Yes, I’m giggling. Really!

Waaaaaaay back earlier this year, the heavens decided that my little part of the fetid taint of Hell needed to exit the current drought and all of Nature conspired to Make. It. So. This, I took as a not-so-direct way of the Universe allowing me to view and review some of my more glaring defects of character by trapping me within the confines of Cat’s Paw Acres and the Alumi-Turd 2000.

merit badge sekrit squirrel

Enter the saving grace of a fellow author and friend Cherie Noel and the Super Sekrit Squirrel Project. (Named because once I get cabin fever, it is not that far of a stretch for my psyche to become nuttier than squirrel shit.) Since those early days, my beloved co-author has placed the onus of the Super Sekrit Oath of Shut-Upped-Ness upon me and our joint foray into published proof of mental instability lest I invoke Her Wrath Almighty. (What the Hell do I know? This woman lives in upstate New York, and I figure that the only thing crazier than someone who lives in Central Texas and COPS to it, is someone who can claim French speaking Canadian Yeti’s as relatives!)

Thus, the fervor of Hint Dropping. Which, I have on good authority, is “supposed to make waves stronger than a large turd from a tall cow.” Again, I will claim willful ignorance. It’s safer.

There are those of you who KNOW that I have the reputation to drop metaphors so colorful they could show up a Pride Parade. Likewise with the creative adjectives of cussing. But, this Oath of Shut-Upped-Ness?

Shit Fire and Save The Matches. This is harder than keeping your virginity at the Senior Prom and every available candidate to do the dirty with is not only available, but has been the subject of ‘those’ dreams for weeks.

Almost makes me glad I’m not Catholic. (Seriously, my imagination and the resulting confessions would have driven some priests into taking a vow of silence in a desolate monastery far, far away!)

Ok, dammit all to Hell and back. I’ll just look at the little sticky note that reads “Keep Thy Mouth Shut” but that little squirrel bastard? Oh he’s gonna die a bloody, certain death very, very soon.

As in, “he’s gonna be Celtic Dragon Mama Poop” verra, verra soon. Or I MIGHT recycle his little nut sack as a bladder for the World’s Smallest Bagpipe…

Ah, the joys of planning his demise. In the meantime, let me just say that the Hint Dropping shall commence like mulberry fueled bird shit – It Shall Leave Stains Upon Thine Memory. <Insert evil laugh here.>

Trapped

Adrian 2

When you are trapped in a mind

That is crippled with broken wings

The winds that bring the day to you are cruel and unkind.

When your spirit is mocked and shamed

For not playing along, though the game

Is for those who cheat and lie.

It is then that I long for the breath

Of a dragon, the claws of the lion

The scream of a hunting hawk.

I did not ask to stumble and fall

I did not expect the march to be broken

By the Sword of Unspoken Fate.

Enchanted by the illusions of immortality

I failed to understand that mortal bodies

Have mortal limits, despite the Eternity

Of the inner self.

When next you see the ashes

Of a fire, remember well one day

You too will be like those remnants

Of what was once bright and welcoming.

You will be no more than the fragile flakes

Of someone else’s memory.

Rhae Camdyn

Mar. 28th, 2015

 

A Letter to My 18 Year Old Self

YouTube sent out an e-mail today where in honor of International Women’s Day, they asked women to make a video letter to their younger self.  Well, I’m still on the upward climb of learning video technology, but I knew I could write that letter. Without further ado, here is the “Letter to my 18 year old self.”

**************************************************************************************************************************************************************chicago peace rose

 

Dear Me;

 

I’m writing you nearly two years after a life-altering event and near-death episode. Since it’s been 39 years since I made a monumental decision to join the military instead of attempting to find a way to go to college, I’m writing this so that hopefully, one day, time travel of at least video correspondence is a reality. In November of 1975, I raised my right hand, and had Mom sign an age waiver so I could gain entry into the Texas National Guard. I was so idealistic, so naïve, so sure I was doing the right thing.

Yes, going into the military was a good thing; but I seriously needed someone to tell me about homesickness and familial dysfunction and alcoholism and rape. I seriously needed someone to tell me that my spirit was a beautiful, sacred thing and all those empathic impulses I’d been denying were REAL. I needed someone to help me find the beautiful Goddess in Training that I was, to find the self-confidence that the writing voice within should never have been denied over the need to simply survive. I needed the strong guidance that helped me discover I could do this on my own, that I never needed a man to make me complete. I needed someone to teach me by example that a life companion complemented who you are, not changed you to fit their reality. Further, no one had the right to raise a hand to you in rage; no one had the right to define your spirituality, confine you to their definition of Deity.

There was so much of the masterpiece of my being that was so incomplete at 18 that it should have been considered a felony for me to have been sent out into the world of the late 70’s without at least a Master Class in Reality. You are more than pumps, sandals, boots, or bare feet. You are more than jeans, cut-offs and bikini bottoms. You are more than a bra, a halter top or a t-shirt. You are more than the outside accoutrements of clothing, or style. Your spirit is as free as Jonathan Livingston Seagull, never let anyone tell you or try to convince you otherwise. In fact, do yourself a favor – don’t allow anyone who attempts to corral who you are with conventionality to stay in your life.

