Tuesday, November 18, 2014

So much cold, so little time...

Winter has hit again in New England, and I have to say, it reminds me of growing up in the mid-west... and I love it.  Yes, the temps are so low all the time you wonder if the thermostat is broken and the sky so bleak you wonder if all the color has sapped out of the atmosphere into some hidden cave.  But the leaves still cling to the last hues of autumn and looking around, you realize that you're desperate to see the ice and snow return.

Here's the thing - I love distinct and changing seasons.  One of the reasons that I didn't connect with Maryland nearly the way I thought I would is that I need more change in my seasons.  I want to go from a bitter winter to a squishy spring to a hot summer to a crisp and drizzly autumn to help visualize the turn of the wheel.   Change like this really helps push forward the calendar in my head, and for someone who isn't so great at the big picture thing, this is a huge help.  Watching the yearly progression of my garden is just one more time telling device I use that isn't a calendar or clock.

Part of what I try to do with my path is to learn and use the skills that have been partially lost in this age.  There are many who do this to varying degrees, and I don't go as far as some, but there are aspects to my life that I need to keep myself slowed down.  Here are some techniques I use:

Herb gathering - nothing makes you stop and pay attention like gathering from your garden.  You don't need anything but a basket and your hands to do it, so no technology comes into the equation. (unless you want to use clippers, but still, not high tech here.)  It's just you, studying your plants, choosing which ones to prune, which ones are ready for harvest and which ones need to keep a few leaves.  You have to talk to your garden but you have to listen too - and this is a listening time.

Raking leaves - this is on the list probably because I lived in apartments for the majority of my life.  I didn't have a yard to care for... the landscapers did all of that.  So now that there is yard for me to play in, I also care for it and leaves are part of my deal.  I get to be close to that color that existed outside the window, that fell to the ground and now has purposes in caring as mulch for my garden and an additive for my compost bin.

Making something from scratch - I do a lot of cooking (in case you couldn't guess) and one of the things that heralds fall for me is a trip to the orchard and then an afternoon making apple butter.  It takes forever (I don't have a peeler/corer, just a trusty knife) so it's peeling and cutting till my hands are slick with juice and the crock pot is heaping with apple bits.

Scents - this is the most important thing I do.  Scent can do wonders for you, and more than just making a space smell "nice", scents can trigger memories that will do more to lift your mood than almost anything else.  My recipe book for this is Scott Cunningham's Incense, Oils and Brews or his Herbal Encyclopedia... they're wonderful and if you don't have a copy, you should invest as soon as you're able.  A few tips: don't use pots you cook in, have one or two that are just for your scents.  I use the little ones from Ikea, because I'm bound to mess them up at some point and they're cheap enough you don't mind so much.  Also, have spoons that are only used for your scents.  Both of these reasons are for safety - you're likely, at some point, to add something you can't ingest but like the smell of - and you don't want to poison anyone.  So be careful of who's around and make sure everyone knows not to eat that.  :)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Coming back to the path

So you might not have noticed, but this blog was dark for a while.  There's a reason for that. 

I started this while I still lived in the wilds of the Appalachian Mountains, when I lived alone in a small apartment and did little but go to work and come home each day.  It was a hard transition moving out there, and a painful lesson about friends and family, and that year alone helped me focus on my path and how I walked it. I started this blog to help myself understand things, and to share what I was learning with whoever wanted to listen.  

I kept it up a little after I moved closer to our nation's capital but not much.  My path there was very different and I took on a role that was more public than I had in the past.  People came to me for readings, I was sought out for incenses and brews... it was close to what an early part of my life was like, in the "Before Times" as I tend to call them, and it wasn't unwanted.  It was lovely.  I met a man who lived hours away from me and my path began to materialize around moving again.  So I did.  

Up the east coast I drove and now I'm living on the lands that witnessed a revolution.  For the first time in my life I feel like I'm exactly where I ought to be, and at the right time too.  It's a wonderful feeling!  My path, however, was neglected and like the gardens I love so much it wilted and grew over and fell into the shadows.  I've been up here almost two years and let me tell you, the last few months have been difficult.  It's hard when your senses don't register that you've wandered off. 

It's hard to cast when you're looking the wrong direction.  Like most women who love deeply, we're inclined to bend ourselves to the will and needs of those around us.  This is good, and bad - and something we work on CONSTANTLY. (yeah, yelling... because, reasons.)  I was slipping. 

So - coming back to the path.  Samhain is a good time for that, and it's a good thing I read the memo in time to realize that's what this Samhain was for me - a swift kick to the head. It didn't hurt though, but it was very effective.  

Coming back to the path is never the same twice.  Sometimes you can walk back in and nothing has changed - the hedge looks the same, your basket is where you left it and all the scents are just right.  Sometimes you walk back in and everything is dead on the surface, and only after considerable digging do you find the green shoots and tiny blooms and worn pavers.  Sometimes you have to search for the door for days, and just when all seems lost you fall backward into the space between and find the path waiting for you like an impatient lover.  Sometimes you step through and find the path waiting for you like a scorned friend, cold and hurting.  It's not always happiness and light.  Sometimes it's dark and painful.  

