Friday, March 25, 2011

Seeds of Service

As a child, did you ever want to "save the world" or rescue animals? Why?

You know, my friends often played at super heroes, but I never did. I always wanted to be Laura from Little House on the Prairie. What does that mean? Perhaps my means of serving others is more mundane. I liked animals enough, but never felt a call to save them, or the world.

How have youthful dreams influenced the choices you have made as an adult?

As a child, I just knew that I couldn't be like my mother. I suppose that's a normal feeling, however my own circumstances were different enough to make it an important choice. Ending that cycle of abuse before it continued was of immense importance. I dreamed long and hard about having another mother, any mother but the one I had. Then I found the Goddess of the Wiccae, and discovered that I'd had a decent mother all along, I just hadn't known about her. She led me to other Divine Guides and spirits and gods, and eventually to the path I am currently on.

Who are your current heroes and heroines?

I have to say, of the people I personally know, Alison Jacobs is one of my greatest heroines. She's the lady who was the interim pastor at my church when I first joined, and she brought home to me the adage about "minister being a verb, not a noun." She embodied what I myself wanted to be in a minister, and she listened and encouraged me as I sought out a way to make that come true. There are other people who influence me: Gray's mother, sis, my daughter, my friend RussetShadow. But Alison is the one that touches me in my soul, a real soul mate.

Have you ever felt called to do something from your deepest Self? How did you respond?

That call is what brought me to seminary, so yes. I've felt the call to serve for a very long time, but didn't know how to follow through. I muddled through my early years in Wicca, trying to answer a call that the particular tradition couldn't really respond to. It was like having a phone but no service - I wanted to answer but there just wasn't anything on the line. Finding The New Seminary really made the difference to me. It gave me a place to channel my need to serve and a way to answer that call. In some ways it's opened a whole new bundle of questions that need answering, but that's alright. Eventually, I'll get where I need to be. It might even be that where I am now IS where I'm needed most.

How do you keep your heart open and not get overwhelmed by the needs you see around you?

Sometimes I get overwhelmed, though less now than I used to. I've mastered the art of saying, "No," when necessary, and I'm fairly good at prioritizing things when I have to. I don't always do these things (hence I get overwhelmed sometimes) . Mostly, I try to be honest with the people around me. If I'm feeling over-tired or over-stretched, I let them know. That way, there's no surprise if I have to walk away for a bit to recharge.

How do you know "when to hold, when to fold"?

I try to listen to my body and my mental processes. If I'm tired all the time, it might be time to fold. If I am sick, or stressed, or feeling "thin" or "stretched" in some way, again it might be time to fold. I try to be vigilant for those feelings so I have the opportunity to finish a section or part of what I'm doing before folding, thereby leaving a situation in a good place rather than a bad one. If I'm just feeling disgruntled or out of sorts from one or two small things, I will try and work my way through it. Again, that honesty is important, not just for others but for myself as well.

How do you keep your own energies renewed?

I like to go on retreats, listen to instrumental music, and write. Sometimes I like to do things like chop wood and carry water, and other times I like to do yoga or tai chi. It really depends on why I need to replenish, and how long I have.

How do you balance your needs with those of others?

Right now, I'm stressing over this one. I think I used to do a pretty good job of this, but with the pending poly-divorce, I have been shying away from balancing my needs with the people who have opted out of the relationship. Mostly, I just want to see MY needs are met, and the needs of my family, and not worry so much about THEM. I realize this is not a great way to look at things, but at the moment it's where I am. Time may heal those wounds, but right now they're pretty fresh.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Seeds of Endurance

What kind of things can tempt you to give up on your path?

Lies, and damn lies, tend to be my downfall. While I don't expect people to be perfect (well, not all the time at least), I do expect them to be honest with me. When I find out that people have lied to me, it makes me want to throw up my hands in despair. When I am lied to by people who I consider spiritual equals or betters, it's even worse. I have found myself, several times over the years, standing in a sacred place and saying, "Why am I doing this? They don't WANT me to interfere!" Sometimes I want to "get off the ride" and just walk away. I usually take that as a hint that it's time for me to go be alone for a while, time to recharge the spiritual batteries so I can keep plodding on. I don't know that any of that really tempts me to give up my path, though it vexes me.

What are your strengths and weaknesses in personal discipline?

