Category Archives: spiritual
I’ve been listening to some of my friends talk about the notion of acknowledging “Today was a good day”. It’s something that one of them noticed in a series about living in Alaska. People, who are essentially living on the edge of subsistence, finish up their day with that little affirmation, “Today was a good day.”
We speculated about whether this is an Alaska thing. I suggested it might just be something that shifts when you’re living on the edge. I equated it to the Native American “Today is a good day to die.”
My friends are using this affirmation to see if it shifts their world view. They think it does. It changes the way they approach their days. It started me thinking about what makes a day a good day.
I’ve certainly had days where if I managed to get dressed or showered that was a good day. I’ve had days where just being alive at the end of the day meant it was a good day. I’ve had days where I’ve gotten all kinds of things accomplished be a good day. I’ve had days where I’ve been of service be a good day.
It’s interesting to me that there isn’t any kind of personal standard for a good day. I like that. I like that there is room for a good day no matter what kind of shape I might be in. I like that I can have a good day just taking care of me as well as having a good day helping out someone else.
In thinking about a good day there is something that does stand out for me. A good day is active rather than passive. I don’t mean that there needs to be a lot of activity. I can have a good day curled up reading. But there is a big difference between choosing to spend the day reading and sitting down for a break and having the day disappear.
There’s something about a good day that requires attention being paid to the day. A good day demands engagement at some level. Perhaps that is the change my friends are observing. By using the affirmation they find themselves paying more attention to their days. Being more appreciative, living in gratitude for each day, is certainly a positive life change.
Maybe I’ll give this good day thing a try.
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.
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.
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:
Routines, we all have them. From the little rituals that get us going in the morning to the major cleaning, exercising, and vacation planning our routines help us get things done. The problem is that we can be assured that our routines will, at some point, be disrupted.
Disruptions come in many forms. An illness or injury can throw routines into a jumble. Taking a trip or having guests will put pressure on our schedules. Even something as simple as a change in the weather, or season, can throw a routine into chaos.
I feel as though I’ve been living in the land of disrupted routines. Even when I think I have a handle on it something else seems to rear its ugly head and throw me off my balance. I’ve been out of town (and not in a restful, renewing or inspiring way). I’ve been dealing with allergies (spring is early this year). I’m back into the remodeling project and even just planning has me throwing my hands in the air screaming.
I’ve missed two weeks of blogging. The first week I new I was likely to miss. Out of town and no internet handy it was unlikely I would get to it and didn’t make it a priority. The second week I was still reeling from the effects of having my routines disrupted, again and again.
I talk about Daily Practice a lot. Although Daily Practice can be part of the routine, I make a distinction for it. Daily Practice, for me, is a small action with a big impact. When I take up a Daily Practice it becomes a top priority, a commitment. Daily Practice requires an attention, and often an attitude shift.
In the crazy of my world, with my routines all a jumble, I hold on to my Daily Practice like a lifeline. I may not be as efficient, or effective, but I still do it. I may not manage to get it done in it’s “normal” timeframe, but I still do it. I may start with “oh shit, I have to do that.” but I do it.
This is one of the many reasons for taking up Daily Practice. Those small things can keep us going when we are physically, emotionally, and mentally out of sorts. They become a foundation from which we can build a new routine. They are a simple constant in an ever changing complex world.
We all need an occasional “time out” to renew our spirits. Often times this is our hope when we take a vacation. It’s clearly a goal when we go on a retreat. But what may serve to renew us can vary from person to person and even across an individual’s lifetime.
I have known for a long time that I’ve needed a “get-away”. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to travel and take a break from the daily grind. Unfortunately for my renewal meter they haven’t really helped. Most of the traveling I’ve done in the past 5 years has been to promote my writing. They’ve been working vacations. I may not have had Orion along, I may have gotten inspired, but I haven’t had that sense of renewal.
I’ve been looking at a “real” vacation for awhile now. I had plans to go to Italy last fall, but they went by the wayside as I’ve been struggling to find a way to do home repairs. I haven’t given up. I’m still studying the language. But I also know that if I’m going to spend that kind of money I want to take time. If I take enough time then I also need to take Orion. That’s great for travel, but it’s not renewal.
As a birthday present to myself I gave myself a long weekend. Orion went to his Weekend Ventures retreat with Reach for Resources and to his Dad. I just had to figure out what I needed to do to find that renewal.
