderful.  We re-discovered the value of recreation.  It’s not just about enjoying the hobbies we used to love doing together (fishing a big one).  It’s the time apart from the world when you can re-create so many things.  Your connection to each other, to the natural world, to your family.  All those things that “making a living” gets in the way of. 

It was also a time for me to re-create some spiritual connections.  I follow Teo Bishop’s blog, and just before my time off read this post.   He describes his daily ritual before his altar and it made me pause.  See, I am a typical Geminii – better at starting projects and making commitments than completing or following through on them.  I have good intentions about some kind of daily ritual – however small.  And many days I do, do something.  But I am not 100%.

Teo’s post triggered that old conditioned reaction – guilt.  It’s a throw back to my former spiritual path.   I was never terrific about going to church every Sunday or doing a daily devotional; why would I expect anything to be any different now?   I told myself that my deities don’t expect perfection:  the charge of the Goddess says that all acts of love and pleasure are her rituals….

So.  If I haven’t spent time in front of an altar each one of these brilliant June and July days, I have been busy.  When not on the job(s), I have been tending my gardens, with due diligence keeping the weeds from overtaking my veggies, and keeping up the appearance of the flower beds.  Then there are the bird baths and feeders; the Goddess’s creatures appreciate my diligence with the provision of fresh water.  These have been my rituals, my offerings.

And there have been other things.  My mother always said, “make hay while the sun shines”.  This time of year, when we can finally be outside a lot more, gives me opportunities to do things I can’t during more contemplative times of the year.  I’ve been training my doglets over the past several months in agility.  My dream is to compete with them; the pre-requisite to doing that is practice, practice, practice.  My instructor says my dogs are doing well… but…I don’t have the funds for unlimited classes…..the alternative is to make my own equipment.  And so, when I can, I buy materials on the cheap, and build in my backyard.  I started construction of an A-frame on July 4 (symbolic, in a way!) and on vacation finished it.  As soon it was put up in the back yard, the pups sailed over it, recognizing its purpose.  What fun and satisfaction!

On one of our vacation days, we rented a boat and with our adult son, enjoyed a day fishing, swimming, and lazily following a slow river that connected a small lake to a larger lake.  The river twisted and turned, you could only go headway speed, but it was lovely relaxation in the sun.  While we journeyed, I had the chance to reflect on many things.

So maybe I’m not perfect about regular attention to my deities or time before an altar.  But, I am intuitively in sync with the energies of the cycles of the seasons.  This is the time of year, when the earth is actively growing, we are soon heading toward harvest.  Already I see the shortening of the days; sun is setting a full twenty minutes earlier; the grasses in both the fields and the marsh are going from brilliant green to a yellow tone.  Not yet the golden tones of later summer, but, the grains are maturing.  And I am pulling good stuff from my vegetable garden daily now.

It occurred to me that I am:  Manifesting.  Thoughts and intentions and hopes and wishes that were only thought forms in January and February are coming to be, slowly but surely.  My energies, as in any good spell casting, have been focused to identified purposes, and I am beginning to see fruition, in more than one area of my life.

Yes, Mom, I am making hay while the sun shines.  And it feels good.  But Teo, on return from vacation, I read your more recent post, and was comforted and inspired.  I have not lost my passion, and it’s ok that I express it in ways that vary from day to day, and season to season.

Although, over vacation, I cleared out the clutter from one room in the house, and set up a new altar, for the purpose of daily offerings.  Inspiration and manifestation combined?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

High Summer

Sunday 6/24/12:

Could the sky have been any bluer today, the grass more lush, the trees clad in a more vibrant green?  I think not.  Having been blessed with the perfect mix of just enough rain, plenty of sun and warm temperatures, and the added blessing of a whole weekend of perfect weather, I am in summer nirvana.

I didn’t do anything dramatic this weekend, not even going to the beach, just two miles down the road.  Just didn’t feel like dealing with the summer crowds and the dog prohibitions.  (Ironically, I end up going to the beach more frequently during the very early spring and in the fall, when neither of these things are an issue.)

Nope.  Was content to stay on this little patch of this good earth, with my hands in the dirt for a good chunk of time.  My doglets enjoyed having me around, and when they weren’t chasing one another, assisted me (or so they thought) by digging.  They are terriers, after all!

Weeding was one of the big orders of the weekend.  Everything is growing so fast!  That includes the unintended as well as the intended. Over time, I have shied away from using the word “weed” because I have found good purpose for many of these plants.  But, unless I want my beds to look like total chaos, I do need to do something to keep the growth in control, and to ensure that the veggies themselves don’t get crowded out.  So after gathering some of these plants and saving them for drying and later use, I became more merciless, rationalizing that their contribution to the compost pile also serves a good purpose.

I spent a good many hours, in the sun, weeding.  I chuckled as I thought of the perfection I tried to attain in my gardens when we first moved to our home.  Everything had a place, and I worked so hard to keep everything in its place, just so.  However, as many beginning gardeners do, I planted flowers and other plants that had rather invasive properties or were avid self seeders.  I learned the hard way…

Eventually, the more invasive plants I got rid of, or kept contained in pots.  It was the self seeders that I developed a more relaxed attitude and greater appreciation for.  Lupine, coreopsis, black eyed susans (both wild and cultivated varieties), daisies, coneflowers, Johnny jump ups, Delphinium, foxglove, oregano…. All of these paint my personal landscape, and over time I have let the Goddess herself determine where they shall appear, year to year.

To me, the effect is more pleasing and natural, and I love the abundance of blooms where the plants have found the homes best suited to their growing needs.  Although I have learned the blessings of “letting go”, my husband sometimes chafes at the less manicured look.  Long ago we reached a truce on this.  His preference rules the gardens that face the street, and periodically he will clean them out himself, after giving me a chance to transplant what I wish.  However, the backyard is my domain; my favorite gardens are here, including what I call my Goddess Garden.  I keep these gardens weeded so that they have lovely eye appeal, but if my flowers aren’t in exactly the same spots year to year, I don’t sweat it.  I am only the gardener, the helper, not the Giver of Life.

The wonderful thing about this time of year is that the days are so long, I really feel I have accomplished something by the time dusk and mosquitoes drive me inside.  And even for those tasks yet undone, it’s easy to have faith that another long day in the sun is not far off.  We have passed the solstice, but it’s High Summer, and in the aftermath of this glorious day, I see no end in sight.  The feelings of the endless summers of my youth fill me once again. Even if this will only last a few short weeks before inevitable decrease in light comes, for now, the Sun rules.  I will revel in the natural abundance around me, and the optimism it brings to my soul.

We, like so many other families and individuals, have had many challenges thrown in our way these past few years.  “Challenges” almost seems too clean and kind a word; I only use it, because I know there are those who have faced far worse than my family has.  And I am grateful for the good fortune that has come to us, in fits and spurts, the last few months.  Even though the proverbial barbarians are still at the gates, at least, for now, I feel that more is possible than not.

May the High Summer illuminate your life with golden light, replacing darkness with hope, warmth and joy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Living the Sabbats - Summer Solstice

Summer solstice-what is there to celebrate?

A beautiful spring is turning to summer, but June already seems to be flying by.   Next weekend, I expect that one if not both kids will be coming home for Dad's Day… so another family celebration needs planning and preparing for.  Since it’s so close to the solstice, I intend to weave some elements and symbols into the occasion.  The day of the solstice is my husband's day off, and if the weather is decent, we'll be doing some chillin' and grillin', Solstice style!

While a happy family gathering and nice evening with my husband are my main goal, I also want to honor the occasion of the Solstice in a way that is meaningful to me (the lone pagan in the household).  And that requires answering the question:  what does it mean to me?

June has always been one of my favorite months.  Doesn't hurt that it’s my birthday month!  But when I was growing up, there was also the long awaited Last Day of School:  freedom!  Long days to be outside with my friends, or off by myself exploring somewhere.  Being called in for supper was only a brief interruption, even if I had to help with dishes.  Before long, I was outside again, til the lingering dusk finally gave in, the bats began hunting the mosquitoes, and fire flies blinked in the warm darkness.

