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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

 

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The right to vote

part_1414966271790_20141102_161041As 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.

27 Sep 1948, New Mexico --- Federal courts ruled in favor of granting Native Americans the right to register and vote.  The New Mexico State Constitution had previously denied voting rights to those who did not pay property taxes while living on reservations lands. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

27 Sep 1948, New Mexico — Federal courts ruled in favor of granting Native Americans the right to register and vote. The New Mexico State Constitution had previously denied voting rights to those who did not pay property taxes while living on reservations lands. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

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.

Peaceful protesters in the Jim Crow south

Peaceful protesters in the Jim Crow south

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.

Trick or Treat

part_1414966271790_20141102_161041

Does it count if I wear my ritual gear as a costume?

Does it count if I wear my ritual gear as a costume?

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!

Not quite as scary during the day, but easier to get a photo

Not quite as scary during the day, but easier to get a photo

 

 

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.

What more do you need? Coffee, beer, "poison" apples and a birthday pie.

What more do you need? Coffee, beer, “poison” apples and a birthday pie.

 

 

 

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.

These girls slept over, traded clothes and shared secrets for years. Now one is pregnant, one is engaged and one just moved into a house.

These girls slept over, traded clothes and shared secrets for years. Now one is pregnant, one is engaged and one just moved into a house.

 

 

 

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.

Even Orion's Grandpa stopped in to see the new house.

Even Orion’s Grandpa stopped in to see the new house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a few posts I’ve written in the past about Samhein celebrations.

Ancestors and Descendants

Legacy

 

 

125th Anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre

The Invitation

The Invitation

Today is the day.   Let us join together in ceremony and prayer.  Let us do our cleansing and find our space on this Sacred Earth.  Let us light our fires and make our offerings.  Let us sing our songs, dance our dances, drum our drums and open our hearts.   Let us Honor those who died at Wounded Knee, naming the names.  Let us find connection with All Our Relations.  Let us embrace those who have gone before us.  Let us find compassion and healing as we move forward in a Sacred Way.  Let us make a better place for our descendants.

Thank you for participating.

 

Blessed Be

Wounded Knee IV – All My Relations

The Invitation

The Invitation

Please share these posts and encourage people to join us in ceremony, in ritual, in prayer on Tuesday December 29th, the 125th anniversary of the Massacre at Wounded Knee, at Noon in your own time zone.

Previous posts:

The Invitation

Cleansing and Sacred Space

Offerings to the Sacred Fire of Transformation

Meditation on the prayer of “All My Relations”:  The Native Americans pray “All My Relations”.  This is a statement of humility, connection, and compassion.  It is an acknowledgment of the Ancestors and a recognition of the Descendants.  In doing this working, in joining the global prayer, in “Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity” we come to a closer understanding of what this prayer “All My Relations” really means.th

That All My Relations is a statement of connection seems self-evident.  But it doesn’t just honor or acknowledge relatives of bloodline.  It calls to a connection with the whole tribe, the community.  It makes it possible for us to connect, in an interfaith community, praying to heal our multi-generational wounds.  It touches ancestors of the blood, ancestors of the heart and ancestors of the spirit.

7b870e0895ff1deb5b72d1edaeec7334It is also a statement of connection to those ancestors that are very different from us.  It is a connection to our ancestors on BOTH sides of this massacre, and of any conflict.  It is a connection to people we may not understand or approve of, but who are indeed our relations.  It is a connection across race, or species because the bear people are our relations, the wolf people are our relations, the bird people, the fish people.   The tree people are our relations.  The stone people are our relations.  The earth we dwell upon is mother to us all and we are all her people.  All My Relations.

All My Relations is a statement of humility, because it recognized our human inability to determine the best possible outcome for all.  We’re not even good at always finding the best possible outcome for ourselves!  How could we know what would best serve the memories of our Ancestors and honor their work?  How could we know what will best serve our Descendants?  How can we know what the best possible outcome will be for the Animal people?  The Plant people?  The Stone people?  The Earth?  So we prayer to the good of All My Relations in humility for our own limited vision.100_3541

All My Relations is a statement of compassion.  Every religion has some version of “do unto others” or “what goes around comes around”.  Acknowledging a direct connection to the harm and benefit our actions cause shifts our awareness of the impact of those actions.  When we harm our relations, we harm ourselves.  When we damage our lineage, we damage ourselves.

The other side of that is that we recognize our capacity to stand where our misguided, confused, fearful Relations stand and make their mistakes.  All My Relations includes both sides of the argument.  All My Relations includes those who lash out in fear and anger.  All My Relations includes those whose actions aim only to benefit themselves.

To truly heal our multi-generational traumas we must be willing to take in compassion All Our Relations.  We must be willing to honor and acknowledge the fear, the hurt, the loss, the pain, the greed, the anger, the jealously, the hopelessness and meet those feelings with love.   One hour of prayer, one anniversary of recognition is only the beginning of this work.

The invitation we were issued at the Parliament of World Religions also calls for us to move forward in a Sacred Way.  That is the true working, for All My Relations.

 

Gardening

This is the "before".  I've talked about digging the strawberries out of the grass in previous blogs.

This is the “before”. I’ve talked about digging the strawberries out of the grass in previous blogs.

I skipped last week’s post.  I’d like to say it was because I was in the garden.  I was, some.  Memorial Day weekend for us is typically cool and rainy, and this was no exception.  It’s also a big gardening weekend.  The tomatoes go in, now that we’re “safely” past the frost.  We’ve got such a short season that delaying past Memorial Day means possibly no harvest.

This is the "after".  I've got a ring dug out.  Yes, those are squash - hopefully they'll keep the grass down once the strawberries are done for the season.

This is the “after”. I’ve got a ring dug out. Yes, those are squash – hopefully they’ll keep the grass down once the strawberries are done for the season.

This year Memorial Day was early and the season late.  I order my plants from a company in Oregon. (Hoping that they’ll be climate ready when they arrive, which isn’t true if I order from a company in New Mexico!)  I finally called them, seeing no sign of the plants “shipping date May 15th” I was wondering if they’d received my order!  Apparently they are having unseasonable weather along with the rest of the country.  The plants aren’t ready to be shipped.

I dug some of my containers out from under the grapevines.  You honestly couldn't even see them before (kind of like that mess in the background)

I dug some of my containers out from under the grapevines. You honestly couldn’t even see them before (kind of like that mess in the background)

Part of me appreciates the extra time.  I’ve made comments about recovering my gardens from years of neglect.  I won’t get it done this year, but I am making slow progress.  One of my Facebook friends commented that she wanted to see photos – so that’s what this post is really about.

Got a start on the wildflowers/butterfly garden.  The bergamot seems to be holding it's own, but the columbine needed some help.

Got a start on the wildflowers/butterfly garden. The bergamot seems to be holding it’s own, but the columbine needed some help.

Hopefully my plants will arrive soon and I’ll have tomatoes before September!

The peonies seem happy to have some breathing room!

The peonies seem happy to have some breathing room!

Onion and salad greens are starting to show and peas where the tomatoes ought to be.

Onion and salad greens are starting to show and peas where the tomatoes ought to be.

VOTE

PART_1414966271790_20141102_161041Mid-term elections.  What’s the point?   There are a lot of them actually.  It’s easy to get caught up in the Presidential races.  There’s a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of hype that goes into those campaigns.  It’s a high-profile race for a high-profile job.

Thing is, the mid-term elections are for jobs a lot closer to home.  The legislators aren’t representing the whole country, but your state.  The state office holders are representing your district (which at least includes your neighborhood).  City office holders determine things like snowplow schedules and lawn maintenance rules.

There are other even closer to home issues that come up on midterm ballots.  Sometimes there are local ordinances and issues – vote yes/vote no to a proposition that changes how things run in your city.  Or vote yes/vote no to a school tax referendum.

Yes there really was such an organization!

Yes there really was such an organization!

On the heels of Samhein, Halloween, All Saints Day, All Souls Day, Dia de los Muertos I am reminded that many of our ancestors fought hard for the right to vote.   Women couldn’t vote in this country until 1920.  That’s 145 years that we couldn’t vote and less than 100 that we could.  Blacks, or at least black men, were theoretically given the right to vote nationally in 1870.  In both cases there was strong enough opposition that people actively worked to keep blacks and women from the polls.

Husbands would forbid their wives to vote, and pastors preached against women exercising that right.   Taxes, tests, and intimidation prevented most blacks from exercising their right to vote until the voting rights act of 1965.  We still see active legislation (like for voter ID’s), and intimidation to try and prevent “undesirable populations” from exercising their right to vote.

From the Minnesota Historical Society: Proceedings of the Convention of Colored Citizens of the State of Minnesota program, 1869. This program was presented at the first political convention black Minnesotans held after gaining the right to vote. The celebration held on January 1, 1869 in St. Paul also marked the creation of the Sons of Freedom, the first African American civil rights group in Minnesota.

From the Minnesota Historical Society: Proceedings of the Convention of Colored Citizens of the State of Minnesota program, 1869. This program was presented at the first political convention black Minnesotans held after gaining the right to vote. The celebration held on January 1, 1869 in St. Paul also marked the creation of the Sons of Freedom, the first African American civil rights group in Minnesota.

When we vote we stand on the backs of those who went before us.  As disenchanting as the system may be it still works better when there is more participation.   My daughter says she’s often not happy enough with either candidate to vote for them.   I explained to her about how people get to be on the ballot.

If there is a certain percentage voting for your party in the previous election, that party is automatically included on the ballot for next one.   I have voted for a 3rd party candidate just because I believe we should have more than two choices.  If I can’t vote for someone I like, I can at least vote for inclusion.

Minnesota has historically high voter turn out.  We are often highest in the country or at least in the top 5.  We tend to average about 67% turn out.  This year may be higher as they’ve expanded the rules for absentee ballots.   You no longer have to actually be absent.  Anyone could go down to their city hall and request a ballot, or request one on-line.  The city halls are set up as polling places, or you could take it home and mail it in (or drop it off another day).

City Hall was set up as a polling place, but we brought our ballots home.

City Hall was set up as a polling place, but we brought our ballots home.

Orion and I took full advantage of that this year and voted early.  It was much easier for us than finding our polling place (which moves depending on the year.)   It also meant we didn’t have to stand in line.  Additionally the accommodations for Orion’s disabilities are much more readily addressed at home than in a busy polling place.

So please, honor your ancestors and vote.

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Apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way.  After the election this gravesite was visited by a number of women and decorated with their “I Voted’ stickers.

photo by Deborah Ketchum

photo by Deborah Ketchum

In Memoriam

I remember my ancestors

Ancestors of the blood, ancestors of the heart, ancestors of the spirit

I remember my ancestors

For what is remembered lives

 

I remember my ancestors of the blood

The line back beyond my knowing that made my life possible

There are problems carried in this lineage but there are also blessings

I remember my ancestors of the blood

 

I remember the farmers in my line, who worked the soil and fed their neighbors

I remember the teachers in my line, who believed in learning and literacy

I remember the policemen in my line, who served community and protected the innocent

I remember the entrepreneurs in my line, who risked everything for their families

I remember the travelers in my line, who explored and brought my family here

I remember the children in my line, who died early and brought joy and love

 

I remember my ancestors

Ancestors of the blood, ancestors of the heart, ancestors of the spirit

I remember my ancestors

For what is remembered lives

 

I remember my ancestors of the heart

The members of my family of choice who supported me in my life

We shared good times and bad, and I miss the sharing

I remember my ancestors of the heart

 

I remember the times you challenged me, asking me to be better

I remember the times you comforted me, asking me to stay strong

I remember the times you showed me new things

I remember our laughter

I remember our meals

I remember talking long into the night, sharing dreams

 

I remember too the non-human ancestors of the heart

Gandalf

Gandalf

The pets who were my stalwart companions

The plants and trees which were my comfort and refuge

The places in the past which can no longer be found that I called home

These too are ancestors of the heart

For they have shaped me and supported me as my chosen family

 

I remember my ancestors

Ancestors of the blood, ancestors of the heart, ancestors of the spirit

I remember my ancestors

For what is remembered lives

 

I remember my ancestors of spirit

The heroes and role models who have walked before me

I never knew you, but what you did made my life richer

I remember my ancestors of spirit

 

I remember the firefighters and the freedom fighters

I remember the actors and the artists

I remember the athletes and the explorers

I remember the cooks and the teachers

I remember the scientists and the philosophers

You showed me to go places I’d never been and what kind of person I wanted to be

 

I remember my ancestors

Ancestors of the blood, ancestors of the heart, ancestors of the spirit

I remember my ancestors

For what is remembered lives

 

I am grateful for all my relations.

I am grateful for their love and guidance.

I am grateful for their strength and resilience.

I am grateful for their courage and generosity.

May you be remembered

May you live on

 

 

Greening

dandelions in the park

dandelions in the park

April showers didn’t bring us much of anything except grey day after grey day.  May showers on the other hand have finally brought spring to the north!  Even on a rainy day, there is enough green to combat the grey.  The world around me is blossoming and I’m making an effort to spend time outside to enjoy it.

