Category Archives: Bio

Darkness

It’s not been a “holly jolly” kind of year.  In this season, the struggle to maintain without being overwhelmed can be particularly difficult.  Some of it is of course the darkness.  For those of us who live in more extreme latitudes the difference in the length of days between midsummer and midwinter is considerable.

North of the Arctic circle (or South for the Antarctic) We have the land of the midnight sun.  At the summer solstice the sun never sets.  That means at winter solstice it never rises.  Think about that for a minute.  A day where the sun doesn’t rise.  It’s kind of creepy.

Even a little bit of color helps

I will tell you truthfully that even here on the 45th parallel there are winter days when it’s so dark and overcast it feels as though there is no sun.  The snow helps.  It reflects what little light there is and bounces it so things seem brighter.  The holiday lights help.  They add not only brightness but a little color to the black and white photo landscape.

The darkness can also be emotional.  Birthdays during the season that get “lumped in” with everyone else’s celebrations can be great.  They can also build a lifetime of resentment.  A death during the season can bring people together.  It can also be a wound that gets reopened every year.  Being overwhelmed with Christmas Cheer, especially when that’s not part of your religion, can be an opportunity or an oppression.

Then there is the demand.  There is a huge demand on time, both socially and for many people, because of year end, on the job.  If you work in retail or in the food industry you can wave goodby to days off for awhile.  There is a demand on the pocketbook.  All that socializing costs, as do the expected gifts.  When the bills are already scary this time of year can be devastating.  Despite all the seasonal sales, somehow it seems that expenses still go up and up.

Even thinking about a fire seems like a lot of work.

I lean heavily on just do it.  Daily Practice becomes focused on small nitty gritty things.  Cleaning up the kitchen before I go to bed is not always easy, but better to do it than not.  Making my bed in the morning when I get up (even if I might want to go back) makes it less likely that I will go back.  Even paying the bills is better than the alternative.

So I put my head down and write the blog, clean the kitchen, make the bed.  I make the phone calls and appointments.  I meet the obligations and shop the sales with an eye on my budget.  I put in a few extra hours where I can hoping for some extra padding on the weekly income.  I wait in eager anticipation of the Solstice.  Because after the longest night each day has a little more light.

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Deck the Halls….

Yule Tree and presents

I seriously debated pulling out all the decorations this year.  It’s not as though I’ll be entertaining.  I’m not even sure I’ll get to baking (although I’m thinking I’d like to try.)  Thing is with so much greed and anger in the world, and the days getting longer and darker, and with unseasonably warm weather and no snow I’m struggling to have any holiday spirit.

Found a spot for the horses and reindeer to gather

Of course that’s all the more reason to dig out the boxes and dig in.  That’s what I’ve been doing in fits and starts all week.  Clearing space felt pretty good.  I’ve needed a new printer for awhile and it’s been sitting in the box since my pre – Thanksgiving shopping.  I pulled the old one out and set up the new one knowing I would put the tree in front of it.

I cleared out shelf space as well.  Since I’ve not had  a kitchen my coffee/tea cups have been sitting on the buffet.  It was definitely time for that runner to be washed.  I did a little dusting (and in a few places some serious dusting).  I also had to make space, in my room full of kitchen boxes, for the ornament boxes to live for the season.

Traded space for my holiday mugs and runner

Orion listens to holiday music all year round.  We have a rule about our shared music spaces (like the car): Holiday music only after Thanksgiving through New Years Day.  So I’ve been playing the holiday music channel during dinner and leaving it on over the weekends.  I have yet to put on my CDs, but I’m getting there.

I’ve spent my evenings watching Hallmark movies with a bowl of popcorn in my lap.  I’ve also had a needle and thread at hand and bit by bit have managed to string a sufficient amount to trim the tree.  I make a point of turning on the lights.  When I’m up early, especially if it’s a grey day, I find myself turning them on in the morning and leaving them to brighten up the house.

The tree again, view from my chair.

Packed up the summer seashells and dug out the bells

I pick up presents when I see them and stash them in my closet.  So I pulled everything down to inventory what I have and what I still need to buy.  Apparently I’ve been busy because I only have a gift card left to purchase.  Santa often makes a last minute online run for movies, but Santa’s budget is bleak.  It’s a relief to know I don’t have a lot of shopping left.  Well, except for the grocery store if I get to that baking…………

Thanksgiving

My sister and her daughter doing “finishing touches” on Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving this year was at my sister’s house.  She and her husband have a lovely space with a beautiful kitchen and it’s close to my parents so it’s the logical spot for family gatherings.  I keep saying that I’m grateful that she’s the one doing the work!