Education is a passport to freedom, little one. No one can steal the treasures of knowledge you hold between your ears. There is nothing shameful about being intelligent, there is only the shame later that you were never able to develop the bright promise you held. I said it before and I’ll say it again and again – if the guy you want doesn’t comprehend what you love, let him go. Someone will show up that shares your love of the stars, and the planets, and Star Trek and all things geeky. Someone will show up that is as much a hopeless romantic as you are, and if you are willing to let that special someone, they will sweep you off your feet and worship you every day of your lives together.

Don’t allow the bigotry of those around you blind you to the beauty of everyone you meet. Commit the words of Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata to heart and find a way to live/express/develop the intent of that writ every moment that you draw breath. Find a way to play every day, coloring books are not the territory of the very young, neither are finger paints or Play-Doh, or Legos, or Lincoln Logs or even rag dolls and dollhouses. Remember the fun you had in the kitchen with your grandmother, and your nannies, and learn that food is as much a palette as are words and crayons.

Last, learn to grieve as deeply as you loved. Never allow someone to tell you to “get over it.” While the great sages and wise women through the ages affirm that we are never truly separated from those we love, there are those who will share time with you as you dance on this planet that will only share the journey but briefly. They will be the beacons of Light along parts the dimly lit passages as no life is lived in sunlight alone. Never forget to appreciate the Light in your life; taking people for granted should be considered a mortal sin.

When you have children, stick to your guns and your gut. Your intuition as a mother is a far better diagnostic tool than the most schooled pediatrician, the most well-intentioned educator. You KNOW your children. Never deny yourself a moment spent with the extra cuddle, the additional kiss on the forehead, the caress of a silky head. Spending time cuddled together on the ‘mommy/daddy’ bed builds a bond that no one can ever break, and gives them memories of security and love to hold in their hearts forever. Remember that old pots and pans, worn out aprons and wooden spoons are far better toys than those that others spend a fortune on. Teaching them how to build fairy houses out of leaves and sticks encourages imagination, and planting a garden together grounds them to life itself.

Creating things of use and beauty with knitting needle, sewing needle or crochet hook, hands a legacy to all children. There’s nothing wrong with teaching the playmates of your kids how to do it either. Oh yes, one more thing, and it’s the most important. Kids are like that garden you’ll grow together. They need the sunshine, the dirt and the water. Letting them dance naked in the rain allows their spirit that freedom of expression in a memory that will get them through the tough times they will undoubtedly face.

You are an incredible person. You will meet other incredible persons and you will meet people of both great good and horrific evil. When you meet people of evil, walk away. Quickly. Do not attempt to find the good in anyone that greets you with all the ugliness that they are. Accept them as ugly and walk away. The greatest truth is the saddest lesson you will have to learn, and it is this: Good people attract bad people like ants to a picnic. Ants have the right to be ants, but you do not have to sit there and let them hurt you. They have their place in the scheme of things, and it is up to you if you choose to share your life with anyone who willfully hurts you. Make a different choice.

Life is incredibly short. Dance. Eat with joy. Love with abandon. Appreciate the special people in your life, and allow to pass those who would cause you or yours harm. Grow a garden, love a pet, plant a tree. When it is time to go, you want to look back and laugh with love.

Hug yourself for me – and let go of any regrets – you can always start over, on any given day.

Love,

Me.

Gut-Level Real

Valentine heart ...wtf_thumb[1]

Hello, my name is Rhae C. and I’m an addict/alcoholic. Bet those of you who read this didn’t know this or maybe vaguely remember something I’d mentioned about it. Well, by the Grace of the Gods and Goddesses of my Ancestors, I’ve been clean and sober since May 23rd, 1988. Sanity is always questionable because not only did I get married to my fifth husband in sobriety, but I gave him children, too. I’ve admitted to being a hopeless romantic; seeing that I’ve done this marriage business 5 times should be proof that sobriety has its’ own rewards. The difference being this one ‘stuck’ for 22 years and we’re still trying to see if it’ll work out.

The short story of how I ended up in an AA meeting room with a bunch of folks just like me is pretty standard. Alcoholics on both sides of the good ol’ oaken cask of a family tree. After all, it is Texas and I was a fifth generation by-product of migratory Cajuns, Scots-Irish, Germans and a couple of wandering Native Americans thrown in because females were few and far between once you got west of the Mississippi before 1830. Add in a family history, again on both sides, of raising Hell because neither TV nor football had been invented yet and you get a tribe of instigators that put the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional. Then, at the ripe of age of 30 I found myself a single mother cross addicted to barbiturates and alcohol after a car wreck smashed my face and my upper jaw. That wasn’t enough to kick my ass into the Abyss; my best friend dies less than 90 days after a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. In truth, I should have died when I decided to swallow 2400mg. of a barbiturate compound and take a 6-pack chaser. Instead, I found myself reading The Big Book while kneeling next to the toilet waiting for the next round of nausea to empty the small intestine; the stomach had been cleared in the first 3 hours. Being unsuccessful in committing chemical suicide, I decided that I needed to ‘get right with God’ before I left my child in a park for CPS to pick up and adopt out while I found an 18-wheeler to jump out in front of. I met a Druid elder on the back patio of a non-denominational church who drug me into my first AA meeting. The rest, as they say, is history.

Lately, it has been an uphill struggle to maintain emotional balance; the college-aged kid is sick, the baby girl is getting married, and the eldest child has been inviting the Gods of Chaos to find her automobile for demolition derby practice. Did I mention that my hubby was interviewing for a management position, and that the disability insurance company managing my LTD payments has a stick up their keisters for more medical information? (Look, dimwits….the brain broke. It ain’t gonna miraculously fix itself any further than its’ been pushed to do. On a good day, I can remember the process to fix oatmeal without counting on my fingers and looking at notes.)

