At the end of winter the season gets boring. I have my conveniently placed birthday to provide a little relief, but there is still the whole of March. While much of the country is keeping an eye out for actual signs of spring we might see snowdrops before April in a really early year. So how do we “keep the faith” that spring will come again?
Living in an age of hot houses and shipping there’s a lot to be said for fresh flowers brightening up the house. Come May I’ll be outside with my clippers looking at lilacs and apple blossoms. Now I have to go to the store for tulips. I’ve tried to force bulbs myself. Apparently I have a talent for mold.
We’re having a little bit of a thaw this week. It’s encouraging and there is more activity from the wildlife in the area. The turkeys are actually up at my folks house. The deer, turkeys, coyote, skunk, groundhog, and an occasional bear are the neighbors who occasionally stop by to visit.
In a long harsh winter the wildlife can become very creative in their hunt for food. They are aware the people in the area have abundance. Many of the animals have learned my parents routine. In the summer the hummingbirds are clearly irritated when someone is late putting out the feeders. The turkey has learned that the dining room is vacant at 11am every day. My Mom is watching her soap opera.
He takes advantage of that little window to hop up on the porch and steal from the chickadees. The squirrels do it too. I don’t have photo’s but it was a days worth of laughter to watch a squirrel jump onto the turkey’s back to chase him away from the feeder. The chickadees put up with all this nonsense and feed to their hearts content while Mom and Dad putter in the kitchen.
While the wildlife may be entertaining, sometimes I want to totally escape the winter. That when I sit in the sunlight with a good book. To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis is the fictional work of a blogging buddy Andra Watkins. She’s currently walking the Natchez Trace, where much of the book takes place. I’m following her journey on her blog, but the internet isn’t as satisfying as disappearing into an actual book.
My new book, When Gods Come Knocking: An Exploration of Mysticism From a Deity-Based Perspective, is out as well. I’m not curled up with that one. I am busy preparing for its “official launch” this weekend at Paganicon in Minneapolis. My publisher (Taylor Ellwood at Immanion Press) is coming out and we’re doing a book signing along with our respective workshop presentations. Having something to look forward too always makes the days a little brighter.
In the meantime we’re enjoying the break in the weather. It’s an unseasonably warm 50 degrees Fahrenheit today! Maybe a walk is a possibility!
My birthday was February 28th. I’ve always maintained that the older you are, the longer you get to celebrate. So, even though I started early and am past the actual date I’m not quite done yet. Birthday dinners were a big thing in my family. Regular readers will hardly be surprised by this statement. The deal was that although we couldn’t afford fancy dinners out, Mom and Dad were willing to cook whatever we wanted.
Being blessed with a birthday timed to hit all the post Valentines Day seafood sales I was indulged. I developed a fondness for crustaceans early and never let up. I also happen to have a birthday perfectly timed for Restaurant Week. It’s slow this time of year so Monday-Friday participating restaurants offer a pre-set menu of typical fare at significantly reduced prices. It’s a great way to try out new restaurants, and a good excuse to get folks to take me out.
On my actual birthday I stayed in and cooked. I was thinking about ordering pizza, but Orion wanted steak so I went for it. But in another “good timing” gig, our celebration for the Goddess Lucina happens to fall on the first Sunday of March and that’s also a food rich event.
I have eaten out A LOT celebrating my birthday. So far I’ve had:
Picking up Orion at my folks they made me birthday dinner of sea scallops in wine sauce with pesto linguine. The recipes aren’t as full of butter as they used to be, but still very tasty.
Dinner at Fogo de Chao with Karina and courtesy of Orion: including smoked salmon, cheeses, and asparagus from the salad bar and about 17 different preparations of chicken, sausage, lamb and beef. The best cut of meat hands down was the special Brazillian cut. Desserts were a definitive Brazillian flan, a molten chocolate cake, and a turtle cheesecake. Orion sang me Happy Birthday in Portuguese.
Lunch with Judy: produced homemade rye bread fresh out of the oven along with roasted cauliflower and a lovely mushroom and sausage quiche.
Dinner at Campiello with my 50+ women’s meet-up group: I had meatballs in the house marinara with fried basil leaves, fresh butternut squash ravioli in browned butter and a baked chocolate mouse cake with salted carmel gelato and caramelized peanuts. The food was excellent, the company a lot of fun and the service exquisite. They handled a bunch of rowdy women like pros. The staff answered all our questions (even the ones about other restaurants) and accommodated our dietary quirks. A really fun evening (and how I really spent my birthday money).
