Saturday, November 20, 2004

Denning up

While today, the temperature climbed up to the 50-degree mark, less than a couple weeks back or so, it snowed hereabouts! So we know, just as those cute wee chickadees with their snappy black caps, the deer, squirrels and other critters know, full-on winter is on the move toward us quickly.

All the signs are there. Days are shortening, leaves are mostly gone, certain birds such as robins are no longer around, and like the geese, have flown to warmer climes. There have been more than a couple actual freezes, flurries and big winds. It may have hit 50 degrees today, but tonight 25 degrees is predicted. It’s coming.

In human terms, we have shut water off to the outdoor hoses, re-winterized the house, and finished off essential tasks on “the list” that had been put off all summer so we could play. I have covered the tender young rosebushes by Manitou’s grave (see “Sanctuary” in the archive to read a bit about Manitou, a special 4-legged) grave and my herbs in the garden. We’ve pruned what trees and shrubs needed it. All our firewood is here and most is stacked.

It’s all second nature to us after all these years. Just like it is all second nature to the critters.

As winter approaches, some thoughts come along. Next week Thanksgiving will be celebrated here in the U.S. The full moon is the day after that and I’ve been considering the thoughts I wanted to foster and offer up for amplification during the coming fullness of the moon:

Like me, I am sure many feel concern for a number of things going on in the world right now. Some may have issues that are pressing within, or in their own home; some may have community concerns, while others may see the bigger pictures and feel deeply concerned about our country and world.

The only way I have ever found effective, to begin to find the antidote and solution to such concerns, is to take stock of what resources I have with which to work. The only way I have come up with, to do that inventory accurately, begins with counting my blessings. I usually find a lot of resources that it has taken my whole life till that moment to develop, and then there is the wisdom of timing for effectiveness. It’s truly amazing when in times of stress how long-stored help will come from within.

For instance, within a day or two of the election, the shock had finally begun to draw away like clouds do after a storm, from around my head and heart. One of my dogs and I were out walking, and I was just trying to wrap my mind around things. I looked up and found that we were standing where, because the trees had lost their leaves, I could look over across the valley to see neighboring mountains. The clouds, just like my thoughts, were moving quickly across the sky and I watched their shadows pass over the land in patches of light and dark. What I saw took my breath away. I actually remember gasping an in-breath.
And then it came to my mind in a burst:

“This is the day the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

With that I will state that I was not always a Pagan and as with anything: experiences over time, lessons learned, hardships, joy- the valuable stuff stays with you, either consciously or unconsciously, to be referred to one day. This bit from within the United Methodist Liturgy in which I participated till after I was married, popped into my head after the passing of at least another quarter century since then. What impeccable timing!

I felt touched by a deeply loving Compassion, and suddenly felt more connected to Strength and Power within myself; as if a weight had been lifted. You just never know from whence good answers, relief, or solutions may come. I felt I could move forward unimpeded. It felt unusual to me, to feel better so quickly; almost “not right”, but then, who am I argue?

With that let me add that as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I am counting my blessings and I do have so many. I plan to work with my gratitude, writing it down on paper, and then burning it on the upcoming full moon to begin the process of transformation from gratitude to action in the world, because as I look at the future, sadly I see folks in need falling through the weakening social safety net. Imperfect as that safety net is now, it is likely to be further weakened by those in power now. I see it will be up to ordinary people to care and act from that caring.

I am taking this upcoming holiday and the full moon’s pull on me, to form ideas about how to move forward, and plan for actions. So far I know this much: We will be less consumption-oriented for the Solstice/Yule/Christmas holiday. I have figured out some homemade gifts, and am moving forward gathering supplies to work with. Gifts that are bought will be simple.

This choice to exercise less consumption over the holidays is an act of Resistance to those who value “ownership” and view the needy as weak and the rich as the chosen blessed. I will not support the coming Social Darwinism. I will not participate in a Dickensian future of poor houses, and debtors’ prisons, indentured servitude or child labor. I will instead, take stock of my life and myself and choose to recognize my resources and the ways in which they can be utilized.