Johnny Jump-ups voluntarily spot my lawn

Johnny Jump-ups voluntarily spot my lawn

I like the cooler (but not cold) days and the frequent rains have kept the pollen count to a tolerable level.  I’m trying to reclaim some of my gardens.  It’s still a challenge.  My up and down can get a little unsteady.  My back is limiting both my carrying capacity and how much time I can spend at any one task.  My shoulder makes reaching and pulling a challenge.  Even so I’m making progress and enjoying every minute of it.

Pansy goes in each year for my Mother's Mother an avid gardener with simple tastes.

Pansy goes in each year for my Mother’s Mother an avid gardener with simple tastes.

As I get to dig again in my ancestor garden I call up bittersweet memories of love and loss.  There are people  I honor here who I would love to be able to share this season with, and I suppose in a way I do.  I have mixed feelings as well as I dig through the strawberry bed.  This was my ex-husband’s project.  There’s very little about it that went with my suggestions and so it’s not designed to be easy for me to maintain.  It’s a garden in the front yard and I knew if I didn’t at least make some effort the neighbors would start fussing.  It’s amazing to me how well the strawberries have managed in spite of total neglect for several years.  There’s a resilience in this garden that asks me to be resilient as well.

strawberry blossom

strawberry blossom

With all the fresh new growth and warmth I feel for my friends who are being challenged with the deaths of their loved ones.  This time of year is so contrary to anyone trying to grieve.  I know the feeling where you want the world to stop right along with you, and it doesn’t.  But I also know that there is a gentle consolation inherent in the obvious manifestation of the cycle of life.

Love and blessing to all my friends who are challenged with loss in this season.

Thanksgiving

Why did the turkey cross the road?

Why did the turkey cross the road?

Another year and another post titled Thanksgiving.  In past years I’ve written about my family traditions and about gratitude.  Doesn’t that sum up the holiday in a nutshell?  Family and thankfulness, what more is there to say?  Still it is the job of the writer, be they blogger or novelist, to find new stories to tell, new things to share.

I write thank you notes.  Not like you’re thinking “thank you for the lovely present” but genuine thank you notes.  Every once in a while I’ll be inspired to write thank you for being you, for all the things you do for me, for being in my life kinds of notes.  I was driving in traffic last week, alone.  That gave me some time to think.  I arrived at my meeting almost half an hour early.  That gave me some time to write.  I started a thank you note.

How well do we see what's in front of us?

How well do we see what’s in front of us?

This note in particular is almost a “fan girl”note.  I’ve met Teo, spent a little time talking to him, let Orion spend a morning with him and taken a workshop from him.  But, even though I’d like to think we’re friends, I don’t really know him.  Teo is a public figure among Pagans.  He was an ADF Druid and wrote a blog with a wide following.  His Spiritual journey has led him to return to an exploration of Christianity and a relationship with Jesus as Divine.  He continues to blog about his Spirituality through all the transformative experience.  He’s taken a great deal of flack for his choices.

My letter begins:

I want to start by saying thank you, yet again.  Thank you for being kind.  Thank you for being open and honest and willing to share.  Thank you for being honorable.  Thank you for living the path of someone truly called by Spirit.

As I write I am struck by the notion that this is a love letter.  Not in the romantic sense, but in the sense of unconditional love.  I can’t express gratitude without it.  My heart is open and it is love that comes out, in the form of thanksgiving.

When I wrote about the Women and Spirituality Conference I talked about working with the ancestors.  I told about my experience in the workshop meditation holding my ancestors in unconditional love.  This is currently my daily practice, to spend 5 minutes a day simply holding my ancestors in my heart, in love.  I am overwhelmed by gratitude.  My heart is open and love comes out, in the form of thanksgiving.

I had to use this photo.  I made him pull the turkey out twice last year so I could get it.

I had to use this photo. I made him pull the turkey out twice last year so I could get it.

My father pulls the turkey out of the oven every year and carves it.  He often gets credit for the cooking, but that truly goes to my mother.  In my household food is love.  Dad makes bread, Mom makes stuffing and gravy and wild rice and anyone who shows up is always fed to bursting.  I am lucky, and grateful to still have my parents.  I am overwhelmed, with food and gratitude and love.  This is Thanksgiving.

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