Dining in with Orion: I made fillet minion, which I cut off the tenderloin and wrapped in nitrate free hand sliced bacon from the coop. I paired it with roasted asparagus sprinkled with parmesan and a baked potato. Not too difficult and very satisfying.
Dinner at Piccolo with Karina: Karina and I have established a history of fine dining and conversation about the details of the food we eat. We’ve dished dinners all over town, in New York City, in Washington D.C., in Florida, on cruise ships and anywhere else we’ve traveled. I started her early (she was maybe 5 on that cruise). When we talk about our separate vacations the conversation usually revolves around the food we tried. It’s hereditary. My Mom’s travel logs all detail our vacation dining as well.
We had the tasting menu, starting out with a lengthy debate about who was going to get what. Clearly we needed to avoid duplication and taste everything! Our waiter stepped in and answered questions about how the food was prepared. Karina stuck her head into the kitchen a few times to watch them prep and ask questions there as well. Piccolos focuses on locally sourced food, lots of small bites and beautiful presentation. We were in foodie heaven.
Piccolos is actually a small little neighborhood kind of venue. The decor features stacks of books about food. I noted the coffee table book on Olives in the bathroom and the Oxford Guides to Food and Wine. The cookbook that we snuck to the table was an Italian cookbook by a local author, The Italian Country Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper with post-it notes stuck all through it commenting on the recipes. The waiter thought she’d probably left it visiting the owners previous restaurant. Clearly it remains a favorite. It kept us entertained between courses and now I have to go find a copy! (Karina wants one too.)
Lucina’s Day brunch is set up as a pile of finger food and conversation among the women followed by dinner with the families. The ladies I celebrate with cook so it’s always a treat. I brought wine and pesto stuffed mushrooms. We also had olives, pita, dried oranges, lots of cheeses, dolmades, figs, chocolate and orange cakes, nuts. Perfect food to chat over. Dinner added beef ribs and chicken and brie stuffed mushrooms. Stuffed was the word of the day.
Maybe this week I’ll get around to making myself a cake.
Winter storm Seneca stranded me without the internet on my way back from Pantheacon. Not that this was a great hardship. I had to go pick up Orion from my parents home in Northern Minnesota and the idea of a 3 hour drive back into the storm vs a few extra days with my parents made for an easy (smart) decision.
Being without the distractions of “coming back” for a few extra days gave me a chance to really absorb my Pantheacon experiences. Crystal Blanton suggested to me that Pantheacon might be a pilgrimage. I dashed off a response and she included it in her article for The Wild Hunt. That thought has stayed in my mind throughout the coming home process, especially given the weather delay. What if this were a spirit journey? What opportunities has this apparent obstacle put into my path? How would my experience have been different if I had approached the entire event as a pilgrimage?
There were plenty of extra obstacles in the way this trip. There was the issue leaving and almost missing the plane. They called at least 10 names on that flight over the speakers. Southwest didn’t staff for the possibility of the Atlanta flight being canceled. We ended up in line behind them.
I did everything right, pre-printed the boarding pass, got to the airport early. I’ve never waited so long just to check my bags! I asked and was told there was no other option. As we pushed ahead in line at TSA the agent decided that the 3 people who’d seen my boarding pass already were wrong and I wasn’t on a flight out of Minneapolis at all! He was corrected and facilitated my EASY pass through security in return for his mistake. The flight crew was extra kind, knowing how frustrated we all were with the ticketing window. What a way to start the trip!
Transferring planes in Denver the gate got moved so the walk was further than I’d hoped. At the hotel room wasn’t ready and the convention didn’t have my registration. One step at a time, one problem at a time, one solution at a time and a little help from my friends. That first day I ran into old friends and joined them for lunch. I got hand-held by the convention staff. I got invited to “hang out” in another friend’s room across the hall while I waited for mine to be cleaned. I found the woman I’d agreed to share a room with and we spent some time getting reacquainted. I attended my first workshop and made a new friend. I had dinner with Crystal and her family.
