Friday, December 31, 2004

Letting Go Of 2004

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,And days of auld lang syne?

And days of auld lang syne, my dear,And days of auld lang syne.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,And days of auld lang syne?

-Robert Burns

The last year has been full: I cherish our friends old and new- online and in real life- and family too. I am so grateful. And Nature has been generous in sharing her beauty. The seasons have made their procession, and they continue, into the New Year.

I admit that I find release of 2004 difficult, even though I know that everything that has a beginning also has an end. I would LIKE to invest in gladness to be rid of the old year so I can welcome 2005, with all its’ potential.

Even though I know everything has its’ time, I still have some tough moments releasing this year and welcoming the next. All that has been witnessed over the last year, and the emotions about those events are tough:

In 2004 we witnessed continuing war that has no apparent end even though “Mission Accomplished” was declared. I lost a distant relative in the Iraq war, nearly a year ago. We are related through my grandmother. His name was Seth, and his mom and dad loved him as much as any parents love their children. When Seth died, I received the information through the family “grapevine”. His death hit me hard because my own son is the same age. I did not even know that Seth existed till he was gone since our connection is distant through my grandmother and his great-grandfather.

You can read about Seth here:

Yes, Seth and all soldiers involved, signed on for their duty, but they signed on trusting their honor would be upheld by care taken in making sure there was ACTUAL cause to make war. OK…’nuff said about that.

Then there is the so-called “election”. What is left to say about that? There are plans under way for protest:

In addition to the tragedies of war and of voter disenfranchisement, we have a HUGE tragedy in the aftermath of the recent earthquakes that triggered tsunamis, leaving more than a hundred thousand people dead, and vulnerable to disease.

Yet, even with the scientific evidence, do we understand that the planet is the only one we’ve got; that global warming does not create only warming of climate, but causes extremes of all kinds? Can we ever accept that humanity in its’ curiosity and brilliant creativity, took discovery and invention and resources and contributed directly to the cause of the extremes we see unfolding? A wise woman I know, has adapted “All for One and One for All”, to express the truth of interdependence of all Life with one another and with this beautiful, spinning blue-green jewel planet, upon whose very flesh we are sustained.

There are ways to contribute to helping survivors to get assistance as basic as clean water, food and shelter, and every bit helps and makes a difference for someone. From the Red Cross website:

“You can help those affected by this crisis and countless others around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance, and other support to those in need. Call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the International Response Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting

Also Doctors Without Borders is helping, so check them out and see if there’s a way to help ‘em out:

Please help…every little bit helps.

Perhaps giving and helping are the best actions to take, in order to let go of 2004, the pains and the joys alike, so that we can move on to 2005 ready to meet the challenges ahead- by giving of our resources when and where they can do the most good today, whether that is in our own neighborhood or further out into the world-at-large. One for ALL and All for ONE! Maybe our best help for embodying the change we wish to see in this world, is hanging at the ends of our own arms…our own two hands, reaching out, touching, helping, extending.

Now there have been joys…yes, giving and receiving are both joyous. The holidays have been a great opportunity for experiencing both. The baking, the cooking, and the gathering together, gifting, sharing have all been wonderful so the theme continues…giving is the way home.

There is a time for everything and so at this time, I share these words from another wise woman, from whom I have learned a lot- from her writing, titled “Moving On”, Alloday says:

“…We are not meant to settle in,
content with our accumulations.
We are meant to keep moving on…
Thinking, doing, loving, helping,
healing, inspiring, sharing,
dreaming, relaxing, learning,
singing, dancing, creating…
for thus do we progress.”

