Apples and Oranges

You can’t directly compare conditions a hundred or two hundred years ago to today.  At first glance, this seems obvious, and yet I consistently see people doing this.  The comparisons are made when we talk about vaccination, obesity, infant mortality, childbirth methods, autism, child labor, and probably half a dozen other topics that I can’t grasp at the moment.  The argument usually goes like this:  “A hundred years ago, before we had x, bad outcome y happened.  Today, if we didn’t have x, bad outcome y would happen all over again.”

Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

First off, when you talk about anything involving health, you have to consider the whole picture of health, not just a piece of it.  Absolutely anything and everything that makes us sick today is more survivable than it was a hundred years ago because of a broad spectrum of basic health care improvements, including antibiotics, good nutrition, basic sanitation, and an understanding of germ theory.  These four things alone probably account for 90% of the increase in longevity and the decrease in mortality across all age groups. Whatever happens to you, you are less likely to die of it now than at any point in history, period.

This means you can’t take some one advance and say that removing or changing it will suddenly throw us back into the dark ages of health care.  If women go back to planning to have all their babies out of the hospital, neonatal and maternal mortality will not climb back to 1900 levels.  If we stop vaccinating altogether as a society, children will not die of the measles and polio at 1900 levels.

Socially, culturally, we are not the same society that we were a hundred years ago.  We’re not even the same culture as we were in the 1970’s when I was born.  The level of acceptance for “others” in our society today is so high it would have been absolutely unbelievable back then.  Information is readily available to anybody in search of it, one way or another, faster, cheaper, more accurately, and more efficiently than ever before.  Low birth and death rates have led us to cherish every life more dearly, to care more about every individual.

You can’t say that if laws against child labor were repealed we would suddenly have children working and dying in coal mines again.  You can’t say that if hate crime laws were repealed we would have a spate of lynchings.  Society doesn’t function the same way now as it did back then.  Trying to make these arguments is no more intellectually honest than a conservative saying that if gays are allowed to marry that suddenly nobody will live in nuclear families anymore and Christians will be forced to live in polygamous marriages with dolphins (or whatever the last crazy argument on that one was).

We live in a chaotic world, a world full of thousands, millions, even billions of factors, all interacting in billions of different ways.  There are eddies and currents, whirlpools and waterfalls, as information, disease, human interaction, and evolution mingle.  One person can make a difference in the lives of millions of people, and yet sometimes millions of people believing a thing can’t seem to make a difference for anybody outside their direct sphere of influence.  Ripples expand, waves reinforce each other and cancel each other out.  The beauty in this chaos is that so many different things can happen, so many different ideas can be tried out, forces tested, evolutionary paths explored in nature and in society.

But in a chaotic world, the same conditions never exist twice, and the same action almost never produces an identical reaction.

If Today Was Your Last Day

If I only had one day left to live, I would spend it relaxing with my family.  I would spend some of my savings to buy a maid service to come in and clean my house so I would have a clean, dust- and mold-free place to spend my last day.  I would do something special with each of my kids, sing songs together with Tamara, play a Magic game with Brenden, work on some knitting with Caitlin, play a strategy game with Liam, cuddle with Kender.  I’d even venture out to Chuck E. Cheese for dinner with Jarod if he wanted.  I’d watch a movie or listen to a book with Brian, cuddling with him on the couch.  I’d spend this time with them, but I might also be consumed with the desire to see how much I could make in my last hours, how many things made by my hands I could leave behind.

If I only had one month left to live, I would find a way to die in Texas, warm and dry and surrounded by the desert hill country.  I’d start out by having a big yard sale, snowcover be damned, hauling out every item in my house that I wasn’t going to need anymore.  I’d take every dime I could raise by selling off my things and head out on one last road trip with my family.  We’d wander along the road at our own pace, stopping to see whatever catches our eye.  I’d teach Brenden and Tamara to drive along the way, so they could get the family back home without me.  We’d stop each night as the sun went down in the nearest comfortable hotel, and we’d go swimming together and watch movies until we fell asleep, sleeping in until everybody woke up the next morning to hit the road again.  We’d see the drive-through zoo, eat at Lambert’s and Chuy’s, go for a hike in the Ozarks, visit the church we got married in, take pictures in Texarkana, visit Inner Space caverns, and have a picnic on Lake Georgetown.  If I could truly have my wish, I’d hike up Enchanted Rock with the last of my strength and see that vista spread out before me one last time.  Maybe instead I can be around a big campfire next to a lake or a river there in the hills, listening to the crickets and smelling the cedar and mesquite around me.