So coming back this time wasn't pretty.  My kitchen didn't hum, the garden was dying and there were no pavers to be found.  I felt disconnected and that hurt more than I was willing to realize.  Rifts were forming of my own doing, and I wasn't aware enough to realize it.  

Enter the Clue-by-Four.  (this one sparkled as it whizzed through the air at my head) 

And I got hit.  Hard.  And again.  Hard.  So I listened.  And listened some more.  Once things got quiet I went inside and slept on it.  

The next morning was lovely, and much better.  Knowing your path is there and waiting for you makes things better, but actually stepping out onto that path and feeling it solid beneath your feet makes things easier.  

So to the New Year I say this - thank you.  It's good to be back. 

The Moon

I found myself staring at the moon as she came into her fullness and although I was away from my gardens, I called down a blessing to my little seedlings and my window boxes.  The moon was so lovely, and the light so bright!   She was very happy last night.  As a personal training (about 2 years ago) I held a full moon ritual on every full moon for a full year. The winter months were cold, and some of the nights were soaking wet, but I was outside every month honoring the moon in her fullness.  I became more in tune with her turning, and with the wheel of the year - it was lovely walking through the year with her.  It really made me aware of the passing of time.

There are a myriad of foods that honor the moon, and that work well with moon energy.  For my ceremonies I went simple - it felt right for a solitary worker.  I baked small round wheat rolls and had a small cup of white wine.  I also added a little something corresponding to the moon it was at the time, to better honor her.  Here's a list, in case you don't have it with your grimoire or recipe book as I call it:
  • January = Wolf Moon
  • February = Storm Moon
  • March = Chaste Moon
  • April = Seed Moon
  • May = Hare Moon
  • June = Dyad Moon
  • July = Mead Moon
  • August = Wyrt Moon (green plant)
  • September = Barley Moon
  • October = Blood Moon
  • November = Snow Moon
  • December = Oak Moon

Even if it's just looking at the moon through your car window for a moment as you're driving home, or taking a few minutes to look out through your window at home, take a minute and remember the moon in her fullness, remember what it means to watch the moon phase through and hold that close.

Can you take it with you?

                For most of us, I’d dare say just about everyone reading this blog, our homes are our sanctuaries – our hearths are the calm spot in the craziness of the world.  We find ourselves breathing normally there.  Those places are our quiet. 

                So how do we take that with us?  How do we find that calm when we’re not at home, safe by our hearth or happy in our gardens?  It’s not easy, let me tell you. 

                The sacred is everywhere for us, in every tree and rock, in the air that we breathe and the sun we see.  The trick, then, is to remind ourselves of that in places where it’s not so evident that we’re connected to nature.  The stale office with the fluorescent lighting.  Places devoid of life, save the humans rushing around within its walls and the paper flying like gnats through printers and faxes and hands. 
                The first (and easiest) element we have at our disposal in these places is Air.  You’re breathing, aren’t you?  Your body is sacred, isn’t it?  Well… use it.  Take a deep breath and see it carrying out the stresses you feel, anything you don’t want inside you.  Remember that the air you’re breathing was not made, it’s just filtered to within a particle of its existence – but it did come from outside.  So breathe in that life, because it’s still there. 

                I keep a bottle of water sitting on my desk all the time.  Granted, I drink a lot of water to combat the dehydration that comes from being in these types of places, but it’s more than that.  Having a bottle of water beside me reminds me of the element contained in that aluminum casing (eco bottle, yay!) but also I can use the element when I need a boost.  That came from somewhere, and although it has also been treated and “purified” and whatnot – it came from a lake somewhere in the mountains of wherever.  Use it!  Remember the source, drink it in, savor the life that it brings. 

                Earth.  If you’re able, keep a plant at your desk.  You’ll benefit from the O2 it’s putting off and if it’s a blooming plant you’ll benefit from the splash of color too, since every office on the planet (with the exception of companies like Google and Think Geek) has walls the color of putty. (I’ve never understood that, really – it makes me want to bring in my acrylic set and get crackin on a nice mural or something) If you aren’t able to have a plant then at very least have a picture or two of landscapes around you.  Something to remind yourself of the outside.  And take lunches outside as often as you can.  

                Fire. This is not impossible - we have flameless candles now.  And while it’s not quite the same thing, it is building safe and they can be fairly realistic in their flicker and scents.  It might not be dark enough in your office to really see the flicker, but have it where you can see it, even out of the corner of your eye, and remember the feeling of the flame and the heat of fire.

                Now, for those among us who are lucky enough to be able to decorate our offices as we wish and have fountains and whatnot, well, rock on.  On the other end of the spectrum are those of us who are temps, and can’t bring anything in with us that we don’t then take home at the end of the day.  I’ve been a temp, and it’s tough – so I did what I could, using the air and taking 5 min every few hours to meditate and bring in the elements in my mind, invoking their aid.  Don’t be afraid of invoking the elements at work!  Or at DMV, or at the bank or in your car sitting in traffic… we’re Druids and Kitchen Witches.  That is our prayer.  We can be vessels that carry those elements through the day, throughout the world.  Do it now, as you’re reading this.  Think of the elements, think of their cardinal directions, and invoke them to your aid.  Ask politely, but ask – bring them down.

