Friday, November 29, 2013

Old Homesteading Hippie Pagan Artist Witch Gives Thanks

Lots of folks, it seems, have political issues with Thanksgiving. They are as entitled to their opinions as anyone -- and I am not saying that the history we were taught is valid, nor putting a stamp of approval on things done in the past that we would not do -- or at least not condone -- if then were now and we were those figures-made-myth from history.

Instead, I want to talk about thanks giving -- an attitude of thankfulness -- which we OUGHT to have every day of every year; lacking that, having it brought to our attention once a year is a good thing.

I was listening to the Maine Calling program on MPBN while driving home to work this week, and the subject of the discussion was thankfulness. Unfortunately we are having difficulty accessing some web sites from home these days, and MPBN is one of them, so I cannot get the names of the guests in the discussion, nor link to the podcast. I didn't get to hear the entire program either, but what I got from the bit I did hear was that cultivating an attitude of gratitude affects us in many positive ways. One might expect some bleed-over into other aspects of our personality, such as becoming more accepting or positive, which it does. But, the discussion asserted that even a couple of weeks of taking note of one's blessings with a thankful heart can begin to mitigate depression, as well as having a positive effect on our physical bodies, as well; the lowering of blood pressure and positive changes in the immune system were mentioned specifically. Unnamed clinical studies were sited for these assertions.

The moderator asked a question not commonly addressed (in my experience anyway) in discussions such as these: While it is easy and expected for those with Christian and other religious affiliations to give thanks, and indeed the American traditional Thanksgiving holiday tends to be viewed as a religious occasion with thanks being given to the Christian God, what of those who do not follow a religion? Is it possible to have an attitude of gratitude without giving thanks to a deity?

The panelists were unanimous in their positive response. One can, indeed, be thankful and even GIVE thanks without pointing it in a particular direction and the benefit will be the same.  The pointed out that some traditions offer thanks to the Elements, to the Directions and to the spirits of creatures, ancestors, objects.

As a pagan, and a witch, I often do this, as well as offering thanks to my Gods and Goddesses and to the Universe At Large. In fact, when my kids were young, I encouraged being thankful, at our Thanksgiving meal, with a ritual which came to be called "the Thankful Game." It's not a game in the
The "Thanksgiving Game" family tradition lives on at gatherings
of my children's' families.
sense of baseball or soccer, but that is what the kids called it. In a nod to the traditional historical tales of the pilgrims lean fare, and the lean times that our pioneer ancestors had to survive, I told the (possibly apocryphal) story of the pilgrims daily ration of 5 grains of corn . I encouraged each of the kids to name something for which they were thankful, and as each thanks was given, the child was given a piece of candy corn. I would write down each thanks as it was given, and after the first year, read the previous year's list at the end of the session.

So, candy corn at hand, I join with my family from afar with my list: I am thankful for:
my growing family: 5 wonderful daughters, and 5 equally wonderful sons-in-law and their collection of kids which comprises 15 grandchildren and one new great-grand baby
my partner of many years, K
our "4 acres and a tractor" and the food it allows us to produce
my health
a dry and reasonably warm home
my part time job in town and the ability to commute there without hassle
my part time jobs on the farm - Vision IPD (graphic design) and Dutch Hex Sign (blessings,  invocations and painted prayers for home and barn)
impending retirement from town job
good co-workers
the good folk far and wide who see, appreciate and buy my art
the experiences I have had though life that give me a leg up on "doing more with less"
the ability to appreciate the "simple things of life"
being able to live in Maine -- in the Northlands where I truly belong
a pantry full of home grown, home canned veggies
a freezer mostly full of home grown fowl, pork, eggs and more veggies
the ability to access the electronic web easily and without restrictions

Well, my stomach is growling, so I guess it's time to go partake of some of that wonderful home grown turkey, potatoes, veggies and local cranberries and to give thanks for it for the second time around! I guess I should add being thankful for left overs since they mean I don't have to cook after having to get up at 2 for my in town job. And, I will add that I am thankful for this being the last "black Friday" that I will ever have to deal with!

May your lives also be blessed, as you look around you and make note of your blessings. Every one of us has many they can count. Remember that where ever you are, whatever your situation, "it beats freezing and starving in the cold and dark!" Be well!

So be it.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Down Memory Lane

November always seems to be a month that lends itself to thinking back over the past, Piers Anthony's Xanth series to the contrary (If you are not a fan, sufficient to say Xanth is a very punny place and No Remember takes the place of the month of November in that land).

Usually it's Thanksgiving that brings on thoughts of the past. For me, the tradition of that holiday is not in a family gathering (for seldom, if ever, do I remember more than just my small nuclear family at the table) but in the making of the meal. It was a mom-and-me thing, while dad took his last turn around the golf course (in Michigan... often as the snow began to fall... and often still wearing his trademark Bermuda shorts one last time for the year.)  In some families the menfolk -- and these days often at least some of the women as well -- spend the day hunting, but that was our tradition. My folks always wanted to watch the parades on TV, but after the first year I don't recall that keeping my attention. I wanted to be in the kitchen, helping mix the stuffing, roll the pie crust, put together the pumpkin filling, chopping apples and celery for Waldorf salad and running the wooden tool around the conical sieve to squish the cranberry goodness from the skins for jelled cranberry sauce.

Today, still, I make the full meal. All the traditional sides made the traditional ways. I save bread heels for months to dry for the stuffing, peel and mash white potatoes to go with turkey gravy, cook an acorn type squash, put together Waldorf salad (thought this year, if the Gods be with us, there will be green salad fresh from the garden as well!) and home made pumpkin pie, with whipped and sweetened cream for those who want it (I omit this part if I am alone as I never liked the stuff). I usually omit the fresh rolls now (though baking bread often begins to happen again in November still) and shudder at the thought of green bean casserole. I wonder how that ever came to be tradition for so many folks? I also make whole berry cranberry sauce now... with local berries. I just found some today! And I think about my mom and me, steaming up the windows and talking about "how things were in the old days"... not the Pilgrims and Indians thing, but more generally what it must have been like to cook over a fire or in a hearth and what it was like when Mom was a girl and it was Granma Katie at the stove... things like that. Now I think back to the wonderful Thanksgiving meals cooked on the wood stoves and opening the house door to regulate the temperature of the kitchen!

Today, though, my mind has been on a different track. Thanksgivings -- though there have been plenty of them -- do not make me feel old. Today has. Listening to the radio as I ran my errands on a dull overcast day... listening to the recollections of the Kennedy era 50 years ago, on this the anniversary of his assignation... really makes me feel old. It's not just because it's been 50 years since the day the news was relayed over the PA system into the classroom where I sat... a 15 year old sophomore, just shy of three months into a new school in a new state. It's more because of the incredible contrast that the memories of that time... and that "me" bring into focus as they are juxtaposed against NOW and the already slightly depressed "me" running frustrating errands after a day of work, prepping against the beginning of "black Friday week" insanity on a dull November day.

I am thankful that, at times, the weather had the presence of mind to drop a few bits of snow. Seems to me that when it's cold (as it was today) and dreary, there might at least be some snow!  LOL 

But back to the memories... I remember Ike (and somewhere in my photo archives, I have a photo of him, passing in a motorcade in South Bend, Indiana... shot with my little Brownie camera from a perch atop my dad's shoulders. I remember the election season with Ike running against Stevenson and remember thinking Stevenson was a very smart man and probably should win the election.  And of course I remember Kennedy.  I was not even a teen yet, but he captured my attention. I was a space geek and loved his support of the space program. I remember Sputnik and the space race and Echo, our first satellite. And the tension of the Cuban missile crisis... And the way the fashion industry embraced Jackie and her neat shifts and pillbox hats... And the Vietnam war and the way -- not long after his death -- we thought that we could change the course of things with protest.

It was a time, it seems, when folks were more involved and maybe even that we cared more. Or maybe we were just young and had more energy then, who knows... My memories of those days are set against the bright blue sky (on less smoggy days) of Southern California. THAT November day was bright, then and there... not bleak and overcast and cold. Our attitudes were still bright and bold, though it seems in many ways that when those shots rang out the reverberations changed everything... some at once, some still lingering.

And so, my memories of those bright Camelot days poured out and rattled around the car in counterpoint to my workworn, tired and aching body on a dull, cold Maine November.

Tonight I shall pull my chair close to the heater, light a candle for Frigga and reach for the light of countless hearthfires in eras past and future. And I will lift my glass and hail AllMother and hail those who lead with pure intent. And I shall hail as well those who walk with honor and truth in their hearts and who stand against the darkness of hate and oppression where ever it may be found. So Be It!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Changes of Age, Changes of Attitude?

