Thursday, November 24, 2016

Opting out of the Insanity

If you have followed me here on this blog, or on other media, you probably have seen and read variations of the theme of the illustration to the left before. It's from Adbusters and is one of their "campaigns to reclaim our mental and physical environments." Along with other radical notions, it began in 1992 as the brainchild of a Vancouver artist, was picked up by Adbusters and has been rolling along ever since. I have never been a big consumer and for many years have promoted my personal belief that if you must buy "stuff," used is better. Buy Nothing Day has never been much of a challenge for me. Because of my distaste for the culture of consumption, I have for many years followed the custom of avoiding all unnecessary shopping from Thanksgiving until a week or so after the turn of the calendar. I go to the grocer, if necessary (avoiding the Walmart, and Sams except to pick up prescriptions that can only be had in a 30 day supply) and will buy feed and fuel, but that's about it. While it might make others crazy, there have seldom been reasons in my life to go against this intention. Things the we might could use for the farm or house get put on a list and looked at again in January.

This year I learned about a new campaign #OptOutside, sponsored by REI, the outdoor equipment company that I have used for supplies in the past. So this year, in addition to not shopping the day after Thanksgiving, I was planning to take myself and my walking sticks to one of my favorite wild-ish places, the Central Penjajawoc Preserve off Essex Street in Bangor.  Aislinn Sarnacki wrote about this trail in August in her blog for the Bangor Daily News, Act Out with Aislinn on August 20, 2013. The trail is not open to dogs or bikes, but in the winter, those who ski or snowshoe are welcome.

I was planning an early afternoon amble around the trails (this time wearing proper footgear and with with Nordic Walking Poles). The first time I visited the trail, which wanders through wetlands, it was a spur of the moment thing and I did not have even one of my walking sticks...which would have make the trek much more enjoyable. I was, unfortunately, wearing "town shoes" (which had not been recently waterproofed) and we had been gifted with a recent rain. The trail, while not challenging per se, took on a bit more difficulty as I hopped from rock to tree root, from root to root and worked my way along side the more well-trod trail in a few locations, as I did my best to keep my feet dry.
LARGE tote, lots
-- but not all--
the carrot harvest
However, as often happens, life intervened. Thanksgiving is, for us at least, a harvest festival and (to paraphrase the words of one of my favorite hymns) "all is not safely gathered in (yet) 'ere the winter storms begin." There are still beets and carrots in the garden, despite my best effort yesterday to complete the harvest. Wasn't my fault... when the cart is full, the cart is FULL and I used the large garden cart, too!

Also my turkeys did not put on as much weight as I had expected/hoped, so that of the two processed for Thanksgiving (one for my neighbor/friend/mechanic, one for us) I oped to give away both of the smaller birds and harvest the third for our meal. Fowl is best aged a day or so, and that meant that regardless of anything else, our turkey day would be Friday. Adding in needing to do the balance of harvest... as they say about the best laid plans of humans and rodents...

So, as much as I do love walking in solitude and listening to the natural world around me (with faint traffic sounds in the distance), and even though I expect it to be a nice day and a good "airing" would blow out my cobwebby brain and allow me to return to my painting bench and the hex signs on order from with renewed inspiration, I will have to participate in #OptOutside in a more local, wander to the proto-forest way while my bird cooks for our Thanksgiving celebration, one day late.

I will still encourage those of you who are observing "our crazy American holiday" on the assigned day, to consider this a year to put energy into connecting with people, with doing (rather than buying) and in general join me to #OptOutOfTheInsanity.

Monday, November 21, 2016

There will be no "adulting" today.

It's been a LONG long time since I have been in this place, this beat, lacking so much energy to cope. I know I did it to myself and I do not regret a single thing along the way that got me here. And, though it's been a long time, it is not an unfamiliar place. A career that includes deadlines and working with other people and large projects tends to promote big "ups" and "downs" of similar size. In the beginning -- back when I was closer to being able to channel unlimited energy for indefinite periods of time, the "downs" terrified me. With no idea when the next project would show up on my doorstep, my first reaction was that there would not be another one. But after a few rounds of the overwork/terror cycle, it became obvious that there WAS another waiting in the wings, often just out of sight until I was sufficiently recharged to see it. And from that observation I was able to learn to fall into the "down time recharge" with a similar eagerness as that which which I approached the next "big thing." And when I did that, the cycles tightened up a bit, which was not a bad thing; as the recharge became more conscious and efficient the projects were also completed with shorter timelines.