My strengths would include my ability to speak and communicate relatively well, and my skill at writing. They're related, though one requires more interaction than the other. I prefer to write my sermons down, for instance, but have discovered that I have the ability to get up and just speak, and the words come out alright even without the script.

Weaknesses are another thing. I don't budget my time as well as I should, and I let myself get distracted by trivial things. When I should be working on my sermon or ritual, I'll realize I'm wasting time on FaceBook or games.com. Once I get going I can be a real work horse, but sometimes I have a very difficult time getting moving.

For what are you willing to endure almost anything regardless of the cost in time, money, relationships, and so on?

I can endure almost anything for love and for children. I have been through hell and back emotionally, yet I still hold on. My relationships with Gray and sis and the kids are wonderful, bastions of strength for me. While I have the capacity (even the need) to love others, they are and will always be my core. They are like an anchor that holds me as I sway in heavy seas, lending me inner strength and peace of mind when I need it most.

How do you sustain your commitment during the silences?

That's a tough one. When the times come that have me uninspired, when I'm trying to write and the words won't flow, when I feel separate from my gods for whatever reason... those are times I have to tough it out. I have to continue to slog on, doing what needs to be done. I've learned that I can allow myself to feel down, depressed, even angry, so long as I don't wallow in those feelings and I keep moving forward. The word "slog" comes to mind again. I pray a lot. I try new things, and I educate myself in a subject I'm not yet familiar with. I do things to keep my mind lubricated and open, ready for when I am called upon.

How do you recognize within yourself the difference between passionate commitment, obsession, and fanaticism?

Commitment, passionate or otherwise, is a positive thing. One commits to going to church each Sunday, or giving up a favorite food for Lent, or writing a piece of spiritual poetry every day. It is an action, something you DO. Obsessions and fanaticism can both be inactive, qualities that infect the mind and soul but remain hidden. Even if they come to the surface, they aren't always noticeable. They aren't necessarily negative, per se, but often can be. They eat up all your time rather than the time apportioned to them.

How do I recognize the differences between these three in myself? I would say that if I am doing something for a purpose, whether that is to improve my health, spur my spirituality, or something else entirely, then I am doing something that is a passionate commitment. If my goal is unclear or uneven or illogical, then I need to take a good, hard look at what I'm doing and see if it is a negative thing that needs to be stopped.

Do you know when you are simply being stubborn? How does that differ from dedication?

Again, I think the negative connotations of stubbornness tend to make it stand out. Dedication is inherently positive, something you do for a purpose. Stubbornness happens because you're dogging at a subject, unwilling to give up, and it may have started in positive intentions but is no longer aimed that way. In myself, stubbornness is pretty obvious. Usually if I'm being stubborn, I am upset or unhappy with what is going on, or the result of that stubbornness. On the other hand, if I am dedicated to a cause or purpose (seminary, for instance), it may eat up time and effort, but it has a positive outcome and a reason behind it.

What is the difference between martyrdom and endurance?

Well, one can endure while alive, but to be a martyr you have to die first. I'd prefer the first...

Can you see things as they are and still hold the vision of what they can be?

Yes, although I'm still on shaky ground with this one. This is a skill that I have only just learned in the past few years, and I am still practicing and refining it. In my past, I would get caught up in "things as they are" and lose sight of where they might go or could become. That would lead to negative thinking such as, "Well, if we're short on cash now, we'll always be short on cash!" Now, I'm better able to look at a situation and see that what is happening now is happening for a reason (even if I don't understand it), and that the ". . . universe is unfolding as it should . . ." (thanks Max Ehrmann).

Most important, why are you enduring? For what purpose?

I don't know exactly what the purpose is, but I know there are things I need to do in my life. I don't know if my part of what is going on in the current universal shift will be small or large, but the bottom line is that it doesn't really matter. No matter whether I'm the headliner or in the back row of the chorus, I am a part of things and that's good enough. I am enduring seminary, home hardships, poly divorce, and other things because I know there are things I am destined to do. I'll know what they are when the time comes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Darkest of Nights

Dark Night, Soul Blight

What does it mean to stumble and wander,
To move through the darkness,
No light to squander?
I cannot appreciate light's holy glow
Without the black to
Show what I forgo.
Yet when standing within the inky night,
Nothing to guide me
While soul yearns for flight,
I find that I cannot appreciate
That quiet, that silent
And most sacred state.
I fear and I cower, complain and whine
Not once seeing
The velvety shrine
That surrounds my being like strong, loving arms
Keeping me safe
From the world's harms.
When I am quiet, within and without,
Mind calmed, at peace,
I can be devout
In my worship, my awe, my understanding
Of darkness and soul,
And what they may bring.
Only then can I stop long enough to receive
The joy of the night,
My soul's soft reprieve.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lonely Journey

