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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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?
I sound like an ad for a mystery series. “Stay tuned and find out!”
We, as a nation, are being buffeted about by hurricanes and firestorms, floods and droughts, protests and political manipulations. It’s a scary world out there. Today, September 11, is the anniversary of the fall of the Twin Towers in NYC. For many Americans, it was the day we learned what it was to be afraid.
In spite of all that, people persist. They stand up in the winds of change and hardship and continue on with their lives. This morning Orion listed all the people he knows, and there were a lot, who have birthdays today. Forever, their birthday is 9/11. How odd that must be to want to celebrate in a world determined to grieve and remember.
I know the other side too. I understand what it is to be overwhelmed with circumstances and appalled that the rest of the world doesn’t just stop alongside you. I know what it feels like to dig into a huge job, to work, eat, and sleep, and then come up for air and find you’ve lost days, weeks or even months.
Sometimes standing in the wind is taking an opportunity to use a public platform to call out bad behavior, racism, terrorism (thank you Miss Texas Margana Wood even when it might cost you a crown. Sometimes standing in the wind is choosing to skip a few meals this week to buy a birthday cake for your kid with food stamps. Sometimes standing in the wind is getting out of bed in the morning, getting dressed, and doing one of the 100 tasks that have been put off because it just seems too hard.
I know people who are on the front lines fighting fires in the western states. I know people hoping that they have homes to return to on the gulf. I know people who are in the streets day after day fighting against injustice in many forms, in many ways.
We have a culture (white culture) that allows us to take credit, take pride in the work other people are doing. We sit in front of our TV’s watching people standing in the wind and say, “Yes! They are US!” None of us can do all the work. No one can stand in all the storms at once. No one can stand again and again in all the storms. But cheering on the workers and having pride in what others have done isn’t enough.
How can we shift our culture, our attitudes in a way that allows us to truly stand, acknowledge our own storms, our own ability to survive and still reach out and honestly support others? Can we recognize our own work, with strength and pride, and still be grateful for the support we had that allowed us to stand there? Can we encourage people to celebrate and still recognize the work that needs to be done? Can we find a way to come together when the storms rage, and to stay connected when the storm is over?
I tripped a breaker, the one that powers my refrigerator, last Thursday. I couldn’t get it reset. My internet connection has been out, or at the very best intermittent, all weekend. I’m not even sure this blog will go out!
I know I will be “off the grid” for much of the week, and definitely over the coming weekend. I know I won’t post a blog next Monday. It seems like I’m getting “messages” to unplug.
Historically, events like today’s eclipse were seen as signs and portents. Even in cultures (and there were more of them than you might think) that could predict these events they carried weight and meaning. Our country is braced for today’s eclipse. Fed Ex has a note on their site anticipating delivery delays due to this astronomical event.
When the calendar shifted into the new century, we were braced for a huge computer crash. There were “signs” everywhere. Nothing seemed to happen. Still, the world changed even as it went on. People stopped believing in the “dramatic predictions” of the science community.
Again we sit in anticipation. It may seem as though nothing happens. The world will go on, and the world will change in ways even the best prophets could not predict. There is some division if this “portent” is of collapse or renewal. I suspect that ultimately that’s up to us.
Facebook has exploded with photos, meme’s, commentary, and disgust at what happened this weekend in Charlottesville. I’ve got friends, People of Color, who are triggered. I would be too. Free speech is one thing, but Hate Speech is not protected under the 1st amendment and this entire rally was about Hate specifically directed at People of Color. They should never have gotten a permit under that premise. Even allowing the ACLU supporting their right to march, they should have been shut down as soon as they showed up with torches and weapons.
The meme’s that truly twist my gut are the one’s that compare the police responses. Charlottesville vs Ferguson (actually, according to some eye-witness responses I’ve read the most aggressive police actions in Charlottesville were against the unarmed counter-protestors.) Charlottesville vs Standing Rock (When the Nazi’s showed up armed where were the high pressure water hoses (in freezing temperatures) and the rubber bullets?). Most terrorist acts in this country have been committed by alt-right, white, males. Why aren’t we more afraid?
Well, some of us are. The problem is that most of the “authority” in this country is also white and male. I guess it’s harder to be afraid of someone who looks like you. People of Color know. None of them are surprised by the way things went down in Charlottesville. Women know too, but we’ve been taught to stay silent, to accept that ‘boys will be boys’.
Being Politically Correct takes a bad rap. But let’s talk about being socially correct. Let’s talk about being kind, civil, caring, thoughtful and considerate. Can we say, “That is NOT acceptable behavior.” when someone is actively trying to hurt someone else? Can we say, “That is a hurtful statement.” when someone says something that may not be intentional but is still not appropriate? Can we say, “Your feelings do not entitle you to hurt someone else.” when someone uses Free Speech as an excuse for Hate?
How often in my life have I remained silent when someone has spouted aggressive, hateful language? How often have I neglected to come to the defense of people I love, who society has marginalized? I have heard comments about People of Color, Gay people, Trans people, Disabled people, People of Faith and I have not always spoken up.
Small excuses lead to big actions. When someone is not called out, it gives them permission to continue. When no line is drawn there is implicit permission to escalate. What happened in Charlottesville is not acceptable behavior. Anyone who can’t see that needs to take a good look at why they support rude, hateful, hurtful, and inconsiderate behavior and recognize that it is supporting that kind of behavior that is truly evil.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Previous blogs about the holiday season: