Sunday, October 31, 2010

All Hallows Eve

From Magic Art
Tonight is the night I have always felt the dead roamed the earth. It made sense to me at 18 when I fell in love with Wicca, and it makes sense to me now, more than 20 years later. I can't think of any other night that better captures the joy and fear and trepidation and excitement of Halloween. Whether you call it Halloween, Samhain, All Hallows Eve, All Saints Eve, or something else entirely doesn't really matter. This day is ingrained into us as a day of the dead. In the immortal words of every campaigning politician, my name is Allyson Szabo, and I approve of this message. *grin*

Last night I held a small ritual at a friend's place, to celebrate the passing of those who've died in the past year. Some really stick out in my mind (Tom Bosley, everyone's dad) and some I barely knew about (Sen. Byrd). Still, everyone deserves to be mourned, remembered, and celebrated. The ritual was a fairly standard Greek style ceremony including khernips and all the trimmings. Most of those attending were teens, which was both exciting and daunting. I worried they would either think it was boring, or some kind of game. They didn't... they were wonderful, and took it quite seriously (at least in my presence).

Tonight, I always think most about my grandfather, who would have celebrated his birthday yesterday, and my friend Eric, who died suddenly just days before the twins were born. Of all my ancestors these two are always at the forefront of my mind. Perhaps that's not fair to the myriad others, but... they stay with me. I felt them there, last night. I felt them with me during dinner. I feel them with me now. This is their time now, I suppose. I feel honored. I feel cherished. I feel a little sad.

Happy Samhain, everyone.

Show your True Colors

I'm not the weepy type. I don't cry all that often, and usually it's because of something deeply personal to me. But last night I broke up reading the names of some of the gay teens who've been bullied and killed themselves. I performed a Litany of the Dead to a crowd that ended up being made up mostly of teens... and so I emphasized the fact that these young people had died. I didn't sob, but I had to take a breath when I was done, and I cried at home.

On this night, of all nights, we need to remember those who have died. Even moreso, we need to remember those who took their own lives because of physical, mental or emotional abuse, bullying, or because they were locked out of their families, churches, or friends' lives because they were Different.

The following video was done by the Gay Men's Choir of Los Angeles. The music is wonderful, but the message is even more poignant. I cried. This is beautiful.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thirty Days of Truth

I'm stealing from the Witch of Stitches tonight, and I'll put this into use through November. I'm not sure how I'll answer the questions, so come back on Nov 1st for a bit of insight.

30 Days of Truth:

Day 1: Something you hate about yourself
Day 2: Something you love about yourself
Day 3:Something you have to forgive yourself for
Day 4: Something you have to forgive someone else for
Day 5: Something you hope to do in your life
Day 6: Something you hope you never have to do
Day 7: Someone who has made your life worth living
Day 8: Someone who has made your life hell or treated you badly
Day 9: Someone you didn't want to let go, but who drifted
Day 10: Someone you need to let go, or wish you didn't know
Day 11: Something people seem to compliment you the most on
Day 12: Something you never get compliments on
Day 13: A band or artist that has gotten you through some tough times
Day 14: A hero that has let you down
Day 15: Something or someone you couldn't live without
Day 16: Something or someone you could definitely live without
Day 17: A book you've read that changed your view on something
Day 18: Your views on gay marriage
Day 19: What is your opinion of religion?
Day 20: Your views on drugs and alcohol.
Day 21: (Scenario) Your best friend is in a car accident and you got into a fight a couple of hours before. what do you do?
Day 22: Something you wish you hadn't done in your life
Day 23: Something you wish you had done in your life
Day 24: Make a playlist to someone and explain why you chose those songs
Day 25: The reason you believe you're still alive today
Day 26: Have you ever thought about giving up on life?
Day 27: What's the best thing you've got going for you right now?
Day 28: What would you do if you got pregnant (or got someone pregnant) right now?
Day 29: Something you hope to change about yourself
Day 30: A letter to yourself

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fifteen Authors Meme

"Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen authors who've influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes."

Got this one off of FaceBook (thanks Freeman!). I don't do a lot of memes, but this one interested me. Feel free to list your own. I might explain some of them, why they're so influential to me. Heinlein will always top this list, though. Always. :)

1. Robert Heinlein
2. William Shakespeare
3. Neil Gaiman
4. John Norman
5. Sharon Green
6. Mercedes Lackey
7. St. Augustine
8. Bill W.
9. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
10. Stewart Farrar
11. Gerald Gardner
12. Doreen Valiente
13. Israel Regardie
14. Joseph Campbell
15. Laura Ingalls Wilder

Monday, October 18, 2010

Simplification

I'm struggling with the complexity of my life. I want things to be more simple, less busy, less cluttered. I want more spirituality and less materiality, if that makes sense. It isn't that I don't still want my laptop and my little television and such; I do want those things. I want to reduce what I have in my life, though. I'm putting away many of my books, mostly fictional ones. Not all of them, of course. Heinlein will stay out, and Laura K. Hamilton, and a handful of others. My Shakespeare and Chaucer and other classic novels are on the shelves that are inside my closet, safe and close but not out gathering dust.

I'm putting away some of my religious books, too. While my Wiccan books are dear to my heart, I don't reference them much... well, ever, really. What I already know, I know and don't need to look up, and what I don't know usually can be found online if it's necessary. They take up so much space, and require so much dusting (which I never do until it's like it is now, coated and making me sneeze), that it just doesn't make sense. I'd rather dust stuff I'm using.

I'm moving my altars. When I originally set up my room 2 years ago, I had my altars at the foot of my bed. My interior sense of rightness told me that having them where I could glance up and see them was a Good Thing. Then the summer came and I moved my bed so that I got a cross breeze from my windows, and the altars are now beside my bed. It isn't a bad placement, but it isn't what I like. Tomorrow (I hope), I will move the altars over so they're again at the foot of my bed. It's time to clean them well anyhow.

Of course, moving the altars leaves a space beside my bed. It is my hope that I will get my blanket box finished soon (it needs to be sanded and stained, which shouldn't take too terribly long) and then I can move that into the empty space. That will allow me to put all my sheets, blankets, extra pillows, and hidden Christmas and Yule presents into a comfortable, clean, rodent-free place. I'll be picking up some cedar blocks to store inside, too, so that the blankets will have that lovely scent to them (and no moths will make their homes there).

I'm also hoping to get a desk. I'm spending more time doing research and reading of print books this year. While I need my computer, and love using it on my bed, it's time to get a desk that I can sit at and work at when I'm NOT computing. I'm going to troll craigslist.com and see what I can find there. I'm hoping to get a corner desk, which will simultaneously give me much actual desk space, and use up the odd corner on that side of my room, leaving enough space for my bedside tables and my television and such.

Yes, I know it doesn't sound simplified, but it will be. I've put away most of my knick knacks. All I've left out are my Cabbage Patch dolls and a small stuffed Wampa. The only other items that will be out when I'm done are my few important books, my religious books that are currently of use to me, my altars and their contents, and the few little things that sit on the top shelf of one of my book cases. That's it. No more bottle collections. No more junk on my side tables (I'll be cleaning out the side tables to accommodate the Stuff that usually sits on top). No more piles of school paperwork (I have a small wheeled cart for that now, so there's no excuse). No more clothes laying around (though that hasn't been much of an issue lately).

Basically, the main focus of my room will be books (school/seminary/etc) and altars (religion/seminary/etc). This is what I feel like I need right now. I need that focus. I need my life to point firmly toward my goals of completing seminary in the spring, and working on my ministry in its various ways.

I feel good about the work I've done today. I even cleaned one of my windows and scrubbed down the screen. Though it's a bit chilly out, I still like to have the window open just a bit at night. In the afternoons, like right now, I want it wide open for at least a little bit each day. Soon enough it'll be too cold to have them open at all, and I'll miss smelling the crisp autumn air each afternoon. I'm enjoying the gaze through my window right now as I type. I can look out over our corn field, right at our (still somewhat green) orchard and the bee hives there.

Around about 3pm or so, I can watch the family of turkeys come sauntering through the field, and know that in another couple of weeks we'll be able to take a few of them for Thanksgiving and Christmas/Yule. In the evenings or early mornings I can see the deer tripping silently along the edge of the corn, nibbling here and there as they travel. They, too, will go in the larder in their time, to feed us over the winter. They'll replace the beef that will get too expensive to buy come December, and we'll have lots of deer steak, deer stew, deer roast, and even ground deer.

Simplicity is there. I just have to fight through the junk to find it. I'll get there...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day 2010 - Water

I try to participate each year in Blog Action Day. This year, it's on a topic near and dear to my sustainable heart: WATER. Here in the United States, we have a tendency to take water for granted. Just turn the tap and it's there. If you don't like that water, you can buy bulk bottled water at BJs or Costco for a pittance. We also still have unpolluted water available to much of our populace via dams, streams, and springs. We're lucky.