Pic by Moonmisery
The Long Road (March 18th)

It's been a long road
With hills and valleys interspersed
Among flat highways with
Nothing at all to see.
I'm tired after miles of travel
And hundreds more to go.
My soul flies to green places,
Tempted by warmth and joy,
Yet where I am and
Where I'm going
Is so much more important.
When I pull myself away
From that seductive brink,
I pray for forgiveness.
I need to see the beauty
Of my present state,
Because by-gone memories
Are hazy with rosy hue
And the future is always full of perfect propositions.
The road goes ever on,
And I travel it with
What grace I can muster.
At times calm and serene,
And others not so much.
But here I am.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Silence - Lent Poem

Elegy for Solitude

Once, long ago, the silence was easy to find.
Walk to the park, or to your place of worship,
And the quietude would fill you to the brim.
Today it's not so simple, and the silence is gone.
It breathed its last amidst the clutter of
Telephones, internet, radios, televisions.
I miss the solitude;
The hush of deepening dusk
Was treasured, sought after.
Now it has departed this realm,
Lost to raucous music and video game sounds.
I mourn the loss,
Pierced to the heart,
Desperately yearning for
What was lost.

Cinquain for Lent

Wilderness

Wilderness;
Wild, lonely.
Sitting alone praying,
Baring soul to God.
Frontier.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Our Father, Updated

Our Father, Redux

Our Father, our Mother,
Our parents who reside in the skies,
In the wilderness, in the desert,
Blessings and prayers be heaped upon you!
Let fat oxen and pure white doves be sacrificed
For the Holy Names above.
May your desires be made manifest
Upon the Earth, among your peoples
Of all colors, creeds, religions and beliefs.
Bring food and water, love and nurturing strength,
Material symbols of your love for us,
To be distributed among the needy,
The poor, the disturbed, the grieved.
Forgive us for not paying more attention
To those who call for succor,
And help us to better understand
Our fellow man, woman, and child
As an extension of ourselves.
Grand us the understanding that there is no
Us and Them,
But only WE.
Help us to help ourselves,
And those around us.
We humbly beg for the wisdom to
Understand good and evil,
For we have forgotten.
We have lost our way,
Lost the knowledge that
Thine is the place of glory,
That you, all faces of Divinity,
All Holy Powers,
Hold the keys to the Universe
Now and forevermore.
So be it.
So it is.
Dark Night of the Soul

Silence fills the halls around me;
Blackness blinds me to everything.
Guilt and sorrow overflow my yearning breast.
All seems lost.
The world removed from me,
No person piercing the shadow
To save my aching soul.
Enveloped in the inky arms of death,
I bow my head and sob.
The tears glisten...
Is that a light?
No, I mustn't look!
Who knows - it might be a train,
And I don't want to see it.
Just take me now,
So I needn't live in the despair
Of knowing my failures.
And yet...
That is a glow in the distance,
A shimmering light that pulls me.
The silence and black fall away,
Melting like ice in summer sun,
And She stands before me.
My One, my Love,
My Goddess of the dark.
On her right is another,
To her left yet one more -
An unbroken line into the distance,
Of shining, luminescent figures,
Gods, all.
And why do I deserve this host,
This manifestation of miracles?
"You are our child."
I bow my head and sob,
Knowing that I am loved.
Written to  Mirror Veil, by Liquid Mind.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Seduction

What things could seduce me off my path (and perhaps do on occasion)?

I'm not sure I can answer that. I realize it's an important question, but I'm not sure what is meant by "seduce me off my path." Right now, I know where I'm going (toward ordination) and what I'm doing (homework and personal work). I know that is where I want to go, even when I'm very down and depressed. Nothing could seduce me off that path.

In the long run, I suppose there are things that could lure me away from ministry. If my daughter were to come live with me, that would change things in a large way. I could see myself getting lost in nurturing that long-lost relationship and allowing it to pull me away from my path for a while. Even that, though, wouldn't be a permanent thing. While I'm not perfect and sometimes stumble, I feel like my life is pretty firmly on the path now.