I tossed around driving or flying. How far could I go on my limited budget? Did I really want to spend the little time I had in transit? I looked at AirBnB I looked at package deals, I looked at the weather.
Historically my renewal/retreat weekends have involved a small (cheap) cabin in the woods, a fireplace, breakfast included and a kitchen for the rest of my meals. I’ve sat on porches and sipped coffee. I’ve curled up in the sunshine and read books. I’ve taken short walks in the woods. I’ve been alone long enough to get past the list of “shoulds” and into the bottled up emotions of my life.
Those options just aren’t available anymore. All the places I used to go have gone out of business. Any places I could still go seemed a little more structured, or a little more primitive, than I wanted. Even visiting my parents house (which used to be a cheap get-away) has become focused on helping them out. I can’t just sit and read undisturbed, or take a long soak in the tub.
Staying at home became more appealing, but I know myself well enough to recognize I’ve had plenty of weekends home without Orion that were not about renewal. It’s very easy to be distracted at home. It’s very easy to do the things that NEED to be done rather than the things that WANT to be done. It’s also very easy to bury my head to avoid the whole issue.
So I made an attitude adjustment plan. I know if I keep a fire going it shifts my focus. I know if I stay off the computer (read internet) I’m less likely to waste my time off. I know if I prepare ahead I can eliminate any URGENT household tasks.
So I cleaned the bathroom, changed the sheets on the bed, went to the grocery store and had a lovely renewal weekend at home. I did get on the internet, but it was to write book reviews because I felt like writing. I did light a fire one evening, but only because I really wanted to have that grounding task. I took several long leisurely baths – book in hand. I even took a walk. I didn’t take phone calls, didn’t check email, didn’t read Facebook.
It was different than a retreat, but in some ways it was better. Now I know I can have a renewal in my own home. I can make choices that are about taking care of myself rather than just indulging the whim of the moment. I can make myself get out the door just because it’s a nice day.
Those insights alone make taking a break well worth while!
Today is a national day of recognition for the civil rights movement. Here are some, perhaps less familiar excerpts from great speakers about civil rights:
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end, but a beginning.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating for whites only. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream
From: Martin Luther King – I have a dream
In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination – and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past – are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.
“Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.
This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.
This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.
This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.
From: Barack Obama – A More Perfect Union
It’s cold and it’s dark. Thanksgiving was late, so it feels like the other holidays are coming early. I’m having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit – for any of the holidays. Yule is fast approaching. The winter solstice, the longest night of the year, is this week. All I want to do is crawl under the covers.
Maybe it’s the politics. Maybe it’s the news stories. Maybe it’s just a general sense that certain people feel like they now have permission to be rude, racist, misogynistic and all together nasty. It definitely feels like the longest night.
The thing is, most of the winter holidays are celebrations of hope. They are a coming together of families, of communities. Many of them are directly linked to survival, either as an acknowledgement of the ancestors surviving or as a sacred working towards surviving the rest of the winter.
Both Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrate the faith, perseverance and fortitude of ancestors in the face of insurmountable odds. Even the Christmas story has Mary and Joseph finding shelter where there was none to be had. If our ancestors beat the odds, so can we. We have their support, their example, and when our own faith wains we can lean on theirs.
The Islamic calendar is lunar, without some of the “corrections” in the Jewish calendar that keep festivals seasonal. Currently Muslims are also celebrating the birth of the prophet, not Jesus but Mohammad. Along with the longest night comes the birth of the sun. In Christianity the savior is born. There is hope in the metaphor of birth. There is potential for something better to come along. There is a new way of approaching the world being born.
During the longest night people came together to share stories. Like Hans Christian Anderson’s the Little Match Girl they create visions of the futures they wanted to see. Dreams of sugarplums dance in their heads. They’re visited by ghosts, ancestors, departed friends, spirits with teaching visions. Hearth fires are tended, and gifts are exchanged.
In O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi it is the wise (or foolish) sacrifice that is a gift of love. Yet some of the pressure of our season is that consumer culture that measures how much or how many above how thoughtful, how generous. Finding the “right” gifts, or making them, is often how I come to the spirit of this season. And again, this year that has been more difficult.
I’m finding more seasonal joy in sharing a protein bar with a homeless man on the street corner than in exchanging packages. I’m finding more seasonal joy in being able to encourage a teen I’m driving to school than in writing a holiday letter. I had more fun shopping for my women’s group ritual (where the presents represented themes rather than being for specific people) than I had baking for the family.