We can ALL make a plan (perhaps around the Thanksgiving feast table) to start reaching out to make a difference starting with the holiday season. Keeping neighborhood eyes open for signs of need while honoring dignity can support elderly neighbors who live alone. Adopting a grandparent in a nursing home can open hearts and minds and create joy especially if kids are also involved. Buying a bag of groceries for someone in need to leave anonymously after knocking on the door, can work out. Bringing pet food and supplies to animal shelters helps. Volunteering at a soup kitchen or your local Head Start Center, homeless shelter, or animal shelter can be rewarding.

If resources are such that monetary donations can be made, then doing so for such programs as CARE in memory of Margaret Hassan is another thought. Donating to crisis pregnancy organizations or to Planned Parenthood could make a difference. Donating clothing for winter months: still-functional boots, hats, mittens, coats, and other clothing can even save lives. Donating to the local food pantry is also important. These things take our resources and gratitude and transform them into right action in the world.

In preparing to den up for the coming winter, knowing what the resources are and making sure those resources are adequate and safe-guarded is mighty important for ourselves and our families, and our communities too. With the coming harshness of winter and of the times, the solutions to holes in the safety net may entail the counting of blessings, the guidance of gratitude and recognition of resources, and how those things may come to bear in our families, our communities and our world is high Art that we can practice, and a practice that will make our denning up more inclusive and perfect.

(I want to acknowledge that this blog entry contains some inspiration from friends who shared some ideas about acts of kindness that any individual or family can do. Without them, this blog entry would not have come together so completely. Thanks guys!...Joyce)

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


It’s hunting season here in the mountains. The remaining deer have found shelter for the long haul farther back in the woods; hopefully a few will winter on my land.

For a while though, they were wandering around on my property and may still be, from time to time. My land is posted against trespass for purpose of hunting, etc., because not only do I LOVE my deer, and turkeys and other critters who live out there on the back 25, but I love my own safety and that of my dogs, when we walk out there, too.

I like to think of my land on some level, as Sanctuary. Even though I know it is just as likely that they wander from my land onto my neighbors’ lands and then it’s just a question of when hunters find them, I still get some kind of satisfaction in knowing they are NOT getting shot on my land. In fact, if I hear shots that sound pretty close to my lines I have been known to go out there near to my property lines and yell pretty loudly about making sure they are not on my land with a gun.

Not that I don’t see or recognize that guns are useful. I DO. I own a gun, in fact, and am a pretty fair shot. I do not hunt- but I know I could if I had to. I just like the fact that unlike many folks around these parts, hunting season is time to watch the deer and turkeys and partridges, and other critters passing through.

I know inevitably some are killed. In fact it was shocking to find that though a deer could live to be a ripe, old age, most live just a couple years. Even more shocking was hearing living beings- deer- referred to as product by our state’s department of environmental conservation’s educators when speaking to a group of kids on a field trip I chaperoned years ago.

A living being, thought of as a product just throws me. But then…I am ALWAYS putting myself in another position, someone else’s shoes, on the receiving end of whatever, just to consider and speculate what it must be like.

There is nothing more wonderful than to be walking one of my dogs and meeting up with a deer. I remember a beloved and much mourned dog- actually a wolf- malamute mix, whom we adopted through a rescue organization, in his middle age. He weighed in at well over 100 pounds. Manitou was very wolf-like in his manner and appearance and he was affectionate, wonderfully and lovingly protective, and beautiful, as well as earning our love and respect.

(May he rest well. He passed away a few years ago and we miss him very much. I have planted roses on his grave each year since his passing.)

One day he and I were walking in wee hours of morning, and we met a good-sized buck, with a very impressive “rack” of antlers- very like Herne in his Presence. Manitou, my four-legged companion on that walk, stood at attention, tail and ears as far up as they could go, and as still as could be. The buck was correspondingly impressive, standing there with rack up, still as could be.

Deer and Manitou looked at one another for a long time.