There are places in the world, places as near to us as the UK and Italy and France, where water isn't nearly as available. Turning the tap is no guarantee that water will magically appear, and it isn't nearly as cheap as we get it here in America. In some places, bottled water is either very expensive, or banned because it is such a misuse of something that many feel is a human right.

If you think globally, we are an incredibly rich planet when it comes to water. It even falls from the sky. Yet we waste it every day. There isn't even a thought connected with dumping out the water you had left over in your cup from last night. We let it run while we brush our teeth. We flush our toilets willy nilly, never thinking.

I had the opportunity to talk to a lady from Australia this summer, when we met in NYC for a little get-together. One of the things she was most horrified about was our water use. Australia is in drought conditions most of the time, but right now it's especially bad. Their education campaign puts the impetus on each person, young and old, and lets them know the price of running their water. They're discouraged from baths, and long showers are considered a no-no. She described to me the horror and "pit of the stomach" sickness she felt watching someone brush their teeth at the hostel she was at, letting all that water go gushing down the drain.

All that made me think. I've let the water run when brushing on many occasions. I let the water run to heat up, or to cool down. It never occurred to me that it was similar to taking whole meals and just shoving them through the garberator. Not one of us could imagine wasting food that way, and yet we do it with water every day. Wow.

Our farm and our home run on two sources of water: well and spring. We generally use the spring water, because we're water snobs and think the flavor is much nicer. The spring and well both gravity-feed into a cistern in the basement, which then pumps water to the rest of the house. In a power outage, it means we continue to get fresh, cool water regardless, and even without generator backup, the main floor bathroom can be flushed. We're lucky.

This summer, the a couple of the springs that feed our farm dried up. The stream that usually flows merrily down our mountain was nothing but a dry, brown bed of dust. The place that had been a sanctuary for me became a place of sadness and dirt. I made a couple of offerings to the local land spirits, but otherwise just waited to see what would happen. Even now, after several hard rains, there's not a stream there anymore. It's still only a trickle. If we're lucky, we'll get heavy snow this winter to replenish the springs and streams on our property.

One of the results of the springs drying up was that our water supply had to be switched over to the well. We actually ran the cistern dry on a few occasions before we realized how serious it was. At the time, it annoyed me, but in light of the various conversations of the summer, I'm now much more concerned than I am angry. The big question is whether this is the "new normal" or if this was just a blip on the seasonal radar. Questions, many questions to answer.

Water is what keeps us alive. Humans can live up to 8 weeks without food, sometimes a bit longer or a bit shorter time depending on factors such as temperature, what kind of shape you were in prior to stopping eating, etc. Water, on the other hand, only has to be removed from us for 3 days or so and we can die. In warm conditions, even a few hours without water can bring on death! About 70% of our body is MADE of water. If you want to know other interesting water facts, you can check this out for yourself.

Water. The stuff of life. We waste most of it by flushing our toilet. More is wasted by running it to do tasks like washing dishes, brushing teeth, hot baths, long showers, and other tasks we consider trivial. Think about the people of third world countries, who are required to carry their water from a local reservoir or well, and wonder to yourself how well YOU would do in that situation. Try it for a single day, if you like. Fill a big container with water and store it in your basement or outside. Anytime you want to flush a toilet, go down and get the water and pour it in (that will "flush" for you). If you want to drink, go down and get it. If you want to brush your teeth, cook, rinse something, go haul your water. Even the ease of carrying it up one flight of steps or from outdoors to in will make us re-think our position on water use.

Water.

Big Tent Poetry Day

So on Monday I had oral surgery. This was a major unhappiness for Rev. Allyson, let me tell you. I am not as terrified of dentists now as I used to be (thank you, THANK YOU Dr. Hudson!!!) but it's still a nerve wracking thing.

Two weeks ago I went to the dentist for my usual cleaning, and they discovered that two of my wisdom teeth had managed to erupt. Of course, because this is me, they weren't normal eruptions. No, they came through the side of my gums, at odd angles. I've long known my wisdom teeth were severely impacted, but I thought (incorrectly) that it meant I could just ignore them. A bit of crowding in my mouth seemed small price to pay to not have to have someone chopping my jaws apart.

Well, Dr. Hudson is a very wonderful dentist. He said he needed me to see the oral surgeon and talk to him. It was important, he said. I agreed, though hesitantly. The receptionist assured me it often took more than a month to get an appointment with the oral surgeon, and then they had to book the actual surgery. I comforted myself with the knowledge that it would be November before I even had to think this over.