Where I grew up, school went through the second week of June at least; its ending was the start of summer for us then.   So the idea that the official first day of summer was not until June 20 or 21  fit for me, back then. 

But after I was through with school, and had started work, with my evenings and weekends relatively free, I pushed back the start of my summer to Memorial Day weekend.  With any luck, late May offered fine weather for hiking, camping, boating and fishing…. All the things I would enjoy all June, July, August and even into September.    And, by Memorial Day, all danger of frost has past, so it became my deadline for getting the gardens cleaned out and planted, to make the most of our relatively short growing season. 

Turns out, my instinctive sense for the start of summer jives with the meteorological first day of summer:  June 1rst.  Why the difference between the meteorological date for the first day of summer, and the calendar date?  Meteorologists define summer as the three warmest calendar months:  June, July, and August; therefore the season starts at the beginning of the month, not the middle.  Meteorologists have noted that the sun’s position does not directly correlate to the temperatures at the surface, but rather, the general temperature change throughout the year. 

And where is the sun on June 20th?   The astronomical definition of the summer solstice is when the sun is in its furthest northern position (for those of us in the northern hemisphere).  At this point, the angle of the sun upon us is the most direct (creating the warmer temperatures we experience) and the hours of daylight are at their longest.  The summer solstice brings us the longest day of the year, and the shortest night.  But it is now hard for me to call this the first day of summer, when in many ways, this day is the beginning of the end of summer.  From this day forward, the days begin inching towards that shortest day and longest night.  At first it’s an imperceptible creep, caught up as we are in the physical enjoyment of all things summer.  But where I live, within a few weeks, the difference is noticeable, and by the first of August, tinges of the next season begin to appear.  There’s a part of me that completely resists that dying of the light, so what do I celebrate at the Summer Solstice?

Does saying that the solstice is not the beginning of summer, but the beginning of the end of summer, make me a pessimist?  I don't think so; I guess I am a realistic naturalist.  But although the days from here on out will slowly but surely begin to shorten, some of the best of summer is yet to come.  I love the warmth of the sun, hot lazy days on the beach, even muggy evenings on the deck, and sleeping with the windows open, lulled by the insect sounds.  Although the solstice is when the sun is at its highest, and its rays the most direct, it does not mark the warmest weather.   That's because it takes the earth some time to accumulate the heat; our hottest weather usually comes a few weeks after the solstice. 

For me, the solstice represents a shift, a new phase in the cycle.  Ostara - when the young God is gaining his strength - marks a beginning point, for when (mud season permitting) I can look forward to working outside.  I can start clearing away the dead growth from last year, seeing which plants survived the winter, where I may need to replant.  April weekends, the cleanup continues, but I also start seedlings inside.

At Beltane, the union of the God and Goddess and the return of life and fruitfulness is celebrated, and by this point, hopefully my cleanup is finished. I mulch the flower beds and get the vegetable bed prepared.  Mid-May I seed the cold weather veggies and transplant self seeded seedlings; other planting has to wait til danger of the last frost is past, closer to Memorial Day where I live.  Hopefully, all of this is completed by my birthday in early June, and we put up the fence around the vegetable garden.

As we approach the solstice, the energy is shifting from preparing and planting, to growing.  Now commences the most active period of growth for my gardens … unfortunately that includes the weeds, so my work is never done!  With any luck I will soon be pulling up radishes (a favorite of my husband's) by Father's Day, and re-sow some more.  The succession of flower blooms continues; my peonies and lupines are at their peak; I have a ton of buds on my coreopsis and daisies that are just about to open; and if I can keep the red beetles at bay, my lilies are promising me a show as well.  The Sun/God has reached his full power, and the Goddess is pregnant, holding the bounty of the harvest to come.  As the warmth continues and builds, my vegetables thrive, and before long, I will be enjoying even more of the fruit of my labors.

My observations for the Solstice will be simple. I will be planning on trying some new sides using seasonal fruits and vegetables while my husband will be concocting some kind of barbeque (his specialty).  I need to get some bright yellow candles, and I'm hoping to make a bouquet of golden yellow coreopsis and a red lily.