Taking this all to heart, I wish you real ease as you release 2004, to grasp gently and with strength the new year, ripe and full of potential and opportunity to act from the heart of “All for One and One for All”, extend a hand, progress and find the way… to move on.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Longest Night; Shortest Day

Very soon, we will be welcoming back the Sun! It will soon be the longest night and shortest day of the year, known as the Winter Solstice. There is some good stuff here about traditions and history with regard to the Solstice:

The Winter Solstice is another stop on the Wheel of the Year as it turns, celebration of which, assists me in my own endurance of this dark time, because I know that it leads me to Imbolc-Candlemas-Brigit’s Day at about the same time as Groundhog Day in February, further leading to the Vernal or Spring Equinox-Ostara in March, when the hours of light are pretty much equal to the hours of darkness. Though it’s still wintry and often is the snowiest time hereabouts, I value that day of equal light and dark (equinox) as a harbinger of things to come. In other words, these celebrations along the way help me remember that the wheel continues to turn onward, time moves forward, just as it has since humans have been observing its’ progress season to season.

Another thing that I value about the Solstice is that it has helped me to embrace darkness too. Most folks only want to associate with Light. We tend to celebrate the Light a lot at this time of year in all the holidays. But I have come to value Winter’s darkness as a time of rest, a time of gestation, of gathering potential, making plans, and of pulling the covers up and cozying up underneath, just as the land and all its’ life is under the blanket of snow. Bears and others have denned up. All the power and energy of plants and trees goes dormant and down into the roots. All appears silent, and even dead.

The pines, spruces and firs remain dressed in green, the color of the Undeniable Life that continues its’ relentless heartbeat even though it’s dark; even though it’s freezing. Even though the rhythm of that heartbeat is muffled under the snow- life continues.

I love to walk out on the land on a full Moonlit night, and see the beauty of that cold, and darkened world. With full Moon shining, the trees cast magical shadows upon the snow. I imagine the night critters going about their business by the light of the Moon. I often see the tiny mole and mouse tracks and hope they got where they were going without becoming a tasty morsel.

Lately in daytime, the mountains look sugarcoated (like pfefferneuse cookies) and yummy across the valley. The blue of the sky is so bright against the white of the snow. I love how nearly blindingly sparkly and jewel-like the snow appears in the Sun’s brilliance, for which I am grateful each and every day that it shines. Today though, looking across there, I can’t even see the mountains, almost as if they have magically disappeared, though I know it’s just the veil of cloudiness and snowiness that makes their presence nearly vanish.

At this upcoming Solstice I invite you to enjoy a celebration you can hear on the radio. Paul Winter, a wonderful musician and his fellows, The Paul Winter Consort, has for the last 24 years been giving a Solstice Celebration at NYC’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine. NPR has been carrying this celebration for the last 15 years.

You can find the NPR station to tune into to hear the Solstice Celebration here:

The various stations carrying it, are broadcasting it at different times between December 17th and 21st, so be sure to make note of the time for your neck of the woods.
Here’s another link so you can listen:

And I will be tuning in also, so it’ll be all of us together! Light some candles, pour yourself some “wassail”, follow the above links and enjoy! (I got turned on to Paul Winter’s music back over a decade ago, when I was browsing in a now-defunct junk shop, and the lady who ran it was playing a tape of Paul Winter’s music and I fell in love with it. I offered her money for the tape and she sold it to me and I wore it out!)

And finally, here is my Solstice Song that I wrote in 2002…I wish I could sing it for you. It has a very lilting Irish tune and I think it comes from my past…from an Irish-themed melody of a hymn from the United Methodist Hymnal, lo, those many years ago when I was a child.

Solstice Song

Make in me a River of Love through my soul:
Dear Holy Mother Earth make me more whole.
Then let me remember to open my mind to
Give away Lovingness; Let my thoughts be kind.

Oh make in me a River of Light through my mind:
Banishing ignorance; Poverty bind.
Be Generosity work through my hands.
Let all who falter find their second chance.

Oh make in me a River of Peace through my Voice:
Mother Of All Things let Peace be my choice.
Send me your Vision. Make every word Wise.
Let me see Everything with Compassionate eyes.

Make in me a River of Silence that flows
Help me forgive and release all my woes
Help me to clear all angers, all sadness and strife.
Let me walk grateful steps all the days of my Life.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

‘Tis the Season! Feed the Light!