My greatest temptations are things like wasting time on the internet instead of doing what I should be doing, and eating things I should not be eating. I have my vices, and I suppose in the grand scheme of things they're pretty minor. Chocolate, sex with my partner(s), online games, reading... Each could turn into a serious problem if I allowed it, but I have rarely felt like any of those things should take over. The few times they have, it's taken only a short while for the universe to send things my direction to show me the error of my ways.

Seeds of Transformation

What experience has seemed most unfair in your life? How has your understanding of this experience evolved over time?

I will admit, having lived with my mother, my ex-husband, and my current poly lover, it's hard to pick a single one that seems most unfair. I did nothing to cause my mother's anger and vitriol, and while I was not a model wife I certainly didn't deserve to be cheated on by an ex who claimed he was monogamous. My most recent poly lover has lied to me for no reason I can understand, and then been angry that I didn't change in accordance with his desires. All this seems incredibly unfair.

Still, I think of all the things in my life that have been unfair, losing my daughter was the one that stands out most. While I was a participant in losing her, the lies and nastiness that preceded it were not things which I influenced or had control over. At the time it happened, I could feel nothing but pure betrayal and a sick, dying pit in my soul. I was very badly hurt by that loss, and I know she was as well. For me, the lies ended that day; for her they simply began anew, as those who retained control over her began feeding her the story line they'd created.

Over the years, I have come to understand that there was no real perfect solution to the problem that presented itself. Had I stayed where my daughter was, I would have lost my self-respect and all ability to be a functioning, healthy person. Had I taken her with me, she would have been a witness to the break-up of Gray's marriage, which was not physically violent but was emotionally violent. Had I managed to get custody of her later, she would have seen me going through therapy and struggling with my own sense of being, and I'm not sure that would have been good for her either. Of course, now that I'm much more whole, and much more capable of being the mother she deserves, she's not interested. She's lived with the lies and hatred for so long that it's all she knows. It hurts... but I live with it. What's most important is that she's safe, and much stronger than she thinks.

Have you experienced great loss? How have you dealt with grief or anger? How has it changed you?

Losing my daughter was my greatest loss. Other than that, I would have to say the day that Eric died was the worst for me, though. It was only a week before the twins were born, and he and I had rekindled our friendship with one another. We talked about anything and everything, and I was so proud of him. He was doing well in school, and had taken a holiday to gather strength for the next semester. I was in the chem lab when I got an email from a friend, trying desperately to find Eric's mother. I found out he had suffered a massive stroke and had died fairly quickly. I'm grateful he didn't suffer, and I'm grateful that the last words he heard from me were words of pride and love. But he was the first person of "my" generation to die, and he was someone I owed so much to. Dealing with that grief was terrible; it happened right before Samhain, and I just couldn't lead the ritual that year. I couldn't let go of him, with the wound so fresh and sore. I spent a lot of time crying, for weeks. My first few days with the twins, when they came home, were tinged with the pain of his loss. I can't describe how those children represented the fact that life went on, even after he died... and there were moments I resented that terribly.

Now... years later, I think on him often. I offer wine and barley to him, and words of prayer and praise, as one of my spiritual ancestors. I still love him, and I feel his presence more now. I see him as one of my angels, my companions through this tour of life.

Have you found gifts in the loss?

Oh yes! I found I can live through the pain, and that I can grieve without losing myself completely. I gained a guardian and guide who is still with me and always will be in some form or another. I've learned I'm stronger than I thought I was.

Who or what have you not forgiven?

I will admit, I'm still struggling with the idea of forgiving my poly lover. I feel like he turned on me, turned on my family, and that's been tough. Distance has given me perspective, but I still can't see the forest for the trees. I can't see the motivation for the lies and the anger. I want to forgive, but not forget, and yet I'm still holding onto that one. At some point I need to do a ritual of separation, but I'm not there, yet.

Seeds of Creation

Review your history with the feminine aspect of the Divine. Who, if any, were your feminine spiritual role models?

I have a long history with feminine Divinity. My first memory of contact with "god" was of crying out in the night and having massive, nurturing arms surrounding me. For the longest time, I thought the term "god" meant that Lady who held me at night. It wasn't until I was 11 or 12 that I realized it was a masculine term, and that confused me. I had no real feminine or female spiritual role models while growing up. My mother was anti-religious and anti-spiritual, and my close family were not really all that religious. My Hungarian grandmother was Catholic, but when she took me to services they were in a language I didn't speak and I had no idea what was going on. It wasn't until I was in my late teens and early 20s that I really began to find female role models in the pagan community in BC. Even then, I was sorely disappointed to discover that many of them had serious feet of clay.