If I only had one year left to live, I would be able to see that my kids were taken care of before I left.  I would see Tamara and Brenden through driver’s ed legally, and make sure the girls found apprenticeships.  I would get Liam and Jarod enrolled in Oak Meadow online so they could continue that with my life insurance money and stay out of the schools.  I would finish training my friend Ann to handle A’Kos and ask her to help take care of Kender, so he too could continue to grow at his own pace.  Our last family road trip, still funded by a  fantastic home purge, would hopefully be a little bit longer, heading out toward California to see my family there one more time, yes even my dad along the way.  We could spend a couple of months over the summer in our travels.  When next winter comes, I would bake cookies for Christmas and share my recipe with all my friends.  I would take the kids sledding after the first big snowfall and make snow angels myself, treasuring every moment even in the cold and muck.

If I only had ten years left to live, what could I accomplish?  I could dedicate myself formally to Loki and Hecate, find a way to learn every scrap I could and pass it on to others before I die, to my children, in books and workshops.  I could complete all my clergy studies and set up a church that might survive and be there for my children and grandchildren someday.  I could see all of my children grown or nearly grown, watch them begin to pursue their interests in the world.  I could teach Kender to read and write, to build and make his own things and create his own contribution to the world.  I could pay off our debts and buy a piece of land with enough room to have our own bonfire, our own outdoor space.  I could take so many more trips with my family, visiting so many places all over the Americas, and I wouldn’t even need to drive for all of them.  I would get to see Brian open his brewery, maybe even get to move back to Texas and live there a while before the end.  I would be able to learn many languages so that I could go and visit those places and understand what I see and hear; I could finally become the polylinguist I wanted to be as a child.

If I only have another forty years left to live…what will I do with them?

An Abundance of Love

My facebook feed has been full of posts about Leelah Alcorn, a teenage transgirl who committed suicide by stepping out in front of a semi on the highway.  I have a friend with a trans child who felt this story hit her like a physical blow in the chest.  It shows that the alternative of a dead child is a very real possibility when parents do not support their LGBTQ children.  For me, it reminds me of Guy Sterling, a friend in high school.  He committed suicide, too, after being thoroughly rejected by his family and peers for the crime of being gay in small-town Texas.

When I think of stories like Leelah’s and Guy’s, I can’t help but think about what the parents are probably feeling. They’re terrified by the Protestant vision of neverending hellfire and damnation, terrified that their only child will be lost to them forever, convinced that they can save their child if they only try hard enough. They believe that if they “give in” and accept their LGBTQ child, they’re condemning their child to that eternity of suffering. It’s not a lack of love. It’s an abundance of love combined with what their religion is teaching them. We can’t fight that by just saying they don’t love their child. They do. They love their child so much they will do anything for their salvation.

Sometimes what parents do to try and “save” their children ends up looking to the child like persecution, control, and rejection.  This isn’t limited to LGBTQ children.  It doesn’t always end in suicide, thankfully.  It still can leave horrible scars to the mind and soul, scars that are very difficult to heal.

I was raised Protestant.  I was baptized twice, first as a Baptist, then again as a Presbyterian.  I went to church with friends, sung and even toured in youth choirs, dated the occasional evangelical.  When I discovered Wicca and witchcraft at age 15, the country was in the grip of what would later be known as the Satanic Panic.  My mother was terrified for me, I think.  She doesn’t like to talk about it now, but I know she had books in her room with titles that ran along the lines of “Satanism and Your Teenager.”  When I brought Buckland’s blue book home, so engrossed in my discovery that I couldn’t put it down, she insisted that I never bring that book in her house again, that evil book with the giant pentagram covering the back cover.  When I told other family friends that I was a witch now, and they came to her terrified that I had sold my soul to Satan, she begged me not to say things like that.  When I moved in with Brian before we got married, all the books on Wicca that I had left behind in my room mysteriously vanished.

