Monthly Archives: January 2014
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.
As I come into 2014 I recognize that I have a lot on my plate. There are new adjustments to make in terms of income and diet and services for Orion and taking care of my own health. I have some big stressors and some exciting opportunities. It’s easy to become overwhelmed. When I start to feel this way I’ve learned that the best answer is to shift my point of view. Instead of listing the “to do” and getting bogged down I find it’s more productive to count my blessings.
1. HEAT It’s -25F outside this morning. There’s also a wind, so the speed at which frostbite happens is equivalent to a temperature closer to -40F. (THAT’s what wind chill is for those of you who’ve heard the term but never experienced the sensation.) Last week I woke up one morning to a house that was less than comfortable. My furnace had gone out.
I have a fireplace so I managed to keep the temperatures stable if chilly (55F) until the gas company could come out and fix it. I called at 830am, they arrived at about 630pm. I didn’t get my errands run, but I do have a working furnace. There are plenty of people who don’t and I’m grateful.
2. FAMILY My Aunt Donna died this fall and my Uncle Ronnie died just last week. Both of them had struggled for years with the diseases that would ultimately take them.
I am incredibly fortunate to still have both of my parents. Certainly they are aging, but they still manage to participate in their community, entertain friends and support me in innumerable ways. I treasure every moment I get with them.
My kids are a joy. I even like it when they grumble at me. I’m proud to watch As they work to establish their own lives and it’s nice to know I am still a touchstone on bad days.
My sister, the one who hosted Christmas, is so open-hearted, generous and patient it humbles me. I am blessed by the fact that family is important to her and that she’s willing to work to maintain traditions. She’s passed those values on to her children. Even the sister I don’t see much would show up if the situation was dire enough. Family you can count on is a rare gift and I’m grateful.
3. FRIENDS We got to get together with my kids’ “other mother” last week. Because of Orion’s special needs he had personal care attendants growing up. When Kauser came into our lives she was new to the country, but she took us all under her wing. Her oldest is the same age as Orion and they became “best buds”. We were pregnant together with our seconds. She went on to have a third.
When Kauser started with us Orion was 3 and over the years had my kids both on and off the clock. Because of changes in the income stream, and her other job responsibilities everything changed when Orion became an adult. We still keep in touch, but the day-to-day has slipped away. Her kids are all away at college and her husband is working out-of-state.
Seeing her and her eldest this week was like coming home. We picked up right where we left off and spent a long lunch catching up. This family would do anything for me and my kids. Friends like that are hard to come by and I’m grateful.
4. FRIENDS I have several clusters of close friends: my circle, my women’s group, my business support group. All of these (mostly women) people have supported me in various ways throughout the years. The women’s group has been a place to explore and expand spiritually and when hard times come they are an emotional support that is invaluable. The business group is the reason I managed to write my book and dared to see it published.
My circle includes the members of my coven and those friends who identify as Pagan who have supported me in the larger community. I am not a strong self-promoter and it is these people who know my teaching and presentation style who have helped me make connections stronger and broader than I ever could have on my own. I am grateful.
5. FRIENDS You didn’t think I’d forget you did you? If you’ve read to this point you are indeed a friend to my blog and therefore to me. I write for myself, but it is the support and encouragement of you, my readers, that keep me plugging away. It’s the sharing that makes it delicious, savory, and fulfilling and I couldn’t have that without you. Thank you so very much.
There is much more to be grateful for. There are so many more blessing in my life, too many to count. I am surrounded by generosity and support and warmth. That’s a good way to start the year, and also helpful on a cold Monday morning. May 2014 be filled with an abundance of blessing for us all. And may we remember to stop and count them every now and again.