My little sister and her family didn’t make it this year, which is no surprise.  Karina also didn’t make it.  She just got a promotion at work and was assigned the Thanksgiving Day buffet.  She spent a lot of time with decorations and set up.  Karina is a hard worker and she wanted to impress on her first event for the restaurant.  She did a beautiful job and got lots of kudos.  Hopefully she’ll learn fast how to delegate some of that work.

Some of the Thanksgiving Buffet at Claddagh Maple Grove

We missed Karina, but she sent up a cheesecake.  She may not be baking at work, but her love for doing that hasn’t stopped.  It was a great treat, especially for me.  With a cinnamon allergy most pumpkin and apple pies are death to me.

Orion and I came up Wednesday evening and stayed at my parent’s house.  We planned to spend the weekend visiting and helping with some of the housework.  Just keeping up is getting harder for my parents.  Wednesday’s mail brought 36 catalogues.  Mom can’t get through them, and doesn’t really need anything.  Unfortunately that depression era mentality makes it hard for her to just toss them without at least looking at them.  I can sort through the pile, hand her 3 catalogues and send the rest to recycling.

Mom and Dad at Thanksgiving

Friday morning we all slept in a little bit.  The plan was for a lazy day.  Mom was thinking about sorting through one of her old jewelry boxes.  She was also pretty sure there was a box of Christmas ornaments we had sorted that needed to be taken over to my sister’s Saturday for her and her kids.  I got up and my Dad greeted me with, “Good Morning.  You need to go home – today.”

YIKES!

The problem wasn’t me (thankfully), but the weather.  We were having an unseasonable thaw.  All that deer from hunting was frozen in coolers on the back porch.  It wasn’t going to stay frozen based on the weather report.  I needed to take it home and get it in my and Karina’s coolers!

And me and Mom

So we spent the day packing, setting up leftovers into meals, and taking a memory lane trip through Mom’s jewelry box.  We called Karina, who was back at work, and arranged to stay through close so she could haul and carry meat.  At least we didn’t have to drive home though holiday traffic.

It all turned out well in the end.  Sad that we were unable to spend more time with my folks, but happy to have a few “extra” days at home.  I kept off the internet, didn’t tell anyone I was back, and started making space for the rest of the holiday season.  I just have to figure out how I’m going to do the baking in my torn apart kitchen!

Orion and I waiting in the Pub for Karina to get off work

Hunting

Dawn does not conveniently “fall back” for Daylight Savings

I missed posting last week because of hunting season.  We went up to my parents for the week.  They don’t have the internet.  We were up before dawn bundling up to sit in the cold and back again at dusk.  In the meantime there were meals to make, housekeeping to tend to and just visiting.

I knew Karina would wear her favorite shirt so I couldn’t resist finding a similar one for Orion

The area we were in was pretty unrestricted but we did need to have everything inspected.  There is a prion, like mad cow disease, that has been invading the deer herds.  The state is trying to track its spread.  Given that we hunt for meat rather than for trophies this is kind of important.

There are a lot of views on hunting and a lot of reasons to hold those views.  I like wild meats and having them makes a significant impact on my very tight budget.  My family has always supplemented the grocery budget this way, even the farmers.  It makes sense to me to know that something has to die for me to eat.

Participating (even if it just means sitting with a gun in my lap waiting for Karina to shoot something) in this annual ritual is a way to connect to my heritage, my ancestry.  Through both lines I come from northern climates, where hunting was an essential food supply.  My people were not city folk, and even when they were they stayed involved with natural cycles.

Growing up in my family I’ve cleaned fish, tapped maple trees and weeded gardens.  I’ve tried my hand at milking a cow and had pigs, chickens, and goats butchered to accommodate my visiting the farm.  I’ve always known where my food came from.

Karina is also going to look good doing it. This year Blaze Pink was available as an alternative to Blaze Orange.

Karina’s generation is even further removed from food sources than mine.  As a chef food is important to her.  In taking up hunting she is also committed to learning how to field dress an animal, how to process it and of course how to prepare the meat.  The fact of the matter is that she’s the one doing all the work.  I’m just making space in my freezer.