Any convention or festival like this is an exercise in priorities and pacing. There were a lot of workshops I was interested in: a panel on privilege, a workshop on medical clergy, a celebration of the Mighty Dead none of which I attended. The things I did attend where exactly what I needed and sometimes I opted out just to take care of myself. Elevating swollen ankles beats sitting on an uncomfortable hotel chair hands down, no matter how good the workshop might be. It’s an age thing I suppose. I even left the convention one evening to join local friends out for dinner. That was an extra treat and well worth the time. The fact that the food was as good as the company didn’t hurt either. Hotel food is expensive and a little boring.
The highlight of this year’s Pantheacon for me wasn’t the workshops I attended (although they were spectacular) but having the opportunity to present one of my own. I suspected that I would have a larger turn out than I’m used to for my presentation of “Daily Practice Sucks”, but I never expected I’d fill a double conference suit and that the staff would need to bring in extra chairs! It’s a good title.
It was also apparently a good workshop. For the rest of the conference I found myself in conversations with people who’d attended. People would stop me in the halls and thank me for such a great workshop. I’d sit down at breakfast and somebody would come by and tell me that my workshop was exactly what they needed. I had one woman tell me she’d already put some of my suggestions into practice and it changed her life!
My ego almost as swollen as my ankles, I floated through the rest of the convention. I visited some of the hospitality suites. I attended a few more workshops. I even managed to squeeze out some time in the hot tub, although that’s because we stayed an extra night. I’m always impressed with the quality of the workshops I find at Pantheacon and this year was no exception. The vendors also tend to be high quality with some real artistry and reasonable, but appropriate pricing. Year after year, what I come back for are the people. It’s great to chat with other workshop presenters. It’s pleasant to strike up a conversation over breakfast. It’s fun to pass on a kiss to someone you’ve never met from a mutual friend. (Stephanie, I’m going to tell this story for a long time.) And best of all is connecting with friends across the country that I don’t get to see very often.
Originally posted on The Blog Of Immanion Press & Megalithica Books:
When Gods Come Knocking: A Continuing Exploration of Relationship with the Divine opens up the possibilities of what it means to be called by the Divine. Filled with personal stories and examples, this book reveals to us we are not alone in our spiritual walk. Crystal Blanton writes in her introduction, “I found much of my personal story layered within the chapters of this book.”
Seeking inspiration and understanding of our own journey is often made easier when we relate to the stories of others. In her first book, Manifest Divinity, Lisa Spiral Besnett affirmed our human experience of the Divine. Here she expands on that work, specifically addressing those instances when Deity asks for something back.
I really think my head may explode. I’m busy trying to get packed for Pantheacon. I’m presenting a workshop this year and so on top of just figuring out how to get myself there and dressed I also need to pack my books and my workshop materials. Do I send things to the hotel via U.S. Post? Can I keep my bags under the checked bag weight limit when they’re full of books? Can I pack the clothes AND shut the suitcase? Crazy!
On top of that it’s time to be planning for Paganicon - in March. I’m also presenting there and so I have logistics to figure out as well as preparing the workshop. The good news is that (keep your fingers crossed) my second book When Gods Come Knocking: An Exploration of Mysticism from a Deity Based Perspective is due to be released in time for the event! All that is dependent on me finishing a final edit – one more thing on my list.
In the land of “who thought this was a good idea?” I have scheduled a doctor’s appointment for Orion on the day before and the day after this trip. One of them is with a new doctor (that’s the before). The immediately following appointment is because the doctor was out sick when we had the appointment reasonably scheduled and this was his next available date. It’s NOT MY FAULT! Doesn’t change anything does it?
This morning I can’t find my cell phone so I’m in a panic. (Did I leave it somewhere yesterday?) I’m pretty sure that the bag with the books is too heavy and I’m going to have to get to the post office after all. I’m not convinced my carry-on bag will be small enough. Oh and the cat has noticed I’m packing and is – well, doing what cat’s do to express their displeasure. ICK!
It’s Monday, so tonight is adaptive yoga. Whoever put that into the schedule was brilliant! (If I do say so myself.) Just what I need is an hour to unwind and be in the moment instead of planning for tomorrow, and the next day, and so on into the future. Thinking ahead is making me CRAZY!
Did anyone notice these are the same links as last week? I think I need a new groove!
OH – I found my phone buried under a pile of clothes. No wonder I couldn’t hear it ring.