                I can hear what some of you are thinking – invocation without a circle?  Trust me; I’ve gotten strange looks about this one before.  But think about this, and be honest – how many times have you been somewhere and whispered with great emotion and feeling “Goddess help me” or “Brigid bless”?  Is that not an invocation?  Are you not asking for their aid?

                This rolls over into the next part of taking it with you: magic outside of our personal places.  I say personal because I firmly agree with the creators of No Unsacred Place that there is no unsacred place.  (btw, if you haven’t read their blog, you should: http://nature.pagannewswirecollective.com/ it’s wonderful!)  How many of us would admit to working magic in the office place?  Or in our car?  Or at a friend’s home? And I’m not talking anything earth shattering here – I’m not talking about huge ceremonies or banishings or anything like that.  I’m talking about the little stuff – personal protection, boundaries, etc.  And even if you haven’t done it, you’ve thought about it.  You’ve felt the need to cast something in a place “you’re not supposed to” (like the board room) and immediately put that thought out of your mind so as not to be accused of forcing your religion on someone else, to keep that separation of your private life and your job.  But let me ask you this – do you think that the lady down the hall who says a rosary every day at lunch in the privacy of her cubicle thinks twice?  Or what about the guy two rows over who is Muslim and goes to a private area to pray?  Or anyone else in your office with a religious affiliation of any sort who has no qualms about praying over their food before eating in a staff room full of people, or wear the symbol of their religion openly (and sometimes very prominently) at the office?  Do you think the people who keep crosses and calendars about being Christian at their desks visibly think twice?  They don’t, and never will.  So why do we? 

                I’ve been working at work for a few years now, quietly and privately, but I do.  And I’ll admit it too.  If I’m feeling overwhelmed, stressed, pushed, irritated, generally awful, I’ll cast a little clearing and calming spell around my desk or do a quick centering and grounding.  Do my co-workers know what I’m doing?  No.  To them I’m just taking a few minutes to breathe.  What I’m doing does not affect them – I’m not casting anything on them.  I’m casting on myself.  Someone did ask me once what I was doing.  I said “centering my thoughts.”  They just nodded and walked on.  No muss, no fuss. 

                Now obviously you can’t go walking a circle, calling the quarters and chanting in your office.  (unless you have a windowless office with a solid door, then maybe yeah, you can, but most of us? Not so much.)  So those of us in cubes (or like me, in an open room with no cubes and a lot of desks and windows) have to be a little subtle about this.  Personally, I place both feet flat on the floor and place my hands palm up on the tops of my thighs.  I breathe in and out a few times, slowing my thoughts.  I envision a circle forming around me and once it is complete I envision the elements coming in and resting in their proper places.  (this all happens pretty quickly, but I’ve been doing it a while.  It’ll come faster as you do it more often, like anything else) Then I breathe in the elements, one by one, till the light around me is white – then I release the circle and go back to work.  Simple, quiet, and effective for me.  You might find that there’s something else that works for you and that’s fine… this is personal, and you need to find what strikes a chord with you.  It might be this invocation – it might be something else.  All told this invocation can be done in about 5 min, maybe less, but it can take as long as you’d like it to take, or go as quickly as you’d like.  That’s part of the beauty of this particular rite.  It is fluid in the best way. 

                Below is a list of links to 5 min stretches you can do at your desk.  I highly recommend stretching!  When you’re doing your stretches, breathe in and see that air, that breath of life from the planet’s lungs filling every inch of you as you open up your body and joints.   Likewise with all the elements – see them flowing into the far reaches of your body as you stretch.  You’ll feel amazing and full of life when you’re done. (and I bet you have a better work day too!)


The leaves begin to turn...

The air has a chill, the days are shorter and all around we see the world starting to sleep.

Fall is one of my favorite seasons and it's not surprising really.  There has been a lot of times in my life that I've wanted to start over, to drop everything and run off on a breeze.  Leaves do that, and a part of my mind says 'you should too...'.. the danger is listening to that part.   I've run off with the breeze a few times, and it wasn't pretty.  I've also stepped very surely into the breeze and let it carry me where I was headed - that was far more beautiful. (and less painful by spades)

This Samhain was beautiful and dark in all the right ways.  The night was full of what I needed, and I thank the spirits who visited me across the wall of the graveyard behind my house.  They're a varied group, but a good one and mostly polite.

As is my way, I went to the hem of the Goddess and stood there, listening.  She had a lot to say, and not really what ought to be repeated in the steady glow of a computer monitor, but I wonder who else heard her that night.  I know that not everyone who needed to hear her was listening.  I know that some who didn't were.  And I know that, as usual, there are those of us who are destined to carry messages with us like pebbles until we find the person to hand it to.

So as the leaves turn and fall, watch the direction of the breeze and remember that it's ok to run for a while, but roots are better.