Friday, July 30, 2010

Poetry Prompt

This week's prompt from Big Tent Poetry is, "write a poem placing a pop culture icon in a mundane, domestic situation." Well, I took that as a challenge. I thought about Lindsay Lohan in jail. I contemplated Obama wondering why his ratings were dropping. Then there's the whole Ellen DeGeneres on Idol thing... How about Chelsea Clinton's wedding woes? After serious consideration of these pop icons and more, I decided to go with something I have more experience with: Doctor Who. After all, the Tardis has to be cleaned sometime, doesn't it??

Sometimes Bigger Isn't Better

Its blue exterior needs a new coat of paint.
It looks shabby, and the copper needs shining.
He surveys the exterior in a moment of
Solitude.
Key in hand, he enters and sighs with contentment
As space spreads out before him in its
Steampunk glory.
His finger runs across the center console
Like a lover's touch, caressing.
Yet the moment is ruined when his
Size 12s trip over a scarf
Discarded on the floor.
He sets aside his jacket and bow tie
In favor of short sleeves and jeans
And digs into the task of cleaning.
Starting at the center, he works his way out,
Dusting, mopping, chasing out the spiders.
Tiny motes dance in the offset light of the room,
And he smiles, thinking of all the people
Who have danced with them
Over the years.
Once more he smiles, being glad that he
Never installed carpet
To molder and stink as the days passed.
In a corner, he finds a pair of sneakers
That once belonged to her.
His face caves in upon itself as
The solitude of centuries piles on.
She's long dead, and he's far away.
Still, he can't bring himself to throw them away,
Anymore than he can discard the old, worn scarf
Or the now-threadbare velvet green jacket.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Altars


Inspired by The Night Wanderer's Path and FlyLady, I decided to clean up my room finally. In the process, I re-thought my altars (yes, yet again). I love using this vanity as my main altar space, because of the tiered levels and because it is a very warm piece of furniture with a rich history.

The center altar area is the "all purpose" altar where I say my prayers (which I've been sadly lacking in lately, formally speaking), make general offerings, and recite litanies and such. It has a single candle (the same as before) and some more generic spiritual items on it. Back left there is a picture of my grandmother, my only living grandparent and whom I am very close to. In front of her picture is a small crystal dish of stone eggs, one of which belongs to the girltwin. In front of that is my bell, which I use for setting sacred space when it's just me worshipping, and also $10, a donation for the Agrotereion which I will be using for paint. To the right by the candle is a bowl of various semi-precious stones and polished glass in which a candle sits. The candle is ostensibly for Persephone, although when I burn it I put it down on the ground (more on that later). In front of the bowl is a small glass pitcher of water which I use for offerings.

On the left side of the vanity is my small altar to Dionysos. You can see my new cock in the background, a gift from the men in my life for Mother's Day. I love it... so ostentatious! There's a small cement pillar with a fake ivy on it (I've killed too many ivy plants now to even bother trying to keep a live one in there). The altar also sports a pewter cup, a pewter offering bowl, and a small green votive candle in a holder.

Hecate graces the right side of the altar. I have a small owl cup with two horned owl feathers in it and some other sacred items. In front of that is a wooden owl whistle that Farnham gave me, sitting on top of a Grecian style pillar. The three skull votive holder is a special thing that I got just for Hecate a couple of years ago. It represents her darker side, and also her crossroads.

On the back wall of my room is my Nyx altar. It hasn't changed much over the years, mostly because I'm still trying to figure out just what it is she wants me to figure out about it. It's completely based on UPG, so don't anyone claim it's ancient or based on an old text or anything. It's a mirror that looks somewhat like a window, with a shelf at the bottom. On the shelf is a small candle in a brown holder, a breast cancer ribbon bracelet, a pewter offering cup, and some stones draped with a very old silver chain of mine. Near as I can understand, at the dark of the moon or thereabouts, she wants me to light the candle and look into the mirror. I have missed the past couple of months because of the general mess of my room, but will be starting it up again this dark moon. I've been doing this on and off again for about 2 years and so far... nothing but "keep doing it" as the message I get. Ah well.

My only Olympian altar is for Zeus and Hera together. It's two half circle shelves, very tightly together, with the statuette bridging both shelves. Above them, a copper image of the Parthenon hangs. Below them is where I store all my scarves, which I use for both religious and mundane things. They are coverings for my hair and head for certain ceremonies. They're scarves for when I'm chilly, or when it's too warm for a sweater but too cool for no sleeves. They're coverings for the altars when grief or other miasmic things come to our home. They're just multipurpose. Most of them are hanging there, neatly folded on a hangar, but my dark blue/black one and my dark green one are both missing right now. Not sure where they are.

Anyhow, that's my current altar-cleaning. Maybe my own little dusting project will inspire someone else. Blessings!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

 Pray Without Ceasing...

A group of ministers had assembled for the discussion of difficult questions. Among others, it was asked how the command to "pray without ceasing" could be complied with. Various explanations were given, until it was finally agreed that one would be appointed to write a lengthily essay on it which would be read at the next meeting.


The entire discussion was overheard by a young woman who had been serving the tea. She said, "What? A whole month to tell the meaning of that text? Why it is one of easiest and best texts in the Bible!"


"Well, well, Mary", said an old minister, "what can you say about it? Let us know how you understand it. Can you pray all the time without ceasing?"


"Oh yes, sir!"


"What?" the old minister coughed back, "when you have so many things to do?"


"Why, sir, the more I have to do, the more I can pray!"


"Indeed", he replied, "Well Mary, let us know how it is. Most of us think the answer is otherwise."