My mother was trying to save me.  I was learning and embracing a new-to-me religion that called to my very soul, spoke to my connection with the world.

15 is also the age when I went to college.  After my two years with TAMS were up, I had made many friends among the regular college students, friends who would still be there at UNT after all my TAMS classmates left for farther horizons.  I wanted to stay at UNT, continue on as a regular college student and pursue a CompSci degree.  Several of my friends were moving into an apartment for the summer, and I wanted to join them.  It took a gentleman’s agreement between me and my roommates, since at 17 I could not sign the lease, but they let me in.  I got a job so I could pay my share of the rent.  I had a car.  I had a bank account, albeit one many miles away in Austin.  I was determined to live like any other college sophomore or junior in that town of music majors.

Granted, I was also an undiagnosed Aspie.  I had never worked out self-regulation skills to help me handle things like chores and cleaning.  My hygiene was probably questionable.  My possessions were a mess.  My job was, ironically, working in the daycare at a church, of all places.  I had a pet snake that I actually didn’t know how to care for.  My bank account got bollixed because I had to mail in deposits, and I mistimed writing checks on the deposits and had a series of bounce fees.  I spent an inordinate amount of time on the computer, either working on typing in my Book of Shadows or hanging out on IRC, in #wicca or #hottub.  I struggled with depression, knowing I was different but not yet understanding how and why.  I had a lot of life skills yet to learn, and I was going to have to learn them the hard way.

It’s a good thing I didn’t find out I was bisexual until several years later.  That could have been the fatal straw, added on to everything else at the time.

My parents wanted to save me from that.  They wanted to bring me home, take care of me, send me off to college again to be the successful <insert money/power career> they dreamed of.  They saw all the problems and wanted to fix them, wanted to fix me.  I saw them trying to control me, trying to cut off my choices, not listening to me.  It came to a pretty dramatic climax that summer.

Somehow, though, my mother was able to get around that.  I don’t know how, but she’s still my mother.  She calls me and listens to me, comes to visit for holidays, goes out to the movies or the casinos with me.  She came to my first wedding, made my wedding cake.  She came when I was pregnant, came when I was having babies, held all my babies.  She came to my second wedding, the one I held mostly to share with my father.

My father took it all as a personal affront.  He said my actions were the same as me saying I didn’t want to have anything to do with him anymore, despite my insistence to the contrary.  He has spent the last 22 years treating me mostly as an acquaintance rather than a daughter.  He doesn’t visit unless I’m on his way to someplace else, or unless somebody is dying.  He didn’t come to my weddings, although he goes to his girlfriend’s children’s weddings.  He did not hold my babies.  He has never visited for the holidays; he spends them with his girlfriend’s family.

Something in what my mother did holds the secret here.  Somehow, despite her belief that I was going down in flames and in need of rescue, she was eventually able to accept me as an independent human being capable of making my own decisions, choosing my own path, accepting my own consequences.  Somehow, she was able to continue being my mother even when she disapproved of my actions.  There’s more than love there.  There’s some kind of strength needed to love something so much you can let it go, so much you can continue to give love and support no matter what.

We can’t just tell Leelah’s parents they don’t love her, because they do.  We have to find a way to teach how to love somebody and let them go, no matter what.  I don’t know how to do that when Protestant Christianity or other restrictive, eternal-damnation religions are involved.  Do you?  Do you know how to tell somebody that their religion is wrong, or that they must ignore their sincere beliefs, ignore everything they hear from their Bible and their church and their community?

Beloved Dead

The dead have been much on my mind this month as we approach the feast of Samhain.  Halloween, Dia do los Muertos, Samhain, all remember and celebrate the dead at this time of year.  In Wicca, we believe the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead grows thinner at this time, allowing for easier communication between the realms.  Little wonder, then, that thoughts of the dead would be with me.

Each year at Samhain we honor those who have gone before, but we usually offer up a special remembrance for those who have passed in the last year.  It seems like most of the past few years I have had somebody on this list: my grandmother, my childhood friend Laura, my grandfather, my cat Pixel.  When the time for the Rite of Release rolls around again, I am always a little surprised to find another name on the last.  Every time, it simultaneously feels too soon and long ago, as I look back on all the time that has passed and yet bring the grief back up new and fresh.