Several years ago the legend of the battle between the Oak King and the Holly King captured my imagination. These two mighty rulers fight for supremacy as the Wheel of the Year turns each season. At the Winter Solstice, the Oak King kills the Holly King, and then reigns until the Summer Solstice. Once the Summer Solstice arrives, the Holly King returns to do battle with the Oak King, and defeats him. The Holly King then rules until Yule.

At some quiet moment next Wednesday, I will pull from my special cabinet a twig with three dried oak leaves, cut the previous June.  This will be burned in my fire (grill), symbolic for the death of the Oak King.   Afterwards, I will cut a fresh twig to be saved for the following summer.  Come December, I will pull a dried holly branch from my cabinet, to be burned in the fireplace at Yule.  The next  morning, I will cut a new sprig from my  holly bush, to continue the cycle….

Every blessing in its season… Summer Blessings to all!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Paths in the Woods

A path in the woods, especially one stumbled across unexpectedly, always activates the EXPLORE gene I was somehow born with.  If there is anything that makes me feel like I am seventeen all over again, its finding a path to follow... where will it go?  What will I find?

Sewall's Woods is a wee patch of wilderness in my town that was once privately owned, but was bequethed to our conservation commision, who made it available to the public, complete with boarded trails...good thing, because in the spring its quite boggy!  I'm sharing some of my pictures of a recent hike, but also invite you to check out a fellow blogger's post:  All the Difference.  To be honest, her post inspired this post!  Please check her blog out.

Happy Trails!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Long Time No Hear....

It's been a while since I've been in this grove…sometimes, Life happens!

And I've been doing a lot of living since February.  First came my promotion in February, shortly after my last posting.  The groundwork I had been patiently laying (read: extra hours!) did pay off.  But very quickly I was taken away from mid-winter dormancy; my winter evenings were no longer spent reading, considering, writing, blogging….

My new duties were totally absorbing for a while - the next month and a half was work, work, and more work; sometimes by remote access from my home computer in the evening.   But it's good work.  Work that I can throw myself into, with interest and complete absorption. And this has been a blessing that is equal to (if not greater than) the added income the new position brings.

But as the days became longer and spring slowly arrived, other arenas in my life successfully garnered a few hours of my days.  The pups of course - agility classes twice a week continued right through May.  My gardens and my yard begged me to clean from them the refuse of last year's growth.  And, the winter had taken its toll on a few trees - several large branches that needed to be pruned, and subsequently cut up into kindling for next winter's woodstove.

Weekends through April and May were pretty much consumed with that good work outside.  But every Saturday and Sunday, I took an hour or so out to go hiking with the pups.  I'm blessed to live close to the beach, and also several preserves and wildlife sanctuaries, so I have no lack of wild spaces (or spaces that at least feel free and wild) to escape to.  I even started doing a little photography - perhaps I'll post a picture or two on days I don't have time to blog.

Contemplative, I have not been.  No, far from it.  At times I was barely aware of what the phase of the moon was.  My observations for Ostara and Beltane were simple and fleeting, as my time and attention were diverted to so many things.  Did I forget my Deities?  No, not entirely, but at times I wondered if They felt I had. 

Was I so busy Doing, that I had no time to Be?

Perhaps, but I don’t entirely think so.  Rather, I think, I’ve had the very good fortune of seeing hopes, wishes, prayers that were laid out before the Goddess at Imbolc, begin to take root through the season of Ostara and show some blossoming during the month of Beltane.  I’ve been busy --- manifesting!

First there’s my job, which has been wonderfully satisfying, and the added income has brought a bit of welcome relief to my family’s situation.  Then, my gardens.  Cleaning up the yard in the spring can be on the tedious side, but the results are so rewarding.  I love my ½ acre of Earth.  I have a Goddess garden in my back yard, it’s a rather secret space.   I had a swing hanging from the maple tree that in the midst of it, for my daughter when she was little.  It was a favored spot for her and her best friend next door…  the swing is long gone, the neighbors have since moved, and just this spring, my daughter moved into her first apartment.  (Another milestone for this mother!)   But every once in a while I catch one or two of the little girls down the street in my garden under the trees.  When this first happened, they were worried I would be upset.  But after I let them play with the pups and pick a few flowers to take home, they now feel welcome.  It’s good to have a sprite or two around, you know? 

