Renewal

Spring arrived in this part of the world riding atop storm clouds, but the rain has brought a welcome change in the scenery.  The mountains here are once again towering walls of green.  The spring garden is thriving with cool season greens and perennial herbs that seem to grow before our eyes.   The warming weather brings a family to the neighborhood in the form of a pair of nesting finches who have taken up residence in one of our hanging baskets.  The hatchlings aren’t out of their eggs yet, but are already being referred to as Atticus, Scout, and Jem.  A toad has taken up residence in a pot of mint and a lined skink is currently sunning itself on one of the porch uprights.  There is life everywhere you look, even in the tiny space that is my back porch.

There is even life in me these days, a renewed sense of curiosity and longing to be back in a less passive mindset when it comes to my practices and all things spiritual.  It is a marked sign of my own withdraw from these things that I have gone through the last two seasons without feeling drawn to any sort of mystery.   I’ve had no mind to dwell in places of uncertainty and the unknown has remained undiscovered in my presence.  I’m not bothered by it, as there are cycles to my practice and awareness that include times when all is silent and untold.

Yet, spring has brought a returned sense of liminality and wonder.  The scent carried on the spring breezes is new – spicy and deep-toned, touched with wood smoke and the wetness of hidden mountain streams and moss-encrusted rocks and lacking entirely the usual delicate floral notes of spring winds. The leaves whisper of undiscovered places over the next hill and the next and the next.  Dream become vivid and sharp again, full of energy and intrigue.  Anticipation creeps back into the picture, a pleasant tension that something good is on the horizon. It is time to again seek out the mysteries and the hidden.  It is time that I come back to the roots of my practices, to remember why I am on this journey.  It is a time of renewal.

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Myth-Behaving

Two days I sat down to write about a topic to find that either my browser or laptop would crash at every attempt to put the words down.  So I picked up a pen and paper… to find that the pen was out of ink.  While I was busy grabbing another pen, one of my lovely cats managed to shred the notebook.  I am taking all of this as a sign that now is not the time for that particular post.  Ironically, it was about the behavior of certain tricksters.  Go figure.

Since that post does not wish to be written, I’m turning my thoughts elsewhere and pondering the idea of writing mythologies.  I’ve touched on writing mythological tales in other places, including a novel that retold the story of Ragnarok from the prospective of a disenchanted Valkyrie. What I  have in mind isn’t a re-imagining of existing stories, however, but telling of stories that I’ve created for my own amusement as I’ve wandered down this path.

Thematically, the stories fit well with this blog, but I think it would be distracting to post them within the main blog.  My plan is to create a separate section on this site for those tales. This will allow me to keep the main blog focused on actual events, practices, paths, and people. I may sometimes give the backstory or further explanation of a myth here, but the stories themselves will have their own space. That’s the plan – if life and certain tricksters don’t interfere.

Happy Holidays

There is a certain damp chill to the air today and the trees rattle their leaves like some many loose bones in the breeze.  The afternoon threatens those who would wander outside with the threat of skin-scouring mists and bone-numbing drizzle.  Crows are roosting in the snug safety of nearby branches, their silhouettes creating dark holes in the gold and russet arboreal tapestries. Their calls herald the arrival of autumn, a far better indicator of the season than any day marked on human calendars.

This time of year is by far my favorite and today and tomorrow are the most favored of the season.  Today is a celebration of both the secular and the sacred.  I’ll open the doors of my house to both trick-or-treaters and to the blessed dead.  Candy will be served to the children of the neighborhood and those parents who themselves never outgrew the spooky fun of Halloween.  For the dead, there will be offerings of food, prayers, and blessings.  The celebrations this year will be much more low-key than last, with the spiritual aspects being observed in my typical solitary style.

Tomorrow is set aside on my personal calendar as a frenzied celebration of the creative spirit.  November 1st kicks off National Novel Writing Month, so the day will find me writing wildly, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and occupying a world that exists largely in my own head.  I believe in celebrating those things which bring you joy… and for me, there is a great deal of joy to be found in seat-of-my-pants speed writing.  After a year that’s given little opportunity for writing, I’m looking forward to immersing myself in storytelling again.

Wishing you all a Happy Halloween, Blessed Samhain, and Fruitful All Novels Day!

Rethinking The Label of Solitary

297 days. That’s how long it’s been since my feet had trod the trail that’s been referred elsewhere in this blog as the Temple of Mud, Sweat, and Blood. Three seasons have come and gone without so much as a single footfall.  Physical incapacity has kept me away from this moving meditation for months; fear has barred my way when physical pain no longer prevented me from returning.