There are only two that I have lost since last Samhain, who will be honored this year for the first time: my friend Chris and her son Isaac.  It’s so hard to see pictures of them and realize that this person is gone, absolutely gone, never to return.  This is the first time I have encountered sudden, untimely death up close and personal.  Somebody I used to know can die, and perhaps there’s a little regret at the loss of a chance to reconnect, but it’s not really immediate.  The old and the sick die in their time, after a long life or a lingering illness; I miss them, but I don’t really grieve for them.  Instead I adjust to the idea gradually as their death approaches.

To have them taken in the prime of life, full of health and youth, their lives ahead of them…to know that this death was absolutely, entirely, one hundred percent the fault of a very specific person…and yet to know that this person has placed himself forever beyond the reach of our personal revenge…There’s nothing quite like the feeling, like missing the top step, like being suddenly awakened from a beautiful dream, like jumping from the hot tub into the cold pool, like the power going out after dark, and more, all rolled into one.  I never cried for anyone’s death before, but I cried for theirs.  I think of them, and I think of what became of them, what was left behind in that house, and I can’t get those images out of my head, can’t get them to stop flashing before me whenever I see their faces or hear their names.  And then I think of how small my own pain must be next to the pain of their family left behind, their own stronger connections and richer memories cut short by a selfish bastard.

All of this is part of what is to be consumed by the fire during the Rite of Release.  All the anger, hatred, grief, blame, need for revenge, all is to be purified and burned away by the flames, leaving behind a measure of peace.  I want to be left with those memories we all share of them, the things we remember them for doing and saying.  I want to know that they are at peace and moving on with their existence, processing their recent lives and preparing for their next ones.  I want to embrace the lessons they taught me by passing through my life and cherish them.

I want to say Hail to the Beloved Dead.  Hail, and Farewell.

Mabon Reflections

 

Fall color leavesToday is Mabon, the celebration of the fall equinox in the Northern Hemisphere.  The world sits at the balance between the summer half of the year and the winter.  Now the days begin to grow shorter, the nights longer.  Now we reap the fruits of the harvest, the corn and the wheat, the apples and the pumpkins, all the things that have grown through the summer.  Now we stock up, canning and preserving, preparing for the long, cold winter ahead.

In Wicca, now is the time to take stock of our year.  It is time to look at what our plans for the year were and how they went.  It is time to prepare for a period of rest and rebirth as we head into the death of Samhain and the birth of Yule.  It is a time to look at things in our lives that can be sacrificed, spiritual fetters and garbage that are holding us back from growth and progress.

This year, I had a few goals.  I wanted to do more things with the kids, more of the things they want to do instead of only focusing on the things I think they need to do.  I wanted to work on connecting with and building the Wiccan community in Lansing, building up the numbers that would be attending rituals here.  I was also given a heads-up this year that I should expect a period resembling initiation (or possibly hazing!) in my priesthood and in my relationship with Loki.

This spring, I had the kids draw up “bucket lists” for the year.  I told them to put anything and everything on them, no matter how silly.  I wanted to have things to aim for with them, a direction to follow.  I do not feel that I made as much progress down this goal as I had hoped, but we did a few things.  We took a hike down the old brick factory trail.  I will have at least one and possibly two microscopes by the end of the month.  The girls are taking a thrown pottery class.  We went to Pagan Fest.  I spent a day with the younger three visiting seven playgrounds in a single afternoon (the goal was 10, but they got worn out).  Now that I see that list, I guess the idea worked better than I expected!  We’ll continue working on those lists, and next spring we’ll make new ones and work on those.

I’ve been convinced for years that there were more pagans and witches in Mason and the greater Lansing area than I already knew.  This year, it seemed like every ritual and event brought me into contact with at least one.  I led two rituals in the Lansing area, and participated in a couple more.  I went to Pagan Pride Day, got in touch with a local chat night for a while, and got the word out about Crossroads.  I think the progress on building community was perfectly acceptable given the limitations I work in (namely, very little extra free time to network!).  This goal is now going to be tabled until I get further directions from my high priests, I think.