I just realized that all the holidays I know in December, celebrate Light. There’s something ironic about how during this month of winter-short days and lengthening nights, we celebrate a lot about and with Light- or maybe it is not ironic at all. Very likely, these shortened days are a very good reason that Light is celebrated at this time. That seems very logical and simple.

There’s Chanukah’s eight days of celebrating a miracle of Light, there’s the Solstice that celebrates and welcomes the Sun as it embarks upon its’ return journey to lengthening our days, and therefore our Light. And then of course, within the Christmas story, a Star, (it is speculated that it was actually a conjunction of planets) leads the Magi- Star of Wonder, Star of Night, Star with Royal Beauty Bright- again, Light plays a big part.

We just put lights on our Tree, probably because we too, feel the urge for and to celebrate Light.

My husband just LOVES this season and Christmas, and always has. In more recent years Yule/Solstice resonates with his own Celtic heritage more, so receives his attention also, and because I celebrate Chanukah, his interest in that, has also strengthened over time. As happens each year at this time, he is now sporting his usual Santa-style chapeau complimenting his graying beard and hair. Every year his beard and hair are more and more the proper color.

I see though that he is actually playing a role more like the Holly or Oak King, or Father Christmas than what we know as commercial Santa, but it is fun to see the looks of wonder and hear the greetings he receives from children, and to observe how adults have come to expect his embodiment of the Santa-type persona, and how they become more open and friendly when they encounter him.

We celebrate all three December holidays with which we are familiar, as well as Candlemas which is right about the time of Groundhog Day in February, and the Vernal Equinox in March, all of which help us here in the mountains where winter is long, to feel encouraged and reassured- today, just as they did the Ancestors, that the days will indeed again lengthen and warm to the time of the Summer Solstice when life is so much easier. Winter can seem to go on forever here, even with celebration and outdoor fun.

Speaking for myself, I still love Christmas; its’ story of a humble beginnings along with the music and art it has inspired over the centuries. What I value most about Christmas is the magical envisioning/mandate for Peace on Earth, with which I resonate down to my soul. There is a lot of value there for me, worth honoring when the secular commercialism and consumerism layer is peeled away.

My Mother, a Jew who raised us Christian so we could avoid the anti-Semitism she suffered, made sure however, that my sister and I knew the Chanukah story and that we were exposed to as many other aspects of our Jewish heritage as possible. I always felt more aware, as a Christian when I practiced Christianity, because of the added depth and breadth of her perspective. My late sister, taught Sunday school at our church and some folks removed their children from her class, in fact, BECAUSE she taught that Jesus was a Jew, which we know he was. (I know and honor that there are folks out there for whom Jesus’ existence is not necessarily a fact. I am speaking from what I was taught when I was growing up, within the faith I was taught in the church where I attended.)

I have been humbly celebrating Chanukah for years and years now, and am still seeking and learning and integrating more and more about it with each year’s celebration. I do this for myself, to honor my mother and to honor my ancestors. I am not simply picking and choosing when I am Jewish or when I am not. This celebration is simply a real and deeply rooted part of my life now, and after years of inclusion; I trust that the Divine knows my heart and therefore my intent.

Tuesday night I lit the first Chanukah candle on the Menorah, reciting the prayers of Thanksgiving for strength, support and sustenance through the centuries to the present. I struggle through the phonetic Hebrew, but also say the prayers using translations I have found over the years. I hope to strengthen my recital and understanding of the prayers so that years from now, I may say them properly and wholly, and well. For now, I am okay with doing my best, sincerely.

We made brisket and latkes, and then my husband made Sufganiot, which are homemade jelly donuts. Yum. And we continue to light the Menorah and celebrate each night till the entire holiday is complete in process and in heart.