Meanwhile, very slowly, so as not to spoil the moment, I got a really good hold on the leash, and stood by ready to restrain Manitou, just in case. I was able to appreciate that moment of mutual regard. It was what I would call, “time out of time”. No sounds, no movement, no cars going by on the nearby road, no birds breaking the silence of the moment. I felt like I was in the presence of divinity.

And then, just as suddenly as we met that big and beautiful buck, he was gone, leaving Manitou to strain a bit against the leash, and me but ultimately remembering his domesticity and that I was alpha over him.

I could not have had that moment without keeping Manitou restrained from the hunt/chase. I can’t hope to enjoy and feel awe like that if I am not extending the ideal of sanctuary to all creatures on my land. I can’t simultaneously threaten the critters and expect them to keep coming around and even to stay and raise their young, if I am not willing to uphold their safety.

One more story:

My husband was doing some work out there on the land when suddenly; a critter came running along a game trail into our field and toward him. At first, my husband thought it was a dog, a golden lab in fact. But the closer came to him, the more he could see it was no dog. Finally he saw it was a half-grown deer who still had spots, continuing to run right past him. My husband just stood still when he realized it was a deer, and watched as the poor thing ran past, mouth agape panting, with a look of fear. Later when he was telling about this experience, my husband said he could have reached right out and touched the poor thing since it was within an arm’s length of him when it ran by him.

We figured a neighbor’s dog had perhaps chased the deer or perhaps it was some other predator or source of threat. Regardless it was getting far away, where it could feel safe, heading to the back acres of my land.

I trust that if something were threatening me or mine, that someone would open sanctuary and give refuge. Manitou found refuge in our home and our hearts, through a rescue organization. He found safety within my “pack” from a threatening situation posed by a dangerous human in his life. The deer find some bit of sanctuary on my land, short-lived as that safety may be, considering they do wander to others’ lands.

It all puts me in mind of the Underground Railroad helping “funnel” folks to safety during the years of slavery, and of those who sought sanctuary in Canada so as to avoid the “meat grinder” of Vietnam. A draft is, in my opinion, also involuntary servitude (not to detract from the heinousness of forcibly kidnapping and transporting humans from their homeland to be forced workers and breeding them as if they are animals).

Which puts me in mind of the war in Iraq and how it is worsening daily, the death and wounding of body, mind and spirit, of our sons and daughters, parents, siblings and other loved ones who are serving in harm’s way.

A draft is slavery in that it essentially forces people to kill or be killed no matter their free will. Some call it the price of freedom. But the real price of freedom is to rise up and assert what is right. Involuntary servitude is a price too high for any to pay.

Right now, there is what folks are calling, a “back door” draft. This calls to duty those who are no longer active duty and may in fact be ill, infirm or aging beyond reasonable expectation of their fitness to be soldiers even if technically in reserve, against their will. And these are often grandparents and/or folks in middle-age, being called into harm’s way in a pre-emptive war based on lies and scant evidence that changes at whim to fit the direction in which PR winds are blowing.

Yes, volunteer forces signed up for their service regardless of why: the college funding, the lack of employment opportunities- but no matter why or what they signed or swore to in their induction, it was likely NOT to protect or further the lining of the deep corporate pockets belonging to Bush campaign contributors. They swore to defend our constitution, under command of the CIC (Great Spirit and Holy Mother help them) from threats foreign and domestic. (I am going out on a limb here, and saying that I consider that the Bush administration is showing daily by it’s actions …actions speak louder than words in my opinion- that they well may be a domestic threat to our Constitution.)

I watched as Rep. Charles Rangel’s (D-NY) bill about the draft (which was meant as a wake-up call to those of power, privilege and with resources to make sure their children avoid a draft) was voted down. But I tell you, that in my opinion and observation, with regard to any future draft in any form, methinks those now in control of all the branches of our government, doth protest too much and way too sanctimoniously for my taste. I find that those folks may tend to project upon others what may actually be their own tendencies and actions.