This year, I was raised to Second Degree Priestess with Crossroads.  I was encouraged to take a more active role in leading the church, both in rituals and elsewhere.  I explored some possibilities for clerical work outside actual rituals, things that might lead me to or become the Great Work I will need for Third Degree.  And then I jumped head-first into seminary training with the goal of finally getting a degree, hoping that having that degree be in something I had already spent most of my life studying would make it easier for me to finish.  This was entirely an impulse decision.  I can’t recall even a few minutes of thinking before taking the plunge.  I say a prompting made me do it, because really, what could be crazier?  Signing up for seminary when the year is half done (assignments must be completed by Yule to move ahead, and I haven’t gotten any passes for being second degree in an ATC church), with everything else I have on my plate?  Crazy or not, I have been enjoying my time there so far, and I hope that continues.  Maybe this is the “initiation” period I was warned of back in February.

Not that the year has been lacking in hazing-type events.  After (let’s be honest) living on credit cards since Kender was born, that well finally dried up this year and we’ve been forced to live within a budget tighter than any I can ever remember.  It feels tighter to me than previous low-money periods partly because of how many of us there are now, making every little expense magnify by a factor of 8 (or more, sometimes).  It doesn’t help that it seems like everything in our house is breaking at once.  All the appliances, our cars, the computers, the furniture, even parts of the house itself, everything is broken, worn out, falling apart, molding, losing its stuffing, leaking, in one case catching on fire (!!).  So at the same time that we have no extra money, we need a ton of it to keep functioning.  Yes, I know where (or who!) this lesson is coming from, but I don’t have to like it.

Every year at this time I am asked to make a sacrifice.  A few years ago, I consciously let go of my breeding status, placed within a corn dolly holding a baby that I burned in a fire.  Another year, I offered up my roots, thinking that if I distanced myself from my Texas family, friends, and background it would help ease my longing to leave this place.

This year, I am letting go of my expectations.  I want to formally release the idea of what my life should look like, all of the “supposed to” and “have to” and “everybody else” that puts boundaries and strictures on my life.  I want to release the idea that I have to know every detail of the path I am about to take before I ever step foot on it.  I don’t mean that I will have no goals, but I do mean that I want to have fewer preconceptions about what achieving those goals will look like along the way.  I want to focus on my destination, and I want to focus on what I see along the way and enjoying the journey.  I don’t want to walk my path worrying about whether the right trees and flowers are growing there.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently feeling like a rat in a cage, scurrying back and forth, back and forth, screaming and seething with rage and tears inside (yes, even when you saw me laughing) because I want to find a way out but I am trapped.  I believe this is my door, to simply have the confidence to walk forward, not just to keep swimming in place but to move forward, regardless of whether I think it will work, regardless of whether I am confident that it is the best path.  I’m tired of standing still, tired of feeling trapped.  Maybe I’ll end up someplace unexpected.  At the very least, I won’t still be where I am now.

Hopefully it won’t mean I’ll end up running off a cliff.

Have a happy fall and harvest and all that goes with it.  Happy apple picking, happy hayrides and corn mazes, happy cider and mead and festivals.  We had our ritual this past Saturday; next weekend we’ll be off to the apple orchard.

Happy Mabon!

Need and Fire

I love fire.  It burns very close to my heart.  I love to watch it, the flames twisting and turning, the blast furnace of the coals underneath, the crackling and sparking, the transformation of everything it touches, the warmth, the need to breathe, the need for fuel.  I have always loved to watch fires and longed to tend them.  I remember my father lighting fires in our fireplace when I was a kid.  I remember watching him twist newspaper into little starter twigs.  I remember the wood piled up next to the fire.  I remember sitting on one of the round wicker stools we had, turned on its side so I could rock back and forth in my seat.

I want fire.  I need fire. But I don’t get it very much.

I remember collecting pretty candles when I was a little girl.  In Georgetown, we even lived near a candle factory where beautiful candles, works of art really, were made.  We would take out-of-town visitors there to see the candlemaking and maybe buy souvenirs.  But in our house, candles were never for burning.  I remember how much my mother freaked out the one time she caught me lighting one of my candles in my room, and I never dared to light fire under her roof again.