Even though I am no longer in the workforce, the cycle continues. With age, though, appears to come less resilience. Last week brought the final push to completion of a big project, a bit of energy put into shoveling out the house from the neglect that comes with hyper-focus on another area and then two days of away missions for events. I held it together last night for a visit with family, driving my people-packed little truck through the dark and inclement weather to Bangor for a celebratory meal and back. I made a stab at a spinning lesson and another stab at chatting and in the end fell into a deep sleep.

Today I feel like I could sleep the day away. I did give the forenoon to somnolence and now, more or less awake, I am less conscious than more so. Glad that nothing important requires my attention; there are no bills that must be paid, K did chores, and though there are always house chores to be done (fridge needs a
good cleaning) there will be no real efforts to accomplish anything today on my part. I don't plan to go back to bed; I was just getting my schedule sorted out after the long nights on the book project. But I am honestly not "in here" enough to do anything that requires effort or much thought.

As one of my online friends says "I cannot adult today." That just about fits what I am feeling. I will try again tomorrow.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thoughts ARE Things; Words Reinforce Them

We've likely all done it. In a social setting, someone breaks the ice, asking "...and what do you do?" Whether we are the querent or the respondent, the commonly understood subtext is "what is your job, how do you make your living, or some variant there of, and it is to that question we most commonly respond.

"I am..." is a powerful statement that, in my opinion, is uttered far too often and even more often, though that would seem impossible, without thought.

There are many levels of "I am." Alone, as I have just written it, it can be a powerful affirmation of my existence in this time and place. I can add "a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother" or "a daughter, a granddaughter, a great-granddaughter" and align myself with my ancestors and progeny, statements and placings that can bring great power as well. But far more often, it seems, we dillute the power of "I am" by applying it to temporary or less desirable situations and in so doing, empower them.

Recently I have listened to friends talking about their current work situations. Like many of us, they are not currently making their living doing what they had hoped or planned; some feel stuck in their position for a myriad of reasons. None of these folks would claim that their current job reflected or aligned well with their entire being. Yet all of them, even while searching for other options, continue to empower their current status with the "I am..." message. 

If you happen to have a job, or work in a field that does not reflect your being, why oh why do you continue to put yourself there with this most powerful I-message?  Even if you need to call up your work experience to bolster an assertion or opinion, "I work in (this field)" or if you feel you need extra oomph "I have worked as a (job title) for X years" will convey your message without defining you by your work. Perhaps I am splitting semantic hairs here, but it seems to me that, especially if you want to move to a different field, mentally pegging yourself in the current pasture will not help.

Along the same vein, in the aftermath of the recent election, I keep seeing and hearing the "I am" message communicating fear. Now, I am not negating what folks are feeling. But I want to consider splitting those same semantic hairs again to point out the subtle, though fundamental difference between "I am scared" and "I feel scared."  I can understand "I am scared" as an instantaneous reaction to a situation, the fight or flight response is triggered and one responds. However, it seems to me that if/when the situation is past that initial instant, and the feeling persists, moving it from the core "I am" to the feeling realm will allow us to respond to the scary situation with well though out and appropriate action instead of instinctual, or "knee-jerk" reaction.

Those of us working in magical traditions have been taught the power of Intent and therefore even if only by extension, the power of Thought. Words are thought shared on the way to being made manifest by becoming Action. May we always walk in consciousness and speak out thoughts with well thought out intent.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Lesson from the Broccoli

Late in the season, broccoli wants to
go to seed.
If you have ever grown broccoli, you have likely seen its habit, once you have harvested the main head, of sending up small shoots from axillary buds (if you are not a botanist, that would be just above where the leaves attach to the stems). Those small shoots, sometimes sold under the trademarked name of "broccolini" are just as good to eat and the main head and I have many bags of them in the freezer this year. it was a great year for broccoli. 

As the plant continues to mature, the longer it grows, it appears to use up energy. After all, the more leaves there are, the more node there are and the more shoots! Picking them can become a long exercise for diminishing returns, so we let them go. At first it was due to overwork. "They can be cultivated back into the soil later," I though. Then I discovered the neighborhood bees busily working the abundant yellow blossoms. You do know that each of those tiny buds in your broccoli head would, if left alone, become a flower, I hope! So benign neglect turned into a benevolent act: feeding the bees.

