Category Archives: seasonal

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

 

Autumn

At the apple store (no the real apple store).

I love this time of year.  I like the cooler weather.  I like wearing sweaters.  I like the light and the colors in the leaves.  Fall harvest has me making soups and baking.

I struggle at this time of year.  I have serious mold and dust allergies that always gets worse until we have a good hard freeze.  The temperature swings (I live in Minnesota.  It can be 35F one day and 80F the next) are tough to navigate.  I cherish the sunshine and dread the days getting noticeably shorter.

There is so much to do at this time of year.  I need to bring in the plants and repot.  I need to get ready for Halloween (both trick or treat and the Sabbat).  I need to swap my closet and bedding over to the winter wear.  All I want to do is curl up in a blanket with a good book and a warm beverage, or maybe take an outing to the movies.

We saw Victoria and Abdul. Orion appreciated the Urdu. He did not translate for me.

There’s also the food issue.  My body wants to eat more.  I’m not hungry, as the post-bariatric pouch won’t allow that.  It’s not even head hungry.  It’s more like hunger in the bones.  My genetics expect a winter and have kicked into survival mode.  I can tell I’m not getting enough protein, even though my diet hasn’t really changed.  It’s another push and pull.

This year it seems I’m especially aware of the paradox of the season.  As I struggle with balance in my own life I become more alert to the push and pull around me.  I recognize that I can allow any of these things to buffet and batter me, throwing me off course.  I can also simply acknowledge them and let them wash over me.  There is a peace in simply appreciating the variety of moods the season brings.

I live in bounty

So I do small things.  I get apples and squashes for baking and decorating.  I tidy the house.  I pick up a few things in the yard as I walk by.  I’m playing the grasshopper, not the ant.  I’m not ready for winter.  I am simply trying to be present in each day.

 

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

 

Midsummer

Happy Litha! The feverfew is blooming under the new moon.

It’s been cold and rainy here.  Cold is relative.  Two months ago I thought 50 degree evenings were crazy warm.  It’s always seemed odd to me, a native Minnesotan, that Midsummer comes when it does.  Pretty much this marks the beginning of our genuinely hot season.

Karina’s birthday is at the beginning of June and we couldn’t plan her preferred pool party unless we delayed it or held it indoors.  Cool isn’t unusual.

Because of everyone’s crazy schedule we’re still delaying her birthday.  We managed to all get together this weekend.  Karina and I have a deal.  I take her out to a high-end dinner for her birthday and she does the same for me.

Happy birthday Karina! Huge deserts and the leftover bags.

This year she chose Pittsburgh Blue, a chain steakhouse.  It was surprisingly good.  The steaks were done to perfection and the seafood we had was also very tasty.

Gilda’s Club Friends and Family Day photo

Orion and I also stopped by Gilda’s Club for Friends and Family Day.  We’ve been doing this as an annual event, being sure to get our photos taken.  Looking at those pictures I note I have a jacket or sweater on in most of them.

We did silly one’s too

Orion brought his drum and we enjoyed a drumming workshop along with visiting. Hoof on the Roof, a folk band, joined us as we finished up drumming.  It was a treat to jam with them.

In spite of the cold things are starting to bloom in the garden.  I got behind so I still have a few things to plant.  I’ve been worried that I’ll lose everything when we start tearing things up to get the remodel going, but I’m afraid we are stalled again.  I really don’t want to wait for another year!  I miss having a fully functional kitchen.

tomatoes are starting to form in spite of the cool evenings

There are things I’ve been putting off (like a new microwave) in anticipation of getting this all taken care of.  It’s frustrating.

Fourth of July is coming up fast and furiously.  I’ll probably be off-line, so don’t worry if you don’t see a Monday blog next week.  I will try to remember to take some photos.

Hints of jalapeño as well

 

 

Maybe parades and fireworks will fill my page.  Maybe flowers and wildlife will inspire me.  Maybe I’ll remember to take pictures of the family.  Fingers are crossed for a fun filled, good weather, holiday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previous Midsummer Posts:

Midsummer

Storm

Midsummer – apparently I’m not very creative with titles at this time of year!

Charleston – I haven’t posted about Philandro Castile.  It’s too close to home, too horrible, and I’m not the one.  But I will say Black Lives Matter, because they should and it’s pretty clear that they don’t.  I will say it’s important to remember.

May Day 2017

Yes, that wet stuff falling from the sky is snow on May 1st.

Happy May Day!  We’ve been having snow flurries, which makes it a little difficult to get into the spirit of the season.  I suppose I could go on about the history of labor unions and all the benefits we take for granted because of the work that they did back in 1886 and beyond.  But you all have Wikipedia for that.