Today I am trusting that somehow, there will be Sanctuary for those who will refuse involuntary servitude to carry on this unjust and unprovoked war for profit and lies, that is as well as those wars to come in the war without end agenda. I know that treaties were signed rendering borders closed to escape from the madness, but I have faith and I trust that, as always, good people of conscience will find the way to help. Good people always find the way, no matter what.

It’s hunting season here in the mountains, and even the deer know there is safety and sanctuary somewhere out here

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Night Lights

Sunday night the huge vault of sky, over our open field, was on fire with the Aurora Borealis. I had noticed while walking one of my dogs mid-evening or so, that the sky to the North was very bright. The evening wore on and having climbed up a mountain road (and I use the term, “road", loosely) to visit with an old friend of ours, I was SO ready to go to sleep that night. So I hit the pillow, read for a bit till my eyes just wanted to close. All that fresh air made falling asleep pretty immedia-…zzzzzzzzzzz! (You get the picture).

Felt so good to sleep…till the phone rang. I HATE when that happens. My first thought: Who died?! Can’t help it, I have older relatives, and it’s a real possibility. My heart pounds when that happens and the adrenaline rush makes it tough to get back to a relaxed state.

We have an understanding with our local family that if anyone sees northern lights; they MUST call, since otherwise we all might miss out. So per that agreement, my sister-in-law called saying that there was something to see in the sky.

My husband and youngest son and I went out on our land, where there’s a HUGE vault of sky. The Milky Way was pouring across the sky as the clouds were blowing. It was windy, and there were even some shooting stars- I counted four of them, in a short time.

The Aurora Borealis itself was spectacular! As clouds began to blow away, the energized light flashed and washed across more and more of the sky, little by little, like shimmering draperies billowing and active. The clouds were spectacular also as they moved off toward the South, lit up and changing shape, opening “windows” through which to see the lightshow directly, with stars inserted for extra effect.

At one point when the clouds were revealing about half the vault of sky we could see, they formed the shape of a HUGE bird with shimmering wings fully opened and extended, reminding us of the Thunderbird; and then changing again to appear as a giant, fierce and protective angel (we sure could use one). I thought, well you don’t see things like this everyday.

And at the center of our sky, was that tiny cluster, known as the Seven Sisters, AKA: the Pleiades. The Aurora was shooting strands of light toward the Pleiades, and while watching it intently, I felt as if it touched a deep place within me and drew me up along with the light toward the stars. I have counted many more than seven sisters in that constellation and I love to test myself to see how many I can honestly count. Clear winter nights when the stars twinkle are ideal for my counting game.

My husband pointed out that the great hunter, Orion, had not yet made it over the shoulder of the horizon to walk on his path across the sky. We stood a long time, eyes to the sky, and jaw to the ground in amazement. I had to lean on my garden fencepost in order to keep my balance because I had been looking up so long. My neck was ready for rest when we finally and reluctantly headed back inside. Even on the way back to the house, we stopped and watched as the bright flashes and shimmers took over the sky, intensifying.

It is nice to know that while humans enjoy their feeling of power and control in many everyday matters large and national and global, or small and mundane, that Nature keeps showing us the beauty of her mystery; that mystery truly exists. Even with all the science, and explanation- standing there, staring with awe into the vault of shimmering and fiery sky, I felt suddenly connected to the Ancient Ones and their humility and awe. Living in a way that invited them to harmonize with their world, Nature was their constant context, mystery simply a fact of life. It made them far richer than any corporate shareholder or CEO, or world leader.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Down By the Riverside

Just got back from the River. Didn't dare put my feet in. I just knew it was squeal-worthy cold. Call me crazy! Tomorrow I might try to get my whole self into the water, one last time.

The urge to get in today and squeal and let the very cold water shock me and smooth my vibes, was VERY strong, but I resisted- for today. My husband and I sat on the rocks, warmed by the sun. The waters just flowed around us and by us and even just that close, sitting by it, I felt the River soothe me. Strong energy.

Breezy today, but a nice blue sky and lots of sunshine. Brisk, typical late Autumn day.

Went out to the nearest mall today. The vibe was so edgy, or maybe that was me. The holiday season is being pushed bigtime. The stores are bulging with people and goods. Why can't I find some winter-worthy shoes/boots? My old ones finally leak, so the search is on, without success so far.