I returned to the Temple of MSB this morning for a slow and cautious hike, as there is still months of recovery before I can contemplate running again.  Today’s return was an act of sacred (but much dreaded) duty.  Not wanting to think too hard about why I’d come back, I focused my attention on the trail itself and some improvements that had been made in my long absence.  It occurred to me for the first time that I’d taken for granted the trail other than as it pertained to my own footsteps upon it.  Someone had come long before me to forge a passable path through wild nature; other hands left trailblazes to guide the way; an unseen army works unceasingly to clear trash and fallen timber; a forest ranger frequently checks the area for anything problematic.  Likewise, my ability to walk today has been the result of so many dedicated folks who made it their jobs to get me back on my feet.  Though I was walking alone through the forest, I could not have claimed this space as my own without the work and assistance of so many people.

I may have entered the woods alone today, but it was  not done as a individual acting in isolation.  Avoiding this particular trail has been an act of cowardice and denial on my part.  It is the place where I first met Sam.  In the days since his passing,  I have felt called there by his spirit. It is a call that I haven’t not wanted to answer, because I felt that I have failed him in this life. Michael ultimately pushed me to answer the call, by reminding me that, in denying Sam, I am failing to do the work that I’m sworn to do.  Damn his eyes for being both correct and logical.  In the end, Sam simply wanted to let me know that he has found the peace that he so desperately sought in life.

As I hiked out of the woods, I had a bit of an epiphany.  While I have long described myself as a solitary practitioner, the term is a misnomer.  As is the case with the Temple of MSB and with my physical well-being, I am not working in spiritual isolation. Ever.  Deities, guides, guardians, gatekeepers, helpers, and human souls are all a part of the work that I do.  Without the ubiquitous others, I could not do the work that has been charged to me.  There is never a time in my work when other sentient beings are not involved, never a moment when interdependence ceases.  Solitary implies that I am walking this path alone.  While the path is my own, I am never alone in my practice, never wholly independent.  Always, someone stands behind me, before me, or at my back, motivating me to continue this work.  For every one of those individuals, I am grateful.

 

(This post was written as a part of the Cauldron Blog Project 2015 for the July theme of Independence/Interdependence.)

 

 

On Second Thought

After my first full night’s sleep in several days, I have decided to take down my last post.  It didn’t come out quite the way I’d intended.  My original purpose in writing it was to talk about finding oneself suddenly thrown into a unexpected working partnership with another practitioner.  What came out instead had more whinge than substance.  The focus ended up being on the awful events of the week, which really is not what I set out to do.  In my rambling, I unintentionally put a spotlight on someone else’s pain in a way that caused more hurt, for which I am sincerely sorry.

I do plan to revisit my original idea for the post, but want to do so in more thoughtful way. It might be best to approach this retrospectively, after I have we have a better idea of the shape of this working partnership.  Right now, there are more urgent matters that need attention than speculation about intersecting paths and shared work. The focus now needs to be burying the dead, mourning for what is lost, and caring for those who still live. Everything else will wait.

An Unexpected Gift

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What interesting memories this scent stirs.

Last Samhain was the first time in quite awhile that I’ve done any sort of ritual practice with others present.  Being a coven of one usually isn’t an issue, but lately I’ve been feeling the absence of other pagans in my daily life.  Old pagan friends have drifted away or crossed the threshold without new ones taking their places.  I miss interacting with people who speak the same spiritual language.

As if I weren’t feeling nostalgic enough for things past, I received a little “saw this and thought of you” gift this week – a sandalwood rose Solstice candle.  The giver had no way of knowing but this scent evokes strong memories of my earliest days on this path.  It was a period of being broken wide open in an excruciatingly painful way.  Time has eroded away the sharp and painful edges of those memories and softened the scars left by those days.

The unexpected gift was not the candle itself, but the realization that I am no longer hostage to those past hurts.  The scent leaves me filled with comfort and hope, rather than reminding me of the heartbreak and sorrow that predominated the period.  The giver has given a gift worth so much more than they can know.  It is a good reminder that even a self-proclaimed solitary can still find love and support in the loneliest of times.

The candle is sitting on my altar at the moment, waiting for Solstice sunrise to be lit. Long may it burn and long may those friendships linger in my memories.

In Which Sam Eats Crow & Someone Else Gets the Bird

It’s been an interesting week. Interesting as in “May you live in interesting times”. Interesting in a “For the love of all that is good and sacred, make it stop” sort of way.  Interesting as in “Was the universe really so bored that it needed to send all this fuckwittery my way?”

(I’m going to serve up a little rant here. There will be a generous helping of sarcastic humor with a bit of WTF sauce on the side. No birds or spirits were harmed in the writing of this post.  I can’t say the same for the humans. You’ve been warned.)