Most folks are aware of the general story of Chanukah. They are aware of how against all odds, the Maccabees’ strength prevailed and even though their temple was desecrated, they managed to reclaim it and found one vessel of sacred, sanctified oil with which to light the temple Menorah again and rededicate the Temple, and by doing so, illuminated their faith and trust in the Divine. And most folks know that the vessel only contained enough oil for one day, while it miraculously lasted eight days.

What touched me deeply on the first night of Chanukah this year was a strong message, which tells anyone who wants to listen, to Resist Oppression; to Defy forced values that are against our very Core and Inner Knowing. I also learned from one source, and I don’t know how accurate it is, that the name “Maccabee” means something like, “strong like a hammer” (puts my pagan self in mind of Thor).

So what I received on a very deep level, was we must be strong like a hammer in our Resistance and Defiance whenever we are faced with Oppression, as many of us may feel that our country is going in a wrong and dangerous and yes, oppressive direction. Now more than ever, Chanukah carries potent and relevant meaning for me.

But here’s the kicker. As I was typing this, I received Inspiration that there was only one vessel of sacred fuel to sustain the Light of Reclamation and Rededication of the Temple. I suddenly realized that I am one vessel and I contain the fuel to faithfully sustain the Light of Rededication and Reclamation also- of my country, and of myself as an American who loves my America’s Spirit of Freedom and Right and Justice for ALL.

Right now, it may feel like there is only enough fuel within us, each a mere single vessel, for only one day’s light. Now we must go within, and find the way to move beyond that limitation of thought, and trust that we can find a wellspring of Maccabeean strength within, because we must through Resistance and Defiance, fuel the Light for as long as it takes to Reclaim and Rededicate the future for generations to come.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Gifts and Treasures

In the spirit of the holidays, allow me to share with you some unique folks, and some unique ideas for holiday gifts.

Yesterday we received the first official holiday card of the season! Seemed appropriate now that there is a bit of snow on the ground. The card was from a former teacher, Linda Runyon of Wild Foods Company. Linda is a treasure.

It made me smile to see her distinctive handwriting again! The card had a peace dove on it with the words, “Peace on Earth”. Speaking of Peace on Earth, check this out in reference to Linda:

Here are some of Linda’s creations for sale. Please support her. She’s a GREAT person and wonderful teacher with SO much information and wisdom to share! See the links below and believe me when I say…her books are comprehensive and her wild cards, a deck of cards that help ID wild plants, is a great gift for kids and adults alike.

I met Linda probably more than a decade and a half ago, and where else, but in a natural foods store?! I had heard about her, and was thrilled to meet her in person and find out that she is “just folks”, like me!

Linda has spent many years living in the woods, homesteading, raising her children, gathering wild food and information, learning, and then teaching others about safely and wisely incorporating wild plant food sources into a healthy diet. Yes, these are just WEEDS…but many weeds are actually herbs that can offer some help medicinally, while others are sources of important nutrients and delicious to boot.

I spent some great times doing what would be called work/study with Linda over a few years. She used to live about 10 miles or so as the crow flies, away from me in a neighboring hamlet. Linda taught weekly classes on wild plant identification by conducting “weed walks”, and still probably does so. She also taught about processing and cooking with wild plant foods.

I remember after beginning to take her classes that I couldn’t go down a road anywhere without recognizing plants and just clicking them off on a mental checklist. Being pretty dirt poor at the time, I took the learning very seriously and practiced incorporating such as red clover blossoms and other plants into tossed salads, and other dishes both because they are pretty and appealing, and also because they are full of good nutrition. For me, as a mom of 3 kids, any good way to enhance nutrition, and get more bang for the buck out of a meal, was worth my time to learn.

But there was more to my time with Linda. We got to be friends, and my kids just loved to go see her. Well…okay, they LOVED the rose tea pops with a single drop of honey and a rose petal in them. They love the pine tea pops too. Those pops were yummy and cool for a hot day. But really, my kids remember Linda with much respect and warmth, and still talk about those pops today, years and years later.