"Well, sir," she said, "when I first open my eyes in the morning, I pray ‘Lord, open the eyes of my understanding.’ While I am dressing, I pray that I may be clothed with the robes of righteousness. When I wash, I ask for the washing of regeneration. As I work, I pray that I may have the strength equal to my day. As I sweep out the house, I pray the my heart may be cleansed from all impurities. While preparing and eating my breakfast, I pray to be fed with the hidden manna and the sincere milk of the Word. As I am busy with the little children, I ask God to make me become as a child. And so on, all day. Everything I do furnishes me with a thought for prayer."


"Enough, enough", cried the old minister, "these things are revealed to babes and his from the wise and prudent. Go on , Mary, pray without ceasing. May we all do the same!"

This is one of those little stories that really made me think when I first saw it. Since my very early days, before I was involved in any kind of organized (or disorganized!) religion, I made attempts to follow the above model. It was never taught to me; I simply did it because it felt right.

During my tumultuous teen years, that diligence was swept away for a time, and I lost my ability and focus. Still, when I began learning about Wicca in earnest, I found it again, and fell into the comforting rhythm of it with ease. Throughout the years, my practice has waxed and waned. There are times when every waking moment seems to be a prayer in motion, and other times when I can't find prayer at all in my heart or soul. Sometimes I even “fake it 'til I make it,” saying the words despite the hollowness within me, knowing that eventually the practice of it will bring me to a place of fullness once again.

So by now you're probably wondering why I have a picture of Gray with a scythe in his hand, when I'm talking about prayer. It doesn't seem to match, does it? Yet, it does. Watching him use our new (old... very old, but new to us) scythes on the tall grass, in preparation for cutting our spelt down, I thought of the prayer of movement.

Long ago, I studied Tai Chi with a sensei at a local community center. Living in British Columbia as I did, I was lucky enough to learn with someone who had been doing it for many years, since he was a young boy at his grandfather's feet. He taught me the prayer of it. Watching Gray with the scythe was like watching someone practice Tai Chi. There was prayer to it.

When I have the opportunity to go up and scythe down our spelt, I hope to fall into the dancing rhythm of it, letting the prayer in the movement take over my soul. As the sharp blade fells the golden heads of wheat, so bright and bursting with goodness, I want to find the still, silent place within my mind where the Gods speak so eloquently. I plan on listening.

I'm in That Place right now a lot. I've reached a place of frustration with a family member, and instead of yelling, I've taken it out by scrubbing my sink and sweeping my kitchen floor. I've cooked at that person, a ninja action of covert anger thrust in a positive way. I've managed to find the still, silent place while loading the dishwasher and switching loads of laundry. The result of my frustration being channeled in this way, is that the house is looking much better than it did. There is no down-side to my centering actions. The prayers have risen up inside me and filled me, and are starting to push the angry emotions away. Why be angry, when my house looks good, and I've done the things that need doing, and people are smiling at me for my efforts?

May the Gods to whom you owe allegiance bless you and keep you always. May the help you find the prayers in all that you do!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Changeable NE Weather... ?

I've joked about it before. "Don't like New England weather? Just wait a minute." Really, it's normal for the weather here to be wonky, to go from one extreme to another rapidly. What is NOT normal is this insufferable heat that just goes on and on. I mean, come on! We moved here from Maryland to get away from this sticky, awful, incessant heat. And here it follows us, making our summer just awful.

I don't mind sunny days. I prefer them to last year's rainy ones that went on and on. We're suffering from the farmer's dilemna, of course - too much rain last year, and almost none this year. Still, the garden is doing well. We have already, in less than two weeks of picking, gotten almost 40 pounds of green beans put away for the year. And the second batch of beans isn't even flowering yet... I think I'm scared.

The cukes are coming in, too. So are onions, garlic, tomatoes, and zuchinni. I hate processing in this heat, but it has to be done. Honestly, I haven't done much of it. Farnham and sis have been the ones doing the majority of the work lately. I've done a bit here and there, but mostly I've been hiding in my room.

Perimenopause sucks. I was doing okay with the hot flashes. After two years of them, I had kind of gotten used to suddenly breaking out in a flush or a soaking sweat. I stopped buying long sleeve shirts for the winter, and just contemplated bikinis and silk. My monthly has been getting farther and farther apart, and that's been pretty nice, too. I'd been kind of wondering if, after 20 years of being unable to truly celebrate Beltaine, maybe 2011 might be The Year of Joy. However... yeah, I'm not thinking that's going to happen. Instead, I seem to go temporarily insane.

Ah well. I'm still here. I'm still working at it. It's dark of the moon, time to say a prayer for Hecate, my beautiful Lady.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Greek Poetry

From Alcestis, by Euripides (ca. 480-406 BCE)

The Chorus bids a heartbroken farewell to Alcestis, who has volunteered to die in place of her husband.

©Marie-Lan Nguyen
CHORUS
Daughter of Pelias, farewell.
May you find contentment even in Hades' dark halls,
in a home with no sunlight.
May Hades the dark-haired god be aware
and may he whose hand is on the oar,
the old man who steers the dead on their way,
may he realize that by far, by far
the greatest of women has been in his boat
passing through the shallows of Acheron.

Poets from all around the world
will extol your name, plucking the seven-toned lyre--
from the shell of the mountain
tortoise -- and in unaccompanied hymns.
When the festive month Carneius comes
and the moon in Sparta shines all night long,
they will sing of you -- and in opulent
Athens. Your death leaves behind a rich song
for our poets to nurture and revere.

~~ Translated by Diane Arnson Svarlien

Image courtesy of Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons