Today We Choose

Twenty seven years ago today, an amazing and unthinkable thing happened – a terrible wall that separated a city, a country, and the world fell.  Families that had been divided for nearly three decades were reunited and a world torn apart by the Cold War began to feel a little more friendly and united. A standing Republican United States president had called for its destruction and this wondrous call to action became a reality not long afterward. We cheered and cried and viewed the destruction of the Berlin Wall as a victory for freedom and democracy.

Yesterday, another amazing and unthinkable thing happened – the United States elected another Republican president – one who has promised to build walls in the name of patriotism, one who proclaims unity while encouraging division, one who uses his power for self-gain while touting the greater good. How far we’ve come only to take so many rapid steps backwards and away from the direction of greatness.

Today, we choose, not who will lead us, but rather how we will respond to yesterday’s election and the future that it promises.

For those of us who are anxious and fearful, who are feeling disenfranchised and unwelcome in our own nation, who are vulnerable and at risk… we can choose to let this fear drive us to despair.  We can choose to hide away from the world. We can also choose this time to find deep within ourselves the courage to reach out to our allies and support networks.  We can choose to let our fear motivate us to make positive changes and to  let our anxiety become a catalyst that drives us to a higher purpose.

Those of us who are thicker-skinned, who have learned to withstand bullies and hatred,  whose souls have been tempered by fire and force… we can choose to harden our hearts against this world.  We can choose to respond to hatred and intolerance with our own brand of the same.  Or we can choose to reach out to those who are vulnerable, weak, and afraid. We can choose to use our hardness as an shield to protect those who need shelter. We can choose to let our thick skins be an armor for ourselves as we battle on the side of compassion and love.

Today, we can choose to change the narrative.  We can choose to make this, not the ending, but the beginning of our story.  We can choose to tell it in voices proud and strong and to be the voice for those who have been silenced. We can choose, as we once did, to tear down walls instead of building them.

For those of you are capable, please take this opportunity to support those who need it. Grand gestures are wonderful, but it is the small compassion-filled actions that are often the most needed.  Whether volunteering to help a vulnerable part of the population or simply checking on a friend who might be feeling unsettled and frightened by the election results,  every compassionate action you take will make a positive difference.

I encourage you, if you are one of the vulnerable, to reach out to your support system  and to know that you are not alone.  You are loved, important and valued.  You have worth and beauty. Your story is not finished and there are people out there who will help you to write it in dark and difficult times. No election result will ever change those things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Out of My Head and Onto the Page

It is November and the annual madness has officially taken hold. It is five days into NaNoWriMo and my official word count is at just over 15,000. For the sake of expedience as I didn’t have the time or energy to world-build for a new novel this year, I have resorted to my last writing resort, fan fiction.

Spinning my own tales using existing characters and world is how I became interested in writing fiction.  This is the first time, however,  I’ve ever taken the time to write down one of those spin-off stories.  Usually the tales remain strictly in my head, the stuff of daydreams in idle moments.  I’ve decided that I would write a story about Hogwarts ten years after Voldemort’s final defeat.  At its core, it’s a story about characters who were marginalized, broken, and ruined by the Ministry in the years after the war.  As I said, it was a last resort, a desperate attempt to get something resembling a story on paper.

In the process of writing this draft, I spent an hour yesterday on a conversation about one character’s view of spell work. He differentiates it into two types – 1). spells that are effective because the person on whom it is used believes that magic has power and 2). spells whose power lies in the spell caster’s ability to shape the nature of reality (requiring no belief whatsoever).  An argument then ensues about whether the former is truly magic or simply form of psychological manipulation and whether or not someone who performs that kind of magic can truly call themselves a witch.

After I’d finished writing that section, I thought “Hmm, that’s interesting. Where in Hades did that come from?”  I haven’t given a lot of thought to the nature of what makes spells stick, because I rarely do spell work aimed at anyone else (the liminal work that constitutes much of  what I do is very different beast than conventional spell work). I realize that the theory above has loopholes that a truck could drive through and simplifies the issue too much, but it does have me thinking about where the power of spell work does lie. Is a curse effective simply because the person on whom it is cast believes, in however small a way, that curses have power?  Or does a curse’s efficacy lie solely with the caster and their ability to affect the circumstances of another person’s life?

For now, I’m just going to agree with the response that was given by another character: “Magic just is. It doesn’t need a theory or a philosophy.   Must you overthink everything?”  Ah, the joys of having philosophical debates in one’s own head.

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.)

 

 

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.