This year hunting was also an exercise in support.  As my parents age it is become difficult for them to be as independent as they’d like.  My Mom worries about my Dad’s eyesight.  She worries about him carrying a loaded gun through the woods, tracking a deer on uneven ground.  My Dad worries about my Mom being left alone too long.  She has trouble getting around and has taken a fall or two herself.

Going up this year we could pretty much be sure My Dad wouldn’t have to go out alone.  We could set Mom up for comfort and give her a “check-in” call before we wandered too far off.  Orion stayed inside so they could “look out for each other”.  Karina took charge of all the carrying.  She says the beer kegs she’s been weighing each week at work are heavier than the deer.  She also appreciates how easily things slide when you drag them on snow.

Now that I’m home I can look forward to some tasty meals.  When I have them I’ll be grateful.  I will be grateful for the deer that sacrificed its life.  I’ll be grateful for my daughter taking care of me.  I’ll be grateful for the opportunity to make memories with my parents.  I’ll be grateful for my heritage.

Comfort

My Facebook feed is full of black and white “Day in the Life” photos. Here’s mine.

The temperatures are dropping and the wind is gusting.  The cold and damp are fitting for the season, they set the mood.  There are ghosts walking.

I am at that age where parents die in clusters.  This is the way of things, of course, but that doesn’t make it easy.  I worry about my own parents as they approach their “end years”.  I see that gradual decline isn’t so gradual any more.  It’s getting harder for them to keep up, to get by, to get things done.

This year in particular I find myself trying to offer comfort to friends whose loss simply can not be consoled.  Grief comes in waves, it takes its own time.  Those “stages” are neither sequential nor independent.  They can come in any order, repeatedly and sometimes all at once.  And I take those phone calls.  I listen.  I witness.  Sometimes that’s enough.

The symbol of death and renewal in Paganism is literally food and seed.

I’m looking for comfort too.  I want to escape in a good book.  I want a fire in the fireplace.  I want a pot of soup on the stove.  For my ancestors those things were just part of the days.  Now I can go to the grocery store and buy mirepoix, precut and measured.  (I didn’t, but I can.)  Bone broth is on the shelf in boxes because much of our meat is already removed from the bones.  Soup is no longer the ever present cauldron, but a can in the pantry.

Baking is part of that comfort factor as well.  A good bread, warm from the oven, and I can feel myself relax into the smell.  Pop-up biscuits from the refrigerator case do not elicit the same affect.

Bringing in plants meant repotting everything and trying to find space

There is no time for this kind of comfort in most of our lives.  We rush through our days, rush through our meals, rush through our grieving and just “get on”.  Perhaps the most important part of this season is to make a point and take some time.  In most of the U.S. we have an extra hour coming to us this coming Sunday.   How are you going to use it?

Meditation on the season

 

Rites of Passage

The “gang” with the bride in front

This weekend I had the honor and privilege to officiate a wedding.  The best part was that the bride was one of the girls my daughter grew up with.  It is a joy to see them “all grown up” and functioning in the world as strong, competent women.

We were lucky to live in a neighborhood with natural boundaries.  Many of the residents grew up here and came back to live in their parent’s homes.  There were a lot of kids my daughter’s age, and she knew them all.  Because of the natural boundaries my daughters childhood was a lot more like mine than many of her peers.  The kids ran freely through the neighborhood all summer long.  They were back and forth between houses, cutting through yards and “exploring” in the overgrown “woods”.

The officiant and maid of honor 🙂

The girls formed close ties, and maintained them into their adulthood.  The one whose family moved away came back for the wedding.  The one who is a little less socially inclined drove in to town.  The one who got married first (at the Justice of the Peace) found a sitter for the baby so she could party with the gang.  This was an EVENT, not to be missed.

The bride was determined to have a great party.  As the maid of honor, my daughter was very involved, so I’ve been hearing stories since the date was chosen.  The bride invited people to come in costume.  She had her dress specially made to her specifications and assigned each bridesmaid a color/character.  She kept the guest list under 100, just the right people.  She was also pretty serious about the marriage thing.

The other “single Mom” of that pack of girls

I take the responsibilities of being a minister seriously.  Vows are a big deal for me and the words spoken in sacred space carry weight.  I had several conversations with the couple, not just about what they wanted in a wedding, but about their expectations of a marriage.  I made sure they knew what they were going to promise before they had to stand up and make those promises.