I love coming in from the yard with dirt absolutely ground into the bed of my fingernails.  I love watching the week to week growth… and watching the birds during the migratory and nesting season.  (My garden is interspersed with bird baths, seed feeders, nectar feeders, and fresh fruit stations….sometimes I feel that these themselves are like offerings to the Goddess, to help her take care of her other Children.)

I love the mystery of planting the seeds in my vegetable garden…. And the marvel of seeing the burgeoning seedlings, despite the competition from the birds, chipmunks, and other wildlife.

Some years, I am so content with all that I have in my own gardens, you would find it hard to get me out of the yard on a Saturday or Sunday, especially if there were still things on my “yard list”. 

This year has been different.  Oh, I still have things I want to do, beds to rearrange, more seeds to plant.  But, I have had another calling, one so insistent, I could not fail to answer.  I grew up as a tomboy, playing in the woods, building forts, exploring trails.  I did a lot of hiking during college and when I was first married, but, exploring the woods is something I have not had much time to do in the past few years. 

And that was the calling I felt – and answered -  this spring.  To go to the wild places near by, to follow the trails, to see where that path would lead me.  To see the early growth of spring, the buds become baby leaves, the open bare spaces fill in with lush green – the pups and I have watched all of this.  Every time we have gone somewhere, there is a bit of longing within that is satisfied.   And what is that longing?  I cannot help but believe that it is a calling from my Deities, during this phase where time for ritual on my part is lacking.

They have called me back to the wild places, that represent a time and space apart, where I can be with them in the most natural and easy way, a path I have known since childhood.  Every week I plotted a new place to explore with the pups on the upcoming weekend, to answer that call.

So, what has brought me back to my blog?    Sigh.   I’ve been sidelined.  Almost three weeks ago, on one of our jaunts, I fell and broke my fall… with my right hand.  I have two fractured bones in my right wrist, and a lovely cast from mid palm almost up to my elbow.  The first weekend post cast I spent practicing One Handed Weeding and One Handed Planting.  The next weekend was Memorial Day, spent with family, One Handed Cooking etc.    The arm is one thing, not alone enough to keep me down… (I’m getting awfully good with my left hand!).  But since last the end of last week it’s been a rainy washout here.

I miss our woodland jaunts and am determined to get back to them.  The rain has also brought a great crop of weeds that will need to be removed.  Ever so much to do…will there ever be time for proper devotion to my deities?

Ah, but I am now being reminded of key phrases from the Call of the Goddess:

“For mine is the ecstasy of the spirit, and mine also is joy on Earth;
For my law is love unto all beings.”

“Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth; for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.”

I have been worshipping all spring, not by lighting candles, but by putting my hands into the Earth.  Not by saying prayers, or conducting ritual, but by simply following the tug on my heart and going into the woods. By feeding the birds, and enjoying the bright flash of wings of species only seen this special time of year.  By training with my dogs, connecting with them, building that bond.   By gathering with my family at our annual birthdays and holidays that fall this time of year, preparing those family dishes, setting the table.  And every Monday, delving into those projects at work, that absorb my mind and use my talents, hopefully to serve in some way, my fellow man (my job is in healthcare).

So tonite, although I am still chafing against the restrictions my cast and the bad weather represent, I have lit my candles in reflection and thanksgiving.  For all the blessings I have received this spring, even including this time of reduced activity….of redirection to the center.

Spring Blessings to all of you!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Holographic Universe

I haven’t been writing much lately, for a combination of reasons.  One, a change at work that may open a door of opportunity but requires right now, extra dedication (read: long hours).  Two, I’ve enrolled the doglets into some training classes.  They each go to their own class, on separate nights.  Raising littermates has been a lot of fun, but just as it was important with my two-footed children to spend time with them, separately, so it is with my lil’ Jacks.  Plus, it’s so much fun.  Perfect de-stressing after work.  And, I’m getting my exercise.  We’re doing agility!  Have you ever tried running as fast as a Jack Russell Terrier?