How much were you taught about the Sacred Mother? What messages about Her were unspoken but firmly communicated?

I was taught nothing about the Sacred Mother growing up. In fact, it wasn't until I found Wicca that the term "mother" was anything other than a swear word to me. The only message unspoken about religion (and this was about any religion) was that it was a crutch and those who were religious were deluded fools.

Do your practices include the Mother?

It's hard for me to answer that. I don't believe in an "all encompassing" mother goddess. That said, there are certainly mother goddesses that play strong roles in my personal religious practices. I honor Demeter as the grieving and attentive mother. I honor Hera as the "queen mother" of the gods. Hecate, who is my matron, is sometimes seen as a mother figure depending on how far back you look. She is always the mother to me, though, because it was Hecate who held me all those years ago.

Do you use the term Goddess? Why?

I do use the term goddess, though I don't capitalize it because I know many goddesses and not just one who rules the universe. The term 'goddess' is just a title, a descriptor to explain that a particular Divine Power is feminine in how it shows itself. Why do I use the term? It's a good descriptor - a female divine power. It seems as good a term as any. It's hard sometimes, being with a group of people (in seminary) who believe "all are one" because that is not my belief. Well, not exactly. I believe that the gods are separate entities, unique in their own rights, but that some divine thread joins them all in a way we can't understand. Hence why I use the term "squishy polytheist" when referring to myself.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Temptation's Pull

Temptation

You know it so well, don't you?
It's that burn, the one that claws at your guts
And makes you start to pick up the
Forbidden fruit
(Chocolate? Sweets? Pure sugar?)
Despite the promise not to.
The undisguised longing and desire
Is like an unquenched thirst in your throat.
Put it down, leave it be.
It's no longer for you.
Instead it's a marker, a sign
That now would be a good time to pray.
Now would be that moment you've been waiting for,
The "right moment" to "get around to it."
Whether you press your hands together
And sink to repentant knees,
Or dance frenzied around the bonfire,
Or even pause for a moment and burst into song,
Doesn't matter.
What matters is the connection,
The reaching out for Divinity.
Stretch forth your hand,
So the Divine Powers can stretch back
And meet you half way.
Let temptation be your guide,
Your mentor, your personal trainer.
Revel in it, and make it powerless over you.
Turn temptation into a force for good,
Divinely driven.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

More Lenten Poetry

Desert Journey

Pain is another way of knowing you're alive.
In our society it's so easy to go about the day
Completely unaware of our Creator
(Or Creatrix, as the case may be).
There are no soaring temples that call to us,
No dusty deserts to call us into seclusion.
Yet aren't the streets of the city just as bare
And arid as a desert, if we allow them to be?
What if we take our affluence,
Our horns of plenty,
And give them up for a little while?
After all, pain is another way of knowing you're alive,
And giving something up is another way of 
Remembering
Reminding ourselves that the Divine Essence
Lives on in all of us.
The smoking fat and bones are no longer
The correct sacrifice for our gods.
Instead, let us offer up the fatted calf
Of our over-indulgent lives
To the god of our understanding.
Give up sitting in front of the tv,
Or chocolate, or soda,
Or give up procrastination,
And when the sting of sacrifice touches us,
Pricks at our sybaritic souls,
Perhaps it will be the catalyst
To help our straining hands reach God.

Thoughts of Sacrifice

The Velveteen Rabbi, Reb Rachel Barenblat, wrote the following in her journal today:
Does God "need" our blessings? Reb Marcia Prager taught me to understand prayer as something like the cry of the infant which stimulates the flow of its mother's milk. "More than the calf wants to suckle," said the rabbis of the Talmud, "the cow wants to give milk." God wants to stream blessing into the world; our prayers, our cries, prime that cosmic pump. When we say "please," and when we say "thank you," we're sending our energy toward the Holy One—which in turn stimulates the flow of blessing back to us.
I love this image. It resonates with me. It gave me shivers when I read it, because it makes so much sense to me. I don't believe that the gods need us, per se, but I do believe they love us, and if they love us then it follows that they want to interact with us. They need us to reach to them, though, as a child reaches for a mother's hand as it learns to walk. If we're stubborn and refuse to reach out, we might make it onto our feet alone, but it would be more beneficial for both if we could stretch out our hands. 