I’m hoping for the hope. I’m leaning heavily on tradition to see me through. I’m going through the motions, believing that movement brings movement. I am reminded of being 9 months pregnant, miserable, impatient and not really knowing what the future would bring.
Let the bells ring out. May joy and peace be shared with all. May love and kindness fill the world and vanquish cruelty and hatred. May you all have a blessed holiday season.
Previous blogs about Yuletide:
Gratitude is difficult when the world seems to be falling down around our heads. It is difficult to find gratitude in crisis. It is difficult to find gratitude when we feel threatened. It is difficult to find gratitude under stress. But it is especially during these challenges when we need gratitude the most.
Practicing gratitude is uplifting. Even seeing people who seem to have less than we do being grateful can be inspiring. Knowing what we have to be grateful for is like finding a lifeline in a troubled sea. When we most need something to hang on to, an active practice of gratitude gives us just that.
Thanksgiving is a highly charged holiday. There are the family dynamics. Mixed families, blended families, new relationships create conflict over who gets to be with who when. There is finding table talk that doesn’t push buttons, make judgements, and generate huge arguments. There is the food both, expectations and execution, and issues of tradition versus lifestyle.
Thanksgiving is also highly charged politically. Not just with the family table, but the actual nature of the holiday itself. What we celebrate is the coming together of the European settlers and the Native Americans. The reality of that relationship is not nearly as peaceful or generous. Even now at Standing Rock Native Americans on their land with their supporters are being treated in ways that have the United Nations, the ACLU, and Amnesty International making statements against our government’s actions.
I am reminded again about the power of gratitude, and so I write reminding you. Let’s all take a moment, many moments, this week and dig deep into the things we do have to be grateful for.
I am grateful for all the people who work peacefully and diligently to preserve my civil rights, my breathable air, and my drinkable water.
I am grateful for all the people who work to ensure I have good, healthy food available to me especially all winter long.
I am grateful for all the people who are actively kind to others, who help those in need, who work with populations (in prisons, the mentally ill, impoverished families etc.) that I am not equipped to help.
I am grateful for the small opportunities I have to do my part to bring kindness, and caring, and loving support into the world.
I am grateful for the support I receive (from family, friends and strangers) just to be able to function in this world.
I am grateful to have a platform and readers who support my work. – Thank you!
What are you grateful for?
There is a movement suggesting that people who are willing to be supportive of blacks, hispanics, LGBTQ, women and other communities being targeted by Trump inspired racists wear a safety pin to indicate that they hold a safe space.
There is a backlash from those communities. There is anger that privileged whites think that just wearing the safety pin IS supportive. It’s too little, too late. Wearing a safety pin indicates intention, which frankly doesn’t count. There are plenty of “well-intentioned” people who are happy to “mansplain” away the concerns of these threatened populations. There are plenty of “well-intentioned” people who are sure they have the “solution”. There are plenty of “well-intentioned” people who wonder why we can’t all just get along.
There is also a backlash from the racists (who resent being called racists because they feel that they are entitled to define what that term means – and it can’t be them because they are “good people”). There is an “If you’re not with me you are against me” mentality. There is harassment, from a meme being generated that that safety pin is a diaper pin and we’re all crying babies to actual physical confrontations.
I know people in all of these communities and I hear them. Because I hear them I recognize that I can’t just “join the bandwagon” I need to make an active choice. If I choose to wear the pin what does that mean? If I choose not to wear the pin what does that mean?
I choose to wear the pin. Here’s what it comes down to for me:
- Wearing the pin is a visible identification of some kind of support. For a community that often feels very isolated just seeing someone making that small an effort can make a difference.
- Wearing the pin does not entitle me to anything. It doesn’t entitle me to respect from these communities. It doesn’t instantly bestow understanding. It doesn’t in itself create the “safe space” it’s meant to indicate.
- Wearing the pin means I have an obligation to open my eyes and increase both my awareness and willingness to intervene. That means more than filming an arrest or calling someone out on foul language. That means being aware of the clerk keeping an eagle eye on the black woman in the store with me. That means being aware of the cashier happy to chat with me after demanding identification from the hispanic man in front of me. That means being aware of the stink eye look being given to the gay couple in the restaurant. That means being willing to share a seat on the bus with a homeless man. That means knowing when to shut my mouth and when to open it.