We weren’t allowed to touch fireworks, either.  We would go to the municipal fireworks shows, big fireworks up in the sky, but we were never ever allowed to even be near fireworks on the ground.  One time, I spent the fourth of July with some cousins, a younger cousin my age and I staying with another cousin maybe 15 or 20 years older than us.  She let us set off some little firecrackers in the trailer park that night and sent each of us home with a packet of our own.  My packet went straight into the bottom of my mother’s top dresser drawer.  She always said I could set it off later, another time, not now.  I finally stole it back when I was a teenager and snuck out of the house in the middle of the night to set some off in the street with a friend.

Fire, always lurking, always beckoning, always forbidden.  Look but don’t touch.  See the fire, but don’t tend the fire, don’t light your own fire, never.  Girl scouts don’t light fires, their leaders light the fire and keep them safely back from it.

When I moved out, off to college and marriage and all of that, I loved candles.  No longer forbidden, they were something to play with and live with.  I could read and eat and even bathe by candlelight if I wanted, with the dancing of the flames causing the light to dance around me.  I would make wax-covered wine bottles, spending hours with candles burning, turning the bottles this way and that to let the wax drip evenly down.  I loved to use candles in magick, burning them for vigils, anointing them and carving them and burning them to release.

When you’re renting, you still can’t have a real fire.  No fireplace in most apartments, no yard for a firepit.  Camping was never something we did, either.  When we bought our first house, it had a fireplace, but we kept it locked up, literally with chains and a padlock holding the doors closed, because we had to keep the triplets out of it.  We couldn’t risk any flames when they were babies, except maybe occasionally a candle here and there when they were asleep.  So many years, still without my own fire.  We’d go to eat at a restaurant with a fire and I would go and sit in front of the fireplace with one or more of my kids, either waiting for the meal or after it, just watching the fire, only watching, forbidden to touch.

I never see anybody else watching the fires like that.

I get to see fires more now, but they are still forbidden.  Sacred fires, bound by restrictions even stronger than my mother’s panic.  The priests in charge start the fires, the firetenders start and tend the fire, but I do not start the fires, not ever.  The fires are not mine, look only, do not touch, do not tend, do not fuel.  Now my kids are old enough to tend fires, so when the opportunity arises, I must stand aside and let them have their turn, let them learn and build and tend the fire.  Somebody else has started the fire, has brought the wood to fuel it, it’s their fire. Still not my fire.

I live in a house with no wood fireplace, only a small gas fireplace in one room.  We have no backyard where a firepit could be placed.  No place for my fire.

So it was indeed a wondrous and joyous thing for me last night to be able to tend a fire.  I didn’t get to light it, but I was left to tend it for almost five hours, adding the wood, placing it just so, building the flames, helping them breathe when they faltered, watching the coals, lighting new pieces.  The time passed so quickly, so fast.  I came to the fire broken inside.  I had spent most of the day in tears, feeling the mountain of “can’t” crumbling down on top of me, can’t keep up, can’t find a way through, can’t find the money, can’t find the time, can’t keep the patience, can’t stop things from breaking, until every single blessed thing I saw or heard or did brought the tears back up again.  Tears can’t stand up to fire, though.  The fire boils them away, cauterizes the wound, builds back life and warmth.  That fire still wasn’t mine, not my backyard, not my firepit, not my wood, but I still got to tend it, help it grow, and I left the fire cleansed and fresh, content, maybe even happy.

I am back in no-fire land again, back with the tears, cold.  Someday, sometime, I’ll get to do it again.  Maybe someday, I will have my own fire.

Dancing Through Life

The Great and Wonderful Aunt Anne came through last week.  It was wonderful to get to visit with her, although we did not get to ride together after all. (Turns out, she didn’t bring her bikes on this trip!)  We cooked together, their dog Chucho and A’Kos played together…or at least Chucho tolerated A’Kos trying to play.  Meeting Uncle Ken was great, too.  He’s such a perfect fit for Anne, and I could wish he’d been in the family all along.