More than that, when we reach out to God, to the gods, we stimulate both our own feelings of love and unity, and the divinity within. I believe the animating force within us is a small, infinitesimal piece of godhead, and that it yearns and longs to be together with its Whole again. Through prayer and blessings, those please and thank you moments, we stretch out across the universe and reunite with that which created our inner being. 

Sustenance

Get up, get out of bed
So many things to do
The day crowds in around me
And demands attention.
Yet I don't give in to the rush
Because to do so would be
To leave the desert of
Self contemplation
Self revelation
Self examination
That I have chosen to enter.
Forty days and nights I stay here
Taking out my soul from time to time
To examine it with close intention
To take inventory and note
Where there are lacks
And where abundance has changed
To stagnation and spoilage.
So I push away the many things
And settle into meditation
And sacrifice a bit of my day
To the Divine.
Each time I do this,
Deny the rush and pull,
I make sacred my intentions.
Like an infant's cry brings mother's milk,
My self imposed desert homage
Brings me within the grasp
Of the Holy,
There to be blessed with
Life sustaining love.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Seeds of Power

When do you feel powerful? Powerless?

I feel powerful when I am doing something I am practiced in. Writing, for instance, is something that comes easy to me (although I still work hard at it), and I feel powerful when I am putting words to paper and creating something new. I get a similar feeling when cooking a favorite recipe, or cuddling with the children or my partners. It's not a power OVER but a power WITH, something that does not include powerlessness on the other side of the equation.

I feel powerless when I find that my trust has been betrayed. When people lie to me and I find out about it, I feel that power has been stolen from me, and I really struggle with finding my equilibrium afterward. I also tend to feel powerless when I am around people who know my buttons and push them.

What kind of power attracts you? Repels you?

There is a strong attraction in me for personal strength and power. Gray is a very powerful person, both in personality and in body, and I enjoy watching that power in action. I love to see his confidence at work. In a way I aspire to be like that, not needing the approval of others to help me hold into my own power. To some extent I've found a measure of that, but I still fight to find it within me. I find crass power to be very unattractive. The bully, the dictator, the power hungry person who lords it over others holds no interest to me. Those who seek power for power's sake can move right along.

What are symbols of power to you?

There are different types of power in my life. Religiously speaking, the icons of my chosen gods are powerful symbols for me: the owl, the grape vine, the caduceus, the cross. They are outward images that represent the strong and benevolent power behind the symbol. From a personal standpoint, strength of personality is a symbol of power, and the old standard, money. Knowledge, too, is a vibrant symbol of power.

How was power used in your family?

My mother was more of a tyrant than anything else. She ruled the house with tactics that were more bullying than leading. My father was more polite about it, but he chose to be with my mother and I was an accident of birth; his loyalties lie with her. Guilt, too, was used as a tool of power. Anger, depression, and many other negative emotions were used to control the actions of others.

How has power been acted out in intimate relationships?

That's kind of a broad question. I have a power exchange with Gray, one that I entered by choice but that has waned somewhat over the years (in some ways... in other ways it's still quite strong). I enjoy it when he takes control of our private time together. I tend to be more in charge of money and home, because that is where my skill set lies.

How do you know the difference between fulfilling a mission and being a "chosen one"?

Good question! I don't, necessarily. I work hard to never getting the "chosen one" idea into my brain. There are certainly things that I feel I've been incarnated here to do, and that's fine, but I think that if I failed others would take my place. I'm no more (or less) special than anyone else. I think the moment you start thinking you're the only one who can do something, you're on very dangerous ground.

Right now, I feel a distinct call to be a bridge between paganism and Christianity. That's a fun thing, a powerful thing. At no point am I under the impression that I'm the ONLY one who can do this thing, though. Anyone can, really. If I do not follow through, there are others who can and will step up to fill that role in the world. I am just a cog in a very large machine - important, yes, but not all-important.

What do you consider to be "enough" -- enough money, popularity, accomplishments, and so forth?

Enough... would mean not having to squeeze every cent until it screams. I like the idea of being able to run to the store and pick up milk without worrying it will bounce a check. Popularity I don't really worry about at all. Some people like me and others do not, and that's alright. Accomplishments are probably my downfall. I suffer from feeling inadequate, and so I really push myself to do more, be more, accomplish more. I often do it to my own detriment,  until I'm exhausted or over-stretched. Learning to say "no" has been a very difficult journey.