One memory from my work with Linda Runyon, is the time that I reverted to hunter/gatherer woman:

It was a warm day in July, mid-day to early afternoon. It was the day of the week, when Linda processed roots that she had harvested. As her work/student, I was helping her process them this time. I think they were evening primrose roots, if I remember correctly.

I was cleaning them to be strung up together to dry fully. Linda stored her harvest by drying some and freezing some to be used later in cooking simple nutritious meals including other whole foods like tofu, brown rice and so on, to create a varied and adequate and possibly superior diet.

There I squatted in the sun before a bucket of river water, scrubbing dirt from roots with the sounds of summer bugs buzzing and the river lapping and slapping the rocks along its’ shore, within earshot, just across the road from her place. The heat felt good, the sounds were nearly mesmerizing.

There was no traffic, and suddenly it got very quiet in my head. I think I entered an altered state, because suddenly, the here/now time/space faded and I felt and found myself in another more ancient mind and time and space. It was as if, the spiraling of time forward had suddenly caught some kind of backspin with all the sensory inputs of what I was doing.

I felt plugged into some source of information that dwarfed all others. I can only describe it as an intuitive feeling that more of my DNA was suddenly activating and I was connected to some really ancient knowing place DEEP within myself.

I could feel it happening on even a cellular level, I would say. It really blew my mind and it made me cry. It was like recognizing a part of myself that was so basic, that it was connected to everything. No mind-altering drugs involved either!

There was no doubt in my mind that by learning, and practicing such things that bring one closer to nature as this art of foraging and gathering, anyone could be in touch with that ancient mind and feel connected in the unbroken line back to the First Ones and in so doing, could find themselves even more whole. This was a major event for me and it gave an added depth and dimension to my work with Linda.

I have met some wonderful people through Linda’s classes. I even have albums that Linda gave me, full of pictures of folks and groups both more locally and across the country, whom she has taught. The one, who comes to mind immediately, is a guy who has become a good and long-time family friend. I met him when he was about the age that my oldest son is now, early-to-mid twenties or so, at that time.

This fellow is very intelligent, and is a kind and good person. He’s nearly a neighbor, lives a bit more than about halfway up a nearby mountain across the valley from us in a small cabin, which has transformed and refined over the years.

Back then as today, he hunted and processed game, grew and processed his homegrown veggies some when the critters didn’t get them, and supplemented his diet with wild plant foods.

A few times a year my husband and I hike up the mountain to visit him. He’s not exactly a hermit, though there are times when visiting is hard. A couple winters back, we even snow shoed up the mountain to see him. That adventure is another story. We do see him out and about from time to time also, sometimes at the post office picking up mail, or at the supermarket getting supplies.

I admire his general know-how. He’s very well read, and has boxes and piles of books. A master at recycling, he can find lots of uses for stuff many folks just toss away.

It’s really comforting to know that he is there, living his way, and living a good life.

I have met such a variety of people through my participation in Linda’s work when she lived locally: there were Reiki Masters digging on plant vibes, Survivalists who didn’t like people (but that’s another story), Back-to-the-land types, Healthy living enthusiasts, Vegetarians, Single parents, and more.

Then there’s another really neat fellow, we knew initially through Linda, and met in person later on visiting with another teacher. He’s a very ordinary and normal looking person, with many talents. Among those talents, he can open his mouth, appearing about to say a thing and instead, the sound of a Canadian goose’s loud “honk-honk” comes out and VERY authentic-sounding, I must say! It’s truly something to behold. He’s now retired, but worked for a long time as a teacher in the prison system. I can remember first hearing that sound come out of his mouth- a very funny, jaw-dropping moment!

So this blog entry is my tribute to Linda Runyon, and all the gifts she gave so generously to me and to my family whether things, understandings, knowledge, tools, or people. Her friendship and gifts are still shiny treasures to us. Take a look at her creations as linked, and please support her work and wisdom.

May her kindness and generosity come back to her thousand-fold.