My therapist has been after me to find an AA meeting but bless her precious heart, she knows not what she asks. When my last beloved sponsor died with 24 years of sobriety, a part of my heart died with her. She knew that I could never do the Abrahamic religion ‘thing’ – Hell, SHE was the one who pointed out that I’d never stay sober unless I could admit that my personal integrity wasn’t attenuated to Judeo-Christian. I kept trying to go to meetings and earnestly find another sponsor, but nope; it wasn’t going to happen. Somewhere along the metamorphosis of The Program, the hardcore kick-butt sober folks disappeared. I was and remain eternally grateful to a sponsor that was a black-belt in reality based sobriety; she gave me the tools to keep on looking. What I was never prepared for was the repeated rejection of AA members who couldn’t accept a sober Druid.

While I miss the coffee and the companionship of the fellowship of Bill W. friends, I don’t miss the hostility when I step out of a meeting before The Lord’s Prayer is said at the end of each meeting. Not my faith, not my prayer. If I’m not welcome to step out, then why should I step in? I don’t want that kind of sobriety. I learned early on that staying sober is an all or nothing kind of deal. I prefer to maintain a personal integrity with my own spirituality than to compromise because someone else is uncomfortable with my personal choice in a relationship with a Higher Power.

So, it is a bit of a conundrum that I face. I wish to abide by the wishes of my counselor and therapist, but I have yet to find a place to ‘hang my hat for an hour or so’ in a place of safety with other like-minded folks struggling to stay sober in the face of a world gone mad and getting crazier by the day. Some days, I just stay sober 15 minutes at a time because that’s the best I can do. Some days, it never crosses my mind. That is, until we have insane holidays like Valentine’s come up and trigger all the past memories of pain because a little freckle-faced geeky girl got rocks, cat turds and dirt clods in her Valentine’s mailbox instead of cheesy paper cards in little white envelopes.

For the little girl I used to be, tomorrow I’m going to buy her watercolors and a box of those little valentine candy hearts. I’m going to get her a small chocolate heart and a little stuffed Pepe’ LePew. I’m going to buy a bottle of strawberry milk like they used to serve in school for Valentine’s Day only, and a box of graham crackers. While my beloved husband may have some plans for us tomorrow, I’m going to ask him for a couple of hours so I can give the little girl I used to be an alternative to the remembered pain and instead replace those memories with all the happiness she deserved….and I’ll stay sober because I choose to.

For all of us out there that struggle with this holiday as well, I send you gentle hugs and love and strawberry flavored milk. Happy Valentine’s Day.

I Weave On Her Loom

friggspinning

 

What is it about being human that hurts so damn good and so damn bad at the same time? I ask this because, in a fit of that strange sanity that attacks me from time to time and kicks my arse into cleaning and organizing, I stumble over things like birthday cards, Mother’s Day cards, and old pictures that have me sighing in blissful joy or sobbing like baby. Perhaps, it’s also because the college kid is winging her way back to campus in about 24 hours more or less; and it’s always an emotional wrench to let her go.

On the other hand, there are the insane conversations that leave her father howling with laughter, trying to catch his breath and me blinking in confusion, “What did I miss?” It simply must have been hysterical on some level, because if I caught their eye throughout the day, the giggles and guffaws were painfully stifled. I’d like to say that I’ll promise revenge later, but I’ve also learned at the knees of Chaos that my chance to laugh like a madwoman at their foibles will come soon enough.

It’s been insanely crazy with the weather locally. When you consider that Kat left her winter clothes on campus because she was coming back to the locals of Texas for the Winter break, it’s been a bit of a stunner to awaken to a morning when the mercury on the back porch barely struggled to make it over 20 degrees. Oh to be sure, it gets better – her plane leaves tomorrow morning and the ever-so-rare event of threatened SNOW is a distinct possibility overnight.

This is Central Texas, folks. No one with any sanity dares to drive on the inevitable iced roadways. Personally, I’m convinced that this is a Universal slap-tickle because I refused to book any flights through Chicago O’Hare either way for our girl. I felt that no child of mine would be forced to sleep on the floor of a snow-bound airport and Truth be told, O’Hare gets more than their share of snow delays. Looks like the joke is going to be on me if ABIA is doomed to a weather delay.

In the mad stroke of domestic desire to clean and organize, I found my Josh Groban CD’s. (Yeah, whatever…I’m a shameless, hopeless romantic. I’m convinced we’re a dying breed, so I’m not going to make apologies.) Everything was going along swimmingly until I found a picture of my eldest child’s godmother at the same time that the CD reached the selection “To Where You Are.” It was emotionally devastating on the order of a 9.5 earthquake.

Mary was my beyond-best-friend/sister-by-a different-mister/anamcara (before I knew what the word meant!) We’d seen each other through really tough times, and she’d held my hand as I made those first tremulous steps of independence after an emotional and physically abusive marriage. Of course, those of us that find ourselves in that horrific quagmire usually find ourselves there again unless there is some drastic intervention. The genetic benefactor of my firstborn child was no exception; I’d seen him as a “Knight in Shining Armor” and he was in reality a “Rat Turd in A Tin Can.” In reality, when he abandoned the baby and me, she was angrier at him than I was! Because of health reasons, she was unable to conceive children, so the day I was able to place my daughter in her arms and name her godmother, her eyes shone so bright with tears of joy that I’d wished I’d been able to just give her the baby. She’d finally met and married a man that she loved to distraction before my daughter’s birth and the two of them loved to take my baby and spoil her rotten.