How do you feel about money and service?

I like money... I like service (both giving and receiving). I tend to be very open about money. While I do feel I deserve to be paid for my services (wedding, funeral, etc), I do not believe I'd ever turn anyone away from my services for lack of payment. Service, to me, transcends the money aspect. I ask for what I feel I'm worth, and accept that sometimes that number isn't realistic. That doesn't mean someone else has to go without service.

What kind of people do you put on or off pedestals? Have you examined why you do either?

I think I had my mother on a pedestal for a long time, although it wasn't a positive one. I had her up there to throw the emotional version of rotten tomatoes at her. Now, I've taken her off that pedestal. I still have issues with her, but they're person to person; the grandiose vision of her is gone. She's just another broken human being.

I put Gray on a pedestal for a long time, almost to worship him in a way. I don't mean worship as I worship my gods, but in a more human way. He provided me with all the basic necessities of life (food, shelter, love) and then taught me how to be a human being again after a long period of abuse and unhappiness. He taught me it's okay to fail, and that failure doesn't mean that love stops or is taken away. It was easy to put him on that pedestal! I suppose he's still up there sometimes, for me, but after a decade of living together I've come to know his foibles and failures as well as his successes.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lent: Searching the Soul

Lent is a time of soul searching, of examining the innards of our minds and souls to examine them for flaws, problems, and sore spots. It's time to pay attention to our animating essence and see if any part of our true selves has come unstuck from our bodies. I see this as a time for taking a spiritual inventory, taking stock of what I've used up, what I need to replenish, and what is on the shelves that just needs to be thrown out because it's way past its expiration date.

For Christians, this inner cleansing leads up to a few things. There's the celebration of the Last Supper, of Pentacost and Passover, and the Assumption. It's roughly connected with the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert, resisting temptations from Shaitan. The whole "40 days" thing is important in Abrahamic faiths in general, being the time people spend apart from others. It seems to be associated with cleansings. Think of Moses, leading the Israelites through the desert for 40 years.

As a hybrid, with beliefs both in my Greek gods and the Christian ones, this is a time of purification for me. During Passover and the church observances of Jesus' death and resurrection, my Greek shrines will be shrouded. I will go through this time thinking about life and death, and my participation in the church and in Hellenic paganism.

The Labyrinth

I step, I step with leery eye
Upon the path laid out for me
My heart it beats as if to die
And in my ears the buzzing bee

Doth make me want to turn aside
Away from labyrinthine turns
And twists with not one place to hide
Nor from this maze ever return

I must look, not turn away,
And see my spirit revealed thus
Baldly, blandly on display
Nothing left there to discuss

My soul, my soul is on display
With none but me to look at it
Its wreck and ruin and disarray
Its golden aura a perfect fit

I tread the sacred path until
My soul is ready to refill
With strength and joy and peace of mind
The searching soul once more refined.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lenten Discipline

Lent is an interesting time for me. It has been a time of sacrifice for me for about 20 years or so, even though I did not identify in the least with Christianity for the majority of that time. Now that I am exploring my Christian beliefs, it has taken on new importance to me.

In the past, I have given things up for Lent. Coffee (never again, the family says), chocolate, sweets, video and FaceBook games, and many other things have made the cut list in the past. This year, however, I'm thinking of adding something instead of taking something away. I suppose I could look at it as "giving up procrastinating about my poetry," though, if I really wanted to.

I plan to write 46 poems for Lent, one for each day (including the Sundays). Because we might be moving during Lent, I might have to write ahead, or alternatively, catch up after the move. I am going to write the poems as a method of exploring my own beliefs and thoughts on sacrifice and luxury.