So, I have found that in whatever down time I do have, a new desire for more contemplative activities.  I love writing.  It is positive, creative work.   But it does require an outlay of your personal energy.  Yes, that investment is rewarded in various ways, but you still have to drum up and put the energy out there.  This past week I needed to recharge my batteries.  Read.  Reflect. Ritual.  Recognize the deities that are special in my life.

But, I reserve the right to be both female and Gemini, and so…. I’m back!  At least for the weekend.   I’ve been reading different permutations of a concept that is both the core of the practice of magic, and at the heart of some popular self help authors:  the law of attraction.

A lot of those authors over simplify some of these concepts, and it is refreshing to find new presentations that actually create an “a ha!” moment.  Which I did find this week.  I’m still reading them, and maybe will post about them at some point later on, after I’ve had a chance to thoroughly digest and understand these authors’ works.  But, their work reminded me of a book I read a few years back, which perhaps deserves a re-read, considering the road I’ve traveled since I first read the book.

It’s The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot.  The book begins with an introduction to quantum physics.  What does quantum physics have to do with Paganism, magic, or spiritual matters in general?  Turns out, quite a bit.

Just what is a hologram?  A hologram is produced when a single laser light is split into two separate beams.  The first beam is bounced off the object to be photographed, then the second beam is allowed to collide with the reflected light of the first.  When this happens, the colliding waves of light produce an interference pattern which is recorded on a piece of film.  But what do you see on that film?  Concentric rings – nothing that looks in the least way like the photographed object. But, as soon as another laser or a source of bright light is shined through the film, a three dimensional image of the object appears.  This was the first concept – the energy of the light waves captured the image of the object in a way that looked nothing like the object – until additional energy in the form of light was applied.

The concept that the entire universe functions like a hologram perhaps began with the physicist Bohm, in his study of subatomic particles.  Bohm observed that while electrons sometime behave like concrete little particles, in accordance to conventional atomic theory, sometimes they behave as though they possess no dimension at all – acting more like a wave.  This was not his only observation.  There seems to exist a strange state of interconnectedness between apparently unrelated atomic particles or events.  Not only that, but the physicist Bohr pointed out that subatomic particles only come into existence in the presence of the observer….. much as the three dimensional object in the hologram is observed only when an additional light source is applied.  Consciousness itself seems to have an effect on the subatomic world.  In fact, Bohm believed that consciousness itself is a more subtle form of matter.

This is a significant oversimplification of the first several chapters of the book,
which must be read with attention to detail to successfully lay the groundwork for what follows.  Despite this, the book is written in a manner that individuals with very little scientific background can grasp.  The essential construct is that everything in the universe is part of one continuum.  Despite the apparent separateness of the world we observe, everything is a seamless extension of everything else.  The universe is in essence, a giant flowing hologram, a collection of wave energy.  The tangible reality of our everyday lives is really a kind of illusion, a holographic image if you will – an image that was concealed in the wave patterns of energy but is now apparent.  What we appear to see and feel is referred to as  the explicate level of reality.  Underlying this level is a deeper level of reality, the implicate or enfolded order, which contains and gives birth to all the objects and appearances of our physical world in much the same way that a piece of holographic film gives birth to a hologram.

Mind you, this book was written many years before the “Matrix” movies came out….

After laying out the construct of a holographic universe, Talbot applies this model to many areas – psychology, medicine, miracles, as well as paranormal phenomenon.  For example, a number of researchers have used the holographic model to explain various aspects of the thinking process.  Just as most people perceive only the physical reality of the material world, so too do collections of thoughts, ideas, and opinions become cemented in our consciousness.  Psychiatrist David Shainberg believes that the virtual permanence of some of these patterns are often detrimental to our growth as human beings.  They can inhibit our ability to assimilate new ideas and information, create blockages in the creative flow of our consciousness, and make us feel disconnected from others.  Shainberg believes our consciousness is constantly unfolding out of the implicate order, but when we allow the same “vortices” of thought to form repeatedly (thereby assuming permanence) we are erecting barriers between ourselves and the endless positive and novel interactions we could have with the implicate order – which is referred to as “the infinite source of all being.”