Life being what it is and having an equally generous hand with joy and sorrow, there was a phone call shortly before Christmas of 1987. I was going to take the baby down for a visit, and Mary had called to tell me that it would be better if I reconsidered the trip. Then, the gut punch – she’d been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She wasn’t clear with the stage, etc. She said she was going in for a hysterectomy and would do some follow-up chemotherapy; treating the diagnosis with an attitude of nonchalance. I, in turn, managed to keep the quaver of tears out of my voice until after we completed the call. Somewhere in our conversation, she’d mentioned that her chemo would finish up in early March. I promised her that I would plant King Alfred daffodils then; by the first week of March, they would be up and blooming. I would harvest them and bring them down as a celebration.

We’d touch base now and then, throughout her treatment and surgeries. I’d send pictures of the baby as she was growing, and Mary sent me a copy of the picture of herself and my daughter during happier times. The first weekend of March dawned foggy and cool, and I padded into the large kitchen at my parent’s house to start the morning’s coffee. After grabbing my housecoat, I stepped outside to make the long trip down the driveway to retrieve the newspaper. The small Arizona ash that I’d planted the daffodils around was awash in eye popping color. Not only had the daffodils bloomed overnight, but the Dutch irises I’d planted with them had bloomed early as well. The small garden was simply breathtaking in its bright, transcendent colors, and I was overwhelmed with joy. It was Saturday, and I could harvest these after breakfast and take them down to Mary today, remembering that her last round of chemo had completed the previous Thursday afternoon.

Somewhere around nine o’clock that morning, I was gathering the basket and the shears and the phone rang. There was a pause, then a deep breath on the other end. Then the voice on the other end informing me that “We lost Mary last night.” I was stunned in a silence of denial. NO. No. No. Everything within me screamed that this couldn’t be so. The daffodils were blooming, and the irises bloomed early. But, the strangled voice of the newly widowed husband on the other end of the phone assured me that he was in just as much shock as I.

On a morning so foggy you could have cut it, bound the edges and used it as a blanket, Mary’s ashes were scattered at sea with a lone bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace.” To this day, I cannot stand to hear even one measure. Part of my soul left to be eternally with the ashes of Mary, the elements of her earthly body returned to the Universe via the waters of the Mother.

On the other hand, her death spurred my own “bottoming out” so to speak because my use of barbiturates and alcohol accelerated until I found myself in an AA meeting by the end of May. I will always maintain that my best friend gave her life for mine, and no greater sacrifice can be given. However, the entire matter also spurs another windmill I tilt at until the Universe gasps its last erg of Light; that of healthcare for women.

Those of us who identify as female know on a gut level the inequality of care for our bodies by a medical system still slanted towards patriarchy. Our psychological health has long been treated with a “there, there” pat on the hand and prescriptions that do nothing to address the underlying self-hatreds, self-doubts, wounds from survival in a word-wide society that condemns most of us to a ‘less than’ status, and denies education to many. Women suffer genital mutilation, denial of pregnancy termination, denial of access to contraceptives and hormonal therapy. Endometriosis is a horrifically painful malady, and there are national figures that think the hormonal therapy needed to control the worst of the symptoms brands the woman using it as a “slut.” We are sexually shamed, our body images manipulated by greed, ignorance and stupidity. Additionally, we are asked to turn on one another should we counter this insanity with Truth; demanding that our passions be illustrated as feline or canid in their fury.

In summation, there is but one sentence to forewarn and advise those who listen: The Goddess is Awakened, and Her Will Be Done.

 

Behind “Home”

trail home

There’s been a ghost of an idea sitting on the back burner of my mind for a few days; more than just the usual ‘because’ that grants perpetuity in the writer’s mind. This niggling, this fomenting creation of firing synapses and fulminating neurons is much more than that. It’s a concept that is being borne out every day in some new way by hard science and prattled upon mercilessly by one guru or another.

In a very simple derivative, it is thus: all that we are is the summation of what is around us at any given time. We must needs be mindful of this at every moment or accept the consequences. Breaking this down into chunks or simple bits of digestible concept much like cold cereal follows. (Yes, stuff like this really DOES bubble around in my brain…maybe I should have had a bit more support in the educational realm.)

There now exists hard science that our bodies shed cells on a regular basis – we are ever in the process of becoming who we are on a regular daily, almost, cycle. Given this, stop for a moment and think. Where did your breakfast come from? Was it grown locally? Touched by the hands of a neighbor? Was it harvested by machine or by hand? Was it transported in a refrigerated truck far away from where it first saw sunlight? Did it sit in a warehouse waiting for its lot to be bid upon before moving on to a distribution center? Where does every iota of what you eat come from? Where are the hands that touched it in some form before you purchased it and brought it home to grace your oven, hotplate or microwave before it graced your plate and table? Do you know these people? Would you have them share your dinner with you? You do, you know.

