It’s not the idealists that bother me. I like idealists. The world desperately needs idealists... Read more...
In my last post, "Honor for the Dead," I mentioned that this year as part of our family Samhain celebration, we crafted prayer bead bracelets to help us connect more deeply with our ancestors. A bunch of you have asked for more details on how to make prayer beads of your own, so I put together this handy-dandy step-by-step tutorial. Let's do some magic!
There is always pressure to either romanticize or demonize the past. As it recedes into the distance of memory, its complexities are all too easily lost in the mists. The veils of time fall across our vision and we glimpse only vague impressions of a landscape, a culture, a handful of faces on the edge of our perception that seem to change and fade when we turn to look again. What does it mean to part this veil, to honor the ancestors?
Why should our communion with the beloved dead depend on the coincidental turning of the Earth on its axis? Why should we not always be in touch with those who have crossed the threshold, in touch with our own mortality and death? One might as well ask why the angle of the sun should sometimes grace the crocuses and wet new buds of spring and at other times drop down heavy and hot into the deepest reaches of summer lakes, why childhood should burst with curiosity and buzzing movement and adulthood settle into the long, gentle pull of days one after another beneath a bright, cool sky. The truth is, I suspect, that there is no Other-world. That we live in this one world, together with the dead and the long-departed, drinking in the same gulps of breath as they once drank.
This past weekend, we lost a beloved pet. Shou, a little gray mouse named for the Taoist god of longevity, joined our mixed and motley family six months ago along with her two sisters, Fu and Lu. Even from the beginning, she was the obvious Big Sis, bossing around the others, taking it upon herself to obsessively reorganize and redecorate their shared tank, transforming the new house we'd provided them for into a home. She loved playtime, but she was never one to clambered up my arm to perch on my shoulder. She preferred tunneling under blankets and exploring the dark recesses of empty tissue boxes instead. Still, she blessed our lives with such sweet-tempered assertiveness that even in the short six months she was with us, we came to feel like she'd always been a member of our family. She was dearly loved, and she will be deeply missed.
For me, Salmon has claimed her place along the year's wheel at Samhain-tide. The salmon run at Piper's Creek begins by the first day of November and lasts as late as the winter solstice. It is a time of cool, steady rain, a time of death and consummation. It is the in-between time, just after the Celtic New Year, but before the dawn of lengthening days. A time when new life begins in the dark, buried beneath the gravel of the streambed, invisible and silent. I think in many ways, modern Paganism is in this twilight time before rebirth as well. Seeded and kept alive from generation to generation after two millennia of broken traditions and scattered, assimilated cultures. We strive to root our traditions in the land, in a sense of place and in the presence of earth, but the social systems upstream don't make it easy.
Let's just say that life has been a bit stressful lately with everything going on. Back in high school and college when life was understandably a bit like being high strung on a high wire, I would throw myself into poetry. I spent long hours playing with words and sounds, line breaks and juxtaposition. Now, since writing is kind of a career for me these days, I find that I need some other creative outlet that I can throw myself into head first without worrying about being good at it.
My gods, where did September go?! Oh that's right, I got married. Woot! Then we had a fantastic honeymoon. Double woot! (More pictures soon to come of both.) And now we're home again, our days laced with the scent of falling leaves and lengthening autumn nights. It's good to be home. As promised, I'm starting a new feature on the blog where I recap some of the most interesting links and articles I've come across during the course of the week, for your perusing pleasure. I'm going to call this "Saturday Surfing" because I am, as you know, a huge fan of alliteration. So check these out!
Now it is the end of autumn, I lay my body down. A hush. The hill is still humming with the day's warmth, the sun sinking into the far shore of the lake. For a moment, I can see it, as though with other eyes, submerged, rippling beneath the waters in arcing liquid wings of flame and dusk, flexing, alternating, a thousand of them, wings sprouting from the round, warm body settling into the depths. Then the vision is gone. I creep silently along the shore, my bare feet numb and rustling through the long, dried grasses of autumn. The mud is moist and rough on my soles, each step sending echoes of energy sliding up my calves.
We know he can’t stay in his current state of denial — we know he has the potential for greatness that demands he rise to the occasion, to become better than he was before. But that doesn’t make that transformative moment any less painful, nor the grief at the loss of humble John Smith, the old, limited self, any less poignant. The truth is that we grieve the old self because we love the old self, deeply, and the old self was a self of love. It had to be. Otherwise, we could never have been able to transform in the first place.