Here, I was reminded of the concept of the Seven Planes of existence, and the journey we all take through our lifetimes, as we progress to higher states of being.   Higher levels of consciousness are described in several places throughout the book, as Talbot applies the holographic model to experiences of out of body travel as well as near death experiences.

Talbot, as well as the researchers he references, embrace these as very real experiences.  In a holographic universe, a material location is an illusion.   Although we are taught that we “think” with our brains, under the right circumstances the thinking, perceiving part of ourselves – our consciousness – can detach from the physical body and travel wherever it wants to.   Talbot recounts many fascinating examples of out of body and near death experiences that various researchers have documented.

In the practice of magic, visualization is often a key technique.  Visualization is especially effective if the practitioner utilizes and focuses their own emotions and energy in the process.  What was personally fascinating to me was that the model of the holographic universe offers an explanation for why this technique can be effective.

The first examples were medical cases – cancer patients that in addition to receiving conventional modalities of treatment, employed visualization, imagining the cancer cells growing weaker and their normal cells grower stronger.  Individual instances of dramatic recovery were described, as well as studies that compared patients that were taught to use mental imagery techniques to those who were not.  In one study, the survival rate of the mental imagery group was twice as long.  Other researchers investigating this phenomenon found that the physiological effects produced by the use of imagery can be powerful.  Why would this be so?  How can an image formed in the mind have an effect on a difficult cancer?

It may be that the brain itself operates holographically.  Talbot quotes Bohm:  “Every action starts with an intention in the implicate order.  The imagination is already the creation of form; it already has the intention and the germs of all the movements needed to carry it out.  And it affects the body… so that as creation takes place in that way from the subtler levels of the implicate order, it goes through them until in manifests in the explicate.” 

Thoughts clearly can be powerful things.  Edgar Cayce spoke of thoughts as tangible things, a finer form of matter, and when in trance, told clients that “thought is the builder”, and that their thoughts created their destiny.  He was not alone.

The tantric mystics of Tibet referred to thoughts as “tsal” and believed that every mental action produced waves of mysterious energy.  They believed that the entire universe is created by the collective tsal of all beings.  Tibetan tantric texts are filled with visualization exercises, designed to perfect visualization abilities.  Persian Sufis also stressed the importance of visualization in altering and reshaping one’s destiny, and described reality as being a series of subtler planes of being, and that the plane directly adjacent to our current plane was where the subtle matter of one’s thoughts formed into idea-images, which in turn eventually determined the course of one’s life.  Is it possible that visualization coupled with proper concentration can enable us to materialize thoughts, not only as dreams or visions, but as experiences in the material realm?
This question is best answered with Talbot’s own words:  “…in a holographic universe – a universe in which the mind participates with reality and in which the innermost stuff of our psyche can register as synchronicities in the objective world – the notion that we are also sculptors of our own fate is not so far-fetched.  It even seems probable.”

Which means to me, I need to do some housecleaning in my own head.  Clean out the thought patterns that are clearly not serving me well, and make space for cleaner, clearer thinking, that will help me realize my goals in the world of form.

So mote it be.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cross Posting: I Keep Vigil to the Fire

Teo Bishop posted an invite over at Bishop in the Grove for readers to contribute to I Keep Vigil to the Fire, offering a suggested format to write poetry in honor of Brighid.

I am an eleventh hour contributer, but I was inspired, so offered my own writings, copied below.  But you should check out all the other entries, they are wonderful.

Imbolc Poetry for a Goddess:

I keep vigil
To the fire
In my heart.

I keep vigil
Tho all seems lost
Forever dark.

I look into the deep night
For Brighid
The Shining One

She comes in silence,
And kindles the Flame
Once quenched by despair.

I keep vigil
To the fire
In my heart

I feed the flame
As a mother nurses a child
With the milk of hope.

I feed the flame
Tho storms rage outside
And the candles flicker with uncertainty.

I feed the flame
And see the strength of her forge
With the creation of new found faith.

I keep vigil
To the fire
In my heart.

I keep vigil
May Brighid bless
My home, my hearth, my heart.