Every time you eat, everything you eat has been touched by others in the process of here to there; unless of course, you grow and harvest every morsel of food you put into your mouth. So with this in mind, let’s track your day. Who grew the beans that were later harvested by another, transported by yet another, processed by an additional handful, roasted, blended and ground to be put into a container that found its way to your kitchen pantry and thus your coffee cup? Do you ever think to thank the blessed hands, hearts and minds of each person that touched the coffee you now drink? How about the hands of the laborers that went into making the coffee machine that brewed the beverage you now consume? Like it or not, we are all creations of energy; we expend it in myriad ways throughout our day, but we take it in likewise. The sum of each person’s touch is in every item of clothing we wear, every morsel of food we eat, the cars we drive. Our days, our world, our presence is literally filled to the brim with the essence of another – in fact many others.

When we allow Oligarchs and Plutarchs to rule, they seek to stifle, muffle, and silence the voices and the energies that make this energy exchange bright and joyous. Without the love of the land as expressed by a human farmer, the beauty and health of the wheat field loses something in the process of providing life-sustaining grain. Without the loving hands of those that prune, tend and harvest them, tomatoes seem to lose the vibrant flavor that dances upon our tongues and sings within the sauces and dishes that they later grace. Let us add the additional dimension of presence of place.

Many of us choose to live within an urban environment, some of choose instead to thrive well off of the beaten paths of civilization. Some of us live upon the water, and some of us have no door to close nor roof to shelter our heads. Wherever we find ourselves, we need be mindful of where we are for many reasons; the least of which was stated earlier – we change, we recycle, we regenerate our cells on a regular basis. The building blocks of who we are we must get from somewhere.

Think about this – think about it hard, for more than just the moment that you are taking to read this blog. Do you know the barista that made your coffee? Do you know the hands and heart of the person who crafted a cheese Danish for your consumption? Are you aware that the chicken that laid the egg you are eating may very well be living out her short miserable life in a 1 x 1 foot cage and force fed nutrients that do nothing more than force her to lay egg after egg?

There’s a very simple reason why home-grown tomatoes taste so good. The obvious reason is the vine picked freshness, but think of the joy and energy put into the plant with the daily watering and hand care received by the plant itself. But, you argue – I cannot raise the wheat that makes my bread, or the corn that goes into my tortillas, or the beef and fish and chicken that I consume. Maybe there’s another Truth you need to embrace and integrate. Are you within reasonable commute distance to a farm? Have you ever made an effort to get to know where your food comes from? When was the last time you kicked off your shoes and let your naked feet embrace the soil?

As a whole, we humans have forgotten our sense of tribe, our sense of unity with all things living and growing. We’ve neglected to remember our bodies crave communion with the earth our bodies are made of. We’ve forgotten the music of the winds, the waters, the hymns of feather, fur and scale. What’s even worse, we’ve convinced ourselves that wandering from place to place without discovering the “feel” of where we are is a ‘normal’ thing.

As a result, our children are numbed out with medication, we take pills to wake up, go to sleep, and keep our attentions focused on the production of mindless crap. We’ve neglected to embrace our elderly in a healthy manner and allow them to pass their stories to our young. We’ve failed to place adequate value in sound judgments that will stand the test of common sense and altruism. Further, and perhaps even more shameful, we refuse to govern ourselves beyond electing a sound bite and carefully packaged automaton whose sole purpose to exist is for the elite.

If we can, it is now past time to put our courage to the sticking place and take charge of change with both hands. If you only have one hand, make sure it’s your neighbor’s that you grab because like it or not, we’re in this together. None of us can single handedly raise the food, shelter and transportation required of our lives; but we can remember and learn to accept as family those that can.

The “Me” generation was wrong; it is past time that “We” stand up, get over the petty issues, address the serious ones and move into our tomorrow – mindful of who we are, where we come from , and where we intend to go. At the very least, before you consume anything; eat food, pump gas, buy a piece of clothing, perhaps it would be a good thing to be mindful of the hands behind its creation – and give thanks.

A Yuletide Pagan Primer for the non-Pagan

Yule-log-entry

 

Time and again I’ve posted on Facebook and elsewhere NOT to wish me a “Merry Christmas” please, I’m not Christian. I don’t say it to sound mean or callous or Goddess-forbid engage in some feeble minded attempt to make war on a holiday held sacred by others. I’m simply asking that a level of civility be observed and to please extend to non-Christians the same courtesy extended to Jews, Muslims, and other non-Abrahamic individuals. In return, I’ve been asked “What DO you observe?”

I am only timidly going to stick my toe in the Pagan waters here, because I can only speak for our Druidic tradition and some of the Wiccan and Asatruar traditions that we share hearthkin with. Ah, yes…I can see that some definitions are going to be in order as well.

Shall we jump in? Primarily there are as many Pagan traditions as there are stars in the sky – and probably just as many variations in Druidry, Asatru and Wicca, so this is not gospel. It is a generality and should you have a burning desire to know and question that you just have to have answered, feel free to ask. Likewise, if I don’t have the answer, I can usually point you in a solid direction for where to discover the answer. Witchvox.com is a likely resource, but not the final answer by any means.

Let us start with “community” – this is not as cohesive (although a crap-ton of us wish it were) or as inclusive as the word suggests. “Loose confederation” is closer, more holes that your granny’s doily is a better description. This mutually-agreed upon truce betwixt and between traditions and spiritual paths tends to generate a consensus gathering for most, if not all of the 8 “Holy Days” that revolve around an agricultural/astronomical calendar. Neither are the dates ‘set in stone’ per se. Because of a large amount of religious bigotry still running unleashed and rampant in a good part of America, most Pagani tend to utilize “the weekend closest to” the actual date/day/time for observance.

