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?