Sunset Blues

The birds sing their farewells to the sun as it slowly sinks below the ridge tops.  Shadows begin to muster for their nightly gathering as the frogs warm up to voice their hymns to the night.  Darkness is held momentarily at bay as the last golden rays float lazily across the valleys.  An ever-cooling breeze brings with it the somnolent sweetness of honeysuckle and the faintest whiffs of woodsmoke from a distant fire. It is the time of day that begs for stories to be told, for the voices of the blessed dead to be heard, and for the living to remember that which has passed.

Evening twilight has always been my favorite time of day but it’s rare that I take the time to watch the light fade from the sky and open myself to the stories wanting to be told.  There are always other priorities, other obligations that must be met. It seems that the more life becomes filled with things to accomplish and do, the further away I move from those things that I find most fulfilling. I have had a tendency to take on projects that aren’t my passion – whether out of a sense of obligation, duty, or just a need to be able to check things off of a to-do list. I broke from this pattern of behavior over the winter, as my focus had narrowed to recovery, rest, and very little else.  Now that I’m getting back to old routines, I find myself again getting wrapped up in the minutiae of to-do lists and projects. As I do so, the same old frustrations creep back into my thoughts.

Much of my discontent with my online life springs from this same source.  As I mentioned in my last post, my first priority was tackling those spaces over which I do not have significant control.  While I may occasionally check in or lurk to read interesting posts, I will be mostly absent from those spaces. Social media will probably also go the way of the dinosaur.  My plan is to continue this blog, assuming I can find both the inspiration and energy to write posts.  If priorities must be made, posting here will need to take a distant second to activities that are directly related to my practice.  It’s a fair trade-off, I think, as it’s hard to write about my path if I’m not actually following it.

This evening, I found myself sitting on a westward facing porch at sunset.  In the fading amber light, fireflies danced and shadows gained substance. The living drank toasts to those who had gone before and drew strength from retelling old stories.  The dead, in their turn, whispered of days past, ensuring that their memories will not soon be forgotten.  In these moments, I am most alive, most aware of the path under my feet.  I would not trade moments like this for all the screen time in the world.

Adversity, Adventure, and Some Other ‘A’ Words

I am running behind on the alphabetical posts for the Cauldron Blog Project, but since I’m one of the instigators of this year’s event, I feel like I should make a belated effort at an ‘A’ themed post. Trigger warnings may be needed, as this will be a bit of a rant exploration dealing with adversity in the form of serious illness.  Here we go, ready or not…


I am supposed to be angry at the universe, breaking down in sobs at regular intervals, falling to pieces at every opportunity, and endlessly moaning and bitching about my misfortunes.  At least that’s what some of my family, friends, and acquaintances seem to think.  I was recently diagnosed with a Very Serious Illness (TM) and therefore must respond in a Very Serious and Grave Manner (likewise TM).  When speaking with others about this VSI in a VSGM, I must have the inevitable Very Serious Mental Breakdown (also TM) accompanied by some Very Serious, Very Public Emotional Drama (aka TMI).  This, of course, gives the people expecting all these Very Serious behaviors a chance to have Very Serious Discussions (aka Gossip) about how the poor little thing is handling this… such a shame… so broken up…  tsk, tsk, bless her little heart.

Screw that.

That’s not me and, to the endless disappointment of some folks, it’s not how I behave. I have a way of dealing with adversity that’s rather Zen-like, mystical, and mysterious, but I’ll try to distill it down to a few words without getting into really deep metaphysical or spiritual waters.  Hmm…  how about this:  I put on my big person boxers, say my equivalent of the Serenity Prayer, and then go deal with the problem.  Notice that nowhere in that statement is a mention of wailing, breaking down every time the VSI is mentioned, or falling on the floor in a sobbing heap. Also absent are demanding to my gods that this not really be happening, or wailing the words “Why me?” or “It’s not fair”.

YMMV, of course, and I acknowledge that my attitude about adversity goes against the grain of our reality TV-loving, drama-embracing society. I don’t care that it does.  What I do care about is that I have several people telling me, in essence, that I’m doing it wrong (it= how I am reacting to having a VSI).   For those folks, another ‘A’ word applies (hint: 7 letters and ends in ‘e’ with the middle part reading ‘sshol’). Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I do draw the line at being told how I should react to something that’s happening to me by people who have not walked in the same shoes. Of the all the stupid things I’ve heard duringthe last month, “You need to cry and get it all out” is my favorite (because apparently I am holding back a sea of tears – news to me!); second is “You shouldn’t make jokes” (because this is a VSI and humor does not comply with the required Very Serious Very Grave Manner); third place is “Don’t upset people by mentioning it. Tell them it was an accident.” (because it’s much better to lie than to upset perfect strangers who ask very invasive personal questions).