Let us also add an additional warning here. Because of the aforementioned problems with the distinct lack of general acceptance, if you’ve made an acquaintance of an individual that follows The Old Ways, please keep that information to yourself, unless that individual has acknowledged to you that they are “Out Of The Broom Closet” with regards to their spirituality. It’s a big no-no to expose someone who could very easily lose their job, their home, their children, their school funding or even their lives. No, I’m not going over the top here. It’s happened.

OK, definitions. “Heartkinship” – this is an established relationship between two separate groups of pagani; sometimes, two covens or circles, sometimes Druid and Wicca, sometimes Asatru and Druid. There is an agreed upon joint relationship for observance, prayer, feasting, even extending to informal fosterage of children during the summer months or sometimes during the school year. Yes, my family and I fostered our girls with an Asatruar hearth and likewise accepted their children into our household. It works very well when there are shared values and morals, with shared goals and expectations of the children involved. The benefits are amazing all around; but the trust and ability to compromise required of each side promotes a level of maturity that is admirable. Once upon a time, when there were extended families that knew each other just as well, informal fosterage was simply a given status. Modern America has lost something it could do well to rethink and regain.

‘Ghosti’ or Guestright – this is the set of acceptable behaviors between guest and host that stretches back into time. In a nutshell, it describes what is expected of a good guest; no breaking of the good china, lamps or host’s bones, no wrecking of the house, cars or property, no allowing the remainder of the household to come to harm through action or inaction on your part. In exchange, your host is expected to grant you a meal free from poison, vermin or inordinate gossip, a place to sleep should you require it, and a bath should you need one. Additionally, protection from anyone who would harm you while within the boundaries of their property is also an expectation. It sounds so simple, and yet too many times the members of the pagan community have seen both guests and hosts wreck the parameters of appropriate behavior on the order of a sleazy talk show.

As much as I hate to illumine the single underlying cause of the majority of these rampages, it must be outlined that alcohol can breed just as much antipathy as cheer. Setting firm expectations/boundaries with guests is a welcome foundation that can insure many happy holidays to come – be they Pagan or not. Oh yes. One more item. Set firm boundaries with regard to sex and sexual behavior. If you’re going to have a grown-up party, act grown-up and discuss consensus and protection.

Ah, so you’ve been invited to “circle” or “ritual” – Chances are the person that invited you will inform you of their particular traditions with regards to dress, time to show up, etc. Want to impress the person who invited you or officiates at the ritual? Bring a bottle of mead, or good wine, or something to eat. Clueless as to what would be appropriate? Do a bit of research on the ritual being observed. Many of the Full Moon/Dark Moon observations are closed – which means “no one outside the immediate group unless permission has been given.” So, if you are invited to a Holy Day observation, (one of the Big Eight) you’re going to be there with others who are likewise clueless or are attending their first event. Accommodations should have probably been made for your presence. Relax, keep an open mind and enjoy. Participation in the event is always voluntary, save for a preliminary ‘smudging’ or cleansing. Never be afraid to ask your host/hostess about appropriate attire, what to do once inside circle, if you can ‘sit this one out’ and where, etc.

What is this “Yule” thing anyway? For our hearth, Yule, is an ancient Germano-Celtic tradition that celebrates the return of the Light and is observed from sunset the day before the Winter Solstice to sunset the day of the Solstice. An hourly vigil is kept at the Hearthfire by the Yule Log to insure blessings to one and all that come to observe, offer prayers and seek blessings. There are some that keep an all-night vigil when seeking wisdom of importance. While there is gift-sharing, it is minimal and observes a protocol of “one gift to Share Your Light” (i.e. an artist receives expensive brushes, a chef receives a prized carving knife, etc.) There is often story-telling (the cycle stories of Munster, the Children of Lir, etc.) and there is often a recounting of the year’s events similar to Samhain.

At midnight, every light is turned off, the fire is ritually tamped out, and a new fire re-kindled upon the ashes of the old, with the exception of the Yule Log. Additionally, the Yule Log is never allowed to burn away completely; one piece of the log is saved to use to kindle the next year’s Yule Log, else the family line dissipate never to be spoken of or remembered again. Usually, only “hearthkin” (kindred accepted by rite) are allowed to share Yule as they are familiar with and answer to the traditions of “ghosti” or guestright. (This is a complicated set of traditions that have to do with hospitality – how to behave as a guest and/or host.) We usually roast a ham, a brisket and a salmon to offer on the table for the main feast. There’s baked apples, sometimes a roast goose, it all depends on a.) what we can afford and b.) what we can get at the butcher’s. It’s very different from Christmas, but very family oriented.

By far, this isn’t an in-depth description…because there is so much more. The names of all whom I’ve sent Yule cards to will be recited at the Hearthfire in order that the Exalted Ones extend a Blessing to them. There are bayberry candles that adorn the altar (for prosperity – “A bayberry candle burned down to the socket brings health to the family and gold to the pocket.”) Mistletoe is carefully hung over doors, holly and pine over windows (to honor the Ancestors & the Shining (Fae) Ones) and often the kitchen and pantry is ritually cleansed with salt & mint to keep pests away, the floor cleansed with herbal tinctures and homemade soap….It’s a JOB…but the laughter, the sense of community and the camaraderie makes it so worth the effort!