In Wicca this is also Beltane and a celebration to bless the animals and the fields with fertility.   Wicca tends to work with a male/female balance honoring the fact that union is how we all came about.  In this day and age that makes much of our ritual look particularly heterosexist and decidedly gender binary.

The thing is that many of the Gods in the Pagan pantheons are rather gender queer.  There is room in Paganism to express and celebrate fertility in many other ways.  But working in a tradition, and a Wiccan tradition in particular means honoring and holding to rites and ritual formats that, when they were written, probably do have an intentional hetero-cis bias.

Like snow on May Day, the reality is often a lot more complicated than the theory.  In Minnesota a May snow, or at least a frost is not at all unusual.  Our “late frost” date is May 15th.   But in Wicca, and through much of Paganism this is a festival about flowers and early fruits.

Food and Flowers. We tend to snack while we make our May wreaths.

Traditionally, this festival is not a calendar based festival, but one that honors the actual season in the area.  It is a time when the fields are ready for planting – not the same date every year at all.  It is marked by the white blossomed trees (usually rowan) coming into bloom (also not a calendar dependent event.)  In Minnesota this year we are having a remarkably early spring.  The ground has been thawed for some time.  In microclimate areas some of the fruit trees have started blooming.  Historically that just doesn’t happen until mid May and even that is early.

So snow is unexpected this year and seems out of place.  Our weather reporters carry on about “below average” temperatures.  Technically that is true, but if you graph 100 years of spring temperatures and do the statistics you get at least a 15 degree standard deviation.  That means that “normal” is plus or minus 15 degrees.  To really be “below average”, remarkably warm or cold, we’d need to be outside of that 30 degree swing and we are not.  At least not today.

Happy May Day!

I have actually put some things into the garden already.   Cold hearty crops like radishes and peas.  I did sprinkle some spinach and lettuce seeds and I’m trying my hand at carrots again.  Tomatoes and basil are still a month out.  The weather is supposed to get warmer from here out so I’m hoping to get back into the dirt later in the week.  That will be a celebration in itself!   In the meantime, I’ll just take things as they come and enjoy the cool while it lasts.

 

 

Previous Posts on May Day or Beltane:

Fertility     Spring     May     Beltaine (even I don’t spell it consistently)

 

Little Things

hyacinth are peeking up in my garden

It was a grey and cold and rainy week.  I’ve got a chill that I can’t seem to shake, even when the sun peeks its head out.  I’m doing all the “celebration of spring” things you might expect, but I’m still not feeling it.

This is actually the hardest time of the year for many traditional peoples.  The stores are gone and the new food, spring’s promise, has not actually arrived.  Pulling the sap from the trees was probably originally an act of desperation.  Weather transitions are not easy either, and in Minnesota those transitions can swing very broadly and with little warning.  60 degrees one day and snow the next is not unheard of here.

Ran across this shrine down by the river.

I’m trying to pay attention and really honor the small things.  The little delights and surprises in my days.  I met a friend last week and she said, “Do you want to go out for lunch?”   YES!    I made a lovely venison stew and brought it to share for dinner with another friend.  I threw colored eggs in the river (a magical act that’s part of my Tradition’s practices for the season) and came across a lovely shrine.  I think it’s Hanuman the Hindu God who represents devotion and intellect.   Hmmmmm……..

I also saw a bunny in a knot of wood.   It made me smile, after all it is the season.  I picked up my pastel colored M&M’s the last time I went to the store and I’ve been eyeing the Cadbury eggs.

Bunny in the wood

This morning I went to http://gildasclubtwincities.org for the Euro Cafe Social.  What a treat to have breakfast made for me.  This is an occasional event for members to meet and get to know each other.  The origins of the Euro Cafe were with a member, who most of us knew as Uncle Jack.  He lobbied for more social events and cooked for the first several Euro Cafe’s.

Uncle Jack loved to cook, had a great sense of humor and always had a hug for anyone who needed it.  He was the one who noticed the day I got my diagnosis of endometrial cancer.  He didn’t ask what was going on, just if I needed anything and gave me the hug I asked for unconditionally.  Working at Gilda’s we do lose members to cancer, but Jack’s memory will live on and I’m honored to have known him.

Ryan making crepes for breakfast

That sweet bitter sweet is very much my mood of late.  It’s how I’m feeling about the changing seasons and about the world in general.  Talking to people it seems like it’s a feeling that’s going around.   How are you coping?

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