Sorry, Jimmy Buffett, but there are no changes in latitude involved here. I ain't leavin' Maine, and having been here over 5 years now I don't think the change in latitude from NC to the northlands can be either blamed or credited.

Not sure if it is exactly age, either, per se... I don't remember my mom, or grandmother or any other senior citizen that I have known talking about noticing a change like this. Whether they did not notice, did not consider it worth sharing, or what, I don't know either. I do know that my mom talked about it when she noticed that all of the medical personnel that she had to deal with personally looked like they had barely graduated from high school, but that was about all she ever shared about this whole aging process.

She never warned me about the hairs on my chinny-chin-chin (thought I did notice them on some older women and always wondered WHY they did not pull them out!). And she never warned me about how my attitude towards the changes in the world might change, nor that my ability to tolerate less-than-competent workers might pretty much disappear.

Do I attribute these changes to age, or to something else?

In any case, in keeping with my "Year of Transition" I am noting, and shall discuss them a bit and perhaps get some feedback. Have any of my younger readers, age mates or older friends noted anything similar or related? I'd love to know!

My childhood home, as it appears now, thanks to Google!
Background: I have never REALLY like change. I wasn't even thinking in these terms when, as a child, we went on vacation. This was a change... but in many ways it wasn't; every year we spent a couple of weeks in Iowa and Nebraska visiting and staying with my maternal grandparents, with a one night stay with my father's family who lived in the same town, and a few days to a week with a maternal aunt and her husband in Nebraska. In those days, towns changed more slowly and my family's homes changed slowly, if at all... so the places were, and felt familiar. What sticks in my mind most dramatically, though, was my feelings upon our return home. While we were visiting, I guess I was "in the moment" and totally there, because when I walked into our house there was a strange and instantaneous mental reset.... like "OH! yeah, HOME... and I realized I had totally 'forgotten' the place for the previous few weeks, as the thoughts and memories came flooding back.

As a young woman, I dealt with change and to some extent embraced it. While I would not consider myself an "early adopter" of technical changes, I was involved with computers early on -- doing a bit of programming in college, data entry (on to punch cards, then paper tape, then recording tape) in the work world. I wanted a microwave oven since my first encounter with one, at a home show with my folks when I was around 10, and eventually got one when the third of my daughters was born. I had a personal computer back in the day when the Amiga 500 was the latest and greatest for graphics,  after playing around with the Commodore and maybe another machine, owned by folks I knew.

Perhaps it is that the rate of change in increasing (exponentially?). Or maybe it has something to do with my conscious choice to plant one foot firmly in the Old Ways (in more ways than one) combined with the rate of change. Maybe my psyche doesn't like doing the splits?

I do not remember my mom complaining about change, though I do recall her not being really comfortable USING some of the new technology (like the microwave... when she watched the kids at that point, and I had left food to be reheated for their supper, I remember her putting the dish in the micro and taking it out, but having my eldest actually set and operate the machine... which was about the same level of complexity as an old fashioned automatic washer... turn the dial to set the time and push a button to make it go!).  I DO recall, as I planted that one foot increasingly firmly... heating and cooking with wood, growing our food, putting it by... of thinking of my mom as "Thoroughly Modern Dorothea" (think of the movie, Thoroughly Modern Millie, a musical set in the flapper era in which my mom came of age) by contrast.

So, all that being said, I really don't like the way the world is going! I know I am not alone in that, from comments and posts I read on the social media. But again, most of the folks I know and follow in that regard are also, more or less, "of a certain age." I wonder... (and again, please share this entry widely, as I would love to hear what folks think)... what do folks in their 20s, 30s, 40s think? Is there a demographic point when, as a culture, we begin to think that enough is enough?

And as I run my countdown year, it seems each month I eagerly look forward to changing the number on the wall, as it were. It's not just that I find myself needing more time on the farm (physical chores like building pens and housing take longer when one no longer has a young body to work with). It's not just that the hex orders just keep on coming (and thank the Gods for that!). And I hope it's not that the other folks in the workplace have suddenly taken a big dose of "stupid." But it seems each week, more things are wrong from the get-go, don't work properly, etc. And my tolerance for what seems to me to be unnecessary chaos is shrinking.