Yule is probably the one Holy Day wherein we open the hearth and door to any who care to share because we feel it’s only right to Share in the Light. To us, sharing the sacred with others connects us to them in a way that no other form of communion can. When you share a meal, a ritual observance, stories and song, you being to understand another person’s perspective, and their lives begin to have worth and value to you. A common understanding goes a long way towards acceptance and inclusivity.

Blessed Yule, Y’all…..from our Hearth to Yours.

The Spirit of Things

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I’m not really exactly sure when I came to grips with that part me that others term as “spirit” but I can tell in a heartbeat if someone else is grappling with the idea of self-versus-Self. As a child I heard the magic of butterfly wings and raindrops, I remember the whispered wisdom of things that grow and go versus those things that have been here forever. There’s a sigh in the summer breezes that speaks of yawning tree branches and the deep coolness of spring-fed waters. Likewise there is a hollow echo to the chill winds of winter that aches with the absence of activity as all life slumbers.

This is not a consciousness that demands identity and labeling, this is a sense of self that requires a simple acceptance to freely express as whole and holy. There are no human words when the inner self needs to fly on wings that are not expressed as feather and tendon. There likewise is no language to paint with that captures a spirit in mid-dance. When that sense of what is eternal by sheer chance happens upon another whose dance is likewise free and uninhibited, “Love” is too small a term to embrace the sudden explosion.

Sometimes, if we are lucky, we come across the one person that makes the Whole of It real. I was lucky enough to have a person like this in my life; I call her “My Spiritual Mother.” Mama Donna came into my life just after I’d cleared the fog of the first three years of sobriety. She listened as I puzzled out where my Heart was, what my Spirit needed, and at the same time was unafraid to show where she was wandering so that others could learn along the Way, as she was doing. She showed me by example that Life was not about sitting on the sidelines, but jumping in on the Dance. Just to show me, she did; arms flung wide, one foot above her graying hairline and her heart open to all the Universe. I will ever remember her just as the photo captured, that “Woo-Hoo!” moment.

I remember when, in a moment caught off guard, she asked me what my ‘special stone” was and without hesitation, the wiser part of me jumped in front of my mouth and said, “Lapis lazuli, because it captures the stars.” She very steadily looked into my eyes and replied, “When you find that piece that is yours, send it to me and I will make something for you.” In a moment of serendipity some time later, there was a vendor at a city-wide event that had a beautiful disc of lapis in her stall and she sold it to me, along with some other pieces at a rock bottom price. Of course, I’d totally forgotten about Mama Donna’s advice until she lovingly reminded me again.

The unexpected thing about serendipity is that it never fails to bring home a lesson that will etch itself upon your heart for all time. I sent Mama Donna the lapis, and a month or so later, this beautiful pendant came to me in the mail, gold wire wrapped. What I didn’t notice (silly child that I am) was that there was a rune woven into the wrap – ‘sowelu’ – the Sun, wholeness and completeness. A sum of all that was, is, and shall be. It is a sobering reminder to me, now and again, that everything I need is at my hands – not everything that I want.

I’m still searching to ‘find my way’ and I suspect that this will be the status quo for quite a while until I can deal with the majority of the ghosts and terrors that haunt my waking and sleeping hours. Even turning your deepest anger into a fiction sometimes fails to slay the demons of memory; I cannot fathom the inhumanity visited upon one another our race perpetrates.

Within all of the lessons handed down to me this year wrapped inside the cloak of therapy is the stark reality that we are all more than the sum of what we do. What we do on a day to day basis is not the totality of the definition of our individual being, and when we allow such, we are in danger of losing that precious essence of self.

Here we are again, just past the edge of the cliff known as the Holiday Season. It’s enough to make me want to scream “Grow your own wings! FLY! Don’t follow the path of the lemming in front of you!” We tend to be herd animals, although. Be that as it may, I love and support those of us that have found a way NOT to go along with the herd – eschew the typical Black Friday/Cyber Monday madness, toss the idea of the usual gathering of relatives into the blood sport of dysfunctional verbosity, and find a new way to celebrate what they consider special and holy no matter what time of the year. Some of us even open our hearts and doors to others related only by virtue of species, because after all is said and done, we are all related.

In the Spirit of All Things, I challenge you to find another way this year. We each carry a bit of ‘sowelu’ within ourselves; we each have all that we need, not all that we want – we simply have to learn to ask and having asked, gratefully accept. The Light that we hold holy at this time of year is with us all year long. We simply need to learn to remember this, and carry a bit of it forward each day to share with each other. The road is not so long nor quite as lonely when we share the steps with one another.

Blessed Yule, y’all.

Countdown to Chaos

Next week, I will be boarding a plane for the first time in 6 years to fly out of the State. I’m not going with anyone, and I won’t know anyone once I get there. Normally, this would be driving me to the point of insanity, but there’s this meme that has been going around and I think it pretty well sums up the wisdom that my heart knows but my head hasn’t been sold on. It says: “When you find people who not only tolerate your quirks but celebrate them with cries of “Me Too!” be sure to cherish them. Because those weirdos are your tribe.”