Being a parent, I notice parents and children. We went one of those dollar-stores, which are fun to browse through. There was a daddy walking with his little girl, and pushing his toddler in a stroller.

The wee girl called, "Daddy...." and he would reply, "What?", and she would answer, "I love you!" This repeated a time or two, and then the dad began calling her the same way, and she replied, "What?", and he answered, "I love you!" each time...and they went back and forth. You could hear them as they moved through the store.

My husband and I looked at one another and giggled. It felt good to know there was joy happening.

There's alot of anger and pain in the world today. I am thinking of the people trying to get out of Fallujah, but perhaps most of them have found shelter elsewhere. I am thinking about anyone who've lost loved ones in the war. I am thinking of anyone who was hoping for a change in direction for our country.

And I am thinking of a little-known, lengthy and important speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Riverside Church (NYC?- not sure). I think it's just fascinating how if you replaced all the names of people, places and dates of this speech with Iraq, and other pertinent names and such, you would see our nation's current path is not new.

I have to pray that the 20/20 hindsight that Dr. King provides in this speech, will reveal to us some clue to what may come in the next four years, so that we may begin to perceive and plan accordingly how to approach the tasks and challenges ahead.

Check it:

...I'm gonna lay down my burden,down by the riverside,Down by the riverside, down by the riversideI'm gonna lay down my burden,down by the riverside...

Friday, November 05, 2004

Walking Against the Wind

Up here in the mts., the hours of light are shortening while dark hours lengthen. Recently we started the fire, which will likely not go out till May or so. As I write this, dusk is silhouetting the trees against the last bit of light in the West.

The winds so typical of the changing seasons hereabouts, especially the changes from Winter to Spring and from Autumn to Winter are wildly blowing. Earlier today they blew SNOW, to my surprise. My husband reminds me, "It IS November, y'know..."- I never seem to be ready for it when it happens.

From time to time throughout today the snow ebbed and flowed from flurry to steady, to sideways blowin'...and eventually faded out this afternoon. As the sunset silhouetted the pines, branches dancing in the wind, dark violet-gray clouds blew across the sky from the West.

I am usually afraid to walk in the woods in winds like these and try to keep my walks with my two dogs short both in time and distance. But today I felt the wind's power and I felt its' invitation to accept that power within. In the night, the winds' voice usually frightens me, but last night I slept well.

This morning, as I walked to the post office, I was glad for the hat I wisely threw on as I walked out the door. I actually wished I had put on an extra top layer, but was glad for my cozy new fleece jacket.

The wind was blowing at my back. I didn't much think about it. It was strong and I suppose if I had been thinking about it, noticing more, I might have felt supported by it.

But on the way back home...

I thought about what it meant to be walking against the wind as I did so. I felt challenged. Snow was blowing in my eyes and made seeing where I was going kinda tough, but my hat helped. I had to put out more effort to make my steps move was surprising.

I was surprised by the elections too. I felt maybe the winds were at our backs. And then...those winds changed directions. No longer at our backs, they challenge our movement forward.

And so the winds of change blow and the wheel of the years will turn. Season to season, year to year, to the end of this president's last term.

Now...we're walking against the wind.

Like the trees and any other plant that endures the daily challenges of the elements in Nature, our core will be strengthened structurally. We'll toughen and become more flexible and supple. We'll learn like the trees, when to hold on and when to let go. We'll collect, process, utilize and activate. We'll be deeply-rooted and grow together, connecting roots, strengthing and supporting one another, and creating community all at once.

And when the wheel of years comes around to that time of strong winds, indicating change, we will let go of dead wood. We will prevail against the winds, but let them cleanse the land of stagnation and rot. That day, the winds will also carry the seeds of the future, to settle down upon the lands. That future will be born of this time, this challenge.

One day the wind will change direction once more when it has been at others' backs, supporting them and their movment forward with strength. It will be the time in their cycle, to embrace what it is like to walk against the winds.