We talked about the kids, and she encouraged me to get in touch with my cousins about their education.  Her son Brenton works at Quail Springs, a “learning oasis” that teaches all things permaculture and living off the land.  This is right up the girls’ alley; they both would love to be rangers or something similar when they grow up, living off the land instead of working in the city.  Aunt Anne suggested seeing if we could set up work/studies for them or something similar to help them get started.  Her other son Kenyon runs a Montessori school in North Carolina with his wife Mary Helen.  I’ve been looking more and more into Montessori techniques of self-directed learning for Kender, since he flat refuses to participate in anything that I lead him to.  The most I can do is set up an activity and guide him to it.  My hope is that he will be able to offer some advice on how best to set up our house for this considering our unique situation and Kender’s unique challenges.

While she was here and after she left, my aunt remarked, as everybody does, on how she doesn’t know how I do it.  How I cook for so many people every day, how I stay so calm with all the drama and crises that are constantly going on.  I’m still not sure how “safe” she would be to say this to, but as I’ve thought about that today, I have to get mushy and say that Loki and the Lord and Lady have played a huge part in this.  After Kender was born, as crisis after crisis emerged with him in slow motion, I really lost my ability to keep going.  Where I used to dance through the day (or at least my memory says I did), I came to a crawl.  Working with my church, working with Loki, and now studying at seminary have really helped me to get a better handle on my life.  Loki in particular has really changed how I view things and allowed me to see my place in the world as Edgewalker, allowing me to smile and laugh so much more than I ever did before.

At seminary, we do devotions every morning together.  One of the things we do during devotions is to state an intention for the day.  We each state our own, the only real rule being that it must be positive, no negatives anywhere.  One of my favorite intentions to build on has been, “I am strong and confident, swift and competent, leaving completed tasks in my dust as I dance through my day.”  It sums up what I want to accomplish and how I want to feel about it all together.

Speaking of dancing, I am going to take up the 90-Day Belly Dance Challenge starting tomorrow.  I seem to have much trouble doing anything outside this year, even cycling.  I don’t want to leave the house and spend the time on the intense exercise when I really need to be working with the kids and school and whatnot.  So I’m going to give this a try, working with whatever I can find on the Roku.  Reports to come weekly, so poke me if I forget!

Wish Upon a Star

The Perseids are expected to peak tonight, providing up to 100 shooting stars every hour.  That’s a lot of wishes, if you want to sit out and watch them.  I probably will miss the show, since it’s rainy here today, but perhaps we’ll get lucky and the skies will clear.  Maybe I can take my aunt and uncle over to Michigan’s dark sky park and watch the show for a bit, make a few wishes of my own.

Do you wish upon shooting stars?  What do you wish for?

As a child, the idea of wishing upon a shooting star is both ephemeral and present.  We don’t know yet what those shooting stars are.  We don’t know about asteroids and comets, space rocks and atmospheric friction.  Stars are little twinkling pieces of possibility.  Even when we know they are other suns, that possibility still hangs there of another place, another world, somewhere to go, somewhere to be.  Shooting stars are like little pieces of possibility on the move, coming down to earth.  No wonder we wish on them.

When we grow up, we learn that shooting stars are rocks in space left behind by comets, asteroid collisions, or just debris from the formation of the solar system.  The Earth runs into them all the time, and the friction of entering our atmosphere causes them to burn up, usually completely disintegrating them before they can reach the ground.

Does that sound magickal to you?  It depends on your perspective.  Even if those tiny balls of fire never reach the ground, their constituent elements still scatter in the atmosphere, joining the billions and billions of bits and pieces that make up our planet.  They bring down a little more stardust, a little more stuff from that vast realm of possibility up there that I think most scientists agree just gets more magickal and amazing the more we learn about it.  They are a connection between us and space, sometimes even surviving as things we can touch and feel.

They make it possible to touch the stars.  And through them, the impossible suddenly becomes possible.

That is the true power of wishes, whether made upon a star or whispered to a bubbling brook or brewed into a spell.  Making the wish and placing our belief into it makes things become possible.  When something is completely impossible and out of our reach, there is no reason to even try for it.  Why bother, if it can’t be done?  But when you bring a goal or desire into the realm of possible, now you have something to strive for, a reason to push and achieve.  And that works on our minds in amazing and subtle ways.  If you believe that you will someday achieve your desire, you start living for it, planning for it, and sometimes without even realizing it you will make your dreams a reality.

That is the magick.