Chaos image

The heart of my inner little kid is all excited – for her this is Yule, the 4th of July and an early birthday present all wrapped up in one event. The inner grown up is trying to calm her with the memes of “Don’t get too excited, you’ll just be presenting an opportunity for disappointment.” The inner teenager – too cool for school, the usual smart-mouthed but wise “Tribe, girl. This is Tribe.” The whole of me is terrified that I’ll forget to pack underwear, socks, camisoles, clothes warm enough – the climate here is easy – you wear a string bikini and a parka at all times and change out as needed. Shoes, must remember to pack shoes. Please Goddess, my brain is back on the hamster wheel.

What I love most about GRL?? I’m a total and complete innocent – this will be my first. However, since I first read some of the attending author’s works and then chatted them on Facebook, I’ve felt as if I fell back into the arms of a long-lost family with all its quirks, faults, and frailties. Could it be? Have I come Home?

To defray expenses, I went on to a well-known discount airfare site, without sufficient training to navigate the vicious jungle of bargain basement prices. As a result, I’m going to not only miss the farewell breakfast, but I have to get up at the butt-crack of dawn BOTH ways. I will now state for the record, that I am not a morning person. I count myself and my day successful if I managed not to bite someone’s head off due to insufficient caffeination. The leeway given to potential Chaos is a portal that I really don’t want to see.

I will have a roomie that I’ve never met in person, however it seems that we have enough in common to set a place for her at our dinner table at least a dozen times a year and exchange holiday correspondence. All my family members are encouraging me to “expand my bubble” and “For gosh sakes’ Mom, get out of the sticks and see some folks! It’s bad enough you talk to farm animals and stray pets!” To which I will respond, “Hey, I communicate with others online. Remember you kids thought I needed to ‘get with it’ and get a Facebook account?”

Ok, I have the laundry all together for packing and preparation, various needs and sundries are in the primary stages of stowage. I still need to locate a couple pair of shoes….and oh look, my friend just signed on maybe I can ask her about restaurants in the area….Sigh, this is such a case for “direct supervision” before I hurt myself….I’m going to go find that large Danish mountain of a man that I married and get some before I so some additional strange research on cat’s tongue’s and sneezing (out of BOTH ends) that ends up with the domestic stock of pets hightailing it for the brush.

Time to OWN it….

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OK…Time to “come out of the pantry” so to speak. While I am NOT any type of Domestic Goddess by any stretch of the imagination, I am the Goddess of Comfort Food. The kind that has folks hanging around our campsite for a bite of whatever I’m whipping up to feed the Horde of the Half-NeKkid when they return from wheedling vendors, fly-by huggings of folks that they haven’t seen for moons, and just to keep the hands busy because dammit, I forgot my damned crochet at home and my freakin’ brain is wound up tighter than a virgin’s knees at Beltane!

I suppose I was sorta shy to do more than admit to it, but after some reflection on the whole thing AND the fact that my far-flung offspring have been calling me for recipes and “how-to” tips, I’m gonna OWN IT, DAMMIT.

I COOK…and I cook DAMN WELL. Ya’ want Roast Goose with Apple-Walnut stuffing and savory gravy? Fine – get your ass out of the kitchen unless you’re willing to help under my direction (that means you can take orders and follow directions EXACTLY) and be prepared to worship me properly when I’m done. Unfamiliar with a spice? Ask me – I can probably tell you what it is, what it’s used for, any alternative you can use if you’re out, and the best varietal to purchase when shopping.

Other people count their wealth with CD collections, gold, silver, stocks, mutual funds and Universal Life insurance policies. I take stock in a well-stocked spice cabinet, pantry, fridge and freezer. My chef’s knives are worth more than your IPhone, and I lust for cookware and stoneware like other women lust after designer pumps! I have a choice of an alabaster slab, a hard rock maple cutting board, and a beautiful block of crafted glass with which to begin,  to fashion and perfect my culinary creations upon.

Recently, I have discovered and am returning to “the joy of aprons” after one too many mishaps of braising the boobs with hot broth. I tend to prefer cheesecloth dishtowels, and hand-crochet dish cloths to hand wash my more prized containers, bowls, and cookware. All of this descriptive phrasing leads me to another eye-opening personal observation: some folks paint literary masterpieces with words, I prefer to create 7 course meals complete with finger dishes of lemon-scented water adjectives and palette cleansers of minty metaphors.

This alone has enlightened me as to why there are sudden long stretches between my writing. I’ve mastered the art of feasting upon creativity to create gluttonous wonders, but I’m still in the apprentice stage of crafting the thin, meager portions of famine sentences and the simplicity of a daily meal of prose. Further – this is OK, because a well-rounded human being needs to learn throughout the lifetime granted in order to keep itself viable as a contributing member of humanity. There is no final graduation ceremony until your loved ones bid you goodbye until your next incarnation.

Additionally, a well-seasoned meal and a well written composition should have all the flavors of life incorporated from bitter tears to sweet laughter and all the rich fullness of existence layered in-between. In truth, we can neither write nor cook a meal without the influence of others. Whether they are in our heads, hearts or by our side, the presence of those who inspire us are as much a needed ingredient as the entrée to a dinner or the healthy plot bunny who leads us a wild chase in the merry meadow of metaphor.

We desperately need all the shades and shadows of humor and pathos, we need to both stand alone and be woven together as the tapestry we are; and we dare not deny ourselves the basic nature of identity, either. Looking at the whole tableau and table, there is no place nor space for judgment, just simple acceptance of what is placed before us.

Now, all that being said, shall I put the kettle on?