Three hours later they told me that they had managed to get me a consult with Dr. Weldon that Friday. Dr. Weldon, in turn, managed to fit me into his busy schedule just a week and a bit later. Good grief! Both dentist and surgeon stressed how important it was to get this done as soon as possible, and that infection was a matter of "when, not if." I clutched my Valium prescription and signed forms.

Monday I went in for my surgery. I had a Valium in my system, and that was it. Dr. Weldon numbed me up from nose to nipples, and set to work. The first tooth came out in seconds. I was quite pleased. I thought that meant I would be out of the office in a few minutes! Hooray! I thumbed the volume on my drum tape and settled back for the last 30 seconds of this ordeal.

It lasted 40 minutes, and resulted in my lower left wisdom tooth being removed in pieces. There was no pain, not even during this numbing up part. Still, the smell of it, the sounds of hack saws going at it in your mouth, the flavor of blood . . .  It was not a good time for me. Still, I made it through.

The first day wasn't bad. I was pretty frozen right up until bedtime, and I had lots of Vicodin in me. I sipped room temperature water, slid pureed stuff in between swollen lips, iced my cheeks, and considered myself lucky. Day two dawned, and I was sore when I woke up, but the morning Vicodin dose helped immensely. I went about my day, made food for myself and others, and actually did some (very light) housework. Day three was another thing altogether. Pain... no Vicodin... I caught my gum when I was brushing my teeth... Yeah, just not good in any way.

By Thursday I was doing alright. It's sore, for sure, but I can mange on ibuprofen and tylenol. I'm able to open my mouth, and today I even ate "real food." Tomorrow I'm going all the way to NYC for my class, so I guess I must be doing alright. I don't look overly swollen, either.

All that led me to today's prompt for Big Tent Poetry, which was a Wordle. I decided to write about my experiences this week. The words in the Wordle were: kiss purple gourd hook drooping staircase muddy bitter doll glossy pluck extract.

Oral Surgery

I kiss the children with great care,
And pluck my courage high
From its drooping state of scare.
Nothing will go awry,

Or so they tell my bitter face,
Dark with unshed tears.
Glossy x-rays show my case
And highlight my fears.

My purple shirt won't show the blood,
Should it turn out sad.
My heart's so loud they hear the thud
Time to extract the bad.

Muddy sounds erupt from all
The tools they use within.
When they're done I look like a ball
Or a gourd with swollen skin.

No more hooks or saws for me;
Down the staircase I descend.
Wisdom teeth, we can agree,
Bring about the painful end.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Poetry Gong

Big Tent Poetry has instituted a new thing called the Poetry Gong. The idea is to write several poems on a theme, and do it more quickly than usual. Like most things at Big Tent, it's not required, but I felt like I wanted to do this one.

The theme was "something new to you." We were challenged to read a new poet, or a new poem by a poet we know, and use that as a springboard for writing our own poetry. I went and found a wonderful poem: I Taught Myself to Live Simply by Anna Akhmatova. I'd never heard of her before, but the title drew me in. It isn't the kind of poetry I usually read, but I really enjoyed it's slightly dark but inevitably bright imagery. It inspired me to write my own vision of simplicity.

Simplicity's Growth

Gone are the piles of ill fitting clothes.
Gone are the boxes of stuff.
Bags and bins of things I dispose
Of, no matter how rough
It is to get rid of those items I love.
I need to simplify me;
Somehow to take away all of
My soul's filthy debris.

Now I will fill myself with light,
With joy and laughter, too.
Even in the dark, quiet of night
Peace shall rise anew
And push away the memories.
Life's too short, I know,
To waste on entropy's increase.
Simplicity will grow.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Forgiveness Awakening

I found the following on FaceBook, posted by a friend. I share it with you because it touched me.



The words speak in a thundering whisper...

"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you." ~Unknown
I now make a conscious decision to forgive
I set free all the prisoners within my heart
I affirm the following forgiveness intentions
I forgive my Mother
I forgive my Father
I forgive my Teachers
I forgive the Government
I forgive BP
I forgive Religion
I forgive God
I forgive all those I deem Unforgivable
I forgive Myself
I let go of all anger towards Self and Others
I return again to a place of Innocence
I understand at an essential level we are all One
When I let go I allow for a new space to exist
From this new space it is now possible to to embrace a new Paradigm
Let the Golden Age of PEACE, LOVE and UNITY begin!

by Kasha Glazebrook

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ethics

The Delphic Precepts from Al Khanoum. (copyright free from Wikipedia Images)
I worked hard this week, and actually managed to get first drafts of all but one part of my homework completed. I still have the "names" portion to go over, but that shouldn't take me very long and doesn't get handed in, per se.