Then the autumn turned colder, the ground often sported a cover of frost in the early morning and, it seemed, the bees had gone home for the winter and the plant growth stopped. I had dug all the potatoes earlier and was working on the carrots and beets when I got pulled indoors by a long-standing yearly design project. When I retired from the graphic design community, I bade a fond (or sometimes not so fond) farewell to my group of clients, except for one. One of my best friends is the director of the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center on Harkers Island, NC and while I was living in North Carolina, I enjoyed working with my friend and the museum in a variety of capacities. After I moved to Maine, my involvement had to be limited to telecommuting projects and eventually settled into the design and layout of the museum's annual yearbook. This 64 page (or longer) book tells the story, in words and pictures, of what the folks "at the end of the road" have been up to for the past year and gives an insight into future plans. It is a big project, and we burn the electrons into the wee hours, usually in an intense 2 week marathon of collaboration. It's a crazy time, with two flat-out intense women sending files back and forth and pushing the deadline to the bitter end. So, yeah, the garden was taking a decided back seat.

The other tasks of running a museum must still go on in North Carolina, though, and my getting to the real world outside my window and getting my hands dirty is what keeps me sane, so when I could take breaks from pixel-pushing, and it was daylight, I got out to do a bit of mowing, mulching, and such like.
young broccoli heads; the shoots
were not this big, but still
worth picking!
Yesterday my little garden project was to collect tomato cages and stakes and to attempt to dig a couple of parsley plants to bring indoors. While walking to the parsley, I went by the thoroughly bolted and flowering broccoli and was surprised to look down and see, down low on the plant, almost hidden by the branches full of flowers, both spent and still freshly blooming, a decent size little shoot! And another one, and another... and one on the next plant too!

I started walking the row, looking carefully, hoping to find amongst the many smaller shoots that were already starting to bloom, enough for a side dish with supper. I didn't have a picking basket (who would have expected to be picking -- unless you were digging roots or havesting kale or collards -- nearly at the middle of November! I figured making an pouch from my sweatshirt would suffice, though it almost didn't, there were THAT many! I harvested a good meal and some to freeze, and while I was picking, I heard and then saw, once again, some of those busy bees!

It occurred to me that there was a lesson here, from the "little broccoli that could": even when those around you give up on you, you do not have to give up on yourself.

As I realized this, I thought "Ain't nature amazing?" Mother Nature (or maybe her broccoli and bees) did tell me to remind you that YOU are a part of nature too, and you, too, are amazing when you let it happen.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Vǫlva on the Farm

The sun is rising brightly in the East this morning, and though I forgot to drain the hose that I use to water the critters, I know it will thaw shortly. A metaphor for life today? Perhaps.

I do know that is it uncharacteristically quiet out there in the barnyard today. Hoping it is, as well, where you are. I know, though, that once the critters hear me moving about, removing waste food from its packaging, scooping up grain, and especially
 once I open the door to pour kibble into the LGD (livestock guardian dog) bowl, the cacophony will begin! I'll be met by ducks, wadding back and forth, sometimes (accidentally?) becoming self-aligning, quacking impatiently and the turkeys will call and run about like mad fools this way and that. I have no idea why, but they do this several times a day. And the goats...
oh man! The goats, Nubians, yell more loudly that an tantrum-throwing-toddler as they run to the gate, expecting to be put on their tether and walked out to eat in the field. This won't be a patch on what I will hear, though, once winter sets in. They REALLY don't like change in their routine and also REALLY don't like precipitation! A snowflake -- I am convinced it was a single one by the rate with when I saw them falling when I went to investigate-- must have landed on ONE of their backs a few days ago and you would have thought they were hollering about Armageddon!

Funny how I can tolerate this behavior better in the "dumb animals" than in my fellow humans.

As the human in all this chaos, though, I proceed through my morning chores in a calm and routine manner, typically. Unless something is actually amiss to the extent that someone is in danger, the goats get secured to the "goat rope" and walked to fresh grazing. They do know the routine, and when they are in position, they fall to eating and allow me to let go of their tether and haul the pallet that we use as a goat anchor into position to secure them. Then back to the house for the waste food and grain for the fowl. First turkeys, then chicken and lastly ducks get their share. This time of year I may have to break the ice in their water tubs and today I will be carrying a clean tub out to swap for a dirty one, this weeks extra critter project.

I still have beets and carrots in the ground, too... more than we will use through the winter, so while I am feeding the critters, I'll be thinking about those I know who could use, and would like, a share. I used to do farmers markets, trying to offset seed costs and the gas to get to market, by "sharing my extra" for a bit of cash. That really didn't work so well. Folks who attend farmers markets, it seems, are not really in touch with the world in which I live (I call it "the real world" but who knows what they would see!) where vegetables vary in size and, though not all in the row are beautiful, they all DO taste good and pack a load of nutrients. They don't understand "real" growing seasons, either. "Well, Hannaford's have it!" does not a seasonal veggie make it.
I got tired of eating ONLY the ungly and misshapen food, so now I share it -- free -- to folks I know who can and will use vegetables as they come from the ground. "Straight run" I call them. Not sure who will get my next shares this time, though.

I do know that, with winter knocking at the door (remember, I said the hose would need to thaw to water the critters) that there is stuff to do, yet, besides digging the last roots before the ground freezes solid. And a bit of this "doings" will be my "work with Intent" ritual for the day. Yesterday I cut down the grasses and weeds that had grown up around some lavender plants, and as I mulch around them -- and the ornamental American bittersweet that I planted this year -- I will be actively strengthening some spiritual threads.

The spiritual symbolism of lavender resides in the realms of healing, easing of tension, higher consciousness and the release of energy blockages. As for the bittersweet, I hope this is a "bittersweet" moment in our history, when those who care about the earth and the creatures who live upon her are brought together in strength and power by the current turn of political events.  

By mulching these plants, giving them protection against the northern winter, I am helping them to be able to emerge earlier in the spring and with more vigor. May the threads they represent on this plane be so helped as well. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Moving Forward

It is my old fashioned opinion that if you don't vote, you had best keep your opinions to yourself as to the results. However, as I posted on Facebook earlier today:
I have not engaged in political posts through this election. I will not engage in trash talk about our president-elect. I will, however, likely disagree with much of his (apparently intended) agenda and continue working FOR the earth, and all of the beings upon it.
 Some years back, not terribly long after I stepped onto the current branch of my path and began walking with Frigga and her Handmaidens, I had achance conversation with a Christian acquaintance, who was of Norse decent and somewhat familiar with the old traditions of his ethnic heritage. He asked me, quite seriously, if I was a Völva.  As I answered him, with surprise, in the negative I heard a very strong voice in my mind telling me that I was, indeed, to become a wise woman/seer in this tradition and that I would serve, mostly, those not of "my community or tribe."

At that point I was not at all sure what They were talking about, but having had several experience through my life with what I call the "cosmic 2x4" (what happens when a deity wants your attention and doesn't have it) I certainly didn't want to deliberately invoke a "Viking" one! So I sighed and remained open to what I would be taught.

Some time later, I began receiving bits of wisdom and thoughts from Frigga's household; I was told to write these "words of wisom" down and share them with the world. Believe me, I wanted to duck and run, but instead I began sharing them, daily, on this blog, starting Aug 29, 2007. The run lasted for a couple of years (I'm really not good about this time thing) and then, They were done. I had subscribers to whom I emailed the thoughts and others followed the blog. Looking back, reading them through the distance, I guess the practice was part of my training.

I am sharing this, now, because I am feeling the mantle of the Völva close at hand and sense that, in what appears to be a time of upheaval and growing awareness of the level of injustice, hatred and unrest around us, I am being called to share my visions of what we might do to be the instruments of the change we wish to manifest.

Today I share this thought from The Powers That Be: When you feel hopeless, blocked, scared GO OUTSIDE TO NATURE and DO SOMETHING. Do something to get your hands dirty. Do something that changes something; something ever so small will do, but preferably make a change that you can see the next time you go out. It may not last long; that weed you pull may grow
back, the bottle you pick up and recycled may be replaced by other cast-offs, but you have made a change. If you have no place to dig, then run! Feel the wind in your hair, change your body, greet a passer-by and laugh at a squirrel. If you cannot run, walk and if you cannot walk -- even if you need someone to help you do it -- get OUTDOORS. Listen to the sounds, feel the air moving, the warming or cooling of your place on the planet, put your hands on a tree and tell it thank you for making oxygen. The important things are to Move, Do and Do It Outside. Change will follow.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

I don't know how my mother did it!

The veil is thin this time of year and whether Pagan/Heathen or not, it seems like the ancestors are often on our minds... brought into focus by holiday celebrations and traditions (both good and bad). And today, my mother is on my mind. She and her mother have both been on my mind a lot lately, to be honest, but Mom popped to the top of the brain pile again today and brought with her a line of thinking that my mind had followed some time back.

This whole post, actually, can be attributed to a friend, Debbie, from Michigan, who commented today on one of my Facebook entries "Always busy!" And yes, I am. Some days I am on the go from place to place in town, though I am trying to pare that down to sync with my every-6-days trips to pick up a share of waste food for my fowl. Those days do get very packed with stops and errands: some groceries and
sundries, fuel for house and truck, supplies for home and farm projects and for the hex sign orders [and from the land of shameless self promotion: please visit SOON to order for holiday gifts! I can only paint so fast,you know!], not to mention critter food for the many indoor and outdoor beasts and birds.  Most days, like today, I am here on the farm. Usually I put in some time with outdoor projects in addition to feeding chores. These days it's "put the gardens and orchards to bed for the winter" time and, had it not rained today, the task for the day would have been securing row cover material over the cranberry bed to protect the plants from drying winds. Maybe tomorrow... 

Even on days when I have worked the old body way too hard on previous days, there are many things on the list. Dishes need washing (and since household stuff has never been my first priority, usually it's more than just a meal's worth) and hex signs need painting. In addition, I spin, weave, knit, crochet, sew... you get the idea. And yes, sometimes I do just sit and think

And it was at one of those times, on a day when the body was more achey than I would have liked. I had tended critters, worked some in the garden, brought some of the harvest in to put by, and had cut disks for the next order of signs. We had eaten lunch, and I was contemplating the afternoon's projects, when my mom came to mind. 

I remember her through my childhood and young adult eyes. She, unlike her wild daughter, was in my mind always a housewife. Yes, she had a career as an RN, both before my birth and during my teen years, but what I remember was her cooking and cleaning and sewing. Sometimes she "puttered in" the flower beds, but most of the yard work was my dad's department. They did not garden. Dad did not hunt and we fished very occasionally. 

After my dad died (1978, at the age of 67) my mom moved to a senior citizens high rise apartment building in Appleton, WI to be closer to where her only granddaughter were. She was the same age as my dad; both of them would have turned 68 that year, had my dad made it to Memorial Day. 

I am currently 68. I know I am not my mom, but honestly I cannot imagine what she did with her time during those years! She died in 1988 at the age of 78. By that time we had moved to Washington state, where she visited us once, shortly after my youngest daughter was born in 1985. She was not terribly well at that time and spent most of her visit in the hospital and after she went back home, it seemed that she was in and out of hospital and rehab/skilled nursing much of the time. 

I wonder all sorts of things... What did she DO to keep herself occupied? I know she did not participate in things at the apartment building and avoided her neighbors (after all, she
St. Luke's Hospital, Chicago, IL circa 1915
where mom studied nursing in the 1920s
explained, they were all old folks and only wanted to talk about their ailments -- maybe because she had told them she had been a nurse?) I know she always did like watching TV more than I did and she had "her shows" which included some of the soaps that I know her mother had also watched when Grandma Katie visited us. She also watched a morning "news" show (I believe it was Good Morning America), and the evening news as well as various comedies and dramas in the evening. So maybe I have answered my question, as I put in down in electrons that way! I don't ever remember her doing much more than making breakfast while "watching" (that might have been coffee and toast or commercial cereal). She certainly did not watch and knit, like many do in the evening. She did make dresses for the oldest granddaughters from time to time, but I think that by 1981, when she was 71 and daughter #3 came along, she had stopped sewing.

I wonder if her sedentary lifestyle that got more so towards the end of her life helped or hurt her health. 

But mostly I wonder how one is able to live like that... shut up in a box in a box up in the air with no dirt to dig in and no critters to watch, love, tend, laugh at. I wonder how one can sit and not do something as long as you have hands and arms that can move, even a bit... even if it hurts sometimes. I wonder if she was happy. I hope she was content, at least. And I hope I never get there, because I won't be.