My friend Michael invited me a picnic earlier this week. It should have been a fun afternoon, hanging out at the lake with a bunch of people, eating barbeque, and relaxing.  It started out that way, just a normal social gathering.  I pride myself in being able to get through my days without setting off anyone’s weird-shit-o-meter. I am also fairly skilled at blending into the background in any social situation.  I almost made it through the entire picnic without so much as a sideways look from anyone.

Almost.

My own internal radar started pinging when the crows showed up.  Crows are common as dirt here, so a random crow doesn’t even warrant notice. Even a dozen crows perching nearby won’t generate any interest.  When several dozen perch in a circle of trees, all turned the same direction without a single vocalization… well, if you need an omen, look no further. One for sorrow, two for joy, but forty-two for what? The life, the universe, and everything? For knowing where your towel is? For a Douglas Adams tribute flight? I don’t actually know how many crows were there, but this is where my brain went while watching them.

As it turns out, the crows were watching a latecomer to the party.  Because the universe has a sick sense of humor, the latecomer was Sam, who I haven’t seen since the “it’s not you” conversation last fall. I forgot about the crows momentarily in anticipation of an awkward reunion.  I expected things to be civil between us, if not a bit short on words and uncomfortable. What I didn’t expect was a confrontation.  When Sam saw me, he came over straight over and promptly start shouting.  We know enough people in common that he has been aware of the happenings in my life over the last few months.  Apparently, he does not agree with my decisions regarding my health and told me so in no uncertain terms while explaining what I ‘need’ to do. Bad idea.

In the process of telling me what he thought of my choices, he brought up and then immediately derided my spiritual beliefs. Really bad idea.

When then I tried to walk away, he demanded that I listen to him and seized my arm to keep me from leaving.  Very. Bad. Idea.

I’m not sure who struck Sam first – me or the crow that dived out of the tree. The crow was still trying to peck at Sam’s face when Michael stepped between us and tried unsuccessfully to shoo it away. Without thinking, I said “stop it” rather more loudly than intended.  The crow squawked once and immediately flew back to its perch in the tree. What followed was dead silence and all eyes on me.  So much for not setting off anyone’s weird-shit-o-meter (really don’t know what the crow thing was about, definitely not my doing). Fortunately, someone cracked a joke about Sam eating crow and the tension evaporated. Humans and crows both managed to get through the rest of the picnic without further incident. Although Sam did get a bit twitchy any time he looked at me or the crows. I think he was wondering which of us was responsible for his bloodied lip.

Sam has since made a half-ass apology for the way he approached the situation. When he expresses regret for his actual words, I’ll consider accepting his apology. Until then, the crows can bloody well have him.  I cannot continue to expend energy on someone who has consistently tried to push me away while at the same time refusing to let me go. I’m certainly not going to invest another minute in someone who disregards my personal sovereignty and attempts to use my own beliefs as a way to insult me. It’s been a fun ride, but I’m getting off now, thank you very much.

As if that drama was not enough, Michael has managed to break my brain. Since we met last Samhain, he’s become a dear friend and source of support and strength through the last few months.  I’ve actually been impressed with the fact that he always taken things in stride, no matter what I’ve thrown at him.  He’s been consistently calm and accepting of whatever is happening.  The weirdness at the picnic only seems to have amused him, as he’s taken to referring to me as “Crow Whisperer” at every opportunity and then laughs until tears are streaming from his eyes, cawing all the while. Did I mention that he’s very mature and reserved?

His laid back attitude was explained at lunch yesterday. When we were parting, a certain guardian of mine made a somewhat obscene but incredibly funny remark.  Michael snorted in response and I nearly fell over when I realized he’d heard the comment. Michael just grinned and said “What? Do you think you’re the only one who can see what others can’t? That you’re the only one on a god’s payroll?”  Bloody hell.  I bow to his ability to avoid setting off people’s weird-shit-o-meters. I was completely blind-sided. Michael escaped before my brain re-engaged, so he still has some explaining to do. So does my guardian. And so do some gods. The rest of the universe might want to chime in as well.

In other news, I had a run-in with a “paranormal investigator”.  There’s a distant cousin many times removed who was interred in this area more than a century ago. I try to get out to his grave at least once a year to grave-tend and leave an offering. When I stopped by this week, the investigator was setting up to film in the cemetery and asked if I would be willing to try to provoke him (the cousin) into “giving a sign”.  I don’t think the sign he got was quite what he was looking for. For some reason, he turned down my generous offer to repeat the sign on camera.  *adjusting my halo so that it doesn’t strangle me*  Bless his little heart,he got so flustered when I was just trying to help.

I’m going to have to stop rolling my eyes now or I’ll end up with a bigger headache than I already have. I’m hoping for a normal week – no shouting, no revelations, no crows, and most importantly, no fuckwittery.  I’m sure that’s too much to ask, but one can dream.