That’s an impossible statement, but apparently it happened. It’s impossible because he rides Metro Mobility, which pulls up at the house and will come knock on the door for us if we’re not obviously waiting. It’s impossible because we have breakfast in the living room and I sit right next to the window looking out on the driveway. You can’t get to the door to knock without walking past. It’s impossible because the driver says she went back and forth from the bus to the house knocking 3 times this morning. (She knew she was early the first time, so she waited a bit before trying again.)
I didn’t hear a knock, didn’t see the driver walk past. Orion didn’t hear the knock – or at least didn’t say “Oh! There’s my bus! Got to go!” which would be typical if he had heard the knock. Somehow we weren’t paying attention.
Karina called this morning right about this time, so we were talking on the phone. Breakfast, a phone call, I had a computer game running, I may have been a little distracted. Karina had stayed up late at a Super Bowl party and gone into work right afterward so this was her “call you after work” daily check in. She’s a baker, so going into work at 2am rather than 6am isn’t a big deal. Getting a call when I’m waiting for the bus in the morning, rather than when I’m waiting for Orion to come home in the afternoon, apparently is a big deal. I wasn’t paying attention.
Karina was a little tired, didn’t get any sleep last night. I’ve not been sleeping well either. Being tired makes paying attention more difficult. It’s harder to focus. I’m not sleeping because I’m struggling with pain management. That kind of chronic pain can be a distraction as well. Paying attention to too many things isn’t paying attention.
Orion and I are taking an adaptive yoga class. Mind Body Solutions offers a class at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. Yoga is all about being in the moment, paying attention to your body, trusting the messages your body sends. We signed up for the class because I needed something to help me start moving. I guess I need as much help with simply paying attention.
A lot of Spiritual practices are focused on paying attention. That fully focused, in my body, in the moment attention is a struggle for me. I don’t usually miss a lot. I “multi-task” and I have a highly tuned “fill-in-the-blanks” function in my head. It would be a good thing for me to work a little harder at practicing full attention spirituality.
I may not be sleeping well, but it makes it easier to remember my dreams. I was dreaming I was driving in the snow with Orion and messing about on my phone. I wasn’t texting. I think I was trying to find an address. I caught myself traveling blocks (blocks I used to ride my bike on as a kid) without looking at the road. Scary. Not paying attention. Even my subconscious is sending me hints.
Do you catch yourself not paying attention?
This is the time of year when cabin fever really starts to set in. Imbolc, Groundhogs day, Candlemas the mid-marker festivals of the season. For much of the country 6 more weeks of winter sounds like a lot, but it’s countable. For us it’s 6 more weeks before we can even start counting! Mid-March is a great time to start seedlings indoors where I live. There is no hope of planting even peas and kale until May. (Well, sometimes we get lucky and risk takers will put a little something in at the end of April, but it’s rare.)
These winter holidays are very important for us. They provide a break in the routine, a chance to get out of the house and socialize. Another Monday when schools and roads are closed because it’s too cold and too windy. Blizzard conditions make getting out of the house seem a little like a pipe-dream. But we do it. It is -20F this morning (with a windchill below -40. Do you know that -40 is the temperature when Celsius and Fahrenheit meet? When you live someplace where that temperature is a reality you learn that kind of trivia.)
They’re talking highs at 20F on Wednesday. We’ve been up and down that 40-50 degrees a lot this year. It’s hard on a body. To us that 20F will feel like a heat wave. Minnesotans will go out to the mailbox without their coats. They’ll leave hats and gloves in the car. A friend on Facebook said “you know it’s been cold when you’re out shoveling at 15F and need to take your coat off because it’s too warm!” We’re a little crazy that way – stir crazy.
Another really perverse factoid about the winter weather here is that when it’s cold it’s usually really sunny. The snow reflects that sunlight and so it’s bright enough to need sunglasses. Those festivals all celebrate the return of longer days, the return of the light. The sun rises noticeably earlier and sets noticeably later. The further north you go the more dramatic those differences are. Minneapolis is on the 45th parallel. That’s half way between the equator and the top of the world (or the bottom if you’re not Northern Hemisphere biased). About this time of year a typical office worker begins to notice that they are driving to and from work in daylight rather than darkness. A nice change of pace. But being able to see the light sometimes makes you want it even more.
Wikapedia says: When experiencing cabin fever, a person may tend to sleep, have distrust of anyone they are with, and an urge to go outside even in the rain, snow, dark or hail. Maybe that’s why we have a winter carnival with ice castles, kite flying on frozen lakes, winter witch camp (which is actually in Wisconsin, but if you fly in Minneapolis is the closer airport), and parks that rent cross-country skis and snowshoes.
Today the University is closed because the weather is so bad, but the Metro Mobility buses are running. Orion got bundled up and sent of to his day program and we’ll make it to adaptive Yoga tonight. We’re getting ready to celebrate Imbolc this coming weekend and in the meantime working on staying warm and not getting too stir crazy.
We had a little more snow this morning and another arctic blast is moving in. They’re predicting sub-zero (Fahrenheit) temps by this evening. So I decided on this grey and chilly day it was time to brighten up the winter blues before hunkering down under the blankets.
I didn’t do a lot of holiday decorating this year, and am slow to take it all down. Still the birds will appreciate a little treat over the next few days.
The snow may not be as deep here as up at Kathy’s ”little house in the big woods” but it’s not easy getting around when you sink in to your knees!
Stay warm and healthy!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of devotion. My blogging buddy Caer over at Not All Who Wander Are Lost has just finished a little series on developing a devotional practice. The work she’s done is deep and useful, but my own explorations of this concept take me in a very different direction.
Caer acknowledges that devotion and worship are closely related words. I’d add to that list: discipline, commitment, dedication, daily practice, reverence, piety, allegiance and loyalty. All of these words have clear definitions and what I think of as fuzzy meanings. They all come charged with our personal relationship with them in our daily lives, in our culture, and in our Spiritual practices.
I read a while back someone speaking about daily practice. She said that the reason we give for not being successful is that we don’t have discipline. She didn’t like that because discipline implies punishment. She preferred the term devotion. That resonated with me and got me started on this windy road.
I was with my women’s group talking about a ritual we’re planning in February as we start a new series of ritual exploration. I was referring to the group making a commitment. They were offended, they’d already committed. They were happy however to do a dedication. There were no objections to the ritual planning, just the language.
Caer describes herself as an Urban Monastic. In that context it makes sense that committing to a daily practice of ritual acts of worship is an appropriate expression of devotion, and an admirable one. When the word devotion conjures up images of piety and reverence what we expect is exactly what Caer is doing.
For me the strongest association I have with the word devotion is affection. When affection becomes ritualized it sometimes seems to lose its value, unless that ritualization is also reinforced with random acts of (you guessed it) devotion. It is the paying attention and responding part of devotion that informs much of my spiritual practice. Much more so than the daily worship or reverent action that make devotion easily identifiable.
For instance, supposing I saw healing as a spiritual calling. Suppose I pursued this professionally and became a nurse. What if I go to work everyday reaffirming that calling. The reaffirmation – the ritual – isn’t the devotion. It is the day-to-day practice of the profession, the act of following the calling and responding to need, where the devotion is expressed. My friend Donald at Walking in Beauty refers to this kind of responsiveness as meeting a “joyful obligation.”
Even working with the same aspect of the Divine, different people will have different relationships, different callings. Using Hecate as an example one person might be called as a guardian of the gates, another called to give light and direction at the crossroads, another called to make challenges and give riddles at those crossroads, someone might be called to run with the hounds, another to guide souls into the afterlife. Thinking about what might be effective or appropriate devotional practice for each kind of relationship you can guess they’d be very different.
The one whose devotional practice is going to be perceived as most pious is the one who is called to take care of Hecate directly. This person is called to light the lantern and prepare offerings of food and drink every day. Easy to spot the devotion there, but that does not necessarily make that person more devoted than any of the others.
I was talking about this concept with a group of friends last week and another word got thrown into the mix. Gratitude. It is hard to be responsive when we’re not paying attention. The practice of gratitude opens us up to the light and allows us to see in a different way. It promotes that desire to give back, in reverence and devotion, celebrating the abundance in our lives.
Taking action on that thankfulness is an act of devotion. Being committed, dedicated and loving is devotion. Recognizing and responding to joyful obligations is devotion. And yes, when you’ve dedicated yourself to working with a particular Deity, doing the research and following through with appropriate daily practice, as Caer described in her posts, is devotion.