The Eye of the Storm

Close your eyes and sit comfortably, spine balanced, arms and legs relaxed, face soft.  Breathe in deeply through your nose…and out through your mouth…and again, feeling the breath fill your body.

“Mom, can I have cereal for breakfast?”

Breathe in slowly to a count of four…one…two…three…

*thud* A 45-pound body lands in your lap and starts squirming.

…four…and then release the breath…one…two…three…four…

“Can I go outside and play with my friends?”

Listen to the soft music. Hear the birds chirping

“Stop hitting me!” “You started it!” “Get out of my room!!!!”

and the rustling of the leaves in the trees as the breeze tickles them.

“I was trying to eat the A’Kos.”

Feel your connection with the earth

*door slams*…*again*…*again*…*again*…

and with everything around you.  Feel the peace

*the alarm for an open fridge door starts beeping*

and energy you share with the universe. Stretch your perceptions and feel your aura, just above

*sirens go by, thankfully not stopping here*

your skin.  Take another deep breath and feel the energy of the earth

“Mom! Mom! Mom! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mom! Mom! Elayne!”

This is what any kind of working is like in my house, my life.  Meditation, devotions and prayers, spellcraft, ritual.  Writing a blog post.  There is no peaceful place or time in my home.  There is no place I can go to and shut the door and be undisturbed.  There is no time when the shouting stops.  Even when I leave my home, the children come with me.  As a mother and a priestess, I have learned to work with this.  I have learned to raise energy while holding a beating toddler.  I have learned to maintain a chant while chasing a child around the circle.  I have learned to follow a guided meditation while holding a four-year-old who wants to alternately sit on my shoulders and hang upside-down from my arms.

I have learned to meditate in the eye of the storm.  I set a part of me to watch over the storm around me.  It’s the same part that monitors the house while I sleep.  It listens to all these noises, holds the child, and evaluates whether anything going on needs my full attention.  If I am needed, I can come out of trance and attend.  Otherwise, I work in my eye, my bubble, protected by my self-guardian.  I hear the things around me, but I do not take them in.  They slide off me, and I am sheltered.  I begin and end in the storm, beaten by the winds and lashed by the rain, but for a time I find the calm, and I find my peace.

The Lonely Path

Boundary WalkerI live on the edge.  That’s sounds a lot more exciting than I meant it to.  I don’t go base jumping or drag racing or chase after other adrenalin-junkie activities.  I live on the edge of everyday life.  My life as a Venn diagram would be a multi-dimensional collection of soap bubbles that converge on one point, me, touching all of them yet contained within none of them.  This is the path I was given to walk, this is my journey through life.

It’s a lonely journey because there is nobody I can truly share with.  There are people I can relate to in some ways, and I’ve been blessed beyond belief to find some friends along the way who can share love and support.  I will always be the outsider, though.  I will always be on the edge of any group.  I can go hang out with other autism moms, but I’ll be the only one there with a blind child, the only one homeschooling, the only one choosing not to travel the road of 10,000 doctor’s appointments and therapies.  I can join a homeschooling group online and be the only one with disabled children, the only non-Christian, the only one choosing an eclectic path blending unschooling and online learning and book learning.  I’m the cyclist in black clothes and helmet-free, I’m the goth mom who doesn’t always wear black, I’m the Wiccan priestess of a Norse god, I’m the southern girl in a northern town, I’m the gardener with a brown thumb, I’m the free-loving bisexual polyamorist with a low sex drive, I’m the white girl on the skating floor, I’m the plantar fasciitis patient finding relief in barefoot living.  I’m the one who’s going to say “but”.

I’m not the only one walking the lonely path.  Everybody does it, or at least more people than most of us realize.  There’s a purpose in this path for me, though.  There’s a job here for me to do, a work that is before me.  I can’t quite see it yet, but it is there, waiting for me to wake up, to open my spiritual eyes and begin my task.  I’m standing on a threshold, a gateway between my old life and the work of the new.  Before I can step through the curtain blocking my view ahead, I have to stand firm where I am.  I have to stand straight and confident, owning what I have built of my life.

I have to own my place on the edge.  I have to feel the power in this place, allow it to make me strong.

I walk a lonely path, a different path.  And it is powerful.