I haven’t performed a lot of weddings, but I’ve done more than a few.  The thing is when I get asked it’s usually because the couple’s beliefs don’t quite fit into a standard religious framework.  They want a ceremony, a ritual, a rite of passage.  They don’t want a church, or a synagogue or a stranger.  I’ve had a bride and groom hand me a ritual they wrote and ask me to do it.  I’ve had a Wiccan wedding in my tradition’s circle.  I wrote two for myself.  This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked to do something that is open enough for the couple but that won’t offend the more traditional family.

The groom and his Mom

It was a rite of passage for them, but it was also a rite of passage for me.  These are the girls I watched grow up now building lives of their own.  The officiant at a wedding blesses the union and then sends the couple on their way.  That’s what the Moms (and in the bride’s case her Dad) are doing as well.

Balance

I’ve said many times that this notion we have of balance is active and not a point of stasis.  But sometimes balance is easy, once you get the hang of it, like riding a bike.  Other times it’s like crossing a rope bridge on a windy day with a big pack.

This season my experience of balance has been a lot more like the latter example.  I’m off, the world is off, my home is off, it’s just crazy.   I suspect I took advantage of the little surgery I had to just check out for a bit.  Unfortunately that has made getting back on track even more difficult.

post surgery, just a little correction on the bariatric. The equivalent of an appendectomy without the infection.

On the good side are my kids, my work and a lot of unexpected support.  On the rough side is money, time, and overall despondency.  I’m frustrated with people who are fixed minded about an issue that they clearly don’t actually understand.  I’m frustrated with the vile, demeaning attitudes that people have decided are okay to unleash.  I’m frustrated with the notion that being polite and having good judgement are somehow not positive attributes.

Then we do something like attend the Kaposia Gala.  This is Orion’s day program and work placement group.  I see Ramsey county, being the second county in the country to pass legislation allowing them to directly employ people with disabilities.  I see a group of people encouraging young performers who have to work a little harder for clear speech or to get through a piece of music.  I sit at a table with people in all manner of dress knowing that they all “dressed up” for the occasion, that what they have on is the best that they have.

We were all dressed up. Orion got several compliments.

When I speak with the disabled community, or those with chronic illnesses, I recognize that we share an understanding outside of “normal” experience.  When I spend time talking with members at Gilda’s Club there is an inherent desire to make that most out of what we have.  When I find the small things that make me smile I remember how important those small things can be.

So I struggle to stand in my own truth and not be blown over by the winds of the world.  I shift and adjust and accommodate and work to hang on to the notion that things can be better.  I go back to daily practices of gratitude and just take a moment to recognize all the privilege I have in my life.  I may be swaying pretty heavily, but at least I’ve got a bridge.

Before the Gala we had a lovely late afternoon walk on the campus in fall. Trying to remember to enjoy the days.

 

Kitchen Update

I can almost get all my tea into one basket

It’s been years (well, a year and a half anyway) since my kitchen cupboards started falling off the walls.  I’ve looked at bank loans, city loans, housing support, county programs, Habitat for Humanity and in the end gotten nowhere.

My regular readers might have an inkling of how much time I spend in the kitchen.  I enjoy cooking.  A lot. I’ve been making do without my serving dishes, casserole collection, my Tajine and other specialty cookware, and about 1/2 of my already limited counter space.  (All those machines that were in the cupboard are on the counter.)

This under cupboard used to be filled with bakeware. I think there’s still room for the electric tea kettle.

This week I’ve finally found a friend who’s willing to step in and see what he can do.  It may get much worse before it gets better.  In fact, I’m sure this week it will.

This is not a kitchen re-model.  The overhead cupboards are coming down before they fall down all the way.  Then we’ll see.  Either they will go back up more securely attached or they will go away.   I might have a better idea of why they came down in the first place.

If the overhead cupboards go away I’ll still need to figure out something to do in the kitchen.   I can’t afford new cupboards (and they wouldn’t match).  I might be able to put in some open shelving.  That would be serviceable, but still a bit down the road.

In the meantime I’m trying to pack away what’s left in my kitchen.  Can Orion and I really get by with 2 plates, 2 bowls, 4 cups and no cream pitcher?  Do I pack it all and pull out paper plates and frozen dinners?  What do I do with the jar of lentils, the jar of pasta, the jar of black beans, the can of coffee and the olive oil?  Can I really survive without access to my spices?

Honestly, I’ve already pared down by better than half. This is the bare minimum!

I sound like an ad for a mystery series.  “Stay tuned and find out!”

 

Author

At my table at the MN Authors Book Fair

I do love to read and although I’m not keeping up in the reviewing department I have been catching up on the stack of books sitting beside my chair.  As an author I have a great appreciation for readers.  I am delighted when people are interested in my books.  As a reader I am not a good friend to authors.

Perhaps it’s the introvert in me that makes me resistant to reaching out to the authors I admire.  I am well over the shyness I had as a child.  I’ve worked with the public.  I can talk to anyone if I have to.  I’m just not inclined to reach out first, even with my good friends.

I had the opportunity this weekend to be an author in public.  My writer’s group hosted a book fair.  I went and had a good time.  One of the other women in the group offered to share a table with me.  That made stepping away for a little break a lot easier.  It also encouraged me to have some conversation.  In that context, talking to other authors is interesting and easy.

I did a reading which was well attended.  I got a lot of questions both curious and contentious.  I find it amusing when people think I’m against them and try to challenge me.  I’ve come to a place in my life where I can stand pretty comfortably in my truth and not get defensive.  I have a calling.  I write from a point of view.  If you need me to have further credentials then I’m not your gal.

Some of the most delightful people I talked to were clearly extraverts.  I love getting caught up in that kind of energy and carried along for a short bit.  One of the women I spoke with writes about and advocates for women recovering from the sex trafficking industry.  I have no exposure or experience outside of the news so I was truly interested in hearing her story.

At the table next to us was an author who writes mysteries.  That’s not a genre I’m particularly attracted to as a reader.  It was fun to eavesdrop on her conversations as she sold her books and to talk to her as well.  I am intrigued and might have to check out her series.

There was a great variety of styles, genre’s, topics represented at the fair.  I managed to leave without buying a book, but it was really hard.  I have a few on my list for later, once I get to the bottom of my reading pile.

Sacrificial King

Crossing the Mississippi at the corner of MN,WI,and IA

In Frazer’s The Golden Bough there is some exploration of the notion of the sacred king.  There are a number of components to this idea.  One is in the Divine right of kings to rule, and subsequently that they are the representatives of the Divine on Earth.  Then there is the belief that the kings are connected to the land.  As the king succeeds the land thrives, as the king fails or falls ill the land is depleted.  In a system that holds these principles to be true, the logical outcome is to demand the sacrifice of the king to relieve a drought or natural disaster.  Frazer took that philosophy and connected it to the agricultural cycle of reaping and sowing – death and rebirth.

Prairie reclamation project at Wyalusing – Wisconsin State Park

I came back from spending a long weekend on the land to see my Facebook full of images of our Secretary of the Interior assessing National Parkland for its value to sell to industry for development.  Moving from visiting a Prairie reclamation project at the height of success to a clearly out of control consume and profit narrative was disheartening to say the least.

On the way home I noticed the corn was starting to come in from the fields.  The corn harvest is the mark for me of the Lammas celebration, John Barley Corn is dead, long live John Barley Corn.  This is the representation in Wicca of the sacred king mythology.  The grain God is sacrificed to feed the people.

Prairie Flowers

It’s been difficult to sort out the sacred from the political.  Police are shooting people, healthcare continues to be threatened in spite of an overwhelming majority who clearly want to have coverage, and our sacred lands are being sold out from under us – again and still.

I see spiritual representatives from around the world being dismissed by Big Oil at Standing Rock.  I see a spiritual leader in my hometown, trying to help a neighbor in distress, being shot by police.  I see places that I’ve stood in awe of nature being looked upon as a feast for mining, logging and manufacturing industries.

Included in the sacrificial king mythology is the Arthurian story of the Fisher King.  This is part of the grail quest.  The sacred chalice, that has magical qualities including the ability to heal, is apparently in the possession of the Fisher King.  The king has a grievous wound and is failing, as is his land.  Somehow he doesn’t have the wisdom, moral integrity, or desire/belief to use the grail.  Percival, who was raised by a single mother in the forest away from the society of men, sees the solution but fails (out of politeness?) to ask the question that will heal everything.

“LIfe will find a way”

We need to ask the questions.  We need to keep asking until we get answers that go beyond pats on the head and being told we can’t possibly understand.  Why can’t we get along?  Why does the notion of “equal rights” always seem to have an “except” clause?  When and how much is enough?  Who has the vision for our future?  Does that vision include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? For everyone?

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Happy Lammas!

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Previous blogs about the holiday season:

Lammas

Ducks, Geese, and Corn

Corn Mother

First Fruits

Corn on the Cob

 

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