Part of what I do depends on the timely arrival of products and I know and expect shipping follies. That is something no one has control over. And, since the titles are not individually and specifically ordered by the store based on sales and inventory, one must expect a certain amount of disconnect between what we need and what we receive.

However, when we get literally dozens of an item of a type that we seldom, if ever, sell more one a single copy of.... When they call for things to be removed from the shelves, only to languish on the (limited) warehouse shelves for months... When folks who supply written materials that we are supposed to "copy and paste" from don't double, triple and quadruple check to make sure that the material is formatted in such as way as this process works, and it instead fails -- in the same way -- week after week.... well, my patience is all but gone.

So, dear readers, what say you? Is it just me, is it an age thing, or are there other explanations I have not considered?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Winter Finding - a Busy Tide

There are times and there and tides and as they say, time and tide waits for no one. But times are short busts of not waiting and tides are longer ones... and when one gets caught or wrapped up in either, then that is just what is happening and one waits to write about it until it passes.

Winter Finding -- the tide that happens about now.. around secular Halloween, or All Hallows, or Samhain (if you are a Pagan) and flows into the first part of November -- is finally releasing its grip on me here in Maine. No, the first snow -- which falls and often scares folks into wrapping their homes' underpinnings with plastic and insulation, into raking the leaves that have fallen even if there are still lots on the trees, into picking up the bits and pieces of life and chores that get strewn about the farm and homestead over a summer of workings -- the coiled up hoses, empty pots and such -- that first snow was threatened by the weather guessers but failed to materialize. Never the less, Winter Finding is loosening its grip and I have a moment to write.

Tractor Guy breaking ground to move the garden north.
We, or more exactly I should say Tractor Guy has been busy starting to put the garden to bed and working on moving/enlarging it for next year. I want to be able to keep the electric deer fence up and still have the room for him to work with the tractor. This means that, to keep from making the usable space smaller, we need to open more ground to the north of the existing garden. On the south, you see, the road is on higher ground than the garden level and I need to keep the deer fence back away from the road bank so that the deer cannot just leap from the road and clear both rows of fencing. On the north side, the fence can run across what is just a grassy field.

The lettuce is still standing in the covered row, seen behind the tractor in the picture, and there are kale, Brussels sprouts and bit of cutting celery still standing also. But the remainder of the garden is put to bed, at least minimally. I hope that the west garden, the parts that await more berries and perennials, can be cultivated before the ground freezes, but at present the tractor is parked on account of a broken leveling arm for the implements. We will go visit a welder today, as we have not been able to find a replacement (a) locally or (b) for what we consider a reasonable price. Wish us luck!

The "zero air move" as applied to
leaves in a Subaru.
Garlic bed, under mulch, awaits winter.
Having "the only land in Maine with no trees" I have been looking for a source of leaves for mulch protection on some of the perennials and the garlic and lucked into a car load recently. Oh, yeah, a CAR load... my pickup, Artie, is also on the "sick, lame and lazy list" at the mechanic for what I hope is NOT major engine issues. So I am hauling everything with Boo, the Subaru. Anyway, this was the first of two loads of leaves I scored in town. This one got stored in the garage, for later, as rain was in the forecast and time did not allow me to place them. However, the second batch, hauled a few days later, is currently mulching the garlic, held in place against our almost constant winds, by the same row cover I used on the lettuce.

Peek-a-boo! Fresh lettuce!
Lettuce under cover. Wire hoops hold
row cover up, plastic bags of soil
hold it in place against the wind.
And speaking of lettuce, when I go pick this week for the buyers club, I will bring a section of currently covered lettuce from each end of the row, out from UNDER cover, to have a better idea of how much protection the cover gives me... how much longer it extends the harvest. There are different varieties of lettuce at each end of the row: the south end is a summertime mix, the north end is a winter mix, and thus far they are both standing quite well.

In the world of hex, I have been busy continuing to paint and ship signs. I am currently working on a custom Yearly Blessing sign centered upon a cute little doxie. How I got to be the painter of dogs, I am not sure. Others that have been shipped recently include:
Heart Chakra, 12" outdoor sign

Abundance and Prosperity 48" outdoor sign

Inspiration, 14" indoor sign
seen in the rising sun

14" Double Creator's Star
indoor sign seen in rising sun

So, life continues to be busy here even though the season is turning. I look forward to being able to spend time at my spinning wheel as soon as the remainder of the garden is put to bed, the perennials mulched and the snow falls.