- Wearing the pin means I am willing to be a target. It means I am willing to be a target from the communities that I want to support. A safe space means a safe space for them to vent their anger, frustration and fear. A safe space means I may be “harassed” for being a white woman who thinks wearing a pin is enough. A safe space for the people being targeted means that I may be exposed to feelings that are unpleasant, uncomfortable and I may not feel safe. Too bad for me.
- Wearing the pin means I am willing to be a target for the racist backlash. I will be perceived as being part of the communities they threaten: the disabled, those with racial differences, those with non binary gender identities etc. I will be putting myself in the position of being willing to accept some of the harassment those groups experience every day.
- Wearing the pin means wearing the pin. It is privilege to chose to wear the pin or not. The people in these groups do not have that choice. They can’t take off their race, their self identity, their handicaps. They can’t not be targets. Ultimately that is why I must be a target as well. I must wear the pin.
As someone who works with ancestral spirits it is important for me to acknowledge that my ancestors put themselves on the line so that I would have the right to have a voice in how my life would be governed.
In fact everyone in this country has the right to vote because some ancestor put their lives on the line for that right.
If you are a white male landowner you have the right to vote because we fought for independence from hereditary kingship. Right to vote 1776.
If you are a white male who does not own land, but who is strongly in support of states rights when you got the right to vote varied considerably. This was a state by state decision and the last state finally came in almost 100 years after the revolution. Right to vote 1856.
If you are a Native American you pretty much didn’t have the right to vote until you’d been educated away from your people. The boarding school era, where children were ripped from their homes and sent away to school where they were given Christian names and punished for speaking their native languages was from the late 1800 into the 1900’s. Congress granted the right to vote in 1924, but again some states maintained their right to prevent natives from voting and did (despite congress) until after WWII. Right to vote 1957.
If you are female (and I am) you may have relatives born without the right to vote. Women fought for the right to vote for over 70 years. In the musical Hamilton the Skyler sisters are determined to make Jefferson include women in the rewrite. Abigail Adams wrote to her husband “Don’t forget the women.” The suffragettes were beaten, jailed, ostracized and ridiculed. These women were feminists and that word still has degrading implications. Right to vote 1920.
If you are black in this country you are still struggling for your right to vote in some states. Although blacks officially gained the right to vote in 1870 there were many barriers placed to keep them from the polls. Plantation owners intimidated their workers and refused to allow time off or transportation. Polling places required fees (often waived for poor whites and increased for middle class blacks) to vote. There were “intelligence tests” demanded for registration.
The voting rights act of 1965 – which required a filibuster to pass congress – eliminated those discriminatory practices. Unfortunately in 2013 the Supreme Court decided that the voting rights act was no longer relevant or necessary. Some of the contention in this election and much of the concern we hear from the United Nations is because of the indication new versions of Jim Crow voter restrictions are being put into place. Right to vote 1965-2013. Currently depends on State and circumstances.
Immigrants have the right to vote (based on the above factors) when they become citizens of the United States. However, the reality is that at the polls and in registering they need to prove that citizenship. Again this is regulated by the states and that means that many natural born citizens who “look” like immigrants can and are being harassed at the polls. Right to vote requires proof of citizenship.
So please, honor the ancestors and if you have the right to vote exercise that right.
Halloween on a Monday! It’s been a weekend of ghouls and goblins and I’ve still got a lot to do to be ready for the little ones knocking on the door tonight. Of all the scary things we’ve done in the last week I think the top one was voting.
This has been an election season wrought with emotional ups and downs, no matter who you prefer. We have the option of voting early and have found it’s much easier for Orion and me. It feels like a weight off to have it done, although the election results are still a bit Sword of Damocles. I’ll say it again next week – the day before the actual election – but if you have the opportunity, please exercise your right to VOTE!
Karina threw her first big party in the new house. Halloween Housewarming. (Oh, and incidentally her boyfriend’s birthday). It was a smash. She entertained kids, visited with relatives, partied with old friends and stayed up until the wee hours with the dependable hold outs.
I did my part the day before. We shopped and tidied up decorations and got the food prepared to go. She still has most of my chairs. Of course I put in an appearance at the party as well. It was fun to see all the kids all grown up.
Halloween is a mixed bag because it’s also a high holiday. The honoring on the ancestors happens all year round, but at this time of year it is done formally. Sharing remembrances is a little bittersweet, but it can be very heartwarming as well.
Here are a few posts I’ve written in the past about Samhein celebrations.