The Ashes

The smell of burning palm frond,
Dry and somewhat dusty from sitting on my shelf for a year,
Wafts about the kitchen.
It doesn't burn all at once,
Instead going in bits and pieces as I light it with a match over and over.
The ashes fall into the bowl.
When it's gone,
Reduced to just a pile of long, dark duskiness,
I tap it into the mortar.
Grinding the last of it
Into fine ashes, black and inky and thick,
I think of last year.
In goes the oil,
Adding a faint hint of earthy olive to the smoky scent,
And a thick slurry is made.
Soon these ashes,
So poignant a reminder of sacrifice and loss of luxury,
Will grace my forehead.
The season has begun,
A time of deep thought, of repentance for marks missed,
The season of Lent.
The dark days
After the Transfiguration, after the glory, after the wailing and sackcloth,
Are still with us.
Amen.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What do I eat? (For Sylvan)

Dianne Sylvan is one of my favorite modern pagan authors and I read her blogs religiously (*snort* LOL). Today, she challenged us:

Thus, I invite you, dear readers, to share with me: what do you and your family eat in, say, a week? How much of it is homemade, how often do you go out? Do you shop for organic products or just grab what’s cheap? Are you veg, omni, gluten-free? I’d like to see a snapshot of everyone’s weekly kitchens no matter what kind of diet your family ascribes to.

So I am writing for her, today.

For the record, our family are omnivores. We sometimes eat vegetarian meals, and on rare occasions, vegan ones, but for the most part we like our meat and choose to raise some of it ourselves (chickens mostly). We grow as much of our own veg as we can, and store it via freezing, drying and canning. Nothing beats pulling out a can of last summer's home-canned tomatoes and eating them in snowy March during a freak blizzard (yes, that was yesterday).

As for our normal weekly fair, we do eat tacos or some variant of them (enchiladas, burritos, etc.) every couple of weeks. We like Mexican flavors, and they're a quick throw-together meal that can be made with whatever meat happens to be handy. We almost always have a packet of spices on hand, and so it's something we can make in a rush.

We eat a lot of chicken, both because we raise a lot of our own (though not all, yet) and because it's low in calories and high on flavor. Our favorite chicken meals include some form of chicken stir fry with whatever vegetables are handy, and chicken curry with a thick, coconutty sauce. If I were going vegan, curry would be high on my list of "must have" foods for quick and easy noshing, because I can make curry out of anything: potatoes, tofu, vegetables, tofurky, gluten crumbles, rice... and because curry can be changed in flavor with just a few subtle ingredients: tomatoes today, coconut tomorrow, peppers on Thursday.

We eat a lot of eggs, because we raise chickens and they provide us with fresh, safe brown eggs on a daily basis. Sometimes we eat eggs for dinner, but most often it's a breakfast or lunch item. We do everything from omelettes to fritattas to quiche and egg custard. Yum!

We do the ubiquitous pot roast, cooked in a low-heat oven for most of the day in a simmering wine and broth mix. When it's all falling apart, mixed in with the juices and potatoes and carrots, we love this as a pre-planned meal.

Lunches tend to be sandwiches around here, or quick microwaved left-overs.

There you have it. Food by Allyson.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Life in New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, we have a saying: if you don't like the weather, wait a minute. After a few days of relatively mild temperatures (hovering just below freezing), we got Snopocalypse Mark II. The heavens opened and snow fell in large amounts. It was on this day that we decided to go have a look at the house we hope to be buying in the next few days. We figured if we could get to it during a blizzard with hail, sleet, snow, and rain, then we could get to it anytime. We managed, and all was good. I have to say though, I'm almost done with snow. It snowed this afternoon for a while, and I really just want it to stop. No more snow, please. It's spring. Really!

See? There are signs of spring. Those are sprouts, right there in that there window! The blue cup has daisies in it, and is mine. The yellow one is the boytwin's and his contains sunflowers. The girltwin chose the pink cup (gee, really? LOL) and planted zinnias. It's so nice to see a little bit of fresh green poking through. The kids are enchanted with these tiny planters, which is fun and educational. I like growing seeds with them - they get so excited to see each moment of growth as the leaves poke through then multiply. Soon I'll be starting our seedlings for the new garden, which is also exciting. I picked up a cheap "windowsill" greenhouse for starting the plants: tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, zuchinni. I'm not doing the "heritage" thing this year, for the most part, because I don't have the equipment available to me that I have had in previous years (not having a tiller really sucks). But I'm having a garden, regardless!

Almost all of my altar goods are packed up and ready to move to the new house. I just have one small altar set up, because I can't bear to not have ANY altar at all. You can see the owl candle holder that sis got me for Yule/Christmas this year - when lit, the light cast makes it look like wings. It's so beautiful, and warm... like my Lady. She'll be the last item I take down from this house, and the first thing put up at the new house. Hopefully that will all happen within the next month or so!

Alright, enough with updating. I have more packing to do.