The eclecticism of my path has given me a certain set of tools for coping with adversity – a mindful awareness of my thoughts and feelings that allows me to acknowledge them without needing to always react to them (Buddhist influence there), a distinctive lack of fear where death and dark corners of my inner self are concerned (Valley of the Shadow of Death? Have a summer cottage there with all the threshold work that I do), a desire/ability to learn from whatever lessons are handed to me (between Isis and the Morrigan, this is a requirement) and a tendency to find humor in everything including catastrophe (all Loki, all the time). All of those things meld weirdly together to produce the outlook that adversity should be treated as an adventure, rather than an occasion for self-pity.

Here’s the thing about adventure: It isn’t always easy, nor is it safe.  There are going to be monsters and traps along the way.  There will be those who will help and those who will harm and you won’t always be able to tell the difference.  There will be lessons that hurt and lessons that enlighten.  There will be fear, but there will also be laughter.  You can’t know what the end of an adventure will hold… it may be treasure, it may be disappointment, and it may be the end of this life and the beginning of a whole other kind of adventure.  You can’t always choose the adventures that you experience, but at every step, you get to choose how you act and react.  You can pine away for the comforts of the life you’ve left behind or you can embrace the changes that come your way.  You can try to withdraw and hide from what is happening or you can take an active role in the events that will inevitably unfold.  You can listen to the advice of those who have never set foot on an adventure or you can learn as you go, listening to your own heart and gut and accepting the wisdom of those who have walked the same road. What will you choose when adversity comes knocking on your door?

Changing Doorways

A note before we begin:  This post was written as a part of the Cauldron Blog Project 2015 for the monthly themed post for January, “Doorways”.


A beige-colored door opens, it’s matte silver handle turning silently.  All eyes in the waiting room turn to the nurse clad in cerulean scrubs as she calls out a name. The smiling brunette woman next to me rises from her chair and crosses the room with a light, carefree step.  On the other side of the nondescript door waits a consultation with a plastic surgeon who will tell her how he restore a more youthful look to her aging visage and how her external self will better align with the youthful soul that resides inside of her.  She crosses the threshold confidently, knowing that what awaits her is a desired and welcome outcome. The doorway is merely a barrier between her and what she wants and she disappears behind it with a bounce in her step.

A few minutes later, the door opens again and the same nurse calls my name.  I limp stiffly across the waiting room and take a deep slow breath before stepping through the doorway.  It is not the same door that the facelift candidate had just passed through.  Physically, the door has not changed and there is no palpable difference for those still in the waiting room.  Still, it is a different doorway that I pass through and it will take me to a much different place than the previous threshold crosser.  It is a doorway beyond which an uncertain future lies.  On the other side of that door lies conversations about skin grafts, scar tissue, and minimizing the damage of a necessary but disfiguring upcoming surgery.  Someday, I hope to walk through that door again, triumphantly with a curving J-shaped scar on my leg and a clean bill of health.

Doorways are like that… they serve as a  boundary between where we are now and where we are going.  Each of us goes through a different doorway, even when we pass through the same physical space. They delineate and divide spaces and when we pass through them, we are in a state of transition.  Awaiting us on the other side of every door way is a change of some sort in our environment, circumstances or ourselves.  There are doors that we pass through gladly, embracing what lays beyond. Others we avoid if we can and enter only if there is no other acceptable alternative.  There will also be doorways that are locked to us, through which we may not pass even if we greatly desire to do so. A doorway that has just opened for the passage of another may be suddenly slammed shut and locked when we approach it… or we may find that doors open to us that others are unable to access.

The doorways that we encounter on our spiritual paths are like this as well, be they physical or metaphysical, mundane or magical.  These doorways often require more careful consideration than the physical doorways we encounter in our day-to-day lives.  While stepping through the doorway into another room or building might sometimes be  life-altering, those that we cross in our spiritual seeking nearly always are.  Ideally, our spiritual doorways lead us to places and beings that bring positive growth.  However, any seeker who has been on their path for more than a few hours can tell you that there is often a large gap between this ideal and reality.

Spiritual doorways may be a source of frustration more often than they are a source of enlightenment.  Often we don’t know what lies beyond those doorways and our desire to end our own ignorance may propel us through doorways we may not have otherwise gone.  We may cross through a doorway to find that what is contained inside is not what we had imagined it to be from the other side. The doorway that a friend has passed through may lead us to a very different place than they journeyed, possibly to places that we did not wish to go or that cause us to rethink our entire path. We may also find ourselves banging on locked doors, demanding access to the mysteries that are denied to us.

Whatever the circumstance, this is much certain… every doorway leads somewhere different and everyone who steps through that doorway finds themselves on a different journey.  We cannot expect to cross the threshold without a change in who we are, what we do, and how we relate to the universe around us. Go ahead… knock if you’re feeling curious, cross the threshold if you’re feeling brave.