I think the most enlightening thing this month is working on my Code of Ethics. I shared it over on Neokoroi for those who are members there. I thought about it for a long time, because this is something that is akin to what I used to do with my Wiccan students long ago. It's important to understand where one's morals and ethics are seated. It's also important to revisit those morals and ethics on a regular basis in order to make sure they are up to date and accurate. Our faith journeys take us along many strange paths, and sometimes what applied at 25 doesn't apply when we hit 40, which is what has happened in my case.

"Harm none," is a wonderful sentiment, and one that I still try very hard to apply to my life. 20+ years of experience at this whole Life Thang has changed my viewpoint of the statement, though. At no point have I ever believed that it is possible to go through life without ever causing any harm to anyone, including one's self. The tenet of "least harm" is what I have tried to stand up for, and in many cases I think I've managed remarkably well. There are times, though, when I have hurt myself or others in very negative ways. Since it doesn't say "harm none to the best of my ability," I decided it was really time to re-write those ethical guidelines. Besides, I had to for class anyhow!

What I decided on was to use the Delphic Maxims as my guide, and cherry pick the ones that mean the most to me and comment on them. Some were obvious: nothing in excess, worship the gods, and even be yourself are all worthy of being included on any Code of Ethics. I also added in think as a mortal, though, and obey the law, because they represent important things to me, ideals that all people should strive for but especially those of us who feel called to minister to others in some way.

The ones I think that will cause head scratching in a *personal* ethical code, though, are crown your ancestors, and honor the hearth. My interpretation of those two is a bit far-reaching, but the ideas are solid. In order to be a good minister, you have to have a good grip on your own past and griefs (your ancestors), and you must have your home life in some semblance of order (hearth).

Of course, my Code is written out and explained in some detail. It will go into my personal minister's manual at the end of the year, something that any person I am ministering to (via weddings, funerals, chaplaincy through hospitals, etc) or for will have access to. I'm very pleased with the end result. I think it accurately describes how I try to run my life, including the places where I am striving rather than actually reaching. I think it's important to set the bar a little high, because otherwise what would you work toward?

I also changed my topic for my seasonal ritual that needs to be handed in. I had originally planned on writing up my Advent sermon, which I have to write for church anyhow, but just expanding it a bit to be more interfaith than Christian. The ideas are so universal it should be easy enough. However, I had been contemplating it while working on other homework and realized a few things.

First, I don't think that TNS has ever had an Hellenic polytheistic ritual done before, and I think I'm the one to add it. Second, if I am chosen to perform this ritual in October, it's going to feel really odd! I'd much rather do something germane to the season. Third, I have been feeling a strong call to write a ritual for personal use that includes a Litany to the Dead or for the dead. In light of all that, my seasonal ritual is actually a full Litany to the Dead, meant to be celebrated in the darker part of the year. It could really be applied anywhere from Autumn Equinox through to Yuletide, though I will be performing mine around Halloween (and perhaps at the Halloween party I'm attending, actually). For me, Hallow's Tide is the time I think of Persephone returning to the dark underground world of her Lord, when she becomes again the Queen rather than the Kore. It is one of my favorite times of year, despite the rain that comes (or perhaps because of it...).

I finished the rough draft yesterday, and plan on doing the finishing touches next week while the kids are at school. It isn't a horridly complex ritual, and can be performed indoors or out. Perhaps I'll share it after it gets marked!

My upcoming oral surgery has me a bit nervous, and that is causing me to be a bit preemptive in writing up my homework. I am so desperate not to get behind due to pain or Vicodin buzz that I decided to have all my homework done prior to the surgery. When I first got home and looked at the amount of it, I was a bit taken aback. I thought I'd set myself up for failure. However, it was a sound idea, and I arranged with my Dean to take my assignments early (the night before the surgery, in fact). I have actually gotten almost all of it done!

I still have editing to do, and I have to go over the drafts of everything. The main body of work, though, is complete. I'm proud of myself, not in a vainglorious way but just in a happy way. I applied myself, and I got the work done. And that despite the fact that my computer was offline most of yesterday and today I'm working in Gray's office hooked up to a short cable and an uncomfortable chair. Yay me!